The State of The Race

Jay Cost has some good points to make about the state of the horse race. He has a much longer post but here are his main bullet points:

(1) The macro conditions favor the Democrats in a way we have not seen in at least 28 years.

(2) In response, the Democrats nominated a candidate with relatively little governing experience and a background quite different from white voters, who swing presidential elections.

(3) The Republicans nominated a candidate who built a national reputation by disagreeing with George W. Bush in particular and the Republican Party in general, in the hopes that this man is immune from the public disaffection with the GOP.

(4) The public now gets to choose a man with little experience and a different background, or a semi-Republican. They’re not sure which one they want. And because there are two wars on, a credit crisis, a weak economy, and high gas prices – they’re taking their sweet time in deciding.

(5) Anybody who tells you what is going to happen is probably trying to sell you something.

I pretty much agree with this. To number one and number two I would add that while this was the outcome, neither party did this in an entirely intentional manner. The Democrats nominated a candidate with little experience partially because the experienced front runner was someone who many felt was both unacceptable as a president and who probably could not withstand the scrutiny of a general election campaign. Besides, since when do Democrats nominate the front runner if they are not a sitting president or vice-president?

To some degree Obama’s nomination was despite his personal characteristics as this was largely a Clinton vs. strongest non-Clinton candidate. But that is not the whole story. There was also a strong desire among many for someone totally new. While there were not quite enough Democrats who felt this way to win the nomination, Obama managed to bring in enough new voters among independents to put himself over the top.

John McCain was certainly the best choice from an electoral standpoint for the Republicans, and I suspect that some primary voters did vote on this basis. He also was up against an extremely weak field where each of the candidates had serious flaws in a year where the Republicans did not have an obvious leader. While McCain has had some disagreements with Bush and other Republicans, his differences are actually minimal compared to the differences between the two parties.

Either candidate can go on to win this election, with Obama having the edge due to the macro conditions favoring the Democrats. If Obama can be seen more as the exciting new guy who represents a change from the rotten politics of the past as opposed to the different and inexperienced guy, then he should win.

For McCain it comes down partially to whether he succeeds in painting Obama as the unusual non-American candidate as he has been attempting. It is also largely a matter of whether he can continue to con enough people into thinking that he is significantly different from the Republicans who are responsible for the mess we are in, or whether enough voters realize that he really offers more of the same.

Cost also showed how little help history is this year:

History is of relatively little value in determining where this race is headed.

We can build a model that predicts presidential vote outcomes based on macro conditions. We can profitably take that back to 1948 or thereabouts. That gives us fifteen previous elections to work with.

But this is an open presidential election, one where the big dog is not running for reelection. Those are very different, and there have only been five of them since 1948.

In those elections, you’ll usually see the vice-president running on behalf of the incumbent party. There’s been just one exception.

That year was 1952. Structurally speaking, this year has a lot in common with 1952.

But the candidates have nothing in common with 1952. Instead, they are much more like the candidates from 1976. Barack Obama reminds me of Jimmy Carter – he’s relatively inexperienced and his background is such that a segment of this country is probably going to balk at voting for him. John McCain reminds me of Gerald Ford, though I suspect he would have let Nixon go to jail.

Unfortunately, we’ve never had a previous presidential election where the structure is 1952 and the candidates are 1976.

Bottom line: we’re in unchartered water here. History is still useful, and it establishes that the Democrats are favored. But the limitation of history is that we don’t know how heavily they are favored.

Interesting that both candidates remind him of one-term presidents. More significantly, it is notable that there have been only five open elections like this since 1948 and a number have been very close: 1960, 1968, and 2000. For whatever it is worth, a Democrat one one, a Republican won the second, and the third technically went Republican but would have gone Democratic if either there was a full recount in Florida or if there were no butterfly ballots. The three close elections certainly do not show a trend favoring either party.

There could be a close election again this year, as the polls currently suggest, making the outcome difficult to predict. I’ve also thought all along that either Obama’s strategy will work well as he brings in new voters and he will win big (especially as voters react to the failures of the Republicans) or he will turn out to be too different and will do poorly.

No Text Message Yet

I don’t care how late my phone goes off, but he sure better not be planning to call Hillary Clinton at 3 a.m. to ask her to be VP.

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Factcheck Debunks Rezko Smears Against Obama

The smears against Obama based upon his association with Rezko were shown to be untrue months ago when used by Hillary Clinton. The smears are no more true now that John McCain has decided to repeat them. Factcheck has debunked the smears. In their summary they write:

On the defensive over the extent of multiple McCain homes, the GOP candidate strikes back. But his TV spot gives an oversimplified and misleading account of how Obama bought his own $1.6 million house in Chicago.

  • The ad says Chicago power broker Tony Rezko got “political favors” including “$14 million from taxpayers.” But there’s no evidence of any connection to the Obama home purchase. The $14 million was to build apartments for low-income seniors. Obama wrote a letter supporting the “worthy” project, but both men say Rezko didn’t ask for the letter.
  • It says Rezko “purchased part of the property [Obama] couldn’t afford.” Rezko’s wife did buy an adjoining tract but later sold the land at a profit. Obama paid market price for his home.

McCain launched the attack after Obama ran one capitalizing on McCain’s inability to recall for an interviewer how many homes the McCains own. Obama’s ad says it’s seven. The best tally we’ve seen puts the figure at eight, counting all the apartments and homes owned by McCain’s wife, Cindy, and various family trusts, for themselves and their children.

Obama Sued By Clinton Supporter Over Eligibility To Be President

As I said yesterday, the kooks will continue to promote their conspiracy theories and claims that Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery despite all the evidence to the contrary. It also provides an example of how both many on the far right and many Clintonistas think alike. Via America’s Right we have this example of how far the Obama conspiracy theorists are willing to take their fantasies:

A prominent Philadelphia attorney and Hillary Clinton supporter filed suit this afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic National Committee and the Federal Election Commission. The action seeks an injunction preventing the senator from continuing his candidacy and a court order enjoining the DNC from nominating him next week, all on grounds that Sen. Obama is constitutionally ineligible to run for and hold the office of President of the United States…

Berg cited a number of unanswered questions regarding the Illinois senator’s background, and in today’s lawsuit maintained that Sen. Obama is not a natural born U.S. citizen or that, if he ever was, he lost his citizenship when he was adopted in Indonesia. Berg also cites what he calls “dual loyalties” due to his citizenship and ties with Kenya and Indonesia.

Even if Sen. Obama can prove his U.S. citizenship, Berg stated, citing the senator’s use of a birth certificate from the state of Hawaii verified as a forgery by three independent document forensic experts, the issue of “multi-citizenship with responsibilities owed to and allegiance to other countries” remains on the table.

Update: Ace of Spades, one of many conservative sites which don’t agree with this nonsense, also points out that Berg is a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. Figures. Anyone know of his views on the Council on Foreign Relations?

Obama Moves to Seven Point Lead in Michigan

I try to avoid posting on pre-convention polls, not  considering them to mean very much at all, but I cannot ignore one poll here in Michigan. The Detroit Free Press has Obama moving to a seven point lead. Most significant is Obama’s seventeen point lead among independent voters–a group which McCain has been going after since his success in the 2000 Republican primary.

A Politically Safer Cappuccino

Coffee has come up in a number of posts over the years, including where one obtains their coffee. I’ve often recommended single cup coffee makers, such as my Tassimo. Besides making a variety of kinds of coffee, including types four from Starbucks, it makes tea, hot chocolate, and espresso. Not being a dedicated espresso machine, the espresso might not be up to the standards of those who drink it straight, but it is certainly good enough to make a cappuccino.

Being able to easily make a cappuccino at home has a number of benefits. It is certainly less expensive than paying for one at Starbucks. John McCain might not care about the cost, but if he had a Tassimo he could have saved himself the embarrassment of this news item:

A nine-car motorcade took him to a nearby Starbucks early in the morning, where he ordered a large cappuccino. McCain otherwise avoided reporters.

I’ve always thought the who talk about Obama supporters who drink lattes as being elitists was rather silly. Going out to Starbucks in a nine-car motorade from one of your eight or more houses definatley sounds elitist, regardless of what you drink.

Candidates Compared on Global Health Issues

The Lancet has compared the views of Obama and McCain on AIDS and global health differences. They note that compared to Bush, “both candidates support a more collaborative relationship with other countries” but do note some differences:

“Obama has a personal knowledge and interest that is not insignificant”, said J Stephen Morrison, executive director of the HIV/AIDS task force and of the Africa programme for the Center for Strategic & International Studies, based in Washington, DC. “He made sure he was smart around the issues of global health.” Morrison cited Obama’s Kenyan father and his August, 2006, visit to Africa where Obama and his wife Michelle were publicly tested for HIV/AIDS in an attempt to reduce stigma attached to the procedure. “I do not think McCain is indifferent, but I do not think he has the same level of personal knowledge or passion”, Morrison said.

“[McCain has] said much less both about development issues and global health so it’s hard to infer from silence”, said Ruth Levine, vice president for programmes and operations and senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD). “It does not feel like a core part of the agenda he would bring in.”

That difference is evident in the candidates’ campaign literature and in their statements about global health. Although McCain is a vocal supporter of the US global AIDS programme—the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)—and has pledged to combat malaria in Africa, his campaign documents are thin on the subject of global health.

Meanwhile, Obama’s campaign promotes proposals to confront HIV/AIDS globally and has a multiple page list of sweeping reforms in international development. “He is really reading the play book of many of the strongest voices in development and in global health”, Levine commented.

Obama supports and calls for changes in PEPFAR, including an additional $1 billion over 5 years to fight the epidemic in southeast Asia, India, and eastern Europe. He also calls for increasing the capacity of health systems to deliver HIV/AIDS treatment. In a move likely to cost him support among pharmaceutical manufacturers, Obama also pledges to “break the stranglehold that a few big drug and insurance companies have” on HIV/AIDS drugs. “Obama supports the rights of sovereign nations to access quality-assured low-cost generic medication to meet their pressing public health needs”, his campaign literature says.

Although supporting US bilateral HIV/AIDS efforts, Obama also advocates more US funding for multilateral programmes and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. US support for the Fund has been a partisan issue; some conservatives are concerned that the organisation does not reflect US policies on issues like sexual abstinence and needle exchange.

Obama also pledges US support to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals. In 2005, he cosponsored the International Cooperation to Meet the Millennium Development Goals Act.

VP Matchups

All the speculation about Obama’s VP choice should come to an end today. Rather than just speculating on who Obama will choose, I was thinking about some potential matchups between the two parties.

I’m certainly hoping that Obama does not pick Hillary Clinton for many reasons. Besides Clinton’s own flaws, I also hope that for the first time since 1976 we can have an election without a Bush or a Clinton on either ticket. This means that there would be one thing worse than Obama picking Clinton. How about Hillary Clinton vs. Jeb Bush for VP?

There has been some talk that the choice which will energize the Democrats the most would be to pick Al Gore. The biggest problem is that I don’t believe Gore would be interested. However if Obama does get Gore to be his running mate, the obvious choice for McCain would then be Joe Lieberman and we could look forwards to a Gore-Lieberman debate.

If looking at former Democratic presidential candidates, I do believe that John Kerry would accept if offered the spot. Then we could wind up with a Massachusetts VP battle between Kerry and Mitt Romney.

Majority Now Favors Less Involvement By Church in Politics

There’s some good news in a new survey from the PEW Research Center. A narrow majority now believes that churches should stay out of politics by a margin of 52 percent to 45 percent. Back in 2004 a majority favored more involvement by the church in politics by a margin of 51% to 44%. What is especially remarkable is that the partisan differences are not present as in 2004. The previous survey showed that 30 percent of conservatives believed that churches should stay out of politics while 50 percent of conservatives now believe this. The Democratic Party is also seen as more friendly towards religion as compared to the 2004 survey.

78 Percent of Bush’s Signing Statements have Raised Constitutional or Legal Objections

Think Progress presents a House committee report which shows the extent of the problem with Bush’s signing statements:

Secrecy News notes that the House Armed Services Committee released a report this week criticizing the Bush administration’s extensive use of signing statements, saying that the practice has generated confusion, undermined oversight of defense policy, and is often “broad and unsubstantiated.” From the report:

– “While presidents have issued signing statements for quite some time, this President has issued a significantly larger percentage of signing statements challenging or objecting to various provisions of the law.”

– “78 percent of President Bush’s more than 150 signing statements have raised constitutional or legal objections, compared with only 18% of all of President Clinton’s.”

– In the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, signing statements from President Bush “appear simply to be hortatory assertions of executive power,” according to the Congressional Research Service.

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