Friday, October 31, 2008

Good day to be Rod

Drip, drip, drip. There should be a betting pool for when Rod Blagojevich gets indicted. I say by... April?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Is the RNC wasting money in Montana?

Matthew Yglesias thinks the RNC is throwing its money away on Montana:
Montana may or may not be competitive at the moment, but any universe in which Barack Obama wins Montana is a universe in which he's winning the election anyway.
But at this point the RNC is probably looking to minimize losses. Montana has only 3 electoral votes, but losing it would be a real psychological blow, and worse, it would come with a cost to the GOP's national image.

Consider the red states that could flip this year, and the media narrative that would go along with it. Colorado: Demographic change. Virginia: Suburban Washington. North Carolina, Georgia, etc.: Black people. Even Indiana, if it flips you can say, well, it's right next to Illinois.

Montana is a totally different animal. Not many states are as rural or as exotically Western-seeming as Montana. The Democrats who have won statewide office there recently have been greeted with numerous stories in national media saying, wow, aren't these Western Dems something? They're so folksy and Western-seeming and yet they're Democrats!

If the folksy-Westerny-white-rural voters of Montana vote for a Democrat for president, that chips away at the Republican brand. It means dudes in cowboy hats and bolo ties now vote for Democrats, and this complicates the cultural appeals the GOP will want to make going forward.

Keeping Montana is important to the RNC, in other words, because of how losing Montana would look to people who basically only understand Montana as an abstraction of "the West." (That is, nearly everyone outside of Montana.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Palin 2012 still not impossible

Just because I can't leave well enough alone, here is another post about Sarah Palin's 2012 campaign. This TPM post takes a look at Newsweek poll numbers that shaped up this way:
If John McCain is not elected president, which one of the following three possible candidates would you be most likely to support for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012?
Mitt Romney 35%
Mike Huckabee 26%
Sarah Palin 20%
TPM concludes that this means Palin "hasn't done herself any favors" by joining the ticket. But how can this possibly be true? What percentage support would Palin have had in a poll of Republicans let's say six months ago? One year ago?

To me those data say, wow, look at how Palin's support has risen meteorically among the GOP from 0.00001 percent all the way to 20 percent! At this rate she will overtake Romney by February.

Doesn't mean she'll win the nomination. Doesn't mean any darling-of-the-GOP-base wouldn't begin at a major structural disadvantage. But surely it's a bit crazy to argue that the campaign hasn't substantially increased her national profile.

P.S. ... This post from Patrick Ruffini asks the question in an interesting way: "Is Sarah Palin the right's Howard Dean?" Here is the nut, and it is an interesting one:
Right now, with the small donor and grassroots eruption for Obama, and vibrant progressive institutions that depend on the creativity of an energized base, the Right needs a broad-based movement more than it needs the approval of elites. That means making Palin's brand of politics -- even if she isn't the one who ultimately gets us there -- a permanent fixture in the conservative ecosystem.
Let's not get hung up on all the ways Palin is different from Dean. Who else in the conservative ecosystem can even pretend to activate the small-donor/grassroots/social-networking political model?

P.P.S. ... I think Saxdrop mentioned one a few months ago...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Post about television shows

I agree with Matt Yglesias on The Godfather vs. The Sopranos vs. The Wire. No question that the Wire is a more cohesive work from start to finish, while the Sopranos had weak moments, narrative dead-ends and the occasional episode that was an out-and-out failure.

But it is significant that the Sopranos got there first. It was the first really artistically successful long-form TV show that wasn't episodic and wasn't a mini-series. So to be fair to David Chase, he is rightly counted as the progenitor of novelistic TV.

P.S. ... Am I wrong? I will entertain earlier examples... Twin Peaks? Sort of, but the narrative completely fell apart in the second season. Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Maybe, but it was pretty episodic for the first few seasons, and it only started two years before The Sopranos...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Islamophobia on the run

(I have posted about this subject on AMillionMonkeys before, and this week had a conversation with my brother about it, so I thought I would crosspost this from the other place...)

False rumors that Obama is a Muslim have dogged his candidacy from the beginning, and at times the campaign has overreacted to the rumors by accommodating Islamophobia -- firing a Muslim outreach coordinator for no good reason, or by moving women in head scarves out of the camera's frame at a rally. It has been important to the campaign that they push back against the notion that Obama is a Muslim, but at the same time, sometimes the effect has been to give credence to the idea that the word "Muslim" itself constitutes a "smear."

So a particularly moving part of Colin Powell's appearance on Meet the Press (which also of course contained his Obama endorsement), was when he confronted this issue head-on in a way that I don't think anyone so prominent had yet done:

Transcript:
I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?
Along similar lines, I found the piece of video below, taken outside a McCain rally, particularly compelling viewing. An anti-Muslim bigot is selling his wares and trying to "educate" other attendees with some paranoid nonsense. In response, a Muslim McCain campaign chairman from Virginia and some of the other pro-McCain attendees openly confront the man -- saying, among other things, "You don't believe in the Constitution":

Good for them.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why does Sarah Palin keep contradicting John McCain?

I would file this under "cunning and self-serving" rather than "clueless and off-message," though I suppose it's open to debate. But doesn't it seem like Sarah Palin is contradicting John McCain an awful lot? If you're McCain, I would assume you do not want your VP candidate saying this kind of thing 17 days before the election:
I asked Palin whether she'd do things differently if she could repeat those weeks. She answered by silently mouthing "yes." When two aides--we were on a McCain-Palin bus with staff and security--said "yes" aloud, she chimed in, "Yes,  yes, yes, yes."
Of course, if you are Palin, and you think McCain is probably going to lose, clearly it serves your own personal political interest to have Republicans thinking that your candidacy was terribly mismanaged by McCain's people.

So add this to Palin's second-guessing the campaign's decision to pull out of Michigan and possibly her contradiction of his position on unions to the list of her public statements that turn out to be helpful to Sarah Palin's political career at the expense of John McCain's.

Can anyone think of others?

UPDATE [10/20 9:48am] ... Here's a pretty big one: "Palin criticizes robocalls." Meanwhile the candidate himself is left to grit his teeth and justify them. Isn't being this off-message usually considered bad form in a running mate?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Not a plumber etc.

Oh dear:
A day after making Joseph Wurzelbacher famous, referencing him in the debate almost two dozen times as someone who would pay higher taxes under Barack Obama, McCain learned the fine print Thursday on the plumber’s not-so-tidy personal story: He owes back taxes. He is not a licensed plumber. And it turns out that Wurzelbacher makes less than $250,000 a year, which means he would receive a tax cut if Obama were elected president.
Obviously the idea of Joe the Plumber was and is and always will be quite a bit more important than the reality of Joseph Wurzelbacher. But laid out like this it kind of makes an impression.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Matthewsism

Chris Matthews, God love him, just now:
Joe the Plumber ... I mean this guy's like, now, like a character out of like, uh, I don't know, like one of these old -- I was thinking of Beowulf or something.
Beowulf!

These elections are so partisan!

I think if I were trying to figure out whether or not we are entering a new postpartisan era, three weeks before a contested national election between the major parties would not be exactly the time to make that judgment. ... This guy may be right, of course. I'm just saying things can look a lot different the day after an election than they do the day before...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Real solutions for the McCain campaign

Everybody is trying to think of a new strategy for the McCain campaign. I have an idea: Is it maybe possible for him to go back to wearing those gay sweaters...? Hey, it's a thought...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Terrified yet?

Just today listened to this new This American Life episode, "Another Frightening Show About the Economy," a sort of follow-up to the earlier great show, "The Giant Pool of Money." Very useful, very informative, and completely terrifying...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Debate question

John McCain did not bring up, or even hint at, Barack Obama's scary domestic-terrorist pals, nor his sleazy Chicago-politics past, nor his crazy pastor, nor the fact that he is a crypto-Muslim sleeper agent secretly plotting to take over America.

Q. To what extent was this decision by McCain influenced by the certain knowledge that the mention of any of these things would cause Obama to say the words "Keating Five"?

I know the answer may be "not very much," but I doubt it is "not at all."

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

In which I ask questions about McCain's strategy

It seems to me that the McCain campaign's new super-negative strategy is as likely as not to backfire on him, but I also wouldn't be surprised if it moved the polls a couple of points in his direction in these waning days of the campaign. I am generally a believer in the efficacy of negative campaigning, if not necessarily the honor in it.

But from McCain's perspective, doesn't this shift in tones come too late to be very effective? Yes, yes, a month is a long time in an election. But I would have thought the ideal time to define Obama as a scary terrorist would have been before the first debate.

About that debate: Doesn't Obama's gracious, measured performance there in front of tens of millions of voters seriously complicate the effort now to make people afraid of him? Not to say it's impossible for McCain to retroactively implant doubt in people's minds -- it's just more complicated now than it was before so much of America was introduced to him.

And here's a question for stridewideman: Isn't it conceivable that this strategy from McCain would be much more effective if Obama had treated that first debate as a no-holds-barred sparring match? If he had seemed combative and angry then, it would surely be easier for McCain to now present him as, you know, combative and angry, like a terrorist.

The best thing about this sort of counterfactual is that I am right no matter what. If these attacks backfire on McCain, well it proves my point. If they work for him, I can always say, well, they could have been even more effective...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Crime and punishment in Marathon County

For the past couple of months I have been working with Brian Reisinger, another reporter here, on a series of stories about the criminal justice system in Marathon County. This county has invested heavily in incarceration-alternatives in the past decade or so, but it still finds itself with an overcrowded jail and the prospect of spending tens of millions on a bigger facility.

This is a local issue, of course, but it's something many, many different places across the country are experiencing. If you're interested in checking out some of our reporting, see the special section here.

Or check out the individual stories on the costs of incarceration, the culture of the overcrowded jail, the role recidivism plays in the system, the limits of treatment options and the Huber work-release program. These were the main pieces in the series, though they were supplemented by a lot of secondary reporting and statistical breakouts and so on.

Here is a photo gallery of pictures taken by Daily Herald photographers inside the jail.

I also made a video of an inmate from the Marathon County Jail out on Huber which can be found on this page somewhere.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Polls of polls of polls

Aren't this and this pretty good reasons not to use the RCP poll averages anymore?