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:: Saturday, January 24, 2004 ::

A question about the ARG poll

The latest results are in: Kerry 38%, Dean 16%, Clark 17%, Edwards 15%.

But perhaps someone can explain something to me. Why is ARG's sample size fluctuating? For the period between the 19th and the 22nd, ARG's three-day sample size was 800. For the latest period (22nd through 24th), it's only 620.

Why the change in sample? Moreover, how does that affect the poll? From the changes in sample size, it's obvious ARG sampled more people on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday than on Friday and Saturday. Does that weight the sample?

If so, isn't it weighting the sample towards Dean's lowest days?

Why are they using variable sample sizes in the first place? Any pollsters or statisticians want to weigh in here? (Better yet: What's the methodology for tracking polls? Do they average the three day's results, or do they combine three day's worth of raw data and treat it like one bigger sample? The former wouldn't "weight" the sample, the latter would.)

Update: Looks like ARG's latest sample is catching up to Zogby's. Kerry 38%, Dean 20%, Edwards 16%, Clark 15%. That's a four point jump for Dean.
:: Morat 11:24 PM :: ::

Primary Coverage

A quick glance at any news site or newspaper will show the Primary coverage is still "Dean, Dean, Dean". Offhand, I'm not sure if this is good for Kerry or bad for Kerry.

On the one hand, he's not getting the usual media "frontrunner" attention. On the other hand, he's not getting the usual media "frontrunner" bashing.

I'd say it's a wash, except for the fact that Dean's coverage has been almost as positive the last two days as it was negative the days before that. Ordinarily, I'd call that a wash too, but given the high numbers of "undecideds" in New Hampshire -- not the mention the large amount of soft support -- this is about the best time for Dean to get good coverage.

In other news, Kos' poll roundup shows that Dean is alternatively in second or third depending on which of the two or three "main" tracking polls you use. (ARG's polls have Dean the lowest, slightly below Clark). One thing virtually all the pollsters agree on is that Dean's slide has arrested, and his support has either stabilized, or is beginning to move up.
:: Morat 5:21 PM :: ::

:: Friday, January 23, 2004 ::

Weekend blogging...

I'll probably blog some this weekend. Mainly because I plan to keep an eye on the eight million New Hampshire trackers, but also because I suspect that Saturday will be "Opposition Research Dump Day", when pretty much the entire Democratic field unloads on everyone else "on background".

With Kerry looking at a double win, I've little doubt that the other candidates are looking to bring him down a peg or two. Saturday seems the best time, since news released in the afternoon will hit the Sunday papers....and the Sunday talk shows.

I suspect that Kerry, Dean, Edwards and Clark are going to be playing a lot of defense Sunday and Monday.
:: Morat 2:21 PM :: ::

Mars Express sees its first water

Sweet, sweet H2O:
'I did not expect to be able to gather together - just one month after the Mars Orbit Insertion of 25 December – so many happy scientists eager to present their first results', said Professor David Southwood, ESA Director of Science. One of the main targets of the Mars Express mission is to discover the presence of water in one of its chemical states. Through the initial mapping of the South polar cap on 18 January, OMEGA, the combined camera and infrared spectrometer, has already revealed the presence of water ice and carbon dioxide ice.

:: Morat 11:34 AM :: ::

Spirit is back

NASA Says Rover Could Take Weeks to Fix:
NASA received data from the Spirit rover Friday morning for the first time in two days, ending fears that the Mars mission may have come to a calamitous halt, but an official said the rover's condition remains 'critical' and restoring it to full function could take weeks.
People are fairly excited about that here at work. Except, of course, for the people who actually have to deal with the problem. They're a bit busy right now.

Still, it's good news: This might be fixable.
:: Morat 11:30 AM :: ::

Dean Calls for Greenspan Ouster

Well this is pretty gutsy:
Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean said on Friday that he thought Alan Greenspan had become too political and should be replaced as chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve.

'I think Alan Greenspan has become too political. If he lacks the political courage to criticize the deficits, if he was foolish enough -- and he's not a foolish man -- to support the outrageous tax cuts that George Bush put through, then he has become too political and we need a new chairman of the Federal Reserve,' Dean said in response to a question from an audience at a town hall meeting in Londonderry.
I can't say I disagree with Dean. Greenspan leaned hard on Clinton to raise taxes and trim the deficit...but supported Bush making outrageous -- and useless, as far as economic stimulus goes -- tax cuts when the economy was entering recession. O'Neil's book drives another nail into Greenspan, by claiming that Greenspan supported the cuts he knew would be giant mistakes.

On the other hand, people appointed to the Federal Reserve get 10 or 12 year terms, and I'm not sure how easy it is to remove them -- or if it's even possible. Appointing another board member Chairman might be doable, though.

Update: I'm not so sure where Dean actually stands on this. I saw a few snips on CNN that took a different take. It's a bit muddled.
:: Morat 10:15 AM :: ::

Grand Jury Hears Plame Case

Grand Jury Hears Plame Case:
Sources with knowledge of the case tell TIME that behind closed doors at the E. Barrett Prettyman federal courthouse, nearby the Capitol, a grand jury began hearing testimony Wednesday in the investigation of who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak and other journalists.

Prosecutors are believed to be starting with third-party witnesses, people who were not directly involved in the leak of Plame's identity. Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, claims that the leak was an act of retaliation against him for undercutting Bush's weapons-of-mass-destruction rationale for going to war in Iraq. Soon enough, witnesses with more direct knowledge will be called to testify, and a decision to subpoena journalists for their testimony will also be made. In December, the FBI asked some administration staffers to sign a waiver releasing reporters from confidentiality agreements in connection with any conversations they had about the Wilson affair. Novak's attorney, Jim Hamilton, had no comment about the latest developments.
Finally. Hopefully they'll run down the weasel behind all of this and frog-march him out of the White House.
:: Morat 9:22 AM :: ::

Calpundit on Dean's Speech

I've noticed a lot of people saying things like this:
And for the record, when I finally viewed the video of Dean's Iowa speech, it didn't really seem all that bad to me in context. I can see where all the jokes are coming from, but really, it's pretty obvious that Dean is just trying to yell above a raucus crowd and is actually in a pretty jovial mood.
Whether it's indicative of a larger trend remains to be seen.

Ironically enough, after all the people predicting Dean -- or any frontrunner -- would be Gored, when it finally happened most people didn't notice for a few days.

Dean's not psychotic, and Gore wasn't a serial liar. Yet both were portrayed that way. Dean just got hammered during the primary, before he had the entire party apparatus behind him, so the damage was considerably greater.

Whoever wins the nomination is in for a fun ride.
:: Morat 9:16 AM :: ::

Dean Death Watch: Day Two

Dean did pretty well in the debate and the Sawyer interview. He had a few good hits in the debate, and no really bad moments. As for Diane Sawyer....let's just put it this way: If Dean wins the nomination, he's got his wife to thank. (Kos agrees! Oh sweet, sweet validation!)

I didn't see Letterman, so no clue there. Did anyone see it?

How this plays in New Hampshire, and whether this stops his slide remains to be seen. Today's polls have Dean below Clark, although barely, but that's to be suspected. Monday's pre-Iowa numbers have been propping Dean up, and today was the first day of the ARG tracker that was all post Iowa. Today's numbers, and possible tomorrow's, should be the lowest in the tracker. At the very least, Dean should find a firm floor. Last night's performance will start showing up on Saturday's numbers, but we won't see purely post-debate numbers until Monday's release.

I'm hoping, as I'm sure Dean is, that Dean's loss of support and his very high unfavorables are soft responses to the Iowa loss and his post Iowa speech. If so, that's repairable damage. I'm also of the mind that many of Kerry's new supporters are really looking for someone else, but since I'm also of the mind that most of them would jump to Clark, I'm not sure that buys Dean anything.

Regardless, Monday's numbers -- and trends over the weekend -- will be key. I think a number of New Hampshire voters will still be undecided on election day.

As for the rest of the debate: Edwards and Clark where getting a lot of "gotcha" type questions, and overall handled it well. Kerry, on the other hand, seemed to be getting all softballs. That's a bid odd, really. I'm torn between thinking the moderators assumed Clark, Edwards and Dean would hammer Kerry for them...or that the moderators assume Kerry isn't going anywhere after New Hampshire in any event.

Dean had the most to prove, and he acquitted himself well. Whether it's enough remains to be seen.
:: Morat 9:10 AM :: ::

:: Thursday, January 22, 2004 ::

How to defuse the "Anger"

This is the best suggestion I've seen for how Dean should deal with the whole mess.
VP contest

Dean should go on SNL and hold a VP contest where politicians come to him and are instructed to give their best 'Yee-argh!' The best screamer wins the VP slot, but it turns out to be GW Bush, who decides to run as Dean's VP anyway so he's guaranteed a slot.

:: Morat 1:49 PM :: ::

Democrats Won't Get Justice Memo

Color me shocked:
The Justice Department has formally refused a demand from Texas Democrats to release a lengthy internal memo about a Republican redistricting plan that experts believe could produce a GOP gain of as many as seven House seats in that state later this year, according to documents and officials.
[...]
The Democrats' lead attorney, J. Gerald Hebert of Alexandria, responded with an appeal to the Justice Department yesterday, alleging that career attorneys had recommended an objection to the redistricting plan, but were overruled by political appointees. Democrats argue that the Texas map violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it eliminates two districts in which minorities make up a majority of the voters.
Seriously. I'm horribly shocked. I mean, let's face it...the last thing I would believe is that the Bush Justice Department would squelch the opinions of career officials in order to help ensure that a blatant GOP gerrymander is allowed to stand.

I'm shocked. Shocked and outraged. It's entirely possible that I'll never vote Republican again.
:: Morat 11:21 AM :: ::

New Feature: Dean Death Watch

Well, it's now three days since the Iowa caucus. How is Dean faring among the blogs? Using the highly representative sample of "people who post on Kos's comments and diaries", I have decided to create the "Dean Death Watch". To get up to date, I have created the following timeline:
  • Day One: Monday night. Deanies shocked by large loss.
  • Day Two: Deanies shocked by speech and negative press, still shocked by loss. Many swear off Dean. Many take "wait and see" attitude. Most non-Deanies proclaim Dean "Just as Dead as Kerry".
  • Day Three: Deanies starting to firm up. Several see irony in "Dean just as dead as Kerry" viewpoint. Some Deanies lost for good
  • Day Four: Shakeup complete. Most Deanies optimistic and reinvigorated, but far more skeptical than pre-Iowa.
That's about where it stands. Monday night, and most of Tuesday saw a lot of despair, and a lot of people -- Deanies included -- proclaiming the Death of Dean. By yesterday, Dean's supporters had firmed up and started talking optimistically about the upcoming debate and TV appearances.

Quite a few supporters were lost, and there are a few ex-Deanies that are now as fervently "anti-Dean" as they ever were "pro-Dean". If New Hampshire were a blog, Wednesday's numbers would be the floor, providing Dean was competent the rest of the week. It appears the Iowa blow has more or less run it's course amongst the folk at Kos. However, since neither New Hampshire, or the nation as a whole, is a blog, I wouldn't take it too far.

As for myself, I think rumors of Dean's death, however, are just as exaggerated as rumors of Dean's inevitability. And, after seeing Kerry go from "walking corpse" to " frontrunner", I'm a bit loathe to view anyone's campaign as "dead" until they withdraw.

Except Lieberman. Because, you know, it's Lieberman.

Do I think Dean is now firmly in the pack he used to lead? Damn right. Do I think Dean has an uphill battle? Damn right.

But dead? Talk to me after mini-Tuesday. We'll see then.

Update: I'm not even watching the trackers. Why? Media coverage is so fast and furious, and all the candidates, not just Dean, are going to be trying to solidfy, built, or alter support...and their own images. There's a debate tonight, Dean's going to be on Letterman and Sawyer, and everyone is scrambling across New Hampshire.

Daily samples would be worth following, but the daily samples are only 200 people....too small to be trustworthy.

For what it's worth, barring a major fumble by Dean today, I'd imagine the trackers would show him at his lowest today and tomorrow, and starting to tick up on Saturday. But you won't clear out the transient Iowa momentum (for any of the candidates) until Monday's sample. So, basically put, by Monday we'll have a clear idea of how much permanent bounce (or drop) Iowa gave....but that will be cluttered by the debate and the fast-and-furious campaigning.

"Dean down, Kerry up, Clark stablish" is about as much as I can trust...and that goes for all news, good or bad.
:: Morat 10:40 AM :: ::

Unethical? Illegal? SOP for the GOP

Does this surprise anyone?
Republican staff members of the US Senate Judiciary Commitee infiltrated opposition computer files for a year, monitoring secret strategy memos and periodically passing on copies to the media, Senate officials told The Globe.

From the spring of 2002 until at least April 2003, members of the GOP committee staff exploited a computer glitch that allowed them to access restricted Democratic communications without a password. Trolling through hundreds of memos, they were able to read talking points and accounts of private meetings discussing which judicial nominees Democrats would fight -- and with what tactics.
Depending entirely on the circumstances, that ranges from "highly illegal" to merely "terribly unethical". I'd tend towards the former, but perhaps the government has less stringent rules than, say, most businesses. (Link via Calpundit).

Given the scope of the inquiry, I'm betting "highly illegal" to be more the order of the day. The GOP is offering the imaginative defense of "Well, it's their fault!" and claiming the Democrats were informed of the security hole -- a charge the Democrats deny. Moreover, the one man who is known to have been involved is offering an even better defense: "You can only steal property, and government documents aren't property. And anyways, it's the Democrats negligence that caused the disclosure anyways." (Looks like a configuration problem, actually. Better hope the GOP documented their efforts to inform the Democrats.)

Speaking for myself, I think we should find those perfidious Democrats who forced poor Mr. Miranda to utilize a security flaw and made him read, and then disseminate, documents whose security he'd circumvented. Those soulless bastards.

To quote Bender: "They're boned". I don't see even the most sympathetic judge buying that one. Just because the car is unlocked doesn't mean it's yours to take...
:: Morat 9:37 AM :: ::

:: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 ::

Bush May Seek Billions for Iraq After Election

Bush May Seek Billions for Iraq After Election:
President Bush may seek an additional $40 billion or more for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan next year -- on top of the $400-billion military budget he will send to Congress next month, congressional sources and budget analysts said on Wednesday.

But Bush is unlikely to send the request to Congress until after the November presidential election to minimize any political damage, the sources said.
This ought to go over well. I wonder who leaked this? Somehow I doubt the plan was "Let's tell everyone we're going to ask for it, but then not ask for it until after the election, and that'll fool 'em".

Needless to say, I'm rating it up on Yahoo news.

:: Morat 3:13 PM :: ::

Boston Bound: Post-Iowa Edition

Open Source Politics has a new Boston Bound up. It's a good look at the post-Iowa race, from a pretty neutral perspective.
:: Morat 2:28 PM :: ::

Generalized griping...no politics!

There's something to be said for weddings. Specifically, there's something to be said for the insanity that seems to pervade them, an insanity which extends it's horrible little fingers to anyone even remotely involved.

Why do I care about weddings, being a happily married man? Well, it's quite simple: My wife's friend is getting married. My wife's best friend. My wife's best friend who traveled all the way to Vegas, even though she couldn't afford it for our wedding.

So you see, there's something of an obligation here.

So my wife's friend (let's call her Sandy) is getting married far away. Much farther than Las Vegas, and certainly not a destination that is known for cheap plane fair and decent hotel prices.

Now, my wife has been out of work since last June. She's just gotten her second paycheck as a substitute, and we're using every penny she makes to pay mortgage...and about six months worth of fees for paying it late. On the bright side, we're actually paying the mortgage without borrowing. Which is a lovely feeling, I might add.

So here comes the crux of the dilemma. Sandy wants us to go to her wedding. She has even offered to pay for the entire thing. Airfare, food, hotel. All of it.

My wife's mother, on the other hand -- who knows Sandy almost as well as my wife does -- is infuriated that Sandy would hold her wedding so far away, making it impossible for friends and loved ones to attend. During her most recent statement on the situation, we found out she's still a bit miffed about our Vegas wedding, feeling we were quite selfish. (My response to that, although not to her face, is really unprintable. Summed up: "It was our wedding, not yours. The only reason we simply didn't elope was because enough of our friends knew we were doing it that they hassled us to tell them the date, so they could have an excuse to go to frickin' Vegas. We're happy you could attend, though.")

So here comes the fun: Sandy is insisting we both go. My mother-in-law is insisting we don't go. Normally, I'd tell the mother-in-law to go hang. Politely, as I like her. However, there's the fact that we've borrowed some money from them over the last year -- and some from my parents. Not a lot, as these things go, but at least two weeks salary.

Let's face it: If you're borrowing money from your parents, for any reason, it's not a good time to go to Hawaii. Even if someone is offering to pay all the costs.

I was hoping for a compromise, in which my wife went on Sandy's dime and I stayed home with our child (since I've known Sandy for maybe a year, I'd feel a lot better about it). It would halve Sandy's costs, would look and feel a lot less like a vacation, and probably is the best solution.

Unsurprisingly, neither Sandy nor my mother-in-law like this solution. So, regardless, we're going to end up pissing of either Sandy or my mother-in-law. Given my current financial situation and the fact that my wife won't work from June until September, it'll probably be Sandy who gets pissed. (Bear in mind: She's not pissed we can't afford it. She'd be pissed that we won't go, even if we don't have to spend a dime).

If Sandy caves on the "You two are a family, it's both of you or neither" issue, and accepts only my wife going...well, my wife will probably get to see Hawaii and we won't be hitting my mother-in-law up for help should the car die this summer.

Maybe I'll win the lottery. I've got approximately one chance in fifty billion.
:: Morat 1:38 PM :: ::

New Dean Ad

Dean's latest ad for New Hampshire is up. (Windows Media, Real Player, Quicktime -- Medium Resolution).

It's a good bio ad, and exactly the sort of change Dean needs to make. It's a very good ad for the last week before the primary, and I hope to God he's playing it heavily. Even better, it's a well done ad...something of a change, given that Dean's Iowa ads were pretty shoddy. It's very much a "I've got a proven record of doing the things you want done" ad.

A good ad to be running this week, I think.
:: Morat 1:04 PM :: ::

Technorati Beta

Technorati's new crawler is up. It's still in beta, but it's a big improvement. Quicker, more flexible, and more accurate. (Like via Off the Kuff)
:: Morat 12:47 PM :: ::

Errors are easy

Errors are easy. Everyone makes them. And some of the time, you probably never learn you made one. Bearing that in mind, I wonder how long it will take the folks at TAPPED to note that one of the two "Dean supporters" is, and always has been, a very firm Clark supporter? Franke-Ruta notes:
To wit: Rick Robinson in the DailyKos.com Diaries has one take that's worth reading on how Dean's internet movement turned out to be vaporware. Another supporter writes:
That does imply, doesn't it, that Rick Robinson is a Dean supporter?

Rick (aka al-Fubar to Kossians) is a Clark supporter. An optimistic one, to my mind...but heck, I was damn optimistic about Dean too. In any event, it would have been pretty simple to email him...or even post a comment to make sure he was, in fact, a Dean supporter.

:: Morat 12:35 PM :: ::

On the SOTU

I didn't watch it. I can't really stand to listen to political speeches. Bush is the worst, but there are maybe a half-dozen politicians over the last twenty years who can give a speech I can listen to without squirming. Most of the time, even politicians I like set my teeth on edge.

Debates are much the same. I have to force myself to watch.

Thank God for transcripts, or else I'd be forced to get my news from the media.
:: Morat 10:46 AM :: ::

Dean's new initiative

Dean unveiled a new plank in his platform: Campaign Finance Reform. Good stuff. It appears Dean has made the decision to campaign on issues in NH. This might look familiar to anyone from Vermont. Dean appears to be duplicating the approach he took in 2000, modified slightly for New Hampshire.

Looks like he plans to flood the New Hampshire media with calm policy, speaking in as many venues -- I'm guessing many of them areas where Dean's support is lower -- as possible, in order to give the undecideds a chance to come check him out. There are a lot of people uncommitted in New Hampshire, and they're going to be giving all the candidates another look.

As many people have noted, this is something he should have done two weeks ago. Then again, hindsight is 20/20.

Update: Fester noted that this isn't a new plank for Dean, but something he proposed (and I even mentioned) quite some time back. On the other hand, I think my point remains valid: Dean's got to move to the issues if he wants a shot, and both his new ad campaign and his recent speeches indicate he came to that decision sometime Monday.
:: Morat 9:55 AM :: ::

Hmm..

Apparently, the conventional blog wisdom is that Dean is utterly dead. According to various bloggers and commentators, he mortally wounded himself with his Iowa showing, then finished himself off with his speech.

Could very well be. On the other hand, I remember the conventional wisdom was that Kerry had killed his campaign about two months back by, basically, "being Kerry".

I think I'll take a "wait and see" attitude. I'm curious as to how New Hampshire will turn out. Kerry hasn't done well with the good folk of New Hampshire (first losing a great deal of support to Dean, and then losing even more to Clark). It's true his Iowa showing has coaxed a good bit of them out (polling suggests he's leading Dean by 3 to 4 points right now) of the woodwork.

I'm just not sure how long it will last. I suppose it depends on why they abandoned him in the first place. It's worth noting that the first wave left when Kerry was still leading New Hampshire. So while you can claim that some of Kerry's supporters left because Kerry no longer looked viable, you also have to admit that some of them left Kerry because they just didn't like him.

Perhaps he's learned a few things in Iowa. Perhaps not. But with 6 days until the primary, I'm pretty sure that swings in voter intent are going to be happening right up to Tuesday...and I'm not sure how well the polls are going to be able to track it.
:: Morat 9:28 AM :: ::

:: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 ::

And onto books

First off, I'm surprised I got no snarky comments (not even from Jaquandor, owner of a Buffalo Blog) about my recent reading. (I bought New Spring guys. I deserve the abuse).

As promised, here are my thoughts on the American Gods short story in Legends II.

First off, a quick synopsis of American Gods for those unhappy souls who haven't read it (cheerfully lifted from the Amazon.com review):
American Gods is Neil Gaiman's best and most ambitious novel yet, a scary, strange, and hallucinogenic road-trip story wrapped around a deep examination of the American spirit. Gaiman tackles everything from the onslaught of the information age to the meaning of death, but he doesn't sacrifice the razor-sharp plotting and narrative style he's been delivering since his Sandman days.
[...]
Armed only with some coin tricks and a sense of purpose, Shadow travels through, around, and underneath the visible surface of things, digging up all the powerful myths Americans brought with them in their journeys to this land as well as the ones that were already here. Shadow's road story is the heart of the novel, and it's here that Gaiman offers up the details that make this such a cinematic book--the distinctly American foods and diversions, the bizarre roadside attractions, the decrepit gods reduced to shell games and prostitution.
Just to let you know: Shadow is initially hired by a man named Wednesday. And yes, one of his eyes is fake.

"Monarch of the Glen", in the Legends II anthology, takes place in Scotland after the events of American Gods. My only real complaint is that Gaiman takes for granted that his audience has read American Gods. If you haven't, quite a bit of the deeper meaning is completely lost. Conversations with Wednesday about heroes and death don't mean much if you don't know who Wednesday is, who the hero is, and who died -- and why.

It's still an excellent short story, and happily Gaiman talks a bit about his next book, which focuses on Mr. Nancy (Anasasi) and his two sons. Apparently, writing "Monarch of the Glen" has also given him some very good ideas for Shadow as well. (Just as an appeal: Does anyone know of a God whose name and presence would be difficult to remember clearly, and who is associated with luck? Probably Norse or Slavic. Basically, Shadow keeps meeting the guy and forgetting what he said). In essence, "Monarch of the Glen" is for people who have already read -- and enjoyed -- American Gods. As an introduction to Gaiman's work or the world of American Gods, it falls a bit flat. As a further oddity, American Gods (unlike the rest of the short stories in the anthology) does not come from a series. Gaiman is planning a second book, but right now it's a "series" totaling a single volume.

I'll be reading the Terry Brooks Shannara short tonight, hopefully, and give you my thoughts on that. Don't expect much. I never liked the original Shannara trilogy (Hey! Let's tell the same highly derivative story three times!) very much, although Talismans was considerably better. The short story in Legends II is set immediately after Wishong of Shannara, so I'm not expecting too much. But more on that tomorrow, after I've actually read it.
:: Morat 12:42 PM :: ::

From the horse's mouth

It looks like either the Good Doctor absorbed Iowa's lessons and shifted tacks immediately, or he was planning this all along. Either way, it's good timing. Blog for America : A Doctor Who's Delivered:
By standing up to President Bush on the issues that matter -- and pressing Democrats to do the same-- Howard Dean has changed the nature of this race and the nature of American politics. He's brought hundreds of thousands of Americans back into the democratic procees. And he's forced a party that was in retreat to stand up and offer a real alternative to George W. Bush.
Now the other candidates have adopted his message. That's good for our party and good for our country.
But this election is now about change and taking our country back.

It's about the future -- about fulfilling the Promise of America for our families and our children. It's about which candidate has a proven record of delivering results. No other candidate has Howard Dean's record of achievement.
It goes further into Dean's record, and I'm guessing is pretty much the tone of the speech he gave today in Manchester. (Josh Marshall noted that he appeared to be relying on note cards, so perhaps he did make the change in response to Iowa). It's about time.

Dean's got an excellent record, and he needs to run on it.

I'm not surprised that Dean shifted direction so quickly after Iowa (he is noted for being pragmatic, after all), and I wonder what took him so long. Oddly enough, this is the Howard Dean Vermont knows. Perhaps Dean needed the fire-breathing populist label to get enough people to listen to the pragmatic reformer.

I'm sure people will try to spin this a make-over, but it's really hard to sell that line when your "make-over" consists of pointing out what you've done the last 20 years or so.

Whether it was coincidence, timing, or a night's soul-searching, this the Howard that needs to run now.

It does a lot to erase my new pessimism.
:: Morat 12:02 PM :: ::

And now for something completely different

Joshua Marshall on Deans speech in Manchester today (his first big New Hampshire event after Iowa).
Dean's rationale for this was as follows: he said he got into the race because he thought Democrats weren't standing up for Dem principles, that they weren't taking the fight to President Bush. He said his opponents are now doing that -- something he took credit for. So he'd go back to discussing policy issues, what he did in Vermont, what he'd do for America, etc.

This was the event I was most interested in seeing today. I wanted to see if Dean --- and just as much his supporters --- could take a punch. Last night was one helluva punch.
Josh says the event was low-key (listless or measured, depending on what you think of Dean) and very policy. It appears Dean has learned at least one lesson from Iowa: Voters want issues too. Hopefully he learned a few more.

Which is something Dean needs. His record is excellent. Between his balanced budgets, his healthcare record, and things like Success By Six, Dean's got what he needs for an excellent ad series. Hopefully he's learned his lesson about negative campaigning (and replaced his ad staff. I understand Dean's TV spots were often the worst in the field).

I wonder, as Josh does, how well the Deanies will take this blow. How much did they -- did we -- buy into the hype? How badly damaged are they? How many are reconsidering?
:: Morat 11:23 AM :: ::

Post Mortem's Around the Blogs

Hesiod had much the same thoughts about Iowa, and how that affects New Hampshire, as I did. Only -- as usual -- he said it far more concisely.
First, Gephardt and Dean drove each other's negatives so high that they caused their own support to collapse. Dean had a better message and organization so he was able to stabilize his freefall somewhat, but not at a level allowing him to do better than 3rd.
[...]
I think Dean's problems are correctable. And, I suspect that Kerry and Clark are going to pound each other in New Hampshire, which will make Dean and Edwards the viable alternatives.
Liberal Oasis has a slightly harsher view, but also thinks Dean has a silver lining.
So what's next?

If everyone prematurely crowned Dean before, everyone will prematurely dismiss him now.

Remember, we've only seen Dean face withering attack.

We don't know how well Kerry, Edwards and Wesley Clark will hold up now that they are moving to the forefront.

In fact, Clark and Kerry have been going at each other all week in New Hampshire. That sniping will likely get big play now..
Also, for the record, I agree with Matt on the three common reactions to Iowa. (Despairing Deanies, Reenergized Deanies, and Taunters).
:: Morat 10:07 AM :: ::

Note: On Dean's speech

I didn't see it, so I don't have any real comments. I'd imagine that with the SOTU tonight, and Dean's abrupt dismissal as "frontrunner" that it won't have nearly the impact it would have last week.

I understand it was pretty much the standard, over-the-top, fire up the troops speech. The only drawback was that it played directly into Dean's "anger" meme....and that the selective clipping of the entire speech makes it look even worse.

Unfortunately, I'm not hearing a lot about it from neutral sources...mostly I'm hearing about it from people who have spent the last six months pointing to one event after another as the "deathblow" to the Dean campaign. Then again, they might have a point about Iowa.
:: Morat 10:04 AM :: ::

Just a note:

I believe that the percentages reported last night (Kerry 36%, Edwards 32%, Dean 18%) refer to delegate counts. Does anyone know for sure? If so, what does that translate out to in terms of delegates?

Update: John -- in comments -- helpfully notes that no one really knows how many delegates (to the national convention) this translates out to, although CNN estimates that Kerry will end up with 20 delegates, Edwards with 18, and Dean with 7.

Stupid caucuses. Always making it too complex!
:: Morat 9:32 AM :: ::

Iowa Post-Mortem

Having slept on it, and gotten to read a few first-hand accounts of Iowa caucus-goers (here and here), I'm prepared to comment a bit.

First off, Dean it appears had two very large problems in Iowa.
  • Dean's organization was green. Very green. Clueless, in places.

  • Dean had "poisoned the well" with the negative campaign. (So had Gephardt, for that matter).
Dean's inexperienced people caused two problems. First and foremost, it led to an inflated hard count. It's quite obvious that Trippi expected a lot more hard-core Deanies than he got. That's pretty much the result of inexperienced canvassers marking people as "1" who really should have been "2" or even "3".

This led to Dean starting off with maybe 2/3rds of the voters he expected to have -- if that.

Secondly, it appears that a lot of Dean's precinct captains simply weren't very good at the "core" part of the caucus...the bit where you convince the supporters of nonviable candidates to jump ship. Which leads directly into Problem Number 2.

Gephardt's people and Dean's people really didn't like each other. Furthermore, the relentless negative campaigning (both by Dean and against Dean) led to Dean having the worst unfavorables in the Iowa race (still positive, but by far the worst).

Which meant that when Gephardt collapsed, his supporters were really unlikely to go to Dean....and many of the other uncommitteds wandering around had a really negative view of Dean. So they went to Kerry and Edwards who, among other things, apparently had some very experienced precinct captains. From the first-hand reports on Kos (linked above), Dean was lucky to get a bare 10% of Gephardt supporters.

So how does this bode for the rest of the race? Good and bad, really.

First off, Dean came in third. That was bad. The only mitigating factor was that Gephardt did worse. Nonetheless, Dean walked the fine line between "horrible, but survivable" and "so bad you might as well drop". So as I go on to talk about the bright spots, keep that in mind. Dean couldn't have done any worse and still stayed in the race.

So, onto the good news...or at least the news that isn't as bad. First off, Dean had quite a few poll watchers. Odds are, he's got a very good idea of how badly things were hosed up. That's a very critical piece of information. Without know how you screwed up, you can't fix it.

Secondly, his negatives in Iowa aren't reflected in New Hampshire...or nationally. His unfavorables in Iowa were the highest in the field....in virtually every other state he's got the lowest or second lowest. Furthermore, the circumstances that led to the Iowa drop aren't likely to be reflected in later states. Kerry, Gephardt, Dean and Edwards were living in Iowa...and Gephardt and Dean spent tons hammering each other over a period of weeks. (And you can bet Kerry and Edwards were happily helping out, under the table).

The circumstances for that sort of prolonged pounding don't exist anymore. There isn't enough time between primaries, and after New Hampshire, too many states to split money among.

Thirdly, and about the biggest of the bright spots, is that there are now three candidates all struggling for the same vote. Edwards can more or less sit out New Hampshire, and wait for South Carolina. Kerry might do the same (he is undoubtedly low on funds, and there's little time to raise more), but even before the Iowa caucus he was back to within 4 points of Clark. Second place is close, and first place isn't out of reach. Moreover, a solid showing in New Hampshire will cement his resurrection and give him a solid boost into mini-Tuesday. Most importantly, however, is that Kerry is weak in the mini-Tuesday states and doesn't have a lot of time (two weeks) to organize. He needs a New Hampshire bounce, which means passing Clark in New Hampshire.

Kerry is going to want to take his support back from Clark, and take whatever he can from Dean's. (Maybe a lot, maybe a little. Who knows at this point). Clark's NH support is the obvious "soft target". Many of them used to support Kerry, and Kerry and Clark have much the same issues and credentials. There's no telling how easy, or how hard, yanking voters from Dean will be. (Heck, until Friday and the ARG tracking poll entirely reflects the post-Iowa situation, there's not telling what Dean's, Kerry's or Clark's support is anymore).

If Clark makes a stand in New Hampshire (I would assume so, but Josh Marshall is wondering if Clark is already laying the groundwork for coming in third to Kerry in New Hampshire), then Kerry and Clark are going to be fighting for the same vote....leaving Dean in exactly the position Kerry had in Iowa. Dean can be "above the fray", remain positive, and work on his message.

If Clark holds back in NH, preferring to fight on mini-Tuesday or later -- where his money and organization give him a big advantage, Kerry can focus on Dean. No telling how that turns out. Iowa suggests Kerry will win, but then again...Kerry wasn't fighting Dean in Iowa. Not directly.

Dean and Clark remain the only two candidates with the money and organization to compete after mini-Tuesday. On the other hand, Dean just took third in Iowa...and Clark is now looking at a second or third in New Hampshire, unless he goes after Kerry.
:: Morat 9:13 AM :: ::

:: Monday, January 19, 2004 ::

Well, it's official..

Dean got smacked down. Hard. Gephardt, I understand, is dropping out. Dean's going to have to struggle to hold onto New Hampshire. The only reason I don't simply assume Dean will die in New Hampshire (it's only a week away, after all) is that Clark and Kerry are going to be fighting over the same support.

Probably. But, as I amply demonstrated, I've got no clue here.

I've seen people blame Dean's loss on Dean, on Dean's anger, on the negative ads, on people simply getting tired of Dean's relentless campaigning (God knows, he was everywhere in Iowa for the last few weeks), or Dean's unelectability. Or hell, maybe Iowa residents really resented the hell out of all those out-of-state Deanies in their orange hats.

I don't know if anyone knows. I don't know if it's an Iowa thing, a regional thing, a national thing....I don't think anyone does.

But I'll tell you what: I'm more convince then ever that pretty much the entire punditry was guessing. I don't think anyone suspected Dean would lose 2 to 1 to Kerry, or that Edwards would break thirty...and Gephardt would barely break 10. Some of them got the order right, but judging by the numbers...I'll consider that a lucky guess. I think Dean was the only one whose numbers were even remotely close to his polling. I don't think anyone predicted Gephardt would collapse...or that all those votes would flow to Kerry and Edwards. (Mostly Edwards, I think.)

So where do we go from here? New Hampshire, of course. In a week. What will happen? Beats me. Hopefully the polls will be more accurate, the Deanies (myself included) more realistic...and hopefully we'll hang on. Perhaps Clark and Kerry (like Dean and Gephardt) will commit mutual suicide, scrabbling over the same votes until those voters are desperate to get away.

Perhaps not. Perhaps Kerry will swallow Dean whole, as Clark threatened to do with Kerry, and Kerry and Clark will continue to fight their way to Super Tuesday. (If that's the case, my money is on Clark. Mainly because he has money, and I'd be shocked if Kerry's got enough to get him through mini-Tuesday). On the bright side, now Clark and Kerry get to be the frontrunners. I understand Clark supporters are already getting indignant about some of the cheap shots from the media and the RNC. It'll only get worse. Dean's been frontrunner for months, and they've had to space out the oppo work. Can't have more than one scandal at a time, or they choke off their own media coverage. Clark and Kerry are going to have to face them on an accelerated schedule.

Good luck with that, guys. If you survive, you're tough enough for the general election.

Then again, perhaps I'm putting too much emphasis on Iowa. Check back next week and we'll find out.
:: Morat 8:19 PM :: ::

Wow..color me shocked.

Dean's at eighteen percent with over half of the precincts reporting. Kerry is at thirty-seven percent and Edwards is at 33%. Gephardt is sitting at 10 percent.

Dean third to Edwards? By 15 points? Holy cow.

The numbers might shift some, as the rural areas report first but...52% of the precincts have reported, and about 50,000 people have voted. The precincts vary in size (I saw some with 1600 caucus-goers and some with 185) so I have no idea what percent of the population has voted...nor how the delegate count goes.

Jesus. I'm pretty sure you can officially discount any predictions I make about this campaign. I take great comfort in knowing that Zogby was just as damn wrong.

I look forward to the final numbers, and the final delegate counts. I have no idea how much room these numbers have to move, but as a Dean supporter...well, "onward to New Hampshire".

I guess the next test of the Dean campaign is simply "Can he come back?". Can he keep his support?

Still...damn.


:: Morat 6:20 PM :: ::

Recent Reading

Well, I finally finished Wolves of the Calla. King's Dark Tower novels stand head and shoulders above the bulk of his work, and even if you're not a King fan, I'd suggest trying out The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three. (There is a major shift in tone, even after King revised The Gunslinger, between the two. The Drawing of the Three is far more representative of the series as a whole, in terms of tone and style).

Casting around for something new to read, I ended up with a copy of Across the Nightingale Floor and the His Dark Materials trilogy (both borrowed from a wonderful friend), as well as purchasing the new Legends anthology, the new Alan Dean Foster book (Flinx's Folly) and, I am sad to admit, the Robert Jordan prequel New Spring. In my defense, I got it free. Although I probably would have forked over in any case. But I might have waited for paperback. You don't know. You can't prove otherwise.

New Spring was featured, as a novella, in the first Legends anthology. It appears that Jordan has extended it, adding new material, and released it as a small novel. I have high hopes for New Spring because, unlike the Wheel of Time series, New Spring has an ending (Update: Alas, it is not so. New Spring is part of a prequel trilogy. From the reviews, it appears Jordan is "losing the love" from his fans. On the other hand, I badmouth him and still buy the things. Curse him).

Also, deep down, I keep hoping Jordan will become decent again. I though two of the ten or eleven volumes of the series were "good" -- as far as this sort of fantasy goes -- and about half the rest were decent. Sadly, the half that's bad happens to be the back half. Either Jordan is milking his story for all the money he can or he simply can't figure out how it ends, but is stuck delivering a book every two years. Four books, and nothing ever happens. In all fairness, the latest one was something of an uptick. Far better than the book before it (trust me. It's faint praise).

But enough of my Jordan obsession (I'm in a 12 step program for that). The Legends anthologies are an absolutely wonderful resource for anyone with a love of those giant fantasy series. It's nothing less than 10 or so authors writing a short story set in their most recognizable universe. There's really no better way to get a quick introduction to the big names in fantasy. I was introduced to George R.R. Martin in Legends (he has another Song of Ice and Fire short story in Legends II), and finding A Song of Ice and Fire was worth the price of the Legends book several times over. In a happy coincidence -- given that I just finished Wolves of the Calla, the first Legends anthology contains a Dark Tower story by Stephen King ("The Little Sisters of Eluria") and a Discworld story by Terry Pratchett ("The Sea and the Little Fishes").

I'm spacing out the short stories in Legends II (I've only read the "The Monarch of the Glen", which is set in Gaiman's American Gods), so expect occasional comments about each short story...and each fantasy world, as I work through them. I'll try to cover Gaiman's American Gods tomorrow.

As a "Gimme" to Gaiman fans: Yes, "The Monarch of the Glen" does feature Shadow. And yes, Gaiman plans to continue playing with the theme. His next book is already being written, and is about Mr. Nancy and his two boys (Spider and Fat Charlie, IIRC). Good for him. The world he created in American Gods is a bit too rich to leave idle. Give, of course, that he doesn't muck it up.
:: Morat 12:57 PM :: ::

Just a note on Iowa tonight

If, as Atrios fears, you start hearing the talking heads making predictions about the vote as people are still entering the caucus areas, run screaming from that network.

Let's just state that the problems with entrance polls are manifold, and their flaws are never more apparent then in a caucus.

:: Morat 11:54 AM :: ::

Don't Panic!

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy:
The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy movie is finally due to start filming this spring with Bill Nighy in the role of alien architect Slartibartfast.
Here's a hint: Go talk to Peter Jackson. Because, let's face it, "great books" generally turn into crappy movies. He seems to have some insight. And maybe have a chat with Terry Gilliam.

Just don't hose this up, okay? (Link via Counterspin)
:: Morat 11:18 AM :: ::

New addition to the blogroll

I've added Smijer to the blogroll. (There will probably be a few more additions later this week). Smijer is a blog after my own heart, with a focus on politics, science, and the dash of religion....usually in reference to Creationists.

I first met the owner of the blog on a Creationist forum, where he was -- with wit and expertise quite beyond me -- fighting the good fight, and trying to stamp out the usual distortions, lies, and general misuse of science that pop up in any conversation with Creationists.

Go check it out.
:: Morat 10:55 AM :: ::

A bit on turnout

Thanks to some helpful people over on Kos (between the diaries and the guest posters, you can find all you need to know) I've got a firmer grasp on the Iowa situation and the various permutations.

Let's start with hard count. This is where organization matters. This is Dean's edge, and Gephardt's edge. Hard count is, quite simply, voters you have identified who will caucus and will vote for you. If they need rides, the campaign has provided. If they need someone to watch their kids, the campaign -- well, at least Dean's. I don't know about the other candidates -- has qualified people to watch them.

Barring death or injury, they will be there and they will vote "Dean" or "Gephardt" or whomever.

For the most part, both Dean and Gephardt have spent a year identifying who will vote for them and where. Both camps have a darn good idea of how many votes they've got in each precinct.

The wildcard is turnout. That's where Kerry and Edwards pin their hopes, because each additional participant waters down Gephardt's and Dean's hard counts. If Dean has, for instance, identified 40,000 voters who will be there and will vote for him, and expects a 120,000 people to show, he's feeling satisfied with 30% on the first vote. If, on the other hand, 160,000 show up, Dean's support drops to 25% (Dean's ID'd all his voters. Anyone showing up unexpectedly isn't going to be supporting him or Gephardt...not in big numbers, at least) which places him back in the pack.

What I've heard from the Kossians is that Trippi is fairly confident if turnout is 130,000 or less. As one of the Kos posters noted, the actual turnout in 1988 -- the last heavily contested Iowa caucus -- was 95,000 (not the 125,000 figure routinely bandied about).

So you might be able to handicap the race if you know turnout, but bear in mind: The inaccurate 125,000 figure for 1988 was what was reported on Caucus night. It was a guess, and not a very accurate one. I'm thinking that accurate turnout figures will be available about the time the final results are, so....take it for what it's worth.

I'm still placing Dean about 30%, with Kerry and Gephardt 5 points or more behind. On the other hand, if turnout is low, expect Gephardt to pass Kerry.

Update: Bear in mind. In Iowa, you can vote "undecided". Undecided has to have 15% in a precinct to get delegates (just like the other candidates), but I believe Carter came in second to "undecided" in 1976. I understand "undecided" does well every caucus.
:: Morat 10:42 AM :: ::

Iowa

I've got no idea what will happen in Iowa tonight. None whatsoever. I've heard rumors -- from inside and outside the Dean camp -- that Dean's pretty happy with his "hard count" (will show. Will vote for Dean. No questions) numbers, and that they're expecting a very number of new caucus goers to attend...at least half their total votes. Other campaigns dismiss both the rumored hard count (55,000 or so) and the number of new voters (65% of Dean votes) as ludicrous.

Probably so. These things are always inflated. The question is: How inflated is it?

That, I'm willing to bet, is the number one questioning occupying Iowa staff tonight. How good are the hard counts? What will the turnout be? How many "first-time" voters?

So, my prediction. As befits such a murky caucus, my prediction will be quite vague: Dean first, Kerry secondly, Gephardt third. Dean will break 30%, but Kerry will not. Dean will win by no less than 5 points, but not much more. Kerry will beat out Gephardt by no more than 5 points, and probably closer to 2. Edwards will place fourth, but with no more than 18% of the vote.

Offhand, I'd be shocked to death if I was right about anything other than "Dean wins".
:: Morat 10:11 AM :: ::

Small children..

I was late to work this morning. Why? Because as I finished shaving (Have you tried the Braun Synchro? It's an electric razor that actually works. I love that thing.) I hear a loud "thump" followed by the sounds of my seven year old sobbing his poor little heart out.

So I step out of the bathroom, I see my child face down on the ground, his arms shoved deep into the pant legs of his warm up pants (which themselves where hitched up near his shoulders), struggling to extricate himself and stand up. Apparently, he'd decided it was funny to hike his pants up that high, stick his hands down his pants and jump around like some sort of demented cartoon bowling pin.

So he was hopping down the hallway to show his mom, and managed to trip. Since his hands were down his pants, the only thing he had to break his fall was his face.

The poor child looked like he'd gone a round with Mike Tyson. Puffy and split lip, bleeding nose, and a nice big bruise forming in the center of his forehead.

We made sure he hadn't broken his nose, got the bleeding to stop, and teased him into a better mood. And then, when he was safely out of earshot....burst out laughing.
:: Morat 9:54 AM :: ::

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