Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Internet Makes Me Nuts, Sarah Palin Has a Point...Sort Of, If You Still Oppose Gays In the Military It Means You Are a Bigot

When Did the Other Side Stop Being Human?
The light-hearted news of the holiday weekend involved President Obama taking an elbow to the face from one Ray Decerega in a morning basketball game at the White House. This is the sort of light-hearted, humanizing story that ought to give us a break from the usual political wrangling. But the response in this hyper-partisan age is all too predictable. Just read the comment section below any major news story on the event.

"The President is playing basketball while we are on the brink of World War 3" writes one blogger
"Lucky guy, Ray Decerega, I'd like to punch all libs in the face" writes another
And on, and on...

On the left, of course, the defense is offense....President Bush took more days often than anybody on Earth, etc., etc.

It is all very petty, stupid and undignified.

In the interest of civility, can we agree on a few things?
No President ever worked on policy every single minute of every day. They all found time to shower, use the bathroom, eat breakfast and maybe even talked to their spouses every once in a while. Blowing off steam by playing basketball for an hour in a day isn't a bad thing. Ronald Reagan took naps in the afternoon. George H.W. Bush loved going up to New England. Bill Clinton liked escaping there as well. George W. Bush had Crawford.

You cannot be a 24/7 President. So let's cut the nonsense. All Presidents have unbelievably grueling schedules. They are in the public eye all the time. They are on call all the time. They work every weekend, every holiday. Most get but a few hours of sleep a night.

Can we have a dialogue that is about policy? Barack Obama is not evil. You might think he's wrong as hell politically, but by every credible accounts, he is a nice guy, a good family man and a patriotic American. So was George W. Bush, by the way. Clinton too, if you exclude the good husband part of being a good family man.

So let's those of us of reasonable intelligence agree to debate policy and just enjoy, rather than politicize the light-hearted, humanizing parts of the Presidency.

I Don't Think Sarah Palin Is Stupid Because of Her North Korea Gaffe
It all happened so innocently during a friendly interview from Fox News Commentator (is that the right description?) Glenn Beck. Sarah Palin, asked about the recent crisis in the Koreas, stated:
“This speaks to a bigger picture here that certainly scares me in terms of our national security policy. But obviously we’ve gotta stand with our North Korean allies.”

Glenn quickly corrected her, noting that she must have meant our South Korean allies.

Predictably, the left was all over this gaffe, offering it as further evidence that the Grizzly Mama is completely out to lunch when it comes to discussing any policy matters. Palin, in turn, published a response to the criticism via Facebook, which cited a number of verbal gaffes that President Obama had made over the past 3 years and noted that she quickly corrected herself (not quite accurate, as it was Beck who corrected her, but from the context of the conversation, it is reasonable to assume that it was a verbal gaffe and not a mental one as she had been talking about our allies in South Korea just prior to the statement above.)

Sarah has a point, sort of. Her point that her intelligence or knowledge of foreign policy should not be judged solely on the basis of one verbal gaffe is absolutely correct. Her point that the President, or heck, any politician who is on the camera a lot, makes gaffes is also correct.

I don't think Sarah is stupid because of this gaffe. Heck, I don't think she is stupid at all. I do think she is profoundly ignorant. But not because of her statement about Korea. I think so because of her statement that she had foreign policy experience because she could see Russia from her window...a statement she did not correct or clarify. I think so because she said that the Vice President controls what the Senate votes on, another statement she has never corrected or clarified. I think so because she repeatedly flubbed very basic questions of policy during the 2008 campaign and seems incapable of forming complete sentences with coherent policy thoughts in even the most friendly interviews now.

Sarah is ignorant and dangerous. But not stupid. Our comparative tax returns this year will prove that fact.

Gays In the Military -- Your Excuses Are Gone
I have long contended that gay rights is the defining civil rights battle of this generation. Whether you are talking about non-discrimination laws (did you know that employers can fire gay workers simply for being gay in 33 states still?) to gay marriage and civil unions, to gay adoption to military service, LGBT Americans are the last major demographic that are still routinely denied equal rights under our laws. This is not to say that discrimination doesn't exist in other areas; we certainly still have our share of racial and gender bias problems, just that discrimination against LGBT is the only kind that is sanctioned by the law.

I have long advocated for the right of gay Americans to serve openly in the armed services. In the past, however, I was reluctant to accuse my opponents of bigotry. While there are many intrinsic logical and moral problems that I have with the point of view that gays shouldn't be allowed to serve because it would harm morale, I tried hard to accept that those who espoused that view held it honestly. No rational person can take such a stand any longer.

Consider the facts:
(1) The Israeli Army, perhaps the most fearsome fighting force on the planet, has allowed gays to serve openly for some time. An army from a heavily religious country, surrounded by people trying to destroy it, has made this arrangement work. Do we really not have our act together as well as Israel? By the way, Gays are also allowed to serve openly in 34 other countries, if you are interested, including virtually every NATO ally.

(2) 75% of troops do not believe that allowing gays in the military would damage military readiness, says a very recent pentagon study. There goes the morale argument. Do you think 75% of the enlisted supported integrating the troops at the time it was done?

(3) Every major military leader is in favor of the change, include the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former Secretary of State Colin Powell. By the way, all 3 are Republican appointees. Sure you can locate a General or and Admiral who opposes the change, but the top leadership is pretty united.

(4) During every draft war in the 20th century, the military refused to discharge gay soldiers. This included both World Wars, Korea and Vietnam. They were good enough then but not now? Remember Corporal Klinger from MASH? The joke was that he was behaving in an openly gay manner and couldn't get discharged.

All of this leaves me to a simple conclusion...all of the evidence points towards the right answer being allowing gays to serve openly in the military. If you oppose the opinion of the troops, the military leadership, the American people and the world, why are you doing it? You are either a bigot or you are pandering to bigots.

Shame on those who fall into either category. And shame on those who support a change but continue to shove this issue to the back burner.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Every Thanksgiving, I like to reflect and give a list of things that I am thankful for. This being a political blog, the list is principally about our nation and its government.

(1) I'm thankful that we live in a country that has peaceful transfers of power between democratically elected officials. There hasn't even been a serious attempt on the life of the leader of our country for 30 years and there hasn't been a successful one for almost 45. Whatever your political beliefs, it's hard to argue that government and politics works better when we aren't shooting at our opponents.

(2) I'm thankful to live in the most prosperous nation in world history. The Roman and British Empires were bigger, at least as a percentage of world population at the time, but no other country has created so much wealth for so many people.

(3) I'm thankful that the economy didn't sink into depression in the past 3 years. While I've been critical of policy specifics, I'm thankful for the courage of men like President George W. Bush and Senator John McCain, who broke with their core conservative ideology in a moment of need to do what was right for their country. You no doubt know I'm no great fan of Bush, but this the financial crisis was a true moment of leadership.

(4) I'm thankful for a new generation that continues to progress civil rights in important ways. It is heartening to see statistics such as inter racial marriages being at an all time high, 70% of the public supporting allowing gays to openly serve in the military (and 75% of the enlisted), as well as the assent of women and minorities to positions of leadership in both politics and in the corporate world. Let's never forget that there is still work to do.

(5) I'm thankful in the unity of this country. We have political schisms, to be sure, but this is a deeply patriotic country. Let's never forget that almost all of the left and the right are true believers in their country, even if we sometimes disagree on the best course.

(6) I'm thankful for free speech. This uniquely American freedom, and it is uniquely American, enshrined in our BIll of Rights, often gets criticized as it protects racists, pornographers and idiots along with the rest of us. But the powerful principle that government has no right to tell anyone what they can or can't stay, full stop, is an enduring, powerful and profoundly moral value.

(7) I am, of course, thankful for my family and friends, of all political stripes.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope that you are able to enjoy it with loved ones. We'll take a quick break from politics.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Disorganized Lame Duck Congress, Joe Miller Fires Off Pointless Legal Challenges, The 2012 Calendar

The Clock is Ticking....
One of the oddest by-products of our Republic's system of elections is the notion of lame duck elected politicians. Every 4 or 8 years, we see a President who still has a couple of months left in congress but has absolutely zero accountability to the voters, as he has already lost or was ineligible to be President again.

Sometimes Lame Duck Presidents make sweeping humanitarian moves, such as when President George Herbert Walker Bush sent U.S. troops for a humanitarian mission to Somalia in late 1992. The move obviously didn't end well, but by all accounts it was very positively intended. Ditto President George Walker Bush's extraordinary moves to use TARP funding to provide bridge loans to GM and Chrysler. Sometimes Lame Ducks do things that we find difficult to stomach, such as President Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich in his waning days in office (11th hour Presidential pardons are often fairly painful to watch, as opponents have no recourse given the absolute power of Presidential pardon.)

Just as we have Lame Duck Presidents, every 2 years we have a Lame Duck Congress. The gap between November elections and the early January convening of the new congress presents a narrow time window to pass legislation. More often than not, Lame Duck Congresses pass unnoticed for a number of reasons:
(1) When party control isn't changing, they don't really matter. If the new Congress looks a lot like the old one, it really doesn't matter whether a bill gets passed by the outgoing or incoming congress.
(2) If the President isn't on board, they don't mean much -- if party control IS changing but it's changing from, say, Democratic to Republican with a Republican President, he would just wait it out or veto whatever the lame duck session passes and wait for a more favorable congress.
(3) They often don't meet -- the time period between November and the New Year is chock full of holidays -- who wants to be in Congress?

We are in one of those rare years where party control IS change, it's changing in a way that's unfavorable to the President and Congress IS meeting in Lame Duck session.

So, hopes on the left were high to do a lot...the proposed agenda included addressing Gays in the Military, the fate of the Bush Tax Cuts...some with crazy ambition even talked of doing bigger reform.

The results so far? Not much is happening. Congress seems totally disorganized on agenda and time is rapidly ticking away.
In week 1, the House failed to pass an unemployment benefit extension and named a couple of post offices. The Senate has started debate on a Food Safety improvement bill.

Don't expect much from the lame duck session. There is a good chance that unemployment benefits won't get extended, the Bush tax cuts won't get resolved and Gays in the Military, an issue for which the Democrats have the support of 75% of the American people and 70% of the enlisted military, won't even get debated.

Do we really need to wonder how the Democrats lost so badly in November?

Joe Miller, Even His Backers Are Screaming Now
After counting all the write-in ballots, Write-In incumbent Lisa Murkowski leads upstart Republican nominee Joe Miller by over 10,000 votes. Even accounting for every vote that Miller challenged, which included some perfect ballots for Murkowski and other ballots that were not mis-spelled but for which the Miller felt the handwriting was bad, Murkowski would STILL lead by over 2,200 votes.

Yet Miller is suing. He's suing to make the standard more strict. He's suing to hand re-count all of the scan ballots, claiming that since the write-ins were hand counted, a comparable standard has not been used in all ballots.

There are some legitimate questions of law at stake in Miller's suit. Should minor mis-spellings be counted according to Alaska law? I would argue yes, for reasons I've previously documented, but I can see the argument, reading the statute verbatim. Should scanned ballots be hand counted alongside write-ins? I would certainly argue yes, in any election where such a hand recount would make a difference. But let's be real...Miller trails by 5%. Even if he wins all his challenges, which he won't, he would still trail by 1%. The total number of under votes is a fraction of a percent. Miller cannot win even if everything breaks right.

This is why the Alaska GOP is urging Miller to step aside and unify the party. But like a dog chasing a bone, he just can't seem to stop. At least he doesn't have much of a political future to wreck.

Miller has won 1 victory...a federal judge has stopped election certification while the state court looks at his ballot standard challenge. This will delay, but not change the outcome of the race. Murkowski has already won.

First Look: The 2012 Nomination Calendar
Don't kid yourself, the 2012 campaign is getting ready to get really busy, really fast. 2012 is not far away at all in political terms. Here is the calendar of the early nomination contests for the 2012 year:

January 16th -- Iowa Caucuses -- first contest in the nation
January 24th -- New Hampshire Primary -- first primary in the nation
January 28th -- South Carolina Primary ("first in the south"), Nevada Caucuses
January 31st -- Florida Primary -- first "big state" primary
February 7th -- Super Tuesday -- 13 state primaries including New York and California

Since many of the GOP primaries are "winner take all" with the winner of a plurality receiving all of the delegates in the race, it is quite probable that the nomination will be basically decided after February 7th. This leaves less than 15 months to campaign.

Obviously, it is early, so the calendar could shift. But Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina's positions will almost certainly be maintained as the first 3, in that order.

Let the games begin!

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Murkowski Poised to Make History, A Very Good Start on Deficit Reduction That is DOA

Tea Party to Lose Showdown in Alaska
They are a little more than two thirds of the way through counting write-in ballots in the Alaska showdown between write-in moderate Lisa Murkowski and Tea Party Republican Joe Miller. Here are the facts on the ground as of today:
In the "final" tally (less a few military overseas ballots that have a few days left to show up) of electronically counted votes the totals were as follows:

Votes for Joe Miller: 87,517
Write-In Votes: 98,565

The math is pretty simple...Lisa Murkowski needed 87,518 of the write-in votes to be counted for her or 88.8% of the total write-in count.

There is legal wrangling over the exact rules in play in Alaska. The Alaska Division of Elections is applying a "voter intent" standard, citing a long history of court precedents that when a voter's intent is clear for a candidate, the vote should be counted. The Miller campaign is suing, citing the Alaska statute which states that a write-in candidates name must either match the name on their application or match the last name on the application. The Miller campaign appears to be disputing not only ballots that contain minor misspellings (Mirkowski is by far the most prevalent of this type of ballot), but also ballots that are spelled correctly but have sloppy handwriting and some ballots that appear to be perfectly spelled for Murkowski.

As of now, a good chunk of the ballots have been counted and its pretty clear that Miller's legal challenge is likely to be irrelevant. The tallies thus far are as follows:
Write-In Ballots Assessed So Far: 69,249
Undisputed for Murkowski (perfect spelling, unchallenged by Miller campaign): 62,434 (90.2%)
Awarded to Murkowski But Disputed by Miller Campaign (minor misspellings, poor hand writing or other): 5,291 (7.6%)
Not Awarded to Murkowski But Disputed by Murkowski Campaign (major misspellings, etc.): 1,047 (1.5%)
Write-In Votes for Candidates Other Than Murkowski or Miller: 472 (0.7%)
Write-In Votes Awarded to Joe Miller: 5 (0.0%)

So, even assuming total victory for the Miller campaign on the legal front, which is highly unlikely, given that the disputed number contains some ballots that appear to be perfect for Murkowski, we have a vote total of:

Joe Miller: 87,522
Lisa MurkowskI: 62,434
Ballots Left to Count: 29,316

Awarding Murkowski 90.2% of the remaining votes (the current percentage of her undisputed ballots), would yield a final projected result of:

Joe Miller: 87,522
Lisa Murkowski: 88,877

Murkowski's final total is likely to be higher than this as it is likely that substantially all of the votes awarded to her but disputed by the Miller campaign will eventually be counted. Lisa Murkowski will win her term in the US Senate, becoming only the second candidate ever to win a Senate seat by write-in campaign and the first since the 1950s. Pretty historical stuff. And a pretty strong statement on the weakening influence of long-time Murkowski rival Sarah Palin, who strongly backed Miller and has often been critical of Murkowski. Palin may help candidates win GOP primaries, but her influence in winning general elections has been pretty poor.

Just a word on the Miller campaign. There is no doubt that when you are in an election, you are going to interpret the rules in a way most favorable to the campaign. So, unlike many commentators, while I have always favored an "intent of the voter" standard, I can certainly understand the Miller campaign's push for a strict interpretation of the law. But challenging people with bad hand writing? Challenges ballots that ARE perfect? That's a bit of a bridge too far. Miller should let the recount finish and then quickly concede in the spirit of Republican unity.

With Respect to Paul Krugman, A Very Good Set of Ideas
President Obama's appointed bi-partisan deficit reduction commission has come back with its preliminary set of recommendations and the energy from the left has been to blast the plan. The UAW, Paul Krugman, Nancy Pelosi and all of the usual suspects on the left have been firing away at the plan as an assault on working and elderly Americans. With respect to those noted liberal thinkers, I completely disagree.

The deficit reduction commission did its job. It came back with a sober, honest look at the state of our nation's finances and presented the very real choices that we are going to have to make over the next decade. Key recommendations include:
(1) Phasing in an Increase in the Social Security Retirement Age to 69 and reducing benefits for higher income Americans
(2) Eliminating many tax deductions such as home mortgage interest, replaced by a lowered series of tax brackets
(3) Eliminating the tax break on employer-provided health care, with an offsetting reduction in corporate tax rates and an elimination of the "tax trap" for foreign-earned income
(4) A 15 cent increase in gas taxes
(5) Major reductions in agricultural subsidies
(6) Major reductions in defense spending

Let me tackle these one at a time:
(1) Social Security Age
It is simply a matter of fact that with rising life expectancy, Social Security will be insolvent over the next half century. The two choices are simple...raise payroll taxes, reduce benefits or raise the retirement age.

I actually favor an all-of-the-above approach. The payroll tax cap should be removed as the current tax structure is regressive (Americans pay the tax on their first $106K of their income and nothing after that, meaning that high earners pay a far smaller percentage of their income) and that places a high burden on working Americans. Unfortunately, the panel did not recommend this change.

Benefits reductions is another way to make the system solvent. But taking grocery income from a low-income American would be very cruel. So the way to impact benefits is to reduce them for high earners, who currently receive greater benefits than low earners. Most in high income brackets can finance their retirement just fine with less social security, as they generally do or at least should have other assets to tap.

Now, the retirement age. Krugman was highly critical of this proposal because he notes that blue collar workers life expectancy has not risen with those of white collar professionals. This is actually factually wrong, as Krugman looks only at the past couple of decades and ignores the huge surge in life expectancy from the 30s to the 80s. Still, it is a fair point that life expectancy is lower in lower income brackets than in higher ones. But negating benefit differences addresses this issue. The fact remains, under this proposal, higher income Americans will pay in more than they take out and the reverse will be true for low income Americans. Seems fair to me.

(2) Home Mortgage Interest and Charitable Contribution Deductions
I could not be more in favor of this plan. Some say it will block the "American Dream" of home ownership to many Americans. But the whole notion that we should be subsidizing ownership versus renting is flawed. There is nothing magical about own versus is an economic decision. And over the long-run, allowing mortgage interest to be deducted simply inflates home values by a proportional amount, making them no more affordable to middle-income Americans. All it does is sap the treasury and create the risk of asset bubbles.

To be fair, existing home owners should have the rules changed on them mid-course. To prevent someone who has budgeted based on the deduction from being unfairly hit, I would grandfather in existing mortgages, but apply the rule to new mortgage applications.

As far as charitable contributions are concerned, my view is simple...if the government wants to subsidize contributions to charitable organizations, it should do it directly and our elected representatives should have a say in where it goes. By subsidizing private contributions, we are indirectly subsidizing churches and psuedo-political organizations that manage to stay tax-exempt. Let's end this bad law once and for all.

(3) Employer-Provided Health Care
I have long been on record as favoring a form of single payer, at least for catastrophic coverage. It is clear that is not going to happen anytime soon in this country. But employer-provided health care is the worst of all worlds. It ties people's insurance to their job and creates huge risks for individuals and families when unemployment happens and also acts as a barrier to people moving between employers.

By eliminating the subsidy, it would shift health care purchases to the individual. This would create a more efficient market place, especially with the onset of the health insurance exchanges and subsidies for low and middle income Americans in Obamacare. Separating employment from health care is a good step.

Lower the corporate tax rate is a little more onerous. Our marginal tax rate is much higher than the rest of the developed world, but our system of loopholes around how we account for capital expenditures and how we allow companies to account for overseas income leads to a system where we have an allegedly high tax rate, but highly profitable companies, such as Exxon Mobile last year, paid no tax. I favor lowering the state rate, but not the actual rate. Couple with any rate decrease would be the need for a more comprehensive system for closing all the loopholes. One way to do this would be to eliminate the "two books" system whereby companies can claim earnings based on one set of accounting rules in their financial reports to Wall Street and another set in their accounting to the government.

(4) Gas Taxes
I favor a 15 cent increase, but it isn't nearly enough!
I'd like to see a massive increase in gas taxes to encourage more fuel efficient living and drive innovation to wean us off fossil fuels. Something on the order of magnitude of a $2/gallon increase, phased in over 8 years would be needed to drive the change we would need. To mitigate the impact to low-income Americans, this could be partially offset by reductions in payroll taxes or increases in the Earned Income Tax Credit.

(5) & (6)
Agricultural subsidies are the ultimate form of wasteful corporate welfare. There is no reason for the government to be chronically subsidizing huge farm corporations on an ongoing basis. Eliminate them all.

Defense spending is out of control. Finish winding down Iraq, develop an exit strategy in Afghanistan and close many of the myriad of homeland bases that are cold war era relics. We spend more as a percentage of GDP on defense by many multiples than any other developed country on earth. It's time to get real about what we need for national defense.

Having said all this, there is something in this proposal for both parties to hate and neither party has shown any real spine in making hard choices about the deficit, so I suspect, regrettably, that this largely good proposal will be DOA in Congress. What a shame. We can debate the exact choices we make, but my question for every person who has come out opposed to this plan is simple...what is your detailed alternative that makes up for the provisions you don't favor, dollar for dollar? Don't just say spending is out of control. If you won't cut THIS spending say exactly what spending you would cut. If you don't favor THESE tax changes, tell me what other tax changes you would make that would produce the same revenue.

Until we can debate this like adults, I'm tuning out all the wingnut talking heads.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Early Handicapping on the 2012 GOP Field

It is extremely probable that President Barack Obama will receive his party's nomination for President in 2012. For all of the fun that political commentators have been having in the wake of the major losses suffered in congress by the Democrats a week ago, nobody seriously believes that Obama will not be the nominee.

Who would challenge him? Hillary Clinton? Just a few problems with that theory:
a. She's said she isn't running. Repeatedly.
b. On what basis would an insider to the Obama administration run against the President?
c. Hillary is a loyalist. Always has been.
d. African-Americans are about a third of Democratic primaries. If Hillary couldn't beat Barack when he was a virtual unknown in 2008, what chance does she have against the first sitting black President?
It simply isn't going to happen.

So who else is there? A moderate like Evan Bayh? Ask 10 Democrats who he is and see how many have even heard of him. Also, show me an example where a moderate challenger beat a more liberal incumbent in a Democratic primary. Don't think so.

A challenge from the left? Who would it be? I can't think of a serious liberal who would be a credible challenge. And what would the story be? The stimulus was too small? Taxes are too low?

Obama will be the nominee, barring a personal choice or an intervening tragedy.

So, let's focus on the Republicans.

And on the GOP side, the field is wide open. My list is certainly not all inclusive, but it should get the debate started. Let's start handicapping by my rough, arbitrary categories....

(1) The 2008 Retreads
Don't dismiss them. Many nominees don't get the nod in round 1. Think of Ronald Reagan (who ran against Ford in 1976), George H.W. Bush (who ran against Reagan in 1980) and Bob Dole (who ran against Bush in 1988). One of these candidates could be the real deal, this time around:

Mike Huckabee
A smart, articulate, personable conservative with a track record of achievement, he seemed like an ideal guy in his first run in 2008 and he outperformed all expectations, going from obscure Arkansas Governor to top 3 candidate. He has stayed visible, with his show on Fox News and social conservatives who were hesitant to embrace him in 2008 might be more enthusiastic in 2012.

Still, Huckabee has been out of office a long time and seems much more a face of the old GOP establishment than the tea party rock stars of late. And what's his competitive edge over the slew of conservatives who are available to run for the GOP nomination?

My guess -- Huckabee doesn't even run.

Mitt Romney
The guy a lot of Republicans wish they had nominated come election night 2008. Don't delude yourself...the result wouldn't have been different...economic circumstances dictated the GOP going down in 2008, the same way they dictated Democratic losses in 2010. Still, Romney has a lot going for him. He's an attractive guy who looks very Presidential. He is well liked on the right and is a nationally known face. He was a successful Republican governor in a very Democratic state. And he has a great private industry story to tell.

Romney has a lot of demons, however. Obamacare, the most-hated legislation in years in GOP circles, sure looks a whole lot like Romneycare in Massachusetts from the individual mandate to the public exchanges. Romney was, up until 2008, pro-choice and pro-gay rights, not exactly beloved positions in the GOP, although he seemed able to completely reverse his view of these issues without much challenge.

My guess -- Romney's a live one in 2012.

(2) The Ghosts of Christmas Past
These guys have been in the game a long time...heck they've been OUT of the game for a long time. They seem like long shots, but in a wide open race, nothing is out of the question

Newt Gingrich
The former Speaker of the House can accurately claim that he presided over the last period where congressional Republicans got things done. Gingrich was the effective leader of the GOP at a time when the budget was balanced, welfare was reformed and President Clinton was impeached. Newt has always been an idea guy and is a truly respected conservative intellectual.

Still, the guy is a mess as a candidate. The impeacher of Bill Clinton has an affair and splits with his wife. He has a reputation for being nasty and isn't particularly liked, even in Republican circles. He's an uninspiring speaker, he's old and he hasn't done much in the past decade. And he's the one guy that makes our current President's name seem downright mainstream.

My guess -- he might run but he can't win.

Lamar Alexander
Remember Mr. Plaid from 2000? He's still around. Still conservative. Still a nice guy. Might he still hold some national ambitions?

But what has Senator Alexander done in the past decade to make himself a more viable candidate? He was a clear also-ran then and, if anything, he's been less visible since.

My guess -- he won't run.

(3) The Tea Party Express
From Mama Grizzly herself to some of the others that align themselves with the low tax, low spending wing of the GOP (I think that's what the Tea Party is about, but who knows), might we see a Tea Party nominee in 2012?

Sarah Palin
The obvious Tea Party choice. Mama Grizzly is beloved on the right, aligns perfectly with the Tea Party agenda and can always draw a crowd and would certainly be the best looking person ever to run for President.

But Palin still doesn't have the street cred. The general public can't stand her, GOP heavyweights still don't respect her, the Tea Party got torched this November (read my previous post if you disagree) and even her strongest supporters don't believe she could win a general election.

My guess -- she is making too much money selling speeches...Sarah sits this one out.

Marco Rubio
A smart, good-looking, conservative, Hispanic Republican with a compelling personal story, a picture-book family and the love of both the right and the center in Florida (well, some of them at least.)

But Rubio is VERY green by any standard. How can a GOP that criticized a 4-year Senator as unqualified last cycle nominate a 2-year Senator?

My guess -- Rubio is a live consideration in 2016, but 2012 is a bridge too far. He waits this one out.

(4) The State House Warriors
Most Presidents were first Governors. To mix sayings, every Senator wakes up every morning and sees a President in the mirror but Governors actually get to look through the mirrors in the White House. Our current President notwithstanding, Governors tend to win national elections, because they tend to have better records of actually doing things.

Bobby Jindal
A very successful Louisiana Governor with a record that is both conservative and bridge-building in his home state, Jindal seems like a natural for higher office. He appears to have no real demons, he is a fantastic story and the right loves him.

But Jindal's one national moment (his response to President Obama's first State of the Union) was an utter flop and Jindal is hardly an inspiring speaker. Is he really ready for primetime?

My guess -- I don't know if Jindal is running, but I highly doubt he will be the nominee

Jeb Bush
He was a very, very popular Governor during boom times in Florida and I know a lot of Obama Democrats down there who are rabid Jeb fans. He found common ground and common sense solutions to touchy issues like affirmative action and had a fantastic record balancing the budget in Florida.

But Jeb has a pretty tarnished last name at this point. Is the US really ready for ANOTHER President Bush?

My guess -- Jeb sits it out.

Rick Perry
Texas Rick is a conservative's conservative: he's fiscally conservative, socially conservative and talks about federalism like Republicans of a bygone era. He's opposed to the federal income tax and even suggested that Texas might leave the union over Obama's election (he says he was joking.) Conservatives love this guy.

But Rick can be divisive. And he says some pretty crazy stuff.

My guess -- Rick's a live contender...he's just conservative enough for the Tea Party and just establishment enough for the establishment.

(5) Washington Insiders
These guys know the capital and know how to work the environment in Washington. Could one of them be the next GOP nominee?

John Boehner
As the incoming House Speaker, Boehner will be the most visible Republican in the country. He's passionate, gives a fantastic speech and is a GOP hero for standing up to the President in clear, moral terms on key issues.

But Boehner may prove a divisive figure over the next 2 years. And how many House Speakers get the nod for President?

My guess -- I think he's running. And he could win. Orange skin and all.

Lindsey Graham
The one true moderate who could be a live contender, Graham is very likable, has fantastic political instincts and is well-respected on both sides of the aisle. He is a shrewd politician with a folksy manner about him...exactly the sort of thing that got one George W. Bush the White House in 2000.

The Tea Party detests Graham for every issue he's been willing to work across the aisle on. And the right wing shows up in Republican primaries.

My guess -- Graham is going to run...and he has a real shot if he can divide the hard-right between a few candidates and take the mainstream vote, leveraging winner-take-all GOP primaries to build up delegates. Basically the John McCain strategy.

So who do I think are the leading contenders?
I think Romney, Boehner and Graham are the front-runners, but it's very, very early and heck, they might all decide not to run. Still, despite all the talk of the GOP field being weak, there are a number of intriguing possible candidates. But the best of the GOP is probably going to wait it out until 2016. Why run against an incumbent when you could run for an open seat? Of course, if the President is highly unpopular in 2 years, you would look like a fool for not running, but the issue is that to run, you really need to decide to go for it soon.

The Iowa Caucuses are on February 6th, 2012, less than 15 months from today. To be a live contender, you will need to be in the game within the next 6 months. We will know a lot more about the GOP field then. For now, this is just fun speculation.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Preview to 2012

Yes, folks, the 2012 Presidential race can officially start now. Sure, we still have some mid-terms to settle. About 10 House races are not fully decided yet and Lisa Murkowski's write-in battle with Joe Miller will probably stretch for several weeks, although I suspect that she will ultimately prevail.

So, let's start by grounding ourselves in where President Obama stands. It's been almost 2 months since I updated the President's approval charts. Interestingly, not a lot has changed. President Obama has been circulating in small negative numbers in his approve minus disapprove numbers. His monthly numbers show his approval at its low in September and -3.5% and recovering slightly since then.

You notice the same kind of modest uptick in the daily numbers over the past two months. The President is still more unpopular than popular, but you can sort of see the classic Democrat/Republican divide solidifying around Obama.

You might ask the logical question..if the President is only 1 to 3 points below the even line, how did the GOP win by margins of 6 or 7 points nationally in House races during the mid-terms? The answer seems to lie in voter turnout. Mid-terms naturally have lower turnout than Presidential races and Obama and the Democrats numbers suffer, since the voters who did not turn out are primarily 18-29 year olds, who, by some exit polling estimates, represented a mere 11% of voters in the 2010 mid-terms, about half of their representation in 2008.

It would stand to reason that in 2012, many of those voters will show back up and make the numbers closer.

So, if we use the President's approval as a proxy to the 2012 vote, we can start to examine where the battlegrounds will lie and what would be required for a Democratic or Republican victory. Using Presidential approval numbers is only a rough proxy, but it's actually more accurate than you think as re-election campaigns tend to be a lot more a vote on the President than on his opponent.

We also have to factor in likely changes from the 2010 census. These numbers won't be finalized until the end of the year, but we can pretty reasonably project, given a seat or two where the pick-ups and losses of House seats and therefore electoral votes, will lie.

Adjusting 2008 results for last month's approval numbers and adjusting for likely changes in electoral vote counts based on the 2010 census yields us the following results:

We can see that all the battlegrounds, as of today, will be states that President Obama won in 2008. We also see that contrary to popular belief, the real "make or break" battlegrounds are NOT in Florida and Ohio. Sure, winning Florida and Ohio is NECESSARY for any Republican hoping to assume the office of President. But it is not, in and of itself, sufficient. The 270 "breaking point" is Colorado, based on the 2008 margins.

Basically, President Obama can give up Ohio and Florida as well as other, smaller states he won in 2008 such as North Carolina, Indiana and Virginia and as long as he holds Colorado and everything more liberal than it, he will hold with 272 electoral votes.

Likewise, the GOP does not need to focus on Pennsylvania, because if they can win Florida, Ohio, Colorado and Virginia, they can win without it. I was strongly critical of John McCain's late push in Pennsylvania in 2008, a state he was sure to lose, rather than focusing on the myriad of small states that were in play.

Of course, state demographics will shift from 2008 to 2012, so the election probably won't play out exactly like this, but it's a good starting point.

Next up: a rundown of potential 2012 GOP candidates

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Post-Election Scorecard, The Underperforming Tea Party, Pelosi Runs Again

In investing, it has been proven over and over again statistically that the vast majority of "active" mutual fund managers, those who trade frequently to try to beat the market underperform simple index funds which just buy the stocks that comprise big indices such as the S&P 500.

How is this relevant to politics and predicting elections? I feel a bit like one of those active managers.

Not that this site did badly in the past election. In the close Senate races, I had an average error of only 3.8% and an average bias of only 2.7%, both the second best of the 4 major election sites I benchmark against. And these are the best of the best...well established sites with a strong history of projecting elections.

It's just that I didn't "trounce the market"...and if you followed this site in 2008, you know that through a combination of a lot of luck and some skill, I trounced the market back then. Here is a scorecard comparison of the close Senate races and the total House count among the major sites.

You can see my averages got hurt by big misses in Colorado and Nevada and to a lesser extent, incorrect margins in the fringe close races in Missouri and Kentucky. You can also see that no specific method of poll aggregation prevailed over other methods as the one that was most accurate.

My numbers would be so much better if it weren't for those darn.....

Underperforming Tea Party Candidates
The Tea Party clearly cost the GOP 3 Senate seats in this past election cycle. The trouncing that Christine O'Donnell took in Delaware was predicted. The losses that Ken Buck and Sharon Angle took in Colorado and Nevada respectively were unexpected, at least by myself and other major prediction sites and show a consistent pattern.

The Tea Party had either 5 or 6 loyalists that won GOP nominations for the Senate this cycle, by my count. It is tough to get an exact count, since there is no clear definition of who is a "Tea Party Candidate", but certainly Christine O'Donnell, Joe Miller, Sharon Angle, Ken Buck and Rand Paul fit that bill. Marco Rubio is somewhere in between...he enjoyed strong support from Tea Party organizers against Charlie Crist, but was careful not to get too close to the movement.

If you don't count Rubio, who obviously did extremely well, then the experiment in Tea Party candidates was more or less a complete disaster for the GOP.

Christine O'Donnell, Sharon Angle and Ken Buck all lost. Joe Miller appears likely to lose in Alaska. And it is abundantly clear...mainstream candidates in each of these 4 races would have easily won on the GOP line.

Rand Paul did win in Kentucky, but a Republican Senatorial candidate winning by less than 12% in dark red Kentucky in a heavily Republican year is hardly an impressive showing.

Rand Paul wants a Senate Tea Party caucus. It will either be loaded with Republicans who voted for all of the Bush spending increases and TARP plans or it will be a very lonely place.

Let me repeat what I said from the outset: The Tea Party is a joke.

Pelosi Runs Again
Outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has announced that she will run for minority leader when the new House convenes. This is a break with tradition, whereby the leader of a party generally steps down when his or her party losses the majority. Pelosi appears poised to win, over the objections of conservative and moderate Democrats. There just aren't enough of them left to overcome the liberal base in the House...frankly the conservative Dems were the ones hit the hardest in this election cycle.

Pelosi has been an effective leader in getting things done...can you name one policy priority for the Democrats for which Pelosi didn't get a bill last congress? But she is also a polarizing figure in the country, one whose image raises a lot of money and energy for the GOP. I don't have a dog in the hunt, but if I were the Democrats, I might want a fresher face with a more moderate image.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Letting the Dust Settle, A Tea Party Rebuke?, Alaska Makes History (Probably), Meet Susana Martinez

Misses and Hits
One of the things that I hate is getting projections in elections wrong. I will do a complete rundown of my pre-election projections versus the actual outcomes, including benchmarking against other major political sites for accuracy. For now, let's simply summarize as follows:
(1) Senate
Assuming Lisa Murkowski ultimately wins in Alaska (which we won't know for weeks) and Patty Murray survives a very close race that will likely go to a recount in Washington, the scorecard will read as:
* 35 of 37 outcomes correctly projected (95%)
* 10 of 12 close races correctly projected (83%)

I missed in Colorado and Nevada, where I had a predicted GOP win, as did almost everyone, but the Democrats held on. My working hypothesis is the better organization of the established incumbents enabled them to outperform their polling data. I would've liked to get these right, but it would've been hard to do so. Lot's more analysis on this in the days to come.

(2) House
My call was for 237 GOP seats. The actual total is still being determined, but it will be north of that number somewhat. The best range I can put around it is the GOP will finish with somewhere between 240-245...CNN's website has the projected total listed as 242, but there are several close races that could swing that number.

Being within 5 seats on the House without analyzing a single race-by-race poll is actually an excellent result in my humble opinion and will benchmark extremely well against other sites.

(3) Governors
I missed somewhere around 3 races. There are still a lot of uncalled Governor's races, but I believe I missed in Oregon, Florida and 2 cases the Republican won where I had projected the Democrat (Florida and Oregon) and in 1 case the Democrat won where I projected the Republican (Illinois). Of these races, only Florida has been called and all 3 were razor-thin, but barring a switch on the recount, these outcomes should become final at some point.

That puts me at 34 out of 37 (92%) or 13 out of 16 (81%) in close races.

Alaska May Make History
It appears highly likely that Lisa Murkowski will ultimately prevail in Alaska, which would make her only the second write-in candidate in history to win a Senate seat. There is still a long haul from here to there, however. "Write-In" will be the number 1 vote-getter in the Alaska race by a decent margin, meaning that the process of going through the write-in votes, ballot-by-ballot to determine the name that is written in, or more specifically, the name of the person the voter INTENDED to write-in. Standards are basically non-existant, so this will be a process full of challenges and judgment. For instance:
Does a vote for Lisa Murkoski count? How about Lila Murkowski? How about Lisa M.? How about Linda McCartney? You be the judge. Prepare for a lot more pictures of online ballots.

Susana Martinez, Under the Radar GOP Star
The political class is about ready to anoint Marco Rubio the 2016 GOP Presidential candidate or the 2012 VP candidate. Rubio's appeal is obvious...he is an attractive, well-spoken, appealing conservative with a model family who ran a great campaign. He also happens to be of Cuban decent, a nice bonus for a party that is looking for a way to broaden its appeal to hispanic voters, who often swing elections and are becoming an increasing percentage of the electorate.

Lost in all the Rubio hubub is a rising Hispanic star in the GOP who could prove even more powerful over the long-run, New Mexico Governor-Elect Susana Martinez. If you don't know Martinez, who won last night, allow me to introduce her. The daughter of a golden-gloves champ and longtime Sheriff, Martinez has, since graduating law school, steadily been working her way from prosecutor to district attorney...and what's more patriotic than putting away the bad guys when you could be making more money getting them off?

Her husband is a police officer, her son is in the Navy. She's a political conservative (social and economic), is 51 years old (the perfect age for a 2012 or 2016 Presidential candidate) and yes, she was born in El Paso, Texas, not Mexico.

And if you look over the last 100 years, Governors tend to fare a lot better on the national stage than Senators do (the current President notwithstanding.) This is because Governors DO things whereas Senators VOTE On things, leaving Governors the capability to run on accomplishments, whereas Senators just have a paper trail of votes that potentially anger voters.

Martinez could fall flat on her face in her new job. But she is definitely one to watch in the increasingly diverse Republican Party.

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Last Post of the Night

The Democrats claim the California and Hawaii Senate seats, as expected. This brings their total to 50 seats...enough to retain their majority.

There are six seats theoretically still in play: Pennsylvania, Illinois, Nevada, Washington, Colorado and Alaska. I expect the GOP to win in PA, IL, NV and CO, although all 4 are close and NV and CO in particular are still early enough in the voting that they could swing. I expect Patty Murray to prevail in WA, although, again, this is early. And AK is most likely a race between two people who would caucus with the GOP, although there is still an outside chance at a Democratic miracle there. All told, I still project all of my Senate predictions from last night will hold.

The size of the House majority will be determined overnight and in the weeks to come.

Congratulations to the GOP on their victory in the House and their gains in the Senate. Let's hope for more cooperation and compromise in Washington in the next 2 years, whether out of conviction on the party of the two parties or simply out of survival instinct.

Every election I note this, but it bears repeating every year. Democracy is an absolute miracle in this country. The peaceful execution of elections and transfer of power between the parties is a wonder to behold and something that we should never take for granted.

God Bless America.

Good night everyone and thanks for reading....full results rundown tomorrow and my usual score cards on my projections later in the week (after results are a little more finalized.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

We Won't Have an Exact House Count for Days

There are way too many super close races for us to get a full count on the House results any time tonight. The Senate it will be into the wee hours of the morning to get the Alaska race decided and we'll see how close some of the other races wind up. Here is what we know as of now to recap:
(1) Senate
Democrats have locked in 48 Senate seats, Republicans 44. Pennsylvania appears highly likely to go to the GOP, with Pat Toomey having now built a 4% lead and all of Philadelphia's vote already counted. Illinois appears headed to the GOP as well, so call it 48-46. Hawaii will break blue (expect an announcement at 12:00:01), so make it 49-46.

Colorado, Nevada, California and Washington still look to be up in the air....I still predict a blue hold in Washington and California and red pick-ups in Colorado and Nevada, leaving us with a 51-48. Alaska will probably go to a Republican or a Republican Independent, so we are back to my original 51-49.

(2) House
The GOP will be in the majority. They will have at least 230 seats, in my estimation. They have no path to get to numbers greater than 260. Within that range (230-260), we will simply need more race-by-race results to call it. We likely won't know those tonight.

(3) Governor's Mansion
Florida appears headed to the GOP, although the race is not 100% over...everything else, at least so far is holding to prediction, although many are close enough that they could still swing. Florida going GOP and the other races going according to my projection would give us the GOP control of 31 state houses. Assuming Lincoln Chaffee holds on in Rhode Island (he is up by a narrow 2 points with many votes left to count), this would leave us with 31 GOP, 18 Dem, 1 IND in the mansions of the 50 states.

I'll hang with this through the 12 AM poll closings, but unlike a Presidential year, we won't be able to get to a final result in the House and Senate tallies this evening.

Toss-Up House Races Close

Individual toss-up races in the House are pretty close. In general, it seems like the Republicans are leading in the races in the south and plains states and the Democrats have the general edge in the Northeast. My best estimate, and it is obviously very dynamic still, is that the GOP will hold between 230 and 250 seats when all the dust settles.

Where Are the Nevada Votes?

Polls have theoretically been closed for an hour in Nevada and no votes counted yet...what gives?

GOP wins in Idaho Senate, Dems in Oregon Senate. Neither race was expected to be competitive.

Republicans are making gains in the late counts in Pennsylvania and Illinois and are falling more in line with my projections. GOP candidates now narrowly lead in both states.

So far, no misses in the Senate.

Feingold Goes Down

Another one we all expected, but Ron Johnson wins in Wisconsin, adding another pick-up to the GOP Senate list. Utah also goes to the GOP.

In the GOP column in the Senate at this point, 43 seats, 47 in the Democratic or Democratic-ish seats. Nothing has broken against my 51-49 Democratic Senate projection yet. If anything, the Democrats have a shot at 1 or 2 more seats than I called.

Florida looks bleaker and bleaker for the Dems for the Florida Governor's Mansion. It's a 3 point margin with about 20% of the votes left to be cast, a tough margin to overcome, although Palm Beach County does represent the bulk of the uncounted votes, a heavily Democratic area.

John Adler Goes Down

Jon Runyan has defeated incumbent Democrat John Adler in my home district -- New Jersey's 3rd. This is another swing race that goes to the GOP. CNN has projected a minimum pick-up for the GOP of 52 seats. That seems like a "play it safe" call at this point.

It's funny how this feels like a tail of two elections...the GOP making gains but falling short of the big win in the Senate but absolutely steamrolling in the House.

More Easy Holds for the GOP

Louisiana, Iowa, Missouri and Arizona all go GOP. Did I mention Georgia earlier?

The Senate math is actually pretty simple. The Dems have 47 seats locked in at this point (45 named Democrats and the 2 Independents who caucus with them)...they need 3 more to hold the Senate. I'm projecting those 3 to be California, Washington and Oregon as well as Hawaii. For the GOP to get to 51, they need to run the rest of the table (Pennsylvania, Colorado, Illinois) AND take 2 of those 4. Not going to happen.

Could the Dems Actually Do Better Than Expected in the Senate?

The House still looks to be a bloodbath for the Democrats, no change there.

In the Senate, in early voting, Democrats lead in Pennsylvania, Illinois and Colorado. Any one of these races would be an upset. I'm certainly not changing my projection on the basis of these early vote totals, but it's food for thought, especially in Illinois, where the margin is sizable and more than half the votes are in, albeit more from urban centers than suburbs.

Watching the Close Races

A lot of close races still in the counting:
(1) Democrat Joe Sestak narrowly leads Pat Toomey for the Pennsylvania Senate, but the precincts left to report favor Toomey
(2) Florida Governor's race is still shading GOP, but only 23% of the vote is in in Miami versus 67% statewide...this could still be very close
(3) Illinois Senate is shading blue so far, but far too few votes counted to make a projection
(4) Missouri Senate appears headed to a GOP win, but also pretty early on

Will Florida Gov Be the First Surprise?

The closest of all the races that I projected was the Florida Governor's race. It is close and it's hard to analyze and project from the precincts we have in, but it appears that Rick Scott is leading Alex Sink and may win the race that I projected to go to sink by a razor-thin 0.4%. We'll see as more of the Miami-area vote filters in whether Scott's margins hold.

CNN is projecting a GOP House...thanks for last week's news.

Rand Paul....Perhaps Not Ready for Primetime

What a weird, rambling acceptance speech by Rand Paul in Kentucky, almost bordering on incoherent. How is this guy going to play in Washington?

No Brainer Wins for NY Senate Dems, Oklahoma & South Dakota Stay Red

No surprise at all that Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillebrand hold on in New York. Oklahoma easily goes red with Tom Coburn's re-election. John Thune wins against no opponent in South Dakota to keep that in GOP hands. GOP also holds in North Dakota and Kansas.

All results were as expected and none of the races were considered competitive.

Virginia's 9th Is Meaningful

Morgan Griffith's win in Virginia's 9th District for the GOP is significant in that it is the first "pure toss-up" House race that has been called either way. I think this win probably puts a floor on the GOP number of at least 225-230 seats. Make no mistake about it, it will be a big GOP House majority, based on this result.

I feel good about my final projections in every Senate seat. My House number could well still be just about right, but this result makes me wonder if I called the GOP number too low.

Manchin Wins -- Dem Majority in Senate Basically Assured

Joe Manchin, the cap and trade shooting conservative Democrat from West Virginia has prevailed in the West Virginia Senate race. This basically rules out a GOP Senate in the next 2 years. The only way for them to win now would be to win in both Washington and California and a win in California seems very far fetched. Let the race for the new Senate majority leader begin....Chuck Schumer? Dick Durbin?

I Continue to Be Unsurprised

North Carolina goes red in the Senate, as expected, as does Arkansas. Connecticut goes blue in the Senate, also expected.

The House races that were supposed to be neck and neck, are, in fact, neck and neck. The early bell weathers in Kentucky 6 and Indiana 2 are both within 1% of the vote with over 70% of the votes in in both races.

Everything is still breaking according to form.

Sandra Adams Strikes in Florida, GOP Majority Almost Certain in House

The GOP draws their first blood in Florida's 24th district with Sandra Adams picking up the seat for the GOP. This was a seat that was considered fairly likely to switch, but honestly, was also the sort of seat that the Dems would need to somehow pull out in order to retain control of the House. I think this race makes it virtually impossible for the Dems to stay in power there (I know it's early, but if they are losing this one, it's hard to imagine a scenario that gets them to 218.)

Carney Strikes First Blood in the House

John Carney (D) has won the at-large House seat in Delaware, marking the first pick-up for either party. The Dems really only had a shot at 4 GOP seats, this one, Louisiana's 2nd district, Illinois' 10th district and Hawaii's 1st district. This and Louisiana's 2nd were the ones that they were most likely to pick-up, so this is not a totally unexpected result, or one that rules out the GOP house wave that myself and others have been projecting.

Raw Exit Polling Data -- Deceptive and Misinforming

Why is CNN showing raw data from exit polls? Anyone who knows anything about the last decade of exit polling knows that there are huge problems in sample selection, both from self-selection of voters and from the behavior of poll takers at polling stations. Showing the raw numbers in close races adds nothing to the dialogue as those numbers are as likely to be completely wrong as they are to be right. For those looking to glean some meaning, the polls tend to skew more Democratic than the actual results, although polling firms have been attempting to adjust to compensate in the last couple of cycles, so who knows at this point.

At any rate, look at actual results, ignore the "raw exit polls".

Coons in Delaware, Rubio in Florida, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire

5 more races break easily according to form.

Chris Coons (D) beats back Tea Party darling Christine O'Donnell. The GOP faithful will have to be in tears if they end the night with 50 Senate seats and the primary defeat of moderate Mike Castle winds up being the difference in their bid to take over the Senate.

Marco Rubio (R) is finally called in Florida at 8:00:01.

Kelly Ayotte (R) wins in New Hampshire in a race that ceased to be competitive in the closing weeks.

Barbara Mikulski (D) wins in Maryland, as was widely expected.

Richard Shelby (R) wins in Alabama, also widely expected

Still no upsets, so far.

North Carolina and Georgia Appear Headed to GOP, As Expected

No official projections from the networks on the North Carolina and Georgia Senate seats, but looking at the county-by-county comparisons to prior cycles, I'm confident they will both go to the GOP. Neither race was on my competitive list.

So far, we have no upsets versus final projections, but it is very early and none of the closest races have been decided yet.

Early returns from West Virginia are way too close to call.

Ohio a Done Deal for the GOP, Florida Sure to Follow

Rob Portman has held the Ohio Senate seat for the GOP...again, not a race that was considered by this site or others to be particularly competitive.

Marco Rubio has not yet been called the winner in the Florida Senate race yet, because networks will not project until 8 PM when the last precincts on the panhandle close, but he is a sure thing. Early precincts show a big Rubio victory. The Governor's race is far less clear.

In Very Early Returns, A Split in House Toss-Ups

Early counting from Indiana and Kentucky shows the GOP leading in Indiana's 2nd District and the DEMs leading in Kentucky's 6th district. Both are way too early in the counting to make a definitive call, but both are on most people's watch list of the toss-up seats that could swing the outcome between a small GOP majority and a large GOP majority in the House.

Results so far? Inconclusive, but early indications are in line with my macro-projections from last other words, a big night for the GOP.

Rand Paul Wins in Kentucky

Libertarian-leaning Republican Rand Paul has won the Senate seat in Kentucky. As I said in my last post, this was fairly well expected by myself and others, but the fact that the race was called so early is a pretty good indication that there is no sign of an 11th hour surge by the Democrats and that this night is likely to play out as expected...with large GOP gains.

Also called now are South Carolina and Indiana for the GOP and Vermont for the Dems. None of those 3 races were expected to be competitive, although the South Carolina call brings to a close the strange campaign of one Alvin Greene, one of the oddest stories of the 2010 election cycle.

And They're Off!

Polls are closed now in Indiana and Kentucky...they closed at 6 PM Eastern Time. Indiana was not expected to be competitive, with Dan Coats expected to cruise back into the Senate for the GOP. Kentucky was marginally competitive, with Republican Rand Paul strongly favored, but still within the "lean" range on my projections.

Vote totals at this point are too early to make any kind of early projection on what kind of night we are going to have.

Polls will close by state as follows (all times Eastern)
7:00 PM
Florida*, Georgia, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia

* Portions of the panhandle close at 8:00 PM Eastern Time

7:30 PM
Ohio, North Carolina, West Virginia

8:00 PM
Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas

8:30 PM

9:00 PM
Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Wyoming

10:00 PM
Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Utah

11:00 PM
California, Oregon, Washington

12:00 AM
Alaska, Hawaii

Updates and analysis throughout the night as results are announced.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pencils Down!

Final Projections:
Senate: 51 Democratic Caucus (49 Democrats, 2 Independents), 49 Republican Caucus (48 Republicans, 1 Independent)
House: 237 Republicans, 198 Democrats

Final numbers are in. GOP House numbers have improved at the very end with some strong generic polling to close out the season. No projection changes in the the close races, I still predict the Democrats to hold on in Connecticut, California, West Virginia and Washington and Republican wins in Illinois, Colorado, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Missouri.

Bottom line: I project a strongly GOP House and a narrowly Democratic Senate. The GOP could still possibly win the Senate by taking my projected pick-ups and pulling off upsets in West Virginia and Washington.

Below is a comparison of the close races and House projections versus other major projection sites:

With the exception of Alaska, we are all projecting the same Senate results, but by varying margins, based on the different techniques for generating the averages. In the House, every other site is using a race-by-race analysis, whereas I am relying solely on generic polling, which I believe will produce at least an equally accurate and quite possibly a superior result. We shall see. Again, everyone is projecting the GOP to take the House, but by varying margins.

In the competitive Governor's races, I project:
Safe/Likely Dem: Arkansas, Maryland, New York
California: Brown (D) +7.2%
New Hampshire: Lynch (D) +7.0%
Minnesota: Dayton (D) +6.8%
Colorado: Hickenlooper (D) +5.5%
Hawaii: Abercrombie (D) +5.0%
Massachusetts: Patrick (D) +4.8%
Oregon: Kitzhaber (D) +2.7%
Vermont: Shumlin (D) +2.0%
Florida: SInk (D) +0.4%
Rhode Island: Chaffee (I) +7.0%
Connecticut: Foley (R) +1.8%
Ohio: Kasich (R) +3.6%
Illinois: Brady (R) +4.3%
Pennsylvania: Corbett (R) +7.5%
Georgia: Deal (R) +8.4%
Wisconsin: Walker (R) +8.8%
Safe/Likely GOP: Arizona, New Mexico, South Carolina, Texas, Arkansas, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, Alabama, Kansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Wyoming, Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota, Utah

Total Projection (including incumbents not up): 30 Republicans, 20 Democrats

Things to Watch for Tomorrow
(1) Early Senate Bell Weather
West Virginia is in Eastern time and will be extremely instructive about the course of the rest of the night. If this one goes Republican, Democrats are at real risk of losing the House. If it goes Democratic, it's almost impossible for them to do so.

(2) Early House Bell Weathers
Watch for these key races on the East Coast to see how big the GOP majority is going to be:
Connecticut's 4th
New Jersey's 3rd (my home district)
New York's 24th
North Carolina's 8th and 11th
Delaware's At-Large

If the GOP runs the table in these races, it could be a very, very ugly night for the Dems...they could be reduced to 170 seats or less. If the DEMs run the sweep here, we might be looking at a closely divided House.

(3) THE Key Governor's Race
Florida is probably the closest and among the most important Governorships in the country. Sure, New York, Texas and California also vote, but those outcomes are fairly well known (GOP in Texas, Dems in New York and Cali), plus Florida being a swing state, aren't you interested in knowing who gets to appoint the next Katherine Harris?

(4) Alaska Senate Craziness
Polls close relatively late in Alaska, but let's face it, no one knows what is going to happen in this race. A once-in-a-lifetime write-in victor? An after hours Tea Party? A Democrat splitting the difference? This is one worth watching.

Note that if Murkowski shows as well as she is polling, the result may not be known for days. The write-ins will only be tallied if "write-in" has more votes than the leading named candidate. And you can only imagine the ballot battles that ensue if that happens. Alaska law requires only that the intent of the voter be clear on a write-in. So what does that mean a voter has to write in order for a vote to count for Murkowski? Your guess is as good as mine, but I bet a lot of lawyers will try to figure it out if "write-in" wins tomorrow.

Please Vote
I believe firmly in the statistical techniques that I use here and I'm proud of my results in the past. I try very hard to be accurate on this site. But at the end of the day, polls don't vote, people do. We all have the power to do something completely different than we've been telling pollsters tomorrow.

So, please, vote tomorrow, regardless of your political stripes. Make your voice heard.

Live Blogging Begins Tomorrow Night
I'll be on tomorrow sharing my observations after the polls close.
Thanks for hanging with me this election season and I look forward to some fun tomorrow.

If you like this site, tell all your friends to join us tomorrow. I plan to begin around 7 PM.