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Rudy!Mentum

[ 9 ] January 9, 2008 |

Since I fell for the spin myself, I should note that Rudy! did not in fact skip New Hampshire; he spent more time and money there than anyone except Romney. Which makes his barely finishing ahead of Ron Paul especially embarrassing. And then there’s the Florida firewall! In fairness, at least he didn’t finish behind Lyndon LaRouche and Al Koholic, like Fred “Campaign at Bernie’s” Thompson.

Obviously, the GOP race now is a 3-man one. And having been burned once I’m going to stick with my prediction that Romney is the most likely winner; McCain’s win wasn’t terribly impressive how favorable New Hampshire is for him, and a lot of the conservative base doesn’t like him. Romney will have by far the most resources and was the only one who was competitive in both Iowa and New Hampshire. I wouldn’t be surprised by McCain, either, and it would be unwise to write Huckabee off entirely, but Romney is the single most likely.

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It’s a Tie

[ 0 ] January 9, 2008 |

Some random thoughts on today’s results and related matters.

1) In terms of delegates, this appears to be a tie (9 each for Clinton and Obama, 4 for Edwards). This will be sold as a Clinton win, of course, but if we paid more attention to what actually matters for the nomination, rather than all kinds of ad hoc theorizing about momentum and bounces, we’d be talking about 1 win and 1 tie for Obama so far. I can’t accept the notion that if he had 10,000 more votes today, he’d have a virtual lock on the nomination, and I can’t accept the notion that because he didn’t get them he’s going to lose.

1b) As I understand it, Dartmouth is the only college currently in session in NH. Given Obama’s success with young voters, I wonder what the outcome would be in a few weeks when all the students would have been back on campus.

2) On the GOP side, the big loser in the current media frames is Romney. Imagine if the story went something like this: “In the first three GOP states, we have one win for Romney, one for Huckabee, and one for McCain. While Romney’s win was the least conseqential, he’s the only candidate to perform well in all three states and he has a solid lead in delegates so far. Given these facts, Romney should be considered the frontrunner at this point.” Nothing here is wrong, and in fact it makes a whole lot of sense, but given focus on coming in first in states, and the refusal to pay any attention whatsoever to the Wyoming caucuses, we certainly won’t here it.

3) My response to tonights results lies somewhere between Rob and Scott’s; I’m mildly dissapointed. Rob’s right that this means we’ve got a fight (I certainly don’t see HRC as inevitable now, although she should probably be mildly favored. I didn’t see Obama as inevitable yesterday or HRC as inevitable in the fall, either. These things have to play out), and it’s a good thing that Iowa and NH didn’t decide this race. However, a McCain/HRC matchup in the general looks a fair bit more likely than it did 24 hours ago, and from this distant vantage point that looks like the greatest chance of a republican presidency to me. On the other hand: this vantage point is very distant, and we ought to keep that in mind. Also, per Steinem, the fact that sexism surrounding narratives about Clinton has been far worse than racism surrounding narratives about Obama tempers my dissapointment with her victory.

4) McCain as inevitable is considerably less tenable than Clinton as inevitable. I’ve been trying to think through Huckabee’s chances, coming out of a strong performance in SC. As Rob reminded me earlier, states that support Republicans in presidential elections in the past get a bunch of extra delegates. If Romney, McGain, and Gulliani all stick around (with Paul siphoning off 5-10 percent in most states), this could push him through. A long time ago, I fully absorbed the conventional wisdom that “the GOP establishment gets what they want out the Republican Primary.” It’s pretty clear they don’t want Huckabee, but I don’t know who they do want. Furthermore, while I’ve long believed that wisdom to be true, I confess I have no idea precisely what the mechanisms are that produce that outcome. So maybe I’ve been a bit too quick to dismiss him? I just don’t know. His trouble with Catholics in Iowa isn’t really a good sign for him.

4a) For the 15th consecutive month, it’s impossible for any of the GOP candidates to win this nomination. I just hope this keeps up for 8 more months.

5) Is there strong evidence that Edwards will draw significantly more votes from Obama than Clinton? I’m not sure that it is. There seems good reason to believe Edwards will draw more votes from Clinton than from Obama in South Carolina, and that could produce an Obama victory. It seems this dynamic might repeat in other southern states with sizable black minorities. It seems his presence might hurt Obama in Nevada, but if the unions back Obama, that should be minimized. I knew several strong Edwards supporters this morning; they’re all Obama supporters tonight (myself included). My hunch is that Edwards share of the vote, outside of a few states, will dwindle considerably, and for some who aren’t interested in supporting Clinton or Obama, he’ll be a convenient protest vote. I doubt he’ll tip the race one way or another.

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Knife Fight

[ 14 ] January 9, 2008 |

It seems to me that we have ourselves a knife fight. It also seems to me that this is a wonderful thing; Iowa and New Hampshire shouldn’t have the right to determine our Presidential nominees.

… and in brief response to Scott’s post, I really don’t know how to determine which candidate is more or less vulnerable in the general election. It seems to me that Clinton just turned a 13 point deficit into a 4 point victory in spite of everyone’s predictions; this obviously has to factor into general considerations of electability.

… and the other basic happiness here is that the Democrat outpolled the Republicans by a wide margin, in a state where Republicans outnumber Democrats. Given that both races are still on, this is a remarkable outcome.

… just on CNN: “Barack Obama got a tremendous bounce; now Hilary Clinton will get a big bounce”. Well, it seems to me that this isn’t, so much, you know, true. Obama’s big bounce managed to get him a 4 point defeat in New Hampshire; as such, it’s a bit troubling to claim that the bounce has much of an effect. Moreover, I think that this is ideal; it’s never been clear to me why the voters in South Carolina and the rest of the country should take the Iowa/NH results very seriously.

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Ack

[ 11 ] January 9, 2008 |

Apparently Clinton has won outright. Basically a the worst plausible outcome from my perspective; Clinton wins despite expectations of a loss, Edwards obviously can’t win the nomination but is strong enough to throw the nomination to Clinton, and the Republican candidate who would be strongest in a general election got enough independent votes to win as well as to torpedo Obama. Well, as little sense as it makes to nominate both the most conservative and most electorally vulnerable major candidate, Clinton would certainly be better than the ’04 nominee, and now that I’m overwhelmingly convinced that she’ll win she’s probably in trouble again…

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#4 with a bullet!

[ 8 ] January 9, 2008 |

The universe acknowledges today’s official release of the Pantload’s pantload.

For those who aren’t completely sick of thinking about the Doughy one, Dave Neiwert’s review is well worth the read.

The public understanding of World War II history and its precedents has suffered in recent years from the depredations of revisionist historians — the David Irvings and David Bowmans of the field who have attempted to recast the meaning of, respectively, the Holocaust and the Japanese American internment. Their reach, however, has been somewhat limited to fringe audiences.

It might be tempting to throw Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning into those same cloacal backwaters, but there is an essential difference that goes well beyond the likely much broader reach of Goldberg’s book, which was inexplicably published by a mainstream house (Doubleday). Most revisionists are actually historians with some credentials, and their theses often hinge on nuances and the interpretation of details.

Goldberg, who has no credentials beyond the right-wing nepotism that has enabled his career as a pundit, has drawn a kind of history in absurdly broad and comically wrongheaded strokes. It is not just history done badly, or mere revisionism. It’s a caricature of reality, like something from a comic-book alternative universe: Bizarro history.

It gets even better from there.

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A Break in the Action…

[ 0 ] January 9, 2008 |

A momentary pause in the NH action, which I too am watching with baited breath.

Over at Yglesias, there’s a lively discussion going on about The Wire. I came to the show late, but I would concur that it’s some damn good tv. Anyway, what’s particularly interesting about this discussion is that The Wire’s creator himself — David Simon — has chimed in. And he has got what to say:

The Wire is dissent; it argues that our systems are no longer viable for the greater good of the most, that America is no longer operating as a utilitarian and democratic experiment. If you are not comfortable with that notion, you won’t agree with some of the tonalities of the show. I would argue that people comfortable with the economic and political trends in the United States right now — and thinking that the nation and its institutions are equipped to respond meaningfully to the problems depicted with some care and accuracy on The Wire (we reported each season fresh, we did not write solely from memory) — well, perhaps they’re playing with the tuning knobs when the back of the appliance is in flames.

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Whoops!

[ 0 ] January 9, 2008 |

I probably should have reverted to my prior skepticism about how much bounce Obama would get out of new Hampshire. I still expect Obama to win narrowly, but…

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New Hampshire Open Thread

[ 14 ] January 8, 2008 |

At the time, I wasn’t as convinced by Jon Chait’s declaration of Hillary Clinton’s electoral morbidity as I would have liked to have been, largely because I wasn’t sure how high is post-Iowa bounce would be in a state where Clinton had a significant lead. But especially with the high turnout portending a blowout Obama win and a similar victory likely in S.C., I think it’s pretty close to over. On the Republican side, I agree that the pending McCain win doesn’t necessarily end the race given the opposition Huckabee and McCain face within the Republican establishment, but I admit that I’m also hard-pressed to identify the states than Romney is going to win.

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The Racism Of Ron Paul

[ 17 ] January 8, 2008 |

Color me less than shocked. Nor do I find Paul’s response very convincing.

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The Coming Non-Collapse

[ 14 ] January 8, 2008 |

Jack Balkin has an interesting post about the possibility of 2008 being a watershed election, and I agree with several of his points. Certainly, there was always an obvious contradiction between the Rove/Bush strategy to create a dominant Republican coalition and their base-mobilizing, 50%+1 government strategy, and it’s now clear that the chance of long-term national GOP dominance (which, like Rove’s reputation for being a political genius, was always overblown in any case) has vanished. And, just as certainly, Bush’s failures in office have titled the balance in favor of the Democratic coalition.

But with respect to Balkin’s implication that Bush has fundamentally “destroyed” the current GOP coalition, though, I just don’t see it. The current geographical and ideological makeup of the GOP coalition hasn’t become inherently non-viable, and outside the margins the components aren’t ripe to be permanently picked off by the Democrats. And while it’s true that the Republican primary seems to have opened up major divisions between cultural reactionaries and fiscal reactionaries, I think this is largely illusory. Essentially, it’s just the product of peculiar circumstances: the plain-vanilla Southern conservative who seemed like the frontrunner lost a Senate election with a racial slur thrown in, and the plain-vanilla Southern conservative who contested the primary seems to be using Weekend at Bernie’s as a campaign manual. Hence, the primary is being seriously fought between a recent convert to Reaganism and other candidates with little crossover appeal between the party’s factions. But I seem little reason to believe — especially if there’s Democratic administration with its likely unifying effect — that a better P.-V. S.C. couldn’t unite the party and present a strong challenge in 2012. While the Democrats may make some geographic inroads — especially in the Mountain West — I think that the current general geographic and ideological structure of the party system is likely to persist for a while.

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Bill Kristol: Man of Vision

[ 5 ] January 8, 2008 |

So as many folks are probably aware, Kristol launched his Times gig by misattributing a Michael Medved quotation to “the conservative writer Michelle Malkin” — a phrase that makes, in any event, about as much sense as “the gastronome Joey Chestnut.”

So in the spirit of kicking a deserving man while he’s down, here’s another nugget of crackerjack analysis from the Personification of Why Times Select was Actually a Brilliant Idea.

Some Democrats are licking their chops at the prospect of a Huckabee nomination. They shouldn’t be. For one thing, Michael Bloomberg would be tempted to run in the event of an Obama-Huckabee race — and he would most likely take votes primarily from Obama.

As someone once wrote, sadly, no:

NORMAN, Okla. — He arrived here for what seemed like it could be a big moment. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, eyeing a third-party presidential bid, joined Republican and Democratic elders at a forum to denounce the extreme partisanship of Washington and plot how to influence the campaign.

But even as the mayor gathered on Monday with the seasoned Washington hands on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, the surging presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama seemed to steal energy from the event and set off worry elsewhere among Mr. Bloomberg’s supporters.

Mr. Obama has stressed that he wants to move beyond gridlocked politics and usher in an era of national unity. A key organizer of the effort to draft Mr. Bloomberg for a presidential run acknowledged in an interview on Monday that that Mr. Obama’s rise could be problematic.

“Obama is trying to reach out to independent voters, and that clearly would be the constituency that Mike Bloomberg would go after,” said Andrew MacRae, who heads the Washington chapter of Draft Mike Bloomberg for President 2008. “An Obama victory does not make it impossible, but it certainly makes it more difficult.”

Shouldn’t Kristol be spending his time advocating for an American invasion somewhere? If he’s just going to make shit up, shouldn’t he be aiming a little higher than this?

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On Killing the NPT

[ 0 ] January 8, 2008 |

So, Michael Dobbs at the Washington Post, in his capacity as debate fact-checker, made the argument that Barack Obama’s claim that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty “fell apart” during the Bush administration is a stretch:

There have certainly been a lot of reverses over the last seven years, particularly on North Korea, but things weren’t great under Clinton. It was under Clinton, after all, that India and Pakistan both tested nuclear weapons, which put a huge hole in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association sent an e-mail to Dobbs noting that neither Pakistan nor India were parties to the NPT, and that, moreover, the Bush administration has enjoyed significant reverses in several other regions on the non-proliferation issue. Dobbs reply was largely unresponsive (claiming that Pakistani nukes are a threat to the US is really sidestepping the issue), but did make the following argument:

Nevertheless, the twin nuclear tests by India and then Pakistan in 1998 came as a huge shock to the Clinton administration, and did much to undermine the international non-proliferation norms established by the treaty. Once those two countries went nuclear, other countries lost the incentive to abide by the treaty.

This may seem fairly arcane, but there’s really a lot going on here. Much of the problem revolves around the question of what, specifically, a treaty like the NPT is supposed to do. The “surprise” part of Dobbs argument above is simply a non-sequiter; whether anyone was surprised by the tests (and we certainly weren’t terribly surprised by the Pakistani test) is utterly irrelevant to whether the NPT was effective or not. The incentive bit is also wrong; neither Pakistan nor India were signatories to the NPT, so if incentives were changed it was by the international reaction to the tests, rather than the tests themselves. In this there was a clear, largely, and blindingly obvious distinction between the Clinton and Bush administrations; Clinton treated both states harshly, and Bush has essentially rewarded both (especially India). The Clinton reaction reinforces the NPT incentive structure, while the Bush reaction undermines it. Another way of putting this is that while the violation of a norm does tend to undermine that norm, the reaction to the violation is often just as important, and the reaction of Bush and Clinton was quite different. As such, Dobbs essentially has no case.

And then there’s all the other stuff that the Bush administration has done to undermine the NPT, including the inadvertent facilitation of North Korea’s nuclear program, the neglect of the CTBT (a treaty that established norms complimentary to that of the NPT), the drive for RRW (reliable replacement warhead), the various loose talk of developing new bunker buster nukes, and finally the establishment of a new non-proliferation norm that runs something like this: States that the US likes get to have nukes, and states that the US doesn’t like get bombed.

All in all, I’d say that the Bush administration has done a pretty effective job of killing the NPT. Moreover, given the contempt that the administration has had for any kind of international agreement that places any restrictions on US behavior, this is hardly surprising; I think they’re actually rather proud of their effort.

Jeffrey Lewis has more.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

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