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July 14, 2008

Comments

"McCain, ‘tis true, did win the GOP primary."

This is a losing battle, but this is so grating I have to comment: he won a bunch of GOP primaries, and lost others, thus resulting in his winning the GOP nomination, or if you prefer, "the GOP race." Which is what you're talking about, not a primary (or a caucus).

"The GOP primary" is a term rife with confusion as to what it means, absent specifying which primary, or clarifying that you're referring to the GOP nomination fight overall. It turns an adjectival/descriptive use into a noun that means something else: all the actual GOP primaries.

Usage that confusing and misleading is rarely a usage worth engaging in, and a usage that causes confusion is generally best avoided, especially when it's completely unnecessary, and pretty ahistoric, as well as gratingly ugly. Why not just use the term that's always been used: "the GOP race"?

(You could write "GOP primary race," but it's redundant: there is no other GOP race.)

Okay, I'm done, go on using "the GOP primary" to refer to the GOP race; I'll just wince to myself. :-)

(In loving memory of Jack Speer, who never surrendered a usage fight.)

ok gary - I'll see your wincing and raise.

isn't it permissible usage to use the term primary for the collective process? in other words, yes, individual races are primaries. but isn't the aggregration also "the primary," in the broader institutional sense?

"isn't it permissible usage to use the term primary for the collective process?"

I'm not actually a serious prescriptivist. So I'm not fond of "permissible" or "impermissible" as the best ways to look at what our best choices are in writing. My own lodestar is that that which increases clarity is desirable, and that which lessens clarity is not.

That's all that matters, in my view. We have no Academy Of English, and no ruling authority on what is or isn't Absolutely Right Or Wrong, and I wouldn't be happy if there were one; I'd rebel.

I referred to this as a losing battle, because I don't recall ever seeing this term before this past primary cycle -- it's been used before, obviously, but in my memory, at least, so infrequently in the past as to be barely visible, if at all, and of course it's perfectly possible my memory is wrong or my observations simply quite wrong, but nonetheless, that is my memory, which I'll stick with until pointed to a cite that bops me over the head and makes me recognize that I've had it wrong -- but I've seen it in wide use, suddenly, this past year, and in such wide use that no amount of ranting by me, or any other small number of people is apt to prevent what likely has already happened: this usage being seen and adopted by sufficient numbers of people that it's now inextricable from popular usage, and there we are.

(Similarly, though for decades use of "sci-fi" for "science fiction" marked the user as someone who knew absolutely nothing about science fiction, and as an outsider to the field, in recent years, with the advent of "The Sci-Fi Channel," the fight has now been lost, save amongst those of us who have been around the field for decades, and we'll all go on wincing every time we see that usage used in a non-mocking fashion.)

But I don't have to like it, and I shall fight it on the beaches, in the blogs, etc., I shall never surrender, and, well, okay, I probably will eventually, but I won't like it.

;-)

Seriously, obviously you should use what language you like, and obviously no amount of whinging from me will stop you or anyone. But, hey, I like to say my piece about this sort of thing now and again. It's relatively harmless, and keeps me off the streets, and out of more serious trouble, so thanks for humoring me by not having me shot.

(That's my peculiar sense of humor talking; if I'm not making sense to you, please don't mind me. Carry on. And g'night.)

Oh, and I agree with your actual point about the structural/inherent problems of the current Republican Party upper levels.

"because I don't recall ever seeing this term before this past primary cycle"

Should be: "ever seeing this term used before this past primary cycle in a widespread way"

"win the GOP primary"

I've gotta say I just don't really see the trouble either.

"Rife with confusion" especially seems a bit hyperbolic. After all, I think it was perfectly clear what publius meant in this particular instance, and it seems like it's generally quite clear from context. There might be a few ambiguities at the edges when it's used carelessly, but it would hardly be the first word in the language with that attribute.

In any case, it's a pretty logical shortening of "primary process", "primary battle" and what have you. It's very likely here to stay. A losing battle, as you say. (If it wasn't already lost years ago.)

There was no demand for serious policy development – which is especially curious given that the GOP is the party of ideas.

Not to be too snide here, but since when? Since I've been politically aware, the GOP has been pretty short on ideas. It's been nothing but resource grabbing and destruction of the welfare state. If that counts as ideas, well, okay.

I think it makes more sense to blame what we see as McCain's weaknesses - both policy and presentation - on the relationship he's had with the media over all these years, and still has. For example, if you can claim you're going to balance the budget while cutting taxes and giving the military a massive wodge more money and nobody's going to call you on it, it makes electoral sense to do just that. And if you've never needed to come up with workable policies and defend them, you wouldn't have learned to do it.

Not only that, it's not yet a foregone conclusion that McCain's incoherence is actually going to cost him. Even when his gaffes get recorded, they're still mostly covered with a narrative of the unspun straight-talker getting into trouble with all his unspun straight-talk, which isn't necessarily bad for him.

Even now, McCain is polling almost level with Obama against a horrendous party ID deficit. There's a danger for him that one of these days the media will actually pick up on the incoherence of what he's saying; If that becomes the story, the narrative will feed itself and he'll go into a death spiral. But that won't necessarily happen. And if it doesn't, he might even win...

Well put, Publius. It's obviously the case that a lot of Republicans have viable ideas about how to run a government - in the sense that they'd work and achieve at least some of their ends whether I approve or not. But the Republican Party as an institution simply doesn't have room right now for any ideas bigger than looting and smashing. Eventually (I hope), this will become a real obstacle to its continued success.

I agree with most of this post, but not with the suggestion that the GOP's lack of ideas or interest in same is new. As a young political junkie, I noticed exactly the same difference between the GOP primary debates and the Democratic primary debates in 1991, and every 4 years since. The Democratic candidates would talk about policy and speak in full sentences, usually in organized paragraphs. The Republicans would blather vaguely about general aspirations in a carefully illiterate fashion that seemed intended to reassure the viewer that they had no intellectual aspirations. It was like watching the McNeil-Lehrer report playing opposite Bill O'Reilly.

The sad thing is, though, this vague aspirational blather was very effective in the general debates. It was uplifting, it was easy to listen to (tho not to distill actual meaning from) and it was easy to pepper with snappy retorts. From Reagan through Bush II, and now McCain, the GOP candidate positioned himself in the general election debates as the man of common sense and simple words who would cut through all the hoohah. The Democrats, meanwhile, often seemed stuck in their heads, unable to connect their ideas to their passions or to people's daily needs. I am thinking here particularly of Mondale and Dukakis, and to some extent of Gore.

Clinton, of course, never had that problem. He was a policy wonk, but one who could simplify, and he always sounded like he cared. Hillary Clinton did a lot better with that than I ever thought she could. Obama varies. He has always been good at speeches, but tends to get, well, professorial when responding to a question. We'll see if he can improve on that.

"But back to the procedural point, it was the GOP’s winner-take-all rules that allowed McCain to close rapidly and wrap it up early. Imagine how things might have been different if the GOP had instead adopted proportional delegate rules."

I believe this precisely misses what actually happened. As Gary notes, McCain won some primaries, and lost others. The reason he triumphed was that the Republican primaries WEREN'T all winner-take-all.

By coincidence, (He's shown no sign of being clever enough for it to have been planning.) McCain tended to win in the winner-take-all states, and lose in the proportional representation states. Meaning that, when he won, he got the whole ball of wax, and when he lost, the other candidates barely got more delegates than he did.

So he accumulated delegate all out of proportion to his narrow plurality victories, and his plurality loses cost him next to nothing. So that the delegate race became a done deal early on, even though a large fraction of the GOP base continued to hate his guts.

Take a lesson from this: Winner take all, or proportional representation: Pick one, don't mix 'em.

I agree that McCain is not a great candidate.

The point the publius omits is that, of the folks running under the Republican banner, he was likely the pick of the litter.

I don't expect to see a President McCain, but were he to win I think the nation could get through it, one way or another.

Don't know if I can say that about any of the others.

Thanks -

Brett -- I suspect pubius meant that each of the primaries, in each state, was winer take all. That's how McCain was able to build up an insurmountable delegate lead so fast -- the others did well, but didn't actually win many states.

I disagree about previous primaries. GHWBush was never what you'd call an intellectual, but he had a good grasp of the issues and plainly inhabited the same universe as the rest of us. Likewise, Dole. GWBush was, in my experience, more like Reagan, though Reagan had a much better personality (and if you're going to operate without a grasp of policy, personality matters), and also better advisors. (Not that that takes a lot. But compare Jim Baker to Cheney.)

You should expand your theory. What you are really seeing is signs that the Repubican Party is in a death spiral. McCain won because the Republican party after two Bush Administration is devoid of talent. Anyone below the age of forty who is interested in politics would be a fool to enter Republican politics. Every demographic trends is against the Republicans and the two Bush Administrations have destroy any credibility that they the Republicans have on any issue.

A better question would be is what will the 2016 election be like when the Democratic Primary is the only relevant election. Will the media be able to throw off its old school thinking and treat the Democratic primary as the real presidential election?

"I suspect pubius meant that each of the primaries, in each state, was winer take all."

I'm sure that's what he meant. It's also wrong. Please check out http://www.thegreenpapers.com/P08/R-DSVE.phtml>this chart.

Some were winner take all, some proportional.

A better question would be is what will the 2016 election be like when the Democratic Primary is the only relevant election.

right. the Democratic Party can't even hold itself together when things are the brightest they've been in decades.

you really need to give that one-party sh!t a rest. it makes no sense at all.

I don't know that it makes no sense. Democrats and Republicans haven't hesitated to work together to erect institutional barriers to third parties. With that precedent, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that, should one or the other of the major parties temporarily achieve the dominance necessary to act in that fashion, that they would similarly seek to legally bar the other from recovering.

'94 only took the Republicans from minority to barely above parity, and they still attempted the K-Street effort to defund the Democratic party. Should the 2008 elections give Democrats enough of a majority to legislate in the face of united Republican opposition, I could see real efforts to make that situation permanent.

For instance, territories which are acknowledged to be heavily Democratic leaning could be given representation in Congress, a form of Congress instead of Court packing.

I could see real efforts to make that situation permanent.

Oh, so could I. I just can't see them succeeding for more than a short while - a couple of decades, max.

a form of Congress instead of Court packing

I'm sure you meant to say "a form of democratic representation."

it's not beyond the realm of possibility that, should one or the other of the major parties temporarily achieve the dominance necessary to act in that fashion, that they would similarly seek to legally bar the other from recovering.

by what mechanism ?

Winner take all at the national (as opposed to party) level also tends to produce bad results, most notably the two party system.

As to the GOP being the party of ideas - that's rubbish. Apart from Newt Gingrich the GOP is devoid of any ideas more sophisticated than tax cuts and military adventurism, and most of Newt's ideas are stupid.

"party of ideas": i assume publius was being ironic

I think publius wanted to say that every primary was whiner take all...

cleek's correct - i was being sarcastic about that

territories which are acknowledged to be heavily Democratic leaning could be given representation in Congress

That sort of thing is chancy. When Alaska was admitted as a state, the Eisenhower administration was concerned that it would be a Democratic stronghold, and, indeed, it didn't send a Republican to the Senate until Ted Stevens was appointed in 1968; but it has only voted for a Democrat for President once (in 1964), and hasn't had a Democratic Senator since 1980.

"Not to be too snide here, but since when?"

It's what the Republican Party has loudly claimed since circa 1978. They ran on that claim in 1980 and '84, and ever since.

"The point the publius omits is that, of the folks running under the Republican banner, he was likely the pick of the litter."

I'm not clear on what sense you mean that, Russell.

Certainly Romney ran an extremely professional campaign; his problems were more inherent in his rather contradictory background, and his seeming ability to smoothly adopt whatever position he thought his audience of the day would like, but not particularly convincingly.

And Huckabee had a real knack for connecting with audiences, and even had a smattering of sane policies mixed in with the wacko parts. He lacked a major professional organization, though, and the support of the business Republicans, the neocon wing, and a few other bits of what's left of the Republican coalition.

Basically, none of the Republicans of 2008 could put recreate the previously successful Republican coalition, and none could successfully create a new, equally large, coalition. So each got chunks and fragments of the past coalitions, and McCain was left still standing, despite the outright hatred of some elements of the Republican Party (the "OMG, The Brown People Are Invading" Wing, the Jesus Tells Us To Hate Your Kind Wing, the Don't Interfere With Our Corruption Wing, among others), and the indifference of much of the rest. All he's got left, for the most part is, "Save Us From The Democrats," "Save Us From Teh Mooslims," what's left of the former centrist bits of the Republican Party (hi, Von), and inertia.

Fortunately, since the Democratic Party has nominated a Scary Dark-Skinned Man, it's not impossible that he might not be able to win. But he's one of the luckiest candidates in my lifetime, I have to say. It sure ain't skill that's been getting him victories. Mostly it's just having been a Famous POW, showing up, determination, and luck of timing.

And, of course, having the media on their knees in front of him, because of his Having Been a Famous POW

Cleek, you asked

by what mechanism ?

There are several. First, by putting all of the illegal aliens in the U.S. on the fast track to citizenship. Second, by passing a second round of campaign finance reform that will eliminate many Republican candidates. Third, by passing a Fairness Doctrine to deny the Republicans the ability to use talk radio or maybe even cable channels. Fourth, another round of civil rights voting to give the fed approval of every redistricting and to include other groups like Asians in the redistricting process. And last, for state legislatures to redistrict to eliminate many Republicans. The Democrats in California should be able to redistrict California to eliminate the last few Republicans.

"I'm sure you meant to say "a form of democratic representation."

No, if those territories were made into states, that arguably would be a form of democratic representation. If they were left territories, effectively still under the thumb of the federal government, and given representation anyway, THAT would be nasty: Effectively giving a vote to people who wouldn't dare use it in a way as to annoy the federal government.

Statehood or nothing, that's my position.

That's the Constitution's position, too: Representation is reserved for states, not other entities.

"John McCain may well win this fall"
I take umbrage with your opening sentence. I and everybody who reads this blog should be doing everything humanly possible to make sure this never happens! No! Not! Ugh!

"As a result of the sudden rise, he didn’t get scrutinized the way he is now."

What the hell are you talking about here? John McCain WILL be our next president. The next four months will be nothing but a scrutinizing of the fine print of every policy Obama has presented, always on the lookout for the dreaded "flip-flop"; constant ruminations on who Obama "really is," and whether he "shares our values"; all contrasted with straight talking John McCain, who sacrificed for his country, and you never have to worry about where he stands (complete lacks of detail on his foreign and domestic policies notwithstanding).

Not to mention that McCain makes funny jokes about killing Iranians and gives good barbeque.

The last month has convinced me that Obama doesn't stand a chance in the face of the monolithic support McCain has from all of the establishment media, including such "liberal" outlets as the New York Times and the New Yorker magazine. Paul Krugman will once again be a lone voice pointing out the inaccuracies, hypocrisies and utter incoherence of the McCain "program," and Democrats will once again be silent and helpless in the face of a juggernaut that will again convince Americans to vote against their economic interests in favor of the more "authentic" candidate.

As to the GOP being the party of ideas - that's rubbish

Not if you count 'resentment' as an idea.

When you eliminate from consideration ex ante the possibility that government can do anything -- apart from enriching your friends and allies, that is -- then there's no purpose left for government action except sending signals and striking poses. The true purpose of government is positioning yourself for the next election -- probably because you're basically immune to prosecution until you go out of power.

Given a choice between two competing policies addressing the same problem in the last eight years, asking, then choosing 'which one pisses off liberals more?' will pretty much take you where the real world went.

First, by putting all of the illegal aliens in the U.S. on the fast track to citizenship.

because all immigrants vote Democratic, always and will forever ?

Second, by passing a second round of campaign finance reform that will eliminate many Republican candidates.

explain how the votes in the Senate will go.

Third, by passing a Fairness Doctrine to deny the Republicans the ability to use talk radio or maybe even cable channels.

OMFG.

look! black-helicopters!

Fourth, another round of civil rights voting to give the fed approval of every redistricting and to include other groups like Asians in the redistricting process.

what the hell is "civil rights voting" ?

And last, for state legislatures to redistrict to eliminate many Republicans. The Democrats in California should be able to redistrict California to eliminate the last few Republicans.

the Republicans tried that in Texas. the Supreme Court said "nope".

0 for 5. try harder next time.

phastphil: I take umbrage with your opening sentence. I and everybody who reads this blog should be doing everything humanly possible to make sure this never happens!

Support Black Box Voting for free and fair elections.

Otherwise, just as in 2000 and 2004, the Democratic candidate for President will win the election, but the Republican candidate will get into the White House.

"party of ideas": i assume publius was being ironic

Not at all. Over the last 20 years, most of the big ideas in US politics have come from the Republican side. The War on Terror, the Unitary Executive, torture as a routine instrument of policy, reforming the entire culture of the Middle East through perpetual war, privatising Social Security, abolishing the departments of energy and education, impeaching a sitting president, shutting down the entire federal government as a negotiating tactic, invading Panama - what has the Democratic Party produced that is remotely on that scale?

I mean, yes, they're all really bad ideas. But ideas none the less!

"Second, by passing a second round of campaign finance reform that will eliminate many Republican candidates."

The implicit admission that "many" Republicans succeed only because of loopholes in campaign finance laws is fascinating.

Cleek,

The Supreme court upheld the redistricting in Texas except for one district. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2003_Texas_redistricting.
Thus, it is easy for states to redistrict for partisan gain.

For the fairness doctrine please see http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/jul/06/fairness-or-censorship/
The Democratic Party would love to eliminate the Republicans advantage in radio while maintaining it own advantage on cable.

If you look at the Voting Rights Act, all the Democrats would need to do is amend it to make every state and locality a covered jurisdiction so that the feds could control redistricting. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_rights_act
When the Republicans used the voting rights Act to redistrict Democrats out of office, they gained seats in places like Georgia.

As far as California goes, read how the Democratic party in California know how to draw districts that will always go Democratic http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/2008/06/politics_and_ca.html

And last, yes, Mexican immigrants vote Democratic at a 4 to 1 split when they do vote. The national Democratic knows this and it is one of the reasons that the Democratic party supports open borders and unlimited immigration even though it hurts other blocks in the Democratic party like blacks.

with Ron Paul thrown in as a Shakespearian jester

I'm very impressed by this encapsulating of Paul's role and effect in a single phrase. Nailed it.

"Otherwise, just as in 2000 and 2004, the Democratic candidate for President will win the election, but the Republican candidate will get into the White House."

LOL! I can almost see the reasoning in 2000, wrong but at least plausible, but thinking that Kerry won in 2004 is at least as loony as any of this black helicopter talk. Maybe more so; The black helicopters unambiguously existed, the lunacy mostly resolved around the conspiratorial explanations for them.

Thus, it is easy for states to redistrict for partisan gain.

on a small scale, yes. but, Dems do not control all state legislatures. nor are all Dems the kind of ruthless partisans such a scheme would require. other than that, no problem.

The Democratic Party would love to eliminate the Republicans advantage in radio while maintaining it own advantage on cable.

yes, and i'd love to take the next 25 years off.

If you look at the Voting Rights Act, all the Democrats would need to do is amend it to make every state and locality a covered jurisdiction so that the feds could control redistricting.

first they'll need to get veto-proof majorities. then they'll need to get every member on-board with the plan. then they have to maintain those majorities for ever, in the face of white-hot rage from the conservative side of the country. again, no problem!

why, once conservatives have been forbidden from using the airwaves, nobody will ever encounter another conservative viewpoint ever again, and the ideology will just evaporate. it's not like conservatism is a mindset or anything.

As far as California goes, read how the Democratic party in California know how to draw districts that will always go Democratic

yeah yeah. and other states do the opposite. BFD.

I can almost see the reasoning in 2000, wrong but at least plausible

It's... interesting to know that you think it was "wrong but at least plausible" for the candidate who got the most votes in Florida, to get the Florida electoral college votes.

but thinking that Kerry won in 2004 is at least as loony as any of this black helicopter talk. Maybe more so; The black helicopters unambiguously existed

It's also interesting that you are so focussed on the right to own guns that you have apparently entirely forgotten that the right to vote, and to have your vote counted, is counted a priceless freedom in far more countries than the narrow right to own a gun.

superdestroyer, it won't happen b/c the Dems are not & never have been as unified as the Republicans. We're too busy getting control of our own people to even attempt that kind of coup. Why this is not true of the Republicans, I don't know, we're not more ideologically disparate than the Republican Party. I suspect it's because most of the Republican factions are authoritarian, and the idea of pulling together under one leader just resonates in a way it does not for most Democrats. But I have no numbers to back that up, it's just a guess.

"interesting to know that you think it was "wrong but at least plausible" for the candidate who got the most votes in Florida, to get the Florida electoral college votes."

I think it's quite possible that more people in Florida intended to vote for Gore than Bush. Not definitely proven, but clearly possible. That they actually succeeded in doing so, in the face of personal ineptitude and badly designed ballots, though? We can only count the votes people actually cast...

So, I don't regard Democrats who think Gore really won in 2000 as lunatics. They've got some basis for that belief, though I think it unpersuasive.

2004? That's tinfoil hat territory.

cleek,

Once the Democrats get sixty seats in the Senate and have obama in the white house, they do not have to worry about vetos or filibusters. They can easily take steps to eliminate the last remains of the Reublican party. The Democrats control the state houses in most states now and that will grow by 2010.

If the Democrats are in the majority, why should they care what the Republicans think while the redistrict them out of office. If the lines are drawn carefully enough, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Colorado should not have a single Republican Congressman. Texas could be limited to a couple of Republicans in Congress if the lines were drawn correctly.

Also, it is just a matter of time before Texas flips to the Democratic column. Given the Democrats support for open borders and unlimited immigration, they can make it happen faster.

Once the Democrats get sixty seats in the Senate

last i checked, that wasn't even close to being possible in 2008. and it's pointless to speculate about 2010.

The Democrats control the state houses in most states now and that will grow by 2010.

and yet people are still electing Republicans ? how can this be ??!

The last month has convinced me that Obama doesn't stand a chance in the face of the monolithic support McCain has from all of the establishment media, including such "liberal" outlets as the New York Times and the New Yorker magazine.

Brewmn,

While I’m inclined to agree with your pessimistic assessment of our current media environment, I’m more optimistic in thinking that this will not be enough to swing the election (though it will probably shave Obama’s margin down to a very slim 1-2%). My reason being that the credibility of the MSM seems to me to be very low right now. I hear very little conversation these days in the way of “..did you hear?” reactions to the stories in the news media, and instead a great deal of scorn and mockery being directed at them, and not from people who are Comedy Channel die-hards either. The meme that our media are clowns and fools not to be trusted with anything serious (like election coverage) seems to be gaining traction (praise the Lord!). They blew it badly during the Bush administration and I suspect that their ability to move the electorate is no longer what it was in say the 2000 election.

"The implicit admission that "many" Republicans succeed only because of loopholes in campaign finance laws is fascinating."

I don't think the admission is implicit at all. I think it would be incredibly easy to write campaign finance laws to hurt one party and help another without any implicit assumption that either is particularly 'cheating' right now.

For example you could outlaw corporate campaign contributions while allowing union campaign contributions. Which interestingly enough is a proposal I believe I've seen taken seriously here.

I've also seen the idea that organizations like the NRA shouldn't be allowed to advertise 90 days before a campaign if it could be seen as potentially helping a candidate. And that made the McCain-Feingold act until the scary 'conservative' Supreme Court struck it down.

In fact I would go so far to say that it is almost impossible to design campaign finance laws that are unlikely to be to the detriment of legitimate political interests, and further I would say that politicians who pass such laws don't even try to be neutral about it.

None of my above comments should be taken as saying that McCain doesn't suck. He totally does.

his campaign is fairly atrocious as well, particularly compared to the well-disciplined, relentlessly on-message Bush-Cheney machines of yesteryear. But it’s not just that McCain is gaffe-prone. His policy shop has been a complete joke – his policies generally lack crucial details, are incoherent, or contradict his prior positions.

These are not unrelated problems. It's impossible to maintain message discipline when you don't have a message. What the McCain campaign has instead is a persona, and as constructed, it's a persona that resists, even disdains, discipline and consistency. Do I contradict myself? Very well, I, THE WAR HERO, contradict myself. You got a problem with that?

hilzoy's "if you're going to operate without a grasp of policy, personality matters" could be McCain's "it's the economy, stupid." I'm not ready to say that it can't possibly succeed.

Also I don't think some of the other suggestions from superdestroyer are crazy either.

Redistricting--it really is nasty and unfair, and everyone notices that when they are out of power and seems not to notice it when they are in power. The only time it seems to have sort-of-rational solutions is when both parties are on a knife edge and both believe they might be the loser in the next election.

"last i checked, that wasn't even close to being possible in 2008."

Sure it is.

The current Senate is 49/49, plus Lieberman and Sanders voting for a Democratic leader. So the Democrats need 9 more seats.

The 2008 races: only a miracle will keep a Democrat from winning New Jersey and South Dakota, I'll be extremely surprised if the Democrat doesn't win Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Virginia, which gets us to sixty-one Senate seats. Perhaps even 65-67 Senate seats.

Alaska, Minnesota, Maine, Kentucky, Oregon,
Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas are all quite possible. I'll put a nickel on Alaska and Oregon, in particular, myself. That would get us 63-70 seats, or more.

Other non-impossibilities: in Texas, John Cornyn has an approval rating of 50%. We could win Alabama, for that matter, where Democrats are popular enough to control both house of the leg. In Geogia, Chambliss has an approval rating of 53%.

A Democratic Senate of 70 seats seems more than possible.

To be sure, I'm being quite optimistic here, but don't you think this is a year to be optimistic?

So, um, what are you talking about?

Gary, I think you mean 60 seats, not 70. I don't see the Dems winning every single Senate race this year, which I think would still elave us short of 70.

To be sure, I'm being quite optimistic here, but don't you think this is a year to be optimistic?

you're being more optimistic than NPR for example, which only predicts 4 Dem pickups.

and i don't think it makes much sense to count on Lieberman beyond the majority leader vote. and even then, i wouldn't be too surprised if he defected.

There seems to be increased rumor that Joe.Lie Berman could be the running hog (pardon...mate) of The Son of Cain at the moment (accompanied by an Obama-Hagel ticket rumor btw).

Gary,

I don't understand your Senate math. 538.com has Senate projections up, and Nate is showing a total of 5 seats currently in GOP hands are tilting blue (CO,NM,NH,VA) or basically a coin-flip (Alaska), while 5 currently red seats are slightly competitive but tilting for the GOP (MS,OR,KY,ME,MN) which means that there is chance that some of those latter seats may switch but all of them would be very unlikely at present. The rest are all pretty safe seats for the GOP.

Do you see something seriously defective with these projections (and in which states?), or do you think the political landscape will shift dramatically between now and November?

On balance Nate's methodology looks pretty solid to me, and using his projections I'm guessing a net gain of +5 (all 4 of the solid leaning blue races and 1 of the remainder) in the Senate for the Democrats this year seems more probable than other scenarios.

"you're being more optimistic than NPR for example, which only predicts 4 Dem pickups."

Sure I am; they have to be Responsible and Conservative, or look like asses. And they are being conservative about what makes a Safe Republican Seat. I don't think this is a year to be conservative about that.

Me, I'm just A Guy On The Internet, who feels like being optimistic, and who has no downside if I am.

Besides, I trust my judgment more than theirs. :-)

Seriously, I don't really expect us to get 65-70 seats, but I do think 60-61 is extremely likely indeed.

Noting, of course, that it's still July, and that Events Control All, that the last few weeks of ads and positioning will be very meaningful, and that it's silly to make any strong predictions now; what it looks like in October, or even September, will be another story.

But I feel like being optimistic.

"Gary, I think you mean 60 seats, not 70. I don't see the Dems winning every single Senate race this year, which I think would still elave us short of 70."

Sorry, I did goof up my math a bit, when I just ran through the list, with cite, leaving out the ones I'm giving up to the Republicans.

There are 35 races this year; 23 are currently Republicans and 12 are Democratic. Winning every race would give the Democrats 84 seats, though. And I hardly am suggesting that.

But if we win New Jersey, South Dakota, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Virginia, all currently Republican seats, that gets us to 58, and we have to do is win two out of Alaska, Minnesota, Maine, Kentucky, Oregon,
Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, Alabama, and Georgia, to get to 60.

That seems quite possible to me, as does getting a few over 60, if we swing enough votes.

Sorry for earlier combining already won Democratic seats with all the current contests I think are possible.

Brett: I think it's quite possible that more people in Florida intended to vote for Gore than Bush. Not definitely proven

Well, you know: aside from the fact that the ballots were finally counted, after there was no longer any point to Republican obstructionism, and established that thousands more people in Florida who cast a vote, voted for Gore. But aside from that tiny little annoying fact...

but clearly possible. That they actually succeeded in doing so, in the face of personal ineptitude and badly designed ballots, though? We can only count the votes people actually cast...

Indeed. Unfortunately, in 2000, the Republicans successfully ensured that the votes people actually cast were not counted - until too late.

2004? That's tinfoil hat territory.

No, really not. But the conviction on the part of so many Americans that they don't even need to check out whether or not a vote cast for a Democratic candidate will actually be counted, is why - regardless of who wins the most votes in November - McCain will be in the White House next January. Just like happened to Kerry.

ThatLeftTurnInABQ, I'm going to bet, for now, on getting Oregon.

I had had high hopes for Minnesota, but now not so much, but still have some hopes.

Ron Paul is rightly described as a Jestor, but despite my general dislike of the man, Mike Huckabee had the only rationally considered policies of the contenders, many of which would be an improvement on the Republican Brand of Idiocracy and Plutocracy, Redux. But, his prehistoric mindset really is a liability in civilized times.

There are 35 races this year; 23 are currently Republicans and 12 are Democratic. Winning every race would give the Democrats 84 seats, though.

Even this year, the Democrats can't win more than 23 seats more than the ones they already have, unless they re-win those twelve Democratic seats in such an awesome way that they get two senators for each one. And I don't see that happening even in New Jersey.

Look, no one said there would be math.

Gary, you wrote: "only a miracle will keep a Democrat from winning New Jersey and South Dakota, I'll be extremely surprised if the Democrat doesn't win Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Virginia, which gets us to sixty-one Senate seats."

This gets the Dem majority to 65 (including 2 independents), as three of the likely victories you've listed are already D-incumbent seats.

So, I don't regard Democrats who think Gore really won in 2000 as lunatics. They've got some basis for that belief, though I think it unpersuasive.

...that Gore received more votes than Bush is unpersuasive?

The systematic recount conducted by the New York Times and eight major news organizations showed that, with a full statewide recount, Gore would have won the state by 171 votes. That's before you count dimpled chads and incorrectly marked butterfly ballots - counting those merely increases Gore's lead.

I'm curious to wonder what Brett considers "persuasive" if, you know, more votes counted in the simplest and least ambiguous manner isn't enough.

Are you familiar with the concept of "noise", Mighty? Any measurement technology has an inherent limit to it's precision, below which differences in measurements are meaningless. 171 votes difference on the scale of a state is well within the margin of error, you can't reasonably say who really won that election.

What's worse is, every time those ballots got handled, they were damaged a bit, and became just that less reliable a measure of what voters did on election night. (And that's not even taking into account the possibility of tampering.) The consortium got those ballots last, when the noise was worst. The idea that they could reliably tell you who really won an election that close is simply crazy.

So, it's not irrational for Democrats to think they really won Florida. To think they have any basis for being certain of it IS irrational, though.

We don't know who "really" won. Learn to live with that.

I'm very much in agreement with Brett's last comment. Our voting systems (which encompass staff, organizations, procedures, voting machines, and courts) have limited resolution; if a vote in FL is won by 100 votes, we really have ZERO basis for saying who won FL either way. But our entire legal apparatus is built around the notion that "there is no answer" is never acceptable. I would much prefer a system where we actually tried to measure our voting systems' margin of errors so that it would at least be possible to decide when we had to revote...

Of course, none of these issues should have any effect on a Presidential election. The only reason they do is that we cling to the Electoral College.

I'm not clear on what sense you mean that, Russell.

Sorry, took me a while to get back to this.

IMO and only IMO, McCain was more or less the only reasonable R candidate. Not a great candidate, not the best possible R candidate, but the most reasonable among those who actually ran.

Romney -- smart guy, but in terms of political leadership there's no "there" there. The "I can out-Gitmo your Gitmo" thing was also not a good sign.

Thompson was just not that into it. He's checked "run for president" off his to-do list, now he can get back to his acting career and whatever it is he does on the weekend.

Huckabee and Brownback -- basically good guys, but IMO too closely wedded to an evangelical agenda to be effective. We'd have a four year long church vs state cage match.

Paul -- interesting guy, glad he's around, but we'd have a four year long argument about whether anything that's happened since 1800 is relevant to constitutional interpretation. Plus I don't think his white power buddies augur well.

Giuliani is insane. Tancredo is probably not insane, but enjoys playing the part of a wacko a little too much.

McCain has been around a while, has actually been involved in getting legislation through, knows how the government works, and doesn't appear to be intent on burning the place down so he can start over with a clean slate.

He's a cranky hothead with a short attention span, but IMO he'd leave the basic institutions of government in place. Compared to the other guys running, that's a lot.

All of this IMVHO, of course.

Thanks -

I think a few people need to check their Senate math :)

There are currently 49 Dems, 49 Repubs, 1 Independent who is a de facto Dem, and Joe Lieberman.

There are four Republican seats that look very likely to flip at this point--CO, NH, NM and VA.

AK is a competitive race that seems to be leaning to flipping to the Dems.

MS looks very close at the moment (in the Wicker/Musgrave matchup).

Beyond that, any further pickups for the Dems will require a lot of work. There are some states where there seems to be potential for a Dem pickup, but nowhere else where polling data at present suggests it's likely.

So at the moment the safe projection would be for 4-6 Dem pickups, giving them 53-55 total. To get significantly beyond that would probably require either 1) several Dem candidates to state tremendous campaigns over the next 4 months, or 2) a nationwide surge to the Democrats. Either is possible (and welcome from my point of view) but neither seems extremely likely.

Brett: 171 votes difference on the scale of a state is well within the margin of error, you can't reasonably say who really won that election.

Funny that - back in November 2000 when Republicans were claiming that a first and incomplete count that had Bush winning by 450 votes, I remember pointing out just that. To be told emphatically that it didn't matter if thousands and thousands of ballots hadn't been counted - Bush had won by 451 votes first time and that was all there was to it. In 2000, were you arguing that 451 was "noise" and there should be a recount, I wonder?

We can only count the votes people actually cast...

Or, if you're Republicans in Florida, you can bus in 750+ Republican activists and stage a rent-a-riot to prevent the votes people actually cast being counted. Back in 2000, Brett, were you arguing that each vote cast should be counted? I was. Or were you arguing - as every Republican I encountered online then was - that Bush had won, Gore had lost, and there was no point in counting every vote cast.

But, as the author of Black Box Voting notes, "computerized methods are more elegant": which is why, in 2004, they were made use of. And will be again in 2008. And unless there's a landslide to Obama which goes beyond what the vote-riggers were prepard to counter, miraculously McCain will be in the White House, while everyone looks in a confused kind of way at states that everything said should have gone to Obama, that somehow - just like Ohio in 2004 - went Republican.

Meanwhile, Brett, I expect you'll still be enthusiastically supporting the right to own guns, for no particular reason that I can see, since you evidently don't give a toss about the right to vote...

More importantly, the Democratic Senators will NOT vote together, not even to keep their committee leadership seats. Damfinowhy.

Funny that - back in November 2000 when Republicans were claiming that a first and incomplete count that had Bush winning by 450 votes, I remember pointing out just that. To be told emphatically that it didn't matter if thousands and thousands of ballots hadn't been counted - Bush had won by 451 votes first time and that was all there was to it. In 2000, were you arguing that 451 was "noise" and there should be a recount, I wonder?

I was. I argued strenuously that there was no result, but that didn't matter because people like me and Brett don't actually decide these things.

I'm not sure what you're trying to argue here Jes: are you trying to say that Brett's 5:18pm comment was wrong or are you trying to say Brett is a jerk? I'd prefer to focus on arguments and like I said, I find Brett's 5:18 comment persuasive. If you think it was wrong, could you explain why?

We can only count the votes people actually cast...

But, as the author of Black Box Voting notes, "computerized methods are more elegant": which is why, in 2004, they were made use of.

Um, there are multiple reasons why some municipalities use electronic voting machines, but I was not aware that "elegance" played a significant role. Could you explain why you think "elegance" played such a role?

And will be again in 2008. And unless there's a landslide to Obama which goes beyond what the vote-riggers were prepard to counter, miraculously McCain will be in the White House, while everyone looks in a confused kind of way at states that everything said should have gone to Obama, that somehow - just like Ohio in 2004 - went Republican.

This is an awesome prediction. If McCain wins, that proves Jes was right, but if Obama wins, that proves Jes was right also!

Meanwhile, Brett, I expect you'll still be enthusiastically supporting the right to own guns, for no particular reason that I can see, since you evidently don't give a toss about the right to vote...

Yeah, Brett will probably remain, um, interested in second amendment jurisprudence no matter how the election goes. I'm not sure what the point of noting that is though. It seems both obvious and utterly pointless to me...

Turbulence, I don't find Brett's 5:18 comment persuasive because Gore won Florida by several thousand votes. cite Also, I don't find Brett's 5:18 comment persuasive because he seems to have retreated hastily to the claim that no one can know who won Florida because the claimed margin of victory was only a few hundred votes - while five hours earlier, evidently having forgotten that detail, he was blustering quite otherwise - "almost see the reasoning in 2000, wrong but at least plausible".

Um, there are multiple reasons why some municipalities use electronic voting machines, but I was not aware that "elegance" played a significant role. Could you explain why you think "elegance" played such a role?

I'd sooner direct you at Black Box Voting, and indeed, I believe I have.

But FWIW, "elegance" is used sarcastically; vote-rigging en masse is much easier with electronic voting machines, especially now paper ballots can't be counted because, uh, there aren't any. Cool! Ever read a novel by Harry Harrison called Stainless Steel Rat For President? Science-fictionally, the Rat proves that an election using electronic voting machines has been rigged, and thus forces a re-election using paper ballots handcounted. I don't think it occurred to Harry Harrison that he would be living in the United States when multiple instances of electronic voting machines being rigged could be shown - and not only would there be no re-election, there would be massive disinterest and disbelief.

If McCain wins, that proves Jes was right, but if Obama wins, that proves Jes was right also!

*sigh*

Okay. My prediction is that McCain is likely to be in the White House next January, though exit polls will show Obama winning by 4 or 5% in states that mysteriously then went Republican.

Secondarily, I guess that if Obama sweeps to victory by larger margins than planned, then the exit polls will show the real margin of victory, the voting machines will show a narrow victory.

Is that clearer? I mean, honestly, I hope Obama does achieve the sweeping victory he'll need to overcome Republican vote rigging. I just don't expect it.

Brett will probably remain, um, interested in second amendment jurisprudence no matter how the election goes. I'm not sure what the point of noting that is though. It seems both obvious and utterly pointless to me...

People who put the Second Amendment ahead of all other rights in the Bill of Rights frequently claim they need their guns to defend their "freedom". Yet when threats to their freedom come along, as with the current pattern of Republican vote-rigging and stolen elections, folks like Brett are entirely uninterested. Not that their guns would do anything useful, of course.

I don't think it occurred to Harry Harrison that he would be living in the United States

Except of course that he isn't: he's living in Ireland. Oops.

"Or, if you're Republicans in Florida, you can bus in 750+ Republican activists and stage a rent-a-riot to prevent the votes people actually cast being counted."

Strictly speaking, the rent-a-riot was to prevent the votes from being counted behind closed doors, not to prevent them from being counted at all. It was the Democratic election officials who decided that, if they couldn't count them out of the view of elections monitors, it wasn't worth counting them at all.

"People who put the Second Amendment ahead of all other rights in the Bill of Rights"

Right... I'm going to be voting for Bob Barr this fall, despite Obama being more of a nutcase for gun control than Chuck Schumer, because I put the Second Amendment ahead of all other rights... Can't possibly be because I value the 1st amendment too much to vote for the author of McCain/Feingold.

"Except of course that he isn't: he's living in Ireland. Oops."

In fact, Harry Harrison first moved to the British Isles in 1957, and lived in England for three years, then moved to Denmark for seven years, then lived briefly in California around '68, and then moved back to England, where he lived for the next decade or so, and then to Ireland sometime around '79-80 or so. For the record.

"Strictly speaking, the rent-a-riot was to prevent the votes from being counted behind closed doors, not to prevent them from being counted at all. It was the Democratic election officials who decided that, if they couldn't count them out of the view of elections monitors, it wasn't worth counting them at all."

I should know better than to comment on an election 2000 subthread, but:

Wednesday's upheaval came suddenly and unexpectedly. With the Sunday deadline mandated by the Florida State Supreme Court fast approaching, the three-person canvassing board decided to scrap a total recount and tally only contested ballots. The board also announced it would move its operation to a smaller room closer to the computerized ballot-scanning machines in order to speed up the count. Despite the fact that observers and pool media could still be admitted, the GOP's Miami team, which had been decrying possible corruption in the count all along as Gore picked up another 157 votes, decided it was time to act.

On hearing of the decision to move the vote tally, Sweeney uttered a three-word order to his troops: "Shut it down." Those words were reported by Paul Gigot, who was in the room with GOP operatives, in his Wall Street Journal column Friday.

Within minutes, some two dozen GOP recount observers and other Bush supporters had begun pounding on the doors and windows of the county elections tallying room on the 19th floor of the building. They demanded to be admitted and chanted, "Stop the count. Stop the fraud." Television cameras showed the protesters trying to force their way into the room.

HTH.

Brett: Strictly speaking, the rent-a-riot was to prevent the votes from being counted behind closed doors, not to prevent them from being counted at all.

Strictly speaking, that's a lie.

But I'm not calling you a liar, Brett: you are truthfully and uncritically presenting the Republican party line; which happens to be a lie.

It's been so many years since it was definitely established that Gore won Florida and Bush stole the 2000 election that in nastier moods I wonder how consciously a loyal Republican has to strive to remain ignorant of the basic facts, but hey: I'm relatively mellow this morning, Brett, and I'll just go with the assumption that you are naive enough to trust that the Republican Party would never ever lie to you about how it ran an election that gave the Republican candidate the victory against the will of the voters.

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