28 October 2008

The Vox Civitatis Election Projection - Update

Here's my updated electoral college projection:

Again -- just based on a hunch. I see Obama expanding his map, and of the two "red" states I listed in my original map (not the best case scenario), I think Ohio and Nevada are the most likely to switch over. Why? Well, Ohio's polling shows strength for Obama, and reports about an outrageously good ground game and initial successes with early voting suggest he is more likely to win the state than McCain. Nevada may tip because of Obama's emerging strength with Hispanic voters. They have in essence left the GOP, although they supported Bush in significant numbers.

It's looking great for for the gentleman from Illinois. It's becoming increasingly difficult for McCain to change the game, but he sure is trying. I think McCain's redistribution/socialism canard and lingering doubts about preparedness, exacerbated by Biden's comment about Obama being "tested" within six months of assuming office, are having some effect in national polling. Still, I feel it's too little, too late. I'll update again on Friday afternoon.

23 October 2008

An Update on That Map

I've always felt that this election could go one of three ways, ranked from high probability to low: Obama wins the election narrowly, Obama wins huge, or McCain wins the election narrowly.

All evidence suggests that voter turnout will be huge this year. I think something is happening, the question is...what? Could it be an Obama surge? Could it be an anti-Obama countersurge? My hunch is it's both.

The Washington Post gives us a clue. The polls are clearly suggesting an Obama blowout. I'm not sure I believe it, just yet. But, digging into the polls reveals the signs that make me wonder if my second scenario - Obama winning huge - may bear out in time. The numbers behind the numbers suggest that Palin has (rightly) become a massive liability to McCain's prospects. Obama has become the more trusted person to lead in a time of crisis, is more trusted on the economy, and is almost at parity with McCain on the question of who would be the best in terms of foreign policy.

But increasingly, regardless of what the polls say, the game now becomes one of strategy. The Republicans have a vaunted voter-identification and turnout effort. It is largely grass-roots and religious folks play a big part in generating turnout in critical areas of the country. It's what puts Ohio and Florida, and even Pennsylvania, in play for the GOP. In the past, the Democrats have had a difficult time competing with this infrastructure. Now, Obama's campaign believes they can. Some people say it's untested, but I disagree. In the course of the primaries, Obama had some 50 trial runs at inspiring turnout...he was quite successful overall. Some anecdotal evidence suggests the GOP ground game isn't there this year, but I can't say for sure that it is.

If the GOP ground game has collapsed, then the electoral college map will look like this. You can call it my best scenario:

This doesn't depend on Obama's performance. This is all about the GOP's turnout at this point. I think there is so much enthusiasm for Obama that it does threaten to overwhelm the GOP in most states where Obama is remotely competitive. On the other hand, I think the GOP is still a sleeping giant. We are still a center-right nation, and the infrastructure that has served Republicans so well in the last two elections is still in place. The question is can they mobilize this time around? It's a fair question given the state of affairs in our country...but I'm not willing to count the GOP out just yet. So my map below stands as my best guess for the outcome of this race, with the following caveat: if the GOP really falls flat, which is definitely possible, we'll see an outcome like the one above.

20 October 2008

The Vox Civitatis Electoral College Scenario

In brief, I see a much narrower Obama victory than most pollsters are projecting at the moment. Despite the seeming groundswell of support for Barack Obama, we are still a 50/50 country, with a decided center-right lean. Nonetheless, Virginia and Colorado may go Obama's way owing to his successful get-out-the-vote efforts in urban and suburban areas. This is Obama's hidden strength, and will be manifest by his overwhelming advertising and this is also where McCain's organizational weaknesses will show up. But for all the talk of Ohio and Florida turning, I'm not so sure at this point. Ohio has proven resistant to Obama's surge in other battleground states, and Central Florida's conservative core along with senior citizens will probably break for McCain come election day.

What do you think? I'll update this scenario as we move closer to the election. Let the games begin!

09 October 2008

Something Ugly

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

-- Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, 1861.

When Abraham Lincoln assumed the Presidency, the nation was staring headlong into civil war. The urgency of the occasion compelled the newly inaugurated president to use the occasion of his first address to appeal to the better angels of our nature to strive for unity and peace in the land. This idea, that we Americans have "better angels", defines our sense of patriotism and cultivates the notion that we are an exceptional nation, gifted with great attributes, and burdened with great obligations. Our founders crafted a nation on a series of ideals, the first of it's kind in the world and perhaps still the world's best manifestation of a state premised on a set of values, rather than a tribe or religion. But it was Lincoln who, by pen and by sword, reified our national values into a set of guiding principles for a modern nation state.

If you're wondering why I'm so troubled by the direction this nation has taken since 2000, it is simply because our leaders have so systematically ignored or even dismantled the values and guiding principles that previous generations have spilled so much blood and treasure for. Between selling a war premised on lies, condoning and abetting torture, profligate spending and incompetent fiscal management, cronyism, arrogating illegal powers to the executive branch, and blithely disregarding good government, the Bush Administration has failed this country, eroded the public trust, undermined the Constitution, and cheapened the public debate.

As a student of government, and as a public servant, I am appalled at what has happened. Rather than calling forth the better angels of our nature, our leaders have summoned forth some pretty dark demons. We are now reaping what they have sown. Our economy is in a tailspin. Our efforts in Afghanistan are on the verge of being lost, and in Iraq we've lowered expectations to the point that victory as defined today would have been unrecognizable three years ago. With an unstable Pakistan, and an Iran and North Korea recommitted to weapons of mass destruction, I am hard pressed to say how the world is a safer and more secure place now than it was on the 10th of September, 2001.

Say what you will about Barack Obama, at least he has consistently acknowledged these truths about the state of our union. We stand in a moment in history that demands sobriety and seriousness in our leaders and an honest and strong commitment to improve our state of affairs. I am supporting Obama because he has shown a seriousness in his commitment to leading the executive branch. For me, it's not so much about ideology, and I certainly don't believe he is the Messiah, contra Rush Limbaugh and the right wing noise machine. I respect and admire his earnestness, his understanding of the proper role of the executive branch, his temperament, and his knack at surrounding himself with good advisers, something that even David Brooks pointed out.

I think most Americans are with me on this, and this is why the polling is moving in his direction presently:

Amazingly, as their presidential campaign has progressed, the GOP has doubled down on Bush's disregard for real statecraft. Most noteworthy is the choice of Sarah Palin as Vice President, a politician patently unqualified for the office she seeks. Instead of attempting to right this perception, Palin uses her egregious incuriosity and her insouciance about our glorious and diverse world to bolster her Hockey Mom/Joe Six Pack bona fides. Incredibly, she turned her inability to properly answer a follow-up question into a critique on the alleged filter of the "media elite." Also amazing is her refusal to submit to a press conference.

But in other ways, too, the McCain campaign has shown a shocking disregard for the urgent issues of the day. His campaign manager claimed that issues are irrelevant in this campaign, and that it would be based on character. Subsequently, the campaign has launched a fusillade of attacks on Obama's character, challenging him for associating with William Ayers, a radical who led a terror campaign against the federal government in the '60s and '70s, destroying property and killing a police officer in the process. Despite the fact that he has been rehabilitated into the very society he sought to damage, he is at worst unrepentant or at best equivocal about the things he did. Fine; but rather than attempting to tie this association to Obama's policies or to any aspect of his record (which is incredibly deep), the McCain campaign seems to be satisfied by mentioning the association and letting the crowd at rallies shout out things like "terrorist!", "kill him!" or "off with his head!" This has become a major feature of his campaign in the last few days, despite a deteriorating economy and a host of problems festering around the world.

When McCain denounces the use of Barack Obama's middle name, Hussein, with the motive force of an epithet, yet tolerates that use by his warm-up speakers, again to get a crowd riled up, I have a hard time taking the McCain campaign seriously. It's a joke. Unfortunately, it's a dangerous joke. Watch the video below to see what some at McCain's rallies take away from all this:

I know that people at rallies tend to be partisan and get worked up, but this stuff is quite dangerous, especially considering the likely outcome of this election will put the GOP into the position of the loyal opposition. How can Obama and the democrats build an effective coalition through possibly years of crisis when the meme of "terrorist" and "evil Muslim" take root among the opposition? McCain's silence on this issue, and willingness to blow a dog whistle to rile up the racists and bigots in the land, is truly revolting. McCain and Palin are not racists, but their cynicism is nurturing racism, religious bigotry, and fear of the other. In the absence of strong and well thought policies, which is something the GOP has not been overly concerned with in the last decade, this is all they have, and this is why I can't support them.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post wrote of the ugliness that is becoming more prevalent at McCain/Palin rallies. It's worth a read.

For the first time in my life, I see my country in a very precarious spot. Now is not the time to amplify divisions in this country based on hatred and mistrust. Now is not the time to reward a sophomoric approach to government. Now is not the time to sustain an ever-growing and unconstitutional executive branch. This is why I can't vote for McCain and Palin. Their campaign is a dangerous, reckless joke that has spawned something ugly in the public arena. I'm voting for Obama, not with the highest of expectations, but with conviction that he will take seriously the task he is given, and work to rebuild a responsive and effective national government. I also intend to vote for him in the hope that we can move beyond the last eight years and again be touched by the better angels of our nature.