Friday, February 29, 2008

Calling Stevie T
If you are a longtime reader of this blog, you know that a common topic here relates to childhood development - even though I gots no children. I don't know how it got to be that way (a common topic that is, not my lack of children - that, I understand). Maybe it's fascinating because it's so darned perplexing, and because we do all have that in common: we once were children. Maybe it's because we all know that it's the one thing we really can't afford to screw up badly, I dunno. Anywho, a story on NPR's Morning Edition yesterday highlighted one (new?) philosophy toward what kids need and aren't getting so much these days: focusing on something curiously called "executive function."

Of course, everyone, chime in with your reaction. But I'm hoping our resident expert Stevie T will give us the scoop. Specifically, are these ideas new, this "Tools of the Mind" curriculum? Do they conflict with current standard ways of thinking? How does it comport with approaches like the Montessori school (not that I really know what that is)? What's up with this "executive function" lingo? Is that standard and old? Or a new buzz-phrase? I'm not giving any specifics here I know. You actually have to click through and listen to the story, or read it, but you can do it.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Only 326 Days
Until Bush's last. It can't get here soon enough.
The House on Wednesday approved a bill to extend more than $17 billion in tax credits and other incentives to encourage the production of energy from solar, wind and other renewable sources, and to promote energy conservation. The bill would be financed by ending tax incentives for oil and natural gas producers.

Democratic leaders in the House hailed the legislation as a step toward energy independence and a moral victory for protecting the environment, by encouraging production of clean alternative fuels. But the White House threatened to veto the bill, saying it would be a mistake to increase the tax burden on American oil companies.
Wouldn't want to do anything to burden the oil companies...
Does Prozac Work?
Maybe not.
When all the data was pulled together, it appeared that patients had improved - but those on placebo improved just as much as those on the drugs.
"Given these results, there seems little reason to prescribe antidepressant medication to any but the most severely depressed patients, unless alternative treatments have failed," says Kirsch. "This study raises serious issues that need to be addressed surrounding drug licensing and how drug trial data is reported."

Monday, February 25, 2008

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Oscar response
What did you think? I was most glad that the song from Once won, and Daniel Day-Lewis, though really he couldn't have lost.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

No longer believes in a "place called Hope." Sure does seem like a strange campaign strategy - uniting America around a shared sense of pessimism. Frank Rich has more on that subject, and says it much better than I could.
Sunday Deep Thought
Whichever Democratic candidate wins the nomination had better win the general. If not, the supporters of the spurned will be pretty well insufferable.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Debate Watching
Who saw it? What did you think? I missed it myself. From the sounds of it, they both did well, and Hillary impressed all with a moving closing statement. I find it a bit humorous - if not, dare I say, ironic - that the Clinton campaign is now pinning its hopes on this one rhetorical debate moment turning around all the momentum in the race, when their major complaint about Obama is that he's all rhetoric and no substance. Even if those 10 seconds somehow changed the dynamics of the race in her favor, it will not be because of some substantive policy position or credential, or any of the things she is arguing should be the reason for choosing her.

But like I say, I missed it. Somebody who saw it, speak up.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

McCain Scandal [UPDATED]
The NYTimes is reporting tonight - and MSNBC interrupted into its regular programming to announce it as breaking news - that John McCain had a friendly relationship with a female lobbyist that was troubling enough to his staff that they confronted both the Senator and the lobbyist in an attempt to to "save him from himself," during the 2000 presidential campaign. Most of the story frankly is not about the relationship, it's about the ongoing allegations that his relationship with lobbyists generally - from the Keating 5 on - belies his image as a staunchly ethical reformer.
Mr. McCain’s confidence in his ability to distinguish personal friendships from compromising connections was at the center of questions advisers raised about Ms. Iseman.

The lobbyist, a partner at the firm Alcalde & Fay, represented telecommunications companies for whom Mr. McCain’s commerce committee was pivotal. Her clients contributed tens of thousands of dollars to his campaigns.
He introduced a bill to create tax incentives for minority ownership of stations; Ms. Iseman represented several businesses seeking such a program. And he twice tried to advance legislation that would permit a company to control television stations in overlapping markets, an important issue for Paxson.

In late 1999, Ms. Iseman asked Mr. McCain’s staff to send a letter to the commission to help Paxson, now Ion Media Networks, on another matter. Mr. Paxson was impatient for F.C.C. approval of a television deal, and Ms. Iseman acknowledged in an e-mail message to The Times that she had sent to Mr. McCain’s staff information for drafting a letter urging a swift decision.

Mr. McCain complied. He sent two letters to the commission, drawing a rare rebuke for interference from its chairman. In an embarrassing turn for the campaign, news reports invoked the Keating scandal, once again raising questions about intervening for a patron.

Mr. McCain’s aides released all of his letters to the F.C.C. to dispel accusations of favoritism, and aides said the campaign had properly accounted for four trips on the Paxson plane. But the campaign did not report the flight with Ms. Iseman. Mr. McCain’s advisers say he was not required to disclose the flight, but ethics lawyers dispute that.
As a sex scandal, this is a bunch of crap. The scandal here is that Senator McCain is as vulnerable as the rest of them when it comes to lobbyist influence, and always has been.

[UPDATE: McCain just conducted a press conference to answer questions. In the pantheon of great sex-scandal-driven press conferences this one had to be the most boring ever]
Random Links
Not too much time to post lately. Here are some things I've been reading and thinking about though. Pick one and tell me what you think.

Law professor and author Larry Lessig is considering a run for Congress to fill the seat left vacant by recently deceased Tom Lantos. As I said to a friend about this, what if congressional races were filled with brilliant honorable forward-thinking people? I hope he runs and wins one for the nerd set. A nice 10-minute video at the website introduces the idea behind his candidacy.
Don't look now but our year-to-year inflation rate is as high as it's been in decades.
Obama gained somewhere around 20 delegates last night with big wins in WI and HI
Bush's Presidential approval rating has plunged to 19%. How low can it go?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Pakistani Progress?
Military rule has been voted down, and Musharraf sounds willing to concede defeat, and for his party to become the opposition.
A key factor in the relatively smooth election was the decision of the new chief of the army, Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, to ensure that the military stayed out of the campaign and did not interfere on election day, analysts said.

General Kayani, in turn, appeared to be a promising partner for the United States, according to the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph P. Biden, Jr., who also met with Mr. Musharraf on Tuesday.

Mr. Biden, who has criticized what he called the “Musharraf-centric” policy of the Bush administration, said that the new head of the army was a “rational man who understands the obligations and limitations of the military.”
One of the implicit arguments of the Bush administration has been that - his love of freedom fries not withstanding - military rule in Pakistan might not be such a bad thing because we need tight reins in such proximity to nuclear weapons. Hopefully a new coalition government there will bring more stability and not less. With things like that and news that Castro has resigned, it makes you wonder what the world will look like in 10 years or so. And which Bush will be President then?

For some insight and good questions, read Steve Clemons today.

Monday, February 18, 2008

what have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Weekend Box Office
1. Jumper
2. Step Up 2 (God help us..)
3. The Spiderwick Chronicles
4. Fool's Gold
5. Definitely, Maybe

Article 19 Film Recommendation
I finally saw the film Winged Migration (2001) last week, a kind of documentary (nominated for an Oscar) showing the yearly travels of birds around the world. This will sound strange, but the footage of flying is astonishing. I know you think you know what it looks like - that you've seen birds fly before, but not like this, trust me. Here's the thing: as amazing as the pictures are, what you really have to see is the "making of" documentary in the DVD special features. As soon as I finished with the actual film, I was thinking "How the hell did they do that?" So, I flipped through to the extras and watched the background story. The answer was much more amazing than any I imagined.... one of the damnedest things I have ever seen, actually. It may have been more interesting than the film itself.

Any new podcasts worth listening to?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Article 19 Exclusive! The Most Complete Delegate Projection on the Internets [UPDATED Thurs. 2/26.--2 pm]
Barack Obama--1,868.5
Hillary Clinton--1,804
(John Edwards--26)
[Updated most recently to reflect: the latest superdelegate count, and the latest polls in RI, TX and OH. Obama's gains in polls in OH and especially TX makes the math virtually impossible for Hillary if they hold up on Mar. 4, even in this assume-things-goes-her-way scenario. All the trends - polls and superdelegate endorsements are trending Obama.]

So here you have it - the absolute best, most complete, most up to date, most rational delegate projections on all the Intertubes. If you're not into pointless number-crunching and obsessive displays of statistical fantasy, this is the part of the post where you may want to step away.

My starting point is this handy chart at demconwatch. There they have compiled current delegate counts by major news organizations. Some of those organizations are behind in projecting some states, and ahead in others, and some are just plain behind in keeping up with facts. For example, Tennessee has already made our delegate allotment basically official - we had our county conventions last week with firm delegate numbers in place - 40 for Clinton and 28 for Obama. As you can see though, on their list, only CNN has kept pace with that development. But CNN is behind in other states like Maryland, where The Green Papers has projected all delegates. So I'm adding each state with an eye toward whichever news org. has projected the most delegates - hoping that their projections might be based on something actually real.

CBS has alloted the most pledged delegates overall, 2,188 (Obama 1175, Clinton 1013) for an Obama lead of 162). When I add to that the states for which other organizations have projected more delegates (CO, DC, IL, MD, TN, WA, HI, WI, DA) - hopefully properly - that adds 28 for Hillary and 18.5 for Obama, giving Obama a lead of 152.5 pledged delegates to date, 1193.5-1041. (In CA and WA, where 2 different orgs. project all the delegates, but differently. I chose the total more beneficial to Hillary.) There are still l1.5 delegates not yet projected by any news organization: 9, for some reason, in CO, and 2.5 still to be allocated by Democrats Abroad.

Summary: Current pledged delegate count
Obama 1193.5
Clinton 1041
Obama +152.5

Looking Ahead: Poll-Based Speculation
Polls have been published for these upcoming states: VT, RI, TX, OH, NC, and PA. For the sake of argument and pointless speculation, let's assume the delegates shake out according to the average of the 3 most recent polls in each (if there are that many) with the leftover undecided number breaking to Hillary 2:1 to make things interesting. The results looks like this [percentage (delegates)]:
VT (15): Obama - 62.0 - 38.0 (9-6) O +3
RI (21): Clinton - 58.8 - 41.2 (12-9) C +3
OH (141): Clinton - 55.0 - 45.0 (78-63) C +15
TX (193): Clinton - 50.7 - 49.3 (98-95) C +3
PA (158): Clinton - 56.1 - 43.9 (89-69) C +20
NC (115): Obama - 52.3 - 47.7 (60-55) O +5

Those poll averages, plus sending the undecideds Hillary's way 2:1, would give her a net delegate gain in those 6 states of 33 (338-305), cutting Obama's overall 152.5 pledged delegate lead to 119.5, 1498.5 - 1379.

Summary: Delegate Projections for Upcoming States Based on Poll Averages, Assuming Undecideds Break for Clinton 2:1

Obama 305
Clinton 338
Clinton +33

Summary: Current Pledged Delegate Count PLUS Projected Pledged Delegate Count in Upcoming Polled States
Obama 1498.5
Clinton 1379
Obama +119.5

That still leaves 349.5 pledged delegates yet to be assigned - the 11.5 in the section above from CO, plus 338 from those others yet to vote for which there are no polls: Wyoming (12), Mississippi (33), Guam (4), Indiana (72), West Virginia (28), Kentucky (51), Oregon (52), Montana (16), South Dakota (15) and Puerto Rico (55).

What's Left? Can Hillary Win the Pledged Delegates?
If Obama keeps her that far away (119.5) after the 6 states above, as the polls suggest she could, overtaking Obama in pledged delegates would require a Clinton win of the remaining 349.5 delegates by a count of 235-114.5, a margin of 67.2%-32.8%. That would put her ahead in pledged delegates 1614-1613, with only the Edwards 26 delegates left out there to account for the total 3,253 pledged delegates in the whole process (absent FL and MI). The problem for her there is that 128 of those remaining are in states (WY, MS, OR, MT, SD) that would seem to favor Obama, given the way others have gone. If she even managed to tie him in those, she would have to win the rest 171-50.5, a margin of 77.2%-22.8% to accomplish that gain and take a pledged delegate lead heading into the Convention. Impossible.

She will have to significantly outperform current polls in TX and OH to have a chance at the pledged delegate lead.

That's why she faces such a tall order in the pledged delegate count, and why her strategy to ignore smaller states has been such a disaster. Even giving her the benefit in the close calls, and if she wins OH by only 10 and TX by only 5, it won't matter if she crushes PA 60-40 and splits delegates in those later states that seem to favor Obama. She still has to dominate what's left.

Back to the Present: Add in the Superdelegates
Back to our status now - with Obama leading by 152.5. DemConWatch has the most open count of the superdelegates anywhere. They give Hillary a superdelegate lead of 54, 239-185. If we add those in, that cuts Obama's current lead to 98.5. As things stand now, combining pledged delegates and superdelegates who have endorsed, Obama leads by that margin, 1377.5-1278

Summary: Current Pledged Delegates + Current Superdelegate Endorsements
Obama 1377.5
Clinton 1278
Obama +98.5

Superdelegates have been trending slightly Obama lately. By the time of the Convention, there will be 795 total. If the 379 left to endorse split evenly - no reason to think they won't - 186-185, for Hillary let's say - the superdelegate total would be 425-370, Clinton +55.

Superdelegate Projection Summary
Obama 370
Clinton 425
Clinton +55

Add it all together
Add that superdelegate projection to the current pledged delegates count (1193.5-1041, O) and the poll-driven projection of 6 upcoming states above (338-305, C), that would have Obama in the lead 1,868.5-1,804 in the official Article 19 Delegate Projection. Separated by 64.5 delegates. First one to 2,025 wins.

That leaves us essentially tied with the 349.5 other pledged delegates yet to be determined, as described above. Plus John Edwards' 26. But it requires an awful lot of things to go Hillary's way to get her just to tied. She has to hope that a huge win in March goes hand-in-hand with a surge in superdelegates to create momentum allowing her to dominate the late states and get close, then make the case that the primary participants across the country have narrowly made the wrong decision for the party. He has to not screw up, and hold on to his superdelegates.

If Hillary doesn't gain at least 40-50 delegates in OH and TX combined, her hope of gaining the pledged delegate lead before the convention is virtually nonexistent, barring a major change in the dynamics of the race.

A couple of notes:
1. Assuming Obama maintains a pledged delegate lead heading into the convention, there will be plenty of pressure on superdelegates to not overturn that decision. I don't know that Hillary could count on an even split of the remaining superdelegates in such a case.

2. There's something funny about Puerto Rico, which has 55 pledged delegates, the last to be determined, in June. In the Wikipedia article I read for help with the numbers, there is this note:
Puerto Rico issue

Journalists at several news outlets have indicated that in the tradition of the island's party politics, Puerto Rico's 63 delegates will all be awarded to a single candidate and not necessarily follow the majority of the popular vote. This would give Puerto Rico Democratic Party leaders the greatest single influence in the 2008 primary, with a 43% greater disparity than the California primary produced. In contrast, the party's Delegate Selection Plan states that delegates are to be allocated in a manner similar to other state caucuses.
I don't know what that means exactly. If it means the PR caucus can be counted on to result in a unanimous, or near unanimous selection, it would end up being one of the largest prizes of all, which may be why Hillary has opened a campaign office there, despite its late date.
Democrats in Congress
Showing some backbone. We might as well take notice and applaud to reward good behavior. The White House's anger here is illogical to the point of stupidity. Bush is basically saying Democrats are failing to protect Americans - actually endangering lives - by letting recent changes to the FISA law expire, but he can't possibly give in on telecom immunity, which would restore those changes. He's essentially saying that protecting telecom companies is more important than protecting the lives of supposedly endangered Americans. Good for the House for calling his bluff.

The sad part is, usually that would have worked for him.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

John Lewis
Switches to Obama.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bio-fuel Won't Help
The Washington Post yesterday reported on a study looking into the ramifications of using ethanol and other bio-fuels as a tool in the fight against GHG-induced global warming. Their finding? By the time you clear off all the land necessary grow the crops , you might as well just burn gasoline.
One study -- written by a group of researchers from Princeton University, Woods Hole Research Center and Iowa State University along with an agriculture consultant -- concluded that over 30 years, use of traditional corn-based ethanol would produce twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as regular gasoline. Another analysis, written by a Nature Conservancy scientist along with University of Minnesota researchers, found that converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas or grasslands in Southeast Asia and Latin America to produce biofuels will increase global warming pollution for decades, if not centuries.

Tim Searchinger, who conducts research at Princeton and the D.C-based German Marshall Fund of the United States, said the research he and his colleagues did is the first to reveal the hidden environmental cost of producing biofuels.

"The land we're likely to plow up is the land that we've had taking up carbon for decades," said Searchinger, the lead author. Estimating that it would take 167 years before biofuel would stop contributing to climate change, he added, "We can't get to a result, no matter how heroically we make assumptions on behalf of corn ethanol, where it will actually generate greenhouse-gas benefits."
The climate change problem needs a bold set of solutions. Ethanol has always been presented as a kind of half measure. Now we know it's worse than that. Like Kevin Drum says, now that the Iowa caucus is long gone, maybe we can get away from pandering to the corn crowd with policies that won't work.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Election talk is getting tired, I know. So much more out there and all. Still, as a junkie it's hard not to focus on such a fascinating and close race. Today, I'm wondering this: after Super Tuesday, Clinton folks were saying that they knew Obama had an advantage in February and would win delegates, and that she would have the advantage after that with bigger states worth more. Hard to argue with that analysis, looking at the states in question. But now that he's winning those February states as predicted, they're freaking out. What gives?

As Giuliani found out, the bad vibes of a string of losses over several weeks can be pretty damaging, even if numerically that was your plan. More problematic in this case, however, may be that math. Hillary's path to victory may work to perfection. Clearly, though, she'd like to enter the superdelegate hunt with a lead in pledged delegates. Obama is ahead in that category by some 75-80 right now, depending on the count. If he wins big again today, and gains in Wisconsin next week, his lead could be 125 or 130, even more heading into March. There are big states left, but after February, only 1,195 delegates are still up for grabs. If he's ahead by 130 going in, she has to win the remaining delegates 55-45. If he were to be up by as much as 150 - which seems feasible to me unlikely but possible judging from polls and the last weekend - she would have to win 56-44 the rest of the way. And if you consider that some of those remaining states - MS, MT, SD, WY - should be good ones for Obama, that squeezes the window further.

So far, she has only won 5 states with a 12-point margin or greater: AR, TN, OK, NY, MA. But she may have to do that in PA, TX, OH and NC just to keep going. The margin today - and the outcome in WI coming up - will be a big factor in considering where we are. But I don't think the Clinton plan included losing those recent states as soundly as she has. More of the same today will start to make the math look a bit tough. Of course, the superdelegates can come along and save her. But I'm sure she doesn't want to win that way.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

On Superdelegates
I have to admit my thinking on superdelegates is evolving the more I consider it. I have lots of sympathy with Chris Bowers' point of view (which Donna Brazile has also voiced) - that if Democratic superdelegates vote in a nominee that is not the one leading in pledged delegates based on the voters' selection in the primaries, it would be a huge travesty, worth leaving the party over. I wouldn't do that, of course. But I understand the sentiment. I also see the benefit of Tad Devine's similar position in today's NYTimes, that all superdelegates should "back off" and not announce a position until the convention, and then only to move in to affirm the choice of voters.

I think there's a strong one-person, one-vote principle at stake that the Democratic Party should stand for. But there's also a long-term political calculation that should come into play. If pledged delegates favor one candidate, but superdelegates choose the other, the party risks alienating either African-American (and young) voters, on the one hand, or women voters on the other, for a generation. We can't afford the perception that the shenanigans of insiders thwarted the will of the party to make whichever historic choice they do.

On the other hand, my indignation instinct is a little tired here, isn't it? I mean who are we kidding? There are problems with all of these complaints. For starters, is anyone paying attention to the strangeness of the delegate allocation process? In a congressional district with an even number of delegates, it's difficult for either candidate to get enough of a majority to gain a delegate advantage. In districts with an odd number, only one vote more translates to a delegate lead. In Nevada, Obama earned more delegates even though Hillary had more supporters. In Alabama, Obama won 56%-42%, but because of the way the districts panned out, he gained only 27-25 in delegates.

So, what is a superdelegate committed to democracy supposed to do? If you prefer Clinton and you're a Nevadan, and the pledged delegates after this convoluted system favor Obama slightly, which choice honors the voters? If your state went for Hillary, but your congressional district went for Obama, which allegiance is more honorable? If the delegate count favors Hillary, but you believe she can't win, or that her name on the ballot will hurt other Democratic candidates in your state, which choice better fulfills your duty to the Party? And after all, these aren't governmental elections, really, they're Party operations.

As for waiting until the Convention, that's not simple either. Why not make clear your preference when your state votes so everybody knows where we stand? What will make it appear that superdelegates swoop in and take control more than if they all announce their preference right at the end en masse?

I don't know. Maybe it's not so bad for elected officials - who stick their necks out with the party name - to have a little extra say in who their figurehead is vying for the White House. Maybe it's a decent test of a candidate's ability to work with and persuade exactly the kind of leaders they will need to to be successful. Kenny B will notice that this is the exact opposite position from what I was taking over the weekend, but like I say I'm thinking about it. If there was one simple way to "honor the voters" and if the system itself "honored the voters" more clearly, then I would think all of these hysterics might be more warranted. But it is a bit complicated, at the very least.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Saturday Deep Thought
Supporting Obama over Hillary doesn't make you a sexist, any more than supporting Hillary over Obama makes you a racist.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Friday Fun
Maybe only Deb and I would enjoy the "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks, but that still makes it worth a link.
Late-Night Multiple Choice
Now that Republicans have decided on McCain as their candidate, the rest of the primary season...

A) Independent voters in states yet to be decided will no longer have to choose between McCain and Obama, and will vote for Barack.

B) Mischievous Republicans will cross over and vote for Hillary, thinking her general election chances are the slimmest, with the best chance to unite their own Party against a hated foe.

C) Mischievous Republicans will cross over and vote for Obama, because they can't pass up the chance to vote against their nemesis Hillary in hopes of ending her national political career.

Mark all that apply.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Just a Thought
I may be a little biased here in TN. But I have an idea for the Obama campaign. His supporters have done an extraordinary thing in response to the news that Hillary loaned $5 million of her own money to her campaign. After a request from the campaign, asking them to match Hillary's money in 24 hours or so, they did that and then some.

My suggestion - to demonstrate real desire to follow Obama's lead and serve the needs of the country - is for the campaign to shut off the online contribution mechanism for a day, and ask supporters to donate to tornado relief and rescue efforts instead, maybe promote the American Red Cross' efforts. Perhaps even challenge Clinton, McCain and Huckabee's campaign to join in. This shows leadership, a spirit of volunteerism and American unity over something besides politics, and acknowledges that we know we can't depend on the current Administration to address this kind of calamity effectively. It also would build on Obama's reasonable claim that government alone can't solve these kinds of problems.

Money is rushing into campaign coffers the last day and a half, and that's as it should be. Democrats are excited about this election and I'm one of the first to argue that a political donation is an important way to help serve your country with your money, if you believe that institutional change is the best and most needed way to better the lives of Americans. But that alone isn't enough. It strikes me that re-directing that energy for a day or so is good politics too, as well as maybe even helping some people that - trust me from seeing the reports here - could really use it. Without actually shutting down the online fundraising effort though, just asking doesn't really amount to much of a statement.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Momentum and Coast Bias
The closer I look at the numbers, the better yesterday looks for Obama. You'll remember, I was expecting a 70-delegate loss, not because of team Obama's expectations spin, but because of the real average of the recent poll numbers in each state. For weeks, keeping Hillary's gain to less than 100 seemed like a worthy goal. Now, not only did he not lose 70 delegates yesterday, it is looking like he actually expanded his slim delegate lead. Obama won more states, and won more delegates yesterday than Hillary did. The margin was slim, indeed. But a win is a win. After 5 big days of Democratic voting, Obama has won the delegate battle now in all but one - New Hampshire - and that one was something of a shock.

I do understand Kevin Drum's feeling of let-down:
[A]lthough Obama obviously made up a huge amount of ground over the past two weeks, what it felt like to me was disappointment. He seemed to be coming on so strong that it seemed inevitable he'd win one or two of the big Hillary states — or at least make them into close races — but he didn't. In the end, Hillary won California, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts by double digit margins. It really seemed to take a lot of wind out of the Obama surge.
Still, I think he's off the mark, because we did indeed see that wave of momentum yesterday - and it put Obama over the top into a surprising delegate victory for the de facto national primary. It's just that the wave didn't crash the coasts like we had anticipated. Hillary's the one that matched or beat expectations in NY, NJ, MA and CA.

But look at what happened virtually everywhere else. While the bright lights of the media focused on her solid win in 93-delegate Mass., Obama pounded her 2-1 in 72-delegate Minnesota. Yeah, she opened up a 10-percentage point lead in 107-delegate NJ, but he turned an expected win into a 30-pt. rout in 87-delegate GA, and an anticipated nailbiter (according to the polls) into a double-digit victory in 52-delegate AL. The size of his homestate win in IL neutralized hers in NY. And while she was winning big in Ark and Ok, the size of his victories in UT, ND, ID, CO, AK and KS were even more astonishing. I know, I know, many of those are caucuses and, somehow, Obama's supposed to have a bizarre advantage in the caucuses (??). My feeling is - no matter what the voting method is, when you beat someone 80-20 like he did in Idaho, you've got a wave of overwhelming support. And the 12 delegates he gained in that 18-delegate state count every bit as much as, indeed 20% more than, the 10 he lost in 68-delegate Tennessee.

The truth is the Clinton campaign thought they could play to the coasts, sell out give up on black voters, split the rest, and wind up with a 100-delegate win and momentum. Frankly, the coasts did their part, but a wave surged in much of the rest of the country. So, yeah part of the story is Obama's momentum stopping short in those few big states. But an equal story - if not bigger - is the absolute thumping he gave her in DE, GA, IL, AL, UT, ND, ID, KS, AK, CO to widen his earned-delegate lead, if only slightly.

If he had won MA, NJ, and CA but only 5 or 6 others and wound up with the same slim delegate gain of 9 or so overall, wouldn't the media be crowing about his momentum surge and huge unexpected victory? They think those bookend coastal states are the only real ones. I cry big-state bias!!
Delegate Counts
Are slow in coming, which I don't really understand. And many of the counts being thrown around include the superdelegates, which I don't think is right. DemConWatch is a good site for all things delegate-related. They have Clinton gaining 20 so far in Tueday's voting, 670-650, with 361 still to be alotted. I'm thinking that will put the total pretty close to my projection earlier of of 70 to 80 delegate gain for her, which will inch her ahead in the earned delegate count. (Obama went in to yesterday ahead by 15).

2 other thoughts:
What the hell is wrong with MSNBC, which claimed victory for Hillary in Missouri, allowing her to claim that in her speech, when Obama in fact went on to win. Have we learned nothing from FL, 2000? I guess not.

I'm surprised he couldn't come any closer in MA and CA, but equally surprised he beat her handily in places like Idaho, Kansas, North Dakota, Alabama, and especially GA which turned into a blowout. Those wins almost overcame the losses in the big states. A little close there and he could really claim victory for the day. As it is, about tied, with her inching forward.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

List of Poll Closing Times
Hillary Surging in Last Day?
I hope not, but it's looking like it. That 100 delegate threshold is looking pretty tough right now, but is how I'll gauge Obama's success. The closer it is to even, the better it is for Obama. If Hillary's advantage heads upward of 100, it could be a tough night. If I have time I'll put together an Obama-centric Super Tuesday Watching Guide later.
Super Tuesday Delegate Projection
Ok, it's Tuesday now, and here are my delegate projections. (I don't teach on Tuesdays, so I have some extra time on my hands tonight.) The newest polls suggest this: Hillary has stemmed the Obama rush in the last 24-48 hrs and turned things back her way. If you average the last 3 polls for each of tomorrow's states and assign those percentages to delegates - using the latest 3 national polls for states that don't have 3 recent polls - below is what you come up with. In parenthesis, I assigned the leftover/undecided vote proportionally based on the same percentages to arrive at a total.

Hillary wins 10 states. Obama wins 6. 3 are tied, another 3 essentially tied. I'm giving Obama a win in American Samoa for no reason other than the current natl poll avgs which give him a slight lead. Following this crazy formula, which is my official prediction, in terms of delegates, Clinton wins 768. Obama wins 704, with 211 undecided. If you split each state's undecided delegates proportionally, that's a total of 877-804, a gain of 73 delegates for Super Tuesday Hillary. Obama was leading 68-43 coming in. So, totals would be 945-872 Clinton, before the superdelegates. I think that would add up to a decent-to-good night for Obama, to be within 100 earned delegates when the night is done.

It's worth remembering that only the Nevada polls so far have been close to the outcome. Iowa and SC polls underestimated Obama by a sizable margin. NH polls underestimated Clinton. Still, here's what the polls basically predict about tomorrow, on average.

Alabama - Clinton 23, Obama 23, Undecided 6 (26-26)
Alaska - Clinton 6, Obama 6, Undecided 1 (6-7)
American Samoa - Clinton 1, Obama 1, Undecided 1 (1-2)
Arizona - Clinton - 24, Obama 21, Undecided 11 (30-26)
Arkansas - Clinton - 17, Obama 9, Undecided 9 (23-12)
California - Clinton - 178, Obama 154, Undecided 38 (199-171)
Colorado - Clinton - 22, Obama 23, Undecided 10 (27-28)
Connecticut - Clinton 22, Obama 21, Undecided 5 (25-23)
Delaware - Clinton 6, Obama 6, Undecided 3 (7-8)
Georgia - Clinton 29, Obama 43, Undecided 15 (35-52)
Idaho - Clinton 8, Obama 8, Undecided 2 (9-9)
Illinois - Clinton 48, Obama 88, Undecided 17 (54-99)
Kansas - Clinton 14, Obama 15, Undecided 3 (15-17)
Massachusetts - Clinton 49, Obama 37, Undecided 7 (53-40)
Minnesota - Clinton 30, Obama 30, Undecided 12 (36-36)
Missouri - Clinton 35, Obama 30, Undecided 7 (39-33)
New Jersey - Clinton 52, Obama 45, Undecided 10 (58-49)
New Mexico - Clinton 11, Obama 12, Undecided 3 (12-14)
New York - Clinton 124, Obama 84, Undecided 24 (138-94)
North Dakota - Clinton 6, Obama 6, Undecided 1 (6-7)
Oklahoma - Clinton 18, Obama 8, Undecided 12 (26-12)
Tennessee - Clinton 36, Obama 24, Undecided 8 (41-27)
Utah - Clinton 9, Obama 9, Undecided 5 (11-12)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Plenty of time to obsess over Super Tuesday tomorrow. Be sure and come around often tomorrow for updates of polls, plans, concerns, numbers, goals, etc., from a pro-Obama perspective. I'll be in pure nervous, neurotic, election nerd mode. In the meantime, let's have some talk about the arts. There is, as they say, more that unites us than divides us, right? Like the need for great movies, books, music, etc. What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Keeping it Fresh (Sort Of)
To combat the dearth of new TV material thanks to the writers' strike, major networks are importing popular shows from their cable sister channels. NBC will start airing USA's Monk, and more interestingly, CBS will run the entire first season of "Dexter," whose central character you may recall is a somewhat lovable serial killer with an honor code to take the place of a general lack of conscience. They also may run "Weeds" about a suburban mom who makes ends meet by selling pot.

My prediction? One of two things will happen. Either network TV audiences will discover how much more interesting cable shows are, and realize what crap they're routinely fed, or the shows will be ruined by the editing that will be necessary to fit both the time slots and the mores of commercial television.

Weekend Box Office
1. Hannah Montana (jeez, there's a movie?)
2. The Eye
3. 27 Dresses
4. Juno
5. Meet the Spartans

I have a question. I notice plenty of movie parodies coming around the last few years, including this Meet the Spartans. I haven't seen any of them, but they look dumb as hell. Am I missing something worthwhile?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Polls Are Here and There
Gallup shows Obama closing to 2 in national polling, Rasmussen has Hillary surging to 11 up. Zogby has Obama up 4 in California and close in Missouri, McClatchy has Obama close in AZ but down 9 in California. Hard to know what will happen. They are all over the place. All the early voting that has already happened in Tuesday's states will benefit Hillary. I think Obama has to do this: win big enough in GA and IL to offset delegate gains by Clinton in CA, NY and NJ. Then, find a way to win a couple of other states -- maybe from CO, AL, AZ, MO -- to cut into gains she makes in TN, MA, OK, and keep everything else close enough so the delegate gain is minimal for Hillary. If she gains less than 100 on him Tuesday, it would be a dramatic victory for him.