Mojo - November 2008

When Will We See a Blue Texas? Hispanics Will Decide

| Tue Nov. 11, 2008 2:29 PM EST

immigration_march.jpg

Many Democrats believe it is simply a matter of time until George W. Bush's home state goes from red to purple to blue.

Cuauhtemoc "Temo" Figueroa, Obama's top Latino outreach official, said [Texas] could be taken seriously as a presidential battleground if Democrats could win statewide races there in 2010. "I don't know if it's four years or eight years off, but down the road, Texas will be a presidential battleground," Figueroa said.

The reason is demographics. Across the Southwest, Latino voters are increasingly powerful. In Colorado, their share of the vote went from 8% in 2004 to 13% in 2008. Nevada, 10% to 15%. New Mexico, 32% to 41%. Every 30 seconds, a Latino is added to the American population, the fastest rate of any minority group. By 2050, Hispanics will represent 29 percent of the American population.

In 2008, Latinos voted 67-31 for Barack Obama.

Texas is already 35 percent Hispanic.

You can see where this is going.

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Checking the Vote-Checking in Minnesota

| Tue Nov. 11, 2008 1:04 PM EST

Minnesota is in the middle of something called a "post-election audit." It is not the Franken/Coleman recount; that starts next week. It is a check of the accuracy of Minnesota's optical scan voting machines, mandated by state law and performed after all statewide elections.

Election officials are hand-counting ballots from selected precincts and comparing the results to the machine-tabulated totals. Sounds like a recount, right? Except it operates on a much smaller scale — in 2006, the post-election audit reviewed ballots from just 5 percent of the state's precincts.

So how is it going so far? The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which has not been friendly to Franken in this election, makes it sound like the post-election audit is slowly eliminating Franken's chances for making up the 206 vote deficit that is keeping him from unseating incumbent Republican Norm Coleman.

Twenty men and women settled in along tables at the Ramsey County elections office first thing Monday morning and began plowing through more than 7,700 ballots cast last Tuesday in the U.S. Senate race.
After nearly three hours of counting, Norm Coleman had lost exactly one net vote in five of the county's precincts. Al Franken had gained exactly one.

But that gives readers an impression that is badly wrong. As Senate Guru points out, this is good news for Franken:

Court Smacks Down Bush Administration in White House Emails Case

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 5:56 PM EST

The Bush administration suffered a major legal defeat on Monday when a federal court denied the administration's motion to dismiss a lawsuit that has arisen from the possible loss of several million White House emails. The ruling allows the plaintiffs in the case, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archive (NSA), to move forward with their legal efforts to force the recovery of the missing emails and the adoption of a more reliable email archiving system.

Meredith Fuchs, the NSA's general counsel, says the White House's pending motion to dismiss had been a "hold up" that prevented anything else from happening in the case. "Now that roadblock is gone, so we have the opportunity now to try to take more aggressive action in the case," she says, adding that the litigation will probably "heat up" in the months to come.

The emails in question, which could number in the millions, are from between 2003 and 2005 and could include information about the runup to the war in Iraq and the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert CIA officer. (Need to catch up? Read our full coverage of the missing White House emails story.)

David Plouffe For Democratic Party Chief?

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 3:28 PM EST

UPDATE: Marc Ambinder reports that Plouffe sent him an email saying he won't be taking the DNC chair. But Plouffe wouldn't say what he might be doing post-election.

Howard Dean is stepping down as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. This is no surprise; it's been known for months he would be departing after the election. The question is, who's next?

HuffingtonPost reports one possibility is that Dean will be replaced by a duo: Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who would be the talk-show face of the party, and an operative who would do the operating (perhaps Steve Hildebrand, who was deputy campaign manager for Barack Obama's presidential bid).

But shouldn't the DNC job go to David Plouffe?

As the manager of Obama's campaign, Plouffe steered the best-run presidential campaign in years. He put together an effective campaign structure. He efficiently matched man, message, money, and machine. Developing his own version of Dean's 50-state strategy, Plouffe expanded the electoral map for Democrats. In public, he projected an image of calm, confidence, and competence. His public spin was always tethered to reality. He came across a master mechanic who believed in the mission, not an ideologue or a grandstander. And he beat the toughest, most experienced operation in politics: the Clintons.

It's no put-down of McCaskill to suggest Plouffe. Naming her DNC chief--with or without a partner--would have symbolic value. And she was an effective advocate for Obama, especially when he was locked in a fierce battle with Senator Hillary Clinton, though Obama appears to have lost her home state by 6000 votes. Perhaps if McCaskill becomes DNC head, that would help Obama and Dems narrow that narrow gap next time.

Sarah Palin Talking Nonsense on Medical Records

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 2:34 PM EST

She's speaking to reporters in an attempt to clear her name. Here's one statement she made Sunday, about the gossip that swirled around her candidacy:

"Some of the goofy things, like who was Trig's mom. Well, I'm Trig's mom, and do you want to see my medical records to prove that?"

Um, yes. We asked for your medical reports repeatedly. Andrew Sullivan talked about little else for a while. You refused. Your campaign stonewalled. And ultimately all you did was pass around a letter from your doctor asserting you were in good health the day before the election. Are you serious right now?

Will Obama's Cabinet Favor Whites?

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 2:19 PM EST

The Wall Street Journal ran a cheat sheet of the powerful blacks who may wind up in the Obama administration. But check this:

Of those hoping for access and government stints, some may be disappointed. Loyalties aside, Mr. Obama, according to people familiar with his thinking, may be constrained in the number of blacks he appoints to avoid any charges of favoring African-Americans.

So, he can appoint white folks for days—but just a Negro here and there. Why won't that be seen as 'favoring whites'?

A white reporter covering a small town, McCain-area called me post-election for comment, appalled at hearing whites in the local diner angrily fretting about being demoted to the back of the bus, the Muslim Obama giving their hard-earned money to "those who refuse to work," etc. Don't worry white folks: Situation normal. A brother may be president, but he's still got to eenie-meenie-miney-mo among us blacks, his own judgment be damned. And of course, he wouldn't be the President-elect if he didn't understand these things. But it still sucks.

Whenever blacks find themselves in a group larger than three or four at work, invariably someone will 'joke:' "Better break this up. More than four and the white folks get nervous." I guess that joke ain't going anywhere. And I bet Obama's administration will blacker than any other in history but that won't take much, will it? An under-secretary here, a deputy assistant there, and soon you've got yet another quarter-step toward full equality.

But it's all good. Obama won. I can wait a little longer.

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New Hampshire the Apex for Gender Equality in Politics

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 1:40 PM EST

At the state level, New Hampshire now has a woman Speaker of the House, a woman Senate president, and a female majority in the Senate. It had a female governor from 1997-2003. At the federal level, it has a female Senator-elect (who happens to be that same ex-governor). That's a remarkable record of accomplishment on gender equality in politics.

Now if we could just recreate something even remotely close to this at the national level! As of 2006, the United States ranked #83 in the world in terms of percentage of seats held by women in the national legislative body. That is four spots below Zimbabwe.

Michelle Obama Touring DC Private Schools Today

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 1:17 PM EST

Alas, public schools don't seem to make the short list for the Obama girls. Michelle Obama is slated to visit Georgetown Day School (where many of her husband's close advisers send their kids) and the Maret School today, and is also apparently considering Sidwell Friends, which Joe Biden's grandchildren attend. No big surprise here, really. But this should come as welcome news to many of our commenters who seem to think that public school is too much of a security risk for the president's kids, a sentiment I find sort of odd given that many DC schools already have metal detectors installed at the front door. DC schools know quite a bit about security, but apparently not enough about VIPs to make the cut.

Quote of the Day, 11.10.08

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 12:40 PM EST

Today's installment in an occasional series (stolen from Kevin Drum) comes from reader DG at TPM:

"I can't believe Obama is already sitting down with an unpopular, aggressive world leader without preconditions."

Obama visits the White House today.

Military Contractors Are Here to Stay, Report Concludes

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 12:30 PM EST

First some numbers. The size of the US military was cut 30 percent between 1990 and 2005, which led to increased reliance on private companies to provides services previously thought of as "inherently governmental." The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan accelerated the shift. Pentagon contracts have grown 31 percent in the last few years, from $241 billion in fiscal year 2004 to $316 billion in fiscal year 2008, and the Congressional Budget Office reports that, by year's end, the US will have shelled out over $100 billion to contractors in Iraq. One out of every five dollars spent in Iraq now goes to private industry, and there is one contractor for every US soldier in the country. (During the Gulf War, the ratio of soldiers to contractors was 50:1.)

These figures come from a New America Foundation report released Friday, called "Changing the Culture of Pentagon Contracting" (.pdf), which acknowledges the "inevitability of contractors," while making recommendations for integrating them more effectively into the US force structure. Among the report's admonishments: