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:: Friday, January 16, 2004 ::

Bush Kills the Hubble

And so it begins:
No more servicing missions to Hubble, as per the directive of the current head of NASA, Sean O'Keefe.

Hubble has six guidance gyros. But they fail at fairly regular and now predictable rates. Nearly every servicing mission to Hubble has replaced gyros as part of the work done. It needs three to do most of the science it now does, although there is a scheme in the works to do a greatly attenuated kind of science with two. We currently have four working gyros. Expectations were that we would almost certainly be down to two by the time the next servicing mission occurred, and possibly even down to one. So, figure, at around the time of what would have been the next servicing mission, Hubble will probably be no more, or soon, very soon, to expire.
Son-of-a-bitch. The Hubble is NASA's biggest and best contribution to science in the last two decades. It's the crown jewel of the space-flight program.

Yes, it's due to be replaced by next-generation telescopes, but not for almost another decade. (I know they launched a infrared telescope not too long back).

The Hubble continues to do good science, good astronomy...and without manned spaceflight, it would do neither. Trust Bush to start killing the best of NASA right off the bat. (Link via Pharyngula)
:: Morat 2:58 PM :: ::

Let me clarify

I'm all behind going to Mars. I'm all behind trying it all out on the Moon first. I'm not behind Bush doing it because I have no doubts that Bush doesn't want either project to be successful at it's state goals, but instead be successful at killing off as much of NASA's science as possible, while moving towards militarizing space.

It's particularly upsetting, for me, to see a cherished dream used to poison and destroy everything good about NASA.

So I'm all behind Mars, the Moon, permanent habitation of space, mining the asteroids....all the glory and dreams of space that may -- or may not -- be feasible. We won't know until we try.

But I am against using these goals as a way to cripple science, NASA, or the government.

Goals and dreams are worth pursuing, but not at the cost of bankrupting the country...or killing off good science in the process.
:: Morat 12:59 PM :: ::

Thinking about Mars..

Let me start by mentioning that I have no doubt that Bush's Mars plan is wasteful, fraudulent, and designed more for political points than any urge to explore space. Moreover, I realize that if any of it is actually passed, it will end up being more corporate give-aways...with no real care whether it's actually successful.

Which is the difference, I suppose, between JFK and Bush. JFK actually wanted -- for one reason or another -- to stick a man on the moon. George just wants people to re-elect him, and maybe funnel a few more billion towards his friends.

Back to Mars, however. If NASA were to go to Mars, they're use a variant of Mars Direct, rather than the one-shot "plant the flag" profile they put together in the late 80s. In addition to being a lot cheaper, it's a lot more effective.

I think the first step, however, should be the moon. Mars Direct is a very good plan, but any plan should be tested, and the moon is the only real workable testbed. Mars Direct requires sending a great deal of unmanned cargo to Mars well in advance of actual astronauts, and results in a permanently crewed base.

There are more than enough "safety critical" issues here that to warrant in depth testing. The moon is the only workable platform for those tests. In some ways, a moonbase is harder: No atmosphere, so no aerobraking or fuel and oxygen generation. In some ways, it's easier: 1/6 g as opposed to 1/3g, less worries about flares and cosmic rays. A hell of a lot closer to Earth, so easier communications.

I don't know, offhand, whether the cost/benefit analysis will show the Moon to be worth it as a stepping stone to Mars. The critics are right: The Moon isn't necessary for a Mars trip. In terms of pure cost, it raises the price tag significantly. Then again, the first several Apollo missions never went to the Moon...so you could say much the same thing.

I'd guess that, George Bush's personal reasoning aside, that NASA would probably want to go through the Moon simply to test a number of critical pieces of the Mars plan. (If they do, you can bet the hunt for water would be their first goal. Water on the moon would drop prices significantly).

But before any of that happens, we'll have to deal with some of our more pressing problems: Like the giant hole Bush has blown in the budget.
:: Morat 10:36 AM :: ::

Iowa update..

Kerry's placed first again (by 5 points!) in the latest Iowa poll. On the bright side (for me, leastwise), Dean's numbers actually went up on Thursday. As Tuesday's and Wednesday's bad samples work themselves out over the next two days, Dean's numbers ought to climb. With Kerry having polled mid-twenties or higher for four days, I don't expect Dean to climb much above 22 or 23 by Sunday, if that. (He's at 19 today, as is Gephardt)

Still, since the media seems as addicted to the Zogby crack as I am, it will lead to the impression (real or false) that Dean is regaining ground and Kerry seems to have leveled off. I've got no idea what Gephardt will do.

I think it's all down to turnout, and Dean probably has an edge there. I still think Dean on top, but predict Kerry coming in a close second...within five points, almost certainly.

I almost pity Clark, however. Kerry's rise in the polls, and the "surprise second" in Iowa is going to draw voters from Clark in New Hampshire, and it looks like everyone -- myself included -- have underestimated Kerry. Remind me, next time, that there's a difference between "dead" and "playing dead".

Kerry's going into New Hampshire with a very spinnable second in Iowa, at the least.
:: Morat 8:42 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, January 15, 2004 ::

Looks like the Clark bashing has begun

Josh Marshall notes that Lieberman has picked up the latest Clark bashing (already prominently featured on Drudge).

Welcome to the club, General. I believe you have gotten your free throws in. Since you're almost certainly going to be this primary for the long haul, here's hoping you've got the chops to handle it.

Fair warning though...it's only going to get rougher.
:: Morat 11:55 AM :: ::

Wow...

Stirling Newberry writes an excellent piece on the 2004 race, and where the candidates stand. I quoted some of the introduction (mainly because the last few days have given me a bone-deep understanding of how the clock can be the biggest enemy). Go read. It's about ten times better than anything I have to say.
With the DC primary proving that she cannot become the icon of the African American vote, Carol Mosley-Braun put out word that she was about to drop out and backed Howard Dean. It's the first scene of the last act of a political moment. US News and World Report calls it the 'moment of truth'. Truth is an elusive quantity, and politics, like speed chess, often has inferior lines of play win, simply because the other side cannot refute them against the clock. Instead, what is happening is what a chess player would call, 'simplification', where extraneous pieces are removed from the board, and even the most valuable can be sacrificed simply to advance that much farther down the board.

It is the clock that is the enemy, particularly of candidates trying to reach a last minute surge, or deliver a stunning attack. Days can seem like hours. And it is the clock that is the enemy of all front-runners, who cannot get to the election soon enough. Dean's people will feel each and every minute between now and the final Iowa results.

:: Morat 10:58 AM :: ::

Oh god!

I've become the just as bad as the mainstream press. All right, I'll take the Oath. No more Iowa tracking polls for me! No. None. Until Sunday. And only if I'm drunk. Seriously, thought, LiberalOasis has a really good point about expectations and spin and wins and losses. More on topic to my latest obsession, however, are their words on Zogby's Evil Iowa Poll:
However, if there is one thing that's shaping expectations right now it's the Zogby tracking poll, the only daily poll on Iowa publicly available.

ABC's The Note recently dubbed the poll "crack for the weak."

That's because not only is polling in Iowa notoriously unreliable, tracking polls aren't even meant to provide hard figures. They simply gauge movement.

But clearly the entire political press corps are Zogby crack junkies because every tick in the poll is the explicit or implicit starting point for much of the current coverage.
My only defense is that, in my addiction, I was stating that tracking polls are for trends, and that Iowa is damn hard to poll.

So that only makes me half of a media whore, right?
:: Morat 10:37 AM :: ::

It looks

As if Tuesday and Wednesday were bad days for Dean in Iowa and New Hampshire. I don't really think it was Sunday's debate, since that should have shown up Monday. Admittedly, perhaps Monday night's coverage was far harsher and more critical than Sunday night's coverage. Did anyone pay attention?

If so, Dean's numbers should continue to drop, or at best flatten, in both tracking polls tomorrow. If they don't begin to rise over the weekend, however, then Dean has problems.

On the other hand, as ARG notes, much of the vote in NH is soft (Dean's already down to his hard core, so not much drift there), and an Iowa win can help Dean tremendously.

Why does it always come down to Iowa? It's because God hates me, right? Because if God liked me, it'd all boil down to New Hampshire, where they have primaries and not caucuses, and thus better track records...and quicker returns.

But nope. It's all Iowa, baby, where there's a 3 man clump at the top and it's all going to boil down to who really has the organization they claim they have.
:: Morat 10:30 AM :: ::

Good lord the race is getting tight.

Latest NH numbers from the ARG's tracking poll have Dean at 29%, Clark at 24%, and Kerry back to 15%. ARG notes:
There are three important points to be aware of when reviewing today's tracking. First, Howard Dean's core support remains around 30%. His strongest supporters have not wavered while soft supporters have left him. Second, when the 15% undecided in the ballot is included, about 45% of likely Democratic primary voters are not firmly committed to any candidate. And third, Wesley Clark has not been the only beneficiary of the shift from Howard Dean that began over the weekend. John Kerry and John Edwards have also benefited as some women continue to have concerns about Clark. Both Clark and Kerry have picked up 5 percentage points since Sunday, with Clark going from 19% to 24% in the ballot preference and Kerry going from 10% to 15% in the ballot preference. Edwards is up 2 percentage points from Sunday, going from 3% to 5%.

Clark has not jumped in front of Dean because Clark, Kerry, and Edwards have split the vote that has moved away from Dean. If the race remains competitive below Dean and Dean is able to maintain his core level of support, it becomes difficult for any of the other candidates to pass Dean.
Mixed news for everyone there.

It looks like Dean is going to need every point of his solid support, and his early NH lead to get through this.

I'm not sure how much I'd trust weekend polling (harder to get ahold of people), but I'm guessing we'll see a lot of movement over the next few days, as Tuesday and Wednesday's lows work themselves out of the tracking poll (both here and in Iowa).

Still, I'd rather been Dean than anyone else. Better the guy whose got a good shot at winning both the primaries and is almost certain to get one, than the guys fighting for the chance to win just one.

With 45% of the voters not firmly committed, a Dean win in Iowa could translate to big gains in NH. Conversely, Dean is down to his core support now...voters hard to shift if Dean comes in second in Iowa.
:: Morat 10:09 AM :: ::

Once again..

I would like to note Dean's timing. CMB's endorsement couldn't come at a better time, nor could his visit with Carter.

Iowa's looking close enough that a decent breeze could propel someone over the top, and with 4 candidates at or above the 15% line, the horsetrading will be interesting.

Still, I have to admit: The biggest interest I have is how closely pre-caucus polling reflects actual results. With Dean's claims of activating first time voters, Dean -- should he be correct -- might have an invisible "cushion" that doesn't show up in the usual likely voter sample.

My gut instinct still calls Iowa as Dean's by 5 points. Take it for what it's worth.
:: Morat 9:40 AM :: ::

Ah! Correct Iowa numbers.

On Wednesday, Zogby claimed:
Kerry is surging. He actually led the pack on Monday with 25% for the day. Dean had his worst single day with only 18%.
It looks like "Monday" is a typo and those are actually Tuesday's numbers, because Zogby said this on Tuesday:
Another big day for John Kerry. In Monday's polling alone, the score is Dean, 27%, Gephardt, 22%, Kerry, 20%, and Edwards, 16%.
Now that finally makes some sense. According to this, the daily numbers for Dean (running Sunday through Wednesday) are: 27,27,18,18.

Kerry's are 18,20,25,21.

Bear in mind that those subgroups have MOE's of about 8% (I've heard as high as 10%).

Those numbers are a lot more sane than the previous set, although I'm at a complete loss to explain why Dean would lost a good third of his support sometime Monday.

My guess is that he hasn't.

Kerry's surge has a long trend line (he's slowly been moving up), so while I suspect Tuesday's 25 is a solid outlier, 20 or 21 is probably a very solid guess.

Dean's been holding solid around 24, and had a decent Harkin boost, and I would guess that Tuesday and Wednesday's 18s are both outliers, since a 33% drop in support is a bit hard to explain (Dean wasn't caught with the dead girl or live boy, after all), and would guess that Dean's support remains around 24 as well.

So Zogby is quite right: Kerry has moved himself forward, and all three of them are clustered just about 20.

Stupid typos. Do you know how much time I worked over those numbers because Zogby said "Monday" when he meant "Tuesday"?

So, expect Dean to bottom out tomorrow, possibly as low as 18 or 19 (I would guess, however, that it'll be 20 or 21) and move back up.

Expect Kerry to stabilize at 20 or 21, and Gephardt to hold steady.

I take back about half the snarky comments I made about Zogby, but the large fluctuation in the Dean numbers still indicates a sample issue. While tracking polls are volatile, swings that large -- without corresponding news -- are a bit hard to accept.

Iowa, as many pollsters have said, is a pain in the ass to poll. I would imagine that tracking polls, by their very nature, would amplify this problem.

(Thanks to votekerry on Daily Kos for pointing out the Zogby typo).
:: Morat 8:29 AM :: ::

Braun to Quit Presidential Bid, Back Dean

I wonder how this will shape the race, especially Iowa?:
Carol Moseley Braun plans to end her White House bid Thursday, leaving an all-male field for the presidency and giving her support to Democratic front-runner Howard Dean.
Endorsements are almost always totally positive news, and a candidate's endorsement -- even a vanity candidate -- tends to rank right up there in "newsworthiness". CMB doesn't have many supporters to throw to Dean, of course, but every little bit helps.

Dean could use some straight-up positive news, and this might further strengthen his support with women...and heal any damage Sharpton might have inflicted.
:: Morat 6:21 AM :: ::

Iowa update..

Zogby's latest is out, with Kerry 22, Dean 21, Gephardt 21. What does this mean? Is it time for Kerry to break out the champagne? In a word? "No". Today is the last day to include Monday's extremes. Let's play "massage the numbers".

Sunday's numbers were at least 33, and probably a bit higher. (The Sat/Sun average was 33, and the tracking poll acts like Sunday's number was higher than Saturday's).

Assuming 33, however, means Tuesday's number was 21 (33 + 18 +21). If Sunday's was higher, than Tuesday's number was lower.

Anyways, now that Sunday's been removed, we have 18 + 21? + x. Since the average is 21, we're looking at Wednesday's number to be 24, or close to it. (Zogby implies this, by stating "Dean is not in a free fall"). If Sunday's numbers were higher than 33, as I suspect, then yesterday's numbers were also higher than 24, perhaps as high as 27.

Kerry's are murkier, but with Monday a 25, then his Tuesday/Wednesday average is about 20.5. High, and probably good evidence that Kerry is rising, but not nearly as fluid as Dean's numbers. Without Monday in the sample, Kerry is like to drop two points or so.

Dean's "drop", like at least some of Kerry's rise, seems to be entirely an artifact of Monday's polling. Expect tomorrow's numbers to return, hopefully, to sanity. Assuming we don't get another bad daily sample.

I don't think Iowa's race is this fluid. I think Zogby's daily sample is too low, and thus the spikes are magnified.

I also think, perhaps less charitably, that Zogby's comments are geared less towards informing the electorate, and more towards hyping the race to sell more polls.

Tracking polls are often volatile, and Zogby's daily sample is only 167...I wonder if that's why his tracking poll is more volatile than ARG's NH tracking poll, with it's daily sample of 200?

I also wonder if Zogby simply can't get a handle Dean's supporters. The numbers are bouncing so much (33 to 18 and then back to the 20s) that perhaps his models aren't accurately counting Deanies. It's possible that he's getting totally unrepresentative samples, both high and low, each day.

At this point, I think the only thing you can say about Iowa is that Zogby's tracking poll probably should have had a bigger sample.
:: Morat 6:17 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, January 14, 2004 ::

I realize..

That I spent most of my day with that damn Zogby poll. I've got to get a life.

:: Morat 3:32 PM :: ::

I think...

That the next time I see someone display pure idiocy about a tracking poll, I'll shoot them. Well, I'll be very sarcastic.

Just a big fat hint to everyone following the Iowa and NH tracking polls: If, for instance, the pollsters note that a single day's sample was "this and this", please do not mistake it for a trend. Even if, for instance, the pollster notes "if this trend continues'.

First off, even three day averages fall prey to the usual problems of polls: You can get three days of bad samples. The odds of getting an entire month's worth of samples is really low, so tracking polls are excellent at spotting trends. But you need to look at the whole poll. Not the last week, not the last three days, and most especially not "yesterday" or "Sunday". A single day's results are useless. 200 people or less are sampled each day, and the MOE for a single day's sample is very high...and the odds of getting a big outlier are quite big.

Tracking polls are pretty volatile, and I'd take -- with a giant grain of salt -- pollster's claims based on a single day, or even three day's, sample.

Bear in mind, boys and girls, that three day's worth of a tracking poll is worth one regular poll....not three regular polls.

Try to keep a grasp on basic math. I don't go insane when Dean flips high in the polls on a single sample, nor do I spend too much time worrying when he drops. What I do end up doing, unfortunately, is lecturing a lot of people on basic polling. And I do mean basic. I don't know that much about polling, but apparently it's more than a lot of people.

Update: I think the problem here is that, every day, a new three-day average is released. Which leads to a lot of confusion -- even my post reads too vaguely in places -- as to whether someone is talking about the "three day average that was released today" or the "last three 'three-day averages'" or "the one day of polling which, when added to two other days, will become a three day average".

:: Morat 1:27 PM :: ::

Is Clark a Republican?

That's Kerry's new line in NH, and it appears Dean is making inroads in the same direction:
Dean, locked in a close four-way fight in Iowa, attacked Clark directly during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, before heading back to Iowa.

'I think Gen. Clark is a good guy, but I truly believe he's a Republican. (laughter) I do. Harry Truman once said if you run a Republican against a Republican, the Republican's going to win every time,' Dean said.

'Look, I don't mean offense to Gen. Clark. He is a good guy. And I don't mind that he voted for Nixon and Reagan. That was a long time ago,' Dean said. 'What bothers me is he went out and raised money for the Republican Party and said great things about Dick Cheney (news - web sites), Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush.'
Will it work? Will it be effective? Or will it backfire on Kerry and Dean?

I think it depends on how many voters wonder the same thing. Given that both camps are hitting on the same thing, it might be their internals show a weakness there. Or, in a more Clark-friendly interpretation, perhaps it's the only place they have to attack Clark.

I don't know. At the time of Clark's entrance, I found the timing a bit questionable. I'm all for people joining the party, but I tend to frown on newcomers joining a week or so before they aim for the top job. The President is the face of the party, after all.

Moreover, Dean brings up the specter of 2002 as well. It's not like "We lost in 2002 because we caved on all the Republican issues and weren't an actual opposition" is an unusual viewpoint, and Dean has built his run on challenging that attitude -- real or apparent -- of appeasement.

Will it work? Beats me. I don't even pretend anymore. I just can't wait until the primaries are over and I can go back to blogging on books, science, and how much Bush sucks. (Speaking of, his speech on Mars wasn't too bad. As soon as I can find a transcript, I'll wade through it. Of course, I'm still only partway through the Columbia report...)
:: Morat 12:45 PM :: ::

I hate the waiting

I really hate the waiting. I've never been this involved in a primary, never followed it so closely...and as it comes down to the wire they're all -- even Dean at times -- annoying the crap out of me.

The Iowa polls are so fluid that no one has any clue what's going on. But I see people spinning a single day's report in a tracking poll (where single day results are unreliable) as proof of a Kerry surge, or a Dean decline, or the dashing of hopes for Clark, or the hope of Edwards, or the resurrection of the Democratic Party, or the death of it...

The ads and attacks are getting nastier, because both Kerry and Gephardt have to win Iowa...and Dean wants it almost as bad.

Clark's risen like a rocket in New Hampshire, but even the Clarkies admit that his gains aren't solid and at least some of them will dissipate as the rest of the field floods in....but it doesn't stop them from crowing about how "if this keeps up" they'll pass Dean just in time for the primaries, as if "this situation" will last past Iowa's primary.

I'm going to step back, away from my irritation with certain candidates and my support of others, and try to offer a clear-eyed and (hopefully) accurate look at the primary as it is. No spin, no optimism.

1) Iowa: Toss up. Three -- or four -- candidates within 10 points of each other. Negative ads flying left and right, and at least three candidates pouring in money and resources like there is no tomorrow. Polling is unreliable, mostly because it's a caucus, but also because it's likely a number of first-time voters will appear, and not just for Dean.

2) New Hampshire: Dean leading. Clark's surge has been remarkable, but it was also predictable. As the only "serious candidate" campaigning in New Hampshire, his numbers were bound to go up. He's done a good job, and a Dean loss in Iowa could allow him to come in a very close second in NH, which would make mini-Tuesday a very open question.

3) Mini-Tuesday: Who the hell knows? Too many undecideds, and I think results from Iowa and New Hampshire will have far more impact than months of campaigning.

4) Post mini-Tuesday: It'll be a two man, or maybe a three man, race. Whole new ballpark. Dean's got good organization here, better than the rest, but who knows if he'll be able to capitalize on it? Clark's not doing poorly himself. But, ultimately, the early primaries will affect these votes drastically, so speculating is a bit useless.

So that's where it stands, in my opinion. Gephardt must win Iowa. He has no strengths -- other than Missouri -- outside of Iowa, and needs every bit of boost a win can give him if he hopes to continue. Kerry must win or place second. He's poorly positioned for later states, but a second or first might allow him to reclaim much of what he lost to Clark in New Hampshire...and if Kerry doesn't place second in New Hampshire, he's done for as well. Dean. Dean needs a first. A first in Iowa will give him a boost in New Hampshire, solidifying his lead and allowing him to enter mini-Tuesday having a perfect record. A second place in Iowa forces him to dogfight Clark in New Hampshire, leading to a slim victory...and no boost into mini-Tuesday, where the dogfight will continue.

So that's where it stands. Iowa, for good or for ill, will set the tone. Even Clark is tied to Iowa, because a Kerry second could knock him down in New Hampshire...and severely wound him going into mini-Tuesday.

So what do I think? Still a Dean win in Iowa. I won't even try to guess if it's a close win or not. I do expect Gephardt to come in second, and that the margin between him and Kerry will be slimmer than the one between Gephardt and Dean.
:: Morat 12:38 PM :: ::

Tracking polls

I do occasionally bash Josh Marshall on his Clark bias or his early stance on the war. Of course, he'd say much the same thing about me, leastwise if I was a big enough blogger to notice. Regardless, he's a good blogger and one I read daily, and his comments about the latest tracking results is worth repeating:
Meanwhile, the ARG tracking poll in New Hampshire shows some more movement after several days when everyone seemed to stay in place. Dean 32%, Clark 22%, Kerry 13%.

As always, the inevitable disclaimer. Tracking polls are notoriously volatile and often show 'trends' that are the result of low sample numbers on given days. Still, over time, they give some sense of where things are going. And I think Dean's move back on to the offensive shows that his people are seeing the same thing.
Dean never had the numbers in Iowa to sit back and coast, at least not in when he was the target of at least three other campaigns. I don't agree with Zogby on trends (he's extrapolating a lot from a single day's results) in Iowa, for instance, but do agree with his point.

It seems to be that Dean is solid around 25%, Gephardt around 21% and Kerry around 17%, and Edwards around 13% or so. That's a very tight race, and in a caucus especially Dean's lead isn't insurmountable. 4 points, given the horsetrading potential, isn't the sort of lead I'd be satisified with, nor the sort of lead I would be willing to bet I could hold for a week. Dean still has several pluses in Iowa, starting with actually leading now, and moving through significant organization, loads of volunteers, and a better than even chance that some of Dean's support isn't getting picked up in the polls. Last, but not least, is that Kerry's and Edward's late surges make it far less likely that their supports will try to spoil the race for Dean. They're too close to the delegate line to play many games, assuming that large-scale caucus horsetrading ever really works.

I wonder, though, if Kerry will turn his guns on Gephardt...or Gephardt on Kerry? If so, how will that affect the race?

My predictions are still unchanged: If Dean wins Iowa, that'll end the race. If Dean loses, the race will be decided on mini-Tuesday between Dean and Clark, and probably hinge -- to a great deal -- on how New Hampshire turns out.

I give Dean about a 75% chance of winning Iowa by at least 3 points, and a 50/50 chance of winning by more than 5. (Yes, it's optimistic. So what? Optimism has its place, especially if it's acknowledged as such).
:: Morat 10:59 AM :: ::

I say it's time...

The Democrats like to practice a "big tent" approach to politics. No tent, however, is big enough for everyone. There are always certain lines. I think it's time that we kick Mr. Miller out of the tent:
U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, a Georgia Democrat who has frequently broken with his party to support Republican policies, has agreed to campaign for President Bush's reelection, a campaign spokesman said on Tuesday.
This is unforgivable.
:: Morat 10:07 AM :: ::

Watching Iowa..

Iowa is a mess. No one knows what's going on there. Dean's leading, albeit barely. Zogby's claiming ten point swings in a single day. Gephardt, Kerry, and Dean are all close enough that any of them could win. Oh, and it's a caucus system, so you have to factor in who's supporters go where, if they don't break 15% in a precinct.

And to top it off, no one can even fully trust the samples. Is Dean blowing smoke about bringing in new voters? (Not from other states!) The polls are weighted towards "normal" turnout...but it's a close race, and at least one candidate has a believable case that he'll bring in first-time caucus-goers...in numbers. It might not be true, but it believable. (A side note: How accurate is Zogby on races like this? His reputation is a bit..fluid. Really right, really wrong, not a lot in between).

I have no idea what's going on. Anyone have a time machine? Because I'd really like to know how this sorts out.
:: Morat 10:06 AM :: ::

Well, that's interesting...

I think Gephardt just had his first heart attack. According to Zogby's tracking poll, Dean's now at 24 (4 point drop), Gephardt is at 21 (2 point drop) and Kerry is at 21 (4 point rise). Kerry tied for second in Iowa.

On the other hand, that's a lot of movement for a tracking poll. Two four point jumps and a two point jump, all in a single day after steady numbers for the rest of the week?

I don't actually agree with Zogby (although, of course, he's seeing raw data and I'm seeing moving averages). But it looks like Dean's bouncing around 25, Gephardt around 22 or 23, and Kerry around 16.

According to Zogby, Kerry hit twenty-five on Monday (and Dean hit 18). That's a ten point jump from their average in a single day.

Looks like an outlier to me, since I'm not sure what would cause a 10 point jump. I'm not sure whether Zogby is calling 500 voters a day, or 500 voters over three days. I would guess the latter. I'll be looking forward to tomorrow's numbers.
:: Morat 9:02 AM :: ::

Dean Defeats Sharpton In D.C. Protest Primary

Dean won, to no one's great surprise. With low turnout (15%) to a primary that doesn't actually award delegates (the real DC primary occurs sometime later in the schedule). The results (with 96% of the precincts reporting) was Dean 43, Sharpton 34, and CMB 12. I'm sure Sharpton is even more annoyed with Dean now.

Since Dean won, expect little to no coverage. It's not a real primary, turnout was abysmal, and the "serious candidate" (sorry Carol!) won.

Once again, all eyes turn back to Iowa. (Link via Daily Kos)
:: Morat 8:52 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, January 13, 2004 ::

Will Carter endorse Dean?

Everyone, by now, knows of Dean's upcoming trip to Georgia this weekend, and will meet with former President Carter. The big question is: Will Carter endorse? It's well known he likes Dean, but ex-Presidents -- as a rule -- tend not to endorse prior to a clear nominee emerging.

Moreover, a Carter endorsement for Dean would free up a Clinton endorsement for Clark, further muddying the waters. Most tellingly of all, Carter himself has mentioned he will not endorse prior to a clear nominee emerging. It's possible that Carter has changed his mind, but I just can't see Carter endorsing at this stage. Not that I wouldn't be insanely thrilled if he did...I'm just not that optimistic.

My expectation was a "Wink-wink, nudge-nudge" pseudo-endorsement, where Carter lets everyone know who he's going to vote for without actually endorsing Dean. While nice, I'm not sure it's worth leaving Iowa two days before the caucus. Hints and rumors are already flying, and a lack of endorsement could actually damage Dean's campaign. So, back to the question: Will Carter endorse? And if not Carter, who -- or what -- is big enough to get Dean out of Iowa at a critical time? One poster at Kos had an interesting suggestion:
The AP story seemed pretty clear that Carter wasn't going to endorse Dean, but the campaign wouldn't set something up like this if something big wasn't going to happen. Any other big endorsements to be had in Georgia? The only one I can think of might be Corretta Scott King... Anybody else?
Monday, of course, will be Martin Luther King day. And given Sharpton's latest assault on Dean, I'd say that Corretta King would be enough to lure Dean out of Iowa.

But I admit...it's pure speculation. Other than the timing, there's little to go on. Still, it's interesting speculation...and isn't that what blogs are all about?

There's also the Diebold thing. Carter has made something of a career monitoring elections, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was a bit worried about the security of electronic voting...at least as Diebold envisions it.
:: Morat 6:32 PM :: ::

When Frontrunners Attack

Dean: 'Going after everybody' in race:
Front-runner Howard Dean, feeling rivals nipping at his heels a week before the Iowa caucuses, says he is firing back at other leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.
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"I'm going after everybody because I'm tired of being the pin cushion here," Dean said Monday."
A lot of politicians want to remain "above the fray". There are both practical and moral reasons, but mainly it boils down to the general belief that the longer you hold off the mudslinging, the less muddy you get.

Remaining above the fray is great advice for Clark and Edwards right now. They'll sling their fair share of mud, of course. Just quietly.

Dean, on the other hand, is in the middle of the fray whether he likes it or not. If he was fighting for New Hampshire, rather than Iowa, he could probably sit tight on his solid 35% and let the others wear themselves out.

But he'd really like to win Iowa. Winning Iowa and New Hamsphire is worth a few million in ad buys, and there's no way on earth Dean is going to take chances on losing it.

So he'll hammer Kerry and Gephardt mostly, with a few swipes aimed at Edwards -- whose contributions to the fray have been, basically, attacking people for attacking people. I'm guessing he'll let Kerry attack Clark, and trust to an Iowa/NH win to damage Clark more than any mud Dean could sling. Judging by the article, he's going to hammer Gephardt and Kerry on the war....which is pretty much a big weak point for both of them. As long as he sticks to their records, and avoids getting personal, it shouldn't backfire.

Will it work? Beats me. But he's leading Iowa -- if just barely -- and he's got a solid lead in New Hampshire. Iowa caucuses in seven days, and a win here would make Dean's nomination path even easier.
:: Morat 12:07 PM :: ::

MoveOn Political Group Picks Winning Ad

Child's Pay won:
An advertisement showing images of children toiling on a grocery line and in a tire factory coupled with a simple line of text -- 'Guess who's going to pay off President Bush's $1 trillion deficit?' -- was chosen by a liberal advocacy group that invited people to enter a contest to create their own anti-Bush commercials.
I really liked that ad, so I'm glad to see it won. I've heard that MoveOn is considering airing it during the Superbowl, which would be interesting -- to say the least. Of the finalists, it's certainly best suited for the Superbowl.

In the meantime, it (and a few of the runners-up, apparently) will be aired on CNN, starting Saturday and running for at least a week. And, by some amazing coincidence, that happens to be the week of the SOTU address. Go figure.
:: Morat 10:23 AM :: ::

How devoted are Deanies?

They're devoted enough to wear these hats. And let's face it, those are some damn ugly hats. You don't want to mess with people willing to wear those things in public.
:: Morat 8:49 AM :: ::

Wesley Clark's Loose Lips - Six quotes overheard in New Hampshire.

Welcome to the major leagues, Clark. Here's your first poorly reasoned hit piece. (I suppose Dowd's sweater piece counts, but I can't stand to read her...)

As always, don't expect to be confronted on issues, facts, or anything of substance. Do be prepared for distortion, lies, and the usual dishonesty of professional political reporting.

But you're in good company. Suellentrop wrote on a new Dean book -- the one written by Vermont reporters -- and managed to take a book that was quite positive and make it sound like a hatchet job to Dean. Selective quoting, eh?

It'll only get worse from here, so I hope you've got your asbestos clothes handy. Just in case, though, I'd avoid "earth tones". Apparently, earth tones can send the media into a shark-like frenzy of pointlessness.

PS: We miss you in the debates. Even Joe shows up.

Update: One of the Kossians emailed the writer. Apparently, the idea here was to write a piece on Clark to the same standard Dean is being held to, and thus highlight the problem with Dean's reporting. The guy's planning a followup, because what was -- he claims -- supposed to be a mockery of hit pieces, to point out how unfair they are ended up reading just like a hit piece.
:: Morat 8:42 AM :: ::

:: Monday, January 12, 2004 ::

SUSA shakes things up, AZ, NH, MO

Daily Kos reports new SUSA polling for Arizona, New Hampshire, and Missouri.

The polls are of "certain voters" (and odd group there. Why not likely voters? I wonder what effect that has on the results) with an MOE of 4.7. SUSA apparently leaned on undecideds hard.

NH: Dean 35, Clark 26, Kerry 13, Undecided 2
Arizona: Clark 39, Dean 32, Undecided 4
Missouri: Gephardt 37, Dean 19, Clark 15, Undecided 6

I only checked the NH internals, but they're a bit odd. A surprisingly large number of independents (even for New Hampshire), and Dean still leads in all demographics except "conservative", where Clark leads (although not my much). The only huge break is among liberals, where the split is roughly 40/18 in Dean's favor. The rest generally has Dean on top of Clark by 5 to 6 points.

It'll be interesting, because I'm willing to wager my bottom dollar that the final New Hampshire results are considerably different than the polls. Some of that due to the resumption of New Hampshire campaigning by the rest of the candidates, but a lot of it will be Iowa bounce. ARG (and other NH polls) are coming up with about 15% undecided. Dean's polls consistently at 35 in NH, but Clark's numbers are all across the map (26 in SUSA, 19-20 in ARG's tracking poll, 14 in yet another poll), so I'm fairly confidant that at least 5 points of his support is very soft and comes pretty much entirely from the "undecideds". Another 5 points or so are Kerry castoffs (Kerry's downward trend is visible in any NH poll), and their support is unknown.

Dean's 35%, however, is rock hard.

I'll make a firm prediction: If Clark can't break 35%, he can't win New Hampshire.

Since SUSA squelched the undecideds down to 2% here, I can't see where Clark can pick up 9 points without starting to fracture Dean's base.

Lieberman's polling at 9, and NH is his first primary. Edwards is polling at 6, but he's poised for a decent showing in Iowa, and he's considered a "Southern Candidate", so I can't imagine his supporters ditching him until after SC at the earliest. Kerry seems to have hit his hard bottom, and he's a close third in Iowa...so no bailing there. There's still that 5 percent scattered across "Other"...

I don't see Clark winning New Hampshire, unless Dean falls apart.

If Dean wins Iowa, I do see Dean popping back up into the mid-forties, and Clark dropping back to around 20.

So: If Dean wins Iowa, Dean wins New Hampshire 45ish to 20ish over Clark (15 point win, minimum). If Dean loses Iowa, expect a 35ish to 20ish win, with a minimum of perhaps 10 points.

Take it for what it's worth. :) It's at least as accurate as a wild guess.
:: Morat 3:47 PM :: ::

Clark

Let me expound a bit on Clark. First off, he seems an intelligent guy. If he ran for Congress (House or Senate) I'd support him happily. If he ran for Governor, I'd probably be on board.

But President? Laying aside concerns about the "Welcome to our party, would you like to lead it?" feel and the "Ooh..you took matching funds. Bush is gonna kill you" worries, I can't help but think he lacks something in the "experience" area.

Deep down, I really would prefer that Presidential nominees have held elected office before they run for President. If you've got some seriously on-topic experience outside the political arena (like, for instance, having been a General), I'd consider your experience on topic enough to chance it.

After all, it's rather obvious that Clark had to be smart and a quick learner, not to mention a major problem-solver, or he'd have never gone as far as he did in the military. And he certainly seems to be an honorable man of integrity.

Nonetheless, being a general isn't like being a President. Maybe if you cut out the elections, removed the legislative branch entirely, and got rid of much of the media...maybe then.

Sure, Clark had to deal with foreign leaders (although more commonly, foreign soldiers and foreign generals) in Kosovo, and I'm sure his stint as SACEUR took some serious diplomatic chops....but he was in Kosovo because of Clinton and Clinton's diplomats, and his allies were there for the same reason.

Clark has never written a bill. He's never held public office. He's never even run for public office. He's never had to submit a government-wide budget, never had to appoint a judge, never had to balance environmental concerns against business concerns, never had to worry about the business cycle, about tax rates.

And he's never formulated foreign policy. He's enacted it, but there's a big difference.

I like you, Clark. Run for Senate, and I'll push hard for you to win. But your inexperience means I simply can't vote for you in the primary, even if Dean keels over tomorrow. On the bright side, however, you'd be a better President than Bush. You at least seem willing to listen to experts.

So you've got my vote in the general election.
:: Morat 2:57 PM :: ::

I wondered how long it would take

Given Kerry's track record on attacks, this will probably help Clark:
The beleaguered Kerry campaign, facing the specter of a humiliating third-place finish for the Massachusetts senator behind Dean and Clark in New Hampshire, has scheduled a press conference Monday to focus attention on Clark's stint as a lobbyist for a defense contractor. But the person who will be leading the attack on Clark on Monday will not be Kerry, who is in Iowa, but former governor Shaheen serving as his surrogate.
Oddly enough, that particular tidbit comes in the middle of a piece about Dean's NH organization, and the article is about whether Dean will have to train his guns on Clark.

Offhand, I'm guessing the Good Doctor is content to let Kerry soften up Clark. Dean doesn't need to go head-to-head with Clark until mini-Tuesday, and if he's got the "Big Mo" from an Iowa/NH win behind him, mini-Tuesday results might be all the argument Dean needs.
:: Morat 10:22 AM :: ::

:: Sunday, January 11, 2004 ::

Sharpton Blasts Dean on Race in Debate

For the love of God, Al, what crawled up your ass?:
The two-hour debate was billed as the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum, designed to focus the contenders on issues of concern to minorities, and Sharpton's aggressive questioning of Dean accomplished that.

'You keep talking about race,' the former street activist chided Dean when he had a turn to ask a question. He said that not one 'black or brown held a senior position, not one...It seems as though you've discovered blacks and browns in this campaign,' he said.
Dean bristled at that and said it was untrue. He said he had had 'senior members' of his staff who were minorities, but Sharpton cut him off and said he was asking about his Cabinet, which has fewer members.

'No, we did not,' conceded Dean, whose state has a population that is nearly 98 percent white.

Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, who is African-American as it Sharpton, defended Dean. 'Rev. Sharpton, the fact of the matter is we can always blow up a racial debate and make people mad at each other."
Al, honey, you're wearing out your welcome.

There are politicians that implicitly endorse racism, that use subtle code-words in their campaigns and really attempt to appeal to only the lily-white...they're called "Republicans". Here's a big fat hint, in case this hasn't occurred to you: Baselessly accusing people of racism is pretty much just as bad as being racist.

Dean comes from Vermont. It's 98% white. Unless Dean handpicked the population, I'm pretty sure that's not his fault. And you're bitching because none of his cabinet of six are black or latino, even though he's got minorities throughout his senior staff...not to mention among those endorsing him.

Oh wait, now I know what crawled up your ass. Jesse Jackson, Jr. That Dean endorsement still smarts, doesn't it Al? You might want to keep a lid on it, Al...lest you help ensure four more years of a man whose idea of "Race relations" boils down to "Out of sight, out of mind".

Oh, and a hefty thanks to Carol Moseley Braun. It's nice to see a Democrat who isn't prone to the circular firing squad.
:: Morat 6:59 PM :: ::

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