Monday, October 20, 2008

A short election night?

The networks are looking for ways to keep audiences watching on election night in the event of an early knockout by Obama.

How early? How about 6:01 p.m. Central Time -- or roughly 60 seconds after the polls close in Virginia and the networks can begin reporting the exit poll data. If those polls show Obama with a clear victory in the Old Dominion, every pundit in America will know the game's over -- even the increasingly unstable guys at Fox News.

Simply put: There is no realistic scenario for a McCain victory in the electoral college that does not include Virginia. Currently he is trailing in that state by an average of seven points and he has not held a definitive lead there since late September. The same thing can be said about North Carolina, where he has been in a statistical tie with Obama for almost a month.

The damning math for McCain
In order to win, Obama only needs to hold the states Kerry won in 2004 and flip one big state (Ohio, Florida) or any combination of smaller states that add up to 20 electoral votes. Iowa's 7 votes are already locked up (he leads McCain by 15 there), so that leaves him just 13 votes short. Virginia has 13 votes, ergo, game over. North Carolina has 15 votes -- same story. Obama is also leading in Colorado (9 votes -- and McCain is apparently pulling out), New Mexico(5), Nevada(5) and Missouri(11) -- all states that Bush won in 2004.

Considering that Obama just raised another $150 million in September and is currently outspending McCain by considerable margins in every battleground state, McCain's chances of holding on to all of those states -- as he must in order to win -- seems remote.

McCain certainly should not be draining what limited resources he has fighting for states like Virginia and North Carolina. They should be in the bag; both states have been solidly red in every presidential election since the 1970s. The fact that they could flip for the first time in two generations says something about the palpable desire for change in this country.

UPDATE 10/21:
The McCain campaign has admitted that it has all but given up on Colorado, New Mexico and Iowa. If Obama wins these three he gets 21 votes and, well, game over. Why would McCain do that? Apparently he's decided on a final, kamikaze-style strategy to consolidate everything into Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Missouri, Nevada and Pennsylvania. The first six are arguably swing states, but every poll out there puts Obama 10-12 points ahead in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania hasn't gone Republican since the 1980s. It's a desperate move that's shaping up to be McCain's final nutty gamble of 2008.

The problem with calling the race early
So what happens if Virginia gets called early? Are the dozens of anchors and pundits going to lie and pretend they don't know what's going on? However, if they call the election at 4:01 p.m. Pacific Time, millions of people may not bother to vote (especially McCain voters), which could affect hundreds of downticket races west of the Mississippi.

Like any good sports analyst might say: It'll be interesting to see what happens.

More importantly...
We took Tate to a pumpkin patch this weekend. He loved it.

He's awesome. Calls me da-da all the time.
Just thought I'd share, because, you know, whether you're a Republican or a Democrat -- this is the stuff that matters.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The end of the world as we know it?

The Dow was off 'only' 128 points on Friday, following a 678-point drop the day before. For the week, the Dow was down almost 1,900 points -- more than 22% -- its worst week in the index's 112-year history. European and Asian markets also took a beating. Iceland -- Iceland -- is about to go bankrupt. Oil has dropped below $84 a barrel, off from a high of $140 a barrel due to fears of a worldwide recession/depression that would severely weaken demand.

We’re in some serious poop
The headline of a story on the front page of the Washington Post Friday queried if what we’re seeing now is “The end of American capitalism.”

That may be a stretch, but it's a question that is gaining merit so long as the stock market continues southbound and the government continues its move towards nationalization (see my post from a few days ago about that). No matter who gets elected, the next president will certainly be facing some unprecedented challenges, both here and overseas.

This will give you a clear idea of what we’re up against
Here’s an example: General Motors stock was down to $4.76 a share yesterday. The budget surpluses that Bush inherited from Clinton have been turned into massive deficits financed by borrowing money from foreigners, especially in Asia. This means that Asian countries -- China in particular -- own hundreds of billions of dollars worth of treasury bills.

Now suppose the Chinese government decides it wants to get into the car manufacturing business and makes a deal with Toyota, now the world's largest car manufacturer, to buy GM outright -- with GM's stock price cratering right now, this could be done for a relative song -- and move its factories to China to be operated by Toyota but employing Chinese workers. All they keep is the U.S. dealer network, and millions of American jobs are lost.

If the next President steps in to nix the purchase of GM, the Chinese sell their treasury bills and the dollar collapses, sending the prices of everything from groceries to gasoline skyrocketing and dealing a near-fatal blow to the American economy. This is not science fiction anymore. Which candidate is better prepared to deal with stuff like this could (should) determine the election.

Meanwhile, on the Trail…
Barack Obama has been talking a lot about the economy, but John McCain has been avoiding the subject (his own campaign manager has said the economy is a loser for him), choosing instead to focus on Obama’s connection to William Ayers – a subject which he is happy to bring up at his own (increasingly scary) rallies, but won’t say to Obama’s face.

Obama and Biden -- in one of Biden's best moments yet -- have both pointed out this apparent lack of testicular fortitude on behalf of The Maverick.

Three weeks to go.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Debate: Huge numbers, ultimately little impact

Joe Biden showed why he's the most qualified and prepared individual on either ticket to be president Thursday night. That he happens to be running in the No. 2 spot doesn't change that fact.

Biden was clearly confident in his command of his material -- as one might expect from a guy who has been in the Senate for 36 years. Palin was shaky at first, but found her footing and really wasn’t as bad as many might have thought she’d be, especially after her disastrous performance with Katie Couric. Still, she avoided answering a lot of questions and didn't get any follow-up questions from the very non-confrontational moderator, Gwen Ifill. One example: When Ifill asked her what she'd do about the mortgage crisis, Palin said: "Let's commit ourselves--just everyday American people, Joe Six-Pack, hockey moms across the nation--I think we need to band together and say, 'Never again.'"

She didn't explain how hockey moms could get together to prevent a financial crisis, and Ifill didn't follow up. Couric would have, I'm guessing.

My wife and I both thought Palin's folksy vernacular ("you betcha", "gosh darn", "doggone it") was hokey and annoying and too-often forced. We've just had 8 years of hearing our president sound like a hick and not be able to pronounce the word nuclear, among other things. Palin mispronounces it the exact same hick way: new-KWEW-ler.

Enough already, Sarah. You were a broadcast journalism major for crying out loud -- someone at one of those junior colleges you went to must have taught you you how to speak correctly.

Jenny and I also thought that Ifill might have pressed Palin more often for her non-answers had she not been targeted by a coordinated right wing sqwawk-fest the day before the debate about a book she’d been working on called “Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.” The book has been a matter of public record for months, but that didn’t stop the squawkers from crying about Ifill being “in the tank” for Obama.

I got news for the squawkers: Have you seen the polls? Apparently, America is in the tank for Obama.

Speaking of polls, the first polls of the debate from CNN showed that 51% of the voters thought Biden won the debate compared to 36% for Palin. On the plus side for Palin (I guess): 84% said Palin did better than expected while 64% said Biden did better than expected. But debating skills and beating artificially low expectations don't really matter. What matters is whether the candidate is qualified to be president should the need arise. On this score, Biden clearly won as 87% said Biden is qualified to be President and only 42% said Palin is.

CBS also did a quickie poll among uncommitted voters. In this one, 46% said Biden won and only 21% said Palin won. In terms of being knowledgeable about the issues, 98% think Biden is and 66% think Palin is. On the key question of whether the candidate could be an effective President, 91% said Biden could be and only 44% said Palin could be, similar to the CNN poll.

But really, all of this only means one thing: It’s up to McCain and Obama now, mano-a-mano. The sideshows are over. Vice presidential debates are fun to watch, but never really amount to much in the big picture. This one had a little more drama thanks to Palin’s train-wreck potential, but not nearly enough to make it a serious factor for most folks. Democrats can say their guy won on substance and polling. Republicans can finally exhale and wipe their brows now; Palin didn't flop and effectively stopped the bleeding -- temporarily, at least -- in what has been a miserable two weeks for the McCain campaign.

This debate will be pretty much forgotten in a week or so. Then it will go on to take its place among the slightly more interesting -- but ultimately forgettable -- footnotes in American political history.

Onward to November.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The only Fox News anchor worth a damn

Shep Smith didn't graduate from Ole Miss, but he went there, and he's been an ambassador for the school ever since. This isn't the first time he's gone Wild Rebel on the air, but it may be the funniest. Check out how his accent totally changes by the end of the clip.