A campaign blog.

Dec. 22 2008 4:24 PM

End of the Trail

As you may have noticed, the election is over. Which means that this blog, like all things with the word "trail" in them, must come to an end. Thank you for reading, and do come back in 2012 -- by which we mean next week, when Mitt Romney announces.

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Nov. 6 2008 6:33 PM

Is Sarah Palin Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

Perhaps the best piece of campaign trail gossip to leak since Election Day is the report by Fox News, of all places that Sarah Palin couldn't name the countries involved in the North American Free Trade Agreement . But if the question is which countries constitute North America, the answer isn't so simple.

Like the definition of the Bush Doctrine , it depends whom you ask. Most people think North America is just the United States, Canada, and Mexico. But the United Nations defines the continent of North America as including three different regions: Northern America (Canada, the United States, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Greenland, and Bermuda), Central America (Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama), and the Caribbean (26 countries and territories). The CIA World Factbook takes a similar stance. "North America is commonly understood to include the island of Greenland, the isles of the Caribbean, and to extend south all the way to the Isthmus of Panama," it says. At the same time, people in some parts of the world don't distinguish between North America and South America. The five-continent model which combines Europe and Asia into Eurasia and merges North and South America as the Americas is taught in Latin America, Iran, and some parts of Europe.

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Palin should be off the hook for not being able to name the countries of North America. Not being able to name the signatories of NAFTA? Well, that's a more serious blunder.

Nov. 6 2008 2:50 PM

Introducing President "Barracks Boatman" - Updated

Did you mean President-elect Boatman? Barack Obama may beone of the most recognizable figures in America, but there's a decent chance your copy ofMicrosoft Word or Outlook is still shrugging when you type in his name.

The 2003 Word nudges you in the direction of Osama or Bema , which, in one of life’s delectable little ironies, apparentlyrefers to a platform forpublic oratory in Ancient Greece. Outlook 2003 also offers Boatman , Agama , and Boom , and ahandful of others.

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A Microsoft spokesperson tells me that they added Obama intotheir spell check library in April 2007, and issued a hotfix —basically, a small updateto the software—that adds both "Barack" and "Obama." (I installed the 2003 version of the Hotfix,which is at least a five-step process and requires installing a 5.9 MB file. Itworked.)

"We consider a number of factors when updating our content,including user feedback, frequency of the words in market area publications,and the first names of public figures whose last names have been added," thespokesperson says. According to the version of the hotfix forOffice 2007, the words Friendster , Klum , Nazr , and Racicot alsoshipped out with Obama .

Because the Office products are using a spell check libraryon your local machine, however, these updates don’t show up automatically. The Obama add was included in a largebatch of updates for Word 2007, while those of us using 2003 are stuck witha corrugated red line under the president-elect. The Webmail version of Outlook that the Washington Post uses is similarly clueless, also suggesting "Barracks" for Obama's first name.

The built-in spell checker in Firefox 3 also fails torecognize Obama Obadiah ? Bamako ?—whileGmail’s spell checker does. (It’s easy to confuse the two if you’re readingmail in Firefox. The browser spell checker underlines words as you type, whilethe Gmail version activates when you click "Check Spelling" to the upper rightof the body text.)

Update, 3:30 p.m.: In an e-mail, Firefox director Mike Beltzner says the browser uses an open-source framework called Hunspell for its spell checking. Hunspell, in turn, relies on open-source spelling dictionaries to determine which words are recognized. A ticket has been filed with the Hunspell team to add Barack and Obama . Like with Word, Beltzner notes that Firefox allows users to add custom words themselves in the mean time.

Update, Nov. 6: Predictably, Google has a innovative way to keep its library relevant. A spokeswoman passes along this statement: "Our vocabulary for spell checking is automatically derived from occurrences in our query stream and in web documents.  As soon as a word appears in the query stream or web documents, it is eligible to be part of our spell check vocabulary.  The word will actually start getting used in spell check when we next refresh the spell checking model. Thus, Barack Obama has probably been in our spell check vocabulary for many years now."

Nov. 6 2008 1:55 PM

Barack Obama Is Not Stopping Traffic for You

Just because Barack Obama is president does not mean you can now violate traffic laws. From today’s Obama pool report:

Obama left his house at 11:27 am, and heading to a security briefing at the FBI building (Chicago division). The motorcade drove along Lakeshore Drive , and past Grant Park (where there were scores of construction workers still tearing down the scaffolding and staging from Tuesday night's rally.

Some of the drivers here in Chicago do not seem to understand that a) the Chicago police car at the end of the president-elect's motorcade is serious about having traffic pull over when the officers flash their lights and hit their sirens, and b) it's not a great idea to jump ahead of traffic by trying to cut around the black SUV filled with five heavily-armed secret service CAT members. When the motorcade pulled onto Van Buren, an African-American couple driving a tan sedan tried to drive around the motorcade. The SUV cut the car off immediately, and the security team aimed their weapons at the car. The driver and passenger in the sedan stopped, and looked stunned--until the male driver appeared to understand what was happening (your pool reporter could see him mouth "Obama"). The motorcade continued on. The sedan remained stopped, near the side of the road.

The president-elect arrived at the FBI building at 11:48 am.

Nov. 5 2008 1:01 AM

CNN Meets Star Wars: The Mashup

The analogy between CNN's holographic correspondents and Star Wars was lost on no one, but Jessica Yellin may have played it up a little too much. Her Carrie Fisher is impeccable. Video by Andy Bouvé.

Nov. 4 2008 11:47 PM

Bush's Final Gift to McCain

McCain’s concession symbolizes the passing of many torches,not the least of which is the completion of the most historic screwing over inmodern American politics. Consider the evidence:

  • In the 2000 South Carolina primary, George W. Bush’s campaign conducted push polling suggesting that McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child. Bush won the state, halting McCain’s momentum from a win in New Hampshire and effectively ending his bid.
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  • One they reached the White House, the Bush Administration orchestrated a systematic effort to overload the executive branch with authority, doing its best to marginalize Congress—McCain’s milieu—and requiring absolute fealty from Republican lawmakers.
  • In March 2003, Bush launched a war that most Republicans—and many Democrats—were politically compelled to support. That war became deeply unpopular.
  • Bush’s plummeting popularity was instrumental to the Democrats’ takeover of both houses of Congress in 2006, further marginalizing McCain in the Senate.
  • Bush left the nation deeply dissatisfied with Republicans and hungry for an alternative. It was that country in which McCain had to run for president.

Nov. 4 2008 10:13 PM

The Bellwether Election Map

As the networks declare winners in the early states on Tuesday night, this map will project the winner in states where polls show that candidate has a more comfortable lead. For example, if Obama wins Virginia, where he has a six-point lead in the polls, this map will assume he wins states where his margin is at least two points wider than that. Meanwhile, if McCain wins Indiana—where he's currently up by one point—this map will assume that he wins states where he's up by at least three points.

As more results trickle in, we'll make note of whether the states obeyed this ordered logic. It may be that polling was more accurate in some places than others, at which point some of the imputations will be wrong. If the polling is roughly on track, the first few states should be a good bellwether for who takes the cake at the end of the night.

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Below is a list of each state and D.C., sorted by their final standing in the polls as calculated by Pollster.com . If the map doesn't match the text, just clear the cache .

Update, 7:05 p.m.: McCain takes Kentucky, Obama takes Vermont; according to those results, we can project eights states significantly safer than Kentucky for McCain and two (including D.C.) for Obama.

Update, 8:12 p.m.: MSNBC has called most of New England for Obama and a few Republican strongholds for McCain. By our projections, Obama has 264 electoral votes from states either called for him or safer than those called for him, with 145 still too close to call. 

Update, 9:15 p.m.: Georgia and North Dakota go to McCain, which is good news for his prospects in South Dakota, Montana, and Arizona. Obama's win in Pennsylvania suggests he will carry Iowa and New Mexico.

Update, 9:40 p.m.: Obama wins Ohio and Slate calls the election .

Update, 10:15 p.m.: Obama wins Iowa and McCain wins Utah. With 91 electoral votes still up for grabs, Obama is projected to win at least 284 electoral votes, while McCain can expect at least 163.

Update, 11:16 p.m.: Obama wins Virginia, now presumed to win Nevada and Colorado. At this rate, he's highly likely to top 300 electoral votes.

Update, 11:55 p.m.: With only a handful of states undecided, no state has yet to fall out of order in the polling lineup below; in other words, McCain hasn't won any states projected for Obama according to the polls, or vice versa.

State Margin
District of Columbia (3 EV) Obama +68
Hawaii (4 EV) Obama +31
Vermont (3 EV) Obama +27
New York (31 EV) Obama +26
Delaware (3 EV) Obama +25
Maryland (10 EV) Obama +25
Illinois (21 EV) Obama +23
Connecticut (7 EV) Obama +21
California (55 EV) Obama +19
Rhode Island (4 EV) Obama +19
Maine (4 EV) Obama +17
Oregon (7 EV) Obama +16
Michigan (17 EV) Obama +15
New Jersey (15 EV) Obama +15
Massachusetts (12 EV) Obama +15
Washington (11 EV) Obama +13
New Hampshire (4 EV) Obama +12
Minnesota (10 EV) Obama +12
Wisconsin (10 EV) Obama +12
Iowa (7 EV) Obama +12
New Mexico (5 EV) Obama +9
Colorado (9 EV) Obama +8
Nevada (5 EV) Obama +7
Pennsylvania (21 EV) Obama +7
Virginia (13 EV) Obama +6
Ohio (20 EV) Obama +3
Florida (27 EV) Obama +2
Missouri (11 EV) Obama +1
North Dakota (3 EV) Obama +1
North Carolina (15 EV) 0
Indiana (11 EV) McCain +1
Montana (3 EV) McCain +2
Georgia (15 EV) McCain +3
Arizona (10 EV) McCain +5
South Carolina (8 EV) McCain +8
South Dakota (3 EV) McCain +8
Arkansas (6 EV) McCain +10
Mississippi (6 EV) McCain +10
Louisiana (9 EV) McCain +10
Tennessee (11 EV) McCain +12
West Virginia (5 EV) McCain +12
Kentucky (8 EV) McCain +13
Texas (34 EV) McCain +13
Alaska (3 EV) McCain +16
Kansas (6 EV) McCain +17
Nebraska (5 EV) McCain +19
Alabama (9 EV) McCain +23
Idaho (4 EV) McCain +23
Utah (5 EV) McCain +24
Oklahoma (7 EV) McCain +25
Wyoming (3 EV) McCain +31

Nov. 4 2008 9:27 PM

Obama Wins the Presidency

With a Democratic win in Ohio, Slate is officially calling theelection for Barack Obama, whose convincing performance in early returns hasmade it all but impossible for John McCain to win.

Even as visions of a mega-landslide victory for Democratsfaded with McCain victories in dubious tossups like Georgiaand North Dakota,Obama’s core strategy paid off: Win all of John Kerry’s states from 2004 andpick up a handful of moderate states that elected George W. Bush.

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An Obama win in Ohiopreserves the state’s role as an electoral kingmaker. McCain had virtually nochance of winning the election without it, and Ohio has almost always voted for the winningcandidate in recent memory.

Just how dramatic this year’s political reorganization turnsout to be depends on more final results. Virginia and Indiana are both still tooclose to call, and many Western states are still wrapping up their voting.While it’s still entirely possible that McCain can pull out a respectable lossin this election, a win would require a miracle.

Nov. 4 2008 9:06 PM

Dole Loss Ends Bush/Dole Era

Republican North Carolina incumbent Sen. Elizabeth Dole's loss means that for the first time in more than three decades, there won't be a Dole or Bush in office. Dole lost her seat to Democrat Kay Hagan. With 13 percent of precincts reporting at 8:45 p.m., Hagan led 57-41 with a lead of 245,000 votes. Most major networks called the race for Hagan before 9 p.m. In fact, Hagan was doing better than Barack Obama in many counties.

The North Carolina race garnered attention when Dole ran an ad saying that Hagan took "godless money." After that ad, Dole received sharp criticism and dropped in the polls . The spot faked Hagan's voice at the end of the ad saying, "There is no God." Hagan's response was direct. Since then, Hagan has filed a defamation lawsuit against Dole and her campaign. Even after the lawsuit, Dole released a second ad linking Hagan to the Godless Americans PAC. This could be proof of the theory that a really negative ad is good for the opponent.

Nov. 4 2008 8:31 PM

Obama on the Brink

With the handful of states he has already won, plus those that are nearly certain to fall into his column, Barack Obama is nearly certain to clinch the presidency in the near future.

Although battleground states like Virginia and Indiana are still too close to call, Obama’s core strategy of carrying John Kerry’s states and tacking on a few extras appears to be in the bag. While there are no surprises among the states he has won thus far, his early performance has put to rest fears by paranoid Democrats that his comfortable lead in the polls was greatly inflated.

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With a win in one or two states that George W. Bush won in 2004, Obama will have wrapped up this election. Based on the last round of polls before the election, Obama is already poised to win at least 264 electoral votes comfortably. A win in Colorado or another Bush state will push him over the edge.

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