2008 - %3, November

How We Voted

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 2:02 PM EST

HOW WE VOTED....We're going to be seeing a ton of electoral slicing and dicing over the next few day, but Andrew Gelman leads off today which a chart showing the tremendous difference in the youth vote this year compared to 2000 and 2004. In the previous two elections George Bush got nearly half of the 20-something vote. This year, John McCain barely broke 30% of the youth vote.

Gelman also notes that the election came out about the way political scientists expected. "Obama won by about 5% of the vote, consistent with the latest polls and consistent with his forecast vote based on forecasts based on the economy." He calls that "close," but I'm not sure that's right. It's true that historically it's no blowout, but presidential elections have trended pretty close in recent years, and by the standards of the last decade this is a pretty solid win — especially given the big Democratic majorities now in place in Congress. Given the state of the country, it's hard to see how it could have been much bigger.

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Landslide? The Popular Vote Total, in Historical Context

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 1:36 PM EST

Was it a landslide? Judge for yourself. Here are 60 years worth of popular vote totals, from most lopsided to least.

+23.2%, Nixon defeats McGovern, 1972
+22.6%, Johnson defeats Goldwater, 1964
+18.2%, Reagan defeats Mondale, 1984
+15.4%, Eisenhower defeats Stevenson, 1956
+10.9%, Eisenhower defeats Stevenson, 1952
+9.7%, Reagan defeats Carter, 1980
+8.5%, Clinton defeats Dole, 1996 (less than 50% to the winner)
+7.8%, Bush I defeats Dukakis, 1988
[+6%, Obama defeats McCain, 2008]
+5.3%, Clinton defeats Bush I, 1992 (less than 50% to the winner)
+4.5%, Truman defeats Dewey, 1948 (less than 50% to the winner)
+2.4%, Bush II defeats Kerry, 2004
+2.1%, Carter defeats Ford, 1976
+0.7%, Nixon defeats Humphrey, 1968 (less than 50% to the winner)
-0.5%, Bush II defeats Gore, 2000 (less than 50% to the "winner")
+0.1%, Kennedy defeats Nixon, 1960 (less than 50% to the winner)

Return to Reagan

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 1:01 PM EST

RETURN TO REAGAN....Conservatives are now going to spend the next few years talking about the future of their movement, the same way we liberals have been talking about ours since 2002. I suppose I'll pop in and kibbitz once in a while, but for now I just want to throw out one thought: the Republican Party needs to return to Reaganism.

Obviously I won't get any argument on that score from conservatives, but here's the thing: they need to return to actual Reaganism, not the Reagan myth they've created over the past 20 years. The problem with George Bush was never that he was too conservative (he had a distinctly mixed record on that score), nor that he "abandoned" conservatism (like it or not, it's just not true that he lost popularity because he overspent in his first term). The fact is that throughout his presidency he remained a fairly popular figure among rank-and-file Republicans, if not the conservative intelligentsia, but eventually cratered among center-right independents. And that happened, I think, because he lacked any sense of pragmatism. He was surrounded, as Ron Suskind told us eight years ago, by Mayberry Machiavellis who disdained policy and ground-level reality, and instead evaluated everything that crossed their desks based solely on its partisan appeal and ideological purity. He was surrounded by single-minded zealots like Dick Cheney and David Addington who reinforced his worst tendencies, shredding the constitution and institutionalizing torture in the service of endless foreign war. He appointed cronies to jobs that required actual expertise and ignored to the end the fiscal disaster of policies dedicated solely to protecting friendly corporations and the rich. He himself maintained his intellectual incuriosity throughout, never doubting that a modern country of 300 million people could be governed by gut feeling. No presidency, either liberal or conservative, can survive that. It produces incompetence, disaster, rot, and eventual popular rebellion.

Reagan, conversely, had a mile-wide pragmatic streak. Maybe it was his Midwest roots. Maybe it was because he was originally a New Deal Democrat. Maybe it was because he had spent years dealing with California politics. Maybe it was just because Tip O'Neill was speaker of the house and he had no choice.

But whatever the reason, he had it. He slashed taxes in his first year, but when that produced gigantic deficits he raised them the next — and then raised them again every single year of his presidency. (He kidded himself that he was just "closing loopholes," but he did it nonetheless.) He favored partial privatization of Social Security, but when it became clear that he couldn't get that he called Alan Greenspan and had him put together a mainstream, bipartisan rescue plan. He won office on the back of social conservatism, but he was the president who originated the Republican tradition of delivering speeches to the annual pro-life rally in Washington DC by phone because he didn't want to be too closely associated with them. He drove up defense spending and called the Soviet Union an evil empire, but when the Kremlin finally produced Mikhail Gorbachev he did business with him. To the consternation of conservatives everywhere, he eagerly embraced arms control talks with Gorbachev and eventually signed the INF treaty.

This isn't some kind of ode to Reagan. Reagan was a dedicated, sometimes primitive conservative with plenty of failures to his credit, and I opposed nearly everything he did. But I'm talking about what conservatives need, not what I want or approve of. And unlike George Bush, Reagan seemed to instinctively understand the limits of what was possible and what the country would accept. If the Republican Party continues to embrace Bushism and the messianic, know-nothing Texification he brought with him (current incarnation: Sarah Palin), it will continue its intellectual and popular decline. But if it regains its pragmatic Reagan streak, who knows? They could be back and giving Dems a run for their money sooner than anyone thinks.

Anti-Gay Measures Victorious Nationwide

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 1:00 PM EST

While California's Prop 8 may be the most crushing blow to gay rights if it holds, it's certainly not the movement's only setback. An initiative that will bar gay couples from adopting passed in Arkansas, a gay marriage ban passed in Florida (bigtime, 62%-38%), and a "marriage amendment" passed in Arizona.

While "change has come to America" in some huge ways, equality was not a hands-down winner yesterday.

Reactions from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 12:55 PM EST

white_house_election_night.jpgWe've mentioned what happened half way around the world from the White House. So what happened at, uh, the White House itself? I'm happy to tell you — pandemonium. I wandered by the Obama family's next place of residence yesterday around 1 am and walked right into a joyous mob shouting, crying, and carrying Obama signs. The favorite chant of the night? "Nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, gooooodbye."

Reactions from Kenya

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 12:33 PM EST

The New York Times, reporting from Kenya, where the government has declared Thursday a national holiday.

This town, in the epicenter of Kenya's Obamaland — the same area where Barack Obama's father was from and where some of his cousins, half-brothers and a very gregarious 80-something step-grandmother still live — exploded into cheers when the news broke that Mr. Obama had won the presidency.
Thousands of people sang, danced, blew whistles, honked horns, hugged, kissed and thumped on drums — all down the same streets where not so long ago huge flames of protest had raged.
"Who needs a passport?" people yelled. "We're going to America!"

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Primary Sources: Obama's Acceptance Speech, Full Text

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 12:29 PM EST

Read every remarkable word of President-Elect Barack Obama's acceptance speech (as prepared for delivery) below. Then read David Corn's sharp analysis of history in the making here:

The Dems' Moderately Disappointing Congressional Results

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 12:20 PM EST

Congressional Democrats had high hopes going into yesterday's election. Everyone knows they were shooting for a filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes in the Senate, but they we were also looking to add anywhere from 15 to 30 seats to their House majority.

In that lower body, Democrats lost four incumbents (Tim Mahoney in FL-16, Nancy Boyda in KS-02, Don Cazayoux in LA-06, and Nick Lampson in TX-22). They picked up 21 seats, according to Swing State Project. Ten races are still outstanding. So we're looking at a net gain for the Dems of 16 to 26, with the likely number around 20.

They almost certainly won't get to 60 in the Senate. They started the night with 51. If they had scored pickups in the closely contested races in New Mexico, Colorado, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Oregon, Kentucky, and Alaska, they would have had 62.

Wins: New Mexico (Senator-elect Udall), Colorado (also Senator-elect Udall), North Carolina (Hagan), Virginia (Warner), and New Hampshire (Shaheen). That boosts them to 56.

Losses: Mississippi (Wicker) and Kentucky (McConnell).

Unclear: Georgia, Minnesota, Oregon, and Alaska.

Georgia will go to the Republicans if the current leader, incumbent Saxby Chambliss, gets over 50 percent. If he doesn't, the race will go to a runoff. Chambliss currently has 49.9 percent.

Here's the AP on Minnesota: "With the unofficial vote tally complete, Coleman led Franken by 571 votes out of nearly 2.9 million cast. Coleman had 1,210,942 votes, or 42.03 percent, to Franken's 1,210,371 votes, or 42.01 percent." A recount is expected.

Here's the Register-Guard on Oregon: "[Republican] Smith led [Democrat] Merkley by 4,478 votes, 474,398 to 469,920, based on partial returns released by the state Elections Division at 5:53 a.m. Wednesday." Full results are not yet in. The delay in counting may be due to Oregon's unique vote-by-mail system. Note that Obama is winning Oregon by double digits and that Merkley had a last-minute polling lead of about five. If Smith retains his seat, it will be a real head-scratcher.

And Alaska continues to befuddle. Stevens is the Senate's longest serving Republican and he brings home the pork. But after his felony conviction a week ago, people on both sides of the aisle assumed his political career was over. His opponent, Mark Begich went up 4 or 5 in the polls. Many in the Republican Party, including John McCain, called on Stevens to resign. And yet, Stevens has a small lead as vote counting continues. The AP: "Stevens' lead was fewer than 4,000 votes with more than 40,000 absentee ballots to be counted within 10 days."

If the Dems lose all four of these outstanding races (a real possibility), they will be stuck on 56. If they win all four (a very slim possibility), they will get 60. A reasonable guess? They get one or two, and head into the next term with 57 or 58 senators.

Prop 8 Still Not Official, Franken Race Headed for a Recount

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 12:18 PM EST

California's same-sex marriage ban is ahead 52%-48% with 95% of precincts reporting, though the state has yet to call the race. Given the stakes, that's wise. Count each and every vote before setting a new precedent for the nation. If Prop 8 does end up passing it will be the first time that California's constitution is amended to take away rights. A dubious distinction.

And it looks like Norm Coleman nosed out Al Franken in Minnesota's Senate race, with all votes in Coleman ended up with 42% to Franken's 41.97%. The 571 margin of votes for Coleman sets into motion an automatic recount that could drag on until December.

The Senate

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 12:09 PM EST

THE SENATE....Lots of very, very close senate races this cycle. Alaskans, almost unbelievably, appear to have returned convicted felon Ted Stevens to office, but only by a few thousand votes. I guess that could still change, though. Swillmeister Saxby Chambliss seems to have won reelection in Georgia by 100,000 votes or so. Oregon is still too close to call, but incumbent Gordon Smith is currently ahead by about 15,000 votes.

And then there's Minnesota, where Al Franken and Norm Coleman are within a thousand votes of each other with nearly all votes counted. Via email, here is Franken's statement:

Let me be clear: Our goal is to ensure that every vote is properly counted.

The process, dictated by our laws, will be orderly, fair, and will take place within a matter of days. We won't know for a little while who won this race, but at the end of the day, we will know that the voice of the electorate was clearly heard.

There is reason to believe that the recount could change the vote tallies significantly.

Our office and the Obama campaign have received reports of irregularities at various precincts around the state. For instance, some polling places in Minneapolis ran out of registration materials. Our team has been working on those issues for several hours already, and they will continue to do so this morning as the recount process begins.

Let me be clear: This race is too close to call, and we do not yet know who won. We are lucky enough to live in a state with built-in protections to ensure that in close elections like these, the will of the people is accurately reflected in the outcome.

I guess it's going to take a few days to know whether Democrats picked up more than five seats. Keep your seat belts buckled.

UPDATE: This is actually a weird repeat of what happened in 2004. This year, all the Dem pickups have been in states where they won by big margins (seven points or more). Conversely, all the close races look like they're going to be won by Republicans, with the possible exception of Minnesota. The same thing happened four years ago, when Republicans won all the close senate races but one (Colorado). Weird. What's the deal with Dems and close senate contests?