2008 - %3, November

Dirty Campaigns

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 3:59 PM EST

DIRTY CAMPAIGNS....Brad DeLong comments on the 2008 campaign:

Yes, John McCain ran a dirty campaign. But it was a less dirty campaign than any Republican has run since... well, since the memory of man runneth (with the possible exception of Ford 1976). The difference this year was that — for some reason — this year a fraction of the mainstream press called them on it rather than ignoring it entirely.

I have my doubts that the media per se was the difference this year. For what it's worth, I think the difference is that in past presidential elections most of the really vile campaigning — not all, but most — was either kept under the radar or left to surrogates. Plausible deniability was maintained for the worst of it. This year, for some reason, the McCain campaign itself was willing to conduct a lot of its sleazy attacks publicly in its own name, and this opened them up to media criticism in a way that previous campaigns managed to avoid. I don't know why they did this. I'm not sure that Brad is right about the relative civility of McCain's campaign in any case, but there's not much question that McCain's eager public embrace of slime made his campaign seem worse than it had to. I don't really have a good theory to explain why they did this.

POSTSCRIPT: I should add that I don't mean to imply this is the whole story. It's true that the media liked Obama and treated him pretty easily. I imagine this was partly because so much of the anti-Obama stuff was so plainly crazy (he's a Muslim, he's a black nationalist, his birth certificate was forged, etc.) and partly because they were being extra careful not to buy into any criticism that seemed even arguably racially motivated. And they were probably harder on McCain than normal because they felt like their hero from 2000 had fallen to earth.

In the end, though, despite constant kvetching from conservatives, the media did report on Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers and Joe the Plumber and all that. And it just didn't stick. Who knows why? For whatever reason, the public just wasn't in the mood for this brand of BS this year.

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Virginia: Ground Zero For Election Shenanigans, Snafus

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 3:05 PM EST

vamap.jpg

Virginia hasn't gone Democratic since LBJ took the state in 1964. Forty-four years later, most polls give Barack Obama at least a four-point advantage over John McCain, thanks in no small part to the defection of moderate "Obamacans." Virginia is not used to being up for grabs, and the enthusiasm and passion among the electorate are unprecedented in modern times; forecasts indicate the state could see 90-percent voter turnout, more than double the average for a presidential election.

While widespread participation in the electoral process is a good thing, Virginia's readiness to manage the tidal wave of new voters (half a million people have registered since 2004) is very much in question. A report released in mid-October by the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, and the Verified Voting Foundation found that Virginia numbered among the states least-prepared for the Election Day challenge. "I don't see what the plan is to handle the volume," Common Cause's Susannah Goodman told the Washington Post. "We are concerned about really long lines at the polls at critical rush hour times, and we are concerned that they don't have enough machines."

The Spitterati and Trickle-Down Genomics, Part 2

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 2:47 PM EST

The following is a guest blog entry by Marcy Darnovsky of the Center for Genetics and Society.

To read The Spitterati and Trickle-Down Genomics Part 1, click here.

Efforts by California and Massachusetts to assert regulatory oversight of direct-to-consumer gene testing companies elicited predictable howls in the libertarian-leaning regions of the blogosphere. The gist of the don't-tread-on-me argument: Those are my DNA sequences; keep your hands off.

23andMe understands this impulse, and appeals to it. On the "values" page of its website, for example, it says, "We believe that your genetic information should be controlled by you….Though we store and help you interpret it, your genetic information is yours to have and explore."

Go Vote!

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 2:30 PM EST

GO VOTE!....I believe I shall take my quadrennial morning constitutional and perform my civic duty now. Back in a bit.

TRIP REPORT: The weather was fine here in Irvine. The line at Springbrook Elementary School was zero people long. Total wait time was approximately 90 seconds. I was assigned voter number 5797. The electronic voting machine was properly programmed and easy to use. Paper ballots were available for anyone who preferred them. The audit trail on the voting machine correctly recorded my votes.

That is all.

Are You Smarter Than a Blogger?

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 1:57 PM EST

ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A BLOGGER?....Want to amuse yourself while you wait for election results? In 2004 the Guardian entertained us with a campaign quiz on election day, and I blew it, getting only 33 out of 40 correct. Pretty poor for a political blogger, I thought. This year's quiz, however, is way harder, chock full of questions that require specific dates and numerical answers. The final two questions were gimmes, but even so I only got 20 out of 30 right. I guess that means I should turn in my keyboard.

Anyway, the quiz is here. Have fun.

Voter Turnout: Get Out the Weather Map

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 1:35 PM EST

We're in for a record turnout, but just how high will it be? Political scientist Michael McDonald, who excludes noncitizens, felons, and other ineligble over-18ers, predicts we'll sit right next to the high from 100 years ago, 65.4% of eligible voters when, in 1908, William Henry Howard Taft defeated anti-evolution Dem William Jennings Bryan in a landslide.

One predictor of turnout? The weather. Though with people as pissed off as they are with eight years of corruption, wars, and debacle after debacle, rain and long lines likely won't keep many people away. Overall, bad weather and rain will help McCain though, if only on the margins. Here's the latest Weather Channel map, with rain and showers scattered throughout the battleground states of North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Colorado, and Montana. (Fox is already reporting rain-related problems in Virginia.)

weather.jpg

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The Difference Two Years Makes

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 1:33 PM EST

Two years ago yesterday, SurveyUSA interviewed 600 Americans in each state of the union. Those 30,000 voters were asked who they would vote for in 2008 if the candidates were Barack Obama and John McCain. In that (mock) election, Senator McCain won 510 electoral votes. Obama carried his home state of Illinois, his birth state of Hawaii, and the overwhelmingly Democratic District of Columbia. The map looked like this:

ecv-2006.jpg

Even if the polls are wrong and Obama loses, no one thinks the map will look like that tonight. Guess Obama was serious about that "Change" business. Now that's what you call expanding the map.

A Missing Voice in Ohio

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 1:28 PM EST

mccain-rod-parsley250x200.jpg The New York Times notes that the evangelical power broker Reverend Rod Parsley of Ohio does not have his same swagger this year.

Six months ago, Rev. Rod Parsley was one of the more prominent evangelicals to hail Sen. John McCain as a "strong, true, consistent conservative."
But two days before the election, in a state central to Mr. McCain's hopes, Rev. Rod Parsley preached to his vast congregation at World Harvest Church of hellfire and "circling in on a fight with the eternal forces of darkness" without ever mentioning Mr. McCain.

The reason is pretty simple. Mother Jones revealed that Parsley, a major megacurch pastor who holds sway over a good number of swing state Ohio voters, leads a not-so-secret life as an intolerant anti-Muslim bigot. In one of his books, he argued that America is at war with Islam:

Final Poll Porn

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 1:20 PM EST

FINAL POLL PORN....Just for the record, here's the final RCP national poll average for the 2008 race. They've got Obama winning the popular vote 52%-44%. FiveThirtyEight.com projects 52%-46% and 346 electoral votes for Obama. Pollster has it at 52%-44% for Obama. Sam Wang, after adding in a cell-phone bias adjustment, projects 53%-46% and 364 electoral votes for Obama.

Do Not Pay Attention to Exit Polls

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 1:05 PM EST

Consider this a public service announcement. Do not pay attention to exit polls on the night of a presidential election. For the full explanation, check out Nate Silver, but here's a crib sheet.

(1) The margin of error is 50-90% higher for exit polls than for regular polls. That means a margin of error as large as 7 or 8 points, a huge number. (2) Exit polling was badly wrong during the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, as well as many of the 2008 primaries. (3) The folks who willingly participate in exit polls are never truly random; this time around, they are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans because of Democrats' well-established greater enthusiasm for their candidate. (4) A whole host of other reasons.

The solution? Breathe deep and know that you'll have some serious results from all over the country by 8 pm.