Browsing the archives for the US Politics category.

Money raised versus result achieved: The Senate ’08 sweepstakes

Congressional Elections, Politics, US Elections, US Politics
Excel sheet: US Senate candidates 2008 - results and efficiency of financial investment

Excel sheet: US Senate candidates 2008 - results and efficiency of financial investment

Chris Bowers last week linked through to a site I hadn’t seen yet, noting that The Green Papers has the final popular vote and fundraising totals for all 2008 U.S. House of Representatives election campaigns. They cover all candidates too, not just those of the main two parties.

Bowers does a good job analysing the numbers, and above all, brings the good news:

The final popular vote percentages were 53.08%-42.55%, giving Democrats a 10.53% victory. This is the largest popular vote percentage victory for either party in either a Presidential or Congressional election since 1984 (the next largest victory was Bill Clinton with 8.51% in 1996). It is the first double-digit victory for any party in a national election in 24 years. That, truly, is a historical butt-whooping.

Turns out the Green Papers site has the same data for the Senate races. Fascinating stuff for political geeks. What caught my attention in particular is how the money the candidates raised compared to the votes they got. In short: how did their investments pay off?

So what I’ve done, in turn, is add a couple of columns to the data table, to calculate how much the candidates raised for every single vote they received, and for every single percentage point they won. The file is up at Google Docs. (It would arguably have been better to use the data for how much money they actually spent, but that would involve making a similar effort to The Green Papers’ and gathering the data for 2-4 candidates in each of 50 races from the FEC site onself).

Time then, to declare some winners!

Most expensive Senate race of 2008

As you’ll have guessed, that was the Minnesota race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman. The two men raised $20.5 million and $18.0 million, respectively. That translates to $488 thousand and $430 thousand for each percentage point of the vote they ended up winning – which ranks Al and Norm as #1 and 2 when it comes to raising the most money per percentage point won.

Don’t forget that Minnesota’s a fairly populous state, though. When it comes to how much money they had to raise for each individual vote they won, they rank a more modest #10 and 11. Meaning that they had to raise “only” – ponder this for a second – $17 and $15 for every single vote they won.

Most money spent on each individual vote

You’d think that states with small populations would also cost less to campaign in. This is true – up to a point, apparently. The top of this list is filled with candidates from “small” states, who made Franken and Coleman look practically callous about the individual voter’s worth.

Your vote was worth most up in Alaska. Mark Begich raised a total of $4.4 million – which translates to a royal $29 for every single vote he received. His opponent, Ted “bring home the pork” Stevens, was right up there too and raised a stunning $26 per vote – in vain.

Max Baucus from Montana and the two contenders in the New Hampshire race, John Sununu and Jeanne Shaheen, also ended up raising at least $23 per vote.

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I was wondering how this would play out…

US culture, US Politics
I took this photo of Obama volunteers in Columbus last fall (I dont know their names).

I took this photo of Obama volunteers in Columbus last fall (I don't know their names).

During the presidential campaign, I kept having the same conversation with fellow Obama campaign volunteers — that win or lose, we were going to keep doing stuff once the election was over. These volunteers all seemed to feel like they wanted to make the world a better place, and while that was part of why they liked Obama, they planned on doing that no matter what — and they were happy to meet others who felt the same way and to forge alliances and make contacts.

I’ve already seen a few large-scale manifestations of this, starting with the Obama-run “Day of Service” on January 19th, and going through various MoveOn and TrueMajority appeals I’ve seen that use the email lists they amassed when they were working on behalf of the Obama campaign.

But I’m now seeing the first truly grass-roots manifestation. There have been a spate of robberies in our area and one of the people I worked with on the campaign decided to do something about it. She’s forming a standard Neighborhood Watch program, but then also is organizing a series of informational events by the police department, covering ways that you can increase your security. (A neighbor had been robbed and then was given pointers on how he could help prevent it in the future, and she thought those pointers were worth sharing with the community.)

She fired up the old Obama volunteer email list (local version) and we’re all pitching in same as before. Someone’s designing fliers to advertise the meeting, someone else is covering printing costs. We’ll each be taking a street or two to do literature drops, and we know the drill (can’t put them in mailboxes, etc.)

It’s fun to be talking to people I know through volunteering but not in everyday life again, and the project is working out fantastically well so far.

I can easily see this becoming a regular thing. The infrastructure already there can be put to quick and painless use for any number of purposes. I may even think up a cause to take up next time. (Hmmm….)

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Handy Dandy Vetting Guide

Politics, US Politics
Toms fancy glasses

Tom's fancy glasses

Sarahs fancy glasses

Sarah's fancy glasses

If they’re wearing fancy glasses, vet ’em thoroughly. REALLY thoroughly.

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You spin me right round, baby, like a record, baby, right round

Politics, US Politics
Image adapted from / shared by Bradley Allen under CC license

(Adapted from / shared by Bradley Allen / CC license)

Last week, Chris Bowers summarised the Republican strategy on the stimulus bill:

[T]he actual Republican strategy is not to offer an alternative, but to:

  1. Complain about one small aspect of the bill at a time, such as contraception funding, non-existent CBO reports, non-existent earmarks and, now, ACORN.
  2. Demand that, in the name of bi-partisanship, that small aspect of the stimulus be dropped.
  3. Secure meetings with Obama, in order for these complaints and demands to appear relevant to the national media.
  4. Hope that, as Digby notes, Democrats in Congress and / or liberal activists grow publicly angry with President Obama if / when he makes these concessions in order to secure more Republican votes. Thus, Republicans are fulfilling Obama’s vision (even though they oppose the stimulus) while Democrats are thwarting it (even though they are writing and supporting the stimulus).

Rinse, lather, repeat.

Quite.

The news yesterday features the latest ride on the merry-go-round:

Senate GOP leader criticizes auto provision in stimulus bill

The Senate’s top Republican criticized a key provision for automakers in an $819 billion House stimulus bill.

Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky., criticized a provision to give the federal government $600 million to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles, calling it “wasteful spending.”

He told CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday that the provision shouldn’t be in the stimulus bill, and ridiculed it as “$600 million to buy new cars for government workers.”

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The coup that wasn’t?

Politics, US Politics

It seemed like such a genius move: tempt a Republican Senator who was facing less than pleasant electoral prospects into accepting a Cabinet job, and in one blow gain a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. No wonder Republicans freaked when the name of New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg was first floated for the Commerce Secretary job.

Amid liberal dissatisfaction about recent moves by Obama on the stimulus bill and Geithner’s and Daschle’s appointments, this was suddenly a move Democrats could applaud in incredulous glee. What a coup!

But now what? The Republican Senate leadership has reversed from “mounting a full-court press to keep [Gregg] in the Senate” to openly embracing his appointment. Mitch McConnell says there’s a deal, and that New Hampshire’s Democratic governor, John Lynch, will appoint a Republican in Gregg’s place. (Actually, he phrases it somewhat more cautiously as someone who “would caucus with Senate Republicans”.)

So what will the upshot be? Gregg is no Jim Jeffords, or even an Olympia Snowe. He’s a Republican for real. Check Congressional Quarterly’s comprehensive analysis of roll call voting patterns. According to its Presidential Support ranking, Gregg voted according to Bush’s preference 82% of the time in 2008 (only eight Republicans voted with Bush more often). Its Party Unity ranking shows that when a majority of Democrats faced off against a majority of Republicans, Gregg voted with the Republican majority 95% of the time. Sam Brownback was more of a dissident than Gregg. As a sour Democrat told the HuPo, Gregg is “a fiscal conservative, would likely oppose the president’s stimulus package, and has cast a “fair amount of gotcha votes” while in office.”

So at the end of this manoeuvre, will Obama have appointed a true conservative in exchange for – well, pretty much no strategical gains? Yes, I suppose a freshman Republican Senator who will have been appointed in Gregg’s place will be easier to beat in ’10 than Gregg would have been. But Gregg was himself already strongly at risk of defeat, so that’s a marginal advantage. Maybe you could argue that at least Lynch might appoint a somewhat more explicitly moderate Republican in Gregg’s place – but that seems an odd rationale for appointing the conservative guy to a Cabinet position.

Maybe, as Jason Zengerle suggests, Lynch wants to run for Senate himself in ’10, and is therefore happy to appoint a Republican ‘placeholder’, so he won’t face an incumbent in ’10. But there again the strategic plus for the Dems is marginal – US Rep. Hodes would stand a good chance too, in either case, and is more of a committed Democrat than Lynch at that. So what’s the deal?

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Still Not Used to an Articulate President

Politics, Uncategorized, US Economy, US Politics

I just watched Barack Obama’s chat with Matt Lauer before the Super Bowl. It appeared to be live — there were technical difficulties for example that presumably wouldn’t have happened in a taped segment, and some awkward camera cuts. Obama was funny, warm, and serious as called for and didn’t miss a beat when Lauer asked some gotcha-ish questions.

Nothing too deep of course — for example, Lauer asked Obama to face the camera and justify his preference for a national college football playoff to Floridians (whose Gators won the BCS Championship game). “Twenty-seven electoral votes,” Lauer kept saying. Obama smilingly found the camera and delivered his defense; “Congrats Gators, on an outstanding season. … Wouldn’t you feel better if you had beaten every team through a playoff system?”

There was more substance too, especially in terms of talking about the economy and the stimulus package. Obama made it clear that things are going to continue to get worse for several months, and then it would take a while after that before things got back “on track.” But he was full of reassurance, full of confidence that things WILL get back on track.

Throughout he was comfortable and smooth. It’s not solving the health care crisis or creating peace in the middle east, but it was still nice to see. (Right! A brain! Excellent.)

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Will the grapes of the House GOP’s wrath turn out to be sweet for the Democrats?

Culture, Politics, US culture, US Economy, US Politics

I already noted that the significant dilution of the stimulus bill, when it was only going to be rejected unanimously by the House GOP anyway, drove some people up the wall. “Now that [Obama has] offered concrete concessions to the GOP only to have them publicly throw them back in his face, there simply isn’t any super-secret strategy that can [..] make it all make sense,” wrote Stephen Suh angrily at Cogitamus. Why bother even striving for compromise?

This question will get more acute by the day, as a recent post by Kevin Drum illustrates. He reports on the Obama administration’s push to extend the February 17 deadline for TV stations to switch from analog to digital transmissions. Not exactly a hotly partisan issue, right? The Senate promptly arrived at a bipartisan bill – which it passed unanimously. Every Republican agreed. But then the bill went to the House.

Only 22 House Republicans voted in favour. 155 voted against it. Drum: “100% of Senate Republicans voted in favor but 90% of House Republicans voted against. Shazam! Apparently the House GOP caucus really has decided to blindly stonewall everything Obama wants, no matter what.” He posits: “This is even more of a wakeup call than the vote on the stimulus bill.”

Right. The House GOP leadership is startlingly open about its intentions too, observes Dan at Bleakonomy. It will block and obstruct whatever comes its way, so Republicans can freely blame the Democrats for everything when the economy hasn’t recovered yet in six months. Yes, six months – if things haven’t improved in six months, the Republicans intend to say that it’s all the Dems’ fault and that the stimulus “didn’t work” because they “didn’t have the input in this”.

Of course, the current crisis is turning out to be the worst in almost three decades and is guaranteed to have an impact lasting (much) longer than six months, so … GOP profit!

Yet still there are valid reasons not to come down on Stephen’s side of the argument … yet. (I mean, apart from the stimulus bill not actually being all that bad.) The obvious one is the enormous contrast between House and Senate Republicans on the TV bill. If the Senate GOP shows any remotely similar divergence from the House Republicans’ obstruction course on the stimulus as well, Obama’s strategy may still come to “make sense”.

Then there’s the question of strategy. I already linked to Josh Marshall’s argument that offering the Republicans significant compromises, only for them to reject everything anyway, will help to brand them as the party of ‘no’. Which will marginalise them even further in 2010 so the Dems can go the long haul. Kevin Drum links to more evidence on that count too: a poll conducted by Democracy Corps on January 14-19.

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Janus face

Politics, US Politics
(Image shared under CC-license by Judith Green)

(Image shared under CC-license by Judith Green)

How odd that the election of the new chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) should end in a dead heat between a Southern, “true” conservative who had to admit only just having left a whites-only country club, and a black Republican from Maryland who stood accused of being too moderate.

Kudos to the Republicans for recognizing just in time which way political suicide laid, and turning the other way at the last moment. All the sordid details about Michael Steele’s narrow victory over Katon Dawson and the terminally slow drop-outs of all the other candidates in a surprisingly enjoyable Twitter feed from the WaPo’s Chris Cillizza.

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What liberal media?

Media / journalism, Politics, US Politics

During the Bush administration, Think Progress noted yesterday:

the media consistently allowed conservatives to dominate their shows, booking them as guests far more often than progressives. The rationale was that Republicans were “in power.”

Well, now they no longer are. Same difference, TP notes, after turfing how many Republican and Democratic lawmakers were hosted on the five cable news networks (CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Fox Business and CNBC) to discuss the economic stimulus plan during the days ahead of the House vote.

Particularly striking: CNN, that supposedly liberal bulwark, gave the mike to exactly one Democratic lawmaker (Sen. Sherrod Brown) and seven Republicans, which included such well-known figureheads as Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Rep. Tom Price and such mainstream voices of reason as Rep. Ron Paul and Sen. Coburn.

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The Democrats who voted against the stimulus bill in the House

Economy, Politics, US Economy, US Politics

UPDATE, 13 February: For an overview on today’s vote, see this new post: The Democrats who voted against the stimulus bill in the House, part II: Once more round the bend.

—————

Yesterday, as Americans will know, the House of Representatives passed the $825 billion stimulus package that was proposed by the Democratic leadership. It passed by 244 votes to 188, without a single Republican vote in favour. 11 Democrats voted against.

Who were those Democrats? The Clerk’s Office of the House has the roll call:

46 28-Jan H R 1 On Passage Making supplemental appropriations for fiscal year ending 2009

The Democrats who voted nay were:

  • Allen Boyd – FL 02
  • Bobby Bright – AL 02
  • Jim Cooper – TN 05
  • Brad Ellsworth – IN 08
  • Parker Griffith – AL 05
  • Paul Kanjorski – PA 11
  • Frank Kratovil – MD 01
  • Walt Minnick – ID 01
  • Collin Peterson – MN 07
  • Heath Shuler – NC 11
  • Gene Taylor – MS 04

WSJ’s Washington Wire notes that “Bright, Parker, Kratovil and Minnick are freshman lawmakers, while Boyd, Cooper, Ellsworth, Peterson, Shuler and Taylor [and Minnick – nimh] are members of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition.”

Mind you, the Blue Dog Democratic Coalition has 47 members in all, so almost 6 out of 7 Blue Dogs actually voted in favour.

Democratic votes against the stimulus package in the House of Representatives vote of 28 January 2009

Democratic votes against the stimulus package in the House of Representatives vote of 28 January 2009

As the quickly improvised map above shows, most of the Democratic Nay votes come from rural and small-town districts, and six of the 11 Democratic Representatives who voted against were from the South. That’s still a small minority of Southern Dems in the House though.

The dilution of the stimulus bill during its preparation for the House vote has driven some liberal observers up the wall, and hyperbole aside not without reason. So many concessions, and still not a single Republican vote? Why bother in the first place?

But on the side of the defense, Josh Marshall argues that it might all turn out to be smart strategy; with Marc Ambinder chiming in that what may seem like Democratic gullibility is also done with an eye of unrelated upcoming votes. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, in its turn, has made a point (in a memo that’s not on their own website – what’s up with that?) of highlighting all the priorities it did manage to get into the bill. For example, a “20% temporary increase in maximum food stamp level above the FY2009 level for two years” (cost: $24 billion), “Medicaid payments to states (FMAP)” (cost: at least $15 billion) and “Unemployment benefits (UI) extension” (cost: at least $12.7 billion).

Now to wait how many of their proposals make it through by the time the Senate’s done with the bill as well.

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Questions and answers

Culture, European Politics, Media / journalism, Politics, US culture, US Politics

First things first

Foremost (h/t The Plank): The question to guide your day-to-day life in this new era.

Rush Limbaugh, conservative giant

Also via The Plank: Who is Rush Limbaugh? According to Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey, yesterday, “it’s easy if you’re Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don’t have to try to do what’s best for your people and your party. You know you’re just on these talk shows and you’re living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of that thing.”

But he had that all wrong, he realised today, after some constituents helpfully called in to remind him. In reality, he corrected himself in a statement titled “Gingrey comments on Rush misunderstanding,” Rush Limbaugh is not just a “voice [..] of the conservative movement’s conscience”, but … a “conservative giant”.

Who are the hottest professors?

In love with your prof? If so, he/she is likely to lecture languages. There is “Real Social Scientific Data” (mind your footnotes) on the relative hotness of the different disciplines, which comes via Prof. Henry Farrell (Political Science, ranked fifth) at the Monkey Cage.

Law and criminal justice take a prominent second and fourth place (out of 36) in the ranking, which might please fellow blogger Joefromchicago. Unsurprisingly, engineering, computer science and chemistry rank at the bottom, so pity the poor professors in those duller disciplines — after all, tenure without temptation is like aspersions without alliteration.

Economists, however (ranked 30th) have reason to harbour hope, judging on Shivaji’s observation that they’re up next to be fetishized by pop culture:

After the phenomenal success of books such as Freakonomics, Undercover Economist, Armchair Economist [..], every economist is under pressure to come up with some innovative approach to explain mundane things in life. Forget earlier topics like “Why aid doesn’t work in Africa” or “Implications of direct cash grants on Philips curve” that used to keep economists intrigued; the best talent in business are now looking for more relevant topics. And even though some of the most pressing issues facing mankind such as “Overpricing of the hotel mini-bar” (Tim Harford) and “socioeconomic patterns of naming children” (Steven Levitt) have already been worked upon, there still remain some fundamental questions that remain unanswered. For example, “How many love songs are written for every break-up song and why” or “why do men wash underwear less frequently than women”, or “Why does Ronald McDonald not get fat”? 

Where are Americans moving to? And from?

Talking about comparative hotness – which states of the US are hemorrhaging homes, and which ones are rapidly reeling in the residents? Earlier this month, Patrick Ottenhoff dug into the demographics on domestic migration between 2000 and 2008, and put up a map on The Electoral Map. It’s not as simple as cities versus flyover country, he emphasises: loser states cover a contiguous chunk of territory from Massachusetts to Nebraska, while most of the states strongly gaining ground are clustered together in the West and on the Atlantic seaboard from Virginia to Florida.

What’s the real reason Putin handpicked Medvedev for President?

Of course, or so the cheekier of conventional wisdoms go: term-limited out of the Presidential office, Putin needed someone to keep his seat warm while he played Prime Minister for a few years, so he could return to the Presidency soon enough. But why Medvedev?

Why, his luxurious head of hair of course. It’s the only way the steely-eyed leader could deal with the longstanding law of succession when it comes to ruling Russia. Lenin – bald; Stalin – hairy; Khrushchev – bald; Brezhnev – hairy; well, you get the idea. Gorbachev was bald, Yeltsin hairy, and well – let’s be honest, Putin isn’t particularly blessed in this regard.

By choosing Dmitry last year, Putin bent the Bald-Hairy Theory of Russian Leaders to his will to power – and the two can rule till death do them part.

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The month’s most tellingly unsurprising revelation about the outgoing Bush administration

Politics, US Politics

This story’s from last Sunday, but I just need to belatedly highlight it because – well, it seems to sum up so much about that particular mix of unscrupulousness and incompetence we’ve come to know so well from the outgoing administration.

You’ve also got to love how the CIA and Pentagon busily pass the blame to each other. But in the end both simply acted on the clear message from above that building actual cases about the detainees’ guilt was all but irrelevant. Guantanamo was just a place to shut people away you didn’t want about – end. Indefinitely, apparently – God knows what they thought would have to happen with them in the long-term. Looks like there was no long-term concept of where any of this would be going, period.

Anyway, better just let the excerpts speak for themselves:

Guantanamo Case Files in Disarray

President Obama’s plans to expeditiously determine the fate of about 245 terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay [..] were set back last week when incoming legal and national security officials — barred until the inauguration from examining classified material on the detainees — discovered that there were no comprehensive case files on many of them.

Instead, they found that [..] a Cabinet-level panel named to review each case separately will have to spend its initial weeks and perhaps months scouring the corners of the federal government in search of relevant material.

Several former Bush administration officials agreed that the files are incomplete and that no single government entity was charged with pulling together all the facts and the range of options for each prisoner. [..] Charles “Cully” D. Stimson, who served as deputy assistant defense secretary for detainee affairs in 2006-2007, said he had persistent problems in attempts to assemble all information on individual cases. Threats to recommend release or transfer of a detainee were often required, he said, to persuade the CIA to “cough up a sentence or two.”

A second former Pentagon official said most individual files are heavily summarized dossiers that do not contain the kind of background and investigative work that would be put together by a federal prosecution team. He described “regular food fights” among different parts of the government over information-sharing on the detainees. [..]

Evidence gathered for military commission trials is in disarray, according to some former officials [..]. In a court filing this month, Darrel Vandeveld, a former military prosecutor at Guantanamo who asked to be relieved of his duties, said evidence was “strewn throughout the prosecution offices in desk drawers, bookcases packed with vaguely-labeled plastic containers, or even simply piled on the tops of desks.”

He said he once accidentally found “crucial physical evidence” that “had been tossed in a locker located at Guantanamo and promptly forgotten.” 

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