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Don’t Forget About John Davis!

[ 17 ] February 14, 2008 |

Lanny Davis argues that the superdelegates were intended to be an “independent” check on the whims of those meddling voters. I’m sure this will convince Clarence Thomas, but since I’m not an originalist it seems to me that delegates are free to vote by whatever criteria they choose, which includes doing what’s best for the party, and which would therefore include ratifying a clear choice by the party’s voters. I’m also confident that this will, in fact, happen.

For comic value, though, Sirota notes this gem in Davis’s historical argument:

We were also reminded that before these reforms, the “smoke-filled rooms” of Democratic Party leaders had led to the nomination and election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy.

Jeez, countless of tickets to work with and when picking random anecdotes he can’t even identify three decent candidates? It’s this kind of rhetorical skillz that have made Davis such an effective defender of progressive values on Fox News.


The Candidate of No Substance

[ 6 ] February 14, 2008 |

Via gratifying convert to the anti-McCain cause Jon Chait, John McCain and an equally well-informed candidate discuss policy:

Great Moments In Projection

[ 7 ] February 14, 2008 |

I was set to write a post about today’s MoDo. In today’s installment, she actually writes a couple of lucid paragraphs about the “media’s” sexist coverage of Hillary Clinton, while of course leaving out the little detail that she’s long been one of the major purveyors of said sexism. From there, however, she proceeds to the usual psychobabble and double standards that you would expect. Fortunately, Somerby has already taken care of it.

"The tree of progressive politics must be watered with the metaphorical blood of sellouts"

[ 7 ] February 13, 2008 |

I think this correctly assesses the significance of Donna Edwards defeating Al Wynn in the primaries last night, with the caveat that I get the sense that Wynn and a lot of blue dogs aren’t so much sellouts as just straightforward conservative hacks. Either way, while you have to live with blue dogs in conservative districts there’s no reason to tolerate them when they waste safe seats.

Meanwhile, although I am amused that Rudy!’s campaign manager has endorsed Clinton’s campaign strategy, presumably as recently consistent with his own (“1.Lose state after state by resounding margins. 2. ? 3. Victory!”), I also agree that burials of Clinton are very premature. Evidently, she’s not comparable to Giuliani, as 1)she’s actually won several important states, and 2)she’s a good campaigner well-liked by Democratic primary voters. Obama deserves to be favored because he’s generally increased his support as he’s had time to campaign (a primary reason, of course, why trying to claim that Florida can be treated like a normal primary just because lots of people voted is silly.) But Clinton can at least take a very close race to the superdelegates if she pulls of strong wins in Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and these states are demographically favorable states in which she leads in the polls. These leads may evaporate as her leads in a lot of other states have, but until they actually do she has a reasonable chance of winning, and her buy option at 25 is probably a decent bet.

Potomac Tuesday Open Thread

[ 18 ] February 13, 2008 |

After New Hampshire, no blowout predictions or any such thing from me. However, VA already called for Obama.

…D.C. called for Obama at 8:00:01. This is probably not surprising.

…Democratic turnout appears to be roughly double Republican turnout. In Virginia. To put it more clearly, right now Obama is receiving more than 3x the votes of McCain. I know that the Republican race is supposed to be over, and that might depress turnout, but still…

…ROB: is it just my imagination, or is Pat Buchanan making sense? While I hope that the campaign doesn’t go negative, I think he’s right that in order to win Clinton needs to go on the attack right now. She’s not going to out-positive or out-likable Obama at this point.

…ROB: And for crying out loud, can’t either of them come up with a campaign song that’s not by U2?

Campaigns And Rules Matter!

[ 57 ] February 12, 2008 |

Josh Patashnik notes the vote-predicting regressions run by Pablano, which suggest that “if a normal campaign had been conducted in Florida just like everywhere else, there would have been a 12-to-14 point swing in Obama’s favor.” In some sense, this data is superfluous, because outside the necessity for desperate ad hoc pro-Clinton spin nobody would argue that no-stakes straw polls produce the same results as actual elections, or that campaigns in primary elections don’t matter. It should also be obvious that to cite the raw level of turnout as a reason why the non-election should be retroactively counted is to commit the same fallacy as the Literary Digest poll with a 2.3 million sample that had Alf Landon in a landslide over FDR in 1936. Not only would the size of the electorate had been different in a real election, but the composition of the electorate would different because vote preferences aren’t static.

Meanwhile, since we’re likely to hear more such desperation if Clinton doesn’t do well today, I suppose I should address this:

[A]n all time record voted.

Obama lost be 300,000 votes.

He lost. There will NOT be a new selection process.

Obama was ON the ballot.

Throw these results out at your peril. Florida will be lost to us.

Even if you agree that fundamental norms of fairness and legality should be violated to change the rules ex post facto to benefit a particular candidate and count a non-election as an election, this argument that we can’t afford to alienate Florida fails on its own terms because it ignores the obvious costs of such an action. Would a marginal increase in Democratic prospects in Florida be worth a convention battle that would tear the party apart? This is, to put it mildly, implausible. And, moreover, the assumption about Florida itself it highly dubious. What do you think that, for example, African-American turnout would be in Florida given the widespread (and correct) perception that Clinton stole the nomination? Do you think there’s much of a chance the Dems could win Florida under this conditions? Of course not. This dilemma might be a good argument that the DNC’s action against Florida was excessive, but to just change the rules in a way that would allow delegates from a non-election in Florida to determine the nominee would compound the error in numerous ways.

This may be unduly optimistic, but having said this I’m not too worried about this happening; I don’t think the people responsible for determining this have the kind of death wish for the party that some Clinton supporters do. The superdelegates will ratify any candidate with a significant lead in pledged delegates, the Michigan and Florida non-primaries will not count towards pledged delegates, and the delegates from these states will not be seated unless they can’t affect the outcome of the nominating process.

It’s The Media

[ 0 ] February 12, 2008 |

I agree with my colleagues about Krugman’s latest column, which is really unworthy of him. To add one more point, it should be noted that Krugman adduces exactly two pieces of evidence for his claims that Obama’s supporters are unfairly savaging Clinton. The first is about criticisms of Clinton’s LBJ comments. These criticisms were, I agree, stupid — sort of like Clinton’s surrogates bringing up Obama’s brief use of drugs as a young man — but 1)Krugman supplies no evidence that they’re “venomous,” and 2)the most prominent advancer of this argument was the New York Times op-ed page, a supporter of…Hillary Clinton. The second data point is the comments of David Shuster, which were indefensible but again I’d like to see some evidence that Shuster is an Obama supporter per se. And this is what’s so frustrating about Krugman’s column. It’s great to see someone in his position calling out the Whitewater non-scandal and the media’s treatment of Gore, but Krugman completely buries his very legitimate points about the media’s treatment of the Clintons by shoehorning it into his anti-Obama jihad, where it simply doesn’t belong. I’m sure there are isolated incidents of Obama supporters indulging in sexist attacks on Clinton, but I see no evidence that Obama’s Democratic supporters — as opposed to various media hacks — are generally playing by the “Clinton rules,” and Krugman certainly doesn’t supply any. And the fact that even his random anecdotes don’t actually support his position pretty strongly suggests that his central claim is false.

Wooden Puppet

[ 0 ] February 11, 2008 |

Good to see the fine folks in Tuscaloosa grasp what the Washington Post was unable to:

Michael Mukasey may have a distinguished career as a judge but as U.S. attorney general, he’s a loser. For all the interest he has shown in the duties of his new office, we may as well have a smiling wooden puppet seated in his chair.

Make that a partisan puppet. By his studied inattention to issues that might embarrass the Republican Party, Mukasey has made it abundantly clear that President Bush pulls his strings.

He has dodged questions on torture techniques advocated by Bush and Vice President Cheney; balked at acting on the firings of U.S. attorneys that led to his predecessor’s sacking; and dragged his heels on investigating the destruction of damning videotapes by the CIA.

His failure to look into an allegation that partisan political interests guided the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman is part of this dereliction of duty. Although he told the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday that it is inappropriate for politicians to try to influence criminal prosecutions, Mukasey admitted under questioning by Rep. Artur Davis that he has not looked into the Siegelman case allegation. He should. It is a serious charge that demands attention. An Alabama lawyer said in a sworn statement that she heard fellow Republicans discuss White House involvement in pursuing Siegelman’s prosecution. The officials she named have denied the charges, as have federal prosecutors in the case.

Obviously, this is an editorial board that needs 48 hours of immersion in High Contrarianism, stat. Don’t they know that the immense amount of leverage Congress will wield over Mukasey will force him to come clean and pursue ambitious reform projects?

Via Scott Horton, whose article about evidence regarding White House-coordinated selective prosecution in Alabama is very much worth reading.

Count The Votes Until Our Frontrunner Is Ahead

[ 0 ] February 11, 2008 |

Via Matt W., the fact that the GOP has “progressed from 2000 where they refused to count Democratic votes, to 2008 where they are now refusing to count their own votes” is indeed very amusing. It’s bizarre for a party to just announce a winner in a close race before counting every vote, and you also have to think that a court inquiry embarrassingly revealing and overturning a trumped-up Potemkin 25.5% “victory” would be far more damaging to McCain that just straightforwardly losing the WA primary in the first place.

Everything Is Good For McCain!

[ 33 ] February 10, 2008 |

Yglesias points out the problems with Ambinder’s claim that “Obama cannot win the states where the majority of Democrats reside”: i.e. it’s a more tendentious way of saying that “Clinton won California,” which I don’t think entitles her to the nomination in itself. But Ambinder goes on to make a straightforwardly illogical assertion:

John McCain’s advisers are probably thinking: woe unto the Democratic nominee who refuses to organize; woe unto the Democratic nominee who appeals to activists perfectly and regular Democrats kinda sorta.

The idea that Obama’s greater appeal to independents and purple-state swing voters makes him a less formidable general election candidate is simply bizarre. Given that the Dems would win New York and California with a Mark Slaughter/Jani Lane ticket, a candidate very well-liked among Democrats isn’t remotely vulnerable there even if primary voters in those states marginally prefer another strong candidate. Meanwhile, his greater appeal to independents and ability to mobilize lower-turnout groups (like young people) has the potential to put states into play that Clinton (who seems strongest in states where the Dems are already a mortal lock) can’t –indeed, this why I think polls showing Obama to be a much stronger opponent for McCain are almost certainly right. (Indeed, I think they understate Obama’s advantage; piling up larger majorities in solidly blue states doesn’t help the Dems in the electoral college.) In theory, it’s possible that the candidate who’s a little stronger in red states would be much more conservative, but in this case that’s not true (which is why Obama has in fact won several blue liberal states, including one in Clinton’s backyard.) For that matter, I’m also not sure why Clinton not spending resources in caucuses she doesn’t think she can win hurts her general election chances, but I always forget that everything is always good for McCain.

To follow-up on Rob’s state-by-state counts, they seem about right. My reasons for thinking that Clinton should still be favored are that 1)The demographics that make Obama a better candidate in the general make Clinton better in the primaries: her older, more female base is more certain to turn out, which makes it harder for Obama to get upsets, and 2)if the delegate count is very close, Clinton has to be favored among the superdelegates. In addition to Wisconsin, to put this beyond the reach of the superdelegates I think Obama needs to pick off one of the big three. Ohio seems like the most likely spot to pick off a state Clinton is expected to win, but a string of victories (Maine tonight would help with the narrative) could create a dynamic that puts the less demographically favorable Texas and Pennsylvania into play.

The Shuster Suspension

[ 0 ] February 9, 2008 |

I have mixed feelings on the suspension of David Shuster:

  • To state the obvious, Shuster’s comments were sexist, unless you can point me to some example of Shuster discussing Mitt Romney or John McCain “pimping out” their children because they’re active in their father’s campaign. The double standard here is pretty obvious.
  • As many people have said, though, in the context of MSNBC’s endless misogynist attacks in Clinton, it’s far from obvious why this comment in particular — objectionable but mild compared to the works of Chris Matthews passim — earned a suspension.
  • Having said that, even an arbitrary suspension suggests that there may be at least some attenuation of standards of political discourse in which major pundits and television bingo callers can say absolutely anything about the Clintons in general and make nakedly sexist attacks on Clinton specifically. With Clinton likely to win the nomination, Democrats have to be aware of this, and be prepared to fight back. This is a good sign, although whether it’s an isolated incident or will portend some return to sanity in the way Hillary Clinton is discussed on air remains to be seen.

Whiskey! Democracy! Patriarchal Torture!

[ 0 ] February 9, 2008 |

Ugh. Remember when installing an Islamist quasi-state in Iraq was defended as a boon to the interests of Iraqi women (oddly enough, usually by people otherwise hostile to women’s rights?) That still depresses and infuriates me too. [via Thers.]

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