Showing posts with label VP speculation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label VP speculation. Show all posts

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Paul Ryan, GOP Vice Presidential Nominee: Some Thoughts

FHQ will not go all long form here (or will try not to anyway). Plenty of others have more than adequately gotten the ball rolling in reaction to the Mitt Romney campaign's decision to tap Wisconsin representative, Paul Ryan, as the governor's running mate.

First thing's first: Let's check the speculation at the door here, shall we? I think we can all agree that the Ryan selection will have an impact. Subtract him and add, say, Tim Pawlenty and you get a potentially different outcome long term. That's the fun part, right? Treating this like the NBA Trade Machine. You can trade and trade and trade parts until you subjectively/hypothetically improve your team's chances of success. But other than gaining some insight into what the campaign is thinking, I don't know that the risk/reward calculus is all that fruitful an exercise. Hindsight is always 20/20 on these things. The one rule to always remember on VP selection is exactly what George W. Bush said about presidential debates, "I don't think you can ever win them, but you darn sure can lose them." In other words, these things are always "do no harm".

Instead of the calculus many are talking about then, let's talk about what we know. What data do we have?

1. Who is Paul Ryan?
A majority of Americans don't know. Those that do know Ryan are slightly more likely to view him unfavorably. That means that the race is on over the next two weeks -- before the Republican Convention kicks off in Tampa (and perhaps afterward) -- to define Ryan in much the same way that the campaigns' efforts have been about defining Romney this summer. Republicans will want to paint the Wisconsin representative as the visionary their standard bearer made the then-unknown pick to be in a recent NBC interview. Oppositely, Democrats will both want to tie Ryan to the frame they have attempted to construct around Romney (well off and out of touch with ordinary Americans) and to link Romney to the House Budget Committee chairman's controversial budget plan (which they view as a liability for the Republicans).

Just know that this attention on Ryan will be short-lived.  He is a number two and unless the Romney campaign roll out is gaffe-prone and rife with problems, the attention will ultimately shift back to the person at the top of the ticket and the race will, in Holbrook's terms, revert to its Romney equilibrium.

2. VP selection bounce
From FHQ's perspective, the best thing about the Ryan announcement occurring when it did is that the race will have a full two weeks before the Republican Convention in which to look at polls. That's a plus for a couple of reasons. First, we should see an uptick in polling starting now. Formerly risk-averse polling outlets will have a reason to go into the field: to test Ryan's impact. Secondly and unlike the two 2008 selections, we will have some time between the VP announcement and the conventions in which to -- admittedly only partially -- tease out the impact of each event. Both the Biden and Palin selections happened on the eves of their respective conventions. And in the Palin case that made it very difficult to discern whether or how much of McCain's early September jump in the polls was convention effect or VP effect.

As Jonathan Bernstein rightly pointed out, this VP bounce is a built-in part of the process. The structural impact of a vice presidential selection is approximately two points nationally. On the state level, however, that may be felt slightly differently. It isn't necessarily uniform across states. This is particularly true of the vice presidential nominee's home state. The Palin selection, for example, turned scantily-polled Alaska from a surprisingly competitive state to a rock-red state (a position the Last Frontier would likely have ended up in on election day anyway). Ryan's Wisconsin has been a comfortably blue state (Lean Obama throughout), but that consistency may bely the fact that the state hovers close to the breaking point in the FHQ metric between Lean and Toss Up (Obama) state. This could also potentially aid the Republican ticket in other midwest/blue-collar states.

But again, let's wait and see how the polls react to that instead of speculating.

Regardless, Romney will enjoy something of a bump out of the Ryan rollout, but we'll have to wait and see how exactly that manifests itself and where (in terms of location and groups of voters).

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Who's McCain Going to Pick? Why, Sarah Palin, of course. [Updated]

Update: Apparently, it is Palin.

Pawlenty's out.

Romney's out.

Is it Lieberman?


She and Pawlenty apparently switched positions on InTrade overnight and she's approaching 100% now. Thoughts? Does this pull in those Hillary voters? It certainly shakes things up, though perhaps not in the way that David Brooks alluded to on PBS the other night. Does her age take Obama's age/experience off the table to some extent?

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

VP Announcement Timing

This is where I set myself up to get killed. However, I'll wade once again into the VP speculation maelstrom to make a few comments about what is currently happening. For the record, I've moved beyond the "who" of the veepstakes at this point. Sure, it's consequential, but in my mind the timing issue is much more fascinating right now...if only because all the possibilities have been talked to death. I don't want to totally rehash my post from last week, but I do want to reprise it.

What do we know?
1) The VP decisions are on the horizon.

2) Obama is expected to be the first to move since the Democrats hold their convention first (However, FHQ should note that this hasn't been a year for following traditions in presidential politics.).

3) There is now a week until the Olympics kick off a four week smorgasbord of sport and politics (two weeks of each and in that order).

4) The pundits know, or think they know, that the prospective VP lists are shrinking and who is supposedly on them.

Now let's delve into far murkier territory...
What does my gut tell me about when these announcements will be made?

1) All the talk from the Obama camp about the decision being weeks away is a hoax. I don't buy that, but it is clever of them, not to mention convenient to say the trip abroad delayed those efforts. I still feel like the decision will be made prior to the Olympics and that means next week.

2) Well, it won't be on a Friday (or over the weekend). Friday is a day to release your medical records or some other news you'd like buried. That eliminates tomorrow and next Friday. Next Friday is out anyway because that's when the Olympics begin.

3) An announcement won't be made late in the work week next week. [Define late, FHQ.] By late I mean after Tuesday. The goal of a VP announcement is to time it in a way that maximizes the free air time you get out of it. The earlier in the week the better then. I would add the caveat that they wouldn't want to announce too early lest there be a backlash of some variety. However, the Olympics will be there to wrest attention away at the end of the week anyway.

All this has assumed that Obama will be the one to go first. And for him to maximize the attention coming out of that announcement (not to mention put McCain in a tough position -- having to potentially announce during the games), making the move Monday or Tuesday of next week would probably suffice. And hey, you know what? Monday happens to be Obama's birthday. [Well, you lost all] credibility there.] Before you dismiss that notion, it should be pointed out that the Democrats are big on coincidental synchronicity in this election year. Obama will accept the nomination on the anniversary of MLK's "I have a dream speech." Hillary Clinton, it has been reported, will speak on Tuesday night which happens to also be the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment. No, Obama's birthday isn't as big as either of those events, but it is an interesting side note to make...even if only for coincidental synchronicity.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

A Game of Vice Presidential Chicken

The clock is ticking on both presidential candidates to select running mates and there is even less for them than you might think. Sure the Democratic convention kicks off one month from today, leaving the candidates just over four weeks to make a selection. However, sixteen of those days will be devoted to the Olympic games and may not be the most opportune time to make such an announcement. With the games starting two weeks from today, both McCain and Obama will have to either fit their decisions into that two week window or make an announcement during the Olympic period.

The consensus is that Obama will make the first move because the Democratic convention is first. McCain is at a disadvantage here because the GOP convention gets underway just a week after the Democrats' gathering in Denver. In other words he can't fall back on the time between conventions as a viable time in which to make his VP selection public. Viewed from this angle, reports of McCain potentially making his decision this week make that possibility seem less farfetched (going before Obama, perhaps would make it more unusual).

So we have a predicted order of selections, and the timing has yet to be determined, but is severly constrained at this point. Let's talk about the Olympics as an obstacle to these decisions (And the games are not supposed to be political.) for a moment. During the last two cycles the Olympics had no real effect on vice presidential selection. In 2000, the Sydney games were not until mid-September, after both conventions and both VP selections. In 2004, Bush already had his man in Cheney and Kerry had countered that soon after he wrapped up the Democratic nomination by selecting John Edwards. But even though, the Olympics didn't play a role in the VP decisions in 2004 they may have had an effect on the presidential race. And I haven't seen this discussed anywhere. However, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth released their controversial ad on August 5, 2004, just eight days prior to Athens games commencing. Now, that leaves three weeks, one before the games and two during, for that to percolate before Kerry could/would effectively respond (He did file a complaint with the FEC during the games.). Did those games stand in the way of an effective response though? And what does that mean for the VP selections to come?

Well, the Olympics are a distraction and just enough of a distraction to allow for something underground like the Swift Boat ad to spread. However, something like a VP announcement would likely be viewed as a political move during an apolitical event. So while the Swift Boat Veterans may have been able to get away with it, McCain (or Obama) likely would not. It isn't that the games would overshadow the announcement so much that the announcement would be a move contrary to the overarching tenor of the games.

If Obama is supposed to go first then, he may be playing a game of brinksmanship with McCain and his campaign now. To stretch the decision out this far either forces McCain to move first or decide at a bad time (during the games or the Democratic convention). Nate Silver covered this earlier in the week when the report of McCain's imminent announcment surfaced, but didn't include the Olympics angle. But McCain is up against it on this one. Obama is holding all the cards and, if he is the one to move first, could hold them until the eve of the games. The flipside, of course, is that Obama forces a move out of McCain but leaves himself little time to respond or respond effectively. As adept as the Obama campaign has seemed though, it would appear unlikely that they would be playing such a game of chicken without some contingency plans. There are only so many rabbits McCain can pull out of that VP hat.

[Update: Chris Cillizza over at The Fix has more on the implications of the Olympics on VP selection.]

Thanks to Rob Shewfelt for getting the ball rolling on this one in the comments to the Florida post (linked below.).

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Saturday, June 7, 2008

VP, VP, VP. Who Will They Choose?

Ah, the question of the hour. Well, I suppose Hillary Clinton's speech today may hold the more pressing questions of the day (Will she talk about the popular vote totals? To what degree will she endorse Obama? etc.), but the VP talk has certainly ramped up since Obama's clinching victories on Tuesday night (I say victories because he won the Montana primary and the superdelegate primary that day.). Anyway, in open season in the running mate selection game, there are no shortages on guesses, lists or any other speculation over who it will be. Paul Gurian sent around a link to CQ's VP Madness yesterday on one of his emailing lists and that includes a robust pool of 32 possibilities ( a bracket layout, no less. It looks like Hillary Clinton is the number one seed, at least in her placement at the top of the bracket. That may not match will the actually likelihood of her being chosen. Though, just like in March Madness, top seeds are always ripe for an upset at some point--excluding 2008 of course.).

Chris Cillizza over at The Fix also had a Friday Line up yesterday devoted to the VP selection. Here are those rankings (as they appear in reverse order):
5. Hillary Clinton
4. John Edwards
3. Kathleen Sebelius
2. Jim Webb
1. Ted Strickland

5. Joe Lieberman
4. Charlie Crist
3. John Thune
2. Mitt Romney
1. Tim Pawlenty

Well, I'll indirectly weigh in, but I'd like to turn the tables a bit. Only Obama, McCain and their inner circles really know who they are targeting, so anyone else is simply guessing. Some of those guesses are more educated than others, but they are still just guesses. Correctly divining who the running mate picks might be is slightly more difficult, so I'll take the far easier route and have a glance at who McCain and Obama won't pick. I'm setting this up similar to the NBA player trade value list that ESPN writer, Bill Simmons, puts together every year (I know, two basketball references in one post. It's a terrible habit that I'm trying unsuccessfully to cut back on.). In this situation we'll move from the least likely VP choice to the most likely. In other words, this will progress from certainty to abject guess work. I'll look at the highlights of the top 500 on both sides.

Let's start with the Illinois senator:
500. Barack Obama: The arrogance of Obama has been a topic of discussion among Clinton supporters and even reared its ugly head the other day in Chicago when Obama speculated that when Chicago holds the 2016 Olympics, he'll be finishing up his second term. Is he arrogant enough to flaunt the Constitution and name himself his own running mate (Actually, is there anything in the Constitution that prevents this? I don't know. It seems like the order of succession would just pick up with the Speaker of House if the same person was both president and vice president.)? FHQ thinks not.
493. Jeremiah Wright: Who else thought we had seen the last of the former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ? Well, here's guessing that we have, at least in the context of the vice presidential selection. The big question: If Wright is #493, who the heck are the VPs from #494-#499? I'll leave that up to you.
450. Osama bin Laden: If you're a fan of rhyming tickets, I'd wager you'll be disappointed that Obama-Osama won't happen. Then again, Osama would face the same predicament John McCain has: he wasn't born in the US.
401. James Dobson: The Fix mentioned Ted Strickland helping Obama and the Democrats close the "God gap," but why not go for broke by tapping Dobson. Something tells me this won't be the good reverend's calling.
362. Chelsea Clinton: The first of the former First Family to appear. She's just not old enough. It's that simple. But hey, making it this far will certainly help jump start her own political career.
...if she's so inclined.
327. Mark Penn: Maybe he'll be closer to the Columbian government than the US government should Obama (or McCain for that matter) become president.
295. Fidel Castro: I suppose that if you need preconditions to sit down with them, then you'll need a bit more to actually make one of them your running mate.

294. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: See above.
215. Joe Lieberman: Nah, probably not.
187. Oprah: Hey, there's one way to win back some of those female voters.
133. Dean's scream: No, not Howard Dean himself. The scream brings all the passion necessary for the long haul, without actually being Howard Dean. But that's so Two Americas 2004.
100. Bill Clinton: C'mon, you knew he'd be on the list. You can't have a VP list and not include the Constitution-steeped, former-president-as-VP scenario.
74. Chuck Schumer: Democrat? Check. New York senator? Check. Hillary Clinton? Well, no he's not. But he's a Democratic senator from New York.
48. Dick Durbin: Democrat? Check. Illinois senator? Check. Barack Obama? Well, I don't suppose so. But two outta three ain't bad. And at least Illinois as a Democratic governor. They'd be able to replace those Democratic seats.
33. Jennifer Granholm: Oh wait, she was born in Canada.

32. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin: The South Dakota representative is an up and comer within the Democratic Party. This may not be her year, but like Bobby Jindal on the GOP side, it may not be a bad idea to put her name out there as a possibility just to grant her a bit of recognition.
21. Elliot Spitzer: Oops, that almost made it through.
15. Chris Dodd: Well, Connecticut has been trending toward the red lately (in the last couple of polls out of the state), and the other senator from the Constitution state certainly won't be backing Obama (see #215). Of course, if the Democrats seriously desire that fillibuster-proof Senate, they would probably not want to select for a VP nominee a senator from a state with a Republican governor.
12. Sam Nunn: Secretary of Defense? Maybe. Vice president? Probably not.
10. Hillary Clinton: I'm just not going to touch this one. Do 18 million votes make her a shoo in? Is Obama less an executive decision-maker if he is forced to choose her? There are too many questions to answer in regards to the Dream Ticket, but the New York senator is too much of a presence in this race not to include. But she's this low because I just don't see an Obamary or Hillama ticket.

9. Tim Kaine: Virginia is important and Kaine was an early Obama backer, but the lack of foreign policy credentials will hurt him in this chase.

8. Ed Rendell: Another important state (Pennsylvania). Another Democratic governor. The polls seem to be trending Democratic in the Keystone state to the point that Rendell may not be as vital as a governor from a neighboring state.

7. Bill Richardson: It is interesting to me that the Richardson as VP chatter has quieted down since the New Mexico governor endorsed Obama. Richardson may well be a part of an Obama administration, but as Secretary of State, not vice president.

6. John Edwards: I suspect that the Edwards as VP talk will die down similar to the way it has done for Richardson. Also like Richardson, Edwards may be a part of an Obama administration but as Attorney General and not Vice President.

5. Wes Clark: Obama would cover some foreign policy and Clinton supporter issues by tapping Clark as his running mate. Clark isn't mentioned as often as other possibilities, but he seems a logical choice and in a tight election, may help pull Arkansas' six electoral votes back into play.

4. Jim Webb: Wes Clark without the Clinton connection. He is an elected official from Virginia though, and has the foreign policy experience that Kaine lacks. The article on female servicepersons may not sit well with a majority of those Clinton supporters though.

3. Joe Biden: He may be too big for the office, but I can't imagine why Biden's name isn't mentioned any more than it has in the VP talk. He' experienced, has the foreign policy chops and has assumed the McCain in 2000 straight talker mantle.

2. Ted Strickland
: Ohio governor. Former representative of a relatively conservative Buckeye state district. Methodist minister. Clinton supporter. Sounds good. The question? How well does/would he get along with Obama?

1. Kathleen Sebelius: I think Obama will go the Clinton '92 route and choose someone similar to himself but who is stronger in other areas. She won't necessarily help with the foreign policy question, but I think he is comfortable with her and she has the potential to help bring in those female Clinton voters. The Fix mentioned that that may be seen as an indignity to those voters, but they haven't been introduced to Sebelius yet. I think the Kansas governor gets the nod.

And what about McCain?
500. Barack Obama: Why not end this thing now and form a unity ticket? Eh, probably not.
490. John Hagee: The Jeremiah Wright of the Right? That has a nice ring to it, but won't prove any more likely as Wright as Obama's running mate.
402. Chuck Hagel: There ain't room enough in this town for two Vietnam veterans with differing views on the Iraq war. It could be a coup in a tight election where the districted distribution of electoral votes in Hagel's home of Nebraska could help shore up a couple of those districts that are tight now.
385. Fred Thompson: I joked early on that this could be the "old white guys" ticket. Not really the face you want to present to the nation in the fall though. But there were all those questions about Thompson's desire to be in the Republican race in the first place. Would not he be perfect then in a job that doesn't require too much and "isn't worth a bucket of warm spit?"
342. Hillary Clinton: Well, if you're trying to lure her supporters over to your side, why not go straight to the source. And it would be a civilized ticket according to Bill Clinton.
291. John Cornyn: "F--- you. I know more about this than anyone else in the room." Temper, temper. Something tells me statements like these to Senate colleagues (Cornyn in this case.) may stand in the way of ticket of two Republican senators.

290. Thad Cochran: Or do statements like those and McCain's temper send "chills down [your] spine" Senator Cochran?

289. Chuck Grassley: How about you, Senator Grassley? "'I'm calling you a f------ jerk!' he once retorted" to the Iowa senator. None of these three guys may be the bridge to the legislative branch that a President McCain would want.
213. Jack Abramoff: Here's a unity ticket we may not see. Campaign finance reform vs. the king of the campaign finance loophole/violation.
184. Adam Putnam: The Florida representative has a good last name and is a red head like someone FHQ knows. How bad could he be?
129. Mark Foley: Geez, and you thought Jack Abramoff was too 2006. I'm willing to bet Foley would want to skip this vetting process.
100. Dick Cheney: He never said he wouldn't run for vice president again. Plus, what will the left do without him?
75. Bob Barr: Forget wooing those Hillary voters. Why not go after the Ron Paul, libertarians by wooing Bob Barr back into the Republican fold? McCain didn't move quickly enough on this one. Barr's already installed as the Libertarian Party nominee.
50. Jeb Bush: If ever there was a time and a means of testing the Bush fatigue theory, this marriage would be the way.
25. Sonny Perdue: The Georgia governor is the first Republican governor (not to mention two terms) of the Peach state since Reconstruction. And while he has had his moments and remains relatively popular, he just isn't a "wow you" sort of pick.
17. Rick Santorum: He hails from Pennsylvania and sure, he just lost out to Bob Casey in his 2006 reelection bid, but it was just earlier this year that Grover Norquist was singing the former senator's praises as a future player in the GOP.
13. Kay Bailey Hutchinson: You have to have a Texan on the ticket if you're a Republican (unless you're Bob Dole--See, he lost.), and John Cornyn isn't going to be McCain's pick. Hutchinson may be effective at pulling in some of those disaffected Clinton voters too.
10. Mike Huckabee: The readers at CQ handing him VP Madness honors on the GOP side may be the only thing that Huckabee wins before 2012 or so. The former Arkansas governor acquitted himself well during primary season, but just doesn't seem like a good VP to pair with McCain on a ticket.

9. Bobby Jindal: I mentioned Jindal in my thoughts on South Dakota Rep. Herseth-Sandlin. They are both on the rise within their parties. Jindal was tasked with introducing McCain for his speech on the night Obama clinched the Democratic nomination and got an invitation to McCain's Sedona ranch for a meeting with other prospective vice presidential nominees. It's just too early for Jindal, but this is certainly a "working out the farm team" move.

8. Robert Portman: The only Ohio Republican, it seems who isn't in trouble electorally or with the law or named Ken Blackwell. Ohio will be valuable. Florida seems to be leaning toward the Republicans while Pennsylvania is trending Democratic at the moment. That leaves Ohio as the sole member of the triumvirate of big swing states still swinging. And a native son wouldn't hurt the Republicans. Portman would bolster McCain's economic credentials because of his stint as director of the Office of Management and Budget under George W. Bush.

7. Mark Sanford: It is difficult to make a case for someone from a state that is highly likely to go Republican at the presidential level in November. It would take an astronomically high turnout from African Americans to even keep the race close for Obama in the Palmetto state. The utility of selecting South Carolina's governor then seems fairly low. Then again picking a VP simply to make a state competitive or swing it in another direction hasn't worked out that well lately. Edwards didn't do much for Kerry in North or South Carolina. Kemp didn't help Dole in New York. Choosing someone from a safe state might be the way to go then. Sanford fits that bill.

6. Rick Perry: The governor of Texas hasn't been mentioned in the VP chatter I've heard, but hey, Republicans like their Texans (see #13 Kay Bailey Hutchinson). It could be that Perry's endorsement of Giuliani is hampering his chances. But McCain wouldn't hold a grudge, would he Senators Cochran, Cornyn and Grassley?

5. Joe Lieberman: Lieberman is certainly exerting his independence by backing McCain. If he were serving in the Dick Cheney "vetting the VPs" role, I'd call him a sure thing. The one question I haven't heard answered is how his constituents back home in Connecticut are responding to this foray into GOP politics. Well, polls there have taken a turn toward the red lately, so their may be something to this Lieberman as VP talk. Eh, but it's just seven electoral votes. 7 electoral votes is 7 electoral votes when it's close.

4. Charlie Crist: His endorsement of McCain helped in the Florida primary that partly launched McCain to the nomination. Loyalty means something and McCain can't choose the Governator, so he can opt for the next best early endorsement.

3. Tim Pawlenty: The two term Minnesota governor has gotten a lot of mentions in the VP talk, but I'm not convinced that he swings the tide there for McCain. Obama has a solid lead there (almost ten points in my calculations) and it would be tough to change that. Everyone is saying Pawlenty, but when everyone is telling McCain to do something, he strikes me as the type that is apt to go in a different direction. But like the Jindal scenario, this builds the farm team for the future.

2. John Thune: The South Dakota senator took out Tom Daschle when he was majority leader during Bush's first term. Need we say more. Conservatives like the guy. On top of that, he's young, but not too young. And people know him more than the guy who beat sitting Speaker of the House, Tom Foley, in 1994 (It was George Nethercutt.).

1. Mitt Romney: The man who had more paths to the GOP nomination than anyone has a good shot at the Republican VP slot. There was tension between the two men (something I've used against other possibilities), but Romney's willingness to raise funds (and we mean raise funds) and campaign for McCain is a big asset. Plus he has already gotten some scrutiny during his own bid for the nomination. Dare I give Romney the most paths to the VP nod as well. Sounds like a kiss of death to me. Sorry Mitt.

McCain-Romney vs. Obama-Sebelius? Agree or disagree, the comments section awaits. There are no right answers, just a lot of wrong ones (see the above). No one will know until the candidates reveal the best kept secrets in politics in the next month or so. Also, feel free to plug in any holes in the above lists.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Obama and the Red State Question: A Deeper Analysis

Recently, The Fix ran a post looking at the Obama campaign's contention that it, given primary and caucus performances thus far, has the ability to swing red states into the Democratic column in November. This post gets the ball rolling on several questions that may prove worthy of further examination within the realm of political science.

The first, as posed by University of Maryland-Baltimore County associate professor, Thomas Schaller, surrounds the observation that, over the last two presidential cycles, the higher the percentage of state's population that is African American, the better the GOP has done (in terms of vote share for the Republican candidate for president). Now, I've glanced through my trusty journal search engines of choice and have yet to find anything that directly addresses this hypothesis. Several confounding factors come to mind when thinking about this relationship though. The way I see it, swing state status and the number of majority-minority congressional districts may form an interactive relationship.

The states in the South are as solidly Republican now as they were Democratic in the 1960s and before. So while those states are the states with the highest percentages of African Americans, they are nonetheless solidly red. Solidly red means little attention from the Democratic candidates for president though. Voters then, that may be likely to swing one way or the other (and are outside of those majority minority districts), are swayed by what they are hearing (or aren't hearing) within their districts: a Republican message. In other words, if African Americans are packed into one or two districts in a state, while Republicans maintain majorities in the remaining districts, the inattention from both parties in those Republican districts leaves a void that is filled by the prevailing GOP message. The question then becomes, does any Democratic attention in those districts help sway enough independents (or even Republicans) to put the state in the toss up category when the general election rolls around. That is the very type of micro-targeting that the Bush team employed with great success in 2004; making some states more competitive than the conventional wisdom would have thought possible. Ultimately though, does this interaction "explain away" the relationship we've seen in the last two cycles between the percentage of African Americans within a state and the vote share captured by Republican presidential candidates? Well, that begs for further research.

The other question concerns whether Obama (if he becomes the Democratic nominee) can shift the pool of competitive, general election states; pulling in some formerly solidly red states. This one I'll tackle less scientifically. It is very early and we don't yet know exactly who the nominees will be for each party (Fine, McCain is the guy for the GOP, but not officially until he crosses the 1191 delegate threshold.), but there are head-to-head polls that are being conducted on the state level. Again, this is less than scientific, but looking at these polls does give us a glimpse into the potential power of an Obama candidacy in the general election. Here are the states that have had head-to-head polls (conducted and) reported over the last week (Clicking on Clinton or Obama gives you a link to their head-to-head against McCain in these states via Real Clear Politics. Emphasis will be given to polls conducted around or since Super Tuesday.).

Swing States:
Iowa: (Obama, Clinton): Iowa has been a swing state in the last two cycles; going for Gore in 2000 and Bush in 2004. It was one of the few states that actually switched from 2000 to 2004. These early head-to-head polls offer a stark contrast though; a twenty point swing depending on who the Democratic nominee is. Obama leads McCain by ten points, while Clinton trails McCain by the same margin. That's the definition of swing, though not in the terms we're used to in presidential elections. Here's an example of a 2004 red state, that could be comfortably with the Democrats or out of reach based on who the nominee is. Numbers like these don't hurt the electability argument Obama has been pushing.

: (Obama, Clinton): Obama has an eight point lead over McCain while Clinton is tied. The latter roughly reflects the distribution of votes in the 2004 Bush-Kerry match up in the state. Is there potential for Obama to make Michigan solidly Democratic? Well, we'll have to ask those Michigan delegates who may not be seated in late August.

New Mexico: (Obama, Clinton): New Mexico, like several other states in the following analysis, has been a swing state in the last few general election cycles. It is one of the few states that switched support, moving from Democratic in 2000 to Republican in 2004. Early on it looks like Obama has a decided advantage over McCain in a state that neighbors McCain's own, Arizona. Against Clinton however, McCain is knotted in a dead heat.

Pennsylvania: (Obama, Clinton): In four polls since Super Tuesday, Pennsylvania looks to be shaping up as a swing state again in 2008. In averaging those polls, both Clinton and Obama hold about a percentage point lead over McCain. Gov. Ed Rendell could prove useful as a running mate for either Democrat in that scenario and former Sen. Rick Santorum fits the profile of the a possible McCain running mate (Well, if age was the only balancing consideration.).

: (Obama, Clinton): If you focus just on the polls from February 2008, then the results are a wash. Clinton would have a two point advantage while Obama and McCain are tied. Ohio is a swing state, regardless of which Democratic candidate emerges.

Oregon: (Obama, Clinton): Like Pennsylvania, Oregon is a state where McCain being the GOP nominee may actually benefit the Republicans. Oregon has been with the Democrats in general elections since 1988. Of course, that only holds if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee. McCain has a five point edge over her in Oregon but trails Obama by eight points; a margin twice what Kerry's was over Bush in 2004.

The tally: In the six swing states represented, four give Obama an advantage over Clinton and the two others are virtual ties between the two and McCain.

Blue States:
California: (Obama, Clinton): There really isn't a need to dwell on California for too long. It is a blue state and these poll numbers show that. Ironically, Obama has a larger margin against McCain than Clinton does in the Golden state despite losing the state's primary to her on February 5.

New Jersey: (Obama, Clinton): Both Democrats lead McCain by about the same margin that Kerry beat Bush in the state in 2004. This is a Democratic state unless the leading indicators point to a Republican lean in any given cycle. 2008 is not that cycle for the Republicans (though the Bush folks focused some on New Jersey down the stretch in 2004).

New York: (Obama, Clinton): The surprise here is that Obama does better in Clinton's "home state" than she does against McCain. Across the two post-Super Tuesday polls, his lead is fourteen points to her nine over McCain. In the end New York will be in the Democratic column.

The tally: These three states are part of the Democratic electoral bedrock, and none give either candidate a significant advantage. The Democratic nominee will be in good shape in November no matter which candidate is settled upon.

Red States:
: (Obama, Clinton): Alabama was a red state and given these numbers will likely stay red. Whether the Democratic nominee is Obama or Clinton doesn't seem to have an effect. One note to make is that Alabama is the one state on this list that falls into the heavily African American hypothesis discussed above. It seems to drive home that perception.

Kansas: (Obama, Clinton): Kansas is a red state where Obama could make a push. Both Democrats trail McCain in these early polls, but the margin between Obama and McCain is much smaller than the one between Clinton and McCain. One of the hot names on the speculative VP list for Obama is Kansas governor, Kathleen Sebelius. With Obama's Kansas roots (or his mother's) and her on the ticket, that six point margin could quickly dissipate. Do the state's six electoral votes really net the Democrats anything though? I suppose that depends on how close the election is.

Virginia: (Obama, Clinton): Like Kansas, Virginia is a solidly red state (at least on the presidential level), where Obama could make some waves. He and McCain are neck and neck while McCain leads Clinton comfortably. The VP choice could be key to hypothetically putting an Obama-led Democratic party over the top in a state like Virginia. This is why we hear Gov. Tim Kaine's and Sen. Jim Webb's names mentioned in relation to Obama. And with thirteen electoral votes at stake, that could prove a real steal for the Democrats.

The tally: Here's the real question: Does Obama potentially bring red states into the electoral equation for Democrats in the fall. In this rather unscientific analysis, he does seem to bring something to the table in two of the three states represented. Virginia has been circled by Democrats since Tim Kaine's gubernatorial win there in 2005 and Jim Webb's ousting of George Allen in the 2006 midterms. Kansas, on the other hand, is intriguing. The margin is enough that a Kansan on the ticket could mean something. The reason Sebelius is governor is because the Republican party in Kansas is split between moderate and conservative factions. Can those conservatives "hold their noses" and vote for McCain? That is the question and why Kansas is a state the Dems could pick off.

Overall, what do we see from this? Obama is helpful in swing states and may be able to pick some spots in red states that could swing some of those into the Democratic column in November. In blue states however, it really doesn't matter. "Give me a Democrat and I'll vote for them" could almost be the mantra.

Monday, February 25, 2008

And on the Seventh Day, the Blogger Rested

Fine, a slowdown in the campaign, at least in terms of contests, equals a slowdown in blog output. Well, it's either that or fatigue. To quote Grandpa Simpson (see below), "a little from column A, a little from column B." Regardless, there has been some action worth noting on the trail and beyond over the last couple of days.

McCain continues to battle the FEC over the issue of the loan he took out last fall to keep his campaign afloat. The kicker is that now the DNC is involved; writing letters to the FEC calling for action. Good luck to the DNC on that one. Aren't Senate Democrats holding up those FEC commissioners' confirmations in a standoff with the White House? The "all bark and no bite" FEC is even more toothless now that it is stuck in limbo, biding its time until a full slate of commissioners can actually do the work of upholding the very law John McCain helped to create. Funny business, this politics.

In other McCain news, he's old, but not any older than Bob Dole would have been had the former Senate majority leader won in 1996. [Of course McCain is trying to avoid bottoming out financially during the summer months like Dole did. Repeating the summer of 2007 would be bad enough for the presumptive Republican nominee.] The age issue is working its way into the VP discussions surrounding McCain though. Regional balance has been a longstanding consideration in the running mate calculus, but age balance is an altogether different factor. Dole's choice of Kemp in 1996 is an obvious example and Bush's decision to go with Quayle in 1988 is similar in some ways. One could potentially argue that Eisenhower choosing a younger Richard Nixon fits this category as well.

The reverse scenario, where a relatively young candidate choses someone with more experience, has also popped up historically. Kennedy tapping Johnson in 1960 comes to mind. Age though wasn't the main consideration there. The Austin to Boston axis, usually a balance among the Democratic leadership in Congress during the period, was at play with this tandem as well. The two also finished one-two in the primaries (non-binding) and in the convention brokering that year. So age may not have been the top concern in 1960. George W. Bush selecting Dick Cheney could also fit into this category. A failed run for Congress and a long period outside of the public sector followed by six years as Texas governor, left the younger Bush vulnerable to the inexperience label. Cheney's time in Congress as well as his stints in the Ford and (first)Bush administrations helped Bush shed that label. And of course, if Obama is to become the Democratic nominee then age may again be a factor.

Speaking of VP speculation, here's the latest from The Fix. And here's the view from a political science perspective.

On the Democratic side, the race is still on and getting somewhat petty/nasty in the lead up to the Ohio-Rhode Island-Texas-Vermont round of contests on March 4. The Clinton folks are fighting Obama's momentum and the perception that it's over (Of course, that's the media killing Clinton and lauding Obama or so goes the charge.). Tightening poll numbers in the largest of those states (Texas and Ohio) are not helping that effort. The head-to-head match ups against McCain aren't either (Clinton and Obama). The Clinton anger has turned to sarcasm has turned to negative photos of Obama in a whirling dervish of ploys for votes in the two March 4 prizes (Sorry Rhode Island and Vermont. Bigger is better. Just ask North Dakota how Super Tuesday went with California hogging the late night spotlight.). All this before tomorrow night's debate in Cleveland. That should make for an interesting last tussle before the contests next week.

Meanwhile, Ralph Nader has thrown his hat in the presidential ring once more
. His appearance on the Meet the Press was an interesting one. He shrugged off worries that he would siphon off votes from the Democrats in November countering the 2000 election argument by citing research by Solon Simmons (see citation below). [The main finding there is that Nader forced Gore to take more progressive stands, actually gaining votes in Florida as a result.] Nader also mentioned that if the Democrats can't landslide this cycle, then they should pack it up as party. That sentiment has made the rounds and there is a grain of truth to it. One thing I'd like to add is that with enthusiasm so high on the Democratic side, is Nader's potential impact not muted anyway. [Here's the transcript of that MTP interview.]

Simmons, Solon. 2004. “One Man in Ten Thousand: Ralph Nader takes on the Presidency.” Wisconsin Political Scientist, Vol.10, No.2

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Vice President Speculation

I hate to jump the gun on this, but since the topic came up in the live discussion group this week and since there has been an increasing amount of chatter among the online pundits, I'll make an exception. So, who are the possible VP choices on either side? Well, being that we may be four or five months away from knowing, it is open season on guessing.

The Fix over at Washington Post had a great post earlier this week naming a list of folks on both sides who may figure into the decisions of the eventual nominees. Have a look here and add any other ones not included in the comments section with reasoning behind their inclusion. Notice Georgia's own Sonny Perdue is mentioned as a possibility on the GOP end.

Vice presidential choices were also on the mind of at least one South Carolina voter this week as Bill Clinton was asked in a town hall meeting there to discuss the possibilities. While refusing to do so he went through a list of models for choosing the second in command. It was an interesting approach from someone who has been there. The Caucus outlines the ones he brought up: the balancing the ticket option, choosing the person who finished second to unify the party and the pick someone similar with different strengths.