A Massachusetts Miracle?

Tomorrow marks the special election for senate in Massachusetts. After a rather low-key primary, Martha Coakley handily won the Democratic primary. Scott Brown, the Republican candidate, essential went unnoticed until recent polls showed him narrowing Coakley’s once 20-30% margin to single digits. These trends have continued and any Coakley lead in the polls has completely evaporated. in fact, nearly all recent polls have Brown ahead by a few points (a key piece of data will be Rasmusssen’s poll later today).

What happened?

First of all, Coakley has been a decidedly unexciting candidate. The near absence of a primary battle and the fact that she’s been seen as taking the seat for granted have significantly hurt her ability to define herself in any meaningful way. Brown, in contrast, has painted himself as the anti-establishment candidate – indeed, it looks like he’s capturing a decent portion of Obama voters, who were no doubt anti-establishment in ’08. While Coakley’s recent ads have focused on trying to attack Brown, Brown has sent out of positive message, showing him traveling around Boston, advocating “more jobs and lower taxes.” Whether Brown has any strategy to deliver on this is somewhat immaterial at this point – the key is that it’s a message that resonates strongly when unemployment is high and after the sales tax in Massachusetts just went up.

It’s also been helped that most people really have a very limited notion of what “ObamaCare” represents. This is the administration’s problem: unless people have a clear message to hear, the opposition can easily step in to sow enough doubt to raise concerns – and by “opposition”, I mean both those who want more sweeping change (the progressive wing of the Democratic party) and those who prefer more restricted changes (Republicans). Polls seem to show there is overall support for the bills in Massachusetts, but the support is soft, and health care reform support is unlikely to drum up significant Democratic turnout. Brown strategy has also taken advantage of the largely unpopular negotiations within the Democratic party (e.g. with Senator Bill Nelson), arguing that he supports reform, but wants discussions brought out into the open.

While the outcome of this election remains unclear, I think there’s a greater than 50% chance that Brown will pull this out. What the Democrats do with both the health care bill and future bills with a sub-supermajority senate will determine how they perform in the 2010 elections. The supermajority may, in retrospect, turn out to be one of the worst things to happen to the Democrats in a long time.

A blog surge

My last post on this blog was over a month ago. Some have criticized me for “dithering” while my readers were desperate for new posts. Let me be clear: there was no material before me that could have reasonably been posted before this month. However, after much internal debate and consultation with my advisors, I have decided that what the internet needs is more posts on this blog. This blogging “surge” will begin immediately. As I have consistently said, it is my duty to inform the internet community of my opinions and thoughts, even when they are not what the internet wants to hear. My strategy will consist of three components:

1) More frequent posting: because a blog without posts cannot stand

2) More thoughtful posting: because posts without important content will just embolden the enemy (other blogs)

3) More pictures: because blog posts based on text alone cannot be as effective as a coordinated strategy.

Thank you for your understanding in these trying times.

The Stimulus: The Democrats’ War on Terror?

In winning an argument, it helps to have a position that is proven correct by any evidence.

For the Bush administration, it was the war on terror. How could you tell whether the government’s actions had kept us safe since 9/11? Well, there had been no new terrorist attack, so that was proof enough, right? What if there had been an attack. Then that would simply underscore the need for the administration’s aggressive stance.

I see the same sort of sophistry surrounding the stimulus, recovery act, or whatever the label du jour is. If the economy improves (which it inevitably will at some point), it proves the administration was correct in pushing the stimulus. If it worsens, imagine just how much worse it would have been had we not acted. Of course, the other side could turn this on its head and say the economic recovery occurred independently from, not because of, the stimulus. Or that any worsening is evidence of its failure. In fact, you’ll hear all these arguments being made right now.

I appreciate that there are different points of views on both these issues, but let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that there’s any sort of empiric way to prove or disprove their efficacy.

Change Has Come

It’s been 80 days since Barack Obama was inaugurated as President. He arrived with untold challenges awaiting him. An economy in a downward spiral. Two wars in disarray. A discouraged population. A failing auto industry. A crumbling housing market. Financial dysfunction so complicated, no one really understands it. Despite this landscape, he promised to bring real change to the country. I, as many, was cautiously optimistic that something could be done, but I was doubtful that I would personally feel the impact.

I was wrong. The change is very real, and I have felt its direct impact. The other day I ate an apple for a snack instead of my usual cookie. No big deal, right? Well, it wasn’t just any apple…it was organic! Today was burgers and fries night in my household, but the fries were organic sweet potato fries. The burgers were dry aged, grass fed, naturally raised, 90% beef. How many more buzzwords could you want? Well how about adding local, fresh-baked, all-natural hamburger buns.

Imagine what the next 4 years can bring.

Another take on McCain’s “corrections”

“”No, ma’am, he’s a decent family man, a citizen, who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues. And that’s what this campaign is all about.” -John McCain, in response to a statement from a supporter that Barack Obama is “an Arab”

While I appreciate McCain trying to correct his audience, he does seem to imply that being a “decent family man” is somehow at odds with being an Arab.

Polls are like a drug

I’m in a tough bind. I’m a political junkie who likes numbers. And these days there are no shortage of numbers. Polling companies I’ve never heard of before are coming up with statistic after statistic. Each day, I’m driven to the latest polls at RCP or Pollster.com to check on what’s new. The worst are the daily tracking polls…as someone who has studied statistics, I realize that reading anything into the day-to-day variations is pointless, but I can’t stop myself. It’s compounded by the fact that this is an electoral college election, not a popular vote election: the total vote doesn’t really matter. Obama could drive up his lead by gaining bigger margins in states he is going to win anyway, and it would change the outcome. The same for McCain – increasing his lead in somewhere like Texas from 10% to 30% could change the vote totals, but not the outcome.

Obama has clearly pulled ahead in both the state and national polls recently, but I’m expect to see the race tighten up as people make up their minds and as some of McCain’s attack ads have an effect. You see, I think a lot of the so-called undecided voters are actually moderate Republicans who would normally vote for McCain, but are a bit nervous about the economy and McCain’s spotty performance. Obama might win some of them over, but some will eventually return to their Republican roots. Today’s polls are mostly tightening, except for Gallup, which now shows Obama with a staggering 11-point lead.

The big unknown in this election will be turnout. The electorate will likely look quite different this time around, and that may make all the difference.

It’s going to get ugly

29 days to go before the elections and one thing is clear: it’s not going to be pretty. Sarah Palin kicked it off this weekend by trying to link Obama to William Ayers. Think link is a fairly tenuous one, but crystalizes the McCain strategy for the homestretch: try to raise doubts about Obama’s character while diverting attention away from the economy. Will it work? It can’t win McCain the election, but may could help stop the bleeding in the polls. What he really needs is for the economy to recover and for some sort of major international crisis to occur. And during that crisis, he needs to look a lot better than he did during the recent bailout proceedings. And he has to hope that the polls are seriously underestimating the “Bubba” factor. And he has to hope that this doesn’t get too much attention:

Damn you, Anderson Cooper

Each day, I stumble into work, dreary eyed. I sustain myself with a frequent coffee breaks and sugar-laden snacks. My eyes are bloodshot. This is no way to live.

It didn’t used to be like this. I used to wake up refreshed and ready to take on the world. Now, the it’s as if I never really woke up. Each day is a blur and merges into the next.

What happened? I broke down and re-subscribed to cable. CNN slowly infiltrated my life. Only now it was worse. Now it was…HD.

I like news. I like analysis. But the deadly combination of news AND analysis peddled by Mr. Cooper is too much for me. Even though I’ve already read it all online, I feel compelled to see the talking heads repeat the information. Just when I am ready to turn it off, on comes David Gergen, Paul Begala, or even Bay Buchanan. I know what they are going to say. But I have to watch them say it anyway.

The worst part is that the whole debacle doesn’t even begin until 10PM.

At least this will all be over November 4.