Republican Edge Grows Slightly In Latest Polls

Updating Saturday’s post on the prospects for the Democrats to hold onto control of the Senate, Public Policy Polling has new polls out which give the Republicans small leads in Colorado and Alaska. Looking back at the map at electoral-vote.com, based upon polling results, the Democrats now need to take two states where Republicans lead (provided that Greg Orman wins and caucuses with the Democrats) in order to maintain control.

Being behind in Colorado, Alaska, and Iowa reduces the chances for the Democrats to maintain control, leaving the states which will determine control of the Senate in the south. Alaska has flipped each way in the polls, with polling in the state not considered to be terribly reliable. Should it come down to Alaska we could have a long wait on election night. It could take even longer to know who controls the Senate if it comes down to run off elections in Louisiana or Georgia. A two way race in these states would favor the Republicans as the supporters of candidates who don’t make the run off elections are more likely to back the Republican candidate.

As it stands now, Democrats will have to win in all the states where they have a narrow lead, and pull off additional victories in states where they are slightly behind. While this certainly gives the Republicans the advantage, with media models predicting a Republican victory, control of the Senate remains in play as a small shift of only 2-3 percent favoring the Democrats could shift several states. As I discussed on Saturday, state polling in midterm elections is often off by this amount. The Democratic ground game could give them the additional votes needed, but it is also possible that the Republicans can have a mini-wave and exceed their current position by a few points.

Joe Biden does predict that the Democrats will hold the Senate.

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Joe Biden’s Gaffe’s: Someone In Media Gets It

Joe BIden

Joe Biden has certainly made a number of gaffes lately, and of course these are far more likely to make the headlines than more important stories about Biden, such as the many times he countered Hillary Clinton’s hawkish views in the Obama administration. I have also become more tolerant of Biden’s verbal gaffes since he did such an excellent job when really needed, the Vice Presidential debate in 2012 after Obama did a poor job in the first debate.

The headline on Biden’s gaffes which is most worth reading is at The National Journal: Why Joe Biden’s Gaffes Don’t Matter. Rebecca Nelson summarized some of Biden’s recent gaffes, such as the use of Shylocks and calling Asia the Orient.

But does any of it really matter? Sure, the Anti-Defamation League called the Shylock misstep “offensive” and said Biden “should have been more careful.” And the White House will certainly walk back on Biden’s off-message troops remark. But Biden has a long history of saying the wrong thing, and hasn’t suffered serious, career-killing backlash for any of it.

Research shows that news media tends to overhype gaffes. Despite saturated coverage of politicians’ misspeaks, according to the United States Project, they ultimately don’t make much of a difference in elections. After President Obama said the private sector was “doing fine” in the thick of the 2012 election, Gallup showed an increase in the president’s numbers, from 46 percent three days before the so-called gaffe to 49 percent three days post.

When a gaffe does matter, FiveThirtyEight noted earlier this year, is when it motivates the base. In the 2006 Virginia Senate race, all signs pointed to Sen. George Allen winning an easy reelection against Democratic challenger Jim Webb. That is, until he called a campaign tracker—a man of Indian descent—a “macaca,” a racial slur. That fired up Webb’s supporters, whose contributions to the campaign spiked, and added to Allen’s already-established reputation of racial intolerance.

Biden doesn’t have a history of antisemitism or racism toward Asian people. “Clearly, there was no ill intent here,” said Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, of Biden’s Shylock comment. “There is no truer friend of the Jewish people than Joe Biden.”

Normally I would have more comment surrounding a quote from another article, but this is really says it all quite well. It was refreshing to see someone in the media recognize that what the media concentrates on is not necessarily what is important.

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Hillary Clinton And The Left

Hillary Clinton and the Left

The Hill has an article on Hillary Clinton which, as is the case with many of their articles, recites the conventional wisdom with little real insight or new information. Most of their five points are trivial, such as that anything Hillary says, or doesn’t say (as in the case of Ferguson) makes the news. The only point in the article which I think is worthy of any discussion is the second, their claim that “The left doesn’t really hate her after all.”

In recent weeks, critics and even some Democratic allies have worried that Clinton has failed to satisfy some on the left.

On Vox.com earlier this month, Ezra Klein wrote that “liberals walk away unnerved” after almost every interview Clinton had done around her recent book tour.

“She bumbled through a discussion of gay marriage with [NPR’s] Terry Gross. She dodged questions about the Keystone XL pipeline. She’s had a lot of trouble discussing income inequality,” Klein asserted.

Other progressives have expressed a desire to see a candidate rooted within the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), challenge Clinton.

But poll numbers provide succor to Clinton supporters.

A CNN poll conducted in late July showed that there was essentially no difference in the backing Clinton received from self-identified liberal Democrats over Democrats as a whole. Sixty-six percent of liberal Democrats supported her, as did 67 percent of all party supporters.

Clinton allies object to the notion that the former secretary of State is in trouble with the left.

“She is progressive and has support from the vast majority of progressives, which I would argue spans from the left to the middle, including some conservative Democrats along the way, too,” said one longtime aide.

Another ally who has worked for Clinton took it a step further, insisting that the he idea of widespread unease about her on the left was a “fictional plot that people want to believe is true.”

For all practical purposes this might as well be true, but it is an over-simplification. I certainly would not consider Clinton to be a liberal, but the right has moved to so such extremes that she could not be classified as a conservative today either. She may be a former Goldwater girl, but the Republicans have moved far to the right of Barry Goldwater. One significant factor is that while the Republican Party is pulled to the right by a strong conservative movement, the Democratic Party is a centrist party which often ignores liberal influence. Many liberals I discuss politics with  are very concerned about Clinton’s relatively conservative views, but we also make up a tiny percentage of the centrist-dominated voters for the Democrats.

Clinton also benefits from the widespread realization that there is not much choice other than to support her. The faction of the left which would vote for the Green Party or a Ralph Nader like challenge from the left is even smaller than those of us who feel Clinton is too conservative. Most of us anti-Clinton Democrats realize that whatever faults Clinton has, the Republicans will be as bad on foreign policy and far worse on domestic policy.

Clinton also probably benefits from factors such as a favorable view among Democrats of electing the first female president. Plus there is nostalgia for the period of peace and prosperity when Bill Clinton was president. However the times have changed and electing a Clinton will not mean returning to the Clinton economy.

I suspect that these factors also blind many Democratic voters to how conservative Clinton is on many issues, even if given warnings in recent interviews. She is likely to be seen as more socially liberal than she actually is do her position on “women’s issues” but being even Republican women are more liberal than the Republican establishment in this area. While Clinton has received criticism for appearing dishonest and calculating for naming the Bible as the book with the greatest influence on her thinking, that might not really be out of character considering her past participation with the religiously conservative Fellowship while in Congress.

I also suspect that many liberals fail to realize how conservative she is on foreign policy issues. Being Obama’s Secretary of State blurs the distinctions between Clinton and the rest of the Obama administration, but during her tenure as Secretary of State the common pattern was for Clinton to push for a more hawkish position which was countered by others in the administration.

Clinton’s hawkish views on Iraq are also obscured by the fact that many Democrats voted for the Iraq war resolution. However, while all who voted yes were terribly mistaken, there were still significant differences in views within that group. On the left was John Kerry, who voted yes but clearly laid out the conditions under which war would be justified, and then spent the next several months pushing Bush not to go to war. On the extreme right of the Democratic Party there was Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton, being unique among Democrats in pushing to go to war based upon the fictitious arguments connecting Saddam to al Qaeda:

Indeed, in Clinton’s October 10, 2002, speech about her vote she said of Saddam: LINK

“He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001.”

As Don van Natta and Jeff Gerth have written in their book about Clinton and the New York Times, Clinton’s linkage of Saddam and al Qaeda was unique among Democrats and “was unsupported by the conclusions of the N.I.E. and other secret intelligence reports that were available to senators before the vote.” LINK

Former Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, said it was a spurious claim: “I don’t think any agency pretended to make a case that there was a strong linkage between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. It wasn’t in the N.I.E.”

“Nevertheless,” van Natta and Gerth write, “on the sensitive issue of collaboration between Al Qaeda and Iraq, Senator Clinton found herself adopting the same argument that was being aggressively pushed by the administration. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials had repeated their claim frequently, and by early October 2002, two out of three Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was connected to the Sept. 11 attacks. By contrast, most of the other Senate Democrats, even those who voted for the war authorization, did not make the Qaeda connection in their remarks on the Senate floor.”

Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., “actively assailed the reports of Al Qaeda in Iraq, calling them ‘much exaggerated.’ Senator Dianne Feinstein of California described any link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda as ‘tenuous.’ The Democratic senator who came closest to echoing Clinton’s remarks about Hussein’s supposed assistance to Al Qaeda was Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. Yet even Lieberman noted that ‘the relationship between Al Qaeda and Saddam’s regime is a subject of intense debate within the intelligence community.’”

How could Clinton get this key point so wrong?

“My vote was a sincere vote based on the facts and assurances that I had at the time,” she said in February.

But what facts and assurances?

If someone were to mount a serious primary challenge to Clinton I suspect that opposition to Clinton would increase on the left, based upon foreign policy, economics, and social issues, along with questions about her competence and judgment. The 2008 race showed that deep down many Democrats do have reservations about Clinton and would support a viable challenge. Unfortunately, at least so far, I do not see such a challenge emerging. Many liberals who are concerned about Clinton’s Wall Street connections would love to see Elizabeth Warren run, but this is highly unlikely to happen. Bernie Sanders is talking about possibly running, but a self-described socialist has zero chance of winning in this country. Joe Biden is traveling to New Hampshire, leading to speculation about him running. While he is far from the ideal candidate, and I never really thought of backing him, as I read about how Biden was a strong voice against Clinton’s hawkish views in the Obama administration, Biden increasingly looks like a far more favorable alternative if he can mount a viable campaign and no better options arise.

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Early Projections On Control Of The Senate

If you want another source besides Nate Silver’s site at FiveThirtyEight for information to make an educated guess about control of the Senate, check out Electoral-vote.com. The page has a map of all the states which links to the latest polls from each state. As an example of how close things are, today’s projection shows the Democrats with 49 seats, the Republicans with 50, and one tied. The Democrats retain control if they can maintain fifty seats due to Vice President Biden casting the deciding vote in a tie.

The tie is in Iowa, which does seem to give the Democrats a fighting chance of winning the 50th seat based upon this projection. FiveThirtyEight gives Democratic candidate Bruce Braley a 55 percent chance of winning that race.

Some of the states are classified as barely leaning towards one party and there is no doubt that some of these (and perhaps other) states will change. For example, Electoral-vote.com has Mary Landrieu barely leading in Louisiana. FiveThirtyEight gives her a 45 percent chance of winning, and predicts that this race will come down to a run-off in December. With control of the Senate very possibly coming down to a single seat, we can easily have a situation where we are waiting until the December run-off, which would then turn into an extremely high profile race.

The Democrats also face a tough challenge in North Carolina despite this state being listed as barely Democratic. FiveThirtyEight sees it as even tighter, giving Kay Hagan a 50 percent chance of winning.

Other races could also provide the Democrats with the 50th seat should the other races go as Electoral-vote.com predicts. They currently have Colorado listed as barely Republican, while FiveThirtyEight gives Mark Udall a 60 percent chance of winning. At this point I would place more credence in a human projection than in Electoral-vote.com’s projections based purely on the polls.

These sites certainly do not provide an answer as to who will win. The next question would be the impact of winning with Ezra Klein joining many other political writers in seeing a Republican controlled Senate as further increasing the chances that the Democratic presidential candidate will win in 2016. Will this keep Hillary Clinton from campaigning for Democrats this fall despite the risk of ill will from some Democrats?

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The 2014 White House Correspondents’ Dinner–Full Video And Best Lines

Above is the video of Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Full transcript is here and excerpts follow:

I admit it — last year was rough.  Sheesh.  At one point things got so bad, the 47 percent called Mitt Romney to apologize.

Of course, we rolled out healthcare.gov.  That could have gone better.  In 2008 my slogan was, “Yes We Can.”  In 2013 my slogan was, “Control-Alt-Delete.”  On the plus side, they did turn the launch of healthcare.gov into one of the year’s biggest movies.  (Slide of “Frozen”)

But rather than dwell on the past, I would like to pivot to this dinner.  Let’s welcome our headliner this evening, Joel McHale.  On “Community,” Joel plays a preening, self-obsessed narcissist.  So this dinner must be a real change of pace for you.

I want to thank the White House Correspondents Association for hosting us here tonight.  I am happy to be here, even though I am a little jet-lagged from my trip to Malaysia.  The lengths we have to go to get CNN coverage these days.  I think they’re still searching for their table.

MSNBC is here.  They’re a little overwhelmed.  They’ve never seen an audience this big before.

Just last month, a wonderful story — an American won the Boston Marathon for first time in 30 years. Which was inspiring and only fair, since a Kenyan has been president for the last six.

We have some other athletes here tonight, including Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Jamie Anderson is here.  We’re proud of her.  Incredibly talented young lady.  Michelle and I watched the Olympics — we cannot believe what these folks do — death-defying feats — haven’t seen somebody pull a “180” that fast since Rand Paul disinvited that Nevada rancher from this dinner. As a general rule, things don’t like end well if the sentence starts, “Let me tell you something I know about the negro.”  You don’t really need to hear the rest of it. Just a tip for you — don’t start your sentence that way.

And speaking of conservative heroes, the Koch brothers bought a table here tonight.  But as usual, they used a shadowy right-wing organization as a front.  Hello, Fox News.

Let’s face it, Fox, you’ll miss me when I’m gone. It will be harder to convince the American people that Hillary was born in Kenya.

Of course, now that it’s 2014, Washington is obsessed on the midterms.  Folks are saying that with my sagging poll numbers, my fellow Democrats don’t really want me campaigning with them.  And I don’t think that’s true — although I did notice the other day that Sasha needed a speaker at career day, and she invited Bill Clinton.a, Bill Clinton, Bill O’Reilly, Captain America, Chris Christie, Community, Donald Trump, Facebook, Fox, George Bush, Health Care Reform, Hillary Clinton, House of Cards, Jeb Bush,

And I’m feeling sorry — believe it or not — for the Speaker of the House, as well.  These days, the House Republicans actually give John Boehner a harder time than they give me, which means orange really is the new black.

Look, I know, Washington seems more dysfunctional than ever.  Gridlock has gotten so bad in this town you have to wonder:  What did we do to piss off Chris Christie so bad?

One issue, for example, we haven’t been able to agree on is unemployment insurance.  Republicans continue to refuse to extend it.  And you know what, I am beginning to think they’ve got a point.  If you want to get paid while not working, you should have to run for Congress just like everybody else.

Of course, there is one thing that keeps Republicans busy.  They have tried more than 50 times to repeal Obamacare.  Despite that, 8 million people signed up for health care in the first open enrollment. Which does lead one to ask, how well does Obamacare have to work before you don’t want to repeal it?  What if everybody’s cholesterol drops to 120?  What if your yearly checkup came with tickets to a Clippers game? Not the old, Donald Sterling Clippers — the new Oprah Clippers.  Would that be good enough?  What if they gave Mitch McConnell a pulse?  What is it going to take?

Joel McHale, star of Community and The Soup, did an excellent job. #sixtimesashostandamovie. He has followed a long line of top comedians who have roasted politicians and the media and previous events. The all time best speakers was Stephen Colbert who roasted George Bush in 2006. The full transcript of his speech can be found here.

Following are some of Joel McHale’s best jokes, with video above and full transcript here.

Good evening, Mr. President — or as Paul Ryan refers to you, yet another inner-city minority relying on the federal government to feed and house your family.

I’m a big fan of President Obama. I think he’s one of the all- time great presidents — definitely in the top 50. Please explain that to Jessica Simpson. You’re right. That was low.

All right, how about the president’s performance tonight, everyone?  It is — it’s amazing that you can still bring it with fresh, hilarious material. And my favorite bit of yours was when you said you’d close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. That was a classic. That was hilarious, hilarious. Still going.

All right, look, I know it’s been a long night, but I promise that tonight will be both amusing and over quickly, just like Chris Christie’s presidential bid.

It’s a genuine thrill to be here in Washington, D.C., the city that started the whole crack-smoking-mayor craze.

The vice president isn’t here tonight, not for security reasons. He just thought this event was being held at the Dulles Airport Applebee’s. Yes, right now Joe is elbow-deep in jalapeno poppers and talking to a construction cone he thinks is John Boehner. Also true.

Hillary Clinton has a lot going for her as a candidate. She has experience. She’s a natural leader. And, as our first female president, we could pay her 30 percent less. That’s the savings this country could use.

Hillary’s daughter Chelsea is pregnant, which means in nine months we will officially have a sequel to “Bad Grandpa.” It also raises the question, when the baby is born, do you give Bill Clinton a cigar?

Jeb Bush says he’s thinking about running. Wow, another Bush might be in the White House. Is it already time for our every-10- years surprise party for Iraq? Yes.

As it stands right now, the Republican presidential nominee will either be Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, or a bag of flour with Ronald Reagan’s face drawn on it.  A bag of flour. All right.

People are asking, will Donald Trump run again? And the answer is, does that thing on his head crap in the woods?  I actually don’t know. I don’t know.I don’t know if that thing on his head has a digestive system.

Governor, do you want bridge jokes or size jokes? Because I’ve got a bunch of both. I could go half and half. I know you like a combo platter.  Now, I get that. I’m sorry for that joke, Governor Christie. I didn’t know I was going to tell it, but I take full responsibility for it. Whoever wrote it will be fired. But the buck stops here. So I will be a man and own up to it, just as soon as I get to the bottom of how it happened, because I was unaware it happened until just now.

I’m appointing a blue-ribbon commission of me to investigate the joke I just told. And if I find any wrongdoing on my part, I assure you I will be dealt with. I just looked into it. It turns out I’m not responsible for it. Justice has been served. He’s going to kill me.

Mr. President, you’re no stranger to criticism. Ted Nugent called you a subhuman mongrel. And it’s comments like that which really make me question whether we can take the guy who wrote “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” seriously anymore.

Your approval rating has slipped. And even worse, you only got two stars on Yelp.

Mitch McConnell said his number one priority was to get the president out of office. So, Mitch, congrats on being just two years away from realizing your goal. You did it — kind of.

But thanks to “Obamacare,” or, as the president refers to it, “Mecare,” millions of newly insured young Americans can visit a doctor’s office and see what a print magazine actually looks like. That’s awesome.

Now over 8 million people have signed up for “Obamacare,” which sounds impressive until you realize Ashley Tisdale has 12 million Twitter followers. So that’s pretty good.

Sir, I do think you’re making a big mistake with Putin. You have to show a guy like that that you’re just as crazy as he is. He invades Crimea. You invade Cancun.  Russia takes back the Ukraine. America takes back Texas. Something to think about.

The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, is here. Finally I can put a face to the mysterious voice clearing its throat on the other end of the phone.  It was weird.

And CNN is desperately searching for something they’ve been missing for months — their dignity.  Totally. That was just that table. At this point, CNN is like the Radio Shack in a sad strip mall. You don’t know how it’s stayed in business this long. You don’t know anyone that shops there. And they just fired Piers Morgan.

Fox News is the highest-rated network in cable news.  Yeah. I can’t believe your table  — that far.  And it’s all thanks to their key demographic, the corpses of old people who tuned in to Fox News and haven’t yet been discovered.

Former “Inside Edition” host Bill O’Reilly is not here. He did host that. Bill’s got another book coming out soon, so he’s making his ghost writers work around the clock. Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly and Sean Hannity are the Mount Rushmore of keeping old people angry.

This event brings together both Washington and Hollywood. The relationship between Washington and Hollywood has been a long and fruitful one. You give us tax credits for film and television production, and in return, we bring much-needed jobs to hard-working American cities like Vancouver, Toronto, and Vancouver again.

Hollywood helps America by projecting a heroic image to the rest of the world. We just released another movie about Captain America, or, as he’s known in China, Captain Who Owes Us $1.1 Trillion.

There’s a lot of celebrities here tonight. They’re the ones that don’t look like ghouls. Look around. The cast of “Veep” is here. That’s a series about what would happen if a Seinfeld star actually landed on another good show. I like “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” I swear.

I’m not going to spoil the shocking twist on “House of Cards,” but just know that it was so surprising that Nancy Pelosi’s face almost changed expression. Did you like that one, Nancy? I can’t tell.

Biz Stone, the founder of Twitter, is here. So if any of you congressmen want to cut out the middleman, just show him your penis. Not now! Are you nuts?

And here’s why America is the best country in the world. A guy like me can stand before the president, the press and Patrick Duffy — and tell jokes without severe repercussions. And instead of being shipped off to a gulag, I’m going to the Vanity Fair after-party. That’s right. This is America, where everyone can be a Pussy Riot.

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Robert Gates Memoir Critical Of Obama Administration On Afghanistan (But Was Their Skepticism Towards War Really A Bad Thing?)

Robert Gates is receiving a lot of attention today for his memoir entitled Duty. I suspect that this will have limited long-term impact, but for now it provides a source for lots of quotes both positive and negative about Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden. We must also take into consideration that the initial report comes from Bob Woodward, who has not been all that reliable in recent years and his selected quotes may or may not be representative of what Gates wrote in the entire memoir. Plus it is not necessarily a bad thing for civilian politicians to show skepticism of military action which might be upsetting to someone with a more military background. Gates is not necessarily correct in his assessment of all matters. For example, Max Fisher writes that Gates was wrong on the most important issue he faced in failing to see the opportunity for peace with the former Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev. Gates certainly got in wrong in arguing that Gorbachev was not a reformer.

While the headline of the story reports negative comments from Gates about Barack Obama’s skepticism and lack of interest continuing the war in Afghanistan, Gates also wrote “I believe Obama was right in each of these decisions.”It is hardly a surprise that Obama had mixed feelings about that war which he inherited.

Comments that Hillary Clinton opposed the surge on political grounds might be politically harmful, especially if  used to support the narrative that Clinton lacks principle and is guided by political expediency (not that considering the views of the public is necessarily a bad thing). On the other hand he also wrote this about Clinton: “I found her smart, idealistic but pragmatic, tough-minded, indefatigable, funny, a very valuable colleague, and a superb representative of the United States all over the world.” I can already see this quote in Clinton campaign ads.

Gates was hardest on Joe Biden, complaining about his  “aggressive, suspicious, and sometimes condescending and insulting questioning of our military leaders.” Another account of the book in The New York Times quotes Gates as writing, “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” I think that that with the current anti-war mood of the country, the portrayal of Biden as a major skeptic of the Afghanistan war might wind up doing him far more good than such a broad-based attack.

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The Electoral College And A Proposal To Bypass It

If the current polling results stay stable through the election there is a real possibility that Romney could win the popular vote while Obama wins the electoral college (and therefore reelection). Romney has gained in the popular vote since the first debate but much of his gains are leading to the likelihood that he will win the red states by even greater margins. He has come closer in the battleground states but Obama still leads in most of them.

The electoral map (based upon polling) doesn’t look that much different now than it did before the first debate. The primary difference is that Florida, which has shifted between Romney and Obama, has moved back to Romney. Obama trailed Romney in North Carolina and it appeared he might take the lead. Instead of moving ahead as it appeared he might do, he is now tied there. Virginia now looks too close to call with Obama still having a strong chance to win the state.  Obama has maintained leads in key swing states such as Ohio, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa and Wisconsin. Romney is closer in these states, and leads in some polls, but at the moment Obama retains the edge even if the electoral vote will be closer than it appeared to be after the conventions. Of course this lead is far from secure, making it essential that those who support individual liberty, a market economy which provides opportunity for all to succeed financially, science, preservation of Medicare and Social Security, and reality-based public policy get out to vote to reelect Barack Obama. Current polls show a majority of registered voters support Obama, while Romney leads among likely voters.

There are strong arguments to eliminate the electoral college and have the winner of the popular vote win the presidency. Besides being inherently more democratic, it would mean that each party would have reason to try to appeal to voters in every state to increase their share of the popular vote. Perhaps Obama would be doing better in the popular vote nationally if he  had reason to run up the margin of victory more in the blue states and pick up some votes in the red states where he now has no reason to campaign. A Democratic Congressman has proposed an amendment which would make it unlikely that a candidate would win the election without winning the popular vote. Steve Israel would award 29 electoral votes to whichever candidate wins the popular vote. This would be comparable to having another Florida or New York, and be worth one electoral vote more than North Carolina and Virgina combined.

This proposal would have given Gore the presidency in 2000, making up for the Republicans stealing Florida, if everything else was equal. It  possible that Obama could win more than 29 electoral votes than Romney and lose the popular vote if his leads hold in the battleground states. It is more likely that if Romney wins the popular vote he will also pick up some of the battleground states where it is now close.

Having an arbitrary number of electoral votes be awarded, regardless of the margin of victory in the popular vote, is a very convoluted way around the problems presented by the electoral college. Why twenty-nine? The electoral college has its problems, but at least there is a sensible way of choosing the number of electors based upon the number awarded to each state, which is roughly proportional to each state’s population. There are conservatives who support the electoral college based upon the concept of each state being a separate entity in the United States. If the goal is to eliminate the electoral college and go to direct election of the president based upon the popular vote, propose an amendment to do exactly that as opposed to such a strange way around the current system and have a debate as how we want elections to be structured.  (At the same time we might consider whether we want to continue the manner in which the Senate gives greater representation to those living in small states as opposed to large states.)

The electoral college this year might even lead to a stranger result than having the loser of the popular vote fail to win the presidency (as this has happened before). It is unlikely but possible that there could be a tie in the electoral college. The House would then pick the president, with the vote based upon the numbers of state delegations controlled as opposed to a vote by each member of the newly elected House. The Senate would pick the Vice-President. The newly elected House could elect Romney president while the Senate, assuming Democrats retain control, could reelect Joe Biden as Vice President. An even more bizarre result would be if the House was deadlocked because of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans in some state delegations and unable to elect a President. In that case, Joe Biden, if reelected Vice President, would become President. An election thrown to the House might very well lead to more support for moving to popular election of the president.

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SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who (Three Videos); Revolution; Fringe; Merlin

I managed to make it through one installment of SciFi Weekend last week without Doctor Who, but I still miss the show. Therefore I am featuring three videos about  Doctor Who this week. The first shows what happened to Amy and Rory after the events of  The Angels Take Manhattan from the perspective of Rory’s father. The video shows an unshot scene about  Brian receiving a letter and visitor one week after Amy and Rory went to Manhattan on their last trip in the TARDIS.

The start of Community and Inspector Spacetime  have been postponed this season, but in its place Sesame Street does Doctor Who. The use of a Dalek as a threat came before Mitt Romney’s attack on Big Bird.

Is Doctor Who a Religion?

Matt Smith commented on how the dynamic will change with the new companion:

“I was thinking about it the other day and Rory used to take care of Amy quite a lot, so the Doctor became a weird old grandfather.

“He was ostracised in some way. So it is nice having a different dynamic.

“That is what is exciting about the show, you kind of get a first episode again. I think all these stories come to the end of their cycle.

“The Ponds had a wonderful time.”

Eric Kripke, show runner of Revolution, discussed when we will find out what caused the blackout:

Kripke said that the show’s writers are still discussing how early to reveal why the lights went out, but there’s a distinct possibility we’ll know before the first season ends. The creator’s philosophy on revealing answers and wrapping up storylines before moving onto a bigger one is not unlike his approach to his other show, Supernatural. “For me the longer you drag out an answer, the more pressure there is that that answer is the greatest answer ever given in the history of man,” he said. “I would prefer we answer questions quickly and then ask more questions. Answer a question and then open a door to a whole other bigger room.” As for what will be in that bigger room, Kripke promised that the truth about the cause of the blackout “leads directly to a bigger and scarier mystery.”

Fringe took off on its scavenger hunt based upon Walter’s tapes (which increasingly are reminding me of the DHARMA Initiative tapes from Lost). Within this framework The Recordist presented an intriguing story which reminded me of  Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. People living away from civilization were working to preserve information on human civilization for the day after the Observers are forced out, concerned that otherwise the victors would have rewritten history. I did wish that it turned out to be their information as opposed to rocks from the mine (not mime) which were important to the plan to stop the Observers. This also provided more information on life under Observer rule, showing that either the Observers are uninterested in or unable to control all of humanity. My suspicion is that they are unconcerned about humans living away from the cities as long as they don’t pose a threat. Their numbers must be limited if they sent Loyalists to go after the fugitives from the Fringe Division as opposed to going themselves.

Person of Interest was not on this week. It was preempted by a show featuring a smart old man trying to teach some basic facts about the economy, health care, foreign affairs, and separation of church and state to a young guy who was not all that well informed.

Merlin has completed a two-part season opening story, Arthur’s Bane. I will avoid any significant spoilers, primarily limiting comments to aspects of the story which were apparent early in the first episode, or which have already been revealed on line. The story takes place three years after the end of the last season. It was the start of a Golden Age for Camelot but now there are problems with men disappearing in the north. (Did they go beyond the wall?) Arthur, Merlin, and Knights of the Round Table go to investigate while at home Gwen is excising true power as Queen in Arthur’s absence. Morgana and Mordred, along with a new being and a dragon, are all involved in the story. The ending, and how Mordred was dealt with, came as quite a surprise.

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Vice Presidential Debate Impressions

Joe Biden accomplished the goals I discussed in my pre-debate post. He accomplished the goal of debunking the arguments from Romney/Ryan and, perhaps more importantly, turned around the enthusiasm gap since last week’s debate.

There were far too many highlights from Biden for me to list in a quick post-event post such as this. Instead I’ll summarize the debate by recapping my Facebook and Twitter comments from during the debate (which could not keep up with everything);

Joe Biden has already done more to stand up to Romney/Ryan lies than Obama did during the entire first debate.

If people think Dick Cheney out-debated John Edwards, this VP debate is even more one-sided.

This debate looks like a guy with years of experience explaining things to an ignorant kid who has no idea what he is talking about.

Smart statesman versus ignorant warmonger.

“I may be mistaken, he changes his mind so often” –Joe Biden referring to Mitt Romney’s position.

Yes Joe, feel free to interrupt when Lyin’ Ryan whenever necessary.

Remember when there was talk of replacing Biden with Hillary Clinton? At the moment I am so happy Obama stuck with Joe.

“Just get out of the way.” –Joe Biden

I’ve never respected Bill Clinton more than on the day of his convention speech, and have never respected Joe Biden more than tonight.

Now the Medicare lie from Ryan.

Tie Ryan to Sarah Palin and death panels. Good move.

Facts vs. Bullshit.

Joe looks and sounds like a president. Ryan looks and sounds like a mutant combination of Richard Nixon and Eddie Munster.

If I was playing a drinking game in which I had a drink every time Joe called out a Ryan lie I’d be unconscious by now.

“Not mathematically possible…It has never been done before…Now you’re Jack Kennedy.”

I can’t keep up with all of Joe’s great points tonight on Facebook and Twitter. (Sadly I didn’t have that problem last week.)

Joe keeps repeating himself–which is exactly what he should be doing to make his point clear to viewers.

Good, another question in which Joe should be able to repeat how Obama got bin Laden. (And he did)

Debating a skilled liar who floods a debate with lie after lie is very difficult. Biden is showing how it is done. (Pay attention Barack)

Why is Eddie Munster so down on America?

“We will leave in 2014.”

I can’t wait to see how Fox spins this as a win for Ryan.

Is everyone having more fun tonight than last Wednesday? Let’s have more fun like this next week.

Less than a half hour to go. I wish this would never end–something I generally never say during a debate (except the first Kerry-Bush debate in 2004)

I bet Ryan wishes he knew actual facts like Joe does.

Biden–I refuse to impose my religion on others, unlike my friend here, the Congressman.

To Ryan freedom of religion means the freedom of the religious right to impose their views on others #abortion #americantaliban

What, no questions about Big Bird?

My favorite tweet of the night:
Oh well that’s perfectly clear now. #PaulRyan is anti-abortion because he once saw a bean. — Cynthia Boaz @cynthiaboaz

Ryan keeps whining about all the attacks upon his ticket (ignoring how dirty Romney’s campaign has been)

The ghost of Ayn Rand just joined Ryan up on the stage. She is very upset about the way he wants to impose his religious views on others and wants to continue the war in Iraq.

Before the debate I thought Biden would greatly beat the expectations most had of him. He then managed to greatly exceed those expectations.

There’s talk that Biden seemed like he was on stimulants. If so, give whatever he took to Obama before the next two debates.

I never took talk of Biden being the candidate in 2016 very seriously, until tonight.

After last week’s debate my dogs were terrified for their future. They feel much better tonight.

Later I’ll have to go thru the full transcript. There were a lot of lines worth fully quoting. Enthusiasm is up among Democrats. After this year, we will probably never hear again that the debates don’t matter.

 

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Looking Back At Obama’s Debate And Forward At Biden’s

There have been many attempts to analyze Barack Obama after the first presidential debate. I believe Joe Klein has a fairly accurate description. First he debunked any arguments as to Obama’s ability to speak on the issues:

The President is no dummy; he’s as well versed in the nuances of policy as Bill Clinton, if decidedly less compelling. Watch him in any press conference. Go back and look at his question-and-answer session with House Republicans after the 2010 election. He knows his stuff. But there haven’t been many press conferences–or town meetings, for that matter. His kinder debate critics said he was rusty, which is true, but there’s more to it than that. Obama chooses to be rusty. This is also strange: he’s warm and informal in person. He enjoys a good policy discussion–and I mean discussion, in which he actually responds to things you say or ask rather than speechifying. In my experience, though, he hates small talk, especially flattery, and that gets us closer to the heart of his current troubles.

Klein gave more examples. Even read the transcript of the debate. Obama actually did have the answers to many of Romney’s erroneous statements. The problem is that the delivery was so bad that the message got totally lost. Klein got into why Obama wasn’t into this type of debate:

>When I asked several close Obama associates about the President’s reluctance to sell his policies, they admitted their frustration. They said he hates doing things that he considers transparently political. He hates the idea of inviting a bunch of pols over to the White House for a drink or a movie, because they’d see it as an obvious bribe. He’d have to fake small talk; they’d try to Holbrooke him. He hates press conferences because the gotcha questions are calibrated to generate heat rather than light. He hates the notion of launching precooked zingers in debates. He hates debates, period, with their false air of portent and stage-managed aggression. These are inconvenient prejudices if you want to be re-elected. Such ceremonies are the price of admission if you want to be a politician.

Tonight is Joe Biden’s turn. He might be better suited for this format than Obama is. Biden is far more likely to use simple slogans as opposed to wonkish, professorial explanations which don’t work in this format. “GM is alive and bin Laden is dead.”That is not Obama’s style, but that is what is needed in this type of debate.

Hopefully after the first debate, Biden could get in a few simple points. Debunk the distortion that Obama is cutting Medicare and point out how the Romney/Ryan plan harms Medicare. And yes, that includes many currently on Medicare. Point out how the math is simple when looking at Romney’s tax plan. Either the deficit gets much higher or the middle class pays more in taxes (and probably both). Point out how after Romney claimed his health care plan protects people with pre-existing conditions in the first debate his campaign admitted the following day that the plan did not guarantee such coverage.  Remind women of how Romney would allow the government to interfere in what should be the private decisions of the individual. Plus, for many women the loss of Planned Parenthood is an economic issue as well as a social issue. Remind viewers of how badly Romney messed up when talking with foreign leaders. Bring back the 47 percent and questions as to why Romney won’t release his tax returns.

Should Ryan try to play Romney’s game and deny the positions they have been running on, in addition to pointing this out Biden should also point out how government works. If Romney is president will he really veto extremist policies passed by the Republicans–who have already voted to end Medicare as we know it and increase government intrusion in the lives of individuals? Will Romney appoint Supreme Court justices who support reproductive rights? I doubt it.

Most important of all, a good showing by Biden would get the media to stop repeating the simplistic storyline that Obama lost the debate. The fact remains that, despite a poor presentation, Obama was right on the issues, and the candidate on stage who was most qualified to be president.

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