Blogs

Obama's Chances in South Carolina: Can a Wine-Tracker Win?

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 1:10 PM EST

Let's do some thinking about the Democratic race in South Carolina (primary: Jan. 26; current polling here). Considering the Democratic electorate there is roughly 50% white and 50% black, Obama ought to have a huge advantage. But his main opposition is the wife of America's first black president—the Clinton's have very strong ties to many parts of the black community—and the polls show a close race.

The easiest observation is this: Edwards continued presence in the race divides the white vote, making things easier for Obama.

But here's a more interesting hypothesis: South Carolina may prove Obama's viability more generally. Here's why. Obama is considered a "wine-track" candidate. He appeals to upper-class, well-educated voters. Professors love him. So do college kids on Facebook. He isn't a "beer-track" candidate, someone who appeals to working- and middle-class voters. Usually, beer-trackers get the support of traditional Democratic constituencies like labor. Here's a better explanation:

Since the 1960s, Democratic nominating contests regularly have come down to a struggle between a candidate who draws support primarily from upscale, economically comfortable voters liberal on social and foreign policy issues, and a rival who relies mostly on downscale, financially strained voters drawn to populist economics and somewhat more conservative views on cultural and national security issues.
It's not much of an oversimplification to say that the blue-collar Democrats tend to see elections as an arena for defending their interests, and the upscale voters see them as an opportunity to affirm their values.

Thing is, wine-trackers don't win. Adlai Stevenson, Eugene McCarthy, Gary Hart, Bill Bradley, John Kerry (Bradley and Kerry have endorsed Obama)... they've all lost in either the primary or the general.

But Obama might rewrite the equation. If you take the wine-track voters (who looove the fact that Obama has written books, for example), but you add an unprecendent number of young and independent voters, and you add a hefty share of black voters to that, now you've got a coalition that can beat the working class block that traditionally sides with the establishment candidate.

Two other notes, re: Kerry and Richardson, after the jump.

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Roger Clemens' Strikeout Secret: Vioxx?

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 12:50 PM EST

Looks like Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens is getting a reprieve from Rep. Henry Waxman, who has rescheduled part of next week's hearings on steroid use in baseball until after the sentencing of former Mets batboy and MLB steroid dealer Kirk Radomski. Too bad, because I was looking forward to Clemens' testimony, especially in light of his claim on "60 Minutes" this week that he never took steroids, but that at the peak of his career, he was "eating Vioxx like Skittles." (Clemens was referring to the painkiller withdrawn from the market in 2004 after it was linked to an increase in heart attacks and strokes.)

I was hoping that Clemens might elaborate on his Vioxx consumption for Congress after seeing a Power Point presentation earlier this week by American Enterprise Institute scholar Ted Frank that cheekily charted Clemens' win record before and after Vioxx was pulled off the market. Ted was kind enough to share his slide, which is posted below. So, was it steroids, or was it Vioxx that led to his amazing strikeout record? You be the judge!

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Another NH Explanation - The Hillary Effect

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 11:54 AM EST

Add another potential explanation for Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire victory to my on-the-fly list composed on election night: the Hillary Effect.

The idea, courtesy of Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, is that supporting Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary opens a voter up to accusations of being (1) for the old guard; (2) resistant to change; (3) blind to all of Obama's messianic glory; (4) motivated by a simple gender-based preference, if you are a woman; and/or (5) subtly or not so subtly motivated by race, if you are white. And Hillary supporters just don't want to put up with it any more. They don't want to be judged by their fellow liberals and they don't want to be yelled at by conservatives. So they are purposefully vague when they are polled (either suggesting that they are undecided, or for another candidate), and then pull the lever for HRC in the privacy of the voting booth.

Something to consider...

FINALLY Cracking Down on Milk Crate Thieves

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 12:18 AM EST

I'm glad someone is finally taking a stand against college kids who want to make cheap coffee tables.

Representative Michael F. Kane, a Holyoke Democrat, is pushing for the crackdown on milk-crate thieves, or, translated into legislativese, anyone who "intentionally removes a plastic bulk merchandise container that is used by a product producer, distributor, or retailer or agent thereof which is used as a means for the bulk transportation, storage, or carrying of retail containers of milk . . . with the intention of permanently depriving the merchant of the possession, use, or benefit of such container."
Inspired by complaints from several retailers and dairy suppliers, Kane said, his bill would set a sliding scale of fines for first, second, and third offenses, all the way up to $1,000 and a year in prison for stealing more than $100 worth of crates.
"These crates have been used for many years in college dorms for basically storage and furniture," Kane said. "Obviously, I don't want to see any college students going to jail over this, but it is becoming a cost to the industry." Kane is hoping the measure will come up for a hearing in the Judiciary Committee this winter.

Massachusetts must be a paradise, if this is what the legislature is acting on.

Dep't of Terrible Ideas: Obama Surrogate Questions Hillary's Tears

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 11:38 PM EST

Slamming Hillary Clinton for crying didn't help John Edwards any in New Hampshire. In fact, it probably hurt him substantially. What makes the Obama folks think questioning those tears' authenticity will do anything other than cause a backlash?

Really? We're supposed to think that because Hillary Clinton didn't cry publicly over Katrina, these tears were part of a political calculation? This is stupid and weak.

Is assuming the worst on the behalf of your opponents part of the politics of hope?

The Wearing Of the Orange

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 9:35 PM EST

This Friday, January 11, is the six-year anniversary of the arrival of the first prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. To observe it, the American Civil Liberties Union is asking everyone to wear orange, and there is a call to close Guantanamo Bay prison now. There will also be rallies and vigils in some U.S. cities, and Amnesty International is staging protests all over the world.

As of December 1, 2007, there were still 305 inmates at the prison, including 20-year-old Omar Khadr, who arrived in Guantanamo Bay when he was 15. The youngest known prisoner to spend time at Guantanamo Bay, however, was 13, and the oldest was 98. Four prisoners are known to have died in custody, and one of those is thought to have been 16 years old when he was detained.

55% of Guantanamo Bay's prisoners have been officially determined as not having committed any hostile acts toward either the United States or its allies.

The Bush administration has indicated that the prison will remain open throughout Bush's alleged presidency.

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Feds Miss Deadline to Help Polar Bears

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 8:00 PM EST

polar-bear150x180.jpgFederal authorities missed the deadline this week to classify polar bears as "endangered." Seems rampant habitat loss due to global warming isn't compelling enough to get them listed.

Well, today three conservation groups announced that they're going to sue the Department of the Interior to get the endangered status for the bear.

This all started last January, when an Interior Secretary proposed putting polar bears on the federal endangered list. The Endangered Species Act requires a final decision no later than a year after such a proposal. While the government claims that the deadline was missed because of the complex science involved, and because there has never been a species listed due to global warming, conservationists say that the federal government consistently uses such administrative excuses to keep animals off the list or meddle in scientific findings.

Just to give some context for the "science" part of the argument, a National Geographic study found that polar bears may be extinct by 2050 due to global warming, and in summer 2007, there was 40% less Arctic ice than there was in 2000, according to a study by the National Snow and Ice Data Center. As we wrote about last year, global warming is leading to extinctions across the global board. Unfortunately, we may not have the time it takes to convince the federal government otherwise, or to compel the feds to get their paperwork in order.

Bored With Rock and Roll? How About Shock and Roll? Now You Can Taser With a Beat

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 4:40 PM EST

leopard%20taser.jpgIf giving people 50,000 volt electric shocks just doesn't thrill you like it used to, don't despair: TASER International has a fashionable solution! For a few hundred dollars, you can get yourself a brand new leopard-print stun gun, and an mp3-equipped holster to put it in. Read more over at The Riff.

—Casey Miner

Bored With Rock and Roll? How About Shock and Roll? Now You Can Taser With a Beat

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 4:40 PM EST

leopard%20taser.jpg

Ever feel like shocking people just ain't what it used to be? Like your self-defense experience is a little bit...boring? TASER International, whose 50,000 volt "electronic control technology" has helped redefine "trigger-happy," knows what you're missing: a new leopard-print stun gun, and an mp3-equipped holster to put it in.

Yes, for just a shade more than $450, you can own not just a weapon, but a personal protection experience. So says TASER head Rick Smith. "Personal protection can be both fashionable and functionable," Smith elaborated in a press release announcing the company's plans to "unleash" the new weapon and holster. Weapon, you say? Thought TASERs were nonlethal? Well, they are—as long as you don't suffer from over-exhaustion, a heart condition, a back condition, or "excited delirium," and avoid the perils of "Sudden In-Custody Death Syndrome," which according to TASER "results from a complex set of physiological and psychological conditions characterized by irrational behavior, extreme exertion, and potentially fatal changes in blood chemistry." Symptoms include "extreme agitation" and "sweating profusely."

The company claims that these conditions, and not the device itself, account for the more than 150 recorded deaths of people who were for the most part perfectly healthy before receiving (often repeated) shocks from the device. But whatever: Seizures are such a buzzkill. Ditch those squares, rock on to your own soundtrack, and don't forget: shoot early and often. Ain't no party like a TASER party.

—Casey Miner

Ron Paul Loses His Luster

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 4:28 PM EST

With results in from New Hampshire, the wild and pervasive fantasies surrounding the Paul campaign should finally be laid to rest. For months Paul supporters have swamped the comments section of this and pretty much every other major blog with the idea that his poll numbers were vastly underreported, either due to a media conspiracy, or the fact that his young, cell-phone-wielding supporters weren't counted in typical phone polls. I've pointed out that Dean supporters made pretty much the same, baseless case in 2004, and it's now clear that nothing has changed since then: In Iowa, Paul won 10 percent of the vote (phone polls had given him 9 percent) and in New Hampshire he won 7.6 percent (phone polls had given him 6 to 10 percent). In short, the Ron Paul myth should be about as dead as the decomposed remains of Guy Fawkes.