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October 22, 2008

Comments

for you hackers out there, how would i add a caption to the following code:

*img alt="Pickett_6" title="Pickett_6" src="https://obsidianwings.blogs.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/10/21/pickett_6.jpg" border="0" style="float: right; margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;" /*

I tried a div, but then the text wouldn't wrap.

"General, I have no strategy."

There are several reasons for which PA makes sense to them as the state they wanna fight for.

1) The most important one for me and the most unreported one is the fact PA is literally almost the only swing state not to feature early voting. In other words, in most states, Obama's organization has secured him a cushion that would require McCain to win big on Election Day to switch the momentum. Even a terrorist attack could not accomplish that (it may bring it down to a tie but not to something that can overcome the current advantage).
Without early voting, PA is the state where Obama has no cushion.

2) Add to that that PA is one of the states where the racial thing and the conservative Hillary voters thing are two potent forces. Obama has successfully overcome those thanks to the economic crisis but apparently the McCain people think it is still latent and can be awakened. That's why many of us believe that should Wright be resurrected, it would be in PA (now since Wright was prosecuted in PA the first time around, I would think it would be old story even for those who hate Obama and are planning to vote for him reluctantly but that may be their rationale).

3) PA has 21 electoral votes which is more than IA, NM and CO together. In other words, going full-in in one unlikely state with plenty of electoral voters is less crazy than going full-in fighting three states that bring less and where Mccain is not doing any better in polling.

4) I would also like to say I suspect they are not insane and their internal polling must show it closer than public polling but then I remember that Mccain and the RNC invested millions in Maine barely two weeks ago at a time everybody thought it was crazy. But, we said, I guess they must see something we don't.
Well, they have pulled back already. So we don't know if it is delusion or what.


In any case, I am not sure I would have gone that route but quite frankly there is not much they can do at this point so by the rationales I explained above, I guess it can hold up scrutiny as a strategy for the next 10 days.

publius - something like this should work:

{span style="float: right; margin: 5px 0 0 5px;"}{img alt="Pickett_6" title="Pickett_6" src="https://obsidianwings.blogs.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/10/21/pickett_6.jpg" border="0"/}{p}{em}this is my caption{/em}{/p}{/span}

Re McCain - It's obvious that he's focusing on Pennsylvania because it's the most patriotic part of the country.

"It might not matter anyway -- but (if you were McCain) you'd hate to lose the election because you diverted money from states like Virginia and Colorado to Pennsylvania if things happened to get close."

I've said all along that the Republican nominee had little chance in Colorado. It's just not been a Republican state in years; it's only inertia and lack of contemporary knowledge that keeps anyone saying otherwise. For McCain or the RNC to throw more money at Colorado would largely be to throw it down the drain.

I'm also dubious McCain could do much about Virginia.

If you're looking for where that "anti-sunk costs" bias might be coming from, you might want to read the description in "Faith of My Fathers" of McCain's thinking in the seconds before he was hit by a SAM missile.

From memory, the description goes something like this: I saw a SAM had locked onto my tail, and I knew I was supposed to go into evasive maneuvers. But that would mean I wouldn't be able to drop my bombs on this run. And I was afraid I would lack the time, OR THE GUTS (emphasis mine), to come around and try again. So I held to my run and released my bombs. A moment later the SAM blew my right wing off.

This is basically a textbook expression of the illogic of throwing good aircraft after bad. What was the long-term more valuable strategy: avoid getting shot down and losing the US an aircraft and a pilot, or drop 2 1000-pound bombs that might - might - manage to hit an electric facility that had already been hit before and was not proving crucial to North Vietnam's warmaking capacity? This is the kind of thinking that kept McCain from making Admiral in the US Navy.

Emphasing Benjamin's point about early voting this story I just googled up says that almost 15% of Colorado's registered voters have already voted by mail or voted early in person. Furthermore a full 60% of all those registered applied for mail-in ballots and are therefore presumably expected to vote by mail.

So McCain's problem in Colorado is not that of Pennsylvania where he's got two weeks to try and make it real close and then needs to turn out his voters better than Obama on the day, it's that he needs it to be real close now, today, and to be turning out his voters better than Obama now, today. If not sooner.

So sure, Colorado is polling closer, but there's practically no time left on the clock there.

Huffingaton via truthout:
McCain Employing GOP Operative Accused of Voter Registration Fraud
http://www.truthout.org/102108K>link

1) The most important one for me and the most unreported one is the fact PA is literally almost the only swing state not to feature early voting.

Oh, right.

In that case, you can expect PA to be one of the states that ever so unexpectedly gives McCain a marginal win on Election Night, though exit polls say Obama should have won it.

And for years afterwards, Beltway pundits will be speculating on the Pennsylvania Effect... but there will be no official notice taken of the use of Diebold machines.

Of course McCain is still contesting this state. Got to make the media narrative look good.


Well, it's certainly compatible with the overall strategy of the campaign, which at this point seems to be: "Do everything Hillary Clinton did, only much less skillfully, ignoring the fact that even when skillfully done it didn't lead to her winning."

Your allusion

"In this bizarro world, the more you sink, the more you keep spending, because you can’t quite bear to admit that the spending didn’t work out."

to "good money after bad" is exactly the gambler's mentality. This behavior aligns with McCain's personality, not most paid campaign strategists. It would seem this is a gambling, mavericky move that McCain has forced onto his staff.

Just a guess.

I would also like to say I suspect they are not insane

At this point,I'm not accepting that proposition without supporting empirical evidence.

The whole benefit of nominating McCain was that he’d be competitive among independents and conservative Dems.

And even that's making it sound as if this was a reason that the GOP selected him.

In fact, lurking in the background here, is the idiotic winner-take-all delegate selection system that the GOP uses in many states. Last spring, with the Democratic race in a prolonged, bitter endgame and the Republican nomination entirely wrapped up, this delegate apportionment system was getting much praise, and a variety of Democrats (mostly disgruntled Clinton supporters desperate to put meat on the bones of their "we won the Big States" argument) were suggesting that the Democratic Party should get rid of its rules mandating proportional allocation of delegates.

But winner-take-all is not only undemocratic, it has also proven to be politically costly for John McCain. McCain won his party's nomination by securing often measly percentages of the vote. Take the key state of Florida, whose pre-Super Tuesday Republican primary was as responsible as any for putting McCain in the lead. McCain won all fifty-seven Florida delegates by taking just 36% of the vote.

In a crowded field, Republican candidates like McCain can thus win huge numbers of delegates without in any way sealing the deal with their own party. The long Democratic primary race created a largely mythic concern about Clinton voters coming home to Obama. But McCain had really never won over the GOP. And for many Republicans, McCain's supposed appeal to independents and Democrats was a bug, not a feature.

The result is that McCain wasn't able--or just as importantly felt he wasn't able--to move to the center over the summer. Instead, major decisions were made to appeal to the base, most notably the Sarah Palin nomination (reportedly made because McCain was told that he literally couldn't pick his first and second choices because they weren't anti-choice). The Rovian 50%+1, rely-on-the-base strategy that McCain has pursued has been as much a necessity as a choice.

It's anybody's guess who would have emerged from the Republican primary field had the GOP used proportional delegate selection. The race would have been longer and bloodier. And this year, perhaps, no Republican candidate would have been able to win in November. But whoever won such a nomination battle would have had to work much less hard this summer and fall to convince his own party to support him, and would have been much more free to tack to the center during the general election campaign.

I don’t understand the logic of scaling back in Colorado while simultaneously going “all in” in a solidly Democratic state that has added a net of 600K registered Democrats since 2004.

well, what if you can make those 600K new Dems go away... ?

I wonder if the McCain camp’s refusal to scale back in PA has more to do with irrational denial than with rational number crunching.

I think part of this is the hope that they'll force Obama to spend money in Pennsylvania that he'd rather spend someplace else. It's a diversionary attack. Unfortunately for McCain, after September's fundraising, Obama doesn't have to divert anything.

david - that worked. thanks.

and also thanks for earlier email -- things are busy for me today but i'll be back in touch soon

It seems pretty strange to me. But when I try to come up with reasons for doing it, I come up with the thought: Appalachia has always seemed to be the hardest nut for Obama to crack. A large chunk of PA is Appalachia. One might think that this was due to a sort of unease that either wouldn't be fully captured in polling, or would make voters more swingable than they would be elsewhere.

And then one might have some card to play, like Jeremiah Wright, that one thought would do better in PA than in CO.

As I said, though, I'm reaching.

I expect a full on Jeremiah Wright TV blitz in places like Appalachia the weekend before the election, combined with some out and out racist robo-calls. There's no time to call McCain on it.

Note the Steelers have a Monday night game too, perfect for reaching a wide audience in PA with the Wright nonsense.

McCain's a day late and a dollar short. The EV chess match is irrelvant because McCain is getting beaten like a drum on almost every issue and voter touchpoint. Barring some apocalyptic meltdown by Obama, this race is over.

The key missed opportunity for McCain--the point where he might have made this a contest has passed. That point was after the last debate where McCain started cutting into Obama's lead. The opportunity was there for McCain to dump Palin, admit he was wrong and bring in a VP candidate who wasn't an anchor on the campaign. Romney probably would have played well considering the economy.

Now, it's just too late.

Ben may be correct that the main reason that McCain got the nomination involves the way the Republicans do delegate selection. But the original post is also correct that the appeal of McCain during the primaries was that he could get votes from moderates and independents better than any of the other major possible candidates. That's why a lot of us moderate Republicans voted for him in the primaries, too.

But the chance of that happening in the general election was abandon, if the McCain campaign itself had ever subscribed to it, by the time of the convention. Once Palin got added to the ticket, no moderate was going to go anywhere near the ticket. It had become entirely a matter of "rally the base and enough Democrats will be swayed by the nagative campaigning and slurs." Doesn't look, at the moment, like it is going to work.

I'm inclined to liken McCain's assault on Pennsylvania with Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania, or maybe the Battle of the Bulge. If you know you can't win playing defense, you've got to choose the best option for an offensive move, even if the odds of success are unlikely.

Presume that their numbers show IA & VA as lost; that being the case, if McCain can't take any Kerry states, then it's over. If he can take PA, he can lose IA, VA, NM & CO and still win. Holding onto FL, OH, NC, IN, and NV, while necessary, do not get a win. So they're hoping the defense holds in those states, and they can force a miracle in PA.

The chance of success is remote, but I don't see McCain conceding before the election; he's (ahem) rolling the dice and trying to get lucky.

"Unfortunately for McCain, after September's fundraising, Obama doesn't have to divert anything."

Exactly. I just learned that in the St. Louis area if you have trouble getting to a polling place or need to be shuttled to another polling place to cast your ballot the Obama campaign will call you a taxi cab.

Playing resource allocation games is just a total loser for McCain. It disrupts his own messaging while the Obama people barely miss a beat. If he wants to win, he needs to drop all this tactical garbage and find a winning strategy to move the overall national polling. I don't think he's going to have much luck with that, but it's his only hope.

Cleek is onto something - "What if they make those 600,000 new Dems go away?" The PA GOP is downright nasty (you've read some of the bleatings of Chairman Gleason, right?). Me thinks they have a plan to suppress turnout in Philadelphia and Allegheny County and, where that fails, to challenge virtually every single vote in urban precincts. Election Day is going to be VERY ugly in PA.

I'll take "Diebold and plausible deniability" for $1000, Alex.

The fact that PA doesn't have early voting sounds like an extremely persuasive argument. In states with heavy early voting, McCain would be confronting the same problem that Obama ran into on Super Tuesday. A good deal of his late campaigning in places like CA was less effective because many voters had already cast a ballot for Hillary.

Another factor might be the geographical proximity to OH, which McCain absolutely must win. I'm not familiar with the media markets along the PA/OH border, but the map suggests that any TV buys aimed at eastern OH would reach western PA anyway, so that the incremental cost to make a full-court-press in PA might be less than it seems on the surface.

Ben may be correct that the main reason that McCain got the nomination involves the way the Republicans do delegate selection. But the original post is also correct that the appeal of McCain during the primaries was that he could get votes from moderates and independents better than any of the other major possible candidates. That's why a lot of us moderate Republicans voted for him in the primaries, too.

Absolutely, wj. I wasn't disagreeing with the original post but supplementing it.

Given the weakness of the GOP field, McCain might have won the nomination even with proportional delegate allocation (though it would have been far from a sure thing). However, it would have taken a longer primary fight and McCain would have had to appeal more strongly to the base in the spring, which may have actually freed him to tack to the center in the summer and fall.

As they say, a picture is worth a leveraged multiple of words: so click onto this link from dKos for a pictorial representation of the ideal McCain strategy.

Of course, the red-tinged map they seem seem to be going for also assumes that that McCain/Palin will not only win PA, but OH and FL and VA and NC and MO and IN as well. Which will enable the GOP ticket to eke out an EC win - just barely.

Unfortunately, polling data seems to suggest that "running the table" like that is a near-impossibility. Despite the attraction of PA's 21 Electoral Votes, if the Republicans lose any two of the other six "battleground" states, they're cooked: or just one, if FL goes blue (27 EV).

Long crapshoot odds, indeed. I'm just glad I don't live near a PA media market: the forthcoming ad barrage will probably be disgustingly awful.

I expect a full on Jeremiah Wright TV blitz in places like Appalachia the weekend before the election, combined with some out and out racist robo-calls. There's no time to call McCain on it.

Bingo.

And, nice catch re: the Steelers' MNF game, Ugh.

If I were running the Obama machine, I'd have a range of likely rebuttal ads in the can, ready to air.

Others here have covered all the major factors that make sense to me. The other minor factor I can think of is that it seems that the RNC and the McCain camp are parting company on advertising (Nate at 538 put up a post about this yesterday), with the RNC looking to salvage House and Senate races.

In this context PA has the advantage of being a state where McCain can go all in with negative advertising without dumping on the presumably more positive messaging the RNC will want to get out in support of down ticket GOP candidates. If McCain were to do so in multiple battleground states where GOP incumbents are trying to hold on to their seats, not only would he risk losing anyway but the damage to the GOP more broadly might be even worse that it will be if the really toxic stuff is limited to just PA.

According to RFK Jr. and Greg Palast, the election is already stolen. McCain 51.2% popular vote, +3 electoral votes.

Riots? No. After the election the international banking cartel that runs this country will pull the plug on the dollar. Millions of Americans will have far more immediate concerns (like eating) than another stolen election.

Those who persist in petitioning their government for a redress of grievances will be swept off the street by the 3rd army and shunted into one of many concentration camps built throughout the country with our tax dollars.

publius: It makes some sense to me to go after PA rather than the others. Obama is at 273 with Kerry states + NM + IA + CO. At that point, my strategy would be to pick off any one state. Maybe NH, for example. BUT if you think that Virginia is unreachable, that puts Obama at 286. And then CO & NM with their 14 electors become irrelevant. So if you fear a defeat in Virginia, only flipping Pennsylvania will be the antidote.

So on the one hand, while the low-lying fruit of NH, CO, or IA make more sense, you are risking another event (VA) making that strategy irrelevant.

Obvious there are some tough questions of probability here. It may come down to: are you more likely to flip CO, IA, and NH or just PA? It's not a reach to say the latter.

Are the posts about the election being stolen sarcastic? International banking cartels? Martial law? Seriously?

Are the posts about the election being stolen sarcastic?

beats me.

RFK Jr and Palast are running with that idea. of course, those two love to screech wildly about big scary conspiracies.

I dunno.

Seems to me that the past eight years have been spent on a cycle of disbelief turning slowly into the shocked recognition that the Republican party leadesrs really are that evil.

The people in leadership possitions of the Republican party have shown themwleves over and over to be utterly without scruple and utterly devoted to the puruit of power. And there is plently of eveidence of voter surpression efforts.

So...do I tyhink t hat thhe Republican party will succeed in stealing the election? On the whole, no, but only because it would require so much nefarious activity in so many states that thhe veil of plausible denialbility would be torn.

One of the many things the Deomcrats need to do after this election is put some federal standards into place that will block stae level voter surpression efforts. yes I know this runs into federal vs states rights issues but we have already established in thei country that states do not have the right to charge poll taxes and current voter surpressionefforts are just an updated equivalent (ie: arbitrary standard set to screen out targetted voters for p0olitical purposes).

I don't doubt that Republicans support things like voter ID requirements not because they're genuinely concerned about voter fraud, but because they calculate (correctly) that these measures will disproportionately affect people inclined to vote Democrat. But that's not the same thing as assuming there's some massive conspiracy out there stealing elections.

According to RFK Jr. and Greg Palast, the election is already stolen. McCain 51.2% popular vote, +3 electoral votes.

I read that article, and nowhere does it make this assertion. They just talk about ID laws, provisional ballots, address checks, etc. Does anyone seriously believe that there's some conspiracy out there capable of predetermining election results to the tenth of a percentage point?

As to the concern about Diebold voting machine's in Ohio: Ken Blackwell is no longer Secretary of State, Democrat Jennifer Brunner is, and the election machinery is no longer under Republican control.

Sorry about the italics. I don't understand how they work.

OT kinda, but come on McCain. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/us_elections_2008/7683597.stm>Is this the best you can do? A politician saying nice things about the home team? I'm convinced at this point he's going for comedy.

Italico delendi?

Sorry about the italics. I don't understand how they work.

Put < i > (without the spaces) in front of the text you want to italicize.

Put < /i > (without the spaces) after the text you want to italicize.

Preview before posting to make sure you got it right.

Don't forget the second and third parts.

Thanks -


die, curly letters! die!

??

Orff?

err. ?

maybe this will do it?


? maybe not?

ha! got it.

Let me give this a try:

italics on

italics off

Italics off!

Italics off!!!

cleek, what did you do?

meh

This has been working for me

i used a /P then a bunch of /I's

F*cking Typepad.

I truly believe that some elements of the Republican Party will steal elections if they can, by falsifying electronic ballot counts, by staging a "riot" with bussed-in yuppies to prevent completion of a recount, by under-provisioning voting places in Democratic-leaning precincts, by attempting to intimidate likely Democratic voters through police presence and false-information mailers, by putting a Dem candidate's name at the bottom of the ballot in violation of applicable election law.

And I think that Bush, and especially Cheney, have a great deal to fear from public disclosure of the illegalities and naked power grabs of the last eight years. My estimate of their character is such that I am half-expecting a "terrorist" attack on the US before the election, possibly with real fatalities to add a note of versimilitude.

Bush happily signed off on the execution of over a hundred people as Texas governor, and eagerly sought trumped-up justifications for a war he wanted to wage, a war that has now killed many thousands of American soldiers and probably something over half a millioni Iraqis. Do you think he will scruple to kill a few more Americans to keep himself out of The Hague?

And Cheney seems to feel that barbarism is the same as strength, and thus a virtue in a "leader".

Joel, I agree with your views of the character of some Republicans, but I don't think they're motivated by the desire to keep Bush and Cheney out of the Hague, because unfortunately that's something that has no chance of happening in the real world regardless of who's elected.

Publius, about the HTML - David's example may work on some (even most) browsers, but it's not valid and may behave weirdly in some situations. Use div instead of span, and add "width: Npx;" to the div's style, where N is the width of the image. The other way to do it without CSS is to put the whole shebang inside a floating table.

About politics in Pennsylvania, I can't think of anything intelligent to say, and I'm from there.

OT: Jamie Kirchick continues to hone his tiresome tu quoque routine.

Ron Paul takedown notwithstanding, I still think little Jamie-kins should stick to fetching coffee and donuts for Marty and leave the journamalism/punditry thing to those who are,y'know, actually good at it.

(And yes, I'm fully aware that this comment is unfair and short-sighted *cough*.)

Ben Smith points to an article that says McCain may not be too far off in going after PA. Those of us on the outside look at some poll figures and think they are realistic. Maybe they are and maybe not.

Ben Smith

This should work.

TSW: Are the posts about the election being stolen sarcastic? International banking cartels? Martial law? Seriously?

I've read at least one right-wing article explaining seriously how you ccan't trust the polls, and this article sounds like a straightforward threat:

Public safety officials said in interviews with The Hill that the election, which will end with either the nation’s first black president or its first female vice president, demanded a stronger police presence.

Some worry that if Barack Obama loses and there is suspicion of foul play in the election, violence could ensue in cities with large black populations. Others based the need for enhanced patrols on past riots in urban areas (following professional sports events) and also on Internet rumors.

So no. I'm not being sarcastic. Bush stole the election in 2000 and in 2004, and Americans for the most part told themselves complacently that it hadn't really happened, their electoral system wasn't really broken.

Obama may well win in November. But McCain could still be in the White House in January. And if this news article reports accurately, the police are gearing up to make sure any would-be protesters are quelled as thoroughly as Democrats trying to exercise their First Amendment rights outside the RNC.

Jesurgislac,

I don't think that adds up to the prospect of a stolen election. The Michael Barone article in WSJ is just run of the mill hackery. He mixes some valid concerns, e.g. polls missing cell-phone only voters, with some invalid ones, e.g. the much debunked "Bradley Effect," but I don't see anything nefarious there.

As to the riot speculations, I don't think that prefigures election stealing either. I don't think Obama supporters will riot if he loses (I don't think he'll lose), and it's arguably racist to make that assumption. But IF you believe that Obama might lose-- because voters are racist, or for whatever other reason-- and IF you believe that riots will break out in that event, then it's appropriate to prepare for riots. I don't see how that logically implies that people are planning to steal the election.

I also don't think Bush "stole" the 2000 or 2004 elections. I lived in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, and followed those issues closely and I just don't think the evidence is there. I certainly agree that, depending on how you count undervotes and overvotes, Gore may have won Florida. I also agree that the "intent of the voter" standard should have favored Gore's position. For example, your article makes a good point about voters who both checked Gore and wrote him in. But Bush didn't force people to do that. That's not the same as "stealing" the election.

Similarly, the Ohio '04 election was a mess. Thankfully, Blackwell is gone. But "stolen" just goes too far for me.

If McCain becomes president, I'll seriously re-evaluate my position, but I just don't think that'll happen. I think Obama's going to win, and probably win big. But, we'll see.

TSW: I also don't think Bush "stole" the 2000 or 2004 elections. I lived in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, and followed those issues closely and I just don't think the evidence is there.

I never understand what people mean by "the evidence isn't there". Do they mean, for example, that they just don't believe the electoral rolls were purged prior to 2000? Or that they think the directives that ensured the purge was targeted towards voters demographically likely to vote Democrat was more than a coincidence? Or that they think the reports of intimidation at the polls on election day was unimportant? Or that the decision to stop counting votes - which decision to stop counting when Bush was a few hundred ahead the Republicans fought all the way up to SCOTUS - was just random, not in the least inspired by the fact that at the point the Republicans decided to stop the count, Bush was just a few hundred votes ahead, and there were tens of thousands of ballots uncounted? Or that the staged riot to stop the count, by Republican party employees bused in from another state, was just a random act of ...something or other? Why, for you, is all this evidence... just thought to be "not there"?

. I certainly agree that, depending on how you count undervotes and overvotes, Gore may have won Florida.

Well, I know that the US media have been completely reluctant to point this out, but if you count every ballot where the voter's intent is clear - as for example, the mass number of overvotes where a vast majority of voters both wrote in Gore's name and punched the hole next to Gore's name - we know Gore won Florida, and thus the 2000 election. There is no "may have won" about it. Bush was handed Florida's electoral college votes by a couple of court decisions in his favor, not because he's the candidate the majority of voters wanted.

The evidence for 2004 is necessarily less clearcut, because of the widespread use of voting machines which leave no paper trail and which therefore don't have any reliable means of showing that the vote tally reported by the machines is identical to the votes cast. The voting machines can be hacked - they are made to a standard that falls below that legally required for a gambling machine in Vegas - and they routinely produce vote tallies that are, according to the exit polls that are only means of checking these machines, skewed towards Republicans by up to 6%. Exit polls showing a significant difference from the reported result are regarded, in democracies all over the world, as a valid reason to go back and recount all the ballots. But in the US, this is a physical impossibility wherever these electronic voting machines are in use - you must simply accept their tally, regardless of whatever legitimate questions are asked about it. No election where these voting machines are in use can be regarded as a fair election.

Your belief that because you live in Ohio you know the election was not stolen sounds about as reliable as Palin claiming that because Alaska borders on Russia she's a foreign policy expert. Show me how you personally dispute every single piece of evidence in the Rolling Stone article because you were there and you know it was not that way... or don't cite it.

The problem with saying that the courts handed Bush the presidency is that Gore's legal team never asked for the kind of recount that would've handed him victory. They focused only on undervotes, not the overvotes you were talking about. Gore wanted recounts only in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. They actually opposed a full, statewide recount. This was an error in strategy, but it wasn't part of a GOP conspiracy.

Also, yuppie protesters are not exactly intimidating. No one was hurt or arrested, so I think calling that a riot is hyperbole. I think they stopped the hand recount because there wasn't enough time to get it done (so they focused only on disputed ballots), not because they seriously feared these Brooks Brothers guys were going to kill them. (That board also comprised one democrat and two independents, not GOP people.)

Yes, I think the reports of intimidation are unimportant, at least if you're simply referring to the presence of Republican challengers at polling places. If there were large scale efforts to, say, actually threaten people's lives that would be a different story. But just having people there to check registrations doesn't come close to stealing an election.

The voter purge is, I admit, more troubling. There is nothing wrong with removing felons from voting lists in places where felons are not permitted to vote. (I also don't think threatening legal action against felons who attempt to vote illegally constitutes illegitimate "intimidation.") But the purge also swept up felons whose civil rights had been restored and also some people who were never convicted of felonies but had the same name and birthdate as someone who did. That was wrong. I think Database Technologies did a bad job by only checking name and DOB, not SSN. But there is -- sorry to use this phrase again -- no evidence of a deliberate conspiracy that would warrant a charge of election stealing. Also, in defense of the purge, it was necessary after the 1997 Miami mayor's race was overturned because felons voted illegally.

Jesurgislac,

I just brought living in Florida and Ohio up because it seems like election problems follow me. I didn't claim to KNOW anything that anyone else didn't by virtue of that fact; I just said I followed the issues closely because they were happening in my backyard.

I'm glad we don't use those machines anymore. But there is, again, absolutely no evidence that they were hacked. Exit polls are notoriously unreliable -- due to response bias among other things. A discrepancy between exit polls and election returns does not prove, or even plausibly suggest, that someone hacked into the voting machines.


I just brought living in Florida and Ohio up because it seems like election problems follow me.

Please tell us that you aren't living in PA right now.

Kansas would be good.

:->

Nope, still in Ohio. Although I'm volunteering as much as I can here, I really hope Obama wins Virginia and Colorado, and Ohio has nothing to do with deciding the election. Otherwise, I might move to Utah.

The problem with saying that the courts handed Bush the presidency is that Gore's legal team never asked for the kind of recount that would've handed him victory.

Irrelevant. The results of a democratic election depend on how the voters cast their votes - not how the legal team of one candidate fights the legal team of the other candidate. The voters decided for Gore. The Republicans did not want the ballots counted, and the courts handed them the result they wanted - rather than, as they properly should, ruling that the election count had to continue in accordance with Florida electoral law.

Also, yuppie protesters are not exactly intimidating. No one was hurt or arrested, so I think calling that a riot is hyperbole. I think they stopped the hand recount because there wasn't enough time to get it done (so they focused only on disputed ballots), not because they seriously feared these Brooks Brothers guys were going to kill them.

The riot was reported at the time as locals protesting the count as a reason not to continue: David Leahy, supervising the count, said the rioters had "played a part" in the decision not to continue. The New York Times reported that the mob was screaming, trying to force their way into the building, knocked two television cameramen to the ground, and several people were kicked and punched, including a Democratic spokesman as he attempted to hold a news conference. And the mob was run by Republican party operatives, including Representative John Sweeney, who is quoted as having ordered the attack on the government building where the votes were being counted as: "thugs in that building are trying to hijack this election". cite By counting the votes.

Yes, I think the reports of intimidation are unimportant, at least if you're simply referring to the presence of Republican challengers at polling places.

No, I'm thinking of contemporary reports of violence and intimidation preventing black voters from getting to polling places. It was in the UK news in 2000: was I just better informed that you?

But the purge also swept up felons whose civil rights had been restored and also some people who were never convicted of felonies but had the same name and birthdate as someone who did. That was wrong. I think Database Technologies did a bad job by only checking name and DOB race, not SSN.

Fixed that for you. DT did what they were instructed to do by Katherine Harris. They did the job they were required to do: to purge from the rolls as many voters as possible who shared roughly the same name and race as convicted felons. Who are, incidentally, entitled to vote in most states in the US: the "purge the felons" rules were invented and enforced in the Southern states as part of the Jim Crow rules. The point was always to prevent black voters from getting to cast their vote.

But there is, again, absolutely no evidence that they were hacked.

Aside from the fact that they delivered a result incompatible with the exit polls - and that they were built so that they could be hacked leaving absolutely no evidence trail. There is a reason why it's a criminal offense for a casino owner to run gambling machines that can be hacked without leaving any evidence, even if there is absolutely no evidence that the gambling machines have ever been hacked. Can you figure out for yourself what that reason is? Do you think that it's less important to run honest elections than to run honest casinos?

I'm glad we don't use those machines anymore.

So Ohio has switched over to optically-scanned paper ballots? That's excellent news: last I heard, you were usimg these voting machines.

Exit polls are notoriously unreliable

Exit polls are highly reliable. The only democracy in which exit polls keep being claimed to be notoriously unreliable is, not at all oddly, the United States - especially in elections from 2000 onwards. Either the US is the only democracy in the world that can't run reliable exit polls... or the US is one of many countries that can't run reliable elections. I know which I think is more likely: which do you?

Although I'm volunteering as much as I can here, I really hope Obama wins Virginia and Colorado, and Ohio has nothing to do with deciding the election. Otherwise, I might move to Utah.

I'm sorry I sounded snarky: this is (bizarrely, I feel myself sometimes) a deeply important issue for me, not least because, as I noted in my blogpost, the damage McCain-Palin can do to the rest of the world is really effin' scary, and I see the first step towards defending against the kind of electoral theft the Republican party has successfully achieved in the last 8 years is to actually admit it's happening, not shrug off voting machines that can be hacked without leaving a trace with "well, there's no evidence".

For everybody's peace of mind, my hope is that early next week, accepting the futility of his campaign,

McCain abandons his schedule, and like Bob Dole, volunteers to buck up candidates (who want him) in tight House and Senate races.

WIthout a formal concesssion, he could gracefully fulfill all political expectations of him from the Repubs, soldier on in service of a higher cause, and give it the full Sidney Carton treatment. A far, far better finish than he could ever have deserved.

You're not snarky; I'm just not persuaded. I think there is a big difference between saying that there are flaws in an election, and saying that the election is being stolen, which to me implies an organized conspiracy. If you look at the RFK, Jr. Rolling Stone article about 2004 that you mentioned it tries to tie together things like long lines in Cleveland, voting machines in New Mexico, problems mailing oversees ballots, all together in one giant conspiracy. This would require thousands of people working in concert to pull off the greatest crime in history. I just don't buy it, but then again I'm skeptical of conspiracy theories in general.

As to your specific points:

You're right that Gore's legal strategy is irrelevant to who should have won. But it is relevant to the question of whether Gore's failure to win was (A) the result of Bush stealing it, or (B) the Court siding against him, or (C) other factors, which is what we disagreed about. Gore's team certainly weren't helping Bush win. And even if the Supreme Court sided with Gore, he still would've lost, so I think that points to (C).

An article in Salon states: "David Leahy, the county's supervisor of elections and a member of the canvassing board, denies that the protest had any effect on the decision to end the recount.

'At no moment was I intimidated,' he said earlier this week in a televised interview. The denial came after the New York Times story reported that the protests had been a factor in the board's decision to end the recount."

http://archive.salon.com/politics/feature/2000/11/28/miami/print.html

I live in Cleveland in Cuyahoga County, and we have switched to optical scan ballots. You're right that some of the smaller counties can't switch in time, but I wouldn't worry because Blackwell is not in charge anymore.

Unless you think the machines could still be hacked another way. You're right that if it's possible to hack the machines without leaving a trace, then by definition no one would know if it happened. But the only possible suggestion that it DID happen is the exit polls. I don't believe exit polls are as accurate as you suggest. The 1992 network exit polls overstated Clinton's performance by the same margin as Kerry's. Many exit polls overstated Obama's performance in various primaries; you don't think Clinton was hacking machines do you? I think the error from exit polling derives from response bias owing to different levels of enthusiasm.

I guess I just take the opposite lesson from the last two cycles, which is that Democrats need to field better candidates and run better campaigns. I think the focus on conspiracy theories distracts from that. This time I think Obama's run an excellent campaign and he'll win easily. Like I said, if McCain pulls an upset I'll come around to your way of thinking, but if Obama wins in a landslide despite the GOP's best efforts, I think it'll make complaints about the last two elections seem less credible.

You're not snarky; I'm just not persuaded. I think there is a big difference between saying that there are flaws in an election, and saying that the election is being stolen, which to me implies an organized conspiracy. If you look at the RFK, Jr. Rolling Stone article about 2004 that you mentioned it tries to tie together things like long lines in Cleveland, voting machines in New Mexico, problems mailing oversees ballots, all together in one giant conspiracy. This would require thousands of people working in concert to pull off the greatest crime in history. I just don't buy it, but then again I'm skeptical of conspiracy theories in general.

As to your specific points:

You're right that Gore's legal strategy is irrelevant to who should have won. But it is relevant to the question of whether Gore's failure to win was (A) the result of Bush stealing it, or (B) the Court siding against him, or (C) other factors, which is what we disagreed about. Gore's team certainly weren't helping Bush win. And even if the Supreme Court sided with Gore, he still would've lost, so I think that points to (C).

An article in Salon states: "David Leahy, the county's supervisor of elections and a member of the canvassing board, denies that the protest had any effect on the decision to end the recount.

'At no moment was I intimidated,' he said earlier this week in a televised interview. The denial came after the New York Times story reported that the protests had been a factor in the board's decision to end the recount."

http://archive.salon.com/politics/feature/2000/11/28/miami/print.html

I live in Cleveland in Cuyahoga County, and we have switched to optical scan ballots. You're right that some of the smaller counties can't switch in time, but I wouldn't worry because Blackwell is not in charge anymore.

Unless you think the machines could still be hacked another way. You're right that if it's possible to hack the machines without leaving a trace, then by definition no one would know if it happened. But the only possible suggestion that it DID happen is the exit polls. I don't believe exit polls are as accurate as you suggest. The 1992 network exit polls overstated Clinton's performance by the same margin as Kerry's. Many exit polls overstated Obama's performance in various primaries; you don't think Clinton was hacking machines do you? I think the error from exit polling derives from response bias owing to different levels of enthusiasm.

I guess I just take the opposite lesson from the last two cycles, which is that Democrats need to field better candidates and run better campaigns. I think the focus on conspiracy theories distracts from that. This time I think Obama's run an excellent campaign and he'll win easily. Like I said, if McCain pulls an upset I'll come around to your way of thinking, but if Obama wins in a landslide despite the GOP's best efforts, I think it'll make complaints about the last two elections seem less credible.

TSW: I think there is a big difference between saying that there are flaws in an election, and saying that the election is being stolen, which to me implies an organized conspiracy.

Ah, so you were arguing against the straw man of your own creation "I Don't Believe In Organized Conspiracy" and therefore, you believe all the criminal and/or sleazy things the Republicans did that ensured the election was swung to Bush, were actually entirely innocent mistakes, "flaws".

I do not believe that five SCOTUS justices sat down with Jeb and George W. Bush and John Sweeney and Theresa LePore and any of the other Republicans who made these "flaws" that ensured George W. Bush got into the White House in January 2001. In 2000, a Republican judge in Texas decided that it would be unreasonable to expect the prospective Republican nominee for President to respond to a subpoena that would require him to testify in a corruption case: the public outside Texas might be biased by this, and that (if you're a Republican) was unfair. I don't think that judge was part of an Organized Conspiracy, but he was certainly doing his little all to help get Bush the Presidency.

And that I certainly believe. Because we see it happen. That there exist Republicans who were prepared to fix what they could, shove the election in this way, move some votes - the most useful switch, rigging the electronic voting machines currently in use in the US is not something that requires any very massive conspiracy.

You're right that Gore's legal strategy is irrelevant to who should have won. But it is relevant to the question of whether Gore's failure to win[get into the White House]

Fixed that for you. By all normal democratic standards, plus the special rules of US presidential elections as normally run, Gore did win.

was (A) the result of Bush stealing it, or (B) the Court siding against him, or (C) other factors, which is what we disagreed about. Gore's team certainly weren't helping Bush win. And even if the Supreme Court sided with Gore, he still would've lost, so I think that points to (C).

No, all three. Fairly obviously, although Gore won but Bush got the White House, Bush stole it: (A). The reason Gore's victory was not known for certain till late 2001 was because the courts sided with the Republicans and ordered the official vote count stopped: (B). Other factors of course included the voter purge, the butterfly ballot, the helpful judge in Texas, Karl Rove undercutting John McCain by attacking his family, etc: (C).

I think the focus on conspiracy theories distracts from that.

I think that forgetting that the Republicans succeeded in stealing the election in 2000 and 2004, and thinking that it's all down to running a good campaign/fielding a better candidate, means that you will be sitting on your ass in 2009 thinking "Well, I guess Obama couldn't have been that good a candidate after all... since I don't believe in Conspiracy Theories, McCain must have won fairly."

You think that's odd? I think it's weird that people are now arguing that Gore just wasn't as good a candidate as Bush, or that Kerry wasn't...

You're right that if it's possible to hack the machines without leaving a trace, then by definition no one would know if it happened. But the only possible suggestion that it DID happen is the exit polls.

It is possible to do it without leaving a trace - I thought you said you'd followed these issues? Certainly the easily-hacked voting machines are a big part of the issue of what's happening with US elections.

You didn't actually answer my question: do you believe it's less important to have honest elections than it is to have honest casinos?

If your only argument that it couldn't have happened is that you believe the US is uniquely incapable of running accurate exit polls, I think you have to figure out why you believe American polling companies are so uniquely incompetent. Do you normally believe in American inferiority, or is this just with regard to exit polls?

I think that eventually it will be proven that Republican party operatives did indeed steal the 2004 election by computer fraud.

This is from Raw Story:

Republican IT consultant subpoenaed in case alleging tampering with 2004 election
Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane
Published: Monday September 29, 2008




COLUMBUS -- A high-level Republican consultant has been subpoenaed in a case regarding alleged tampering with the 2004 election.

Michael L. Connell was served with a subpoena in Ohio on Sept. 22 in a case alleging that vote-tampering during the 2004 presidential election resulted in civil rights violations. Connell, president of GovTech Solutions and New Media Communications, is a website designer and IT professional who created a website for Ohio’s secretary of state that presented the results of the 2004 election in real time as they were tabulated.

At the time, Ohio’s Secretary of State, Kenneth J. Blackwell, was also chairman of Bush-Cheney 2004 reelection effort in Ohio.

Connell is refusing to testify or to produce documents relating to the system used in the 2004 and 2006 elections, lawyers say. His motion to quash the subpoena asserts that the request for documents is burdensome because the information sought should be “readily ascertainable through public records request” – but also, paradoxically, because “it seeks confidential, trade secrets, and/or proprietary information” that “have independent economic value” and “are not known to the public, or even to non-designated personnel within or working for Mr. Connell’s business.”

According to sources close to the office of Clifford Arnebeck, one of the Ohio attorneys who brought the case, Arnebeck intends to ask the court to compel Connell to testify. An emergency conference with the judge, originally scheduled for Monday, is to be rescheduled.

snip

The case took on fresh momentum earlier this year when Arnebeck announced in July that he was filing to "lift the stay in the case [and] proceed with targeted discovery in order to help protect the integrity of the 2008 election." The new filing was inspired in part by the coming forward as a whistleblower of GOP IT security expert Stephen Spoonamore, who said he was prepared to testify to the plausibility of electronic vote-rigging having been carried out in 2004.

Arnebeck’s hope was that in the course of the discovery procedure it would be possible to subpoena Michael Connell, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and others to obtain additional information and improve the focus of the case. The stay was lifted Sept. 19, 2008 by an order from Magistrate Judge Terrence P. Kemp of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, and a subpoena was served to Connell on the following Monday, Sept. 22.

Allegations against Connell
The interest in Mike Connell stems from his association with a firm called GovTech, which he had spun off from his own New Media Communications under his wife Heather Connell’s name. GovTech was hired by Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell to set up an official election website at election.sos.state.oh.us to presented the 2004 presidential returns as they came in.

Connell is a long-time GOP operative, whose New Media Communications provided web services for the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign, the US Chamber of Commerce, the Republican National Committee and many Republican candidates. This in itself might have raised questions about his involvement in creating Ohio’s official state election website.


The New Media building.

However, the alternative media group ePlubibus Media further discovered in November 2006 that election.sos.state.oh.us was hosted on the servers of a company in Chattanooga, TN called SmarTech, which also provided hosting for a long list of Republican Internet domains.

“Since early this decade, top Internet ‘gurus’ in Ohio have been coordinating web services with their GOP counterparts in Chattanooga, wiring up a major hub that in 2004, first served as a conduit for Ohio's live election night results,” researchers at ePluribus Media wrote.

A few months after this revelation, when a scandal erupted surrounding the firing of US Attorneys for reasons of White House policy, other researchers found that the gwb43 domain used by members of the White House staff to evade freedom of information laws by sending emails outside of official White House channels was hosted on those same SmarTech servers.

Given that the Bush White House used SmarTech servers to send and receive email, the use of one of those servers in tabulating Ohio’s election returns has raised eyebrows. Ohio gave Bush the decisive margin in the Electoral College to secure his reelection in 2004.

IT expert Stephen Spoonamore says the SmartTech server could have functioned as a routing point for malicious activity and remains a weakness in electronic voting tabulation.

According to Spoonamore’s Sept. 17 affidavit, the “computer placement, in the middle of the network, is a defined type of attack.” Spoonamore describes this as a “Man in the Middle Attack” or MIM.

“It is a common problem in the banking settlement space,” he writes. “A criminal gang will introduce a computer into the outgoing electronic systems of a major retail mall, or smaller branch office of a bank. They will capture the legitimate transactions and then add fraudulent charges to the system for their benefit.”

“Any time all information is directed to a single computer for consolidation, it is possible, and in fact likely, that single computer will exploit the information for some purpose,” he adds. “In the case of Ohio 2004, the only purpose I can conceive for sending all county vote tabulations to a GOP managed Man-in-the-Middle site in Chattanooga before sending the results onward to the Sec. of State, would be to hack the vote at the MIM.”

Hold letters were sent out in July to parties in the case, informing them of their obligation not to destroy relevant documentation. One such letter went to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, asking him to advise the federal government of its responsibility to preserve emails from Rove.

Arnebeck explained, "We expressed concern about the reports that Mr. Rove destroyed his emails and suggested that we want the duplicates that should exist [be put] under the control of the Secret Service and be sure that those are retained, as well as those on the receiving end in the Justice Department and elsewhere, that those documents are retained for purposes of this litigation, in which we anticipate Mr. Rove will be identified as having engaged in a corrupt, ongoing pattern of corrupt activities specifically affecting the situation here in Ohio."

More recently, Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff has revealed that John McCain’s presidential campaign paid nearly a million dollars for web services to a firm called 3eDC, created and partly owned by McCain campaign manager Rick Davis. According to an archived version of a 3eDC webpage from 2007, that firm’s five “strategic partners” included not only Connell’s New Media Communications but also Campaign Solutions – a firm run by Connell’s sometimes-partner, Rebecca Donatelli – and a component of SmarTech called AirNet.

There's more to the article but that's the heart of the matter.

I don't think that they can steal the elction this time, however because the elelctin is not going to come down to a close vote in one Republican controlled state. After obama wins Conbgress needs to pass a law that requires all states to keep a paper trail.

You're right that if it's possible to hack the machines without leaving a trace, then by definition no one would know if it happened. But the only possible suggestion that it DID happen is the exit polls.

There could be no direct evidence because the voting machines in question were never quarantined and examined by independent experts after the election. Unless you can show me a report by an independent systems auditor that is willing to certify they maintained a chain of custody on all machines in suspicious precincts throughout election day, there's no point in talking about whether the systems can be modified without a trace.

Regardless of what happened in those elections, there are a few facts that I think are uncontroversial and very problematic. First, many of the voting systems use extremely low quality software components that are not appropriate for this application at all. Second, electoral rules and procedures banning uncertified modifications of voting machine software by the vendors have been repeatedly violated. Third, audits of the new systems have uncovered extremely serious security problems in every system audited to date. Many of the problems discovered have remained uncorrected.

I think the best that we can say about electronic voting in America is that it is a boondoggle for funneling public cash to rabidly incompetent private companies. The wost case scenario is that the systems are insecure and buggy by design so as to facilitate voter fraud. Either way, this situation is simply unacceptable.

Here is a general interest question for folks who follow the voting technology issues:

What are the safe (meaning resistant to tampering) ways to vote?

In my district (MA-6) we use optical scanners, which read a paper ballot, which is saved in a secure container after being read.

Is that secure?

Is there any particular legal or constitutional impediment to standardizing voting methods across the country?

If the above questions can be answered with a link or two, that's also fine.

Thanks -

It's the same reason Obama's pouring money in there despite his huge lead. Race.

In my district (MA-6) we use optical scanners, which read a paper ballot, which is saved in a secure container after being read. Is that secure?

Optical scan methods are considered among the most secure electronic methods available. The voter marks up paper directly so there is no question in their mind as to what they're selecting and most importantly, you end up with a physical token that can be spot checked or recounted to verify the integrity of the machine counting process.

Is there any particular legal or constitutional impediment to standardizing voting methods across the country?

Not that I know of. The real problem is that American elections are controlled not by the federal government, and not by the state governments but by municipal governments. That means there are thousands of different little governing bodies who like to exercise their authority.

What I would like to see is for the federal government to dispatch NIST or some other government lab to produce an open source electronic voting platform in conjunction with a certification process. The design would be totally open so that any manufacturer could make these things. Congress would then pass a set of financial sweeteners for districts that used these machines in conjunction with the certification process. If the sweeteners were sweet enough, we'd end up with a system where most districts used the standard platform and process whose integrity had some guarantees thanks to the certification process. You couldn't get all municipalities to do it, but I'd certainly settle for 90%.

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