November 2010, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Book (And DVD) Bargains From Edward R. Hamilton:  I've mentioned this bargain bookseller before, but the arrival of two bargains today made me think I should mention the company again.

I bought the 6th edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (which is shorter only by comparison) for $74.95 and a World War II film collection (A Bridge Too Far, Battle of Britain, The Great Escape, and Run Silent, Run Deep) for $14.95.

You can see the Amazon prices for the same items here and here, if you are wondering whether those are really bargain prices.

Hamilton has simple and reasonable policies — and one odd quirk; the company does not accept credit cards, but does provide a link to another company that has access to Hamilton's inventory, but charges a little extra.

I have been ordering from them for years, and can recall only one mistake in shipping.  They ship promptly, always by US mail, which lets them take advantage of "media rates".
- 6:41 PM, 8 November 2010   [link]

Vanity Plate Seen At Lunch Time:  On an Audi TT: "HAUDI2U"

That's almost as good as the one I saw, years ago, on a little foreign sports car being driven by a pretty woman: "4NQT".  (I assume it was intended to describe both.)
- 2:54 PM, 8 November 2010   [link]

A Students Take Fewer Risks:  In almost every way, including sex.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found a decided link between celibacy and good grades.  Among high school students who earn mostly A's, 32 percent have had intercourse, compared with 69 percent of their peers with D's and F's.  And on risk-taking measures like consuming alcohol or using condoms, the better students were also the more cautious.
(Pamela Paul cites another study which found that commitment may lessen the damage.)

At the CDC site, I found summaries documenting the correlations between low grades and risky behavior, including alcohol and other drugs, tobacco, unintentional injury and violence, and, of course, sex.

A students had healthier habits too.

The CDC does not present any conclusions on causality in these presentations, which is understandable given the complexity of the problems, but unfortunate, because the public policy implications are obscure.   We don't know, for example, whether to discourage drug use in order to get higher achievement, or to encourage academic achievement in order to discourage drug use.  (And, of course, the causality, even in that simple example, could run both ways.)
- 10:58 AM, 8 November 2010   [link]

Do Newspaper Endorsements Help Or Hurt?  That's something I have been wondering about for some time, given how much voters distrust newspapers.

Rick Perry, who has just been re-elected governor of Texas, thinks they hurt, at least in Republican primaries.  And he has some data to support that conclusion.
Perry didn't receive any endorsements from the major newspapers in the Lone Star State.  And, the governor went out of his way to make sure he didn't.  Perry didn't attend a single editorial endorsement meeting--knowing he would, therefore, be unlikely to gain any newspaper endorsements.  And he didn't.  Which is what he wanted.

Mike Baselice, Perry's highly skilled pollster, acknowledged Wednesday at a public forum sponsored by The Texas Tribune that the campaign asked primary voters in Texas whether a newspaper endorsement would make them more or less likely to vote for Perry.  Only 6 percent said an endorsement would make them more likely to support Perry, while an eye-popping 37 percent said it would make them less likely (56 percent said it made no difference).
What about general elections?  That would depend on the issues, the candidates, and the newspaper, I imagine.  And I haven't seen enough data to come up with some general rule as to when endorsements would help, and when they would hurt.

But there is an interesting local example.  Congressman Dave Reichert represents Washington's 8th district.  It has never elected a Democrat — and it voted for Democratic presidential candidates in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008.  This year, our local monopoly newspaper, the Seattle Times, endorsed Reichert's opponent, Suzan DelBene.  (They had endorsed Reichert in previous elections.)  This year, Reichert won easily, against a strong and well-funded opponent.

Granted, this is a Republican year, though less so in Washington than in most of the nation, but Reichert's easy victory does provide some food for thought.
- 8:27 AM, 8 November 2010   [link]

The Republican Comeback Plan:  The New York Times tells us a little about how John Boehner beat Nancy Pelosi.  They begin the story in January, 2009.
The PowerPoint slides presented to House Republicans in January 2009 seemed incongruously optimistic at a time when the very word "hope" belonged to the newly ascendant Democrats and their incoming president, Barack Obama.
. . .
The presentation was the product of a strategy session held 11 days before Mr. Obama's inauguration, when top Republican leaders in the House of Representatives began devising an early blueprint for what they would accomplish in Tuesday's election: their comeback.

How they did it is the story of one of the most remarkable Congressional campaigns in more than a half-century, characterized by careful plotting by Republicans, miscalculations by Democrats and a new political dynamic with forces out of both parties' control.  The unpredictable Tea Party movement, the torrent of corporate money from outside interests and an electorate with deep discontent helped shift the balance of power in Washington.
Republicans had one great advantage; a majority of House districts had voted for Bush in 2000, and a larger majority of House districts had voted for him in 2004.  For Democrats to keep control of the House, they had to win some districts that Bush had carried at least once, and often twice.

I haven't seen a similar discussion from the Democratic side, but I suspect that Pelosi did not understand the Democrats' vulnerability as well as Boehner did, and, to give her credit, may have been willing to sacrifice her majority in order to impost ObamaCare on all of us.  (It may be hard to see America clearly from San Francisco.)

Note that the Republican leaders in the House began their effort months before the Tea Party became a mass movement, and that they were able to adapt to it better than leaders in the Senate.  (Although to be fair, none of the House candidates caused quite the same problems that Christine O'Donnell and Sharron Angle did, if only because they received far less publicity.)
- 7:38 AM, 8 November 2010   [link]

Mark Shields Gives Us All A Chuckle:  First by telling us how great Nancy Pelosi has been as Speaker, and then by comparing Sarah Palin's resignation to Chappaquiddick.

His timing is a little off in both bits, but his performance shows comic genius, even so.
- 6:03 AM, 8 November 2010   [link]

Radioactive Rabbits:  It's time for a partial confession.

During my life, I have many times spent time in areas with higher-than-normal levels of radiation.  Sometimes I went to these places on my own; sometimes I paid people to take me there.  (Many others have done the same, and some actually choose to live in areas with higher-than-normal levels of radiation.)  I have worked in buildings with significant levels of radiation.  A few months ago, I paid a medical professional to give me an additional dose of radiation.

I even, when I was younger, raised radioactive rabbits.

Before you rush to condemn me for my reckless behavior, let me explain.  I like to hike in our mountains, and have even climbed a few of them.  I have taken many airplane flights; when you are above much of the atmosphere, you are exposed to a little extra radiation.   Similarly, people who live in Denver, and other higher altitude places, get a little extra radiation.   Granite, and many other rocks used in buildings, typically have a small amount of radioactive elements, enough, by the way, so that many courthouses emit enough radiation so that they would be illegal if they were nuclear power plants.  Like most sensible people, I get my teeth x-rayed once a year.

And the radioactive rabbits?  When I was much younger, and in 4-H, I raised radioactive rabbits, which the family ate, and which I sold to some of our neighbors.

How do I know the rabbits were radioactive?  I know that because every animal is made up of elements with radioactive isotopes such as Carbon 14.  So the rabbits I raised and ate must have been a tiny bit radioactive.  And that fact doesn't bother me at all.

All this leads naturally to the story of the radioactive rabbit found at Hanford.  I must have seen, or heard, that story a dozen times last week.  But not once did any reporter or announcer tell me how radioactive the rabbit was.  Not once did any of our journalists tell us whether the rabbit was radioactive enough to be a hazard, even if someone had made it into rabbit stew and ate it.

I am pretty sure that Hanford has any number of people who could have answered that question — if any of our journalists had asked them.  Apparently none of them did, or none of them chose to share the answer with us, if they did ask.

(Incidentally, even if you had made the rabbit into stew and eaten it, you could have been treated to remove most of the dangerous Cesium-137.)

Without knowing how radioactive the rabbit was, we have no idea what to make of this story.  Except, perhaps, that most journalists don't know much about science.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(I hesitated to put this in, but it is so interesting that I decided to add it — without endorsing it.  Some scientists believe that small doses of radiation are beneficial, because they stimulate the body's defense mechanisms, in a process called radiation hormesis.  The subject is wildly controversial, as you may already have guessed.)
- 7:15 PM, 7 November 2010   [link]

Did "Diversity" Give Us Dilbert?  In this feature article, Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip, charges two previous employers with illegal discrimination.
One day, a position opened above me [in the "large bank" where Adams was working], and I was the most obvious candidate to fill it.  My boss called me into her office and said she had some bad news.  She explained that the media was giving our company a lot of heat because almost all of our managers and executives were white males.  Promoting me, she explained, would only make things worse.  I asked how long I might need to wait for all of this to blow over.  My boss was vague, but she said the timeline involved smoothing out the effects of two centuries of corporate discrimination.
. . .
One day my boss [in a "local phone company"] called me into his office and explained that the media was giving the phone company a lot of heat because almost all of the managers and executives were white males.  So, he explained, promoting me would only make things worse.
At that point, Adams says, he decided to become an entrepreneur.  In time, he succeeded with his comic strip.

With just a little bit of work, you could find out which large bank Adams worked for, and which local phone company he worked for.  Adams is accusing them both, quite directly, of discriminating against him because of his race.  They probably can't be prosecuted, assuming Adams is right, because he didn't complain publicly, soon enough.

But here's the other side:  Adams is sure enough of his facts to risk two libel suits by making these accusations.  And, from my own personal experience, I would say that I find his claims of discrimination entirely plausible, especially in highly regulated businesses like banking and local telephone.

(The claim of discrimination isn't Adams's main point in the article.  Instead, he is arguing that bad managers in large companies often create entrepreneurs.  That's a plausible claim, though I would like to see some data to back it up.)
- 4:43 PM, 7 November 2010   [link]

Which Groups Voted More Republican In 2010 Than 2008?  According to the exit polls, these groups:
gay, lesbian, or bisexual*
women and men
ages 18-29*, 30-44, 45-59, and 60 and older
blacks*, Hispanics*, Asians*, and whites
people who did not graduate from high school*, high school graduates, some college, college graduate, and postgraduate*
people living in the East*, West*, Midwest, and South
people living in big cities (>500,00)*, in medium cities (50,000-500,000)*, small cities (10,000-50,000), suburbs, and rural areas
independents and Republicans
moderates and conservatives
people with incomes <$30,000, $30,000-$50,000, >$50,000 and >$100,000
Catholics and Protestants
Which groups didn't vote more Republican?  These groups:  Democrats and liberals.

(*Groups that voted Democratic, but by less than in 2010.)
- 12:57 PM, 7 November 2010   [link]

Nancy Pelosi Will Run For Minority Leader:  (And almost certainly win, judging by news accounts.)

Conservative William Kristol is delighted.
The Weekly Standard was already in good cheer after Tuesday's election.  But then came the news at the end of the week, as the magazine went to press, that Nancy Pelosi has decided to try to retain her position as the top House Democrat, and will stand for House minority leader in January.

Now, there are those, of a churlish disposition, who would note that Speaker Pelosi has presided over the largest loss of House seats by a party in a midterm election in 62 years.  There are second-guessers who would question her strategy and tactics on the stimulus, cap and trade, and health care.  There are Democrats lured by the superficial attraction of a new face as leader of their party in the House.  There are Democrats in swing districts who are tempted by the prospect of their party following a more moderate path.  Indeed, there are defeated congressmen who—unjustly, to be sure!—actually blame the speaker for their soon-to-be unemployed status.

We urge Democrats to reject all such considerations and counsels.  We urge the remaining House Democrats to keep Nancy Pelosi as their leader.
Leftist Michael Tomasky is dismayed.
Okay, today is the day I'm officially getting old.  Moving toward the mushy middle.  At least on this one question.  Nancy Pelosi is going to run to keep her job as leader of the Democrats, and I am not down with this at all.

I think she was a good to very good speaker.  In interviews and other occasions I had to speak with her, she's not what you'd call an intellectual, and I dislike this habit she has of interrupting her own sentences and changing direction like a pinball that's just hit a bumper.  But she's a sharpie, believe me.  Maybe not up there with Schumer, but good political instincts.

But simple question:  How can you preside over the biggest ass-whupping since 1938 and keep your job?  You can't.  Simple.
(Tomasky misses one of the Republican bonuses from this decision.  Current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer — who is moderate only by comparison to Pelosi — will be forced to step down, or to challenge Majority Whip James E. Clyburn for the minority whip position.   Whichever happens, partisan Republicans will be pleased.)

Me?  I have mixed feelings.   As a Republican, I am delighted, because I think her leadership will give Republicans opportunities to win more seats in 2012.

But as an American I would prefer to see Pelosi gone, not just from a leadership position, but from the House.  She has been the worst Speaker of my life time, and the worst Minority Leader.   I think that serious entitlement reform, and many other needed reforms, are impossible as long as Pelosi is leading the House Democrats.

So I would like to see her gone, for the good of the country.  But I don't think she'll do much additional damage during the next two years, since almost every reform that she would block would also be blocked by President Obama.

(Tomasky makes an important observation when he says she is "not what you'd call an intellectual".   Like Washington state's senior senator, Patty Murray, Speaker Pelosi is not smart enough, or perhaps not educated enough, to make good policies.  Both are good politicians; both would have trouble understanding something as simple as the difference between a median and a mean.)
- 10:31 AM, 7 November 2010   [link]

Return To The Norm?  Charles Krauthammer argues that Tuesday's election was just a return to the norm.
For all the turmoil, the spectacle, the churning - for all the old bulls slain and fuzzy-cheeked freshmen born - the great Republican wave of 2010 is simply a return to the norm. The tide had gone out; the tide came back. A center-right country restores the normal congressional map: a sea of interior red, bordered by blue coasts and dotted by blue islands of ethnic/urban density.

Or to put it numerically, the Republican wave of 2010 did little more than undo the two-stage Democratic wave of 2006-2008 in which the Democrats gained 54 House seats combined (precisely the size of the anti-Democratic wave of 1994). In 2010 the Democrats gave it all back, plus about an extra 10 seats or so for good - chastening - measure.
There's something in what Krauthammer says, but he goes too far in his argument.

To see that, let me start with an abstract off-year election, one in which issues and candidates were equal, and there were no incumbents.  Which party would win such an election?  Probably the Democrats, though it would be very close.  There are more Democrats than Republicans, but they are a little less likely to vote, and too many of them are concentrated in urban districts.

Everything wasn't equal on Tuesday; models from political scientists were predicting that the Republicans would gain somewhere around 45 House seats, enough to take control, but not by a large margin.  You could call such a result a "return to the norm" — allowing for the terrible economy.

But Republicans did better than than most of those models predict, gaining about 20 more House seats because of issue advantages.  And the gains in the other races, in particular the gains in control of the states, show that Tuesday's election was more than a return to the norm.

(The control of the states will probably give the Republicans an additional 5-10 House seats, after redistricting.)
- 8:01 AM, 5 November 2010   [link]

Unfortunately, Patty Murray Will Be Representing Washington state for another six years.  (There are still many votes to be counted, but Dino Rossi has conceded, after, I assume, looking at the current totals, and where those uncounted votes would come from.)

At the very time that the state (and the nation) needs an intelligent senator, open to new ideas, we re-elected a not-very-bright, closed-minded party hack.

Yes, I'm disappointed.  But I plan to channel that disappointment into an analysis of this loss.   That analysis will have to wait for a week or so, since we are still counting votes here.
- 7:33 AM, 5 November 2010   [link]

The Democrats Actually Won Yesterday:  So says Rick Anderson of the Seattle Weekly.

I think he's serious.

If the Democrats did win yesterday, then it was a notably Pyrrhic victory.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

By way of Orbusmax.

(Anderson is a pretty good local reporter, especially on crime stories.  I can't recall him publishing any great practical jokes in the past, which is one of the reasons I think he was being serious in that post.

There may be a typo in the post.  Anderson says that Obama has had a "constructive" first two years; he may have meant "destructive".)
- 6:25 PM, 3 November 2010   [link]

Some Election Snark from Tom Maguire.
Nothing seems to be upsetting the narrative - this is the moment when the rise of the oceans begins to accelerate and our planet begins to sicken.
(If that's obscure, here's a hint.)
- 4:09 PM, 3 November 2010   [link]

As The Nation Goes, So Goes Maine?  That was my reaction to this mildly surprising result.
Hundreds of excited Republicans rallied in the State House this morning to celebrate what appears to be the GOP takeover of the governor's office, House of Representatives and Senate.
(History buffs may already have guessed that I was reversing an old saying:  "As Maine goes, so goes the nation."  At one time, Maine held elections for governor in September.  That early election often gave a clue to how the national election would go that November.)
- 2:46 PM, 3 November 2010   [link]

What Are The Big News Stories In The Rest Of The World?  Mostly, judging by a quick glance through major news organizations, the American mid-term elections.

The BBC.  (Three of their top ten stories are on our elections, including the top story.)

The National Post.

The Guardian.

Telegraph, which was even live-blogging the election.

Der Spiegel, which also has a picture gallery.

Le Figaro.

Le Monde.

(Incidentally, even if you know no French, you can probably puzzle out much of what Le Figaro and Le Monde are saying.  For instance, it isn't too hard to figure out this headline: "Les républicains majoritaires à la Chambre, les démocrates conservent le Sénat".)

The Times of India.

El Universal.   (Not the lead story, but a prominent commentary.)

And probably many more.

I sometimes wish they would pay less attention to us, but I suppose there's no point in dreaming about the impossible.
- 2:04 PM, 3 November 2010   [link]

Iowa Judges Pay The Price For Legislating:  In 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court imposed gay marriage on Iowa, against the will of the majority of Iowans.

Yesterday, Iowans removed three of the judges who joined in that unanimous decision.

There are seven judges on theIowa Supreme Court, so this removal will not be enough, by itself, to reverse Varnum v. Brien.  Judge David Wiggins's term expires next year, so it is possible that there will be a majority against the decision, quite soon.  And I suppose one of the other judges might reconsider, now that the voters have spoken.

Regardless of your opinions on gay marriage, you should oppose these court decisions — unless you think courts ought to be legislatures, and, in many states, unelected legislatures.
- 10:31 AM, 3 November 2010   [link]

In Principle, I Should Have Been Opposed to Denver's Proposition 300.  But in practice I was hoping that it would pass, simply because it would provide so many joke possibilities.

It didn't pass, so there will be no commission to track extraterrestrials in the mile-high city.
- 10:05 AM, 3 November 2010   [link]

Rogue Wave:  Michael Ramirez provides a picture.
- 9:52 AM, 3 November 2010   [link]

While I Am Catching Up On My Sleep (and exercise), here are a couple of quick reads on last night's results from Michael Barone.

So why didn't Republicans do better in the Senate races?  That's a natural question, though as I write it appears that Republicans gained 6 Senate seats—in ND, AR, IN, WI, PA and IL—and may still prevail in CO and WA.  In most years gaining 6 to 8 Senate seats would be a great victory; this year it seems somewhat less so, because more seemed possible.

One reason is that Republicans had less than optimal candidates in some significant races.  Mainstream media will claim that this is because tea party wacko candidates weakened Republicans' chances.  There is something to that, though not as much as MSM would like to think.
Note that even wins in Delaware and Nevada — the states where "wacko" candidates may have spoiled Republican chances — would still require the Republicans to almost sweep the rest of the competitive races in order to win control of the Senate.

Democrats were lucky that so many of the fights were in Democratic-leaning states, but Republicans should recognize that defeats in 2006 and 2008 are the principal reason that Mitch McConnell will not be able to call himself "majority leader" next January.  The hill this year was awfully large to climb in a single election.

(One speculative, but interesting, point about Nevada:  Last night, talk show host Michael Medved said that Sharron Angle might have been hurt by the anti-Mormon words of a former pastor.   Reid is, of course, Mormon, and there is a significant group of Mormons in Nevada.  Generally, one would expect them to vote mostly Republican.)
- 9:08 AM, 3 November 2010   [link]

Rossi Camp Update On The Rossi-Murray Race:  Here's an email from his campaign manager, Pat Shortridge:

This evening's returns indicate this election is as close as many predicted, in that it is too close to call.   A few points to remember as you examine returns:

  • Historically in Washington, the Republican candidates improve their percentages in each county in votes counted after Election Day, usually improving their margins by 2 to 3 percentage points.
  • King County, which is providing most of Sen. Murray's margin, accounts for 30.7% of all registered voters in the state.  According to County Election reports, King County only has 26.7% of the remaining ballots left to count.  The rest of the state, where Rossi has a comfortable lead, will count proportionately more ballots post-Election Day.
  • Spokane County, where Rossi is currently in the lead by more than 50%, still has at least 21.6% of the remaining ballots left to process, with more coming in.
  • Rossi is currently leading in Pierce County by nearly 2,500 votes
  • According to the Secretary of State, there are still over 508,000 estimated ballots left to process statewide.

Again, we will know more over the next several days as ballots continue to come in and counties continue to count. We are confident that the margins we are seeing throughout Washington State, combined with the state legislative victories, will put Dino Rossi ahead by an overwhelming margin.

For the record:  I have not checked any of Shortridge's points, though I should add that I don't see any that are obviously wrong.

As I write, Murray has a lead of 14,005 votes.  You can look at the results here, as the ballots come in and are counted.  There is a good chance that we'll have an automatic recount in this race.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.
- 5:30 AM, 3 November 2010   [link]

Exit Poll In Washington State?  Exit polls are unlike most modern polls in that the pollster does not select individuals, but precincts.  They send one or more interviewers to each selected precinct and have them interview a sample of voters as they come out.

But Washington, except for Pierce County, votes almost entirely by mail.  (And Pierce County, which includes Tacoma and the surrounding area, votes mostly by mail.)  So I am not sure how they did an exit poll in this state.

Perhaps they just did a traditional telephone poll during the day.

(The leaked results show Patty Murray with a 6 point lead, which is larger than the margin in most of the recent polls.  I have no idea if those are partial results, or the full results.  Remember, people are still voting here.)
- 8:56 PM, 2 November 2010   [link]

All The Networks Are Projecting That The Republicans Will Control The House:   Easily.  Some of the projections are awfully close to my wild 62-63 seat guess earlier today.

If my wild guess turns out to be close, I won't know whether to be pleased or embarrassed, pleased because I was close, or embarrassed because I didn't do the work I should have to support my guess.
- 7:40 PM, 2 November 2010   [link]

Asteroid Strike?  A few, not satisfied with wave metaphors, are looking for an even bigger result, which they call an asteroid strike.
How big will tonight's "wave election" be and what will we call it tomorrow?

Some are using the term "tsunami."  Others are calling it a hurricane.

I think that there is a strong case to be made that this is less a wave election like 1994 and more like the political equivalent of an asteroid strike.
You can read the whole thing, but essentially Robert Moran is telling us what would happen if that Gallup generic vote result is correct.

You'll probably laugh at this, but I spent some time a couple of days ago looking for names for really large waves — not including tsunami.  I found one good name: "rogue wave".
- 5:12 PM, 2 November 2010   [link]

Voting In The Parking Lot:  This afternoon, as I left the Kirkland Post Office, having dropped my ballot off, I noticed a young woman sitting in her car, filling out her ballot.

In Washington state, as I have mentioned before, a mailed ballot is valid as long as it is postmarked election day, or earlier.  And there are a few places around the state that accept ballots as late as midnight.
- 4:54 PM, 2 November 2010   [link]

Need A Score Card For Tonight's Election News?  You can find one here.  (If you decide to print it, as Ishmael suggests, you will want to select just the frame that holds the score card before printing.)

Or, you can use this fancier guide here.

One caution:  The states that report first, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia are all states where I would expect the anti-Democrat wave to be larger than in the country as a whole.  So don't get too excited (or too depressed) by the first returns.
- 3:24 PM, 2 November 2010   [link]

Judge Noonan Questions The Justice Department Lawyers:  And doesn't sound satisfied with the answers he is getting.
Judge John T. Noonan Jr. grilled administration lawyers at a hearing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.  He took aim at the core of the Justice Department's argument: that the Arizona statute is "preempted" by federal law and is especially troublesome because it requires mandatory immigration status checks in certain circumstances.

"I've read your brief, I've read the District Court opinion, I've heard your interchange with my two colleagues, and I don't understand your argument," Noonan told deputy solicitor general Edwin S. Kneedler.  "We are dependent as a court on counsel being responsive. . . . You keep saying the problem is that a state officer is told to do something.  That's not a matter of preemption. . . . I would think the proper thing to do is to concede that this is a point where you don't have an argument."
In other words, give it up before you start annoying me.

By way of Jennifer Rubin, who makes a good point about others on the panel being expected to vote "their ethnicity rather than their conscience".
- 11:01 AM, 2 November 2010   [link]

Attack Of The 50 Foot Pelosi:  For your viewing enjoyment.  (And some will like the weird Jerry Brown ad that follows it.)

Cross posted at Sound Politics .
- 9:35 AM, 2 November 2010   [link]

Chris And Alex:  When you see those two names, do you think two guys, a gal and a guy, a guy and a gal, or two gals?  Any of those four is possible, though the first two seem more likely to me.  But in this case I mean two gals, Washington state governor Christine Gregoire and the Democratic candidate for Florida governor, Adelaide Sink.

Before the 2004 gubernatorial election, Gregoire began calling herself "Chris".  I don't know how long Sink has been calling herself "Alex", or even whether she chose that nickname herself.  But it is mildly interesting that both women have used ambiguous, or even masculine, first names as they seek executive office.

(In Washington state, it is widely believed that women candidates have a small edge over men.

For what it is worth, Alex Sink's husband, Bill McBride, ran for governor, unsuccessfully, in 2002.)
- 8:34 AM, 2 November 2010   [link]

No Predictions From Me Today:  Mostly because I haven't taken the time to look at the House and Senate races individually.  (And you still have to do that, even in a "wave" election.)

But I will review two predictions from people with long records of success.  First, what one might call the conventional prediction, from Charles Cook.
The Cook Political Report's pre-election House outlook is a Democratic net loss of 50 to 60 seats, with higher losses possible.  A turnover of just 39 seats would tip majority status into Republican hands.
. . .
The Cook Political Report is adjusting its current outlook to reflect a net gain for Republicans of 6 to 8 seats, down from 7 to 9 seats.  While it is becoming increasingly likely that Republicans will hold all 18 of its own seats, Democrats' prospects in three of their 19 seats have improved in recent days.   Sens. Barbara Boxer in California and Patty Murray in Washington now appear to be headed for re-election, albeit by small margins.  In the special election in West Virginia, Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin now holds an advantage.  Currently there are 57 Democrats, two independents that caucus with Democrats, and 41 Republican Senators.  Post-election, Republicans could hold between 47 and 49 seats to 51 to 53 seats for Democrats.  This new outlook means that the odds of Republicans winning a majority in the Senate are now non-existent.
Cook has a generally good record — but missed badly in 1994, underestimating Republican gains in both House and Senate by large margins.

One of the wildest predictions comes from one of the mildest sources, Gallup.
Taking Gallup's final survey's margin of error into account, the historical model predicts that the Republicans could gain anywhere from 60 seats on up, with gains well beyond that possible.

It should be noted, however, that this year's 15-point gap in favor of the Republican candidates among likely voters is unprecedented in Gallup polling and could result in the largest Republican margin in House voting in several generations.  This means that seat projections have moved into uncharted territory, in which past relationships between the national two-party vote and the number of seats won may not be maintained.
Gallup doesn't give us a number or even a range, but I interpret their 60 as a minimum, maybe an absolute minimum.  At the very least, Gallup appears to be saying that they expect Republican gains of between 65 and 75 seats.

Like Cook, Gallup has a generally good record, and a particularly good record at predicting the generic vote.  On the other hand, this year Gallup has the highest estimate on the generic vote of any major pollster, though both Fox (13) and Rasmussen (12) come close to Gallup's 15 point margin.

There is one safe prediction:  Some pollsters are going to be very red faced tomorrow morning.

(If you average the Cook prediction with what I think Gallup is saying, you come up with a Republican gain of 62 or 63 House seats.  That, and a dollar and some change, will get you a cup of coffee at McDonald's.

If you want to be even more confused, you can find more predictions here and here.)
- 7:55 AM, 2 November 2010   [link]

The Black Death Came From China:  In three great waves.
The great waves of plague that twice devastated Europe and changed the course of history had their origins in China, a team of medical geneticists reported Sunday, as did a third plague outbreak that struck less harmfully in the 19th century.
The third outbreak was less harmful because medical science had advanced far enough to identify the disease and control it.  Which was fortunate, because steamships could move the plague around faster than sailing ships or caravans had in the past.

(Occasionally people in the American Southwest die of the plague, after contact with an infected animal.  Yersinia pestis can be controlled with modern antibiotics, but doctors don't always recognize the disease in time.)
- 7:30 PM, 1 November 2010   [link]

Is Hugo Chávez Trying To Provoke Barack Obama?  Not with his seizure of an Owens-Illinois plant, a seizure that has drawn a strong protest from the workers at the plant.

But with this move.
President Hugo Chavez said some of Venezuela's golf courses should be expropriated and used for other purposes.

"That's an injustice -- that someone should have the luxury of having I don't know how many hectares to play golf and drink whiskey and, next door, there's misery and children dying when there are landslides," Chavez said during his weekly television show, "Alo, Presidente."
Our golfer in chief is not going to like that threat.
- 1:14 PM, 1 November 2010   [link]

Paul Krugman Has A Position On Living Within One's Means:  He's against it.  For the rest of us anyway.  As far as I know, Krugman and his wife live within their own means, and have not done anything special to stimulate the economy, though they almost certainly could afford to do so.
- 12:31 PM, 1 November 2010   [link]

Meet The New House Committee Chairmen:  (Almost certainly.)   They are mostly very different ideologically from the current chairmen.  (Click on the graphic next to the article for side-by-side comparisons, and note the National Journal ratings below each congressman for a quick measure of the differences.

If you like, you can skip the article, which just tells us that lobbyists have already figured out who the next chairmen are likely to be.

(Incidentally, this is good time to commend the New York Times on the overall quality of their graphics.  It is hard to think of a better way to show the chairmen, the potential chairmen, and the differences between the two, than the one they used here.)
- 10:43 AM, 1 November 2010   [link]

Gallup And The NYT Versus Other Western Polls:  In their most recent poll, the New York Times found a 26 point swing to the Republicans in the West between 2008 and 2010, from -16 to +10.  Similarly, Gallup found a 21 point lead in the generic vote for Republicans in the West, which would imply an even bigger swing.

In fact, in Gallup's poll, the West is as good a region for Republicans as the South; the margins are the same in the two regions, though there are fewer undecided voters in the South.

Those findings are hard to reconcile with some of the poll results in the West, especially in California, which has about half of the region's population.  In contrast, the Gallup results in the Midwest, which show just a 7 point advantage for Republicans, seem too low, again judging against other polls in the region.

(Of course, the sampling errors go up as you look at sub-groups in a sample, but the differences in the regions seem a little large for that explanation.)
- 8:54 AM, 1 November 2010   [link]

Christine O'Donnell Versus Kelly Ayotte:  Versus who?  Versus Kelly Ayotte, the Republican candidate for the Senate in New Hampshire.

(Incidentally, aren't those two kids cute?  I won't claim that cute kids should be a big plus in deciding who to vote for, but I won't criticize anyone who sees it as a little advantage.)

If you have barely heard of Kelly Ayotte, you aren't alone.  Searches on the two women's names with Google gave me 36,100,000 hits with O'Donnell and just 164,000 hits with Ayotte.

Both women are Republicans running for the Senate in small, Northeastern states.  Both are generally conservative.  But that's about all they have in common.

Ayotte is a much more impressive woman.  She was an associate at a large legal firm in New Hampshire, a prosecutor, legal counselor to the governor of New Hampshire, and, since June 2004, New Hampshire attorney general, where she compiled an impressive record.  O'Donnell has no comparable accomplishments.

Oh, and there is one other difference between the two women; unless all the polls are wrong, after Tuesday Ayotte will be able to call herself "senator-elect" and O'Donnell won't be able to.

Our "mainstream" media would much rather cover the O'Donnells than the Ayottes — but that doesn't mean we have to follow along with them.
- 7:40 AM, 1 November 2010
More:  The New York Times makes the same point, but generally, rather than through two examples; most of the Republican candidates for Senate this year are "grizzled veterans" — which is, on the whole, a good thing.
- 4:22 PM, 1 November 2010   [link]

Unthinkable, Or Predictable?  In yesterday's Seattle Times, political reporter Jim Brunner says that the Republican wave coming toward Washington state may have seemed "unthinkable" two years ago.

The Democrats' plight in Washington state may have seemed unthinkable two years ago, when President Obama took nearly 58 percent of the vote here.

(Incidentally, wouldn't it fun to see a few of these stories written from the Republican point of view?  For instance, Brunner could have started started his sentence with "The Republican opportunities", instead of the other way around.  Even better would be a neutral sentence, of course, although I will admit those are somewhat harder to write.)

To some, it may have seemed "unthinkable" two years ago, but a local blogger predicted it, a little more than two years ago.

It is not hard to see reasons why we have had this pattern.  Voters who are unhappy with Republican candidates often will choose leftists because they want change, gambling that the change will be an improvement.  When it isn't, voters go back to conservatives.  Over time, some older voters forget the lessons they learned, and new voters, who never had those hard lessons, come into the electorate.   And, of course, our "mainstream" media judges conservatives far more harshly than it does leftists, and over time those judgments have an effect on moderates, and even some conservatives.

There are enough older voters whose memories of 1994 have lapsed, and new voters who know nothing about the issues in that election, much less the elections of 1968 and 1980, so that Barack Obama could win this November.  If he does, the result will not be pretty, since he is even more out of touch with reality than Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter.  If he does win, the voters will catch on — in spite of our "mainstream" news organizations — but it may take us decades to repair all the damages.

It is true that the blogger did not make a specific prediction for Washington state, but predicting that the Democrats would suffer losses here in 2010 follows naturally from his national prediction.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

(The Wall Street Journal editorial writers give a better review of the political history than the blogger did, but come to essentially the same conclusion, two years later.)
- 6:42 AM, 1 November 2010   [link]

Gallup Makes A Prediction:  But then qualifies their prediction by saying that we are in "uncharted territory".
The results are from Gallup's Oct. 28-31 survey of 1,539 likely voters.  It finds 52% to 55% of likely voters preferring the Republican candidate and 40% to 42% for the Democratic candidate on the national generic ballot -- depending on turnout assumptions.  Gallup's analysis of several indicators of voter turnout from the weekend poll suggests turnout will be slightly higher than in recent years, at 45%.  This would give the Republicans a 55% to 40% lead on the generic ballot, with 5% undecided.
. . .
Gallup's historical model suggests that a party needs at least a two-point advantage in the national House vote to win a majority of the 435 seats.  The Republicans' current likely voter margin suggests that this scenario is highly probable, making the question of interest this election not whether the GOP will win the majority, but by how much.  Taking Gallup's final survey's margin of error into account, the historical model predicts that the Republicans could gain anywhere from 60 seats on up, with gains well beyond that possible.

It should be noted, however, that this year's 15-point gap in favor of the Republican candidates among likely voters is unprecedented in Gallup polling and could result in the largest Republican margin in House voting in several generations.  This means that seat projections have moved into uncharted territory, in which past relationships between the national two-party vote and the number of seats won may not be maintained.
(Emphasis added.)

I'm not criticizing Gallup for hedging on their prediction — since I am at least as uncertain as they are.  But it is striking that so many experts are predicting a big Republican win, and then immediately qualifying that by saying that it may be an enormous win.

(Quibble:  Gallup should say that a party needs a two-point advantage to be certain of winning a majority in the House, since even smaller popular vote margins usually yield majorities.)
- 5:53 AM, 1 November 2010   [link]