NY Judge Largely Depoliticizes Dan Rather’s Lawsuit Against CBS

Allahpundit and HuffPo take differing looks at Manhattan state court trial judge Justice Ira Gammerman’s decision (the text of which is here) dismissing some parts of Dan Rather’s complaint against CBS. Note that under NY state procedure, the decision on a motion to dismiss a complaint (i.e., without hearing the evidence) is immediately appealable, and given the amount of money and ego involved it would not surprise me if one or both sides appealed.
As an economic matter, the decision is mainly a victory for Rather; Justice Gammerman allows him to seek substantial breach of contract damages for CBS “benching” him after March 2005, under a contractual provision the court reads as essentially allowing liquidated damages designed to cover that purpose, by requiring CBS to then immediately pay Rather his salary due through November 2006.
More significantly, in terms of the evidence that can be introduced (and, presumably, the remaining source of his punitive damages claims), the decision also allows Rather to argue that (1) CBS owed Rather a fiduciary duty and breached it (the decision is unclear as to whether the breach is the decision to bench Rather or a broader theory involving making him retract and apologize for the Rathergate story) and (2) Viacom, CBS’ parent, improperly and tortiously interfered with Rather’s contract with CBS by forcing its subsidiary to bench and fire him. The judge held that it was a factual issue whether Viacom acted in its own economic interests by sacking Rather, which under NY law is a defense to a tortious interference claim.
The more politically explosive parts of the suit – dealing directly with Rather’s claim that he was defrauded and effectively defamed by CBS making him apologize for the story when he really didn’t want to – were thrown out on statute of limitations grounds and for failure to show damages, so really neither side can claim any vindication on the merits.
The net result of this is that, while Rather gets to pursue the money he feels is owed to him, it may be difficult for him to get a Bush-hating Manhattan jury to rule on his claim that the story was true after all. But whether he can get the court to hear evidence on that point depends in large part on the contours of the remaining claims, and whether he ends up surviving summary judgment (CBS is vowing to get a later ruling that there’s insufficient evidence to send these claims to a jury) on any claim that goes beyond “after they benched me they didn’t give me enough to do” to “they shouldn’t have benched me because I was right.” As much money as is involved in the former, it’s only the latter that anyone will care about.

Kerry Campaign Busted Spending Limit – On Customized Jets

Dignity. Integrity. Duty.
Aw, heck, why not just blow it all on fancy airplanes?

Sen. John Kerry broke spending limits by nearly $1.4 million during his 2004 presidential bid, including some funds spent on customizing his campaign jets, a Federal Election Commission draft audit concludes.
The FEC could rule that Kerry’s campaign must reimburse the government. Because his general election campaign was taxpayer funded, Kerry would have to pay back the U.S. Treasury.
Much of the disputed money was spent on customizing jets used by Democratic presidential nominee Kerry and his running mate John Edwards, according to auditors.

Continue reading Kerry Campaign Busted Spending Limit – On Customized Jets

Unhealthy Fixation

Tuesday’s fun with the “chicken hawk” argument was, at first blush, about yet another of the stupid arguments you encounter (from Left and from Right) in political debates, an ad hominem that feels good to toss around but makes no logical sense. But this argument is much more than that: it’s political hemlock that the Left/liberals/Democrats can’t seem to stop imbibing, with catastrophic consequences in the 2004 election. You would hope that they’ve learned something from that. Let me count the ways:
1. The Wesley Clark Boomlet: One of the problems the Democrats faced, once Howard Dean flamed out, was the absence of meaningful alternatives to John Kerry that anti-Kerry voters could rally around. One reason for that was the time wasted in the fall of 2003 fawning over Wesley Clark, whose only qualification for running was his military experience. The willingness of Democratic pundits, bloggers and (for a time) voters to swoon over Clark’s military pedigree was a bad early sign of their confusion of military experience with good ideas on foreign policy. Significantly, some of the biggest Clark boosters in the blogosphere, like Kevin Drum and Mark Kleiman, were the same people who went ga-ga over the “AWOL Bush” story. Coincidence? I think not. They convinced themselves that you could defeat Bush in a foreign policy debate by comparing Clark’s distinguished service record to Bush’s.
2. The Rise of Michael Moore: Moore had been on the political scene for some time, with his books and movies. But you may recall that his first direct insertion into the campaign came in January 2004 when he endorsed (who else) Wesley Clark and, in the process of his endorsement, called President Bush a “deserter.” In retrospect, that was the best opportunity then and there for somebody to smack down Moore and keep the debate focused on things that happened less than 30 years ago. Nobody did; to the contrary, Moore kick-started a blog and media frenzy over the previously dormant AWOL story, setting off, among other things, comments from DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe on the subject. This created a monster, as Moore quickly learned that he could say whatever he wanted and still be embraced by the party’s leadership.
3. The Kerry Nomination: Of course, the biggest debacle of all was the decision to nominate John Kerry. I believe, and I doubt too many people would disagree with me on this one, that Kerry would never have won the nomination had it not been for the widespread perception that he could take advantage of the distinction between his own combat record and Bush’s military service record. That calculation wound up overcoming a wealth of reasons, well known to many Democrats, why Kerry could be a terrible candidate.
Now, Kerry did have a decent resume at first glance (two decades in the Senate) and did have his strengths as a candidate, notably his startling aggressiveness as a debater. And he didn’t get blown out in November. But he did lose a lot of ground Al Gore had held, and as more than a few people pointed out during the primaries as well as later on, he was a sort of Frankenstein’s monster of bad candidate traits: in a Senate divided between work horses and show horses, Kerry is a show horse who doesn’t show well, a faux populist who’s bad with people, an orator who gives deadly dull speeches, a guy who’s all image and no substance . . . and his image is as a guy who’s dull, condescending, mean, arrogant, and insincere. A glass-jawed bully who picks fights and boasts “bring it on,” yet whines when attacked back. He’s basically spent thirty years living off youthful exploits that he himself denounced, hiding behind medals he pretended to throw away. And, of course, there was his famous inability to take a clear position and stick to it.
All of this was well known to Democrats. But they overlooked it all in their obsession with proving that Bush was a chicken hawk and Kerry a noble war hero.
4. The Convention: You know the story: the Democratic Convention produced almost no bounce in the polls, and turned out to be a missed opportunity to lay out a coherent message. Why? Does the phrase “reporting for duty” ring a bell? Yet another blind alley, as the Democrats stressed over and over the contrast in Kerry’s and Bush’s service records at the expense of talking about a winning strategy in the war on terror or even laying out a stronger and more detailed critique of Bush’s.
5. The Swift Boat Vets: We knew all along that Kerry would take some heat from Vietnam veterans over his conduct after the war. But nobody had really expected Kerry to suffer such damage from attacks on his service itself. There’s no question that those attacks were motivated and given more visibility by the extent to which Kerry sought to play the “I served and you didn’t” card.
6. Rathergate: The final way Bush’s critics went astray over their obsession with hunting chicken hawks was the fiasco of the 60 Minutes hack job on Bush’s National Guard service. Once again, the zeal of Bush critics who had pursued this story for five years overbore their judgment about the credibility of their sources, and led to a humiliating reversal that symbolized, for many voters, the media’s mania to get Bush by any means necessary. Worse for the Democrats, the report coincided to a high degree of coordination with attack ads rolled out by McAuliffe. (And I’m leaving out here the roles of Tom Harkin and Max Cleland)
Could Bush have been beaten in 2004? It’s a debate that can rage on through political history, but those of us who lived through it, on either side of the fence, certainly thought it was at least possible, and at any rate a stronger race against him might have salvaged some of the down-ticket disasters for the Dems.
Most of us who supported Bush recognized that Kerry’s service record compared to Bush’s was a positive for Kerry. If the Democrats had left it at that, it would have helped them. But at every turn, the obsession of Bush’s critics with the “chicken hawk” argument – the idea that Bush’s lack of combat service wasn’t just one factor but a disabling fatal flaw for a wartime president – overbore their better judgment about sticking to the issues and the record, and wound up turning a positive into a series of disasters. Will they ever learn? Stay tuned.

Turning Over A New Leaf

As I’ve done in the past, I’m creating brand-new categories for the new year. You’ll now go to Baseball 2005 for new baseball entries, Politics 2005 for new politics entries, War 2005 for new war entries, and Law 2005 for new law entries (the Law category hadn’t needed an overhaul last year). I’ll shortly be updating the link to baseball-only posts at the top of the page as well to send you to Baseball 2005.
Happy New Year!

Answering Josh Marshall’s Call

(Also posted in The Corner after I emailed this to Jonah Goldberg – Welcome, Corner readers!).
For all of Josh Marshall’s huffing and puffing about the effort to expose how Joe Wilson got picked for the Niger trip, it’s worth taking a little trip in the Wayback Machine to what Marshall had to say on July 8, 2003, less than a week before Bob Novak’s now-infamous column identifying Wilson’s wife, CIA officer Valerie Plame, as the person who picked Wilson:

Continue reading Answering Josh Marshall’s Call

SCIENCE/ Getting Warmer

The Mad Hibernian’s post on Friday on Michael Crichton’s new book questioning “global warming” and similar environmental dogmas (which followed on this powerful speech by Crichton last year denouncing global warming theories) prompted some interesting comments and links. Now, I’m no expert on the subject myself, but I did think it was worth repeating here something I said in the comments to that post. I’m very skeptical of hearing “global warming” discussed as if it is a single concept, like “the earth is round.” Basically, “global warming,” as I understand its popular meaning, is really three different concepts:
1. The earth has, for some period of time, been getting warmer.
2. This past warming trend is not a random or cyclical phenomenon but is a trend that will continue into the future unless interrupted by human intervention.
3. The past trend and its continuation into the future are the results of specifically identifiable human activities, i.e., carbon emissions.
It is entirely possible to believe #1 without believing #2 and #3, or even to believe #1 and #2 without believing #3. Beware of anyone who tries to use evidence supporting just one of those propositions to convince you of all three.

2004 Bedfellow Awards

Well, as promised back in late October, it’s time to award the 2004 Bedfellow Awards. The Bedfellow Awards are named in honor of the comic strip “Bloom County,” in which Senator Bedfellow was defeated on the strength of an election-day headline, “WARNING: VOTING FOR BEDFELLOW MAY CAUSE HERPES“. Although the award gives special points for attacks that are false and/or unfair, the simplest definition of a Bedfellow Award nominee is a news story that (1) comes out shortly before the election, and (2) has a much larger impact on the election than it would have if it had come out earlier.
I solicited nominations, although I didn’t get a whole lot of them. You can see some of the nominees here and a very early candidate here as well as in the post linked above and its trackbacks. Let’s run through the awards:
1. Overall Winner: Osama bin Laden
Political experts will debate endlessly which candidate it helped and whether it had much of an impact one way or another (Kerry says it cost him the election), but there’s no question that the big, knock-everything-else-off-the-front-page surprise story of the campaign’s last weekend was the emergence of OBL himself from his gopher hole with a video message aimed directly at the American people and obviously timed deliberately to influence the election. (I’ll leave aside here as well the debate over whether he was actually trying to help Kerry or just to show he could influence an American election as his minions had in Spain). The story, once out there, was a legitimate story, which is why I’m giving the award to bin Laden himself rather than the news media or the candidates, who had no choice but to react to it.
2. Anti-Bush Winner: The Al-Qaqaa Explosives Story
This was a favorite nominee, and it would have been an even more outsized story if CBS had succeeded, as planned, in sitting on the story until the Sunday before the election (instead, because the NY Times broke the story a week earlier, 60 Minutes had to settle for a story attacking the Bush Administration over the sufficiency of equipment for the troops in Iraq). The explosives story got more heat and less light than it would have earlier in the campaign because there was so little time to get to the bottom of the thing.
3. Anti-Kerry Winner: The Dishonorable Discharge
On November 1, the New York Sun’s Thomas Lipscomb finally broke through Kerry’s long stonewall on the circumstances of his discharge from the military, but the day-before-the-election timing wound up making the story a late hit. Of course, unlike late hits against Bush, this one got ignored and buried.
4. Senate Race Winner: The Kentucky Senate Race
Nasty, nasty, nasty, full of allegations of whispering campaigns, the most late-hit-filled and under-the-radar campaign of the year turned out to be the Kentucky Senate race, with Democrat Dan Mongiardo openly challenging the mental competence of Republican righty Jim Bunning, and Bunning accused of a whispering campaign to convince voters that Mongiardo was gay.
I didn’t get enough nominations or pay close enough attention to pick a House winner, but the latest of the late hits had to be the attack on Louisiana Republican Billy Tauzin III for a citation for trespassing and illegal hunting of nutria, a kind of rodent.
Anyway, there were plenty of candidates from this year’s presidential elections. Feel free to suggest additional honorable mentions in the comments and trackbacks.

12/10/04 Links

*Great, great column by Tom Friedman on the radicalization of Iraqis under sanctions. Friedman often infuriates; he’s right about diagnosing problems but responds by suggesting daft solutions. This one’s more on the diagnosis side. (Link via Geraghty).
*A fine primer on Ukrainian history from a Ukrainian friend of LT Smash. If you’ve studied Russian history, as I did in college, some of this will be familiar, but there were also things here that were new to me or that I’d long forgotten.
*You’ll want to head over to Soxblog, where pseudonymous blogger James Frederick Dwight (you really shouldn’t need to think too hard on the origin of his pseudonym) is tearing apart a sloppy New Yorker piece comparing hospitals and clinics that treat cystic fibrosis (start here and scroll up for followup posts, including his discussion of my initial reaction to the piece, which was that it sounds like something drafted by the plaintiffs’ bar).
*Yes, the Onion’s Iraq Alert System just killed me. (Link via Simmons’ Intern).
*Victor Cha, a Georgetown professor who advocates a “hawk
engagement” strategy regarding North Korea, will assume the post of Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council.
*You can look at this chart here and argue, as these Berkeley professors do, that the results on this graph show that the 2004 vote in Broward and Palm Beach counties were a suspicious outlier, but isn’t the far more logical inference that the 2000 count in Broward and Palm Beach is the suspicious outlier? Gee, does anyone remember any controversy over the vote-counting methods used in Broward and Palm Beach in 2000? I wonder if the results would look less anomolous if you used the Election Day 2000 counts in those two counties rather than the figures that were generated a month later.
*The Gift That Keeps On Giving, Part LXVIII.
*Ann Althouse on Nancy Pelosi’s horrible facelift/plastic surgery.

Whither CBS News?

Jim Geraghty maps out the possibilities for CBS News after the final report comes out on Rathergate:

CBS could go one of three routes from this point. One, they could try to clean up their act, stop behaving as if their job is to drive President Bush from office, cover viewpoints beyond the left, and attempt to break up the groupthink that has calcified their news judgment.
Two, they could define themselves as the left-of-center news channel, and aim for the blue state audience. Instead of trying to prevent bias, they could embrace it, and make it part of their brand identity. “CBS News: The channel that progressives prefer.”
Three, they could define themselves as the tabloid news channel, rushing things to air without checking, and intentionally eroding their standards for accuracy in the name of being first. They could be one part supermarket checkout line tabloid, one part Drudge, one part Wonkette, one part British Fleet Street scandal sheet.

The third is obviously somewhat tongue in cheek, especially for a deep-pocketed broadcast network. I agree that CBS can and should make a clear decision as to which way the Evening News goes: try to build a new reputation for evenhandedness, or embrace the Left the way FOX has embraced the Right. On the other hand, the departure of Rather, who after all brought this story on himself in his capacity as a 60 Minutes II correspondent rather than as Evening News anchor, offers a third way: start splitting the brand, letting 60 Minutes and 60 Minutes II go their way as crusading liberal newsmagazines, while attempting to play it straight on the Evening News. This can work in the newspaper business – the Wall Street Journal has had success with both a highly ideological opinion page (which hires its own reporters) and a news section with a high reputation for evenhandedness and balance. Would it work in TV? If CBS tries to rebrand itself as a network that distinguishes between a balanced newscast and an openly left-wing newsmagazine, of course, the network would have to decide which side of the line they want to dominate the morning show, the coverage of big events like the conventions (where FOX, for example, has prospered by stacking its panels with conservative commentators who draw in right-leaning viewers). Splitting the two sides makes some sense: while the Evening News has floundered in the ratings, 60 Minutes remains healthy and can profit by enlarging its reputation as a vocal critic of all things Bush (although they might do well to stop shilling books sold by Viacom).
I’ve also got an outside-the-box suggestion for Rather’s replacement: CNN Headline News anchor, technology reporter and former Tech TV anchor Erica Hill. Hill would bring a number of advantages to the anchor position. First, and most obviously, she’s drop-dead gorgeous, better-looking than most of the actresses on CBS’ prime-time schedule, let alone in the news business. That never hurts in the ratings department, and before you gripe about looks as a job qualification, remind me again why Brian Williams is succeeding Tom Brokaw, and why John Roberts has been mentioned as a replacement for Rather: first and foremost because they are big, good-looking guys with reassuring voices. Let’s not pretend otherwise.
But there are other women on TV who could look good reading the news; what’s additionally noteworthy about Hill is her background as a tech reporter. If you’ve seen her reports on CNN, she clearly comes off as someone who understands and enjoys new technologies and, frankly, spends a lot of time on the internet; she’s been reporting for months on the influence of blogs and the internet on campaigns. That’s precisely the fresh perspective towards newsgathering that CBS badly needs. I don’t know how smart she is – her bio says she’s a summa cum laude graduate of BU, which is nothing to sneeze at – but she comes off as intelligent on the air, which is important.
Granted, there would be internal resistance at CBS to bringing in someone with minimal experience (she can’t be more than 30 years old, and looks younger than that), although again, the CNN bio does say she anchored the now-defunct Tech TV’s on-air coverage all day on September 11, which is a real baptism of fire for any anchor. And maybe shaking things up would be a good in itself, sending a message that the way things have always been is part of the problem and bringing in someone not so set in her ways that she can’t take the program in new directions. In any event, part of CBS’ problem, even above and beyond bias, is age: Rather and Bob Schieffer and Mike Wallace . . . these guys are fossils, and whatever their other virtues they can’t be expected to connect with younger viewers or change with the times. Maybe CBS, with an older-skewing audience, is happy with that dynamic, but it’s unsustainable long-term. A young, fresh-faced anchor would change all that. With Brokaw leaving, there will be a window of opportunity for a new anchor to capture market share if CBS can make a splash. Erica Hill in Dan Rather’s chair would make a splash.
UPDATE: You can catch a flavor of Hill’s style with her online “Hot Wired” columns at CNN.com here (from January, discussing campaign blogs), here (marveling that she could survive a few days without internet access) and here (discussing procrastinating online).

Anti-Family Zealots

And the Democrats wonder why they lost even normally Democrat-friendly states like New Mexico:

Democratic legislators too often seem hostile to suburban concerns, and indifferent to the aspirations of those who would like to buy a home and a small green place to call their own. In Albuquerque, for example, planners working for the local Democratic regime advocated banning backyards, an essential part of the middle-class family lifestyle. One even told a local developer that his having four children made him “immoral.” A small–and probably extreme–example? Undoubtedly. But it speaks to a stereotype that Democrats have been battling for years now: that they disdain suburbia and the families who live there. It is long past time for Democrats to start undoing that perception.

Oh, and to repeat a point we Republicans keep making: you take the people who abort their children, and we’ll take the families with four kids, and we’ll see in a generation which of us has more voters.

Self-Evident Idiocy

One last spleen-venting legal case for the day:

A California teacher who teaches his fifth-grade students with the aid of primary source documents like the Declaration of Independence has been ordered by school administrators to stop using such artifacts of American history because the material contains references to God.

I heard about this one during the significant amount of time I spent stuck in traffic on I-95 over the holiday weekend, while flipping past Sean Hannity�s radio show. Not considering that the most reliable source and more than a little skeptical, I decided to check it out and, lo and behold, The Smoking Gun had the documentation, including the teacher�s complaint.
Politically, this is an example of Democrats needing to better police their fringes. I can�t imagine that the mainstream of that party is really opposed to the Declaration of Independence or shares such absolutist hostility to religion, but the cumulative effect of stories like this, fairly or unfairly, pushes a lot of otherwise undecided people into the Republican camp. It�s hard to get anyone to trust their children to people who think the ideas of people like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams are unfit for public schools.

Getting Tolerance Wrong

This Nicholas Kristof column in last Wednesday’s NY Times, denouncing the “Left Behind” series of novels popular among evangeical Christians, rather perfectly captures a misunderstanding of religious tolerance that is found too often on the Left, and one I’ve dealt with before. Here’s Kristof:

The “Left Behind” series, the best-selling novels for adults in the U.S., enthusiastically depict Jesus returning to slaughter everyone who is not a born-again Christian. The world’s Hindus, Muslims, Jews and agnostics, along with many Catholics and Unitarians, are heaved into everlasting fire: “Jesus merely raised one hand a few inches and . . . they tumbled in, howling and screeching.”
Gosh, what an uplifting scene!
If Saudi Arabians wrote an Islamic version of this series, we would furiously demand that sensible Muslims repudiate such hatemongering. We should hold ourselves to the same standard.


I accept that [the authors] are sincere. (They base their conclusions on John 3.) But I’ve sat down in Pakistani and Iraqi mosques with Muslim fundamentalists, and they offered the same defense: they’re just applying God’s word.
. . . [I]f I praise the good work of evangelicals – like their superb relief efforts in Darfur – I’ll also condemn what I perceive as bigotry.

See, here’s the problem. Kristof isn’t just asking the authors of these books to allow for people of other faiths to practice their own faiths in peace; he’s demanding that the authors change what they themselves actually believe to be the Word of God. That’s not a plea for religious tolerance; it is, in fact, religious intolerance, as Kristof is saying that the beliefs of these Christians are so offensive to him that they must be branded as “bigotry” and driven from public expression.
Let me put this another way to explain why the comparison to radical Muslims is so offensive. I have no problem with people who believe that God is going to send me to Hell for being a Catholic. They believe their thing, and I believe mine. I have a major problem with people who think that they, rather than God Himself, should send me there. It is right and proper and necessary to denounce religious extremists who are unable to accept the peaceable coexistence of people of different religions, who call for earthly violence and political opression against those of different faiths. But to demand that people give up the tenet of their faith – a central one in many faiths – that says that they are following the one and only path to salvation, that’s what Stephen Carter has referred to as demanding that people treat “God as a hobby” rather than taking faith seriously. While it may in some circumstances be rude to say it, I wouldn’t want to live in a country where people could not feel free to profess that theirs is the only true faith; such a country would be one in which no one really believed in anything at all.
The “Left Behind” guys aren’t asking that anyone be harmed in the here and now; they are content to wait for Jesus to take care of that. By failing to distinguish between the two, Kristof shows that he still views religious beliefs as something that can be bent to the needs of human society rather than the other way around. Which is to say, not religion at all.

11/28/04 Links

*Patterico has a tremendous idea: Senate Republicans should introduce a non-binding resolution of support for each of the filibustered judicial nominees, so as to put on the record the fact that they would be confirmed if granted a floor vote. Would the Democrats filibuster this as well, so as to prevent the public from finding this out? (Link via Bashman).
*If you liked my marginal vote analyses, Patrick Ruffini has a map that captures a lot of the same type of stuff in graphic form. I take it that some of the swing towards the Democrats in Montana may have been aided by the victory of the Democratic gubernatorial candidate there.
*Speaking of cool charts, check out this piece with its charts of blog activity during the campaign.
*This “Email of the Day” to Andrew Sullivan pretty well captures the Democrats’ image problems.
*Two more from Ruffini, who’s on a roll: first, this:

President Bush carried 97 of the nation’s 100 fastest-growing counties, most of them “exurban” communities that are rapidly transforming farmland into subdivisions and shopping malls on the periphery of major metropolitan areas.
The counties with the most population loss (from people picking up and leaving) voted for Kerry 68.6% to 30.4%.

Mmmmm, 2010 census. And Ruffini also has a link to this must-read analysis over at Kos’ place:

A top Kerry staffer (one of five who had been with Kerry from the very start of his primary campaign and who claimed he talked with Kerry almost daily on the phone) told me: “To be blunt, this is a fat-cat top-down campaign. The campaign staff doesn’t really get grassroots.” Those were his exact words (I wrote them down because I was startled he would admit this–I haven’t told ANYONE this quote because I didn’t want it to get into GOP hands prior to the election). He did think a grassroots strategy was crucial, but he may have been among the very few Kerry staffers there at the time to think that way; he and one other staffer were pushing to get me hired and create a real grassroots strategy. He called me daily with updates. On the fourth day, he apologized that Mary Beth Cahill was concerned I could be a “Republican mole.” He told her I had been a volunteer with the Dean campaign and that he trusted me based on our phone conversations, but that didn’t prove anything to her. She couldn’t imagine hiring someone who lived in California that she’d never met. Instead, she hired a former Emily’s List staffer with experience sending direct mail to big donors, whom Mary Beth had worked with previously.

This, of course, echoes many of the things the GOP side was saying before the election. Did McCain-Feingold actually succeed in hamstringing Kerry? Then again, the turnout and exit poll numbers do suggest that Kerry’s side didn’t do so badly in turning out the Democratic base and swinging Nader voters; where they lost was in high GOP turnout and, perhaps most of all, the defection of something like 10% of the people who voted for Gore in 2000. You win them back with the message and the candidate, not by digging deeper at the roots. Plus, the Republicans have an advantage: new GOP voters tend to stay put in their homes with their children, whereas the Democrats’ newly registered voters are often transients – college students, new immigrants – and even if you can still find them four years later, they may start to lean more Republican as they set some roots down, which means the Dems need to reinvent the wheel every four years with their register-young-voters push.

The Tragedy of Multiple Viewpoints

I had to laugh at this exchange on CNN�s Sunday Late Edition between Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and Wolf Blitzer:

SANCHEZ: �I believe that we made mistakes. The media certainly is not in our hands any longer, and, in particular, radio talk shows where that is completely in the opposition’s hands, and they use it effectively against us.
BLITZER: But, Loretta, when you say the media — when you say the media is not in your hands, are you saying that ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN are hostile to Democrats?
SANCHEZ: No, that’s not what I said. I’m saying that — if you would let me finish — that the majority of people are now receiving a lot of their information out of radio. And the radio isn’t in the hands of the Democrats anymore.
Many years ago, the Republicans made a very effective play. They sat down. They made a strategy. They decided they were going to put big thinktanks around, that they were going to fund them. They decided that they would buy radio, that they would use that to talk to people. And people drive in their cars, they’re listening to the radio all the time. They’re getting a lot of information that way.
You know, networks are losing — you know, they’re getting less and less viewership.

The transcript doesn�t quite do justice to how depressed Sanchez sounded when she said �the media is not in our hands any longer.� But the interview did make me want to learn more about this sinister, so-called �radio� device and how the government can curb its pernicious influence.
Seriously, though, isn�t it overstating the case – and more than a little rude to Al Franken, who was on the very same panel � for a Democrat to say that radio is �completely in the opposition�s hands.� Comments like these would also seem to belie Sanchez�s claims.

A Little Perspective for Kevin Drum

Drum notes a program at Santa Clara University to give preferential treatment to male students and huffs:

I’m hopeful that the principled folks over at National Review will condemn this practice. And please: not just a desultory acknowledgment or two to prove you care. I expect a stream of outraged posts and crosstalk at least equal to the recent torrents about Arlen Specter, the lack of conservatives among humanities faculties, and the shocking tolerance of liberalism at the University of Chicago.
I’m counting on you, Cornerites. The eyes of the blogosphere are on you.

Well, if Drum wants us conservatives to say that preferences for less-qualified male students in university admissions are bad, he can relax; obviously, this kind of discrimination is not justified. But, in the Kleiman style, he wants instead to paint conservatives as hypocrites for not dropping what they are doing and writing what Drum tells us to write.
But he can’t be serious; this is one isolated and possibly unique feature of one not terribly prominent university. To say that it is deserving of the same attention as the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee – a matter that affects the court system and legal reform issues as a whole – is unserious at best and disingenuous at worst. Even to compare this to conservatives’ principled opposition to racial preferences misses the fact that the latter are pervasive, perhaps universal, in higher education admissions. That doesn’t make one more or less wrong than the other, but it certainly suggests why the emphasis falls naturally on the more prevalent program. A little perspective would go a long way.

Links 11/19/04

*Real subtle, that Zarqawi:

In video shot by an embedded CNN cameraman, soldiers walked through an imposing building with concrete columns and with a large sign in Arabic on the wall reading “Al Qaida Organization” and “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.”
Inside the building, U.S. soldiers found documents, old computers, notebooks, photographs and copies of the Quran.

*Jay G has an amusingly profanity-laden tirade (you were warned!) about critics of Hardee’s new super-fatburger.
*While what he did may well have been wrong, I’m loath to sit in judgment of the Marine who shot what appears to be a wounded and non-threatening sniper in Fallujah. I believe very, very strongly that a man who wears the uniform is entitled to the benefit of every doubt. But Dale Franks explains why sometimes soldiers have to be punished for reasons that have nothing to do with justice and everything to do with discipline.
*David Frum lays out options for blockading Iran and has some helpful history of the words “Palestine” and “Philistine”.
*NZ Bear reminds us that we still need a loyal opposition.
*Kevin Drum notes that the exit polls always overestimate support for the Democrats.
*What are these “morals” you speak of?
*Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post on the centrality of corruption to Arafatistan. Jeff Jacoby, of course, had the definitive Arafat post-mortem:

In a better world, the PLO chief would have met his end on a gallows, hanged for mass murder much as the Nazi chiefs were hanged at Nuremberg.

*How the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign made better use of email than the Democrats.

The Democrats’ Dilemma – Part II: Personnel

Part II of a three-part series on what the Democrats need to do from here; Part I, on Communications, is here, and Part III, on Policy, will follow.
1. Governors and State Legislatures
Obviously, the Democrats need to start by rebuilding their hold on governorships, which they lost in the mid-1990s. Republicans presently hold the governor’s mansions in the nation’s four largest states – California, Texas, New York, and Florida, although New York may be due to swing back their way when Eliot Spitzer runs in 2006, with George Pataki probably wisely choosing not to run again. Republicans have also captured several natural Democratic strongholds – Massachusetts (which hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since Dukakis), Maryland, Hawaii, even Vermont. The near-abandonment of the South has left the Dems in a serious bind there as well, although the cyclical nature of governorships, particularly due to the lure of corruption in state government, means that they take one from time to time.
As far as developing presidential candidates, I’ll get to that later when I’m handicapping the 2008 race, but they are just at the wrong part of the cycle, with few governors in office long enough and one of their biggest media stars (Jennifer Granholm in Michigan) ineligible to run because she’s Canadian-born. It didn’t help when Gray Davis was humbled by the California voters, Jim McGreevey stepped down amidst a multitude of scandals, Roy Barnes lost in Georgia, and even smaller-time governors like Gary Locke felt the need to quit and go home. The process of building up governors to run for president or Senate means having someone be successful and popular enough to get re-elected. Even Granholm may face a tough re-election battle in Michigan.
The picture at the state legislature level is much stronger, as the Dems gained a lot of seats this year in seveal states, both red and blue. If they can consolidate those gains, it will be particularly important when another round of redistricting arises after the 2010 census, which seems likely to send still more congressional seats and electoral votes out of the blue states and into the red states.
2. Carville for DNC Chair
I take it he doesn’t want the job, and there seem to be too many other people focused on their own self-interest (and on stopping the Hillary juggernaut) for anyone to persuade him, but much as I loathe James Carville, he’s exactly what the Democrats need in a party chair – he’s a regular-guy type, knows the South, doesn’t fall into the trap of believing his own BS, and understands how you craft a message to win elections. You can always have a McAuliffe type as your #2 to work the fundraising – Mercer Reynolds, for example, raised vast sums of money for Bush this year and I’d never even heard of the guy until last week. The party chair winds up on TV a lot, and Carville is good with TV.
More thoughts on the DNC/consultant side: The Dems badly need a new batch of consultants who have cut their teeth in states outside the Northeast and West Coast. They need to permanently banish Bob Shrum and his grim populist message from the party – not just from presidential races, because half the problem is that all their presidential candidates have been groomed from the start by Shrum. Ditto for humorless types like Tad Devine and Chris Lehane who don’t know when to stop spinning. On the other hand, Donna Brazile is one of the more sensible types and an expert on turnout among African-Americans, and needs to get a larger role. And as with accepting the loss of Shrum’s good record with Senate campaigns, the party needs to cut bait with Terry McAuliffe even if it means losing some of his golden fundraising touch; the guy is a disaster in every other way (McAuliffe was one of the fools whose obsession with Bush’s National Guard record led to so many bad decisions this year, from Rathergate to the overdone stress on Kerry’s combat record), and his fundraising skills are partly offset by the scandals he engenders.
3. More Chuck Schumer
In developing presidential candidates, the Democrats need to present the face of moderation, bring along people who have the personal touch. Congressional leadership is a different game. That’s why, if it was my party, I’d have wanted Schumer rather than the soft-spoken Harry Reid to head the Senate Democrats. Schumer will never be president; as a liberal Jewish lawyer from Brooklyn with an accent to match, he’s too NY to be president in the way that Phil Gramm was too Texas and, frankly, Kerry was too Massachusetts (truth be told, in an ordinary year Kerry would never have won the nomination). But Schumer brings to bear a number of advantages that would make him ideal as a party leader in Congress. He’s insanely hard-working. He’s exceptionally PR savvy; I’ve noted before his habit of doing a press conference on a consumer-protection issue every Sunday, guaranteeing him a block of time on the Sunday evening local news once a week to the point that the local networks know they can give their consumer reporters the night off. He’s actually relatively sane on national security and law enforcement issues. He’s tough as nails. And, unlike guys like Daschle and Gephardt, Schumer doesn’t talk down to people and doesn’t sound like he’s reading made-up focus-grouped talking points he doesn’t believe in.
4. Say Goodbye To Hollywood
Hollywood stars tend to lean very far to the Left, and tend to spout off their political opinions without being asked and whether they know anything about the subject or not. The Democratic Party can’t change this fact. They also give a lot of money to Democrats. The Dems shouldn’t want to change this fact. But what the party can and should do is stop being star-struck and just stop making public appearances with Hollywood types. It’s one of the tendencies that makes so many people identify the Democrats with the values-free zone that is Hollywood and with unserious dilettante leftism. Take their money? Sure. But don’t telegraph to the American people that you take Ben Affleck’s opinions seriously.
Of all the celebs who worked with the Kerry campaign and supporting 527s this year, only two seemed like they might help: Bruce Springsteen, because he’s a fairly serious guy with an older fan base including a lot of blue-collar types (although as I noted some time ago, Bruce’s fans tend by the nature of his music to be more conservative), and Puff the Magic Diddy, because he would help get young urban African-Americans registered to vote. It’s not clear even that these two were any help, although it may be that Bruce’s appearances in Wisconsin were part of the major Kerry operation that delivered the state by a hair.
5. No More Moore
For many of the same reasons, the Democrats need to walk away from Michael Moore. Yes, his movies and books are beloved by a segment of the Democratic base. But having Moore appear in public with Democratic candidates like Wesley Clark and appear at the Democratic Convention (they couldn’t really stop him from appearing at the GOP convention) led to far too close a public association with a shameless and deeply dishonest huckster. And worse yet is allowing Moore’s favorite hobby-horses to become Democratic talking points and ad campaigns.
Don’t like that advice? Think the GOP has people it should distance itself from? Well, to some extent yes – but as a matter of practical electoral politics, the Democrats lost. They are the ones who disregard such advice at their peril.
6. No More Sharpton
In the current political environment, racial division helps the Democrats. The 2000 NAACP James Byrd ad, promising that a Bush Administration would set off a wave of lynchings, was highly effective. The Bush camp was probably politically wise to give no reason for this election to be racially polarized, even to the point of compromising its principles by signalling to the Supreme Court in the Michigan affirmative action case that it would not attack racial preferences.
More astonishingly, Republicans even held their fire when Al Sharpton, the David Duke of the Democratic party, spoke at the convention in prime time; if there had been a similar speech at the GOP convention, you would have heard nothing else for months. But don’t think voters didn’t notice: as I noted before, Bush won white voters by a 17-point margin, and while Sharpton may not have been much of a factor in that, the Democrats simply have to suck up the short-term cost of annoying Sharpton if they want, in the long term, to win back the confidence of non-Jewish white voters and stem erosion of voters from two groups Sharpton has targeted with particular bile: Jews and Asian-Americans.

Objectivity, the Foreign Press and the Missing European Center

Jim Geraghty, back from vacationing in Italy (and still in need of a new title), has some interesting thoughts on the international press. He starts by surveying various options for someone in Europe looking for more objective coverage of the U.S. This caught my eye:

The International edition of USA Today: Making the domestic version of that newspaper look like �War and Peace.� Three paragraphs and then we punt. I can�t complain about their news coverage skewing one way or another because there was rarely enough to form an opinion about. I do love the sports section, though.

Here at home, I�m a fan of USA Today, because I feel like its aspirations to be a national paper and its famous brevity combine to make it one of America�s more objective publications. USA Today is generally scorned by readers of more hefty papers like The New York Times, but, unlike that paper, it really is a pretty good bellwether for the country. (Of course, brevity does not guarantee objectivity. Down here in DC, commuters are treated to the free Washington Post Express paper, which manages to cram an incredible amount of spin into just a few brief paragraphs every day.)
In fact, I�ve long wondered: what it is the most objective news source in the country?

Continue reading Objectivity, the Foreign Press and the Missing European Center

Games of State

President Bush just introduced Condoleeza Rice as the new Secretary of State.
One question: Rice�s former deputy Stephen Hadley is taking over as the new National Security Advisor. Since one of the main jobs of that position is to coordinate between the often-contentious State and Defense Departments, won�t it be hard for Hadley to take sides against his former boss? While the conventional wisdom is that Rice replacing Powell will move the Bush Administration�s foreign policy to the right, I�m wondering if the interaction between Bush, Rice and Hadley will move the balance of power in Washington towards Foggy Bottom. Which may actually be a good thing, assuming � and it is a big assumption – that that Department has the President�s best interests in mind.
On the other hand, Rumsfeld might increasingly run rings around those two less experienced figures. We shall see.
More thoughts on all of this here, here and here.

Exiting The Democrats

You have to take the national exit polls with a grain of salt, but it appears that this poll weights out to the correct result, and if so, a few things jump off the page:
1. Bush won white voters 58-41. He won white males by 25 points and white women by 11. Now, I know white people aren’t exactly a cohesive group, and that there’s something vaguely distasteful, even, about speaking of a “white vote”. But if you’re not even competitive with a demographic that constitutes 77% of the electorate, you got problems. Similarly, 81% of the electorate consists of Christians, and while the poll doesn’t combine Protestant and Catholic, if my (rusty) algebra is correct, Christians voted for Bush by a margin of 57-42. At the cross-section of the two majority groups, 61% of the electorate is white Christians, and they broke 63-36 for Bush. Again, you can’t afford to lose by that kind of margin with a majority voting bloc.
2. 49% of voters trusted Bush and not Kerry to fight terrorism, and those voters broke for Bush 97-3, such a decisive margin as to suggest that this issue was a deal-breaker for nearly half of all voters. In short, all else aside, Kerry was about 99% defeated just by the lack of voter trust in him as a war leader. This is supported by the fact that voters who trusted both candidates on terrorism broke for Kerry 75-24, while voters who trusted both candidates on the economy broke for Bush 61-38.

The Democrats’ Dilemma – Part I: Communications

Since everyone and his brother is giving advice to Democrats, I might as well put in my own two cents as to the features of the Democratic Party that (1) might, possibly, be subject to change and (2) could help the Democrats in the long run if they were changed. I realize a lot of this will read as a criticism of Democratic candidates, but these really are some of the things I’ve found frustrating about Democratic campaigns, and I suspect that they are also things that turn off voters who are open to persuasion by Democrats; take this for what it’s worth. I’ll break down my analysis into three parts: Communications, Personnel, and Policy. Let’s start with the Communications issue:
1. Obfuscation is a defensive tactic, not a strategy:
Republicans from the mid-1960s down through today have tried to brand Democratic candidates as “liberals,” as a way of summarizing attacks on a broad range of positions on crime, defense, taxes, spending, social issues, etc. GOP consultant Arthur Finkelstein became particularly well-known for this tactic, which can be very effective. There are basically four ways to respond to this tactic: (a) defend liberal positions on the merits; (b) pretend that the positions are not really liberal; (c) nominate candidates who do not take liberal positions; or (d) be evasive about the candidate’s positions.
Following the spectacular failure of (a) in the 1984 presidential election (when Mondale openly advocated raising taxes, among other positions) and (b) in the 1988 presidential election (when Dukakis proclaimed “competence, not ideology” was at issue), the Democrats have had to choose between (c) and (d). While Bill Clinton had sporadic success with (c) (notably on crime and trade issues), the party’s presidential and Senate candidates, at least – Clinton included – have increasingly leaned towards (d).
John Kerry is perhaps the pinnacle of this strategy, a man who got burned by the liberal label in his unsuccessful 1972 House race, and has spent the rest of his career dodging the label. He does so in two ways. One is to salt his record with votes that he can use to defend himself against charges of liberalism – which would be a convincing strategy if he actually took consistent positions on those issues, rather than a vote here or there, usually accompanied by his other tactic, weaselly disclaimers that leave you guessing as to where he actually stands. I dealt with this issue here and here. As I’ve noted, the Republicans have a time-tested counterattack when a Democrat does things like this to avoid taking clear and identifiable positions: call him a flip-flopper.
With each of the last three Democratic presidential candidates there has been endless speculation as to what they believe on a whole battery of issues, and while Clinton was able to eke out victories with this tactic, politicians without his unusual talents have had a much rougher go.
Now, let me make one thing clear: all politicians fudge, straddle, and flip-flop from time to time to create confusion in the public mind as to where they stand on issues. This is a useful tactic for a candidate who does not want to offend potential supporters on a particular issue, and I’m not suggesting that Democrats should avoid it altogether. But here we come to the Democrats’ weakness: mistaking a useful tactic for a strategy. You can obfuscate some of your positions so as to emphasize others, and you can obfuscate on small issues so as to emphasize big ones. But once voters start to catch on to the idea that you are playing hide-the-ball on multiple major major issues, you are toast. The place of the Iraq War in the War on Terror was the most central issue at stake in this year’s campaign, and nobody but maybe John Kerry himself believed that he had a single, clear and coherent position on the issue. That may have been, under the circumstances, a necessary compromise to keep his base from splitting in half, but it was death in Kerry’s efforts to broaden his appeal beyond Bush-haters to people who wanted a leader they could depend on to know where he stands. And the problem hasn’t been limited to presidential candidates either, as red-state Senate Democrats like Tom Daschle and Mary Landrieu have struggled to balance their moderate images at home with their fealty to liberal causes in Washington.
If the Dems are going to try to become a majority party, they need candidates who will get out there and lead on issues rather than fudging and trying to be all things to all people. It will require courage, discipline, avoidance of panic at temporary setbacks and the willingness to suffer bad press and risk losing some elections. Of course, this presupposes that their positions are actually capable of attracting popular support. But if the Democratic party has lost faith that its ideas can attract popular support, then this entire conversation is pointless. Isn’t it worth a try?
2. Biography is not a substitute for policy:
This is a second and related example of the Democrats taking a tried-and-true campaign tactic and trying to pass it off as a strategy, and another one in which Kerry represents a nadir. Again, all candidates use their biography when possible to shore up both the strong and weak points in their images. But what we’ve seen increasingly from Democrats is efforts to use biography as a shield to cover the candidate’s policy positions. Get asked about gun control? Don’t talk about the issue – go hunting! Get asked about war? Talk about your service record!
Leave aside for now the debate over whether the tendency to do this is just a feature of recent Democratic candidates and consultants or whether it’s driven by the party’s devotion to identity politics. As a practical matter, there are two problems with this approach. First, voters aren’t stupid; a dove with medals is still a dove, and a hunter who favors gun control is still in favor of gun control. Second, nobody has enough biography to cover every issue, and the need to have something personal to say on issue after issue is one of the roots of the exaggerations and resume-padding that got Gore and Kerry into so much trouble. Look at Bush and Cheney for a comparison: Bush’s bio story is well-known, but he rarely tries to connect it to a particular policy debate, and Cheney only reluctantly talks about himself at all despite having a genuinely impressive up-by-the-bootstraps story.
3. Forget Vietnam:
This goes with the issue above – voters just keep on rejecting combat veterans who aren’t right on policy. And I won’t rehash the whole Kerry Vietnam story here. But it goes deeper: the constant references to Afghanistan and then Iraq as “quagmires,” Ted Kennedy calling Iraq “George Bush’s Vietnam” – don’t Democratic politicians and their allies in the media realize how sick Americans are of hearing about Vietnam, and how dated their worldview sounds? If there’s one rhetorical crutch the Dems need to drop, it’s Vietnam.
4. Voters want to be spoken to as adults:
This one is mostly a matter of speaking style, although it’s also an issue of substance: too many Democratic politicians (prime offenders include Gore, Gephardt and Hillary Clinton) talk to audiences like they are five years old. With the exception of Lamar Alexander I can’t think of a Republican who does this. Again, Cheney is a good model to imitate on this point (not that anyone has to go to his extreme) – you can tell when he gives a speech that he’s talking to you exactly as he would speak to a room full of senior advisers. That’s respect, and even if voters don’t put it into words, we appreciate it.
5. Don’t believe what you read in the papers:
The Kerry campaign spent much of the year reacting to newspaper headlines and stories on broadcast networks. On a few occasions, they got burned by believing that anything reported there would be backed up by evidence and widely digested and believed. In fact, a lot of the rage on the Left at the notion of ignorant voters is an inability to comprehend that some people out there don’t watch 60 Minutes and don’t believe everything they read in the NY Times. Much as Democrats may wish to deny the idea of liberal media bias, eventually they have to accept that they can’t just sit back and expect that the media will do their jobs for them and still produce a credible product.
6. Explain programs in terms of incentives:
Government programs are complicated; that’s just the way they are. When Democrats propose changes to programs or new programs, they often wind up choosing one of three ways to talk about them: either they oversimplify and just tell us what they intend the program to accomplish without explaining how it will work, or they talk up how much more money they will spend, or they start reeling off complex, wonkish details that put everyone to sleep.
In fact, one reason that I suspect that domestic policy was the dog that didn’t bark in this campaign was that John Kerry was never able to explain any of his policy proposals in a way that allowed people to understand them and compare them to President Bush’s.
Democrats should look at how Bush explains his proposals and take a lesson. With programs like private Social Security accounts and Health Savings Accounts, what Bush focuses on is how the incentives in the program work in favor of the citizen. People instinctively understand, for example, that a shift to private ownership of funds will give them more control. Of course, one might argue that plans to, for example, impose direct or indirect price controls on medical drugs can not be explained in terms of incentives without revealing their fundamental flaws.
7. People don’t like being called bigots:
The same-sex marriage flap is only the most recent manifestation of the tendency of pundits, bloggers, entertainers and the like on the Left – and to some extent politicians as well, notably John Kerry in his speech against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 – to refer to their opponents as driven solely by “bigotry and ignorance.” This position is especially sharp with regard to same-sex marriage, since the pro-same-sex-marriage argument depends on the idea that there is no rational basis grounded in anything but irrational bigotry for anyone to want to treat traditional opposite-sex marriage any differently from same-sex unions. The problem, of course, is that – even leaving aside the rights and wrongs of the debate for the moment – people tend to get defensive when their lifelong beliefs, especially their deeply-held religious beliefs, are branded as irrational superstition and bigotry. It’s not a strategy for winning hearts, minds, or votes, as the overwhelming rejection of same-sex marriage at the polls even in liberal Oregon showed.
8. Bloggers and pundits matter too:
On some of these points, notably the last one, I’m thinking as much about liberal bloggers, newspaper columnists, TV and radio personalities, and the like as I am about Democratic politicians. But one thing conservatives and Republicans have learned, sometimes to our grief, is that people look at the Right as a single entity, and tend to have trouble remembering what arguments they heard from President Bush and which ones they heard from Rush Limbaugh or Pat Robertson.
Put another way: for a lot of people, their most regular exposure to liberal ideas comes from the New York Times editorial page, or from Atrios, or from The Daily Show, or from CBS News. If those organs constantly blare the same theme – Bush is a liar and a draft dodger! – people will identify it with the voice of the Left. That doesn’t mean people should feel totally inhibited, especially on blogs, but if commentators on the Left think that the recent spate of “Jesusland” bashing, especially from the Times columnists, has no impact on the public’s view of Democrats, they are sadly mistaken. And, bloggers: remember, you may not have a huge audience, but your readers include people in Democratic Party circles, both in Washington and at the grass roots, as well as people in the media. You do have an influence on the debate, and don’t think that you can push anger and bile all day and pound the table for agendas that are not likely to fly with voters, and then wonder why the candidates you support can’t convincingly portray themselves as level-headed moderates, or why your party has a bad reputation on religious issues when you sneer constantly at people of faith. You want to shape opinion? You got it. Use it wisely.

Not a Bad W-L Record

In contrast to Kos, who as I and others have noted backed 15 Congressional candidates and they all lost, the Club for Growth had a pretty decent 19-14 record in Senate and House general election races this year, a record that looks better when you look at some of the longshots they backed (not that Kos didn’t back a few longshots, but you’d think in 15 races he’d get one right).

McConnell for Chief Justice

The more I think about it, the more I have to agree with Stuart Buck that, if Chief Justice Rehnquist is the first Supreme Court Justice to step down, Michael McConnell would be the best choice to replace him. As Buck pointed out in an email, this People for the American Way brief against McConnell actually summarizes pretty well why pro-life conservatives should want him on the bench. McConnell is one of the most distinguished scholars in the federal judiciary, having for many years been a leading scholar and court advocate on Establishment Clause issues. He is well-regarded as well in academia as a man of even and judicious temperment, which is one reason why his nomination for the bench in 2001 attracted the broad support of even liberal academics like Laurence Tribe and Cass Sunstein. This is one reason why Senate Democrats, having seen how badly the filibuster issue hurt them in many elections in 2002 (as it did again this year), moved swiftly to drop the filibuster against McConnell, and he was approved by the Senate by voice vote on November 15, 2002. That issue will loom again for 2006, as five Democratic Senators face re-election in states Bush carried in 2004 (although two of those, Robert Byrd and Jeff Bingaman, are likely to be immune to public pressure). Surely, recognizing that a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee will be an unusually divisive and unpopular move – it’s only been done once, in the case of Abe Fortas’ elevation to Chief Justice, and then only on allegations of improprieties that eventually forced Fortas’ resignation from the bench – the Dems may quietly be looking for an excuse not to filibuster the replacement for the conservative Rehnquist but instead save their fire for nominations to replace the moderate Sandra Day O’Connor or liberals John Paul Stevens or Ruth Bader Ginsburg, especially if the nomination comes up right on the heels of the election. McConnell would give them a good reason not to fight, and present major obstacles to having one.
Others who agree that McConnell would be a good choice:
*Michael Rappaport
*Eugene Volokh
*Stephen Bainbridge
*John Hinderaker (although the Deacon has his own suggestions)

Where Bush’s Swing Voters Came From

In this post, I examined the national popular vote and concluded that, comparing of the increased number of Bush voters from 2000 (about 8.66 million) and the increased number of Kerry voters as compared to Gore voters in 2000 (about 4.56 million), one of two things had happened – either:
1. Bush had won the votes of 65.5% of “new voters,” defined as people who – regardless of whether they had voted in past elections – didn’t vote for either Bush or Gore in 2000; or
2. Bush had won less than 65.5% of such voters but had stolen away so many Gore voters (even over and above Nader voters who switched to Kerry) that he could approximate the same effect.
As more poll data comes in, I’m more convinced now by some of the commenters to the prior post who argued that it was more the latter than the former, and that the Gore voter switch is particularly pronounced when you consider the likelihood that most of Nader’s voters from 2000 went over to Kerry. (I heard someone on TV claim that exit polls showed Bush won 10% of Gore voters). This is a conclusion that should cause ABC’s The Note great embarrassment for its now-famous declaration, back on August 11, that “we still can’t find a single American who voted for Al Gore in 2000 who is planning to vote for George Bush in 2004.”
I calculated the 65.5% “marginal votes” figure by applying the following formula to the national popular vote:
((Bush 2004 votes) – (Bush 2000 votes))/(((Kerry 2004 votes) – (Gore 2000 votes)) + ((Bush 2004 votes) – (Bush 2000 votes)))
As noted, Bush won an additional 8.66 million Republican votes, whereas Kerry won something on the order of 4.56 million additional Democratic votes. I computed these figures by ignoring third-party candidates, figuring that people Kerry won over who had voted Nader last time are, in many ways, equivalent to bringing new people into the process, and by comparing the official FEC tabulations from 2000 and the latest running tallies so far. I would caution that the 2004 figures are still moving targets; returns are coming in daily. The 65.5% figure, for example, is down to 64.5% as of Friday, and may go up or down as more absentee and provisional ballots are tabulated in various states.
Anyway, I thought I’d take a state-by-state look to see where it was, precisely, that all of those 8.66 million new Bush voters came from. The numbers that follow were computed Friday, November 5, following the call of Iowa, the last contested state, for President Bush. It’s a particularly interesting question for me, as a New York City Republican listening to my fellow New Yorkers rage at what they saw as the provincialism of the red-staters who gave Bush his victory (See here and here for examples): where was it that all these extra Bush votes came from? What state led the charge to Bush?
New York
That’s right, New York. The single largest percentage of marginal voters swinging to Bush came among the benighted, provincial, knuckle-draggin’, Bible-thumpin’, troglodytes of the Empire State itself. New York was one of only three states in the Union (along with Rhode Island and Alabama) to see an increase in Bush votes and a decrease in Kerry votes as compared to Gore, and the only one in which the decrease was significant. Bush gained nearly 400,000 additional votes in New York while Kerry lost more than 120,000 – a swing of nearly half a million votes. That swing, by the way, all but eliminated Gore’s 540,000 advantage in the national popular vote all by itself. Before New Yorkers fume at Bush voters in the South and the Great Plains states they should look around at their neighbors and ask themselves how many of them have been strangely quiet about this election.
It wasn’t just New York, of course; the fourth-largest marginal swing was New Jersey, and Bush won over 80% of the marginal votes in Connecticut. Can you say, “September 11”? And, come to think of it – when you combine those states with the nearly 1 million new Bush votes in Florida – there may have been another factor at work in 2000, much noted in the media at the time and much ignored in the media this time: Joe-mentum. Without the presence of the first Jew on a national ticket, Kerry may not have had the same oomph in states with a large Jewish population (“Where have you gone, Joe Lieberman, your party turns its lonely eyes to you . . . “) Of course, these are basically Democratic states, so Bush still didn’t win them. But he won over a lot of people here in the past four years, and that showed in the final tallies.
I list the states in order of the percentage of the marginal vote won by Bush:

Continue reading Where Bush’s Swing Voters Came From

The Insincerest Form Of Criticism

Instapundit links to a post-election item from one of the Daily Kos contributors containing this charming bit:

Marching order #1, therefore, is this: No matter whom you talk to outside our circles, begin to perpetuate the (false, exaggerated) notion that George Bush’s victory was built not merely on values issues, but gay marriage specifically. If you feel a need to broaden it slightly, try depicting the GOP as a majority party synonymous with gay-haters, warmongers and country-clubbers. Because I, for one, am tired of hearing whiny complaints from conservatives that, not only do I not have values, but that I fail to properly respect the values of people who are all too happy to buy into, no less perpetuate, inaccurate caricatures of the 54+ million Americans who voted Tuesday for John Kerry.
Criticizing the GOP ain’t gonna build us a new national majority. But the process is brick by brick, or perhaps, brickbat by brickbat. We didn’t decide the rules of engagement, but that’s what they are and so we may as well start firing away.

I have heard this attitude many times, and it always seems to come from the Left. Not from everyone, mind you, but the people it does come from . . . let’s back up a bit here: we all know that many people on the Right and on the Left regard some or all of the other side as liars, cheaters, etc. in their conduct of elections and political debate. Leaving aside for the sake of argument who’s right about this and in what ways, it can be very frustrating to fight against people you regard as fighting dirty and cheating.
I’ve read or been party to plenty of bitter wallows after election defeats, from widespread debacles in 1989, 1990, 1992, 1996 and 1998 to more localized issues like Hillary Clinton’s senate win in 2000. I’ve seen plenty of examples of conservatives looking for ways to stop lies, election fraud and other sorts of wrongdoing by Democrats. I’ve seen conservatives willing to hoist Democrats by their own petards, most notably with the Independent Counsel statute and with he-said-she-said sexual harrassment claims (Paula Jones as revenge for Anita Hill). And yes, I’ve seen conservatives argue points that were just not true.
But I have never seen anybody on the Right argue that we ought to knowingly spread untruths or create false impressions to win political arguments. What’s disturbing about a lot of the reactions from people in the Left’s fever swamps and sometimes even in more mainstream venues is the notion that Democrats ought to imitate precisely those facets of Republican tactics that they profess to find offensive. What’s particularly damaging is the desire to imitate the GOP without really understanding why Republicans do the things we do and why they are effective, which is how you get what amounts to cargo-cult operations like Media Matters, which purports to be a complement to conservative outlets that decry media bias but instead spends most of its time just taking potshots at conservative pundits.

11/6/04 Links

*Now, They Tell Us: the lead story on the NY Times website yesterday was one that veterans of the 1992 election will find familiar: the discovery, all of a sudden, that the jobs picture is better than it was painted in the run-up to the election. I’m watching carefully for signs of economic revisionism where Democrats and Bush Administration critics who just a few days ago were comparing this economy to the Great Depression start arguing that Bush was hard to beat because economic times are good.
*Kos just topped the “screw ’em” classic, by openly hoping for America’s defeat in Iraq:

The big silver lining, and it’s significant, is that Kerry won’t be tarred for cleaning up Bush’s mess. Had Kerry gotten us out of Iraq, he would’ve been blamed for “losing the war”. Now Bush will ineptly lose it for himself.

Kos is taken firmly to task for this by Greg Djejerian:

[S]uch flippant treatment of a major national security issue is also very small; and the American people have smelled this smallness out. That’s part of the reason a somewhat embattled American president, with a less than ideal economy and with a tough war on his hands, was handily re-elected (I believe not since FDR has a President been re-elected while simultaneously gaining seats for his party in both Houses of Congress). Americans like to dream of big projects and goals–and the Democratic party is failing them in this–content instead to lazily carp from the sidelines. Worse, some of that party’s activists, it too often appears, would wish for some important, declared national objectives to be scuttled. Trust me, that wasn’t a winning strategy in the past, it isn’t one right now, and it won’t be one in the future.

Kos is undoubtedly particularly peeved at the failure of his personal ambition to become a power player in the Democratic party, as all 15 of the House and Senate candidates he backed lost. The list, here, is particularly funny now due to the misspellings and egregious cheap shots, like claiming Jim Bunning’s mental health was deteriorating. (Link via Blogs for Bush)
*Speaking of Blogs for Bush, the site will continue in a new format, although it’s unclear to me how its function will differ from that of RedState.
*Catch Mark Steyn in something close to full gloat mode here and here. I liked this one:

Michael Mooronification damages everyone who gets it.
Look at the recently resurrected Osama bin Laden. Three years ago he was Mr Jihad, demanding the restoration of the caliphate, the return of Andalucia, the conversion of every infidel to Islam, the imposition of sharia and an end to fornication, homosexuality and alcoholic beverages. In his latest video he sounds like some elderly Berkeley sociology student making lame jokes about Halliburton and Bush reading My Pet Goat.

*Speaking of gloating, while I might divide the group differently, I endorse the general sentiment of John Derbyshire as to the people who deserve to be gloated at and those who don’t.
*From November 2: Best Jimmy Breslin column ever.
*Lileks on New Yorkers who are aghast at the supposed ignorance of the red states that voted for Bush:

It’s a big country. Please take this in the spirit it’s offered: we watch the news that comes from New York, read the magazines that come from New York, see the shows that come from New York. It’s entirely possible we know you better than you know us. Nu?

*Tim Blair links to some classic inside stuff from the Bush and Kerry camps. The guy who comes off in this as the real political brains isn’t Karl Rove but Bush himself – note that Bush figured out before Rove did that Howard Dean was toast in the primaries. Of course, this is consistent with the theory that Bush’s expertise is knowing people, and he knew Dean personally.
*Stuart Buck thinks – and I agree with him – that Justices Rehnquist and O’Connor would have retired before the election if it were not for the legitimacy questions that people raised after Bush v. Gore.
*Where credit is due: Wretchard notes that “[t]he French may have performed a valuable service by admitting Arafat to a military hospital in Europe which will reduce the risk of imputing his death to Jewish poisoning, a rumor that has already made the rounds in the Middle East.”

Unsolicited Advice to Democrats

Looking at Slate yesterday, it was unsurprising to see a characteristically Democratic �why do they hate us� debate ongoing among its liberal writers. Two things struck me about this. On one hand, things aren�t quite as bad for the Democrats as a lot of us are assuming. A few more votes in a few of the swing states and we might be talking right now about what�s wrong with the Republican Party. However, on the other hand, this election did turn out to be, in the end, a profound disaster for the Democrats and, as someone who definitely leans Republican, even I am a little bit concerned about the degree to which one party currently has control of our government. So what should the Democrats do? At risk of being greeted with hostility, here is some unsolicited, yet sincere, advice for the minority party for the years leading up to 2008:

Continue reading Unsolicited Advice to Democrats

Marginal Votes For Bush

Here’s something I think is really, really interesting, as long as you understand that the methodology isn’t so much science as a rough way of measuring the impact of something that might be more accurately measured if you had accurate exit polls. Turnout was up across the country, such that Bush got more votes everywhere than he did in 2000, and Kerry got more votes everywhere than Gore did in 2000 (except California in each case, as far as I can tell, although there may be a bunch of absentee ballots yet to count).
The conventional wisdom was that increased turnout would help Democrats. If this were true, one would expect that, at least in contested states, the marginal voters would break for Kerry – i.e., that when you subtract out the 2000 returns from each side, what’s left should lean Kerry. This would be true unless Bush moved so many Gore voters to his column (above and beyond the number of 2000 Bush voters who abandoned him) to negate the benefits of new Kerry-leaning voters. (My own suspicion is that, in general, the people who voted last time and switched sides were close to a wash, although they likely broke for Bush in some places like NJ where he lost decisively last time but closed the gap significantly).
But if you run the calculations of marginal votes, what you get is Bush majorities in the marginal numbers in a lot of places. In some states by big margins – in Connecticut, for example, Bush wins about 88% of the marginal vote. Ohio was an exception, but Bush takes 48% there, enough to hold a state he won by a few points last time. Of course, in New Hampshire, which he lost, he drops to 43%.
I’ll run a state-by-state table of these later on when we’re closer to having final tallies (including absentees) to provide a good comparison. But let’s at least run the table on the national popular vote. Here’s the equation I used:
((Bush 2004 votes) – (Bush 2000 votes))/(((Kerry 2004 votes) – (Gore 2000 votes)) + ((Bush 2004 votes) – (Bush 2000 votes)))
For these purposes, I ignored third-party candidates, since people Kerry won over who had voted Nader last time are, in many ways, equivalent to bringing new people into the process. Looking at the official FEC tabulations from 2000 and the latest tallies so far, I get the following:

Bush 2000 Bush 2004 Bush + Gore 2000 Kerry 2004 Kerry + Bush Share of Increase
50,456,002 59,117,523 8,661,521 50,999,897 55,557,584 4,557,687 65.5%

When you put the numbers in that context, you see that Bush was actually hugely more successful at the margins in his combination of bringing new voters to the polls and convincing more people to switch to him than away from him. Remember that next time you hear that high turnout always and everywhere favors the Democrats.

Believe The Polls

By now you’ve heard a lot about how the partial exit polls that leaked out during the day on Election Day across the internet were skewed to an almost absurd pro-Kerry extent, and you’ve seen how pro-Democrat pollster John Zogby’s final results were the same way just before the election (he projected more than 300 electoral votes for Kerry).
But the state-by-state polls actually weren’t all that far off if you knew how to read them. Personally, I was relying on two reliable sources down the stretch: Daly Thoughts and RealClearPolitics, both of which came out with the same Election Day prediction of 296 electoral votes for Bush. Assuming that nothing overturns Bush’s lead in Iowa, which looks like the last state not definitively called, Dales and RCP will have each gotten 49 of 50 states right, missing only Wisconsin, which Kerry held on to by the narrowest of margins.
In fact, RCP’s national poll average showed a fairly steady lead for Bush throughout the fall, so anyone who put their faith in the RCP guys knew what was likely to happen. Media reports to the contrary were mostly based on cherry-picking pro-Kerry polls and/or on the assumption that new voter turnout would moot all the old polling models. Dales in particular should be explaining over the next few weeks why that was a bad idea (Kaus got in the best cheap shot yet: “Bush 51, Kerry 48: Pollster Ruy Teixeira demands that these raw numbers be weighted to reflect party I.D.!”)
Mark Steyn often argues that liberal media bias is a Republican’s best friend, as Election Day is the only time that Democrats are forced out of the self-serving illusions given them by the media and compelled to face reality. On this one, he seems to have been right; the evidence was there in the polls, but people who were reading Zogby and the various media outlets that trumpeted a late Kerry surge missed it. Glad I was reading guys who could tell me the score.

The Message

We’ll see more from exit polls and the like, although one of the ironies of this election is that the exit polls were so wrong about the result, yet they will still be used to break out who voted for who and why. Makes you wonder.
Anyway, here’s my best guess on the message of this election as it pertains to the issues (more later on the candidates and the campaigns):
1. The War on Terror: Polls regularly showed that people are split on the war in Iraq, with many Americans having misgivings on the reasons for going there and our progress in winning the war. Ultimately, nothing succeeds like success; I’m confident that in time, we’ll have enough tangible progress to get more public acceptance.
But Democratic hopes that unease about the war would sink Bush turned out to be largely unfounded. Even if people weren’t so sure they supported the Iraq war, it was clear throughout the campaign that they trusted Bush and his team to carry the broader war through to victory, or at least as far as they could get in four more years. To some people, that may sound irrational: if you don’t trust Bush on Iraq, why trust him at all? But most people, I think, understand that the president knows more than they do about any particular foreign controversy; they are perfectly capable of doubting the Iraq war based on what they know, and yet resting comfortably with the more general sense that Bush has proven himself to be a guy who’s not going to take potential threats sitting down.
One of the criticisms that has sometimes been made by Democrats is that Bush politicized the war. If they mean simply that Bush sought political profit from his leadership in wartime and his handling of the time of crisis after September 11, well, that’s politics; do these people not remember Oklahoma City, or the 1944 election for that matter? But that’s not it; what really rankles is not that Bush scored political points off of having handled some uncontroversial things well. What rankles is that Bush found electoral advantages in 2002 and 2004 from the Democrats’ own differences of opinion with his policies. As if it was noble of Democrats to attack the president’s policies at all turns in the harshest of possible terms and seek to undermine them in Congress, and yet somehow improper for the president to point out these differences to the American people and ask them to decide which side of these various controversies they trusted.
This is the great dilemma for Democrats. Democrats have a set of beliefs about domestic politics (more later on this), and many of them feel cheated in some sense that foreign policy swamped those issues in the campaign. But at the same time, a large segment of Democrats remain harshly critical of the president’s foreign policies. A Tony Blair/Joe Lieberman-type Democrat who doesn’t put daylight between himself and Republicans on foreign policy and national security issues would make it nearly impossible to politicize those issues and remove deep divisions in our politics. If Democrats are going to bemoan the prominence of national security in our politics, they need to decide: are they willing to go along with Republican policies and attitudes that are popular, at least in broad outline, with the public? If they are, the security issue can be neutralized. If not, then they will have to accept the natural consequences of their own ideas.
2. The Economy: Some Republicans will argue that the president’s economic policies have been blessed by the electorate. I’m not sure I’d go that far. Polls seemed to indicate, again, a generally divided view, with Kerry sometimes having advantages on the economy. But it is clear that voters found Bush’s economic management at least sufficiently unobjectionable that bread-and-butter issues didn’t overwhelm the rest of his message, even in hard-hit places like Ohio and Michigan (Bush did better in Michigan than in 2004). And, of course, there’s no question that Bush’s fealty to his tax cut pledges helped him hold his base, and that – as in 2004 – a number of House and Senate races went Republican after being fought on economic issues.
3. Social Issues and the Courts: Here, I believe there is a mandate, if one that Republicans need to interpret carefully. Republicans up and down the ticket did exceptionally well with rural and other socially conservative voters, and Karl Rove’s prediction that he could bring out millions of evangelical Christian voters who didn’t vote in 2000 proved prophetic. Polls regularly showed that voters preferred Bush over Kerry in picking judges, and it’s now already conventional wisdom that the same-sex marriage issue played disastrously for Democrats in the heartland. With the Senate now up to 55 Republicans, Bush will be amply justified in appointing conservative judges and in pushing to get through the appellate judges who are already stalled. If Bush is really devious, he could respond to the next Supreme Court vacancy by appointing Miguel Estrada and daring Democrats to complain about his lack of judicial experience after they spent years keeping him off the bench.
But the posture of the same-sex marriage issue should also serve as a reminder: America is a progressive country and a conservative country, and politicians forget one of the two parts of that formula at their peril. Progressive, in the sense that there is a broad, general acceptance of social change. People may fight about particular changes in our society and grumble and groan about the decay of everything, but at a fundamental level, the public is willing to accept that attitudes about race, gender roles, sexual behavior and the like do change over time, and the society changes accordingly. Certainly, efforts to use government to forcibly hold back such changes in attitude almost always result in political setbacks. Bill Bennett had this to say yesterday:

President Bush now has a mandate to affect policy that will promote a more decent society, through both politics and law. His supporters want that, and have given him a mandate in their popular and electoral votes to see to it. Now is the time to begin our long, national cultural renewal . . .

With all due respect to Bennett – much as I’m sure he and I agree on many values issues – that’s not going to work. But if it’s important to recognize the progressive nature of social change, it’s at least equally important to recognize the conservative impulse as well: people who may be willing to be persuaded to change their minds about things – or who may give way in time to people with different opinions – may not be so enthused about court decisions that take away from the people the development of that process and tie it up in a constitutional straitjacket. In some cases, that straitjacket can actually reverse the direction of the progressive impulse (as any social change can be reversed over time if attitudes change); pro-lifers are optimistic that, if anything, the absolutism of pro-abortion groups like NARAL and their allies in the courts have succeeded in provoking a general trend towards more rather than less disapproval of abortion. If such a trend grows visibly over time, eventually there will not be popular support for candidates like Kerry who swear to appoint judges with a pro-Roe v. Wade litmus test. This election could wind up being seen in retrospect as such a turning point, as Bush (like Reagan) got a larger share of the popular vote than avowedly pro-abortion candidates like Kerry, Gore, Clinton, Dukakis and Mondale ever did.
People like Kevin Drum keep telling us that times are a-changing and eventually, issues that favor conservatives will go away. But this dichotomy will never go away, no matter what the particular issue. Liberals are forever trying to use the courts to short-cut or entirely avoid the process of persuading people on social issues, and that will continue to be a self-defeating tendency no matter what the specific issue at hand. As long as conservatives focus their energies on appointing judges who will leave most such issues in the hands of the people and don’t try to make major social changes of their own before their time, social issues will remain a bulwark of conservatism.

Kerry Concedes

It is being reported that Senator Kerry has conceded to President Bush and that both men agreed on the need to reunite the country.
Kerry reportedly will be speaking at 1 PM in Boston. Bush will probably speak later today.
UPDATE: It is very interesting, and quite heartening, to hear how much respect Bush and Kerry apparently have for one another. I got the sense in 2000 that Bush and Gore really could not stand one another, something subsequent events have only seemed to reinforce.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Jim Geraghty has a classy salute to Tom Daschle that I completely endorse.
FINAL UPDATE: My take on today�s speeches: I thought Edwards was trying to rally Democratic spirits, but came off all wrong, a little too partisan for the occasion. Kerry was very good, striking just the right tone and doing his best to heal the bitterness of a too-long campaign. Like Gore at the very end in 2000, I’m not a fan of the guy, but it was hard not to feel for him and his supporters (well, most of them). Cheney was Cheney, with a deadpan crack about having �delivered� Wyoming for the ticket. Bush seemed very gracious and relieved. The President proceeded to give a very nice speech about looking forward, serving all Americans and about what he hopes to accomplish. In all, a peaceful and honorable democratic transition all around.
If you�re depressed, Daniel Drezner has some encouraging words for moderates who voted for Kerry.

2004: The Morning After

I stayed up until Edwards spoke at 2:30 (after being announced as “the next vice president of the United States”), so I’m just too spent this morning to do the full what-it-all-means post, or even to fully absorb the meaning of Kerry’s refusal so far to concede. My gut tells me that Kerry’s refusal to call it last night was only fair, given the traumatic 2000 experience for his party and given how close this one was in the Electoral College, although it’s rather sad to see the tradition of Election Night concession speeches fade away. But I would hope he buries the hatchet by the end of today; fishing for an extra 500 votes when you have a popular vote plurality at your back is one thing, but going to war for 146,000 votes is quite another, and with Bush having won a decisive majority of the national popular vote, I suspect the public would run out of patience for a fight that lasts more than another day or so. The Democrats never got closure on the last election because the leader of their party never looked them in the eye and said, “we lost fair and square, it’s over” the way the loser of every election had before. Kerry surely must be able to appreciate, particularly with the passions that election and the war have stirred up, why it will be crucially important to the peace of the nation going forward to do that soon.
My feeling this morning is mostly one of overwhelming relief. We got through the election without a terrorist attack, meaning the last thing Al Qaeda might have been holding back something for has passed. Not that they are done, but there was no other reason to wait other than lack of capacity to strike. And the election went well. The Commander-in-Chief will stay at the helm, and we will have the opportunity to carry his strategy through for another four years. The Senate will be more Republican, as we steel for a likely Supreme Court battle and maybe several.
For historical perspective, not only has Bush won a majority of the popular vote for the first time since 1988, but his 51% of the vote is larger than any Democrat has won, other than FDR (who did it four times) and LBJ in 1964, since the Republican party ran its first national election in 1856 (Jimmy Carter in 1976 is the only other Democrat to muster a majority in that period, and then it was 50% in the wake of Watergate). The Republican party remains a majority party at the national level, having won popular majorities now 7 times to the Democrats’ two since 1945. It is, of course, particularly satisfying, on an emotional level, to see Bush win a larger share of the vote than Clinton ever did.
On the coverage last night, I was flipping channels continuously. CBS was actually the fastest network to call states early, but only FOX and NBC called Ohio for Bush, and at last check nobody was willing to say 270; it’s safe to say that some of the networks just couldn’t quite bring themselves to call a winner until the other side had conceded defeat. I do think FOX had the best coverage, for two reasons. First, FOX had the best ticker, packing in useful information on popular vote totals along with the percentages and share reporting for all the major races. Some of the others left out the raw numbers. Second, FOX had the incomparable Michael Barone, whose encyclopedic understanding of every battleground state down to the precinct level gave FOX viewers a decisive informational advantage in digesting the returns from hotly contested states like Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida.
Furthest-out line of the night, besides some of Dan Rather’s Ratherisms, had to be Joe Scarborough discussing why statewide and nationwide elected officials like hurricanes in Florida.
Anyway, I’m tired and I need to get back to work. I’ll be back on my usual early-morning blogging schedule wrapping up the election the next two days, and then I’ll be resuming baseball coverage next week. I’ll also be taking down some of the election-related bells and whistles on the site over the next several days.

It Stays Early Late Around Here

I’m done blogging for the night, having done little enough anyway. I may even try to go to bed if it looks like this will drag on all night.
Still no blue states red and no red states blue. And the networks are quivering in fear of calling Florida, which looks very solid for Bush. The bad news is that it looks at the moment like Bush may need to hold Ohio because he’s not gaining ground in any blue state, plus Nevada is tight and NH a slight Kerry lead, eroding further Bush’s margin for error.

Holding Pattern

Very little blood drawn yet, in the sense of either side losing anything they’d had much realistic hope of winning. The calls so far that are at all interesting:
R: Win WV, Win Senate races for Tom Coburn, Jim DeMint, Mitch Daniels wins IN gov, defeat Amendment 36 in CO.
D: Win NJ.
Like I said, not a lott of blood drawn as of 9:53 pm. And Isakson and Obama won.
UPDATE (10:17 pm): NBC calling Arkansas for Bush. Another mild heartburn extinguished.
But everything I’m hearing seems to augur well for Bush in Florida, and Florida is the key state. (This sounds particularly good for Bush in FL).

Sites I’m Watching

Command Post 2004 page
NRO Kerry Spot
NRO Battlegrounders
Jay Cost
And checking in on a few others, but those are the ones to watch.
Will I be in the right-wing coccoon to some extent? Well, Election Day is one day you want the news – even and especially the bad news – from your friends. Besides, there’s always the TV.
UPDATE: I’d pass along some of the cautions you’ll see elsewhere: I’m trying not to get too excited about anecdotal reports about turnout, fragmentary exit polls, and the like. And that particularly includes voter fraud and similar shenanigans – while my two biggest concerns about this election have been litigation and fraud, I’m hoping as much as possible to keep from thinking about them. Remember that initial reports of any kind of fraud or irregularities coming out on Election Day are likely to be wrong, much the way that initial reports from a war zone (or anywhere else where there’s a lot of people, a lot of fast-moving activity and news reports rely on eyewitnesses and hearsay) tend to get a lot of the details wrong. There should hopefully be enough diligent people on hand to record the facts almost anywhere things get dicey.

The Big Day

I voted absentee and took the day off because I had planned on volunteering for the Bush campaign, but I never got a response back despite several attempts; I’m not sure if that means the campaign has enough lawyers, or what. Anyway, I’m home much of the day, although I’ve been running errands and dealing with work stuff anyway so far. But I’ll be chasing the same fragmentary bits of information as everyone else and I’ll post as I get the chance.
Two links to start off:
*Rasmussen’s final tracking poll showed Bush surging to over 50% for what is, I believe, the first time all year. No time like today!
*The Brothers Judd on Kurds in Iraq keeping their fingers crossed for a Bush victory.

The Most Precious Freedom

A few weeks back, discussing Afghanistan�s first democratic election in its history, I trotted out a favorite quote from Churchill. In honor of today�s election at home, it seems appropriate to bring it out again:

At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper.

For the slightly more cynical, here is another:

Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.

I believe that America is the greatest country in the world, not because Americans are inherently any better than others, but because we were blessed with the very best constitutional foundation in the world. Today, from Afghanistan to Indonesia to Ukraine to Iraq, democracy is, with our help, increasingly on the rise and the sphere of representative governments continues to expand every year. We should be thankful to live in a country that not just practices democracy, but is willing to sacrifice to promote and defend it.
Whatever the outcome of today�s election, I sincerely hope that never changes.

The Optimists’ Club

Latest from the most credible of the GOP optimists:
Jay Cost’s final predictions.
Jim Geraghty’s conversations with his highly-placed Republican insider and the insider’s mentor.
I can’t tell you what these are worth, but their arguments have been a principal source of my optimism. Are they spinning, or deluding themselves? We’ll know soon enough.

Last Call

Well, I’ve put my faith all year in Dales as the best of the poll-watchers. Now, it’s put up or shut up time. He’s currently showing states solidly behind the two candidates at 222-186 for Bush, 276-238 for Bush – game, set, match – if the candidates each take the states where they are leading only by a little, and just two states (Ohio and Hawaii) too close to call. Electoral-vote.com has Kerry 298, Bush 231, coming to different conclusions (all in Kerry’s favor) on Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico, and Hawaii, with the sole call more in the Bush direction being New Hampshire, listed with New Mexico as the only tossups.

Strong Incumbents, Strong Challengers

Looking at the RealClearPolitics 3-way polling averages, 11 out of 12 have Bush with between 47 and 51% of the vote, and 8 of 12 have Kerry with between 47 and 49% of the vote. The latest Rasmussen tracking polls are consistent as well, showing Bush leading 47.9-47.1, 48.1-47.1, and 48.8-47.4 over the past three days (the most recent listed last). Which means, essentially, that we have both an incumbent and a challenger who have a fairly solid base of support entering the last two days of the campaign. I think most of us will agree that it is highly likely that Bush will poll at least 47% on Election Day, and equally highly likely that Kerry will poll at least 46% and probably at least 47% – thus, at least a decently close election remains likely, although we could still have a decisive popular-vote majority and/or an Electoral College landslide.
Recognizing the limits of historical analogies, what can we determine from this? I decided to take a look at the final election results for elections dating back to 1824, when they started keeping records of the popular vote. There have been 25 elections in that period in which an incumbent has stood for re-election; 16 have been re-elected, 9 have been voted out of office.
Strong Incumbents, Weak Incumbents
Obviously, a strong incumbent – if we define a “strong” candidate as one who finishes with at least 47% of the vote – is likely to be re-elected. How likely? All 16 who were re-elected had at least 47%, while only two incumbents who polled at least 47% were voted out, those being Ford in 1976 with 48% of the vote and Grover Cleveland in 1888, who won the popular vote with 48.6% and was voted down (if you want to quibble with my line-drawing – and I had to draw it somewhere – the one incumbent in the 46% range, Martin van Buren at 46.8% in 1840, went down to defeat). The only three presidents to be re-elected with below 50% were Harry Truman in 1948 (49.4%), Woodrow Wilson in 1916 (49.2%) and Bill Clinton in 1996 (49.2%).
What’s interesting – and, in fact, what shows the limitations of historical analogies – is how few incumbents have lost races without a complete collapse in their support. Besides Ford, the other four incumbents to lose since 1900 got completely abandoned at the polls: Carter in 1980 got 41%, Hoover in 1928 got 39.6%, Bush Sr. in 1992 got 37.4%, and Taft in 1912 got 23.2% and finished third. Besides Cleveland and van Buren, the other two 19th century incumbents to lose also showed weakly, in both cases against candidates who beat them in the popular vote four years earlier: Benjamin Harrison drew just 43% in his 1892 rematch with Cleveland, and John Quincy Adams drew just 43.6% in his 1828 rematch with Andrew Jackson.
The average margin of victory for successful incumbents? 54.9 to 41.1 overall and 54.9 to 40.9 since 1900. The average margin of victory for successful challengers? 49.5 to 41.2 overall, and 48.5 to 37.8 since 1900.
Strong Challengers, Weak Challengers
The flip side is when, as this year, we have a strong challenger: six candidates have drawn at least 47% of the popular vote against an incumbent president, and all of them have won. Of those, only one drew less than 50% of the vote: Benjamin Harrison in 1888 with 47.8%.
Strong Incumbents, Strong Challengers
You can see where this is heading. In the five presidential elections in which an incumbent and a challenger were separated by 5 points or less, the incumbent won two (Truman in 1948 and Wilson in 1916); the challenger won three, Carter defeating Ford in 1976 and the two Cleveland-Harrison matches in 1888 and 1892; or, that’s a two-to-one advantage since 1900. Not much you can learn there either way. For what it’s worth, the average outcome was 47.6% for the incumbent and 47% for the challenger, or 48.9% for the incumbent and 47% for the challenger since 1900.
If you look at matchups of a strong challenger against a strong incumbent, there’s only two historical precedents, both of them bad for the incumbent: 1888 and 1976.
Well, it should be pretty clear from all this that the history isn’t all that enlightening; there’s really only five campaigns out of 25, and maybe really only two, that give us any examples to study. But I do think the history is a useful caution about reading too much into the study of, for example, how late-deciding voters make their minds up. The fact is, the 1976 campaign is the only one in the last 50 years to look anything like this one, and the polling data from 1976 don’t exactly support the notion that voters facing a choice between a strong incumbent and a strong challenger will swarm to the challenger at the end, as Ford’s strength came from a late surge after never pulling better than 45% until the final poll of the election, when he pulled briefly ahead at 49-48 with a momentary surge that quickly subsided (link via this analysis). And Ford, you may recall, was a bit of a unique incumbent: he had never been on a national ticket before, and was running on a record of the first election after Watergate and the fall of South Vietnam.
In other words: tomorrow, history leaves us on our own. It’s our job to make it.

Tom Daschle’s Neighborhood

How popular is Bush in South Dakota, the state where Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle is fighting for his political life after four years of efforts to undermine and denounce Bush at every turn? Popular enough that Democratic Representative Stephanie Herseth felt the need to pledge that if the Electoral College ends in a 269-269 tie, she would vote to re-elect Bush.