Undernews Alert: Obama's church

A mostly political Weblog.
Jan. 14 2008 8:44 PM

Undernews Alert: Obama

Making an issue of his Afrocentric church?

If Kucinich is included in tomorrow's debate that's bad news for Edwards, no? The debate then looks less like a three-way fight and more like '2 contenders and 2 losers.' ... 9:46 P.M.

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E-mails we wish we hadn't ignored:

----- Original Message -----

From: Robert Wright

To: Mickey Kaus

Sent: Tuesday, January 08, 2008 5:06 A.M.

Subject: Re: Working on feature on bloggingheads.tv]

have you noticed that the more post-debate voters a poll includes, the better hillary does? (even at a very fine-grained level; read bullet point #4 here:  http://www.pollster.com/blogs/poll_cnnwmurunh_new_hampshire_10.php) This probly doesn't signify a hillary victory, but I'm guessing Obama's margin of victory will be way lower than 10 percent, so she can claim to be the comeback kid.

I emailed back that any Hillary gains would likely be "swamped in a last-minute turnout surge." (Wright wasn't even in New Hampshire. What did he know?)  ... 5:56 P.M.

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Black Bradley Effect? Noam Scheiber has speculated that black voters might tell pollsters one thing and do another in the South Carolina primary, just as (it's theorized) white voters did in New Hampshire:

Is it possible that some black voters would tell pollsters they support Hillary (or that they're undecided) because they don't want to sound like they're  voting mainly out of racial solidarity, even though they actually intend to vote for Obama?

He could be right! But what if this black Bradley Effect operates in the other direction--black voters tell pollsters they are going to vote for Obama (because they feel that's expected of them) and then vote for Hillary or Edwards? In other words, they behave exactly like the white voters in the Standard Bradley Effect--that would take some of the sting out of the implicit charge of "racism" that always lurks underneath the Bradley Effect, no? ... Of the two possibilities, I'd guess the latter is more likely. Are African-Ameican voters really worried that they'll "sound like they're voting out of racial solidarity"? I'd think fear of being considered a self-hater or Oreo (or practitioner of "middleclassness"!) looms larger in most black communities, unfortunately. But I don't know. ... P.S.: Of course, it's possible neither effect will materialize, and it's also possible they will cancel each other out. ... 5:32 P.M.

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Undernews Alert: It's hard to believe that Obama's Afrocentric church--with its troubling attack on "the pursuit of middeclassness"--isn't going to be an issue in the campaign, soon. There are already wild, inflammatory emails circulating, apparently. ... Update: Here is the offical Obama response page. Excerpt:

"There is information on the Black Values System in the new member packet provided at Trinity, and the new member classes put the Black Values System in the historical context of the civil rights movement."

Hmm. It must be understood in "the historical context." That'll reassure nervous white voters! The Obama camp would seem to be severely underestimating its vulnerability on the church issue if it thinks lecturing people on the civil rights movement will solve this problem for them in the long run. ... 1:18 A.M.

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Friday, January 10, 2008

There isn't another contested Democratic primary for  9 more days? What are we supposed to do in the meantime? Can't they speed the process up? ... Voters don't tune in until the last 24 hours  anyway--so the last 24 hours might as well come sooner! ... 12:09.A.M.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Only waterwork s works: Now he's crying.[via Lucianne] 2:36 A.M.

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I'm as flummoxed as everyone else, having gone along with the near-universal consensus that Obama would win. Mystery Pollster has his work cut out for him. But I'm confident that soon enough there will be so many powerful explanations for what now seems an out-of-the-blue event that it will appear to be overdetermined. It's important to memorialize this moment of utter stupefaction.

That said, here are four possible factors:

1. Bradley Effect: It seemed like a nice wonky little point when Polipundit speculated on the Reverse Bradley Effect--the idea that Iowa's public caucuses led Dem voters to demonstrate their lack of prejudice by caucusing for Obama. Now this is the CW of the hour. Polipundit wrote:

I suspect that Obama may have scored better than he would have in a secret-ballot election, and benefited from a Reverse Bradley Effect.

New Hampshire, of course, is a secret ballot election. Voters might have told pollsters one thing but done another in private.** New Hampshirites I ran into Tuesday night mentioned that the state was very late ratifying the MLK Holiday.

2. Lazio Effect. No ganging up on the girl! First, Edwards turns on her in the debate. Then Obama says she's merely "likeable enough." Then the press disparages her anger, mocks her campaign and gloats over its troubles. They made her cry! And then that mean macho John Edwards goes and says the crying makes her unfit to be president. (I was told voter leaving Edwards in the closing hours went disproportionately to Hillary, not Obama.)

3. Feiler/Skurnik Effect: What's stunning is the ferocity and speed with which Hillary's fortunes turned around in those final hours. Kf has a theory to explain that! Actually, two theories. The familiar Feiler Faster Thesis holds that voters are comfortable processing information at the vastly increased speed it can come at them. Jerry Skurnik's "Two Electorate" theory  holds that voters who don't follow politics are much less informed than they used to be, which causes polls to shift rapidly when they do inform themselves. Put these two together and you've got a vast uninformed pool of voters that only begins to make up its mind until the very last minute--after the last poll is taken, maybe--and then reaches its decision by furiously ingesting information at a Feileresque pace. In fact, the percent of voters who made up their minds at the very end in N.H. was unusually large. (Add convincing statistic here!)

Two implications of the Feiler/Skurnik combo: a)Momentum from the previous primary doesn't last. When the early primary dates were set, the CW held that the Iowa loser would never be able to stop the Iowa "wave" effect in the five days between the two primaries. It was too short a time. In fact, it wasn't short enough. A three day separation and maybe Obama would have won. As it was, by the time the uninformed voters tuned in on Sunday and Monday, Iowa was ancient history.***  b) Instead, these voters saw clips of Hillary having her emotional tearing up moment. In other words, the Feiler/Skurnik Effect magnifies the significance of any events that occur in the final day or two of the campaign. After yesterday's election, expect more of these events.

4) The Congestion Alert Effect: I remember when the Southern California transportation authorities installed a state-of-the-art series of electronic signs alongside the freeways to give motorists instantaneous warnings of traffic delays. The signs don't do that any more. Why? It turned out that when you warned drivers of congestion on Route A, they all took Route B, leading the latter to become congested instead of the former. Similarly, independent voters in N.H. were told by the press that the Democratic race was a done deal--so they voted in the closer, more exciting Republican race. Which made the Republican race not so close and the undid the deal in the Dem race. (Brendan Loy published this theory first.) [ via Insta]

5)Bonus CD-only Theory--The Orthodox Shul Effect: Alert emailer B.L. writes:

The independents broke the way worshipers do at an orthodox (anything) religious ceremony. The ladies went left and the lads went right (most female indies voted in the Dem primary; most male indies in the Repub).

In other words, it wasn't the lower number of independents voting in Democratic primary that hurt Obama, but which independents voted Dem. McCain's race sucked away precisely those independents most likely to vote for Obama--men (and also, we might speculate, relatively conservative women).

Backfill: Halperin has about 30 theories, including at least two of the above. ... Here's a Slate piece on the Bradley Effect. ... 

**--The Reverse Bradley Effect, in other words, meant that the Iowa results, which seemed to show that the regular ol' Bradley Effect wasn't operating, were deceptive. As this eerily prescient  post suggests:

If the Reverse Bradley Effect holds, then, Obama will do worse in New Hampshire than his Iowa triumph would lead you to expect, even if Hillary does nothing to change anyone's mind. ...

See, I knew it all along. [But you forgot it?--ed  No. I actually never knew it. Always thought Obama would win big]. ...

***--In this respect, New Hampshire was a replay of the 2000 Michigan GOP primary between Bush and McCain, in which Bush's momentum faded stunningly quickly. ... 1:10 A.M. link  

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mark Blumenthal is liveblogging the N.H. poll results. (Most recent entries are at the bottom.) ... 5:48 P.M.

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Joe  Trippi explains John Edwards' brilliant strategy of losing Iowa and getting clobbered in New Hampshire.It's a huge load of BS! ... But why would Edwards drop out? What else does he have to do? And as long as Trippi keeps spinning these scenarios, he keeps getting paid, right? ... P.S.: A respected emailer defends Trippi--

"if his client wants to soldier on, what's he supposed to say?  "I know we can't win, but Edwards, the fool, wants to keep fighting?"  Trippi knows what they're up against.

It's still BS. It seems to me there is a way to soldier on that doesn't involve selling elaborate bogus scenarios. In 2004, I actually bought some of them! ... P.P.S.: Luckily, as of 9:12 Eastern, Edwards is the big loser tonight, because Hillary is emphatically not out of the race. ... 3:20 A.M. link

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McCain's 'Banana': Mark Krikorian on "amnesty" semantics:

The perennial controversy over what to call McCain's amnesty is silly. Every program in the world that has allowed illegal immigrants to stay has been called an "amnesty." McCain himself called it "amnesty" as recently as May 2003, when he told the Tucson Citizen "I think we can set up a program where amnesty is extended to a certain number of people who are eligible … Amnesty has to be an important part ..." But once the focus-group results were in, "amnesty" became a four-letter word. ...[snip]

Real Straight Talk would be to say "Sure, it's an amnesty, but we don't really have any choice" ...

P.S.: The McCain, post-focus-group argument is that it can't be "amnesty" if it has some requirements--e.g., to pay a fine, learn English, etc. But it turns out that Ronald Reagan's 1986 "comprehensive" reform, which he and everyone else called an "amnesty," had requirements too, including payment of fees. ...

It really is impressive that McCain still gets fawning reporters to call his bus the "Straight Talk Express" while his defense of his most significant recent domestc initiative depends entirely on the employment of cumbersome and obscuring PC euphemisms (e.g., "earned legalization," "comprehensive reform" "undocumented immigrants" ...sorry, make that  "Nonimmigrants in the United States Previously in Unlawful Status,"  etc.). That is, where it doesn't require outright untruths (i.e, that illegals would "not be in any way rewarded for illegal behavior"). The latter are, oddly, less annoying. At least they're straight lies. ...

If you care about the immigration issue, and oppose "amnesty" (or whatever you want to call it--"legalization," "regularization," or "banana" if you prefer), it's pretty important that McCain be defeated a) As a cautionary example to other pols, and b) to ensure that at least one party's candidates are skeptical of the merits of "comprehensive" reform. New Hampshire is the best place to do it. Go Mitt! ... 12:15 A.M. link

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The Anchoress predicted the cryin'  on January 2:

What I dread most in this political season is the "genuine" moment - and it is coming, soon, sometime between today and tomorrow, or tomorrow and New Hampshire - when Mrs. Clinton, in her ongoing effort to turn herself into whatever the polls says she must be, cries in public. It's going to be genuinely ghastly.

Eerie! [via The Corner] 1:12 A.M.

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Monday, January 7, 2008

The much anticipated train-wreck joint Bill and Hillary rally in Manchester was not a train wreck. The crowd wasn't huge--maybe 1000--but it was noisy. Bill just stood there and didn't talk. Hillary gave a long, impressively smooth stump speech that was oddly state-of-the-unionish in its inclusion of every policy initiative in her platform. Sort of the fantasy state of the union address she will probably never give! At least not in this election cycle. Aren't election eve speeches usually just short rousers? ... The other odd thing about Hillary's speech is that it contained virtually no reference to anything that has happened in the past weeks. No "we're behind in the polls but don't believe the polls," or "we're surging," or "they're saying dirty things about us" or "it's down to the wire--I'm counting on you," etc. She could have given virtually the same talk in New Hampshire two months ago. ...P.S.: She did add a bit of "future music by talking about all the great man-on-the-moonish things she'd help accomplish. That doesn't seem like a bad way to address her fabled  "change" vs. "past" problem--though it obviously isnt enough. ... At one point I couldn't tell whether the crowd was chanting "Hillary" or "Four More Years." ... P.P.S.: Hillary now pledges to "end" No Child Left Behind. Is that new? ...  10:29 P.M.

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Dana Milbank falls into the McCain bus swoon. McCain's "on a roll," you see. But what I've heard from reporters who've been to McCain's rallies is that the crowds are smaller and less enthusiastic than expected. .... If Romney pulls off a N.H. win after really only turning around in the Fox debate Sunday night, it will be a stunning confirmation of both the Feiler Faster Thesis  and Jerry Skurnik's theory  that because uninformed voters are more uninformed than ever they only learn enough to actually make up their minds very close to the Election Day. ... 10:07 P.M.

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Heading into Manchester, I heard a strong radio ad, excoriating the leading Republicans for being soft on illegal immigration, from ... Ron Paul. Is that the official libertarian position? ... P.S.: The ad said Paul doesn't want illegals to get Social Security benefits. I believe it! Does he want anybody to get Social Security benefits? ... P.S.: Objectively, as we Marxists say, this is an anti-McCain, therefore pro-Romney ad at this point, no? ... Update: John Tabin says, "There is no 'official libertarian position' on immigration," and charges Paul with ... well, read the item ... 3:54 P.M.

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'I'm just so upset that someone who's not ready from day one might lead our country': Crying!  Why didn't she think of that before? ... Update: Phony or not? Well, it seems studied, if effective. And Hillary does manage to work in her talking points. ("And we do it, each one of us, because we care about our country. But some of us are right and some of us are wrong. Some of us are ready and some of us are not, some of us know what we will do on day one and some of us haven't thought that through enough.") It's not like she dropped her facade. ... 11:10 A.M.

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Monday's Must-See Event--The Train Wreck Tour: The reporters I talk to are looking forward to the final pre-election joint Bill and Hillary Clinton rally Monday evening with the same lascivious delight you might encounter before a Britney Spears/Amy Winehouse double bill. Everyone expects it to be a gruesome night for the Clintons; their aides have been lashing out at the press uncharmingly. Anything could happen! ... 1:30 A.M. link

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Sunday Fox debate: Romney won decisively over McCain in Luntz's undecided 'focus group.' Romney's attack on McCain's immigration plan sent the dial-meters into the stratosphere. ... Update: Though some of those Luntz focus-groupers seem a bit familiar, in a Greg Packeresque  kind of way. [Thanks to emailer W.B.] ... Not So Fast: I ran into Luntz at the Radisson, and he said he intentionally uses some people at more than one successive focus group, which lets him track their opinions over time. He concedes a downside, which is that when voters become part of his focus-grouping machine their thinking changes. He said the ratio was 20% repeats, 80% fresh faces. ... 6:41 P.M. link

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Straight Talk on Illegal Immigrants and Social Security: Mitt Romney's failure to hang "comprehensive immigration reform" around John McCain's neck in last night's debate  may have been the defining failure of Romney's candidacy. We'll see if he does better in the Fox debate that just started. [Update: He did, but maybe not better enough.]

It's been my impression that McCain has been locked by the realities of the issue into a tactic of gruff testy dissembling--e.g., saying that illegals he'd legalize would "not be in any way rewarded for illegal behavior" (of course they would--how many people around the world would like to pay a fine and come and live here legally?) or that they'd have to go to the "back of the line behind everybody else" (nope- they get to short-circuit the most important line, the line to get into the "citizenship" line).

One issue I wasn't clear on, though, was whether--or, more precisely, when, exactly-- illegals would have qualified for Social Security benefits once they were legalized under McCain's various "comprehensive" plans. Several MSM 'truth-checkers,' such as the NYT's Marc Santora, have claimed that McCain would let illegal immigrants get Social Security when they

come forward, pay fines, then wait their turn to become citizens ... but only after they are citizens.

That was clearly BS (citizenship isn't a requirement). But what was the truth? I emailed someone who actually knows the details, Mark Krikorian, and got back this response:

Citizenship is most assuredly NOT required to collect Social Security -- only legal status. There's actually two questions -- 1) can you collect benefits if you're illegal, and 2) can you accrue credits toward future Social Security benefits from illegal work. ... [snip]

[T]he Senate bill required that amnesty applicants (probationary Z visa
holders) be issued Social Security numbers "promptly."
So, technically, McCain is right in saying that he's against letting illegals get Social Security checks, but that's just a dodge, since he'd legalize them all, *then* give then Social Security.

The answer to the second question is "maybe" -- illegals have in fact been able to use "unauthorized work," in the Social Security Administration's parlance, to count toward future benefits; see: http://www.cis.org/articles/2004/back904.html , scroll down to "SSA Law Inconsistent on Illegals".

But S1639 wouldn't have allowed that because of an amendment; see here http://www.numbersusa.com/hottopic/senateaction0507.html and scroll down most of the way down to "Hutchison SA 1415" which "Prohibits the granting of Social Security credit for wages earned by illegal aliens prior to their being granted amnesty under this bill" and passed by voice vote. Though, as Sessions Loophole thing points out, visa-overtsaying illegals who'd been issued a Social Security number when they arrived (as workers or students) *would* have been able to use the credits from wages they earned after they fell out of status (i.e., became illegal aliens) toward collecting future benefits.

McCain was even worse in 2006, when he voted against an amendment by Ensign to that year's successful amnesty bill that would have done the same thing as Hutchison's 2007 amendment. So, he says he's now aware that the people want enforcement first -- has he also learned that the people don't want illegal work counted toward Social Security? Because he was for that before he was against it.

McCain's comment here

I do not support nor would I ever support any services provided to someone who came to this country illegally, nor would I ever and have never supported Social Security benefits for people who are in this country illegally, that is absolutely false.

is simply a lie. The second part is a weasely, politician lie, because he'd amnesty the illegals first, then give them SS, but the first part is a normal unambiguous lie. In fact, as Sessions points out, even Z visa holders who would have been *rejected* for amnesty could have accrued credits toward future Social Security, because they would have had legitimate SSNs. And if there were no effort in the future to root out and arrest rejected Z-visa-holding applicants (as if!), then they'd have kept on working and accruing credits toward future SS benefits.

And no one even seems to have asked McCain whether he supports the Totalization Agreement with Mexico, which would count work in *Mexico* toward future SS benefits here, and is commonly seen as the next step after legalization. [E.A.]

In other words, illegals wouldn't have to pay fines and wait to become citizens to get Social Security. They'd qualify for Social Security almost immediately, as soon has they got their quickie "probationary" Z-visas. But most might not get credit for earlier work done here illegally, at least immediately. That depends on whether you're talking about the 2006 McCain or the 2007 McCain. ...  5:19 P.M. link

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Huck's Secret: I don't particularly like Huckabee--he's slick, and sells a bleeding heart approach--but his invocation of social equality in last night's debate  was moving, and would seem to provide a firm basis for going national:

In that sense of equality, the greatest principle is that every human being and every American is equal to each other. One person is not more equal because of his net worth or because of his I.Q. or because of his ancestry or last name.

That was a radical idea when those 56 signers put their names on that document, knowing that if their experiment in government didn't work, they were going to die for it.

Makes Fred Thompson's grumbled lawyerly mention of "constitutional principles"--"the checks and the balances, the separation of powers"-- seem kind of dessicated, no? ... Someone should write a book about how social equality needs to be the basis of American politics in an era of globalization and rising income inequality! ... 3 :26 P.M. link

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Big Pimpin' in N.H.: Gave three women a ride to their motel from the Radisson. Was pulled over by police who suspected we were ... part of America's growing service sector. Where is Ron Paul when you need him? ... 2:45 P.M. link

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I was surprised by all the talk in the debate spin room about Hillary's angry little speech after Edwards took Obama's side in the great "change" debate. The talkers assumed it was a potential Rick Lazio election-losing moment, an audience turnoff--a judgment echoed here and here  ("dogmatic ... angry ... vicious"). ... I was surprised because when it happened, I thought to myself, "pretty good response." I've seen it again-- here--and I  still don't get what's wrong with it. Unconvincing, maybe. Heated, yes. But not overheated or uncontrolled or unhinged. This isn't the sort of thing I usually say--but isn't Hillary's outburst exactly the sort of forceful putdown male candidates not only get away with, but are expected to come up with? ... Maybe have a high tolerance for confrontation. I thought Lazio won that debate. ...

P.S.: But if it's true that Hillary's the big loser tonight, is it possible that she'll actually get beaten for second in New Hampshire by Edwards? He's not that far behind in some polls. He was effective in the debate at the end, alas. ... If he does catch Hillary, he'll be very hard to get out of the race, even if he loses in South Carolina. Rielle Hunter could make it out of the undernews  after all. ... Update: First Read's Chuck Todd adds--

Clinton may now be the candidate who needs to get Obama in a one-on-one; Edwards and Richardson are now distractions and are complicating her ability to go after Obama; Obama, meanwhile, needs the extra candidates. 

Put these two thoughts together, and you reach the conclusion that Obama may soon want Hillary to stay in the race. ... Meanwhile, if Hillary now wants Edwards gone, and Sid Blumenthal's email is still functioning, that might give the Rielle Hunter story the MSM-busting oomph it needs. ... 1:21 A.M. link

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Is Ezra Klein young enough to be this pompous?

Obama's finest speeches do not excite. They do not inform. They don't even really inspire. They elevate. They enmesh you in a grander moment, as if history has stopped flowing passively by, and, just for an instant, contracted around you, made you aware of its presence, and your role in it. He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair. The other great leaders I've heard guide us towards a better politics, but Obama is, at his best, able to call us back to our highest selves, to the place where America exists as a glittering ideal, and where we, its honored inhabitants, seem capable of achieving it, and thus of sharing in its meaning and transcendence

Actually, pompous isnt really the word for this passage. There's a sort of hectoring naivete, as if Klein's too inexperienced to know that "call us back to our highest selves" is a drained cliche. And why do the whippernsappers always have to lecture? ... P.S.: The whole post isn't this bad. It's actually worse. And pompous! ... [via  Corner  and reader N.B.] ... 9:19 P.M.

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Mo' Iowa: 1) Polipundit suggests Obama may have benefitted in Iowa from a "reverse Bradley effect.'  The open, public voting of the caucuses provided Democrats with

"a golden opportunity to show your next-door neighbors just how enlightened and progressive you are, by supporting the liberal black candidate."

On a secret ballot, Obama wouldn't do as well. If the Reverse Bradley Effect holds, then, Obama will do worse in New Hampshire than his Iowa triumph would lead you to expect, even if Hillary does nothing to change anyone's mind.  ...

2) I haven't heard any MSM pundit mention another possibility a Polipundit reader mentions: that Romney may have done worse than the polls indicated because the Republican caucuses did use a secret ballot--and people who wouldn't tell a pollster they weren't going to vote against a Mormon in fact voted against a Mormon. This is not a reverse Bradley Effect. It's the regular ol' straight Bradley Effect;

3) Wasn't the Iowa Dem outcome a vindication of the beleaguered Incumbent Rule, which holds that undecideds break overwhelming against an incumbent at the end. Hillary was the functional equivalent of an incumbent. [Thanks to alert reader K.B., who a) emailed it days before the vote and b) suggested that between Edwards was more of an "incumbent" than Obama, so the latter would have the edge among late-breaking anti-incumbent undecideds.]

4) Reader T.F. notes that Edwards did not improve on--or even match-- his 2004 Iowa performance.

In 2004, Edwards got 32% of the caucus in Iowa in a four-person field. 

In 2008, Edwards got 30% of the caucus in Iowa in a three-person field.

Richardson, Biden, et al might object to calling 2008's race a "three-person field," but you get the point. ... P.S. Defining Nonviability Down--The Union Leader's John DiStaso on Edwards and New Hampshire:

John Edwards? Should he finish a strong third — close to the second-place finisher — he's in good shape. But should he drop below Bill Richardson, which is unlikely but possible, he's in trouble.

Huh? If the result is Obama 42, Hillary 21 and Edwards 19, Edwards is in "good shape"? He has to lose to Bill Richardson to be in trouble?  ... Update:Politico's Josh Kraushaar has some standards  ("at least a strong second-place performance")! ...

5) Note that Richelieu, a McCain booster (even in the highly unlikely event that he's not Mike Murphy) predicted McCain would finish third with 17%--a "surging third." He came in fourth with 13%--a "disappointing 4th,"  wrote NBC's First Read, in an honest assessment you don't find many other places in the MSM. Somehow, the press never requires McCain to actually match the "comeback" hype it generates about him. ...

**--I once speculated that Harold Ford might benefit from a different kind of Reverse Bradley effect in his Tennessee senate race, in the form of conservative white voters who don't want to admit to their buddies or to pollsters that on the secret ballot they were going to vote for the black Democrat. I don't think this effect actually materialized, however. ... Update--Not so fast: Chris Richardson argues Ford did get a boost when many whites "voted for him because of his skin color." But wouldn't this show up in the pollls? Not entirely, apparently. The late preelection polls showed Ford an averge of 6 points behind--and he lost by only 3. ... 8:36 P.M. link

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Iowa: 1) Was Hillary lucky she finished third, by .28%, instead of second? Had she finished second, Edwards might have fallen out of the race, leaviing her to face Obama one-on-one, a confrontation she'd almost certainly lose right now. If she could subsidize Edwards' campaign at this point, she probably would. 2) Reading: John Ellis is surprisingly tough on Romney  for failing to "run as a Republican Gary Hart." Suddenly everyone wants to be Gary Hart (except Gary Hart). ... Peggy Noonan is bracingly vicious about Ed Rollins. ...Rachel Sklar notes an insufficiently remarked on Obama advantageThe press is very cautious about going against him. ("[E]ven as I write this I feel the need to check and recheck to make sure I don't somehow say this wrong. Obama is that candidate — the one you are careful writing about. I don't think it's just me") ... 3) This is Mary Matalin "angry"? She must get angrier than that. 4) Des Moines Register pollster Ann Selzer, who correctly predicted the big turnout and the big Obama victory, may now become a near-mythic figure. As Mark Blumenthal put it before the vote:

If Ann Selzer had wanted to play it safe, she could have weighted her results by past caucus participation or party identification (or both) as many other pollsters do. Her results would have been in line with other polls, far less controversial and no one would have questioned her judgment. But she didn't do that. As an Iowa based survey researcher, she put her own reputation and that of her most important client on the line because she believes in her methods and trusts her results....

Hillary chief strategist Mark Penn, on the other hand, looks like a sad spinner. But he has bigger problems. ... 5) In what is becoming a tradition, the network "entrance" polls were apparently a debacle. ... 6) If Iowa had been an authentic real primary election, instead of a hard-to-attend caucus, would Obama's win have been bigger, or smaller? Bigger, no? ... 7) Best unchecked rumor of the evening: Did Edwards bring in Pat Caddell for advice toward the end? That would explain the anger! ... 12:37 A.M. link

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Edwards aide Joe Trippi on RCP:

"Third place is going to be a big problem for anybody - we're not denying that - it'll be a big problem for us." 

Kinsley gaffe? 1:34 A.M.

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Just -in-time Blogging: Mark Blumenthal has an impressive number of useful things to say about Iowa polling in his exhaustive braindump. Note especially a) he casts aspersions on the Des Moines Register'stwo-day rolling trendline; b) but if Obama wins and the DMR poll is vindicated, many of the things other candidates' aides have said may take on a new meaning:

What if an influx of first-time caucus goers propels Obama to a modest victory margin? Given their spin yesterday, it will be quite a challenge for the other campaigns to shrug it off as an inconsequential result they saw coming all along. Now, if Obama wins with the help of a wave of caucus newcomers, it's not just a "win," it's an "unprecedented departure," a result "at odds with history," perhaps even a "revolution."

1:26 A.M. link

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Heed the Undernews Just a note to the tiny unrepresentative minority of Iowa voters who are going to participate in the Democratic caucus later today: If you want to vote for a Democrat who will actually make it to the White House, you have to think not only about their issue positions and their rhetorical skills and their personality but also about the scandals that might surface, even distasteful scandals you'd rather dismiss. This concern would be a subset of the oft-mentioned "electability" issue. You obviously don't want to pick someone the GOPs might blow out of the water in late August, right after he or she gets the nomination.

If you read this blog you know I think John Edwards is facing an unaddressed (or insufficiently addressed) potential scandal in the person of Rielle Hunter, about whom the National Enquirer has made some sensational allegations and about whom the Edwards camp has behaved very strangely. (Relevant denials included in the second Enquirer link.)  I'm not worried that this scandal will surface in August after the convention. I think the scandal will surface in a matter of days or weeks should Edwards win in Iowa. Right now the MSM is giving him a pass because--hey, why bring it up and hurt his wife if he's going to lose anyway. 

Because he's gotten a pass, Edwards has had weeks to figure out the best way to defuse any press coverage--or, if any of the accusations prove to be accurate, how to play them, The worry, then, is that Edwards might stave off a scandal effectively enough to get the nomination from the sympathetic party faithful, but be a far weaker general election candidate for it.

(I admit, I also think he'd be a terrible president. He can give an effective, heart-tugging closing argument. If governing were a trial, he'd be a good bet--though he did manage to lose a debate with Dick Cheney in 2004. But is there any evidence he actually knows how to run a large, bureaucratic organization? Some of his ideas, like his fake-tough  plan to demand that congressmen give up their own health plan if they don't support his universal plan, suggest he either doesn't know where the federal government's pressure points are or else he's cynically trying to fool equally clueless voters. I vote for 'cynical fooling,' but either way, the idea that President Edwards will actually be able to enact a big national health insurance plan seems a little far-fetched to me--even compared to the also-inexperienced Obama and the mal-experienced Mrs. Clinton.. If Edwards does somehow talk his way into the White House, I think the public will see through him--and he'll be ineffective--within six months..  ... 

But even if you disagree with this analysis, Rielle Hunter is a potential problem to consider! Please read the Enquirer story and decide if you think the semi-official pro-Edwards line about who is the father, etc. seems convincing to you, despite it's contradictions. I don't trust the Enquirer, but they've gotten some big stories right in the past.)

I have faith that you will make the right decision. ... Actually, no. I have zero faith that you will make the right decision. You thought Kerry was electable!  Iowa caucusers have a track record as miserable judges of political horseflesh. I'm counting on New Hampshire, a real primary where more than a super-motivated minority actually does the deciding. ... 12:08 A.M. link

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Why are "Thompson campaign ... sources" stabbing him in the back by telling reporters he may drop out ... just as a poll (OK, Zogby, still) shows him surging a bit in Iowa? Is currying favor with reporters that important? ... P.S.: I've always been suspicious of some Thompson "advisers." George W. Bush wasn't wrong about everything. ...

Update: Thompson responds to the story ("made up out of whole cloth"), as does his aide Rich Galen. See also Lowry ("I know Jonathan Martin and Mike Allen and they don't make things up.") ... 11:07 P.M.

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Maybe  Obama is the black Gary Hart after all: Marc Ambinder--

** Obama's closing argument is more audacious than it seems; it's an end-run around the established interests of the Democratic Party. He is angering -- often deliberately -- some of the party's core constituencies; Markos "Daily Kos" Moulitsas and my Atlantic colleague, Matt Yglesias, have both (sort of) withdrawn their endorsements of Obama because of his penchant for allegedly using right-wing talking points to smear his Democratic rivals.

Oh no. He might lose Yglesias! ...

P.S.:  There he goes echoing Republican talking points again --To his credit, Yglesias argues, contra Krugman:

I don't see any need for liberal pundits to get in the business of denying that labor unions are, in fact, "special interests." Indeed, it's impossible to understand the dynamics of American politics without acknowledging them to be special interests. They're special interests who sometimes take the "wrong" side of policy debates when what's "right" for the country is "wrong" for the sector in which they work.

I think the problem with unions--or, more precisely, with legalistic, work-rule-generating Wagner Act unions--is rather more general than this. But even Yglesias' concession is enough to condemn, say, the sacred cow Davis-Bacon Act, which effectively requires union wages for government construction projects.  (What's "right" for the country is that it be as inexpensive for the government to build something as it is for private industry. That's "wrong" for construction unions, who want the law to artificially boost wages in the government-construction sector above what the private market pays. Who should win?) Not to mention the teachers' unions. (What's "right" for the country is that mediocre teachers can be fired as easily as you'd cut a mediocre tight end from a football squad. What's right for the NEA is ...) ...  4:23 P.M. link

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I'm reluctant to write skeptically about the NYT's David Leonhardt--I owe him one, having failed to answer his reasonable response to a criticism of several years ago. (All in good time!) His contrast between Hillary Clinton's domestic policy approach ("narrowly tailored government policies, like focused tax cuts," relying on rational economic incentives) and Obama's (broader, "simpler" programs that acknowledge people don't act rationally) seems highly useful.

But I don't see how the great health care "mandates" debate fits this typology very well Isn't it Hillary who is proposing the broad, simple program: 'Everybody has to buy insurance!' And isn't this mandate at least somewhat similar to Obama's semi-mandatory ("opt out") employer-deduction savings plan in that it acknowledges people, if left to their own devices, won't do something that might in fact be good for them or at least for society,** even if given a seemingly sufficient incentive? Won't Obama need lots of little complex subsidies to enable people to afford the insurance he won't require them to buy? And if  he actually adds a penalty for those who buy insurance later, when they get sick, isn't he relying on the "idea that people respond rationally to financial incentives"?

That said, Leonhardt does make Hillary's vision seem dreary ("She has proposed new tax credits for savings, tuition, health care, elder care and renewable energy use. ...") Her husband's best moments as president weren't his little targeted tax breaks but his big, simple notions: "Make Work Pay," "End Welfare As We Know It," "Save Social Security First." ...

Update: Yglesias makes a similar point. ...

**--You could argue that mandating health insurance is designed to get young, healthy people to do something that might not really be in their rational economic self-interest, namely pay for health insurance they probably won't need. But you could also argue that the social interest in having a decent rate of savings is greater than the interest in any poor individual in putting aside money he or she could really use now. My college professor, Stephen Marglin, speculated that individuals would never voluntarily save enough to meet a society's investment needs. If I remember right either the savings had to be extracted artificially (e.g. involuntarily) or else the economic growth had to be so rapid that individuals saved simply because it took them a while to learn how to spend all their money. ... 1:02 A.M.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

On Samizdata, Paul Marks offers a fairly common defense of Fred Thompson:

Fred Thompson is in the middle of a 40 town Iowa tour - so he is hardly lazy. And he does go on television shows - thus dealing with critics, such as myself, who attacked him for not going on enough shows. But what sort of person would enjoy all this?

A lunatic.

I dunno. Sounds kinda fun to me! Being rushed from interview to interview, where reporters (who may not know a whole lot less about government than you do) hang on your every nuance, jot down each pensee? Waging an underdog campaign against unfair, flimsy media expectations? Occupying the center of attention wherever you go? Having an eager staff devoted to making you, you, you look good. Sounds like a the world's greatest book tour, only better. You don't need an emperor's ego to enjoy that sort of thing, or even a blogger's ego. A normal attorney's or reporter's or college professor's ego should do. ... There may be reasons why sane people are discouraged from running for president--e.g., fundraising, holding lower office--but the horrible experience of campaigning in Iowa for a month wouldn't seem to be among them. ... [via Instapundit] 10:17 P.M.

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To show he's not an Iowa-only candidate, self-described "angry and confrontational"  candidate Edwards releases a  list of his "leaders and advisors" in Feb. 5 primary states."[T]he list is not exactly overwhelming," says CBS's David Miller. Maybe Edwards will beat him up! ... [via Huffpo] 12:50 A.M. link

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Monday, December 31, 2007

I want to like Fred Thompson--or, rather, I like him and want to see him as a potential effective President. But I zoned out at around the 7:00 mark of his 17-minute closing "message to Iowa voters".  ... 17 minutes worked for "Sister Ray." It works for a convention speech. Maybe it works at a time of national crisis. It doesn't work staring at a camera and broadcasting on the web a few days before an election. ... At the least, if you're going to talk that long you can't read from a text. ... 11:25 P.M. link

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Do I detect a tacit   media conspiracy to make the Iowa caucuses inconclusive, and even irrelevant? I'm for that! ... P.S.: It's like the moment in mafia stories when the cops just get tired of the mobsters they've been corruptly cooperating with for years and decide it's time to kill them. ... The Iowa caucuses--shot while trying to escape. ... **

Update: The conspiracy to dismiss Iowa will be harder to maintain if the final Des Moines Register poll--showing non-trivial Huckabee and Obama leads--proves an accurate predictor. But the poll was taken from last Thursday through last Sunday. Hasn't there been a lot of ongoing movement since then? Tom Bevan at RCP notes the trends  in the poll's two-day rolling averages--which show both Obama and Edwards moving up, Clinton moving down. ...

More: What did the DMR poll show in 2004? It "turned out to be quite predictive, notes Michael Crowley. It had Kerry leading and Edwards surging, which was the actual result. But in 2004 it came out only a day before the caucuses--not three days before. (Correction: The actual polling in 2004 was finished on the Friday before a Tuesday election--same interval as this year,  Mark Blumenthal notes. The 2004 poll was just released closer to the vote.)... Plus this year's poll seems to assume that an awful lot of independents are going to turn out and vote in the Dem caucus (especially for Obama). Ambinder: "Obama's internal polling does not show this high a proportion of independents choosing to caucus."  ...

Update: Blumenthal and his commenters  thoroughly masticate the issues surrounding the DMR poll, with bonus anti-Zogby sniping! ... Note also the anti-Burkle-like paranoia surrounding the ownership of polling outfit Opinion Research by Clinton supporter Vinod Gupta. As the NYT put it back in July:

[Some critical  investors] have also questioned Mr. Gupta's decision to pay a substantial premium last December to acquire the Opinion Research Corporation, which has done opinion surveys for CNN since April 2006. In January, CNN began using Opinion Research for its presidential polling, leading conservative bloggers to ask if Mr. Gupta, as a Clinton supporter, should have influence over CNN's polling.

Mr. Gupta called Opinion Research "a natural fit" for his business, adding that he had no involvement with its polling operations. A review of its poll results over the last six months found them mostly in line with other campaign surveys. [E.A.]

Not any more! Opinion Research's poll is the only one of the three recent polls to show Clinton winning. The third poll, from Insider Advantage, shows Edwards winning handily once the second choices of the "non-viable" candidates are counted. Insider Advantage polled Friday and Saturday--ending a day earlier than DMR. But I don't know why that would work against Edwards. ...

**--It's possible that the Hillary camp is spinning reporters in the Iowa-decides-nothing direction--always a possibility when Adam Nagourney is involved! But at this point, given the uncertainy, all the Democratic candidates would probably happily contract for an inconclusive outcome that would let hem all go on to New Hampshire. Maybe they're all spinning the anti-Iowa story--a happy confluence of short-term individual and long-term national interest. ... 6:58 P.M. link

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Quien es mas ... ? Edsall says Edwards' new tough-guy posing is stealing male caucusers away from Obama. ... P.S.: Hey, Edwards is looking more macho  than we'd thought! ...  3:24 P.M. link

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Press pros on the ground (excitable Joe Klein,, Marc Cooper, the First Read crew) are convinced Huckabee's press conference today--in which he announced he was pulling a negative campaign spot and then showed it to the press anyway--was so disastrous as to be Dean-screamish. Like Jonathan Martin, I'm not so sure. Huckabee's transparently trying to have it both ways--but it's not clear why he won't have it both ways. Transparently cynical  arrangements seem to be working well this year! At least with Iowans.... P.S.: This seems like the MSM jumping in in order to discover for itself that Huckabee is imploding after he has already been taken down by Romney's attack spots. ...

Update-Now That's Contrarianism: Chris Beam thinks Huckabee might actually have been sincere. ...

More: Rachel Sklar  suggests it was a "masterstroke," not a meltdown. ...  2:00 P.M. link

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Kf Hero of the Day: Gov. Strickland of Ohio, who commits a classic Kinsley gaffe, foolishly telling the truth about Iowa ... and about New Hampshire.

In an interview with The Dispatch last week, Strickland said the Iowa caucuses make "no sense." He called the GOP and Democratic caucuses "hugely undemocratic," because the process "excludes so many people." Anyone who happens to be working or is sick or too old to get out for a few hours Thursday night won't be able to participate, Strickland said.

"I'd like to see both parties say, 'We're going to bring this to an end,'" Strickland said, adding that he has no problem with the New Hampshire primary Jan. 8, because "at least it's an election." [E.A.]

Letting the presidential nominee be picked by the Iowa caucusers is like letting your antiwar tactics be picked by the last people left at the end of a 4-hour SDS meeting in 1970. The result: the leftist radicals win! [But you were all leftist radicals. It was an SDS meeting--ed Oh, right.  I mean, the most committed partisans who have nothing better to do with their time win! In Iowa these people are proven fools, remember.]

Update: John Fund notes that Iowa's silly process is not an accident.

The caucuses are run by the state parties, and unlike primary or general elections aren't regulated by the government. They were designed as an insiders' game to attract party activists, donors and political junkies and give them a disproportionate influence in the process. In other words, they are designed not to be overly democratic

Fund's piece also has gives good headline! ... 1:11 A.M. link

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

He Dieted for Our Sins--Or Did He? Republican Undernews! Did Huckabee go  bariatric?Plutarch makes the (surprisingly non-weak) case  with photos and graphs. ... P.S.: The Arkansas ex-governor's dramatic weight loss is to his campaign what Edwards' loyalty to his sick wife is to the latter's campaign. In each case, there are undernews suspicions. In each case, these suspicions are likely to become overnews--i.e. news--if (as is very possible) the candidate in question emerges victorious from Iowa. In each case, apparently, the suspicions could be dissipated by the presentation of routine medical evidence. [How with Edwards? Just between us--ed Aternity-pay Est-tay] ...

Backfill: Jonah Goldbeg has one argument against bariatricity. ... Powerline commenters debate here. ... Another Huck defense here. ...  8:26 P.M. link

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From Shrill to Shill! It looks like that pro-Edwards "527" group defended by Paul Krugman as a "labor 527" and a "527 run by labor unions" actually got about a third of its money  "in a single check from an entity linked to Rachel Mellon, the widow of Paul Mellon, who inherited his share of the great American fortunes." ...

P.S.: Obama's point in attacking Edwards  on the 527 issue was, of course, not that it was wrong to accept union help but the transparent phoniness of Edwards boasting "I support public financing of federal elections"--and saying "these [527] groups should not be a part of the political process"--when this one is run by his former campaign manager and obviously set up to help his campaign. ... 

P.P.S.: Edwards seems to be good at these elaborate charades! [What are you thinking of?--ed Oh, nothing.] ...

Update: Overlawyered raises another question  about the Mellon contribution.

Related anti-Krugmania: Steve Smith reads FDR's Madison Square Garden speech and finds some "Obamaesque" passages Krugman must have missed. ... See also Jon Alter, on--among other things--Krugman's convenient ex cathedra  assertion that a populist candidate would do better than a more moderate candidate in the general election (something Krugman supports with on surveys of debate-watching   Democrats). ... 1:20 A.M. link

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mark Halperin's "The Page" has suddenly become indispensable if you're trying to follow the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. ... I guess that was his plan all along! P.S.: NBC's excellent First Read is also one of the few sites that's posting enough to cover the rapid developments. But they're trying to do it all themselves. Halperin's playing Drudge, which is much more efficient. ... 8:13 P.M.

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Does MSM mean "Media Saves McCain"? Howie Kurtz goes to bat against Romney's anti-McCain ad with a defense that's much more misleading than any ad I've seen:

Romney's description of McCain's failed immigration bill -- which was backed by President Bush -- is so selective as to be misleading. The measure would have allowed illegal immigrants to seek legal status only if they first returned to their country of origin and paid a fine, and it was coupled with stricter border enforcement -- key elements omitted by the ad. Romney called a similar bipartisan effort "reasonable" in 2006. It is not true that McCain backed Social Security for illegals; a Senate amendment would have allowed payment of past benefits only after immigrants obtained legal status. [E.A.]

The provision requiring a return "to their country of origin"--the so-called "touchback" plan--was in fact not part of the reform that McCain has righteously championed for years. It was added at the last minute, as the bill was sliding down the tubes, in a desperate attempt to attract conservative votes. (The bill failed anyway two days later.) The provision was also a fraud, but that's almost beside the point. ...

Why don't reporters like WaPo's Kurtz** and NYT's Santora--both of whom have now peddled correction-worthy pro-McCain misinformation--stop pretending they are enforcing truth or fairness and just face the perhaps-subconscious motive that's evident to nearly everyone: They liked McCain's failed immigration reform, or they like McCain, or they like their own acceptance into the comfortable bipartisan "comprehensive" consensus, and they instinctively for the ways to defend him against what they assume must be crude, yahooesque attacks from the right?

**--Have I mentioned that Howard Kurtz has the biggest conflict of interest in the business? Not lately! ... 7:54 P.M.

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Is Gen. Petraeus Killing Kos? Even though there's a big election on, Daily Kos traffic peaked in August, and has been trending down ever since, according to this forthright Onemadson post  (noted by Geraghty and  Instapundit). ... Hmm. I don't think the cause is "candidate wars." I was at a very nice left-wing party over the holidays and the youthful antiwar types were saying that traffic was down on all the left-wing sites because of ... Iraq. ... That's not what I said. It's what they said. ... Iraq just isn't as salient now that it doesn't seem to be spiraling into apocalypse. ... P.S.: Was the left-wing blogosphere always mainly about Iraq? ... P.P.S.: Of course, some right-wing sites seem to be experiencing a mild decline since August also. Maybe the whole blogosphere was about Iraq! ...

Update: Maguire does some actual research, and discovers that "the big lefty sites ...peaked in April (Atrios, MY DD, C&L) or February (Firedoglake); the righty sites peaked in October (Instapundit, Ms. Malkin) or March (Powerline)." He speculates that the left sites are simply coming down off an anomalous spike in traffic caused by the Feb./March Libby trial. But the "surge" explanation also fits that timetable, as a commenter notes. ... 1:01 A.M.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Truthchecking the MSM's Truthcheckers: The New York Times' Marc Santora  declares Romney's anti-McCain ad "selective or worse, misleading" on immgration:

For instance, Mr. Romney claims Mr. McCain "even voted to allow illegals to collect Social Security."

The more complicated reality is that Mr. McCain supported legislation that would allow illegal immigrants who come forward, pay fines, then wait their turn to become citizens the chance to collect Social Security — but only after they are citizens.

Santora has to be wrong. ... [pause for Googling] ... He is. Under McCain's bill, legal immigrants wouldn't collect Social Security "only after they are citizens." They would collect Social Security after they had become legal.  In fact, illegal immigrants apparently don't even have to become citizens now,  under current law--if they're legalized, they can collect Social Security, even for work they performed here when they were illegal.

The distinction between "citizen" and "legal" is important, because it's easier to become a legal worker than it is to "wait" and become a full-fledged citizen. And McCain's "comprehensive immigration reform" would have legalized millions of current illegals fairly quickly. Hence, it would ... how to put it? ... "allow illegals to collect Social Security." Romney's charge seems basically accurate.** The New York Times seems "selective or worse, misleading." ... P.S.: Actually, no. It's not "selective." Or merely "misleading." Make that "misinformed or worse, spun by the McCain camp." ...

Update: Note that McCain's response to Romney's charge has largely avoided an actual defense of McCain's position, focusing instead on Romney's flaws. See here, here, here, and here.

**--It's reasonably clear from the context of the ad that Romney is saying that McCain would let illegals collect Social Security by giving them amnesty, not by allowing them to remain illegal and collect Social Security. But you be the judge. ...[via Ambinder] 7:19 P.M. link

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The Feiler Faster Thesis  suggests that by next Thursday the Benazir Bhutto tragedy will loom shockingly small in Iowa. ... 4:45 P.M.

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It's CW that Hillary Clinton "would rather ... come in fourth"** in Iowa if John Edwards finishes first than come in a close second to Barack Obama. (Or maybe even than coming in a close first to Obama.) For Hillary, it's all about getting rid of Obama. But what about for Obama? Which of these two scenarios would he prefer?

Obama--35

Edwards--33

Clinton--25

or

Clinton-35

Obama--33

Edwards-25

It's close, no? Getting rid of Edwards--making it a Hillary vs. Obama race--seems very important to Obama. If he comes in a competitive second to Hillary, on the other hand, will the press really declare that Hillary's delivered a "knockout punch" and go home? I doubt it. They'll want to set up an epic two-person battle. ...

Update: Edsall says "the least attractive outcome for Obama would be to see Hillary win Iowa on January 3." Really? Even if Edwards finished third (something that admittedly looks unlikely as of this posting on 12/31)? ...

**Chris Matthews, 12/26 ... 4:40 P.M.

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Tariq Ali on Benazir Bhutto: Written before her death.  Quite nasty. I don't trust him.** For all I know he may now regret writing it. But there is a lot here to chew on, especially the intrigues surrounding her brother Murtaza. Compare with John Burns' NYT obituary. ...

**--Reflexive anti-Americanism would be the charge against Ali. For example, would U.S. non-interference in neighboring Afghanistan really end "instability" in Kabul and "the tribal areas betwen the two countries" in a way that didn't simply empower Al Qaeda? ... 12:28 A.M.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

One Hed Fits All: Are you impressed with a drop in home values of 6.6% over a year? It doesn't seem like such a big correction, given the dramatic run-up in prices over the last decade or so. ... And don't declining prices make housing more... what's the word? ... affordable?** ... This evening NBC Nightly News billboarded a "housing CRISIS." (Link available here.) I thought a "housing crisis" was when people couldn't find housing, not when it got cheaper. (NBC's expert: "It's very, very difficult to find any silver lining." No it's not.) ...

P.S.:Instapundit suggests  that the press may (in the words of a reader) "scupper Main Street confidence" in the economy when all it really wants to do is scupper the Republicans. You'd think the Fed or someone would address this structural issue by creating a reliable way for reporters to sabotage Republicans directly, without having to go through the intermediate stage in which they drag the entire economy down too. Sort of an earned "path to partisanship": For every sensible, non-hysterical story about the economy's perturbations under a GOP president, Dem-leaning reporters get to apply an anti-GOP double standard in a non-economic story. ...

**--Update: "Affordable housing," and "housing crisis," as traditionally used by critics on the left, includes rental housing. If the credit crunch prevents people from buying houses, and those houses are sitting around unsold, they'll be rented, no? Which will tend to drive rents lower. Am I missing something? (This is a response to Bill Quick  and others). ...

More:   Quick responds that rents in San Francisco are going up, as people who can't get a mortgage to buy a home crowd into the rental market. Hey, the same thing happens in my neighborhood!. But it's a short-term (and maybe localized) effect, no? Speculators who own houses have an interest in renting them rather than leaving them vacant--even at bargain rents. I would very much doubt it if rents are rising in overbuilt South Florida, for example. .. [pause to Google] ... Yep.:

Depressed housing market is good news for renters 

Glut of property makes it cheaper than buying home

Harriet Johnson Brackey/Personal finance

December 9, 2007

What a good time it is in South Florida for renters.

Rent is falling and renters have their pick of places to live: Apartments, condominiums, apartments that used to be condos that have gone back to apartments. Not to mention single-family homes for rent from accidental landlords. ...[snip]

Research from Axiometrics, a Dallas firm that studies major apartment markets around the country, shows that rents in Fort Lauderdale in the third quarter of this year are down by 2.2 percent compared with last year. In Palm Beach County, the decline is 7.8 percent and in Miami-Dade County rents are off by 0.7 percent.

"In a lot of the overbuilt markets, it's better to be a renter than an owner," said Axiometrics President Ron Johnsey.

Again, I'm not saying the credit crunch isn't a problem. I'm not saying that a lot of middle class Americans haven't bet a lot on the continued rise in their homes' value, or that if they take a big hit the resulting slowdown in their spending might not tip the whole economy into a recession. (But it might not!) I'm saying that during the runup in housing prices the air was filled with complaints from the left that the rich were bidding up the value of housing, which was becoming unaffordable for ordinary Americans whose wages were rising only slowly, etc.. Now that this process is unwinding, some of this affordability problem is presumably being corrected. I'm amazed Quick resists this point. He must own. ...

Corner reactions here. ... 7:57 P.M. link

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Is illegal immigration like crime in New York: They said it could never be reduced, until it was? More evidence that even the mild efforts at border control are having an impact.

a) The Gran Salida continues, reports Reuters, although the story offers no hard numbers (just a reported "spike" at a Mexcian consulate).  Instapundit notes that one non-enforcement explanation--a shift in exchange rates--doesn't appear to hold water.

b) And they don't keep on coming: Meanwhile, the LAT reports on a decline in incoming illegal immigration, and the paper has some numbers. ... Mexicans who say they plan to seek work abroad: down by a third. ... Border arrests: down by 20%. ... Most significantly:

The growth rate of the U.S. Mexican-born population has dropped by nearly half to 4.2% in 2007 from about 8% in 2005 and 2006, according to an analysis of census data by the Pew Hispanic Center. [E.A.]

That seems pretty dramatic. True, there's a debate about how much of the drop is due to stepped-up enforcement and how much to a decline in construction work.  The official PC position appears to be that enforcement can't possibly have anything to do with it.** Still, the drop suggests that border control efforts may have at least as much effect on shaping the future electorate in the long run as attempts by Republicans to win over Mexican-Americans by pursuing McCainesque semi-amnesty proposals.  [But illegals don't vote-ed. Their U.S.-born children do. Plus, fewer illegals = less demand for semi-amnesty, no? Which makes it less likely that a whole new group of previously illegal Latino immigrants will ever become voters. Pandering to this now-smaller group of potential future voters in turn bcomes less appealing.]

.**--you see "the border buildup has encouraged more illegal immigrants to employ professional smugglers, whose success rate is higher than that of individuals, according to Wayne Cornelius, director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego." OK, but doesn't the cost of hiring a professional itself deter illegal immigration? And are the pros getting less successful--and more expensive? ... 7:21 P.M. link

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How grudging  and testy is Bob Wright's acceptance of the surge's relative success? (And he wasn't even against it.)  ... 1:58 P.M.

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Undernews Underanalysis: Still impressive, near-total lack of MSM pickup of the National Enquirer's Edwards scandal allegations.** My guess regarding MSM thinking is 1) Nobody wants to hurt Elizabeth Edwards and 2) Everybody figures that if John Edwards loses in Iowa, there's no reason to mention the story. It will go away and nobody will have to cover it.  ... If Edwards wins Iowa, however, that calculus would presumably change.

P.S..: Were the story to break out in the MSM before Iowa, the Edwards camp might react by allowing his popular wife make an impassioned plea for her husband, against sleaze, etc., which would generate considerable sympathy. His support in the caucuses could well go up in the short run. If you don't want Edwards to win--as  I don't--it may be best at this point if the story stays undernews until January 4. Which puts me in the same page as the MSM, I think.

In other words, under this theory the worst outcome for Edwards is if the Enquirer account slowly seeps into voter consciousness, but doesn't become known enough for Edwards to be able to profit by making a big deal of it in public (which would have the downside of bringing it to more or less every voter's attention).  ... That assumes Edwards remains in contention. Should he fall significantly behind in the polls, then making a big deal out of it becomes a plausible Hail Mary gambit. ...

P.P.S.--Mickey's Assignment Desk: Are the issues of the Enquirer making it to the supermarket stands in Iowa? If anyone's there and can check, I'd love to know. ...

**-- Relevant denials are included in the Enquirer story. See also Edwards' denial ("made up") in this Rush & Molloy column. ... 3:01 A.M. link

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AARGH! Cardinal "Mike" Richelieu casts aspersions on an ARG Iowa poll ("looks off because it near-certainly is"). ... Barack Obama better hope that this more recent ARG poll is off. It has him plunging into third place in the caucuses. ...

[T]he problem in trying to assess the ARG poll is that we know so little about it. Does ARG make call-backs to unavailable respondents? What was the sample composition on any ARG Iowa survey this year in terms of age and education level, and was this one suddenly different? Did ARG weight the results by age or education this time, and if so, by how much? We are in the dark on all of these questions. ...

See also: Jay Cost, who offers more reasons for caution but not dismissal. ... 1:38 A.M.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Mick Shand, one of the few survivors of the "Great Escape"-- the last man to make it out of the tunnel--has died at age 92. ... P.S.: The book was better than the movie. ... 12:43 P.M.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

I'm staying out of the great Politico vs. Fred Thompson debate. Many campaign events seem forced and awkward to me. Thompson's fire-station drop-by looked maybe more awkward than most.   So? Is gladhanding ability all that crucial a presidential talent? More important,  as Instapundit notes, Thompson's answer to local paper's farm policy question wasn't entirely "glittering generalities" (Politico's quote from an editor). Thompson eventually got around to saying:

We're going to have to phase out the corporate welfare system we've got, however. There are extremely rich people living in skyscrapers in Manhattan that are receiving subsidy payments. I think that's wrong. I'd put a stop to that if it was within my power. That still continues in this latest Farm Bill and it's not right. There ought to be a cutoff at some level and it's not right to have millionaires receiving farm subsidies.

People who know more about farm issues can tell me how brave and non-pandering an answer that is. But "phase out the corporate welfare system we've got" would seem to have some bite. ... P.S.: Here's McCain on the same topic. Arguably braver, since he talks of reducing all subsidies, not mainly about cutting off the rich. Still. ... 11:40 P.M.

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Did you know that CITGO, effectively owned by the Venezuelan government headed by Hugo Chavez, runs ads in the U.S.  urging Latinos to buy its gas on the basis of ethnic solidarity--as "Energia Latina"?  .... One ad is here. ...10:31 P.M.

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If Hillary's poll numbers in Iowa show her losing badly early next week, wouldn't she be smart to have her much-rumored staff shakeup the day before the Iowa caucuses? That way a) the story the next day becomes "Hillary relaunches campaign" instead of "Hillary crushed" and b) she might even convince some people that she lost because of the staff shakeup. ...Even if she doesn't think she needs a shakeup, it might be a good idea to have one. ... P.S.: Blame Bill: Implicitly blaming her staff seems more promising than blaming her husband. She' stuck with her husband.** And do we really think Hillary's main problem is subconscious sabotage from her husband? Isn't Hillary's problem Hillary? ...

**--Unless ... you don't think ... Now that would be a staff shakeup. ... 10:51 A.M. link

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Friday, December 21, 2007

The Matrix: Room Eight's Jerry Skurnick has suggested that the electorate is splitting into two diverging parts--people who follow politics and people who don't--with the people who follow politics much better informed than they were before (thanks to cable, web, etc.) and the people who don't follow politics less well informed (they used to get at least some information from Walter Cronkite). That certainly rings true to me. And it may, as Skurnick claims, explain some of the new volatility in polling--e.g., when the uninformed majority suddenly discovers, say, that Rudy Giuliani has been married three times.

But there's a second way to divide the electorate that asks how the voters inform themselves. Do they rely on the traditional Mainstream Media (MSM), or do they get their political information from the Web, from cable news, from the tabloids, etc. This division may have once seemed unimportant, but it doesn't anymore--its seriousness is suggested by the MSM's impressive resistance to stories bubbling up from the blogs and the tabs that don't meet MSM standards (putting aside whether you regard those standards as high or merely idiosyncratic). "Rielle Hunter"--the woman whom the National Enquirer alleges was John Edwards' mistress--was the top-searched name on the MSN site at one point Thursday, I'm told.  Meanwhile, in the traditional mainstream press, 'Rielle Hunter" was mentioned only ... well, zero times.

Of the two ways to divide the electorate, the second is arguably more important. After all, even those who don't follow politics, will eventually inform themselves before the election.** But if the MSM/Web barrier remains as robust as it's been, those who inform themselves from the MSM will find out something different, when they finally tune in, than those who go to the Web and learn both the news and what might be called the "undernews." ***  If you're thinking of voting as a Democrat in Iowa or New Hampshire, you might watch NBC and never know about this messy Rielle Hunter business. Or you might read DailyKos know the whole allegation plus the arguments against it plus seven theories about how it came to light. That knowledge might cause voters to vote against Edwards or to vote for him--but either way first they have to find out.

Likewise, TNR's  Noam Scheiber suggests that the egghead sector ( "urban, college-educated liberals") of the Democratic party--which used to be less partisan and combative than the blue-collar/labor sector--is now more partisan and combative, because its eggy heads are wrapped up in Kos and other anti-Bush sites, where they absorb the latest undernews about the machinations of Karl Rove and Tom DeLay. Scheiber argues this is a good development for Obama, who surprisingly doesn't have to become more partisan then he actually is in order to win over non-egghead (labor) Dems.

The 2008 campaign will be a test of the relative strength of these various differently-informed electorates. Of those who follow politics (Skurnick's first group) how many follow the "undernews" and how many merely watch Brian Williams? Of those who don't follow politics (Skurnick's second group) how many bone up in the end by madly googling the candidates, and how many just read the editorial endorsements in their local papers?  The non-MSM Enquirer will be in the checkout aisles all over Iowa, but will it have an impact?

At the moment it looks as if Edwards has the most at stake in this great experiment, but others will have a stake soon enough. . Much of the anti-"amnesty" immigration movement has been consigned to the Undernews simply because the MSM consensus in favor of some kind of "comprehensive" legalization has been so strong. Why even cover those nativist kooks? That's no longer true, but there may be other issues the MSM doesn't cover, including various partisan conspiracy theories and maybe entire candidacies (e.g. Ron Paul).

My guess is that Skurnick's largest group--those who don't normally follow politics--will by and large continue in 2008 to get their "free media" from the conventional press. That means they won't, by and large, learn the undernews. The MSM will still dominate this election. But not the next one.

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**--You might think there would only be three groups: Non-Followers, people who follow through the MSM, and people who follow through non-MSM. But the non-followers who actually vote will have to start following some time, at which point they will also fall into two groups: either relying on the MSM or going beyond it. It's a four-box matrix--very exciting--although the box of "those who don't follow politics but then learn from blogs" presumably doesn't contain many voters.

 ***--Apologies to Sam Smith of Undernews, and the various sites that use this term in what may be a different way. 3:39 A.M. link

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

McCain's Secret Friends? Pithy, knowledgeable Weekly Standard blogger Richelieu busts Edwards aides for forced spinning of their man's comeback. But Richelieu himself keeps spinning McCain comeback scenarios--the latest suggests that Giuliani could become a "Superman" by dropping out and endorsing McCain. If, as everyone including me suspects, Richelieu is in fact former McCain strategist Mike Murphy, someone should bust him. The Standard is depriving its readers of a key fact they need to judge his posts. ... P.S.: This is not to say that Edwards or McCain might not, in fact, come back. ...Update: And isn't Jake Tapper a famously huge McCain fan? Today ABC's evening news led with Tapper's report hyping McCain rival Giuliani's apparently brief illness  as if it were the equivalent of Paul Tsongas' cancer. ... 3:53 P.M. link

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"Nice Hagel!' Malcolm Gladwell has elaborated a Theory of Disqualifying Statements, in the context of courtship:

For every romantic possibility, no matter how robust, there exists at least one equal and opposite sentence, phrase, or word ... capable of extinguishing it.

Gladwell gives two examples of such disqualifying phrases. ("Brown," and "nice Tits!").

There are similar Disqualifying Statements in politics, words that will extinguish your enthusiasm for a candidate at the very moment when you are ready to swoon for him (or her). Here's one of those words: "Hagel." As in:

Barack Obama has often said he'd consider putting Repbulicans in his cabinet and even bandied about names like Sens. Dick Lugar and Chuck Hagel.

Forget that this is a cliche appeal to hack Washington bipartisanism, that Sen. Hagel's reputation seems to have been built on the substitution of good looks and agonizing passion for coherent, articulated thought, that the press mainly loves him because he's always ready to go on television and stab his party in the back. Why would you promote Hagel at the very moment when his prediction that the Surge was "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam" appears to have been humiliatingly wrong? Disastrously wrong, potentially, if it had been heeded. Disqualifyingly wrong, you'd think. Obama is saying, in effect, that his need for respectable approval trumps reality. ...

P.S.: And just when many people (e.g. me) were trying to conivnce themselves that Obama's inexperience wouldn't be a problem because he'd surround himself with terrific advisors. ...

P.P.S.: "Hagel" isn't as much of a disqualifying statement as "I support the Davis-Bacon Act." But it's close! ... 12:01 P.M. link

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The Wages of Lehaneism: Steve Stark explains why Hillary gets unfavorable press:

[T]he crew that publicly surrounds Hillary has consistently come across as the most arrogant group of know-it-alls ever to populate the modern campaign stage. (When one considers the group that surrounded Richard Nixon, that's really saying something.) Every question is seemingly answered with a snarl. Every challenge appears to be greeted with a personal insult. ("We don't comment on books that are utter and complete failures," was one such riposte.) [E.A.]

It's not a complicated dynamic! I remember feeling that way about Joe Biden's 1988 staffers when I worked at Newsweek. I internally resolved to screw them to the maximum reasonable extent if the opportunity ever arose. ... The "we don't comment on books" line is a bit of Lehane-style fightback the Hillary camp must have been particularly proud of. But it had long-term costs way in excess of its short term benefits. (Political journalists, remember, are people who tend to write books that are utter and complete failures.) .... 11:32 P.M. link

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What am I, a potted plant? Like a blogger trying to seem sophisticated, Rush Limbaugh embraces the fallacy that just because the National Enquirer published a scandal story about John Edwards a couple of weeks away from an election, it must be a "hit":

 But I've been trying to think: who leaked, who planted, who dropped this story right before a neck-and-neck primary?  

Sometimes a story is just a story. They're not all plants..Sometimes they just, you know, bubble up! And they tend to bubble up right before elections for the same reason students tend to check out library books right before finals--it's fish-or-cut-bait, use-it-or-lose-it time for sources and reporters alike. ...2:52 A.M. link

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Level-headed Kos diary.ImpeccableLiberalCredentials argues Edwards

needs to avoid sabotaging himself with denials if they will not be borne out by facts, ignoring the rumors or issuing reckless challenges to the media - mistakes that have brought down frontrunners with even more substance and experience than Edwards has.

P.S.: Less level-headed Kos diary. I'm sure the commenters will defend me! ... 12:04 P.M.

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Rielle Hunter Update: Respected stock researcher  and astral  analyst Jerome Armstrong has the claim of paternity from the lawyer for former Edwards' aide Andrew Young. ... P.S.: Sure seems like a lot of secrecy-- features of the Enquirer story  that are undisputed in the statement-- if Young and Hunter are just "a couple that's expecting a child." ... P.P.S.: The solution of living with your wife and family and the pregnant mother of your forthcoming offspring in the same gated community seems a little, well, old-school Mormon!. .. Also: Note that Young's lawyer writes

the relationship between these former co-workers, which began when they worked together in 2006.

But Hunter, in her original MyDD-posted denial, declared:

When working for the Edwards camp, my conduct as well as the conduct of my entire team was completely professional.

I sense a contradiction! . ... 1:34 A.M. link

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

[See Correction appended]Pollster.com's Mark Blumenthal notes a big reason why those gratuitous network Iowa caucus "entrance" polls  might be wrong. As he puts it in an email, "There is zero check against younger interviewer bias"--meaning that when the networks employ young interviewers older caucusers tend to avoid talking to them.

Keep in mind that the 2004 [exit poll] debacle was partly the result of younger, presumably Dem interviewers having greater trouble approaching or interviewing older Republican voters.  This despite the age / gender "adjustment" that [CBS pollster] Frankovic talks about.

Why this matters:  As Frankovic notes, Obama's support is much higher among voters under 45.  So never mind the deliberation, post threshold reallocation, etc.  The entrance poll will likely show Obama doing better than he'll really do even among those entering

The networks could leave the Iowa caucuses to their own perverse, undemocratic and historically misguided devices without making them more perverse and undemocratic. But then how would network polling divisions justify their existence? ...

See  earlier post. ...

Correction: It turns out the networks will attempt to correct for the tendency of older caucusers to avoid young entrance poll interviews.  But the fix requires the already-harried entrance polltakers to keep an accurate tally of the voters who don't talk to them (are they old, male, female etc.). It's not clear that this can be pulled off in the crush "as voters stream in for the 6:30 p.m. caucus start," Blumenthal notes. But he has posted a correction. ....11:48 P.M. link

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What to expect when you're expecting: Drudge teases the National Enquirer  ... Update: The Enquirer posts the gist  ...Update: The full Enquirer story is now up. ... One initial point: There's no reason to conclude this story was planted by one campaign or another. I'm familiar with how the initial Rielle Hunter/Edwards rumors, true or not, got to at least one news outlet--and no campaigns, Dem or GOP, were involved. It was a story going around--I'd been hearing it for months. Not all rumors are plants. And some are true. Even in the Enquirer. .. P.S.: Here's an earlier  analysis of the potential effect of this scandal on Edwards--and Hillary. It doesn't seem all that complicated. Until recently, Edwards not very subtly put his wife's illness. and his loyalty to her, near the center of his campaign. In the process,  he said:

In so many ways, you're the guardians of what kind of human being, we're going to have as president. ... And you get to judge us.

and, on 60 Minutes:

[E]very single candidate for president, Republican and Democratic have lives, personal lives, that indicate something about what kind of human being they are. And I think it is a fair evaluation for America to engage in to look at what kind of human beings each of us are, and what kind of president we'd make.

Backfill: Here's Jerome Armstrong's initial Rielle Hunter denial  from back inOctober ("completely unfounded and ridiculous") ...

Update: Many readers report the story has disappeared from the Enquirer's web site. I don't know why, but you can't be too paranoid when Ron Burkle might be involved. (If it hurt Edwards, the story would potentially devastate Burkle's candidate Hillary, who needs Edwards to beat or dilute Obama in Iowa. That's why it's crazy to suggest that Hillary's camp planted it.)

Just in case, I've saved my cached copy. You can do it too!.  ...

12/19 Update: The Enquirer has now posted a more complete version. Editor in Chief David Perel emails Wonkette:  "Due to a website malfunction a summary of the story went live last night for a brief time. It was then taken down because it was scheduled to be released this morning." ...  4:54 P.M. link

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Congress' Fence-Gutting: Get the old gang back together one more time? Provisions buried in the huge omnibus spending bill about to pass Congress gut the program to build a border fence, according to Republicans--and they appear to have a point:

The 2006 Secure Fence Act specifically called for "two layers of reinforced fencing" and listed five specific sections of border where it should be installed. The new spending bill removes the two-tier requirement and the list of locations.

Defenders of the changes (i.e. Sen. Hutchison of Texas) argue that the Department of Homeland Security should have discretion to "utilize limited resources." But the whole problem is that nobody trusts President Bush's Department of Homeland Security. Or anybody's Department of Homeland Security, for that matter. Whoever is president, DHS will always have a bureaucratic bias toward expanding its budget by employing more DHS personnel--e.g. border patrol agents--and less cheap, inanimate fencing. They can't be expected to stand up to the businesses and local interests and ACLU lawyers and diplomats who hate the fence and will always lobby against it.

Shouldn't the old "yahoo" coalition from earlier this year reform and bombard the Capitol with phone calls to get the House and Senate to drop the fence-gutting language? I say yes. a) The project seems doable--Dem Congressman are trying to appear tough on border security and are unlikely to cling to the fence-weakening provisions, Spitzer-style and b) if they backed down, it would provide a valuable deterrent demonstration for future politicians who try to sneak border-weakening provisions past the vigilant yahoo community. ....

One problem is that a prominent border-control blogger, Michelle Malkin, is wedded to a silly idiosyncratic position that the fence is "gesture politics,"  as opposed to something the soft-on-illegals lobby (including Republican business interests) oppose precisely because it will actually work. ....

Update--It's on: Border-control group Numbers USA has sent out an "action" alert to its lists, ("Senate Vote this afternoon. Stop Congress from gutting the Secure Fence Act!") Doesn't seem like a lot of time if the vote is this afternoon, however. ... 12:09 P.M. link

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Monday, December 17, 2007

It's come to this: Counterproductive overspinner Chris Lehane and his firm get $100,000 a month  (according to S.F. Chronicle's Matier & Ross) to craft mindlessly combative sound bites for Hollywood studios in their dispute with the Writers Guild. Sample sound bit (after union president Andy Stern severed ties with Lehane):

"The real issue here is that Stern needs to do some explaining on how it is that he is fighting for people who make more than doctors and pilots against the interest of real working-class people (set workers and others who have been sidelined during the strike) - and less time punching at shadows."

I dunno. That one was worth maybe only $99,000. ... But hey, you have to hit back! It's the Lehane way. Ask President Gore. [So now that people who buy you dinner are on strike, you're suddenly pro-union?--ed No. Just Anti-Lehane.] 5:50 P.M.

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New Clinton ad: "Hillary's mom lives with her." But does her husband? Mickey's Assignment Desk: Has anybody updated Patrick Healy's May, 2006 story and calculated the number of days Bill Clinton has spent in Hillary's Washington, D.C. house in the past year (now that it's been officially designated as the place where you live when you live "with" Hillary)? If you're going to flaunt your home life then people are entitled to examine your home life. ... Assigned to: Healy. Hillaryland already hates him. He might as well take all the flak.  ... 5:19 P.M.

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The TV networks are screwing around with the already-absurd Iowa caucuses again, using an "entrance poll" of only 40 precincts (out of more than 3,500) that threatens to manufacture a misleading result. Ah, but it's all justified because of the valuable information the network poll will gather! Politico's Roger Simon reports

Though the actual questionnaire that will be handed to voters is a secret, Kathy Frankovic, the CBS News director of surveys, told me it would probably include 12 to15 multiple choice questions asking such things as when the voters decided on whom to support, how they feel about the Iraq war, whether they are in a labor union, their political philosophy (i.e., liberal, conservative, etc.), and age, income and level of education.

Armed with this information, a network analyst can say: "Obama got 53 percent of the anti-war vote, while Clinton got 47 percent of the labor vote and Edwards got 36 percent of those who made up their minds in the last two weeks."

a) I deny this information is that useful. If Obama wins, I bet he got most of the anti-war vote! I don't need an entrance poll to tell me; b) Network polling place surveys have a history of humiliating error. Ask Presidents Gore and Kerry; c) The information, even if accurate, is likely to be deceptive. If Obama does get 53 percent of the antiwar vote, that might mean antiwar voters shopped around and found Obama the most anti-war of the candidates. Or they might have liked his smile. They might even have liked Obama first, before thinking about the issues, and then become antiwar voters because that's what Obama talked about; d) Mainly these unenlightening little correlations let network news divisions fill time--because the real news (who won) comes at an inconveniently late hour and then only takes about 10 seconds to report;  e) The conceit of the "caucuses" is that voters meet, argue with their neighbors, listen to speeches, and then vote. But the entrance poll records their preference before the arguing and speeches; f) Worse, the entrance poll results threaten to have a Heisenbergish outcome-distorting effect, since they may be known before the caucus votes are finished and will instantly flash on everyone's Blackberry, cell phone, etc.. If Obama is barely edging out Edwards in the (possibly inaccurate) entrance poll, with Hillary third, will Hillary order her supporters to switch over to Edwards in order to deny Obama a win?  I don't think that's too far-fetched. ... 

Backfill: The networks wouldn't have to resort to a questionable "entrance" poll if Iowans voted at normal hours using, say, easily-countable ballots. But that's not the Iowa way. For a preview  of the state's near-identical vote problems from four years ago, see "The Four Votes of Iowa."  Key point:

Iowa only gets its moment of cynosure, in other words, because its system is too f---ed up to be a primary.

If it were a straightforward "primary," after all, then it wouldn't be allowed to precede New Hampshire.

All this might be excusable if Iowa Dem caucusers had a long track record of sound judgment. Alas, ...

See also Saletan and Schiller, and Saletan's seminal article on the epic 1988 caucus debacle. ... 1:16 P.M. link

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