Monday, December 01, 2008

The Grand Coalition

TC is slowly being persuaded that the grand coalition of the Liberals, NDP and Bloc may indeed come to pass.

Seeking to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the arrangement, Harper declared on Friday that the effort was a "backroom deal to overturn the results of the last election". But it is equally valid to see the votes cast for the opposition parties as votes for this accord.

If one adds together just the votes of the NDP and the Liberals from the last election one gets the following outcome:

Coalition: 153
Conservative: 112
BQ: 41
Other: 2

Add in the Greens who have voiced support, and this becomes:

Coalition: 176
Conservative: 89
BQ: 41
Other: 2

Go all the way and throw in the Bloc, and it becomes:

Coalition: 225
Conservative: 82
Other: 1

Seems legitimate enough.

However, the whole enterprise is fraught with peril, not the least being the danger that the Coalition will be blamed for the worst effects of the coming downturn.  Still, it was worth it just to see the look on Stephen Harper's face today in QP.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Obama Wins

One of my favourite moments watching ABC's Monday Night Football back in the seventies would come when Dandy Don Meredith decided the losing team had no chance of winning and he would burst into a chorus of Willie Nelson's "The Party's Over".

Well, it is Willie Nelson time in the U.S. election for John McCain. Chris Bowers, who I regard as cautious about these things, made the case in the blog Open Left today:

Here is why this is over:
  1. In order to win the election, all Barack Obama needs are the Kerry states, plus Colorado, Iowa and New Mexico. That adds up to 273 electoral votes.
  2. Obama leads by at least 9.5% in every Kerry state and Iowa, according to both and Real Clear Politics. Also, my own numbers concur with those calculations.
  3. This means that in order to win the election, all Obama has to do is hold onto states where he leads by 9.5% or more, and win both Colorado and New Mexico. These are both states where more than half of all voters will cast their ballots before Election Day (source). In other words, the elections in Colorado and New Mexico are already almost over, not just beginning. And these are the only two states he needs to win, other than the ones where he leads by double-digits.
  4. In Colorado, about 60% of the vote is already in. According to the crosstabs of the three most recent polls in the state, Obama leads early voters by 15% (Rasmussen), 18% (Marist) and 17% (PPP). Even in the best case scenario for McCain, where he only trails by 15% among those who have already voted and only 55% of the vote is in, he still needs to win the remaining voters by 18.4% in order to eek out the state. And that is the best-case scenario. The worst case scenario for McCain--65% of the vote in and an 18% deficit among early voters--is that he needs to win the remaining voters by 33.5% in order to win the election.
  5. That leaves New Mexico. In 2004, New Mexico had an even higher rate of early voting than Colorado (50.6% to 47.9%). Further, all polling aggregation sites show Obama's lead to be larger in New Mexico than in Colorado. While the recent dearth of polling in the Land of Enchantment means there are no early voting crosstabs, those two facts suggest the situation is even worse for McCain in New Mexico than in Colorado. At the very least, it isn't much better. Update: A new poll from PPP in New Mexico indicates that 56% of the vote is in, and Obama leads 64%-36% among those voters. If that is accurate, McCain would have to win the remaining voters by 35.7%.

So, unless one of the following occurs:

  • Obama blows a double-digit lead in either Iowa or one Kerry state
  • McCain wins the minority of remaining voters in either Colorado or New Mexico by at least 20%
Then the election is over and Obama has won no matter what happens anywhere else.


The rest is here.

It all makes perfect sense to me.

Blogger tcnorris is still on semi-sabbatical. Can't say when more frequent blogging might resume.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Election 2008 - Is the phony war over?

The first week or two of a Canadian election campaign usually produces much rhetoric and an abundance of polling data. However it is a little like seeing the autumn of 1939 in Europe as representative of World War II - the most important events are yet to come.

The polls do show a big Conservative lead. While one or two have the Harperites over 40%, most have them around 37/38. They have a fairly large lead over the Liberals in second place. For the moment the Conservatives appear to be still shy of a majority but close. There is also wide variation in the position of the parties - Conservative support ranged from 36% to 43%, Liberal from 23% to 32% and the NDP from 13% to 21%. This indicates to TC that preferences in general remain weak. Polls tend to converge toward the end of campaigns when voters really decide how to vote.

Whether it is majority or minority depends on many things. Chrétien had a majority in 1997 with 38% of the vote, while Pearson won 41.5% in 1963 and he wound up with a minority government. The Conservatives may have about 38% but they waste a lot of votes in Alberta and other parts of the rural west. It is too soon to tell if we will see a majority.

The most striking moment of the week came when Canadian opinion galvanized behind admitting the Greens to the tv debates and forced a change. I think what happened is that because the Greens have now acquired a measure of legitimacy in the political universe, the initial act of keeping them out triggered a reflex action in Canadian opinion, which perceived the exclusion as a violation of the underlying Canadian value of equality. It appeared unfair because it seemed to treat the Greens unequally.

Hence, the action produced a tsunami of protest, as canvassing NDP candidates discovered the next day. However, the storm passed quickly because the parties and the consortium reversed themselves. It was not, as Elizabeth May believes, about the environment as an issue per se. It was about equal treatment, and was reminiscent of the reaction in Ontario in 2007 to the John Tory idea of giving aid to private schools. However, it gets her into the debates and therefore potentially changes the dynamics of the election.

The Greens have poor prospects of actually electing any candidates. As a postmodern party, it has wide support (almost 5% in 2006) but it is not deep in any one region. What permitted parties such as the CCF and Reform to get into the House of Commons in the past was concentrated regional support. The Greens do well in a few thinly populated places such as Saltspring Island but it is simply a part of Saanich-Gulf Islands constituency where most voters live in the suburbs of Victoria. Overall the Greens win votes everywhere but not at levels that would let them start winning seats.

Elizabeth May, who talks about doing politics differently, and says nice things about Stephane Dion frequently, could influence her supporters to vote for the Liberals by urging them to cast a strategic ballot near the end of the campaign. One can't tell if it will have any impact because it would be so unprecedented for a party leader to do such a thing in a Canadian election, which is, whether May likes it or not, a zero sum game.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Election observations

  1. The Conservatives seem to be extremely confident. They have been carpet bombing Ontario with positive feel-good (if a little icky) ads, while their opponents have had to hold their fire. This appears to have driven up their numbers.

  2. Harper and Layton appeared to have had good launches while Dion and Elizabeth May were ineffective. Dion’s English language skills are still a problem. Didn’t really see Duceppe. Catch what Accidental Deliberations had to say about Harper's election call.

  3. The NDP has an effective attack ad directed at the Conservatives up on the web.

Harper's Election Call

The call has just been made for October 14.

Harper denies he can expect a majority but that is exactly what they are looking for. If you cherry pick the latest Environics poll and the most recent Leger in Quebec (not a valid methodology) you can get them to a bare majority of 157.

How it turns out will depend on the campaign although at this moment TC expects a strengthened Conservative minority, perhaps much stronger than last time.

More to come.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Best site for following U.S. election

If you haven't read it check out, a blog by baseball writer Nate Silver. Best analysis of trends in this year's U.S. election that TC has encountered.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

U.S. Media Update

Couldn't resist one more post. Hillary just won Pennsylvania but not by enough.

Meanwhile this American Prospect post by Paul Waldman (courtesy of Ezra Klein) about the American media should not be missed. A sample:

"We may not like it," wrote The New York Times' David Brooks, rising to the defense of Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos after last Wednesday's Democratic debate, "but issues like Jeremiah Wright, flag lapels and the Tuzla airport will be important in the fall." Brooks' fellow members of the media elite's innermost circle could not be blamed, he wanted you to know, for they were merely doing their jobs, forcing the candidates to answer the questions they'll have no choice but to confront in the general election.

But don't let him fool you -- Brooks likes it just fine. He and his compatriots would find nothing more boring than a campaign consumed by discussions of individual mandates and redeployment plans, some kind of dreadfully tedious policy wonk-fest where issues of "culture" take only a supporting role. How then would he mine the red state-blue state pop sociology that took him from a mildly interesting writer for a conservative magazine to a prince of "serious" mass media, with gigs at The New York Times, PBS, and NPR? Where would he find the opportunities to explicate the contrast between riding mowers and Wal-Mart (virtuous and authentic) and lattes and Whole Foods (elitist and phony)?

Brooks' justification of the ABC personalities' shark-jumping performance was emblematic of the press' self-conception, the exaltation of the passive voice. "Issues" like flag pins "will be important." And how will this happen? From whence will this importance come? Will the heavens open, trumpets blare, and God himself command in a booming voice that reporters shall write about flag pins, no matter what their better natures and their obligations to the public might dictate?

Of course not. Reporters will choose to write about flag pins. They will choose to write about whether some catastrophic, heretofore hidden character flaw has been revealed by a comment a candidate made, or by a comment somebody who knows the candidate made. They are not merely conduits for the campaign's discourse, they create the campaign's discourse, as much as the candidates themselves.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Canadian and U.S. Politics - And TC's Summer Off

TC will make two brief observations about Canadian and U.S. politics and then plans to sign off for the summer. An overseas trip in May will put TC out of touch, and other pressures later on will preclude summer blogging - although an election in Canada could change this.

And a June election does seem a possibility. The Liberals, many of whom have been chafing at the negative media about sustaining the Harper government, are likely feeling tempted to force an election by a couple of polls out in the last few weeks, Nanos and Decima, that have produced good results for the party in Ontario. It is difficult to say why, but TC is in no doubt that Jim Flaherty's attacks on Dalton McGuinty have not helped the federal Conservatives.

The Nanos poll put the Liberals at 50% in Ontario, likely for the first time since Chrétien was prime minister (in Decima the Liberals were at 42% in Ontario). Translated into seats the Nanos numbers would actually mean a strong Liberal minority government. The real lesson though is that the poll numbers are fluid, and the coming election has many different potential outcomes.

For U.S. politics it is a key week with the Pennsylvania primary coming but the latest numbers suggest Hillary Clinton will fall well short of what she would need to have a realistic chance of overcoming Obama's lead.

The most interesting story of the week was the ABC News debate and the firestorm of controversy that erupted about the behaviour of its moderators. There is an excellent summary in today's column by Frank Rich in the New York Times:

I can’t remember a debate in which the only memorable moment was the audience’s heckling of a moderator. Then again, I can’t remember a debate that became such an instant national gag, earning reviews more appropriate to a slasher movie like “Prom Night” than a civic event held in Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center:

“Shoddy, despicable!” — The Washington Post

“A tawdry affair!” — The Boston Globe

“A televised train wreck!” — The Philadelphia Daily News

And those were the polite ones. Let’s not even go to the blogosphere.

Much of that debate was focused on the so-called "Bittergate affair". Rich is also good on that topic:

For all the racket about “Bittergate” — and breathless intimations of imminent poll swings and superdelegate stampedes — the earth did not move. The polls hardly budged, and superdelegates continued to migrate mainly in Mr. Obama’s direction.

Thus did another overhyped 2008 story line go embarrassingly bust, like such predecessors as the death of the John McCain campaign and the organizational and financial invincibility of the Clinton political machine against a rookie senator from Illinois. Not the least of the reasons that the Beltway has gotten so much wrong this year is that it believes that 2008 is still 1988. It sees the country in its own image — static — instead of as a dynamic society whose culture and demographics are changing by the day.

TC's view is that this continues to look like a big Democratic year. And Rich is right to think the media has the delusion that this is 1988.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Media post by-election analysis

There has been a fair amount of analysis of the by-elections in the media. Most of it, in TC's view, not worth much.

The media likes the Greens (partly because of their newness), but simply doesn't understand how weak the Greens really are. TC wrote about this before, demonstrating that the Greens have a very inefficient vote. The Greens are more harmed by the first-past-the-post system than other parties.

On the other hand the NDP has a highly efficient vote, and is good at focusing its resources to get results. While the NDP did not do well in this week's by-elections, the last time the NDP made a major effort, in Outremont last September, they achieved a breakthrough. TC suggests ignoring much of the analysis that has been written this week about the party's woes.

The best the Greens could do in the by-elections was to increase their vote share by a factor of 2.6 (in Vancouver Quadra). As a hypothetical exercise TC took the results of the 2006 election and multiplied the Green vote share by 2.6 in each province (adjusting the other parties appropriately). The result gives the Greens a national vote share of about 12%. However, when applied to TC's forecast model, even this large increase would still not deliver any seats to the party.

Such an increase is not likely to happen as it seems likely to TC that Elizabeth May will in some way endorse Dion in the next election. However, the risks of their collaboration were made evident in the Quadra by-election where the unexpectedly weak Liberal showing meant the Green vote almost handed the seat to the Conservatives. This may have some as yet undefined longer term impact.

TC's view is that more and more Green and NDP inclined voters are thinking about and actually voting strategically in order to prevent Conservatives from winning. One place to look for it in the next election would be in Vancouver Quadra where expectations will be changed by the results of the by-election this week. The increase in the Green vote owed much no doubt to the widespread perception that Quadra was a 'safe' Liberal constituency. Quadra indeed turned out to be a safe Liberal seat. A good definition of 'safe seat' for a party would be a constituency where, even if the party's candidate is weak and loses significant vote share to third parties, and faces a vigorous challenge from the party's major opponent, the party still wins.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

By-elections: Contrasting Results

TC's observations:

1. The Liberals did exceptionally well in Toronto, poorly out west. Can one generalize about Dion on the numbers? Doesn't look like it. TC's guess is local factors were important. The candidate controversy in Saskatchewan hurt the Liberal. Turnout differential within the riding may well have helped the Conservative. The Liberal candidate in BC seemed to be weak.

2. Bad night generally for the NDP. Their vote held up better in the Saskatchewan and BC than Ontario. Their effort appeared to be minimal.

3. Good night for the Greens. It lends credibility to polls showing them doing well. They look like a continuing problem for both the Liberals and the NDP. However, the close outcome in Quadra will likely lead to strategic voting in the general election that boosts Liberal numbers next time. The Greens continue to have the least efficient vote. In most of TC's forecasts in the past few years they don't win a single seat. Their leader's claims (that they can win 6 to 12 seats) should be discounted.

4. Mixed night for Harper but winning even one seat is a boost. Loss in Quadra, which could have gone the other way, is a blow. His inept Finance Minister probably cost them votes in Ontario.

5. TC has a method to project province-wide numbers from the individual riding results. Here is a table that displays them and calculates province-wide seat numbers from the projection (need to be taken with a grain of salt).

Liberal C.P.C. NDP Green
Ontario 47.0 32.0 10.3 10.0
Seats 83 23 0 0

Saskatchewan 16.0 53.6 25.9 4.5
Seats 1 13

BC 19.0 43.1 24.0 13.1
Seats 4 25 7

Enough said.

UPDATE: Well, not enough. The by-election numbers are essentially consistent with this latest Harris-Decima survey.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bear Sterns and Politics

TC sees the emerging financial and economic crisis as an event whose economic significance will be matched a few months from now by its political significance.

In U.S. politics that means the chatter about Obama's preacher, or the Hillary Clinton campaign's feud with Daily Kos, will be long forgotten in the midst of a debate about the U.S. economy. TC's view (for what its worth) is that Obama, barring a Spitzer-like episode, is going to be the Democratic nominee. Much of what Clinton is now doing looks like what you would expect from a candidate whose campaign is slowly unwinding.

In the meantime there are a number posts on the web about the economic crisis worth reading including:

  1. Paul Krugman's column today and his blog (I especially liked this).
  2. Harold Chorney's post on the Bear Sterns takeover.
  3. This column by Nouriel Roubini, now a few weeks old.
  4. And finally this post by Marc Lee [with the wonderful title Monetary policy in the time of (financial) cholera] who gets the final word:

To the extent that this financial crisis spreads to the real economy, we (Canada) will need to limber up our fiscal policy. If that happens, the first place to start is by running a deficit – a deficit will happen “naturally” due to weakening macro forces given the razor thin surpluses in Ottawa looking forward. The trick is not to start cutting spending for the sake of a balanced budget under any circumstances.

By-elections latest

The site predicts three Liberal wins in the cities plus the Conservatives in the Saskatchewan seat. It should be understood these are predictions by the person who runs the site. His record is good but far from perfect.

Meanwhile, the Green Party has released the results of polls in three of the four ridings, predicting a Conservative win in Saskatchewan plus Liberal wins in Willowdale and Quadra. While the Greens trail, the results are not surprisingly flattering to them, ranging from 12 to 19% (higher if the undecided are excluded). TC thinks they look much too high. Curiously however, no poll in Toronto Centre.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The four federal by-elections: what should we expect?

There will be four by-elections on Monday March 17 in ridings won by the Liberals in the last election. Three of the four are in urban constituencies won by wide margins by well known incumbents, all of whom were members of Paul Martin's cabinet. In the 2006 election in Toronto Centre Bill Graham won with 52.2% of the vote; in the Toronto riding of Willowdale Jim Peterson had 55.2% while in Vancouver Quadra Stephen Owen won 49.1% of the vote. The fourth, in the northern Saskatchewan riding of Desnethé--Missinippi--Churchill River, elected Liberal Gary Merasty in 2006 by a mere 67 votes out of 24,636 cast as he won just 41.4% of the vote.

They are seen as a test of Stéphane Dion's leadership because there does appear to be a real lack of confidence in his leadership within the Liberal party, not just by the usual suspects in the media. TC isn't sure, however, that the by-elections provide much of a test.

In the case of Toronto Centre Liberal candidate Bob Rae is better known than his predecessor and could thus top Graham's 2006 performance. By comparison Martha Hall Findlay is not nearly as well known in her Willowdale riding (she ran previously in Newmarket--Aurora in 2004 where she lost narrowly to Belinda Stronach), but should win easily although her vote percentage could well fall short of the Liberal share in 2006.

The Conservatives could easily win the Saskatchewan riding (which they did win in 2004) but it may not be of any significance. The NDP is a factor here too (Rick Laliberté won this riding in 1997 and then was re-elected as a Liberal in 2000). Their candidate is Brian Morin. The Liberal candidate is Joan Beatty a former NDP cabinet minister in the Calvert government who defected to the Liberals just after the last provincial election. She might confront resentment at the opportunism of her move. TC certainly has not been able to find any hard information to suggest which way the political winds may be blowing in northern Saskatchewan, but purely local factors could well predominate.

In Vancouver Quadra the Liberal candidate is former BC cabinet minister Joyce Murray, who previously represented a riding quite distant from Quadra. Her situation looks much like that of Martha Hall Findlay at the riding level.

The public opinion evidence can best be described as unclear. The last Angus Reid Online Poll found the Conservatives well ahead in BC outperforming their support in 2006, but trailing the Liberals in Ontario by roughly the same margin as in 2006. By contrast the most recent Harris-Decima found the two parties approximately tied in both BC and Ontario in terms of their three week averages, meaning better Liberal support in BC than 2006 but a weaker performance in Ontario.

The impact on a possible federal election is relatively simple to assess: a Liberal sweep by higher percentages than in 2006 would put us on the road to an early election. A perceived setback for the Liberals would likely postpone a federal election at least until the autumn.

The debate about Dion's leadership seems almost pointless to TC. He will lead the Liberals in the next election regardless, and he could even win. Typically governments lose elections; opposition parties don't win them. While an upset by Dion doesn't seem at all likely, don't forget that the inept Joe Clark defeated Pierre Trudeau in 1979. Five years of unemployment and growing inflation are what made the difference then. The economy in Canada is strong today, but the deterioration now happening south of the border will get here eventually, so the outcome of the next election cannot be predicted this month with any certainty, and the by-elections, whatever the outcome, won't mean a thing in six months.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The impending downturn and the political fallout

In an earlier post I compared the political impact of recessions to the military consequences of using nuclear weapons.

Today Paul Krugman wrote the following:

Four years ago, an academic economist named Ben Bernanke co-authored a technical paper that could have been titled “Things the Federal Reserve Might Try if It’s Desperate” — although that may not have been obvious from its actual title, “Monetary Policy Alternatives at the Zero Bound: An Empirical Investigation.”

Today, the Fed is indeed desperate, and Mr. Bernanke, as its chairman, is putting some of the paper’s suggestions into effect. Unfortunately, however, the Bernanke Fed’s actions — even though they’re unprecedented in their scope — probably won’t be enough to halt the economy’s downward spiral.

After that column had been written, along came the news that a leading U.S. Investment Banker - Bear Stearns - had to be bailed out by J.P. Morgan Chase and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the Dow dropped just under 200 points.

So we seem headed for a recession. However, the Federal Reserve recognizes the fact and is moving quickly to do something about it There is also some budgetary stimulus. That means even a 1929 type crash would not likely be followed by a steady descent into depression, but a rough ride of some kind seems assured at least in the short run. It is going to take some time to reach Canada and the global commodity boom will cushion in the impact for the immediate future but a widespread downturn would affect us too.

The political fallout in the United States should be visible soon.

UPDATE: Bush has admitted the economy is in trouble while Republican Senator Norm Coleman calls it a recession.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Shape of Things to Come?

The Democrats won a safe Republican Congressional district in a special election yesterday.

Consider this:
The Chicago Tribune calls it "a stunning upset Saturday that could be a sign of trouble for Republicans this fall." In The Chicago Sun-Times, the conclusion is that it's a "major blow to the Republican Party."

Or this from the New York Times:

The election here was expensive, bitter and, with its rash of television commercials, impossible to ignore. The national political parties clearly saw it as a critical one.

By last week, the National Republican Congressional Committee had poured $1.2 million into this race; the Democratic Congressional Committee had given more than $620,000.
Or this:

Bill Foster ran strong on Iraq the whole campaign, with several ads focused on withdrawal and the costs of the war. This was a heavily Republican district that turned on an anti-war and pro-civil liberties message to a Democrat.

Here is Foster's anti-Iraq war tv ad:

Saturday, March 08, 2008

What will be the big issue in the U.S. election?

In a column called The Anxiety Election, Paul Krugman argues that the economy will be the dominant issue in the fall election and notes some recent poll expressing public optimism about the war.

TC believes that rising economic anxiety actually makes the war a more difficult issue for the Republicans. The war has deeply soured the American mood. It will undermine McCain who is clearly identified with the conflict, even if it is not the most important top of mind issue when voters cast their ballots. Even if Americans think the war is going well in the autumn they still won't be happy about it. Victory was supposed to be cheap. Instead Joseph Stiglitz now estimates that the cost will more like three trillion dollars. The right track/wrong track polls are negative today in large part because of Iraq, although the economy may soon displace that concern. In the most recent AP poll, that spread is 73% wrong track/ 22% right track.

Back of mind bitterness about how things have been for the past eight years, which has largely been about the war, will not help the Republicans in the fall. TC hears growing anxiety about the impact of the divisive race for the Democratic nomination. However, recessions are to politics what nuclear weapons are to war. They tend to destroy everything in their path - and in the case of politics that means incumbent governments and political parties.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Clinton-Obama - where do we go from here?

This post on Open Left is interesting. It is by a Democratic activist named Mike Lux. He has had strong ties to the Clintons but had not been involved in the campaign. Just today he decided to endorse Obama. The bolding in the middle is mine.

His reasoning is interesting:

This time, the decision to stay out has been especially complicated by my relationship with Hillary Clinton. I am a loyalty guy, have always stuck by friends and the people who have been good to me even when I don't always agree with them, and Hillary has always been good to me personally. The Clintons brought me to Washington, took a chance on me as a very young man with little national experience. Hillary always treated me collegially and with great respect, both when I worked for her and afterwards....

However, we have now come to a crossroads in this campaign. Ironically, it was yesterday's results which have spurred my decision. If Obama had won Texas or Ohio or both, the end would be clearly in sight, and there would have been no reason for me to take the painful personal step of opposing my old friend Hillary. But I now feel it more important than ever to do so. Yesterday's victories by Hillary were impressive- as I've said before, you can never count her out. But even as impressive as those victories were, she gained very little net advantage in the delegate race. It's become increasingly clear to me that between Obama's delegate lead and the number of states left where he is likely to win big victories (WY, MS, NC, OR, MT, SD), it is virtually impossible for Hillary to gain an advantage in the pledged delegate count.

It is also clear that she won Ohio and Texas in great part to a harshly negative attack, including an ad and rhetoric on national security that completely reinforces the Bush/McCain/Republican line of attack on Democrats for the last several years.

I am not arguing that Obama is the inevitable candidate, so we should all just fall in line. In fact, I do think there is a path to the nomination for Clinton:

• She runs another harshly negative attack echoing Republican themes and beats Obama in PA
• The campaign lays heavy pressure and cuts every deal imaginable to win over a solid majority of the remaining uncommitted delegates
• The campaign then wins a bitterly negative, highly divisive credentials committee fight by a few votes

At that point, she has just enough delegates to win the nomination in a fight that goes down to convention week.

I can't think of another scenario at this point for a Clinton victory. None of the pro-Clintonites I have asked about it can spell out another way, either.

With that kind of nomination fight, the millions of African-Americans, first-time-involved-in-politics young people, and all the other Obama folks leave Denver feeling like the election has been stolen.

That is not a recipe for a Democratic victory in November. As high as my regard is for Hillary Clinton, as strong as my instinct has always been to remain neutral, that kind of scenario forces me to support Obama.

However, TC thinks that the challenge is good for Obama. He needs to learn how to take a punch and it is better to learn now rather than October. TC's own guess is that this is something of a replay of the Ford Reagan race in 1976, where Ford prevailed after a late challenge from from Reagan. Ford went on to lose barely in the fall campaign to Jimmy Carter but Ford's loss was due in large part to the legacy from Watergate.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Alberta Election - Brief Post Mortem

A random collection of thoughts:
  1. I don't recall an election campaign where the news zeitgeist was so firmly contradicted by the results. This may not bode well for Stelmach.
  2. TC's guess is that the unhappiness with the Stelmach government is still there, but the electorate did not like the alternatives and defaulted to business as usual.
  3. The Leger poll was the most accurate, a fact they were quick to trumpet.
  4. The turnout was 41%, the lowest ever.
  5. The Green vote was 4.6% substantially below their 7.6% average in the polls, another instance of the Greens underperforming their polls when the votes are counted.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Alberta Election - Two out of Three Polls Got It Right

My instincts and the news coverage were wrong about this one. The Leger and Strategic Counsel polls were very close to the net outcome but not the Reid poll. See results here. Final poll numbers can be found in my previous post.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Alberta Election: the polls don't agree

There may be one more poll coming but two of the three polls released so far, one from Strategic Counsel in the Globe and Mail and another from Leger for the Edmonton/Calgary papers, suggest a Conservative majority larger than 2004.

Angus Reid, who conducts his polls online, also added a "certain to vote" question, and it makes a difference in the poll that could be indicative of what to expect on Monday.

Here are the final polls based just on the ballot question:

Pollster Dates PC Liberal NDP Wildrose Alliance Green
Leger Feb. 21-28 55 24 7 6 8
Strategic Counsel Feb. 27-28 50 25 8 10 8
Angus Reid Feb. 27-28 43 28 13 10 7

Leger does qualify its findings by noting there is a large number of undecideds, an unusual statement for a pollster to make at the end of a campaign. Strategic Counsel said their research "found no evidence of this".

When Reid applies his "certain to vote" filter it pushes the PC total below 40%.

Pollster Dates PC Liberal NDP Wildrose Alliance Green
Reid Certain Voters Feb. 27-28 39 30 13 10 8

The Reid numbers seem to TC to correspond better to the flavour of news coverage coming out of the election, and makes him wonder if even these numbers have captured the full extent of what appears likely to be a low turnout prompted in no small measure by normally PC voters who don't want to support the almost 37 year old government yet again.

TC is inclined to think Reid's numbers will be closer to reality. They still produce a comfortable Conservative majority of 53 seats with 23 for the Liberals, 5 for the NDP and 2 for the Wildrose Alliance. But TC's model should not be expected to work as reliably in this context so the seat numbers need to be taken with more than the usual amount of caution.

As a final word, consider what Alberta's Members of Parliament were reported to have said to Stephen Harper:

...the confided consensus of MPs was Premier Ed Stelmach is about to lose a bunch of seats in Monday's provincial election and, if the large undecided vote shifts to the opposition or stays home, perhaps lurch into the nightmare scenario of forming Alberta's first ever minority government.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Conservative Budget/ No Election

The focus on reaction to the budget has been on why the Liberals have chosen not to bring down the government, but TC thinks this is gazing in the wrong direction. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Conservatives had been moving toward an election. It now appears that, just like last spring, they have developed cold feet. The fixed election date does not absolutely prevent them from simply calling an election. In the end it is a political not a legal issue.

The question is why are the Conservatives reluctant?

TC suspects two reastons:

1. There are indications out of Alberta that are not encouraging for their provincial brethren. This Angus Reid poll reports that twice as many Albertans disapprove of Stelmach as approve of him. It characterizes the voters in Alberta as an "uneasy electorate". There are many other indicators (although not party preference numbers yet) to suggest an impending disaster of some sort in this traditionally one party state. An electoral setback for close provincial cousins would not have been good for Harper as a campaign was about to start.

2. It also appears (in part from the budget) that the Conservatives are losing hope of big gains in Quebec, and are shifting more attention to Ontario, something they should have done right after the last election. If they have made a calculation of this nature, they will need time to do something about it, and that would have contributed to the decision.

There is a very big risk for Harper in this call. The budget is tight, and if the economy performs any worse than anticipated, he will likely run a deficit, a real embarrassment for a conservative. More importantly, at some point he will blamed for the economic pain of a downturn.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

New Nanos Research Poll

When I average the findings of the last two Nanos Research Polls and run them through my seat forecaster, the results suggest it might be advantageous to the Liberals to bring down the Conservatives on the budget.

Although the latest poll has the Liberals and Conservatives deadlocked at 34% with the NDP 14%, the BQ at 10% (40% in Quebec) and the Greens at 8%, my seat estimate is as follows:

Liberal Cons. NDP Bloc Green Other
144 97 18 49 0 0

The national tie disguises the fact that the Liberals lead substantially in Ontario (I estimate 77 seats there for them) while the Conservative vote is inefficiently distributed nationwide.


That is the line-up for the this year's presidential contest.

Some interesting insight into why Obama and not Clinton summarized by Frank Rich in the New York Times this morning:

The gap in hard work between the two campaigns was clear well before Feb. 5. Mrs. Clinton threw as much as $25 million at the Iowa caucuses without ever matching Mr. Obama’s organizational strength. In South Carolina, where last fall she was up 20 percentage points in the polls, she relied on top-down endorsements and the patina of inevitability, while the Obama campaign built a landslide-winning organization from scratch at the grass roots. In Kansas, three paid Obama organizers had the field to themselves for three months; ultimately Obama staff members outnumbered Clinton staff members there 18 to 3.

In the last battleground, Wisconsin, the Clinton campaign was six days behind Mr. Obama in putting up ads and had only four campaign offices to his 11. Even as Mrs. Clinton clings to her latest firewall — the March 4 contests — she is still being outhustled. Last week she told reporters that she “had no idea” that the Texas primary system was “so bizarre” (it’s a primary-caucus hybrid), adding that she had “people trying to understand it as we speak.” Perhaps her people can borrow the road map from Obama’s people. In Vermont, another March 4 contest, The Burlington Free Press reported that there were four Obama offices and no Clinton offices as of five days ago. For what will no doubt be the next firewall after March 4, Pennsylvania on April 22, the Clinton campaign is sufficiently disorganized that it couldn’t file a complete slate of delegates by even an extended ballot deadline.

UPDATE: Also see this post from Atrios.

TC doesn't think the fall campaign will be close. The polling on "Is the country on the right track/wrong track?" shows that overwhelmingly Americans are unhappy with the direction their country is taking. That is fatal for the incumbent party even if they have a so-called straight talking maverick as the nominee. And it is now clear that the McCain coziness with a lobbyist scandal is not going to go away. See here and here.

I do think that hidden racism might be a problem for Obama (the issue of race gets some discussion in the Washington Post here) but the results of this poll (summarized here) suggests that it is not all that obscure and mainly an issue in the deep south where no Democrat is going to win many states anyway(McCain gets 5 percentage points more white votes if he faces Obama rather than Clinton in Alabama but the 5 points fewer in California). The poll showed that Obama is ahead of McCain by 27% overall in California.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Election Eve?

It is TC's sense that the Liberals have been dampening election speculation as we head into Tuesday's budget. However, it is clear Harper wants one. I think it likely that he will try to insert a pill in the budget, poisonous to Liberals but not to the electorate. It is a balancing act but the Conservatives must be concerned that the Liberals are not going to push them into the election they clearly want and expect.

The polls on their face don't look particularly favourable to the Conservatives. An average of all the national polls conducted since the start of 2008 produces the following result:

Liberal Cons. NDP BQ Green Other
32.0 33.6 15.2 9.0 9.3 1.1

The source of Conservative confidence appears to lie in Dion's weak leadership numbers. It is likely, however, that they are also worried about what lies ahead for the economy. Certainly they will be giving every impression of confidence in the numbers on Tuesday but I for one won't believe them.

The Dion Liberals made a mistake when they agreed to collaborate with the government in extending the Afghanistan mission. For one thing, they can't be certain what four more years of military involvement there will bring. For certain, it is a gift to Jack Layton that potentially could be important to the outcome of the next election. Pundits like Chantal Hébert seem to think only the Liberal view on Afghanistan among the opposition parties matters. In a recent column she said:

Less than a year ago, it seemed that nothing except winning a majority would allow the Conservative government to pursue a military mission in Kandahar beyond next year. Now Harper has not only secured Liberal support to do so but on the most explosive issue of his tenure, he will also spend the next campaign under the relative protection of an opposition shield.

While conceding Layton benefits from the Liberal accord with Harper, Hébert simply overlooks what might happen if the issue blows up either during the campaign, or before. It is not as if the news from Afghanistan gives the proponents of the war cause for optimism. This Sunday New York Times Magazine article makes that clear. There are war opponents in Canada and the NDP and the Bloc will give them voices in the campaign but Ottawa pundits are far too prone to funnel all politics into a Liberal/Conservative filter.

That said it is not clear to TC what would dominate the campaign if it happens this spring.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Alberta Election: Stelmach Headed for Disaster?

The headline on a story on says "Voters cranky in Fort McMurray", and its about Stelmach's tour of the region. These two quotes might sum up the campaign:

"They're really not happy. There's a lack of affordable housing, there's a lack of health care. Waiting lists are horrendous at the hospital," said senior Glenna Morris, listing some of the complaints from people in the community....

But despite the feeling by many that the government should be doing more, many people still said they think the Tories are the best choice to look after the region's interests.

TC has lost track of the number of negatives cropping up during this campaign for the Alberta Conservatives. In any other province one would say the government is heading for defeat, but Alberta has only changed governments twice in the last seventy-five years - in 1935 and 1971.

All the polls so far are pre-election numbers that give Stelmach a big lead. You can see them here. But something is afoot and it seems likely to have an impact on election day one way or another.

Probably the most significant recent development in Alberta politics structurally is the merger of the two right wing parties, the Alberta Alliance and Wildrose, into the Wildrose Alliance. The dominant political culture in Alberta is small 'c' conservative. The governing Progressive Conservatives have not during their rule faced a significant threat from the right. While it may be too early for this new entrant to have much impact, any votes it steals will help the centre-right Alberta Liberals, if not to win government, then simply to stir up trouble for Stelmach in the cities.

Unlike most Alberta election campaigns this one is worth watching.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rideau Election Fever

It now seems certain that we will have a spring election in Canada. So what are the polls saying? Well it is not clear:

The most recent polls have trended away from the Conservatives toward the Liberals and the NDP (which is ahead of its 2006 pace in the three most recent polls even while it is clear that the Green Party is bleeding away some supporters). Overall, however, the numbers aren't all that far away from 2006.

And though the polls are bit better now for the opposition, it appears that the focus of the Tories on crime and Afghanistan is simply an effort to create some noise in order to persuade Canadians that an election is inevitable.

It is TC's assessment that Harper thinks he can easily handle Stéphane Dion and that now is the most propitious time for an election. It will probably be a non-confidence vote on the Conservatives' February 26 budget that will trigger an election call, likely for April 21.

The Conservatives' present calculation seems to be that they can make the economy the issue and that they can market themselves as the party most capable of handling the looming economic storm clouds. In fact this does seem ideal timing for Harper. For Canada economic difficulties are mostly something one reads about in the Report on Business as the recession is in its early days compared to the situation in the U.S.

And the first instinct of many voters in this context is to opt to support a more conservative party that believes in the efficacy of the market and capitalism to deal with a downturn. A year into a recession that kind of belief would be replaced by sheer hostility directed at the government for screwing things up economically, but it takes some time for a failing economy to produce powerful political effects. Other things being equal the current circumstances favour the re-election of the government.

TC does not believe what most pundits do: that it is all about Harper's leadership versus Dion's personal popularity. Issues are what matter. Early in the last Ontario election campaign, a poll by Strategic Counsel (page 13) found that by a 37 to 31 margin Ontarians thought John Tory would make the best premier. But the election wound up turning on an issue: Tory's promise to fund religious schools, and Dalton McGuinty cruised to a second majority.

While it appears likely that economic issues will dominate, that is by no means certain (who knows, maybe Afghanistan or global warming will be major issues) There are sure to be some wild cards such as an endorsement of the Liberals by Green leader Elizabeth May. It is all clouding the picture in TC's crystal ball.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Super Tuesday - Media Buzz and the Numbers

The media buzz on this contest leans heavily to Obama, but each time I've looked at the numbers I have seen Hillary clearly ahead - until today.

Chris Bowers of Open Left now sees at the least the possibility of an Obama win tomorrow.
The polling picture for Super Tuesday is starting to fill out now. With only 34 hours until polls close in California, it appears virtually certain that we will have a split decision in terms of delegates. Currently, by multiplying the average polling margin by the number of delegates in each state, I arrive at an estimate of Clinton 889 delegates, Obama 799 pledged delegates earned from Super Tuesday itself. However, in virtually every state, more recent polls show better results for Obama, which should improve his standing almost across the board. At this point, a 90-delegate victory for Clinton on Super Tuesday is probably her best-case scenario, and the margin should less than 50 delegates in either direction. A narrow Obama victory on Super Tuesday is even within his reach now.

UPDATE: This chart from MyDD illustrates why I say that when you look at the numbers, Clinton is ahead.

TC has mixed feelings about all of this. While both candidates would produce progressive presidencies it appears that Obama is clearly more progressive on foreign policy. For example, Ezra Klein argues:
From the early arguments over negotiating without preconditions to his more recent statement that "I don't want to just end the war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place," Obama is previewing an aggressive stance against the fundamental sicknesses in our polity that led to the war in Iraq, and will lead to future, equally ill-considered invasions. If he can lead the country towards, at the least, respecting an alternative foreign policy vision, he will have enacted great change.

However, Obama seems weaker on domestic issues, especially health care. For a Canadian the lack of accessible health care in the U.S. would seem to be their problem, but the pressures for privatized health care here might be more easily resisted if the U.S. was moving toward a more universal health care system.

Paul Krugman originally endorsed John Edwards' health care plan and thought Hillary Clinton's was almost as good but not so Obama's:

Obama’s plan fell short — but I was initially willing to cut him slack, figuring that it could be improved. But then he began making the weakness of his plan a selling point, and attacking his rivals for getting it right. And in the process he has systematically trashed the prospects for actually achieving universal coverage.

The Obama plan is still vastly preferable to plans that rely on tax credits and the magic of the marketplace. But from where I sit, a dream is dying — and progressive Obama supporters, caught up in the romance of his candidacy, don’t understand that he’s actually undermining their cause.

The whole contest is close enough that one sees many suggestions that it could go to the convention to decide. I think that is unlikely. My expectation is that tomorrow's results should be pointing us in the direction of the ultimate nominee, and the next U.S. President. I have written before that it looked like the Democrats would win this year. This looks to be more and more the case with each passing day. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are strong candidates and while McCain is probably the best the Republicans can do this year, it won't be enough.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Why the polls missed in New Hampshire

So far the only answer the polling gurus can offer is both obvious and trivial: there were a large number of late deciders and they broke for Hillary.

However, an article in by Rebecca Traister suggests it was motivated in no small part by outrage on the part of women about the media treatment of Hillary Clinton. This explanation actually makes a great deal of sense because it would account for why it was late-breaking, and in some cases involved women voting for Hillary Clinton who actually preferred Barack Obama, and a powerful unidirectional trend. If there is a strong surge of support in one direction TC thinks there must be an explanation. So far this is the one that makes the most sense.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but had I been a New Hampshire voter on Tuesday, I would have pulled a lever for the former first lady with a song in my heart and a bird flipped at MSNBC's Chris Matthews, a man whose interest in bringing Clinton down hovers on the pathological, and whose drooling excitement at the prospect of her humiliation began to pulse from the television last week before most Iowa precincts had even begun to report results.

Before any tallies were in, Matthews was observing, based on early projections, that if Clinton received the expected 30 percent, it would mean that seven of 10 Iowa voters did not like her, a mean little metric that he did not apply to the other candidates. "It's hard to call yourself the people's choice if two-thirds of the Democrats are voting against you!" he burbled.

He was not alone in his glee. There was the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson, announcing before the caucuses had concluded that if Clinton lost Iowa, she would likely lose New Hampshire too! And South Carolina! She'd be lucky to scrape by with small states like Nevada, Matthews crowed. Newsweek's Howard Fineman was also excited. "If [Obama] wins this thing, even by one vote in Iowa, then that five-point lead of Hillary's [in New Hampshire] is going to disappear in a second," he said. Pat Buchanan recommended that in her still purely imagined concession speech, Clinton "be very, very gracious." It wasn't just the guys. Andrea Mitchell might as well have had canary feathers hanging from her mouth as she reported from Clinton's Iowa campaign headquarters on the "manufactured" crowd gathered for Clinton's concession speech.

Ding-dong, the witch is dead! Which old witch? The Clinton witch!

Read the whole thing here. Also look at the Gloria Steinem article cited in the Salon piece.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Kathleen Hall Jamieson on Obama, Huckabee and the Press

I have long been an admirer of the analysis of Kathleen Hall Jamieson - of polls, politics and political communications.

She was interviewed by Bill Moyers this week about Iowa. Here are two excerpts:

BILL MOYERS: What did you hear with Obama and with Huckabee? With Obama?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Obama delivered a speech in which he cast himself in the role of the President of the United States, as opposed to a candidate seeking that office alone. The speech is an attempt to try on the presidency and see that it fits. Obama's a very strong stump orator. And one of the things that we realize when we see the extended speech of Obama is that he is a much weaker debater. He's much weaker when he's speaking one on one to reporters. He's much weaker when he's speaking to camera. And he's good in all those formats than he is as a stump speaker. As a stump speaker, he is a master.

BILL MOYERS: And Huckabee?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Huckabee demonstrated that he is very good at speaking intimately. Less well crafted speech — he wasted a lot of time at the beginning of the speech. But where Obama's a natural stump orator, Huckabee's much more effective at intimate use of a stump platform. Ronald Reagan could do both. He was a great stump orator, and he was great at intimate communication. Huckabee is very good at kind of low key, intimate conversational engagement. Obama, much better at rallying the masses.

But here's why both of those speeches were important. They were good speeches. They talked to the nation in the role of a candidate who is speaking as a president to a people. Giving people a chance to say how would you fit in that role. And we forget sometimes that speech making is a very important role in the presidency. There are times in the nation in which the president is the only one who can speak to us and for us. And whether it's the president we wanted elected or not, that person has to be able to play that role for all of us. Obama has that capacity, and I believe Huckabee does as well.

And an interesting point on media distortion of Hillary:

BILL MOYERS: Let's turn to the press. You and I both know that every primary creates a new reality, just as every experience creates a new reality, so that the press today has a new narrative. What's the narrative you're reading now about the primary process?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Something pernicious happened last night in press commentary. The commentators on each of the networks that were covering live — so the major cable networks — managed to say at, at least one point, that two-thirds of the Democratic voters had rejected Hillary Clinton. And then they provided explanations for why they had rejected Hillary Clinton. Nothing in the polling data tells you that anyone rejected Hillary Clinton. But the press frame is an either-or frame, a zero sum frame game. And as a result, it doesn't open the possibility for its viewers that people could look at the Democratic field and the Republican field and say, "Those are fine candidates. Any of those would be a good president. I would support any of those, but I prefer this candidate."

BILL MOYERS: It's a statement of preference, right?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: It was a statement of preference.

BILL MOYERS: Not opposition.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: And then, when after having set up this rejection of Hillary Clinton by two-thirds of the Democrats, then they provide the rationale for what the rejection means. Well, it's because she's too polarizing, she's too divisive. They also don't know that from the available evidence.

Full transcript is here.

My favourite book of hers is Eloquence in an Electronic Age.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

New Hampshire and the Nomination

One of the traditional voices in American politics whose judgement I respect is Republican consultant Mike Murphy (who managed John McCain's presidential campaign in 2000). He was on Meet the Press today. Here is an excerpt:

MR. RUSSERT: Give me the nominees of the party.

MR. MURPHY: Oh, man. Obama.


MR. MURPHY: And the Republican one’s a lot looser, and it could go—it could still get unraveled. But if you put a gun to my head in the hot seat, I’d have to say John S. McCain.

The Clintons are fighters and will not give up easily. However, Obama seems to be doing what Howard Dean hoped to do in 2004. Interestingly TC has learned that almost all of the New Hampshire Dean team from 2004 are working for Obama.

On the Republican side it is clear that the party establishment can't stand Huckabee and will do all it can to defeat him. At the same time it isn't clear (as Murphy's comment reveals) that they will embrace McCain. In fact the Republican process looks decidedly scrambled. Ordinarily the nomination process is quite Darwinian forcing out candidates early. However, if the early primaries and caucuses go in different directions (already Iowa has supported Huckabee while Wyoming went for Romney), TC holds out hope (albeit faint) that the race might go all the way to the Republican Convention in Minneapolis in the first week of September thus forcing the eventual winner to start the fall campaign exhausted from the nomination battle.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Reviews from Iowa

Ezra Klein is one of the best of the young bloggers TC enjoys reading. I think his reviews of the candidate's speeches to their supporters after the results were posted in Iowa are worth reading. You can find them here: Barack Obama, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton.

Like Klein I hope Edwards stays in the race.

Iowa - not just a win for Obama

Here is the information I was looking for this morning post-Iowa:
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Iowa Democratic Party officials reported 234,000 caucus attendees, compared to 124,000 in 2004. With 93 percent of GOP precincts reporting, 112,349 Republicans had participated in their caucus, up from the 87,666 who participated in 2000.
I also like this comment on Kos about the turnout:
In 2000, the last time there was a caucus in both parties, Republicans turned out 87,000 voters, while Democrats produced 59,000. There are around 600,000 registered Democrats in Iowa, and about 550,000 Republicans, but when you consider that on caucus nights, Republicans just need to show up and point to a name, while Democrats are committing to two hours of public wrangling, it's not a surprise that more Republicans show up to be "first in the nation."

Except for yesterday.

When the Des Moines Register poll was predicated on a turnout of 200,000, I was scornful. And they were wrong -- but only because they were too conservative.

Last night, the Republicans produced around 115,000 voters -- an impressive 30% increase.

But the Democrats turned out 236,000. That's an increase of roughly one whole helluva lot.

Hillary is still well-financed and organized enough to carry on to February 5th so the contest will continue, but the key outcome is in the numbers just cited. I think they are a clear indicator of the year as a whole.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Iowa - Beginning and End?

The American election process begins today with the Iowa caucuses and it has been drowning in media attention. However, one key fact that defines why it is important is almost never mentioned: being the first to win has become the be all and end all partly because of the political media culture that above all celebrates success. Winning the first state in recent elections has caused instant growth in support even for transparently weak candidates such as John Kerry because the fact of success becomes the central theme of media coverage and the bandwagon effect thereby created becomes self-reinforcing.

I would prefer to see the contest this time last at least until February 5th (when there will be primaries or caucuses in 20 states) simply because that day there will be a large enough number of primaries in enough big states for the process to do a better job of finding the best candidate. It has a chance to do so on the Republican side but only because all the candidates are seen one way or another as being seriously flawed by some key Republican constituency. The Republican contest is less important to TC as in his view it is simply going to chose a loser. The incumbent party is responsible for a major war, which will be longer than Vietnam (as a major conflict if we date large scale U.S. involvement as being from early 1965 to the 1973 Paris Peace Accords) within three years. It is also a party likely to bear responsibility for an impending recession.

On the Democratic side I see John Edwards as the most realistic of the candidates in recognizing the need to deal with a highly class divided and unequal society, but it looks more and more to me like Barack Obama could sweep all before him. He has been rightly attacked by the likes of Paul Krugman for a campaign that leans too far to the right on crucial issues such as health care, although I think his early opposition to the war in Iraq is a key offset to that. But his real political cachet is an argument that he is the candidate of hope. There is no doubt that in the past political campaigns in the U.S. (Reagan 84) and in Canada (1993 Chrétien Liberal) that offered a persuasive optimistic message, no matter how loose or vague the actual commitments in the fine print, were enormously successful.

Obama appears to have the combination of qualities for that kind of political success. However, anti-black racism remains a fact of American life. While I don't think it sufficient to deny him victory in November, it is likely that his lead on election day in November will be smaller than the closing polls suggest because of this factor. However that won't matter today. His problem for Iowa is that it is a process dominated in the past by the highly active party regulars. Obama needs to transform his ability to appeal to the typically non-involved into votes at evening meetings. The premise of the Des Moines Register poll of a few days ago that gave him a significant lead was that he could do this.