Archive:

Novem ber 2012, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics




Pseudo-Random Thoughts



Jesse Jackson, Jr. in plea deal?
Sneed has learned U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who handily won re-election Tuesday despite a lengthy stay at Mayo Clinic for depression and bipolar disorder, is in the midst of plea discussions with the feds probing his alleged misuse of campaign funds.
. . .
Sneed is also told Jackson, who returned to Mayo Clinic after undergoing outpatient treatment in the seclusion of his home in Washington, D.C., is not only being investigated for allegedly using campaign funds to decorate his Washington home — but also Sneed hears he may also have used campaign funds to buy a $40,000 Rolex watch as a gift for a female friend.
Now that — assuming the story is true — is a very good friend.

There is an anonymous report that Jackson asked the Justice Department to hold off on an indictment until after the election.  You can see why both parties might find that delay convenient — again assuming the story is true.

(Jackson is married, and was a co-chairman of 2008 Obama campaign.)
- 3:56 PM, 8 November 2012   [link]


The Nation Shifted To The Right In 2012:  As you can see in this clever New York Times graphic, showing the shifts in all the nation's counties.

A shift of equal size in 2016 would give the Republican candidate a solid win.

The exceptions — the counties that shifted toward Obama — are interesting, but not particularly puzzling.

You see many blue arrows in the old southern "black belt", which got its name, originally, from its fertile soil, and its many slaves.  Similarly, you see them in heavily Hispanic south Texas.

There is a patch of them in Ohio — which probably shows the success of Obama's campaign against Romney.  (If I may speculate a bit, it may show where the populist themes in those attacks hurt Romney the most.)

There are a number in the rural areas of the northern Northeast.  I suspect what we are seeing there is the growing dependence of many in that area on government handouts.

(As I write, we have only counted about two-thirds of the votes here in Washington state, but it looks like every single county in the state shifted toward the Republicans, though not by much.)
- 11:14 AM, 8 November 2012   [link]


What Chancellor Merkel Said Was True, But Inconvenient:   So many are urging her to be quiet.
Opposition lawmakers and human rights groups are criticizing German Chancellor Angela Merkel for claiming that Christianity is "the most persecuted religion worldwide."

Lawmaker Jerzy Montag of the opposition Greens party on Tuesday described Merkel's comments as "mistaken" and "not very helpful".

Rights campaigners said ranking faiths according to how persecuted they are is pointless.
Note, please, that those "human rights groups" aren't saying that she is wrong, just that she shouldn't have said it.

Even if she is the leader of the Christian Democratic Union.
- 10:46 AM, 8 November 2012   [link]


Law Professor Jonathan Turley Is "Uneasy" About this sentence.
Mark Basseley Youssef (aka Nakoula Basseley Nakoula), the filmmaker connected to the controversial film “The Innocence of Muslims,” has been sentenced to a year in prison for violations of his probation for his 2010 bank fraud conviction.  The arrest of Youssef raised immediate objections that, while the Obama Administration insisted that it would not punish such acts of free speech, it set out to arrest him on any possible grounds to satisfy the “Arab Street.”
. . .
Violations of probation conditions are quite common and rarely result in re-incarceration.  Probation terms tend to be sweeping and most such violations result in warnings or brief appearances before the court.
The Obama administration wanted a two year sentence.

(Turley is not a conservative, but he is a fairly consistent supporter of freedom of speech.)
- 7:29 AM, 8 November 2012   [link]


If You Want To Do Your Own Analysis of the exit polls, here's a big CNN graphic with some of the results.

Some may prefer the way the New York Times presents this data; I'll see if I can find their graphic later today.

- 7:08 AM, 8 November 2012
Fox has all the exit poll questions, in an easy-to-read format.  You may want to save a copy for future reference.
- 3:06 PM, 8 November2012   [link]


Congratulations To Newly-Elected Michigan Legislator Brian Banks:  Appropriately, considering his last name, he has considerable familiarity with banks, and other financial institutions.
Among the new group of state lawmakers to emerge from Election Day on Tuesday is Brian Banks, who has been convicted eight times for felonies involving bad checks and credit card fraud.

Banks, a Democrat and lifelong Detroiter, won a seat in Lansing as a state representative for the 1st District, representing the east side of Detroit, Harper Woods, and the tony Grosse Pointes.  He won 68 percent of the vote to Republican Dan Schulte’s 32 percent.
He says he is rehabilitated — and he may be.
- 4:13 PM, 7 November 2012   [link]


Obama Wins, Wall Street Crashes:  It may be a coincidence, though the Associated Press doesn't seem to think so.
Financial stocks are less than enthusiastic about an Obama second term.

U.S. stocks plunged across the board on Wednesday, the day after President Barack Obama was decisively re-elected.  But no segment of the market was hit harder than the financial industry.
And there are new taxes coming on January 1st, which can't please investors, either.
- 3:42 PM, 7 November 2012   [link]


Need A Feel-Good Story Today?  Try "Bob the Cat".
James’s book, A Street Cat Named Bob, a feelgood story that chronicles how the 33-year-old busker and one-time homeless heroin-addict turned his life around with the help of his cat, has sold more than 250,000 copies and been translated into 18 different languages.
For some people, the responsibility of taking care of a pet, and the love the pet gives them, can help stabilize their lives.  I think the responsibility may be more important than the love.  It may be significant that James Bowen took a big step forward when he took the cat to the RSPCA for medical treatment.

(In the United States, we usually call buskers "street musicians".

Here's the book.)
- 1:42 PM, 7 November 2012   [link]


Hurricane Sandy And Obama's Victory:  Today's New York Times front page story on Obama's win included this nugget:
The President probably was helped in the campaign's final week by his widely praised handling of the federal government's response to Hurricane Sandy.  Nearly two-thirds of voters said it was a factor in their vote; those who called it a very important factor chose Mr. Obama.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who knows something about responding to disasters, was extremely critical of both Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama for their inadequate responses to Sandy.  And, though he is a partisan, I think there is considerable merit in the particulars of his criticism.

It is likely that most of those who said Sandy was "very important" were planning to vote for Obama anyway, but it is also likely that Sandy made it easier for some leaners to choose him.  I haven't seen any studies of the size of the shift, but I wouldn't be terribly surprised if it gave him an extra million votes or so.  (You can see some guesstimates from Michael Barone in this post.)

That shift would not have happened if our "mainstream" networks had chosen, not to show Obama's photo-ops approvingly, but to show, as they could have, the places where help was not arriving in a timely manner.  They could even have found experts who would say, on TV, that the Obama administration should have been better prepared for the storm.

(The Times article comes from the print edition published here in the Seattle area.  I would expect it to be somewhat different on line, with the election updates coming in after this edition came out.  If you want to find it, look for an article by Jackie Calmes and Megan Thee-Brenan, titled, probably, "Electorate Reverts to a Familiar Partisan Divide".)
- 1:23 PM, 7 November 2012   [link]


Michael Barone Was Wrong:  (And so was I.)

He confesses his errors here.

(You may have to wait a few days for my analysis of my own error in predicting that Obama would lose.  I was less optimistic than Barone, but not enough less.)
- 5:59 AM, 7 November 2012   [link]


No Mandate For Obama:  Veteran reporter Ron Fournier tells President Obama that he won ugly.
Barack Obama won a second term but no mandate.  Thanks in part to his own small-bore and brutish campaign, victory guarantees the president nothing more than the headache of building consensus in a gridlocked capital on behalf of a polarized public.
And then delivers a stern lecture, with good advice, to Obama.

For example:
Second, commit to the hard and humbling work of governing.  Schmooze with lawmakers, hold regular news conferences, travel the country to tout legislation, and dig into the details of bills and regulations.
Good advice, but there is no reason to expect Obama to take it.
- 4:42 AM, 7 November 2012   [link]


On The Bright Side, it will be President Obama who inherits the mess made by President Obama.

And it is quite a mess, an EPA bent on strangling American industry, a health insurance takeover that is already killing full-time jobs, growing dangers abroad, and, of course, the approaching fiscal cliff.

Like James Taranto, I expect that the next four years will see more losses for the Democratic Party, as the result of Obama's policy failures.
- 4:21 AM, 7 November 2012   [link]


It Isn't Quite Over, But It Looks Bad In the Electoral College:  I say it isn't quite over because networks have, from time to time, made mistakes when they called states.

And it seems likely that Obama will win the popular vote, since he currently trails by less than 1 percent, and there are many West Coast votes yet to be counted.

Did his hurricane photo-ops make the difference?  Probably not, but they didn't hurt Obama.
- 8:34 PM, 6 November 2012   [link]


If You Plan To Follow The Election On Line, You Might Want To Open A Tab to Orbusmax, where you will find links to almost every site you might want to look at.

(What state will I look at first?  Probably Indiana.  Polls close there early and the state reports fast.  Almost no one expects Obama to win Indiana, as he did in 2008, but the size of Romney's margin there may give us some idea about how well the two candidates will do in the neighboring states of Ohio and Michigan.

Bush won the state easily in 2004, (60-39); Obama won it narrowly in 2008 (50-49).   If McCain had won the same number of votes Bush did, he would have won Indiana.   (Bush: 1,479,438, McCain: 1,345,648))
- 2:50 PM, 6 November 2012   [link]


How Accurate Have Gallup's Presidential Polls Been?  Here's their score card.

Note that some of the errors are outside the usual 2-3 point error margins.  Note also that we tend to forget some of the biggest errors — as long as Gallup got the winners right.  For example, their 1992 results look pretty bad, since they were almost 6 points high on Clinton, and 5 points low on Perot.  Together, those are actually bigger mistakes than the ones they made on Truman and Dewey in 1948.
- 1:45 PM, 6 November 2012   [link]


In Place Of A Formal Prediction Of My Own, I'll Offer You Two, one from the Baseball Crank.
My prediction for the national turnout is a conservative one: D+2, D 37/R 35/I 28.  Assuming Romney wins Republicans 94-6, Obama carries Democrats 93-7, and Romney wins independents 53-47 - again, a conservative projection given the polls - that gives us Romney 50.3%, Obama 49.7%.

(If you run those same assumptions in the electorate from Rasmussen's party ID survey, you get Romney 53.7%, Obama 46.2% - and it gets wider from there if the spread among independents gets into double digits.  But I'm being conservative here, as I still expect the more likely outcome to be fairly close).
Those are all, in my opinion, reasonable assumptions.  I would expect a slightly higher level of defections from Democrats, so that Obama would be getting, say, a 91-9 split, instead of 93-7, and I would expect Romney to do slightly better among independents.

And an updated prediction from Steve Lombardo.
Today's analysis produced a flatter curve than we have seen in recent weeks; Sandy has clearly blunted the Romney momentum.  In light of the last-minute polls the trend has been revised downward.  We are getting a final estimate of +. 75 for Romney.   When we correct for turnout, we get a 1.9-point Romney popular vote win.
Both approaches strike me as reasonable — but I would say that, since I have used similar approaches in the past.

(I don't care for more elaborate models, such as the one Nate Silver has constructed.   Some day, I suppose I should explain why for those who care about such technical details.)

One of the reasons I have been so slow to make a prediction, or even link to any approvingly, is weird poll findings like this one from the Baseball Crank post:
But while some of the more garish double-digit margins are gone, the latest battery of national polls shows Romney's standing vs Obama with independents most likely somewhere around a 7 point lead: CNN/ORC (+22, but with the smallest of sample sizes), Monmouth/SUSA (+16), Rasmussen (+9), WaPo/ABC (+7), NBC/WSJ (+7), Pew (+4), Gallup (-1).
Obviously, almost all of those have to be so wrong that they can't be blamed on sampling error — but knowing that doesn't help anyone trying to analyze that data, since it is not obvious which ones are wrong.

What BC did was make reasonable guesses about partisanship and voting, based on past elections.  But with these wildly varying poll results, we have to recognize that those reasonable guesses might be wrong.
- 12:43 PM, 6 November 2012   [link]


Are Democrats Leaving Ballots On The Kitchen Table?   Apparently.
Here are some numbers that will give the Obama campaign heartburn in the key states of Iowa and Florida.

In Florida, 406,634 registered Democrats have not returned their mail ballots compared to 362,920 Republicans.  In comparison, registered Democrats have returned 700,970 mail ballots compared to 781,043 Republicans.  Thus, even though Republicans outnumber Democrats in returned mail ballots by a wide margin, more Democrats have yet to return their ballot.

In Iowa, 40,601 registered Democrats have not returned their mail ballots compared to 21,224 Republicans.  Iowa is not reporting their ballot status in the same way as Florida, but we know that among all ballots cast -- both by mail and in-person -- registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 261,166 to 198,130.  And while that may look like a comfortable margin, keep in mind that Iowa Republicans have historically voted in-person on Election Day in large numbers; John Kerry won the Iowa early vote in 2004, but lost the state.
You would need comparable figures from 2008 to know for certain what to make of these differences.  But I agree that those numbers should give the Obama campaign heartburn — and may explain why Obama campaigned in Iowa yesterday.

The Florida numbers are some of the strongest evidence I've seen for greater Republican enthusiasm this year.

(Professor McDonald links to this giant table, which has early voting numbers for the entire United States.)
- 7:43 AM, 6 November 2012   [link]


Will Undecided Voters Break Against The Incumbent?   Probably.  Pollster Mark Blumenthal believed they would in 2004, when he was backing Kerry, and now believes they won't.

In brief, he thinks that the "incumbent rule" used to work, more often than not, in state races, but no longer does, and he thinks that his mistake in 2004 helps show why it won't apply this year.

But we shouldn't expect the "incumbent rule" to work every time; it's just a generalization, not a scientific law, so an exception doesn't show that it is no longer a useful rule of thumb.  (To be fair, I haven't looked at the analyses that claim that it no longer works.)

Oddly enough, one of the analyses of today's election that he cites in support of his argument actually shows the opposite, though not by a big margin.  I am going to quote from what John Sides says at length to show that.
Another take is Bill Galston’s. He compares 2012 to two other recent elections when the incumbent president was running—1996 and 2004.  Based on when exit poll respondents said they decided, he finds that those who decided in the week before the election were more likely to vote for Dole and Kerry.
. . .
Here’s the first finding.  The model predicts that these undecided voters will split almost exactly evenly: 50.1% for Obama and 49.9% for Romney.  There is substantial uncertainty in this estimate, naturally.  The 95% confidence interval for Obama’s predicted vote share is 44% to 56%.
. . .
If we focus on those undecided voters who say they “definitely” will vote—this is about 58% of undecided voters— the balance tilts more toward Romney: 44% Obama vs. 56% Romney.  As in polls more generally, Romney tends to do a bit better among self-described likely voters than among voters as a whole.  (Again, insert caveat about uncertainty.)
Those likely voters would give Romney a net gain of "at most 0.4 points", which wouldn't matter in most elections, but might matter in this one.

So what Sides found is that undecided voters will break against Obama — probably.  Unless turnout among those undecided voters is much higher than we have any reason to expect it to be.
- 6:29 AM, 6 November 2012   [link]


Bill Clinton Tells A Joke on himself.

(During the Clinton years, I often thought that many voters forgave "Slick Willy" his loose way with the truth because they knew, almost from the beginning, that he was a habitual liar.   A lie shocks us more when it comes from a man with a reputation for telling the truth.)
- 5:32 AM, 6 November 2012   [link]


If Book Purchases Were Votes, Romney Would Win in a landslide, losing only Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.
- 5:02 AM, 6 November 2012   [link]


How Many Republicans Are There In The United States?   If we had a good answer to that question, we could make more accurate predictions about tomorrow's election.  But the pollsters disagree, and by large enough amounts so that we can't attribute the differences to question wording or sample variance.

And there are puzzles in the data, like this one from Rasmussen.  Take a look at their table of party Identification. If we believe the table, then we have to conclude that the Republicans made gains in the last month.

But then suppose we take a look at one of my generic charts, constructed, as usual from Rasmussen's data.

Trends in generic Congressional vote, 7 November 2011 - 4 November 2012

(Note that I am using the traditional — and logical — colors for the two parties, rather than the colors inflicted on us by the "mainstream" media.)

If we believe that chart, then we have to conclude that voters are less willing to vote for Republican congressional candidates — in spite of the fact that there are more Republican voters.

That isn't necessarily inconsistent, but it is odd.

(Here's the generic chart I did in June, for comparison.)
- 8:13 PM, 5 November 2012   [link]


Today, The Editorial Writers At The New York Times Called For More Civility:  But fans of Charles Blow, Gail Collins, Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, and editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal can relax.

The Times just called for more civility — in Congress.  So the opinion pages are safe, for now.
- 7:27 PM, 5 November 2012   [link]


Remember Those Embarrassing "Ramtha" (AKA JZ Knight) donations?

Judging by reports here, here, and here, most Democratic candidates and organizations have donated them to what they consider worthy causes.

But there are two great exceptions:
Pres. Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee now have the dishonorable distinction of being the only parties still holding onto tainted cash taken from Knight, who is now a pariah among Democrats.

In the current election cycle, Knight has given nearly $100,000 to Democratic organizations at the federal level — $5,000 to Obama’s general re-election campaign fund, $40,800 to the Obama Victory Fund and $50,800 to the Democratic National Committee.   Knight also sits on Obama’s re-election steering committee.

The only public statements made by the Obama campaign to date are that they have no plans to return any of Knight’s donations.  No comment has been offered by DNC officials on the matter.
Obama has always been, shall we say, tolerant of minor faults in his donors.
- 3:41 PM, 5 November 2012   [link]


The Trend Is Romney's Friend:  Steve Lombardo fit a curve to the points of the national polls last Thursday and came up with this conclusion.
As of today, the model trend says that Romney is +1.9 percent.  Tomorrow he would be +2.2 percent.  Friday is +2.5 percent.  The intercept is almost exactly +3.5; in other words, the below model suggests that Romney will win the popular vote by 3.5 points.  Now let's assume this trend flattens a bit because of Super Storm Sandy. Our current estimate (which we will update next Tuesday morning) suggests that Romney will capture 51 percent of the popular vote to Obama's 48.5 percent.  The trend line-based on 26 national polls conducted over the last 30 days --is both unmistakable and virtually unassailable.
(Which didn't prevent commenters from assailing it.)

For what it is worth, I had independently, and without statistics, come to a similar conclusion about a trend in favor of Romney.  I am still looking at the evidence, but right now I — tentatively — expect Romney to win the popular vote.
- 1:30 PM, 5 November 2012   [link]


The Benghazi Failure Is Fox's Fault:  All right, that's too strong as a description of this Seattle Times editorial.

But it is true that the only organization blamed in the editorial is Fox.

Fox News delivered a twisted narrative that was inaccurate no matter how often it was repeated.  The irritant eventually flushed out the Central Intelligence Agency, which had been reticent to talk.

A timeline delivered to reporters by a CIA official who spoke anonymously described the intense efforts to assist Americans under attack at the U.S. consulate compound.

(I assume they mean the timeline leaked to David Ignatius, and others, at the Washington Post.)

Set aside for a moment their description of Fox's reporting, and consider their general point.  As I understand the editorial writer, it is wrong, for political purposes (or perhaps just wrong) to spread inaccurate narratives about the Benghazi attack.

Agreed, although I will repeat the point I have made many times before, that we should expect confusion, and inaccurate accounts, in war time.  (There is, by the way, nothing inherently wrong in publishing, or broadcasting, incomplete and possibly false accounts, as long as the reporters are honest about their uncertainty, and diligent about correcting errors, when they make them.)

Now, are there any others who have been giving us inaccurate accounts?  The president who, again and again, blamed the attack on a video?  The secretary of state, who did the same?  The UN ambassador who went on five(!) talk shows to peddle the same false story?

The editorial writer should, I think, take a little time to consider those questions.

And the writer might even want to consider this question:  It is, I think, pretty well established that the Benghazi consulate did not have the security it needed because of administration policy.  Would it be wrong for us to want to know who made and approved that policy?  Or even — shocking as this idea may seem — would it be wrong to blame the president responsible for that policy?

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 12:15 PM, 5 November 2012   [link]


Britt Hume Thinks Obama Has an edge.  Maybe.
I think the conventional wisdom is trending towards an Obama win, something along the lines of what Karl Rove and his team pulled off for President Bush in 2004.  But, I'm by no means certain.
I mention this bit from Fox News Sunday, not because I think Hume is an especially good election analyst (though I like him for other reasons), but because it is so unusual, this year, to see a partisan thinking the other party's guy will win.
- 10:09 AM, 5 November 2012   [link]


Defections Always Go Both Ways:  When that Washington Post article on Obama defectors came out, I noted that you should assume that there will be defectors both ways, that some of the voters who backed McCain in 2008 will vote for Obama in this election.

I had some trouble persuading neo-neocon of that, so I dug up the presidential exit poll table that the New York Times published on 5 November 2008.  (I'm using my locally saved copy, but you should be able to find it at the Times site.)

Because of significant 3rd-party showings in some of those races, it is easiest to present the numbers (since I don't want to take the time to build a table) as loyalty scores, rather than defection scores.  For example, in 1972, just 78 percent of the Democrats who said they had voted for the Democratic candidate in 1968 voted for McGovern.

Here's the complete Democratic sequence, beginning in 1972 and ending in 2008: 78, 73, 63, 82, 92,83, 85, 82, 90, 89.

And here's the Republican sequence for those same years: 90, 79, 83, 88, 80, 59, 82, 91, 90, 82.

So you should not conclude that the Obama defectors, 13 percent in the Post poll, will not be partly balanced by McCain defectors.  Defections always go both ways.

The lowest percent of defectors in those elections, 7 percent, occurred in 1988 (Democrats to Bush) and 2000 (Republicans to Gore).  So it is unlikely that Romney will gain much more than 6 percent, net, from defectors.  If he does do better than that, he will beat every other candidate in the last 40 years.  (Assuming, of course, that Obama loses just 13 percent.)

And you also have to allow for new voters.  They were 11 percent of the electorate in 2008.  I expect them to be a smaller proportion this year, but still close to 10 percent.

(Caveat:  Voters, especially the casual voters who are most likely to switch, sometimes mis-remember their votes.  We know that because the totals are often wrong when you ask people who they voted for, even months after an election.

Because of that, and because of the usual sampling problems, you should probably treat all those numbers above as accurate, at a guess, to no more than plus or minus 3 percent.

Some will wonder who those McCain defectors might be.  It isn't hard to think of some possibilities.  There are, for instance, likely to be a few Protestants and Catholics who are put off by Romney's Mormon faith.  Others, for populist reasons, will switch to Obama, simply because Romney is so rich.  Some veterans, who usually vote Democratic, may return to their party now that McCain is no longer heading the ticket.

And, of course, some people have prospered — or believe they have — because of Obama policies, and some of those voted for McCain.  For example, some auto workers may well believe that Obama did indeed save their jobs.)
- 9:37 AM, 5 November 2012   [link]


Need Another Reason To Vote For Romney?  You probably don't, but here's one just in case:  You will make the French Socialists very unhappy.

(Would it be fair to include the French Socialists in the long list of American enemies that want Obama to win?  Perhaps.  Although they may not hate us in the same way that, for example, Putin does, they would like to see the United States relatively less powerful.)
- 6:35 AM, 5 November 2012   [link]


Pentagon Excuses On Benghazi:  If you want to see those excuses, you can read yesterday's front page New York Times article.

Or you can read Tom Maguire's sarcastic one-paragraph summary of the article.
The good news?  Obama was TOTALLY on it.  The bad news?  Expecting the Pentagon to respond quickly to trouble in the Med or the Middle East on a 9-11 anniversary is expecting too much.
(I'd recommend the second if you are in a hurry.)

The article claims that Obama was informed of the attack at that 5 PM meeting, and issued orders to the Pentagon to "mobilize" American forces.  But a mobilization just gets forces ready, so, assuming the article is correct, Obama did not issue orders for American forces to actually try to rescue the besieged Americans.

(Is that "claims" too cynical?  I don't think so, given the conflicting stories that the administration has put out.)
- 6:13 AM, 5 November 2012   [link]


Jay Cost Explains Why Romney May Win Pennsylvania.

Short version:  Democratic gains in Philadelphia County may not be enough, this year, to outweigh Republican gains in the rest of the state.

In his last paragraph, Cost suggests that Obama may have been over confident.
Final point:  I wonder if Romney has caught Team Obama flat-footed.  For months the Obama campaign has bet that the map would basically look like it did in 2008, then after the debates there was a definite shift.  Now, the president is left fighting not in the 2008 battlegrounds, but in the 2004 battlegrounds, which included Pennsylvania.  I do not think the president’s campaign was fully prepared for this, and I bet he wishes he could have all the money poured into North Carolina back, to redirect it into Pennsylvania.
And in my opinion, Obama and his campaign are still over confident.
- 5:45 AM, 5 November 2012   [link]


Does The Dodd-Frank "Reform" Protect Taxpayers From Future Bailouts?  Not according to Gretchen Morgenson.
Many Americans probably thought that the Dodd-Frank financial reform law will protect taxpayers form future bailouts.  Wrong.  In fact, Dodd-Frank actually widened the safety net for big institutions.  Under the law, eight more giants were granted the right to tap the Federal Reserve when the next crisis hits.  At the same time, those eight may avoid Dodd-Frank measures that govern how we're supposed to wind down institutions that get into trouble.
Clearing houses, like the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, were the ones who hit this "jackpot".

Does this surprise you?  It shouldn't.

You don't have to be a Republican — though it helps — to suspect that any complex financial bill written by Chris Dodd and Barney Frank would have these kinds of problems.

(Not so incidentally, Mitt Romney appears to understand at least some of the problems with Dodd-Frank, maybe even this one.)
- 7:48 PM, 4 November 2012   [link]


Were The National Polls Biased In 2008?  Yes, on the average, as you can see from this quick summary, compiled by Karl Rove.

Taken together the 19 poll results (including two from Gallup) overestimated Obama's winning margin by roughly 1.5 percent.  (Roughly, because Rove is reporting the election in tenths, and the polls in whole numbers.)

That's quite close to another average bias report — 1.4 percent — that Keith Koffler reports.

You'll note that the polls most biased toward Obama tend to be polls done by (or for) news organizations, IBD, NBC, ABC, CBS, USA Today, and Reuters — and that there are no polls with large biases toward McCain.

(Gluttons for punishment may want to look at the formal report from the National Council on Public Polls.)
- 5:54 PM, 4 November 2012   [link]


One Reason I Have Been So Slow To Make A Prediction this year is that I was so lucky in my one 2010 prediction — which I was too embarrassed to call a prediction.

I know I won't do that well this year, even though I am putting more effort into it this time.

(Here's the result, if you need to check.)
- 1:18 PM, 4 November 2012   [link]


You Are Stupid If You Think The Presidential Election Is Close:   So says Paul Krugman.
As Nate Silver (who has lately attracted a remarkable amount of hate — welcome to my world, Nate!) clearly explains, state polling currently points overwhelmingly to an Obama victory.   It’s possible that the polls are systematically biased — and this bias has to encompass almost all the polls, since even Rasmussen is now showing Ohio tied. So Romney might yet win.   But a knife-edge this really isn’t, and any reporting suggesting that it is makes you stupider.
(Or, to repeat a joke I've used before, a graduate student trying to humiliate Paul Krugman.)

In which case, our national pollsters must be stupid because, collectively, they currently give Obama a tiny 0.2 percent lead.  Four of the polls in the Real Clear Politics average, Politico, Rasmussen, ABC, and Fox, show ties in the race.

(Incidentally, Nate Silver agrees that the national popular vote is close.
If you take the polls at face value, then the popular vote might be a tossup, but the Electoral College favors Mr. Obama.
He more or less has to, since his arguments rest, mostly, on his reading of the current polls.

Is that consistent with Silver's prediction that Obama has an 80 percent chance (as I write) of winning?  Perhaps, though it does require Obama to have a substantial advantage in the electoral college.)
- 12:55 PM, 4 November 2012   [link]


We Like Romney, We Really Like Him:  A majority of us, anyway.
After lagging for months at historic lows, Mitt Romney’s personal popularity has advanced in the final weekend to its highest of the 2012 campaign, rivaling Barack Obama’s.  But Obama pushes back with greater enthusiasm among his supporters – and the race itself remains a tie.

Fifty-four percent of likely voters in the latest ABC News/Washington Post tracking poll express a favorable opinion of Obama overall, the most basic measure of a public figure’s popularity.  Yet 53 percent now see Romney favorably – a majority, remarkably, for the first time.
What is happening is that voters have been getting to see the real Romney, not the Romney concocted by his Republican opponents and the Obama attack machine — and the real Romney is, by all accounts, a very likable guy.

(Do I believe that Obama supporters currently have greater enthusiasm than Romney supporters?  No, and most "mainstream" journalists following the campaign, including Jeff Zeleny of the the New York Times, agree with me on that point.)
- 10:30 AM, 4 November 2012   [link]


Michael Barone Predicts A Solid Win For Romney:   Barone goes through the contested states, one by one, and arrives at this conclusion.
Bottom line:  Romney 315, Obama 223.  That sounds high for Romney.   But he could drop Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and still win the election.  Fundamentals.
In recent years, Barone has tended to be a little too optimistic about Republican chances, in my opinion — but there are few who can match his knowledge of American voting patterns.
- 7:51 AM, 3 November 2012   [link]


Stephen Hayes Summarizes the "Mysteries of Benghazi".

For example:
Citing sources on the ground in Benghazi, Fox News reported that Tyrone Woods was “painting” mortar sites with a laser from his rooftop position shortly before he was killed.  A subsequent CIA timeline provided to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius contradicts this, saying that “the rooftop defenders never ‘laser the mortars,’ as has been reported.”   Can the CIA make this claim with certainty?  If Woods was painting the mortar sites as eyewitnesses claim, presumably at considerable personal risk, why was he doing so?   Did he have reason to believe that reinforcements were coming?
And there are many more.

In the last week, I have been re-reading parts of Morison's World War II history.  Again and again, Morison describes the pictures that Japanese and American commanders had — and again and again shows us that those pictures were often wrong, sometimes absurdly wrong.  Many of the errors were not found out until after the war, when we could study Japanese and German records, and talk to our former enemies.

This confusion is what we should expect in war time.

So I would caution everyone not to accept, unconditionally, explanations of these Benghazi mysteries, especially explanations that happen to fit what we want to believe about the Obama administration.

That said, there are some parts of this story that do not seem particularly mysterious.   It was, we can be reasonably certain, administration policy not to fortify the Benghazi consulate.  And I think it quite likely that Vice President Biden was telling the truth when he said he hadn't seen any requests for more security.  I don't think those requests got to Biden or Obama.  They may not even have gotten to Hillary Clinton.
- 7:29 AM, 3 November 2012   [link]


George Will Has Some Fun With Obama (And Biden):   Here's his lead paragraph.
Energetic in body but indolent in mind, Barack Obama in his frenetic campaigning for a second term is promising to replicate his first term, although simply apologizing would be appropriate.  His long campaign’s bilious tone — scurrilities about Mitt Romney as a monster of, at best, callous indifference; adolescent japes about “Romnesia” — is discordant coming from someone who has favorably compared his achievements to those of “any president” since Lincoln, with the “possible” exceptions of Lincoln, LBJ and FDR. Obama’s oceanic self-esteem — no deficit there — may explain why he seems to smolder with resentment that he must actually ask for a second term.
I suppose some of those jabs will reappear on ABC's Sunday talk show.  And why not, since they are pretty good.
- 3:59 PM, 2 November 2012   [link]


Why Are Chinese Professionals Leaving China?  Because they can, and because they are worried about China's future.
As China's Communist Party prepares a momentous leadership changed in early November, it is losing skilled professionals like Ms Chen in record numbers.  In 2012, the last year for which complete statistics are available, 508,00 Chinese left for the 34 developed countries that make up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  That is a 45 percent increase over 2000.
. . .
"People who are middle class in China don't feel secure for their future and especially for their children's future," said Cao Cong, an associate professor at the University of Nottingham who has studied Chinese migration.  "They don't think the political situation is stable."
And they would know more about those risks than most of us.

Incidentally, this might be a reason for companies to be careful about investing too heavily in China.
- 1:59 PM, 2 November 2012   [link]


"The Obama Defectors"  The Washington Post has an article, illustrated with a nifty bar graph, showing how many, from 21 different groups of Obama voters, are planning to vote against him this year.

Very executive summary:  He will lose voters in every single group, even Liberal Democrats and African Americans, though very few in those two groups.

(I expect voters in those two groups to turn out at lower levels than in 2008, which will also hurt Obama.)
What’s perhaps most striking is who the rest of Obama’s defectors are.  While much of the focus has been on how Obama has turned off white men, his defectors run the gamut.

Obama is losing 16 percent of white non-evangelical Protestants who previously supported him to Romney, but also 19 percent of white Catholics.  While he has lost 21 percent of his non-college-educated white men, he has also lost 17 percent of white male college graduates and 18 percent of women who didn’t attain four-year degrees.  And Obama has lost between 11 percent and 14 percent of supporters in all three age groups: under 40 years old, 40-64, and 65-plus.
Overall, Obama will lose between 13 and 16 percent of his 2008 voters.  He received 52.9 percent of the vote in 2008, so that would take him down to around 45 percent.   Unfortunately, the article does not give any numbers for McCain defectors, and there will be a few, so we can't use that 45 to get an overall result.  (We would also need to know how the electorate has changed in the last four years, of course.)
- 1:30 PM, 2 November 2012   [link]


Would Democratic Senator Menendez Have Paid Those Those Dominican Girls Fairly, If They Were Union Members?  (Assuming, of course, that stories like this one are true.)

Setting aside, for the moment, questions of fidelity — Menendez is married — and legality — sex tourism can be illegal in the United States, even if it isn't in the nation where it occurs — I think we can answer that question with a tentative yes.

Menendez is a New Jersey Democrat.  He may not be faithful to his wife, but he is, almost certainly, faithful to the unions that support him at election time.

(Is the story true?  Probably, as far as I can tell.  I base that conclusion partly on another story, and on Menendez's host's legal problems, and partly on the fact that Menendez has not denied the story as vigorously as he might have.

Unfortunately, he is so far ahead of his opponent, Joe Kyrillos, that he will probably survive this scandal.)
- 7:42 AM, 2 November 2012   [link]


New Jersey Towns Need Help Getting Their Power Back On:   But not all of them need it so much that they would allow non-union workers to help.
Utility crews from several states East of the Mississippi River hit the road this week to volunteer their time and talents in Northeastern states hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.  But crews from Alabama got the shock of their lives when other workers in a coastal New Jersey town told them they couldn’t lend a hand without a union card.

Derrick Moore, who works for Decatur Utilities in Decatur, Ala., told WAFF-TV in Huntsville that crews in Seaside Heights, N.J. turned him and his crewmates away, saying they couldn’t do any work there because they’re not union employees.
It is likely that those union workers are making big bucks out of this disaster.  They are probably working many extra hours at overtime rates, so you can understand why they might not want any volunteers there.

(Judging by its location, Seaside Heights was probably hit hard by the hurricane.)
- 6:53 AM, 2 November 2012   [link]


Did Vote Fraud Cause Edgar Allan Poe's Death?  This theory is new to me, but there is nothing in it that strikes me as implausible.
Poe's death in 1849 at age 40 is shrouded in mystery, and everything from alcohol poisoning to tuberculosis to heart disease to rabies has been mentioned as a potential cause of death.  But one of the most compelling explanations -- and one that is increasingly accepted by Poe scholars -- is "cooping."  In the mid-1800s, "cooping," a form of voter fraud in which backers of a candidate would force strangers to vote multiple times for their candidate by dressing up in disguises, was fairly common.
Unfortunately, I can not agree with Jennifer Marsico that we will never see similar kinds of voter fraud again.

(I should have posted this on Halloween, I suppose.)
- 9:03 PM, 1 November 2012   [link]


Vote Fraud In Daley's Chicago:  Mike Royko, in his biography of Richard J. Daley, Boss, explained some of the techniques.

Despite all these safeguards and its lopsided superiority over local opposition, the Machine never fails to run scared.  For this reason, or maybe out of habit, it never misses a chance to steal a certain number of votes and trample all over the voting laws.  Most of it goes on in wards where the voters are lower middle class, black, poor white, or on the bottle.  To assure party loyalty, the precinct captains merely accompany the voter into the voting machine.  They aren't supposed to be sticking their heads in, but that's the only way they can be sure the person votes Democratic.  They get away with it because the election judges, who are citizens hired to supervise each polling place, don't protest.  The Democratic election judges don't mind, and the Republican election judges are probably Democrats.  The Republicans assign poll watchers to combat fraud but they never have enough people to cover all the precincts.  If they prevented the common practices, imaginative precinct captains would merely turn to others.  In some wards, politically obligated doctors sign stacks of blank affidavits, attesting to the illness of people they have never seen, thus permitting the precinct captain to vote the people in their homes as absentee voters for reasons of illness.  And several investigations have shown that death does not always keep a person's vote from being cast. (p. 77)

Which should remind you of this classic joke:

Jones: "I want to be buried in Chicago.
Smith: "Why?"
Jones: "So I can stay active in politics."

There were legal ways in which a voter could get "assistance" in voting in Chicago then.  I don't recall exactly what they were, but do remember that some wards had astonishingly high proportions of voters who needed that assistance.

As you can see, the precinct captains — in some wards — did whatever they could to get around that secret-ballot problem.

Fortunately, we have learned from that, and no longer have voting systems where political operatives can see a voter's choices.

Or do we?

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 8:41 PM, 1 November 2012   [link]


Here's Karl Rove's prediction:
In addition to the data, the anecdotal and intangible evidence—from crowd sizes to each side's closing arguments—give the sense that the odds favor Mr. Romney.  They do.   My prediction: Sometime after the cock crows on the morning of Nov. 7, Mitt Romney will be declared America's 45th president.  Let's call it 51%-48%, with Mr. Romney carrying at least 279 Electoral College votes, probably more.
Rove is pretty good with election numbers.

On the other hand, I have seen almost no predictions, from either side, that their candidate will lose.  Obama supporters think their man will win, and Romney supporters think their man will win.
- 3:53 PM, 1 November 2012   [link]


In Which States Are The Candidates (And their Allies) Spending Their Last-Week Money?  NBC has a summary.

Here are the two states in that list of fourteen that I found most interesting:
10. Michigan ($5.7m) - AFF, AFP, Obama, ROF Team Romney $5.2m/Team Obama $500k

12. New Mexico ($225k)- Restore Our Future PAC
(The states are numbered 1-13, but Minnesota and North Carolina are tied for 11th.)

Restore Our Future is supporting Romney.  You can see their ads here.

In 2008, Obama won Minnesota by 10 points 54-44), and New Mexico by 15 points (57-42).  On the other hand, Bush lost Minnesota by just 3 points in 2004 (51-48), and won New Mexico barely (50-49) in 2004.  (In my opinion, he also would have won New Mexico in 2000, had it not been for fraudulent votes.)

New Mexico is a state where differential turnout may determine the victory.  In 2008, McCain received almost as many votes as Bush had in 2004 (346,832-376,930), but Obama won way more votes than Kerry had (472,422-370,942)

By way of JohnE at Ace of Spades.
- 3:26 PM, 1 November 2012   [link]


Rumsfeld Tells Us A Little More About What Happened To Those Requests For Help from Benghazi.  Probably.
Rumsfeld: First, I guess you never want to say never.  But the information flow into the Situation Room in the White House is massive.  Basically, anything of significance that is known and forwarded to the State Department, the CIA, or the Department of Defense ends up available in the Situation Room in reasonably rapid manner.  They have excellent communications capabilities.

Does it go directly to the Oval Office?  No.  It goes into the Situation Room where the Chief of Staff of the White House and the National Security Advisor end up being alerted to anything of significance.  And certainly the risk of life for an Ambassador is something that would qualify as significant.
So the requests for help got to Chief of Staff Jack Lew and to National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon, probably, but we don't know what happened to the requests after that.

Some statements from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta imply that the requests got to him, and that he was at least involved in turning them down, but we don't know for sure that they even got to him.

(Why probably?  Because, as far as I can tell, Rumsfeld is describing the procedures during his time in the Bush administration.  Procedures may have changed since then.)
- 10:15 AM, 1 November 2012
More:  Here's a description of Panetta's vague statements, along with some discussion of the problem of figuring out exactly what the administration is saying happened.

This afternoon, I heard Rumsfeld on the Michael Medved show.  He mostly repeated what he had said in that interview, but he did add that he was sure that the requests for help would have been passed on to Panetta and Obama.  I don't share his opinion, given Obama's vague statement the next day, and Panetta's hedging.
- 3:40 PM, 1 November 2012   [link]


President Obama Is A Pro-Abortion Extremist:  For some months I had been planning to write a post making that point, but then Timothy Carney did it for me, and did it better than I could have done.

In this detailed column, Carney shows that Obama has consistently taken stands on abortion that are extreme, some even for his own party.

Examples:

In the Illinois state senate, Obama repeatedly opposed efforts to require hospitals to care for babies who survived abortions.  The bill explicitly and repeatedly stated that it in no way pertained to babies still in utero.  These assurances,  in an identical bill in the U.S. Senate in 2001, were enough to win the vote of every pro-choice senator.
. . .
All of this puts Obama firmly outside the mainstream. In the latest Gallup polls, 71 percent favor laws requiring parental consent before a child gets an abortion.  Obama opposes even parental notification.  Only 26 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal under all circumstances.  Obama thinks it should be legal and subsidized under all circumstances.

Former president Clinton — who, like Al Gore and Jesse Jackson, had claimed to be pro-life early in his career — often said that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare".  Obama, as far as I know, never includes the "rare", and even Obama must know that, when you subsidize something, you get more of it.

It is necessary to say these things because Obama, and many other Democrats, have been calling their Republican opponents extremists on this issue.  In this area, for example, Democrat Suzan DelBene has been running ad after ad accusing her opponent, John Koster, of being an extremist on this issue.

(DelBene has few public accomplishments of her own, other than being the state's chief tax collector for a year — which may explain why her campaign consists of absurd promises, and nasty, and partly dishonest, attacks.)

Does DelBene disagree with any of Obama's extreme positions on abortion?  If so, she hasn't said so.  Judging by her vague issues statement, which does not use the word "abortion", I would say that, like Obama, she is a pro-abortion extremist.

It is necessary to say these things in a blog post because our "mainstream" journalists, who are either pro-abortion extremists themselves, or afraid to suggest limits on abortion for fear of their extremist colleagues, have not said them.  In particular, the Seattle Times, our local monopoly newspaper, has failed, again and again, to make these obvious points.

The editorial board at the Times again endorsed Obama, though with less enthusiasm than in 2008  They do not even mention his extremist positions on abortion, as a reason to vote for him, or against him.

In all the years that Obama was campaigning for president and being president, I can not recall a single article in the Times in which Obama was described, correctly, as an extremist on abortion.  The Times has failed its readers by not telling them that obvious point, and failed its readers by not asking candidates like DelBene whether they agree with all of Obama's extremist positions on abortion.

Many, maybe even most, of those who work for the Times at least try to be honest journalists, much, maybe even most, of the time.  But on abortion, the Times has failed, consistently.  There many ways to be dishonest, and refusing to say the obvious — that Obama and many other Democrats are pro-abortion extremists — is one of them.

If those who run the newspaper want our respect, they should take a hard look at what they have failed to say in this area — and make a serious effort at reform.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(I should say, as I have before, that I usually use "extremist" descriptively, and that I consider someone extreme if their views are very different from the American average.  Although Obama is an extremist on this issue, that does not, in itself, make him wrong.  As far as that goes, I am an extremist myself on some issues, notably free speech.  (On abortion, I am closer to the middle than Romney, and far closer than Obama.)

Carney also claims that Romney is a moderate on this issue.  Romney is certainly less extreme on abortion than Obama, but whether you call him a moderate depends on your definition.  (Like presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush, Romney supports three exceptions for abortions: rape, incest, and the life of the mother.   That makes him more moderate than the Catholic Church, which accepts only the last.  (I believe John Kennedy adhered, at least officially, to Catholic doctrine on that question.)

If Romney is elected president, I would expect him, like Reagan and both Bushes, to be forced by political constraints to follow moderate policies on abortion.

Because I am criticizing the Seattle Times here, I will be sending an email to the executive editor and the editorial page editor, to give them an opportunity to respond.)
- 9:19 AM, 1 November 2012   [link]


Mary Katherine Ham Explains The "Waffle House Index" to the New York Times editorial board.

Here's her conclusion:
Disaster recovery requires nimble decision-making, flexibility, and money.  The federal government has only one of those, and arguably none of them if you check out the debt.   It is harmful to argue, as the NYT does, for a bigger and ever-less flexible system, ruled entirely by leaders in Washington and to poison the idea of states and private companies taking on larger roles.
They should learn from her, but they are unlikely to read her, or others making similar arguments — even in their own newspaper.
- 7:17 AM, 1 November 2012   [link]