When CBS broadcast this year's NCAA basketball tournament over the Internet, businesses supposedly lost an estimated $1.7 billion as an entire nation paid attention to the office pool instead of customers. If sports junkies could cost the country that much during a few days of March Madness, imagine the productivity we political junkies in the nation's capital must be losing to the distractions of a primary campaign that has been in overtime for months.
How best to turn productivity lost into perspective gained? In a primary season defined by sharp demographic divides, the most unconventional wisdom can be found on Jay Cost's HorseRaceBlog on RealClearPolitics.com. Cost, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, devised an ingenious project-your-own-popular-vote tabulator for the remaining primaries. Don't expect to outguess Cost, whose March estimate for Pennsylvania—a month before the actual primary—missed Hillary Clinton's 214,000-vote margin by just 3,000 votes.
Of course, pearls of exit-poll wisdom won't do you much good on the cocktail-party circuit unless you know which candidate your host is backing. Thanks to new mash-ups like HuffingtonPost's Fundrace 2008, you can avoid a faux pas—or prepare for fisticuffs—by looking up whether your friends and neighbors have given to McCain, Clinton, or Obama.
If the 2008 race goes to the convention, bring along Senate historian Donald Ritchie's entertaining Electing FDR: The New Deal Campaign of 1932. This year isn't the first Democratic contest to turn on whiskey shots and calls at 3 a.m. That's what time it was when FDR's campaign decided to ask for the first of three roll calls at the 1932 convention in Chicago. FDR came up short each time, as many delegates wandered off to nearby speakeasies. He eventually prevailed on the fourth ballot, and won big applause for promising to repeal Prohibition.
The longer the race goes on, the more time we have to pore over the numbers at stake in this election. Bipartisan budget analyst Charles S. Konigsberg's paperback America's Priorities: How the U.S. Government Raises and Spends $3,000,000,000,000 (Trillion) per Year could be called Deficits for Dummies, if that niche weren't already filled by the Bush administration budget.
It's never too early to start worrying about 2010. The latest issue of Politics, a slick makeover of Campaigns & Elections, says redistricting after the next census will alter the political landscape—but the key battlegrounds will be awfully familiar: Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Michigan.
Where can political junkies turn when the primaries end June 3? An Australian site called Adam Carr's Election Archive tracks every political contest on the planet, with detailed electoral maps from some 60 countries. While we may tire of staring at red and blue, mapping the February elections in Pakistan took seven colors—a real political spectrum.
Across the other pond, we can picture elections yet to come at the official blog of British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. It's hard to see Condi Rice engaging in blog diplomacy, and certainly nothing like Miliband's recent post blaming his favorite soccer team's defeat on an inept Swiss defender and a "dodgy" Swedish referee. While the post caused a minor diplomatic flap on the Continent, Brits make Miliband the heavy favorite to be the next Labor prime minister after Gordon Brown. Miliband's team lost 4-2, but London bookies now put his odds at 3-1.
A version of this article also appears in the Washington Post's "Outlook" section.