Why Another Blog?

I've decided to set up another blog, (my other one is called Writer's Musings), because there are some topics just too weighty for that blog.

So here it is. In this space I'll explore more serious issues in more detail. I do not expect visitors to agree with me in all cases.
In this forum feel free to take off the gloves, grab a handful of mud and fight for what you believe in.

Simple rules, rather like cage-fighting in the blogosphere:
No direct name calling. No excessive profanity. No whining when smacked in the face with mud.
Sling inuendo. Feel free to ask leading questions even if in a snide tone.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Obama Issues the Mainstream Media Ignores or Deliberately Hides

Where was Obama really born? This could be laid to rest very simply, but Obama refuses (or can’t) produce a valid birth certificate proving that he was born in Hawaii. The Obama “Fight the Smears” web site has already admitted that Obama was a Kenyan citizen whose citizenship lapsed in 1982. So, was he born in Kenya or Hawaii? This question is important because the man who will be sworn in as President is sworn to protect and defend the Constitution. How can one do that if one is in violation of said Constitution by falsifying birth records and lying about it? What is there to hide if one has a valid birth certificate?

There is an alleged 1999 incident where Obama received oral sex from Larry Sinclair and smoked crack and snorted cocaine. Larry Sinclair willingly accepted a polygraph to prove that he was telling the truth. However, the organization that ran the test used an “expert” with phony credentials. They never released the results of the second test which was analyzed by a real expert. Sinclair passed the automated polygraph. The organization (Whitehouse.com) is a partisan, pro-Obama organization run by a pornographer. We already know that Obama will not volunteer to submit to a polygraph and he refuses to provide proof of his whereabouts on the date in question. Given that Obama admitted in his books that he once used cocaine and crack, the Sinclair allegation is that much more believable.

It is alleged that Obama has more than casual connections with William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, both former members of the Weatherman Underground. As recently as 2005 Ayers bragged about “getting off” and said they should have blown up more things. Even though Obama and Ayers keep crossing paths (Columbia, University of Chicago Law School, his neighborhood, Obama’s political “coming out party” hosted by Ayers and Dohrn in their house) we are supposed to believe that Obama has no relationship with Ayers. Why is this not worthy of investigation?

Obama’s association with ACORN (Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now) a group with a long record of voter fraud and sometimes violent activism is also suspect, but seldom reported on. This is critical because ACORN is also tied to the recent bailout plan pushed by the Democrats. Obama is benefiting from the mess he and ACORN helped promote.

See this article by the former Secretary of State for Ohio (who happens to be an African-American) for the incriminating connection between Obama and ACORN that the press will not discuss: Ken Blackwell.

Obama’s connections with Frank Davis, a known and avowed member of the Communist Party USA are suspect. In his own book, Obama calls the man his mentor. Should we not be concerned with that kind of relationship and how that would shape Obama’s character? Obama’s mentor is someone who advocated the overthrow of the United States government and we should not question how that affects Obama’s views?

One of the people on Obama’s campaign staff is Jodie Davis, co-founder of Code Pink, whose members attempted to disrupt the Republican National Convention during John McCain’s speech.

Obama is a friend and associate of former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick who pleaded guilty of corruption charges and resigned from office in September 2008. If Obama were a Republican, the media would have swarmed this one looking for any tenuous link.

Then there are the sordid details of Obama and Tony Rezko. Here are eight facts about the Rezko-Obama connection from the Chicago Sun-Times on 24 January 2008.

1. They met in 1990. Obama was a student at Harvard Law School and got an unsolicited job offer from Rezko, then a low-income housing developer in Chicago. Obama turned it down.

2. Obama took a job in 1993 with a small Chicago law firm, Davis Miner Barnhill, that represents developers -- primarily not-for-profit groups -- building low-income housing with government funds.

3. One of the firm's not-for-profit clients -- the Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corp., co-founded by Obama's then-boss Allison Davis -- was partners with Rezko's company in a 1995 deal to convert an abandoned nursing home at 61st and Drexel into low-income apartments. Altogether, Obama spent 32 hours on the project, according to the firm. Only five hours of that came after Rezko and WPIC became partners, the firm says. The rest of the future senator's time was helping WPIC strike the deal with Rezko. Rezko's company, Rezmar Corp., also partnered with the firm's clients in four later deals -- none of which involved Obama, according to the firm. In each deal, Rezmar "made the decisions for the joint venture," says William Miceli, an attorney with the firm.

4. In 1995, Obama began campaigning for a seat in the Illinois Senate. Among his earliest supporters: Rezko. Two Rezko companies donated a total of $2,000. Obama was elected in 1996 -- representing a district that included 11 of Rezko's 30 low-income housing projects.

5. Rezko's low-income housing empire began crumbling in 2001, when his company stopped making mortgage payments on the old nursing home that had been converted into apartments. The state foreclosed on the building -- which was in Obama's Illinois Senate district.

6. In 2003, Obama announced he was running for the U.S. Senate, and Rezko -- a member of his campaign finance committee -- held a lavish fund-raiser June 27, 2003, at his Wilmette mansion.

7. A few months after Obama became a U.S. senator, he and Rezko's wife, Rita, bought adjacent pieces of property from a doctor in Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood -- a deal that has dogged Obama the last two years. The doctor sold the mansion to Obama for $1.65 million -- $300,000 below the asking price. Rezko's wife paid full price -- $625,000 -- for the adjacent vacant lot. The deals closed in June 2005. Six months later, Obama paid Rezko's wife $104,500 for a strip of her land, so he could have a bigger yard. At the time, it had been widely reported that Tony Rezko was under federal investigation. Questioned later about the timing of the Rezko deal, Obama called it "boneheaded" because people might think the Rezkos had done him a favor.

8. Eight months later -- in October 2006 -- Rezko was indicted on charges he solicited kickbacks from companies seeking state pension business under his friend Gov. Blagojevich. Federal prosecutors maintain that $10,000 from the alleged kickback scheme was donated to Obama's run for the U.S. Senate. Obama has given the money to charity.

To which we can add 9. Rezko has been convicted of the charges.

Then there is the Reverend Wright association. How can one claim friendship with and sit in a church for twenty years while that friend spews hatred of whites and hatred of America, and then claim to want to represent all Americans? Obama threw Wright under the bus only when it became politically necessary to do so.

What all these things show is Obama’s consistent track record of dubious judgment in associations at a minimum.

The citizenship issue is a more critical Constitutional issue that Obama should be, but is not, interested in resolving.

Obama’s association with ACORN should be raising red flags, but is widely ignored.

America is being ill-served by the mainstream media who have totally abandoned any pretense of being the impartial watchdog for the American people. The mainstream media have become part of the Obama campaign.

America, you are asking for a Chavez-type government if you elect Barack Obama.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Electoral Map Review for 27 September 2008

Clarence Page, in a recent commentary, took up the issue that there may be a hidden bias that is not being captured in the daily polls. Some commentators seem to be laying the groundwork in the event that if Obama loses, they can rail about racism in America. But more to the point, Clarence Page argues that since this potential hidden bias is thought to be about 5% that means that Obama cannot be happy with any lead that is less than 6%.

Where is this racial bias? It is within the Democratic Party and among Independents. Most Republicans are going to vote Republican no matter whom the Democratic candidate is. What helps Republicans win these kinds of elections is getting Democrats to cross over and taking enough Independents. We can’t ignore this potential impact.

Other Trends:
Among Democrats Obama lead 85% to 10% for McCain with 5% undecided.
Among Independents McCain leads 45% to 44% for Obama with 11% undecided.
Among Republicans McCain leads 89% to 9% for Obama with only 2% undecided.

As close as things are, the election will turn on the 16% undecided Democrats and Independents.

If the hidden racial bias is the 5% that some are estimating, this is what the Electoral Map looks like on Election Day. The darker shades are where the candidate carries the state by more that 5%, while the lighter shades indicate less than 5%.

Racial Bias Scenario

It is the day after the first debate. Too early to tell what the impact will be, but the most recent major event (the financial meltdown) can be seen to have an impact.

Keep in mind that Real Clear Politics simply averages a bunch of polls without regard to potential bias or differences between the “registered voter” model and the “likely voter” model. My map includes other intangibles like trends over time, history and difficult to quantify attitudes. I also dropped old polls, obvious outliers and any “registered voter” polls.

Real Clear 27 September 2008

My Electoral Map 27 September 2008

Where We Agree But…

PA: Still close though the last week has improved Obama’s numbers. Still a toss-up and not out of reach for McCain.

MI: After cutting Obama’s lead to about 2%, McCain lost ground again, but suddenly Obama lost ground right back. Obama currently has a 3.75% lead. This one could move back to toss-up.

NH: Starting to lean McCain. Obama has a .4% lead right now. If the trend continues, McCain will take a lead soon.

Where We Differ:

ME: After my adjustments, Obama has a 4.5% lead. This one is getting close. Obama by 2% on Election Day.

OH: Although McCain’s lead has dropped somewhat, I’m still sticking with historical trends. McCain by 4% on Election Day.

WI: I’ve got WI in Obama’s column, but it is remaining closer than I expected. Obama by 3% on Election Day.

MN: I’ve still got MN in Obama’s column, but like WI it is close. Obama by 2% on Election Day.

IN: Again I’m sticking with history even though Obama has closed the gap. McCain by 4% on Election Day.

VA: Sticking with history even though Obama currently has a slight lead. McCain by 5% on Election Day.

FL: Obama seems to have peaked here. McCain by 5% on Election Day.

MO: McCain’s numbers softened a little, but I don’t think Obama will flip this one. McCain by 7% on Election Day.

NV: Obama not showing any traction here. McCain by 5% on Election Day.

NC: It’s close now, but not really a toss up. McCain by 6% on Election Day.

CO: Still really a toss up. Real Clear is counting some significant outliers in their numbers. McCain by 2% on Election Day.

NJ: I show Obama recovering here so that NJ is no longer just leaning Obama. Obama by 8% on Election Day.

WV: I don’t see Obama getting votes he did not get in the Primaries. McCain by 10% on Election Day.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Scary Scenario

This Electoral Map, based upon past performance and current polls, is entirely possible. The darker shades represent each candidate winning by more than 5% while lighter shades represent each candidate winning by less than 5%

The best way to break it would be if Maine's Electoral votes were split (which is permissible under their system).

The worst way would be for the House to vote (guaranteed to cause an uproar).

Let us hope that someone wins by a landslide, (the most unlikely scenario) so that there are no arguments about race, sex, age or any other excuses. Though I guess the race argument will be there no matter what happens.

The Scary Scenario

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Electoral Map Review for 24 September 2008

It has been five days since my last Electoral Map review. Here are the changes since the last review. What I’ve done this time is throw out all “registered voter” polls. In some cases this has made McCain’s support look softer, in others Obama’s. The main point is that averaging “registered voter” and “likely voter” polls is comparing apples and oranges. So, I threw out the oranges and I’m only comparing apples. Most polls are using the “likely voter” model anyway

Real Clear Politics Electoral Map 23 Sep 2008

My Electoral Map 23 Sep 2008

Where we agree

CO: No change. Still a dead heat with Obama up by only 1%.

PA: Still a statistical dead heat. Again if this one flips to McCain, it is election over for Obama.

NH: This tossup has gotten tighter with Obama having a 2% lead.

MI: McCain’s post-convention bounce gone, this one now leans Obama at slightly over 5%. The next three weeks will be most critical here.

WI: Still a toss-up, surprisingly McCain has not yet lost his bounce here. Now the best chance for a flip to McCain.

OR: Obama with a 4% lead that keeps dipping. I never guessed this one would be this close. If he dips below his current lead, then it’s a toss-up and the Democrats have to start worrying.

Where we differ

ME: Obama’s support seems to have slipped here. Leaning doesn’t help Obama if they split the vote close to 50 – 50. With only a 4% lead now, down from 14%, this state is close to becoming a toss-up. Since this state splits its Electoral vote it can’t be considered a lock for Obama. Neither candidate wins all these Electoral Votes.

NY: Still a strong lean for Obama with a 9%, but down significantly from the double-digit leads he previously had. As long as Obama stays above 5% in the polls, this one is safe for the Democrats. Below 5%, they should be nervous.

MN: McCain’s post-convention bounce gone here too. Obama now has a 5% lead, but like MI the next three weeks will be most telling.

OH: McCain is running a fairly consistent 5% lead when “registered voter” models are dropped. Even Bush won this state twice by less than 4%, so I’m sticking with McCain by 4%.

IN: Dropping all the “registered voter” polls and the biased IndyStar poll this one looks closer because there is only one poll left standing, but I’m sticking with historical trends on Indiana and saying it stays McCain by about 4%.

VA: SurveyUSA has been a consistent outlier in VA so I’m discounting their results. ABC/Washington Post are so biased in favor of Obama that their results are suspect at face value. Dropping the National Journal “registered voter” poll that was an outlier in McCain’s favor, it means that statistically it is a dead heat. However, I’m still going with 44 years of history and saying that McCain wins VA by about 7%.

FL: It’s gotten closer, but I’m still giving McCain a 5% margin in this state.

NV: No change. No polls show Obama with a lead. I’m still saying McCain by about 4%.

WA: Obama now only has a 3.5% lead so it’s now a toss-up. Like OR, I’m somewhat surprised by this one.

The first debate is in two days. I'm looking for some movement next week.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Electoral Map Review

In my last post I discussed how to look at poll numbers. One source of bias that I neglected to mention, and one which further muddies the water, is the difference between polling “registered voters” and “likely voters.” Polls that use the “registered voter” model will almost always show a Democratic bias. Even in states that are strongly “red states” the strength of the state’s “redness” is reduced when using the “registered voter” model.

The “likely voter” model is thought to eliminate this bias, but it can also be biased if the pollster simply asks, “are you likely to vote?” A preferred method is to use historical data to identify the demographic groups with stronger likelihood of voting. This is where the “weighting” you may have heard of being discussed comes into play. Faulty weighting can reintroduce bias.

Electoral Vote Maps

The first map is the Real Clear Politics Electoral count for 19 September 2008. My map for the same day appears below. Note that the maps are not really too different, but a couple states change the numbers. On my map, I applied all the factors I discussed in the previous post. I threw out outdated polls (pre-convention) and I scrutinized polls likely to contain partisan bias or flagrant statistical outliers. In some cases I looked at the historical trends both in previous elections and poll trends to break what currently look to be dead heats.

Real Clear Politics Electoral Map 19 September 2008

My Electoral Map 19 September 2008

Let us begin with some obvious and easy to justify differences. MT and ND are shown by Real Clear to be “pink” or leaning to McCain. I contend that both are strong “red” states. Neither status changes the Electoral Vote count.

MT: The MT average includes one poll from February where McCain had an 8% lead and one from May again showing an 8% lead. The latest Rasmussen poll conducted after both conventions shows McCain up 11%. Obama had a brief moment in the MT sun in July, but neither before nor since has he polled in positive territory in MT. MT is a “red” state, not a “pink” state.

ND: The ND average includes a February poll where Obama had a 4% lead and a preconvention poll paid for by the Democrats where he had a 3% lead. The only post-convention poll was conducted by Rasmussen and it shows a 14% McCain lead. Again, this state was not ever in danger for the Republicans and remains a “red” state.

The Map Differences

NV: McCain holds a slight lead, but I’m letting history say that this state is actually leaning to McCain instead of being a tossup. Over time most polls show McCain on top and the state usually goes Republican. The InAdv polls look to have significant statistical bias. However, in this case I left their results in the numbers pending newer polls. If future polls show results closer to the Rasmussen numbers, then I’d toss the InAdv poll numbers. Either way, I think that McCain wins this state by about 4%.

IN: Real Clear shows this one a tossup, but in the middle of their numbers is a poll by the IndyStar that deviates from other polls by about 200% showing Obama up 3%. Their own data shows they relied heavily on interviews in Indianapolis and they admitted that Indianapolis is the only place in the state where Obama has any lead whatsoever. After tossing this statistically flawed poll, the state is back to “pink.” I’m calling this one McCain by at least 5% in November. The last time IN went Democratic was in 1964.

VA: Given Obama’s steep falloff the last few days here, I’m putting this one in the McCain column. Most polls since the conventions are showing McCain with about a 4% lead. I’m going with 44 years of Republican victories here and saying that McCain wins VA by at least 7% come November, which is a falloff from Bush in 2004 and 2000.

In Agreement For Now But…

OH: Most polls are showing McCain up by an average of 4%. A recent CNN/Time poll is showing Obama by 2% which brings the numbers back into a range making this look closer. I didn’t throw any numbers out on this one yet and though I’m also showing it as a toss up. Waiting on new numbers, at this point I’m predicting McCain by 4% in November.

CO: Real Clear and I agree on this one, but Real Clear has added the clearly biased InAdv poll showing Obama up 10%. This number is about 1000% higher than any other poll so I tossed their poll numbers. All other polls show this one a dead heat. Almost all InAdv poll numbers in every state are showing a deviation of 200% or higher over other polls. Either they are deliberately biased or they have faulty weighting. Either way their numbers are suspect. I think this one will tilt to McCain, but I’m holding it in tossup until I see more numbers from other polls with more reliable credentials.

PA: This state was only ever “baby blue” so there was always a chance for McCain. The most recent numbers are showing a dead heat with between 6-10% undecided. Most significant is that Obama had as much as a 9% lead before the conventions and that has evaporated. Anything can happen here. If this state goes McCain on November 4, McCain will win the Presidency.

MI: Has gone from “baby blue” to “gray.” Combined with increasing gains by Republicans over the past two elections, this is a trend that should worry Democrats. Obama had a 9% lead at one point. I don’t think it likely to flip, but Obama will be forced to expend resources to defend this state.

MN: This year is probably the Republican’s best shot at taking this state. Obama had a solid 15% lead in this state that has evaporated and the state has trended Republican the past two elections. It is now a dead heat. This one may flip, but it will still be close. Neither candidate will win by more than 3%.

WI: This is another state that Democrats should worry about and is the Republicans’ second best chance to flip a traditionally Democratic state. Obama had an 11% lead in July that has steadily eroded. This one is a statistical dead heat. McCain has come on strong here the past week. Even if Obama hangs on, he will be forced to spend resources in order to defend this state. Like MI and MN, this state has been trending Republican in recent elections.

NH: I suspect NH will move into the Obama column within the next week and that he will win it by about 4% in November.

Closer Than They Should Be

WA: Now that McCain’s convention bounce has worn off, this one is back to leaning to Obama. WA was looking like it was moving to being a tossup. Still, considering that he once held a commanding 12% lead that is now only a little over 4%, one must wonder. This one could tighten again, but there is little play in the numbers.

OR: I’m thinking Obama wins this one by about 5% come November. His numbers, while consistently positive, have been sliding. Rasmussen had Obama up by 10% prior to the conventions, but on 15 September had him at only 4%. That may be the tail end of the McCain bounce, but we’ll need to see more data. The Portland Tribune gave Obama a 10% margin in a survey done prior to Rasmussen. I discount that number until I see more.

The bottom line is that the election remains close. Will we see a shakeup following the debates?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Brief Poll Primer

Every four years we get inundated with political polls as people suddenly find their two month attention-span for politics. There are literally dozens of polling agencies at almost every level tracking everything from local races to the Presidential Election. While in reality the state house and gubernatorial races have the most direct impact on us, we get fixated on the Presidential race probably because it affects us all no matter which state we call home. And the media fan that flame too.

As a continuing public service, I’m providing a philosophy for wading through the myriad of numbers. “Tempest-in-a Teapot” provided a link in an earlier comment here to Real Clear Politics, a site I also use. It is tempting and easy to do no further analysis and accept their average numbers at face-value, but this is a mistake. The real value in Real Clear is not their suspect averages, but that they provide numbers from multiple polling companies and links to those companies’ web sites in one location. Real Clear usually posts polls within twenty-four hours of release. They also provide a few handy tools like the Electoral Vote map that you can change if you so choose to do your own analysis as well as points of view on the issues and candidates from both the right and the left. In that sense they are very “fair and balanced,” to steal a particular network’s motto.

When looking at poll numbers, one of the first questions that should cross your mind is, “who paid for the poll?” Not all polls are created equal and some exist not just to measure opinions and attitudes at a particular point in time (non-partisan polls do this), but to shape voter behavior come Election Day (partisan polls do this).

Real Clear does a good job labeling the polls that were paid for by either party (these are indicated by a (D) or (R) beside the pollster’s name). However, in addition to these obvious potentially biased polls, there are those conducted by independent but politically biased entities whose results can be suspect. It becomes important to do your research on the pollster.

Polls conducted by CNN/Time, SurveyUSA, MSNBC are consistently biased in favor of Democrats. FOX polls tend to favor Republicans. About the only time that any network’s involvement in a poll can be taken with a level of confidence in objectivity is when they team with a non-partisan pollster like Gallop, Rasmussen, Zogby, or Mason-Dixon. In those instances the independent polling agency designs the poll and oversees the collection of data by the network. There are others that are non-partisan, but these are the biggest ones with the best reputations. Quinnipiac provides independent polling data primarily in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic. Their polls tend to have large sample-sizes relative to the population and low margins of error.

Ideally, one would analyze sample size (but then you need to also understand the demographics and total population from which the sample was drawn), how respondents are selected, examine the pollster’s questions, their admitted causes of probable error, and their stated margin of error. For the average person this can be daunting and prohibitively time consuming. Therefore hone in on two things: first, the “who paid for it” question and second, the stated margin of error. Have a high level of confidence on a truly non-partisan poll with a stated margin of error below 3%. If the margin of error is above this level, then be suspect of the poll numbers. If the poll is partisan, be very suspect. If the difference between the two candidates' poll numbers is less than or equal to the margin of error, then consider the poll a "dead heat." Only when the difference is greater than the margin of error can you consider the poll leaning one way or the other.

Look at the poll’s history over several months. As stated earlier, an advantage of Real Clear is that they provide this information by state at a glance. If you see a particular poll with significant deviation from all the other agencies polling within the same timeframe, then be suspicious as to their method, or their purpose. If an obviously partisan poll gives the opponent an edge, then accept the number if it is within range of other polls conducted at the same time.

Out-of-range numbers are called “statistical outliers” and as a rule should not be included in averages. I am talking numbers that vary in the 50 – 100 percent range. For example, there are five polls taken in a given week. Four out of five produce results showing a difference between two candidates in a range of 5 – 8 percent favoring candidate “A”. The fifth poll shows a spread of 8% in the opposite direction (a 100% deviation), favoring candidate “B”. If the outlier is an obvious “partisan” poll, then without question discard the number. If the poll is non-partisan and its history over time shows it a consistent outlier, then include the number.

Look at when a particular poll was taken. If it is older than a couple weeks or before some major event that could be expected to influence numbers (Democratic and Republican conventions for example), discard the poll unless there are no other numbers, at which point you need to start weighing other factors or simply guess.

Using Real Clear’s averages can be misleading for the following reasons:

a. Real Clear treats all polls equally. There is no assumption of potential bias and obvious statistical outliers are included.
b. Real Clear averages often include significantly outdated polls that skew the resulting average.
c. Real Clear averages often include polls taken prior to significant events that one could reasonably expect to alter opinions.
d. Real Clear averages polls with differing margins of error. This compounds the first error.

In other words, they often wind up comparing apples to oranges to bananas. If one assumes that this fruit salad is therefore more accurate, one will often be mistaken.

Enter the final piece to analyzing poll numbers and that is in knowing the polity of a particular state in all these polls. What is the balance of rural vs urban, how have they voted in past elections and is there an observable trend? Is the population traditionally conservative or liberal (this apart from voting history)? Typically rural populations are conservative (there are exceptions) and urban populations are liberal (there are exceptions).

For example, Minnesota has not voted Republican since 1984, but the numbers of people voting for the Republican candidate have gotten progressively larger, even with an unpopular Republican on the ticket, the past two elections and the Republican margin of defeat has gotten smaller. These factors can be indicators of potential outcome and constitute a trend. Combined with the trend of how the numbers have been moving over the course of the election cycle, you may have a strong indicator of the direction a particular state is moving.

Always remember that polls are snapshot of opinion in a discreet window of time and they change, sometimes wildly within a few days depending upon events. In my next post I will compare the Real Clear Electoral Map, which is constructed using average poll data including the flaws I listed above, with my own map that includes the filtering techniques I’ve discussed in this post. Until then go to Real Clear and try these methods on your own map to see how the map changes. Concentrate on the states they are calling "toss-ups" or "leaning" one way or the other.

Friday, September 12, 2008

More Reality Check

In her comment to my last post “Tempest in a Teapot” took exception to how I apportioned various states. In my comment on the last post, I explained my methodology, which was far more involved than simply looking at Real Clear Politics’ web site and accepting their numbers at face value.

In this post, I will show why the states to which “Tempest” took exception do not belong where she would like to see them. Wishful thinking and dated average poll numbers are no substitute for analysis.

MD is leaning Obama, a point I already made. MD leans that way predominantly due to Baltimore, but anti-Bush angst isn’t a guarantee this time around, though that's the theme the Obama campaign is trying so hard to emphasize. As I counted MD in my final Obama count anyway, "Tempest's" argument is moot.

ME has no new polling data since 12 August. Gore carried the state with 5% in 2000 and the more reviled Bush lost by 9% to Kerry. Bush is not on the ticket this time around and there is a significant conservative, rural population. Pending a new poll, I’m predicting that Bush’s absence combined with Palin will make this state much closer this time around. As this state allocates electoral votes on a proportional methodology, neither candidate is likely to get all the votes here.

MN was chosen by the Republicans for the convention because the state has been trending Republican the past two elections. Both Gore and Kerry barely won MN, which was a big reversal from previous elections and that was even with Bush being unpopular. Bush pulled more votes in MN than Reagan twice and in 2004, Bush pulled more votes in MN than any Republican has ever pulled. There isn’t a poll available since the conventions, but Obama only had a 2% lead prior to the conventions so it was statistically a dead heat.

PA barely went Democrat the last two elections and has been trending Republican even with unpopular Bush running. Clinton won the state by just below 10% twice. But GW only lost PA to Gore by 4.2% and to Kerry by 2.5 %. In 2004 Bush pulled more votes in PA than any Republican since Nixon in 1972. Western PA is conservative and will turn out in numbers sufficient to swing the state to the Republicans this time around. Don’t think for one moment the Republicans won’t re-emphasize what Obama said about guns, religion and the poor dumb folks in the PA hills during the Primaries…which he lost heavily to Clinton. Obama has a post-convention lead of only 2% (statistical dead heat) down from a 12% advantage.

VT has had no new polling data since February. I’ll concede this one for now, but I suspect Obama’s lead is not the 34% it was back in February.

WA will be closer than the past two elections when the Dems won by 5.5% and 8.2% respectively. Obama’s support in the polls has been dropping steadily in WA since mid-August, but took its biggest tumble this past week. He now only holds a 4% 2% lead in WA where he once had a 12% lead. The last two elections the unpopular GW pulled significantly more votes than any Republican since Reagan in 1984 and he beat Reagan’s total both times. This one is winnable for McCain and now a toss-up.

IL is not a shoo-in for Obama. No polling data for IL since 12 Aug, at which point Obama’s support had dropped 6%. While Obama has what may look like a comfortable lead now, everything depends upon downstate voters who traditionally vote Republican. If they are fired up, and they were not the past two elections, they can overwhelm Obama’s Chicago advantage, which is exactly how Republicans have won the state in the past.

MI has also been trending Republican. In 2004, again with very unpopular Bush as the Dems enemy, he picked up 2% points over what he did against Gore. Current polls have McCain and Obama dead even in MI or within the margin of error. MI is most definitely a battleground and in no way assured for the Democrats. Bush the Lesser pulled more votes in MI than Clinton did in his two terms. In 2004, Bush pulled more votes than Reagan did in 1984. Post-convention polls have Obama up by only 1% (statistical dead heat). Very winnable for McCain.

WI: Gore won WI by only .2% (point two percent) in 2000 and Kerry doubled that to .4% (point four percent) in 2004, with unpopular Bush as the opponent. WI has been trending Republican the last two elections even with an unpopular Republican candidate. WI used to be safe for Democrats. Obama has a post-convention lead of 3% (statistical dead heat as it is within the margin of error), down from a 12% lead before the conventions.

FL was looking like it might go Democratic a month ago, but Obama’s chances there have been erased. When Hillary Clinton was speaking in FL on 9 September, she didn’t mention Obama by name in her remarks. That is not a good sign for Democrats. The unpopular Bush beat Kerry in FL in 2004 by over 5% and that after the angst of 2000. McCain has a post-convention lead of 5%.

NC is most definitely NOT a swing state and never has been. McCain holds a solid lead there and even Bush won over both Gore and Kerry by over 12%. Democrats are delusional if they think NC has become a swing state. The closest it has ever been for Democrats is when there were Southern Democrats running for President (Carter and Clinton) and even Clinton couldn’t take it from Dole. McCain has a post-convention lead of 12%.

NM: Gore won NM by only 366 votes when it was considered “safe” for the Dems given Clinton’s big wins there twice. Bush beat Kerry by about 6,000 votes. NM will go Republican this time by a solid majority primarily because Bush is not on the ticket, but the Palin factor will be significant here too. McCain as a 2% post-convention lead in NM, erasing the 13% lead Obama had prior to the conventions. No longer leaning Obama, NM is now a toss-up.

VA, a state "Tempest" declared a “swing” state, has not voted Democrat in 44 years (Johnson in 1964). And "Tempest" criticizes my analysis on states that haven’t voted Republican in twenty years, even though they’ve been trending that way? Bush won VA by a solid 8% twice. VA was looking like a potential battleground state a month ago, but is now slipping back to McCain. Palin will swing VA for McCain. McCain has a post-convention lead of 2% (statistical dead heat), but given history, no Bush, and Palin factors, McCain’s lead will increase.

Fact is McCain got a bigger bounce than Obama from the conventions. The daily Gallup is not favoring the Democrats (McCain leading 48% to 44% with a margin of error 2%), nor are the weekly tallies (McCain leading 49% to 44% with a margin of error 1%). McCain has recaptured Republican voters (89%), now leads with Independents (52%) and has cut into Obama’s Democrats (14%). The shifts are significant and cut across every major group except race.

As for looking at poll numbers, the most telling statistic is Obama’s softening support. New Jersey was once solid for Obama, now it is only “leaning.” Toss-ups are starting to lean McCain. Michigan, once leaning Obama, is now a toss-up. McCain’s support is solidifying in states that were only leaning a month ago.

And since “Tempest” likes Real Clear Politics, as of today their count is 217 for Obama and 216 for McCain.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Democrat’s Conundrum

The Dem’s have a big problem. It’s always been there, but it just got worse. For Obama to win in November, he can’t play to the liberal base of the Democratic Party. If he does, he loses the middle. McCain, on the other hand, must play to the conservative base. Playing to the middle does not work for Republicans.

With the selection of Sarah Palin, the McCain campaign made its strongest play to the conservative base. With that selection, it is likely that Obama will not win a single Southern state. It is highly unlikely that Obama can win the Presidency without winning at least one Southern state. He will have a serious fight in all states with large rural/small-town populations; read that more conservative states.

A look at the numbers

For McCain:

These states are likely secure for the Republicans: AK, AL, AR, AZ, FL, GA, ID, KS, KY, LA, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NM, NV, OK, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WV, WY (239 electoral votes). VA was Obama’s best bet to steal a Southern state, but that was when conservatives were non-committal. That probably changed by adding Palin to the ticket.

For Obama:

These states, including the District of Columbia, are likely secure for the Democrats: CA, CT, DC, DE, HI, MA, NJ, NY, OR, RI (141 electoral votes). His selection of Biden as a running mate was a big mistake. What states that Obama didn't already have does Biden bring to the table?

Toss up or “Battleground States”

Most of these states have large rural/small-town populations that tend to be more conservative, but they also have urban cores that tend to be more liberal and can go either way: CO, IA, IL, IN, MD, ME, MI, MN, NH, OH, PA, VT, WA, WI (158 electoral votes).

Of these CO is probably leaning to McCain (which would bring McCain to 248 electoral votes), while MD is probably leaning to Obama (which would bring Obama to 151 electoral votes). The rest are too close to call for the time being.

Therefore the election comes down to the following seven states: IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, PA, and WI (states with at least 10 electoral votes). All these states were closely contested in the last two elections. The biggest prizes in this mix are IL, OH and PA with 62 votes between them.

There are 538 electoral votes and it takes 270 electoral votes to win. McCain needs to win one of the following: IL, OH or PA plus one small state (22 votes). If Obama loses any of these three, he will likely lose the election.

Much can happen between now and November. The debates will likely shake out a few of the “too close to call” states. That’s my reading of the tea leaves. As the weeks pass and we get closer, I’ll refine my projections. One thing for certain, the election became a lot more interesting than it was looking like a month ago. A month ago I gave McCain a lock on half as many electoral votes.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pakistani Editorial

Below in its entirety is an editorial in the 2 September Daily Times. There are some interesting points raised which are worth noting, specifically the analysis about Iran's role in Afghanistan.

It does show that the Muslim world is no more monolithic than the West and that some serious issues exist between several nations in the region.

Peace with our neighbours...Daily Times (Pakistan)

2 September 2008
At an All Parties Consultative Conference held by Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (JUIF) in Peshawar on Sunday, Maulana Rehman recommended that Pakistan should form a “regional bloc to put an end to the lingering Afghan imbroglio, which was impinging on peace and security in NWFP”. He also said, “The conference deems presence of world powers in Afghanistan a threat to the interest of Asian countries, and invites the regional states to play their role in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan and FATA”.

One must study “the neighbourhood” more carefully before opining on the Maulana’s proposal. But there is another interesting opinion printed in a paper on Monday in which Mr Masood Sharif, an ex-Intelligence Bureau boss and a former member of the Central Executive Committee of the PPP, writes that only Iran is not hostile to Pakistan among its neighbours. He also takes a particularly Pashtun view of the situation and accuses the Pakistan Army of killing his fellow ethnic clansmen. On India, his opinion is of a piece with core sections of the Urdu media: India’s “policy is devastating for Pakistan because it pins down the Pakistani Army, pits it against its own people and limits its operational options elsewhere, besides subjecting it to war fatigue and attrition”.

When Maulana Rehman talks of “world powers”, he means America and the consensus in Europe against Al Qaeda and its ability to train terrorists on Pakistani territory and send them to the West. But in the most recent missile hit by NATO forces in our Tribal Areas, there were two Muslims of Canadian origin. Canada is the most peace-loving of all the states in the West, but it is in Afghanistan because it fears that Pakistan is no longer able to control what goes on inside its territory. But if we believe that the world powers are making mischief against Pakistan — and compelling warlords like Baitullah Mehsud to kill innocent Pakistanis including Pashtuns through his suicide-bombers! — how can we at the same time assume that the “region” is with us?

Maulana Rehman probably wants us to get together with Iran, Uzbekistan and India to discuss the matter of “world powers intervention”. But all three are behind the Northern Alliance which has become dominant under the government of a Pashtun president in Afghanistan. Iran’s interest may clash with that of America on its western borders but it lies squarely with the Northern Alliance in general and the Tajik community in particular whom it backed against the Taliban in Afghanistan. In 1998, when the Taliban overran Mazar-e-Sharif, they killed Iranian diplomats in the consulate there, following which Iran accused militants from Pakistan of doing the deed.

These days, Iran has a sensible policy on the Pakistanis crossing the border into Iran as illegal migrants. Unlike India, it doesn’t kill them but hauls them up on a daily basis to the Pakistani border and hands them over. But have the Maulana and Mr Masood Sharif thought about what Iran thinks of the massacre of the Shia allowed by Islamabad in the Kurram agency? The news is that after Pakistan abandoned its Shias to the mercy of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, warriors from the Hazara region of Afghanistan are coming in to defend their brethren in faith. And who has traditionally helped the Hazaras in Afghanistan? And who is training the Hazara warriors and making them capable of fighting the Sunni fanaticism of Afghanistan and Pakistan? No matter how badly Iran may want to punish the US in Afghanistan, it is not going to support any strategy proposed by Islamabad.

Uzbekistan has the same kind of economic and cultural nexus with Mazar-e-Sharif as Iran has with Herat. Just as Iran saw Herat being ruled by Col Imam of the ISI from Pakistan under the Taliban, Uzbekistan saw the massacre of innocent citizens of Mazar by the Taliban in 1998, and accused Pakistan of masterminding the attack. Today our Tribal Areas are crawling with rebel Uzbek warriors who were trained in Pakistan earlier and have been trying to kill the president of Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan is backed by Russia and the real punch of the anti-Pakistan alliance in Afghanistan comes from Russian backing. Should we therefore consult with Russia too as a regional “friend”? Are we aware how many heads the “neighbours” would want delivered on a platter before they even talk to us?

As for India, the perception in New Delhi is that Pakistan is strategically frozen in its revisionist stance and is still not ready to abandon its policy of asymmetrical conflict. (There is some evidence that we are reviving the “option” again!) The Indians are therefore entrenching themselves in the very area that we used when we trained jihadists for fighting in Kashmir. The policy that will suit us today is to promote normalisation and trade, including investment, with India, at a fast pace without however retreating from our position on Kashmir. Any other “brave” policy of confrontation will harm us. The real crisis is internal and it can be solved only by preventing our soil from being used to harm our neighbours.

Second Editorial: ...and the missing Chinese

If there is one neighbour with whom we can discuss our predicament in the Tribal Areas with any self-confidence, it is China. But the latest news in this regard is not good at all. Two Chinese engineers, along with their driver and a security guard, have gone missing while checking installations in the NWFP near the border with Afghanistan. The two belonged to Zhongxing Telecommunications and were probably supervising their communications tower in the area. The case is that of kidnapping. If it is done by the local criminals posing as Taliban, they will ask for money and will sell them either to China or to its enemies who are also found in our Tribal Areas.

China is one “neighbour” that expects to be sympathetic to our plight, but there is a limit to Chinese tolerance too, given the fact that Islamist insurgency in the Western Province of China is being stoked in part from our Tribal Areas, as confessed by ex-president Pervez Musharraf not long ago. In any conference of our neighbours China can only sit silently watching our helplessness in the face of the mischief being hatched against the world from our territory.