Friday, February 8, 2008

Another One?

Doug Mataconis adds his voice to the chorus of libertarians who view Obama as the most tolerable candidate with a chance to be President. As is the case with my endorsements of Obama, he is explicitly not endorsing Obama for the general election. Doug's "endorsement" is also much less enthusiastic than mine have been.

Money quote:

What’s needed, I am convinced, is a break with the past and a new direction. In some sense, although I hate to admit it, John McCain represents that for the GOP but Barack Obama represents it even more and, more importantly, is running against the one person who, if she wins, would guarantee a return to same crap we’ve been dealing with since 1993 on both sides of the political aisle.

Read the whole thing. Hopefully, tonight or this afternoon I'm going to break down the three remaining realistic candidates from a libertarian perspective.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Initial Thoughts on Super Tuesday

Some initial thoughts on last night....
1. Romney is DOA. Even though Huckabee has proven remarkably resilient, it's impossible to see how McCain fails to win the nomination. The oft-heard meme last night and this morning has been about a McCain-Huckabee ticket. This, of course, is something I've said makes political sense for months - even back when McCain was still the underdog. Let the record show that on Dec. 26, I argued that such a ticket would be the only way for the GOP to unite its coalition for one last battle in November. Let the record also show that on that same day, I argued that McCain would win the nomination as long as he could keep his campaign afloat through Super Tuesday. Just sayin'
2. With McCain inevitable at this point, every extra dollar that Mitt Romney spends from his personal fortune on this campaign will show that he (Romney) really would not make a good President. Unless you think that doing that is a wise investment at this point.
3. On both the Republican and Democrat side, Missouri showed that it is not just a bellwether state in general elections. The closeness of each race is just staggering.

1. My predictions were off on a couple aspects, and hit the mark perfectly on others. Overall, I actually underestimated Obama's support slightly, although it's tough to say how representative the caucus states are of the party's mood within those respective states.
2. Had we been told what the results would be a week ago, we would have probably said that Obama was the new frontrunner. Unfortunately for Obama, the media and a number of his cheerleaders built up expectations to an unrealistic level with their overreporting of poll results in California and New Jersey that showed Obama closing rapidly. As a result, last night was a draw in the truest sense (not in the sense of a draw actually being an Obama win). In California, the pundit-class that argued Obama might pull of the upset there utterly ignored the huge percentage of voters who voted by mail at a time when Hillary was ahead by 20 or 30 points. In New Jersey, that class ignored New Jersey's sordid history as a machine state. I personally would have been shocked had either state gone for Obama. In Massachussetts, the polling was showing a big lead for Hillary for quite some time - the expectation that the state was a toss-up just because of endorsements was laughable.
3. Hillary is still the favorite to win the nomination. It is almost inevitable that the race will come down to the Super Delegates, and I suspect that the race for binding delegates will wind up extremely close to tied. If that is the case, then it's hard to see how the Super Delegates break in Obama's favor.
4. The big surprises of the night from my perspective were Missouri and New Mexico (although my prediction on Alabama turned out to be wrong by several degrees of magnitude).
5. Looking at my original predictions, it looks like Obama took 4 of the 5 states I had listed as toss-ups, possibly one true "Lean Hillary" state (New Mexico- still undecided at this moment, but with a razor-thin edge to Obama), as well as one "Lean Hillary" state that probably should have been a "Lean Obama" state all along (Utah). Most pundits had Delaware as a "toss-up" state as well, giving Obama a major victory in the true toss-up states (I had it as a "Lean Obama" state due to its demographics).
6. Obama will have won several more states than Hillary when the counting is done. This is significant.
7. Obama's huge margin of victory in every single caucus state shows an ability to drive turnout that Democrats need to keep in mind if they want to win in November. If Hillary is the nominee, she will need to have Obama on the ticket if she wants to beat McCain; Obama does not need Hillary, though, if he is the nominee.
8. Obama may wind up ahead in pledged delegates on the night - no small feat given the media's (proper) emphasis on delegate counts as the true indicator last night.

More thoughts as they occur....

If you really need more thoughts right now, though, you can find them at Memeorandum.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Standard Meme of the Night

If I were John McCain, I'd be pretty annoyed at Chris Matthews, Joe Scarborough and a bunch of other pundits who have been advancing the meme that all of McCain's support is coming from "Blue states that Republicans can't win."

The reason I find this annoying is that it makes the assumption that Republicans don't need to win any blue states and shouldn't even try, even though they won the last two elections by the slimmest of margins with no room for error. If the Republican strategy is just to hold on to the states that Bush won in 2004 while making no inroads into other states, then the Republicans are leaving themselves no margin for error in a year when their party identification numbers are at an all time low.

At the same time as they've been hitting this meme like a broken record, they've been playing the opposite meme for Obama - that Democrats should take positive notice that Obama is doing so well in "Red" states, and that this makes him more electable.

If I was a Hillary supporter hearing those two memes juxtaposed together, I'd be even more annoyed.

Romney's Refrain

I've been meaning to comment on this for awhile, and today may well be my last chance if McCain all but seals the deal tonight as expected. In any event, ever since Romney transparently pillaged Obama's "Change" theme, he has made a point of saying that we can't have change by just "putting the same people in different chairs" (or something similar to that). He then claims that his experience as a Blue State governor (and as a businessman) makes him uniquely qualified to be President.

There's just one problem with that argument, which essentially argues that you need an outsider to create change, preferably an experienced governor, and definitely NOT a sitting member of Congress: most Presidents in modern times have fit Romney's "outsider" definition to a "T." Indeed, the last time we elected a sitting member of Congress to the Presidency was JFK - almost 50 years ago! Prior to that, you had Warren Harding in 1920, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, Garfield in 1880 (who died a few months after taking office), and that's it. Of course there are a number of Presidents like LBJ who had prior Congressional experience, especially in the 1800s.

Compare that to the number of recent Presidents we've had whose prior experience was primarily as a governor: Bush II, Clinton, Reagan, Carter... The point is this: the idea that all we need for "change" is to elect another governor is utterly preposterous. If anything, recent history would suggest that what we need for "change" is to stop electing governors as Presidents!

For the Record

For what it's worth, turnout in my Republican-monopolized town here in New Jersey seemed surprisingly low in a year when this state's vote actually means something in theory. I went to vote at what should have been a high time, and had exactly zero wait, and there was no one else coming or going for my district. Other districts (there are several that vote in the same building) were not much better. This says nothing about the Dem turnout, of course, since as I said the Republicans have a monopoly in my town (there wasn't a single "D" on my page of the voter list, for example). But the apparent lack of enthusiasm on the Republican side at this point says a lot.

My Reluctant Vote and What Ron Paul Should Have Done

This morning, I sucked it up, went to the voting booth, and voted for Ron Paul. Had the newsletter story broken earlier than it did, I would have changed my party registration so I could have supported Obama and given him a chance to win this surprisingly close state against Nixon in a Pantsu....err, Hillary.

In any event, it was amazing to me how joyless the experience of voting for Ron Paul had become only a few months after being absolutely ecstatic about his candidacy. Indeed, in the end, my vote was purely strategic and symbolic....a pure protest vote. My decision was made easier by the fact that McCain has a huge lead here in New Jersey, which is also a winner take all primary on the Republican side. Since I view Romney as on a par with Hillary on the Evil Scale, ensuring the death of his campaign had become a top priority for me. But with McCain's insurmountable lead here and the winner-take-all factor, that priority became a non-issue.

The diminishment of that priority paved the way for making a protest vote against the Republican Party's warmongering and nation-building of recent years, as well as its out of control spending and complete disregard for civil and social liberties. While Paul's value as a protest vote is greatly diminished due to the newsletter issue and his nativism on trade and immigration, as well as his emphasis on states' rights over individual rights, he is as good a protest as there is in the Republican Party these days. Since I could not vote in the Dem primary and since I am no longer a big fan of McCain, voting for Paul was the only way I felt my vote could have any impact whatsoever. Even then, my decision was still agonizing. In the end, I voted for Paul more because of McCain's douchebaggery and dishonesty in the last debate (which eliminated the main reason I could tolerate McCain) than anything else....though I hasten to add that Paul's honest and adult performance in that debate was also a factor.

It's sad, really, how reluctant my vote had become. Just a few months ago, Paul was one of the only politicians I had ever been excited about. Even after the Thanksgiving Eve Alex Jones interview, despite what my head was saying, my heart was still clearly with Paul. But the newsletter story, and especially the response to it from both the Paul campaign and the Rockwell crowd, killed whatever irrational passion I had remaining for Paul. In the end, my voyage to the polls this morning was utterly joyless, and I felt that my vote had become close to meaningless. Were Fred Thompson still in the race, I think I would have voted for him over Paul.

And it didn't need to be this way. Even after the newsletter story broke, Paul could have won my heart back or at least made my vote pro-Paul rather than just anti-Bush, Romney, and McCain. All that Paul needed to do was to come clean about the newsletters or put out one honest press release. He could have even done this without throwing his friends under the bus (even though those friends clearly had no problem throwing Paul under the bus).

Such a press release could have just been a few sentences, and would have read something along the lines of:

I wanted to address the recent allegations against me in the New Republic. It is true that for an extended period of time, I allowed newsletters with some very incendiary material to be published under my name. The incendiary material in these newsletters was part of an ill-advised attempt to raise money for causes that I support, including my Congressional campaign. For a period, some of my advisors had become convinced that my ideals had a very limited appeal that required reaching out to groups with some ugly views. The success of my current campaign, which has brought together people of all races, religions, and backgrounds under one
movement, has proven just how wrong my advisors were, and just how wrong it was
of me to acquiesce to their convictions.

As for my personal views, I have said repeatedly and clearly that I view racism as anathema to the individualism that is at the core of my philosophy. Unfortunately, my personal ethics prohibit me from identifying the individuals who wrote this material by name. Should they choose to come forward, then I will have more to add at that time. What I can say is that I was wrong in acquiescing to their strategy, and for that I deeply apologize and take responsibility. Again, the diversity and passion of my supporters in this current campaign has proven just how wrong I was for
believing that publishing the incendiary material described in the New Republic article was necessary to expanding my base of support.

...Or something along those lines. But instead of taking responsibility for his actual involvement with the newsletters, he instead has tried to avoid that responsibility by saying that he didn't write the material, didn't know about it, and doesn't know who wrote it. If his concern was that he didn't want to hurt his friends by outing them as racists (or at least as former racists), he could have issued a response like the above, which at least avoids the implausible argument that he doesn't know who wrote the materials and didn't know what was going out.

If Paul is to run a credible third party campaign for the general election, these are concerns he will have to answer. While the newsletter controversy didn't gain that much traction outside of libertarian circles and the internet last month, it will certainly gain traction if Paul runs a third party campaign where he threatens to get 10% of the national vote (which is about where he's polling right now in hypothetical races).

Monday, February 4, 2008

Final Super Tuesday Predictions and Prognostications

The other day I gave a best guess on the fluid status of the Super Tuesday races on the Dem side. Today, I'm going to lay it all on the line and get very specific on those predictions by giving what I think will be the final spread in each race. While Obama has been gaining in almost all the polls, I want to point out that Hillary starts out with a big advantage in absentee ballots in a number of states. I also suspect that voter turnout will be highest among those who made up their minds awhile ago, which is the group most likely to have been following the race closely. So my predictions are slightly less optimistic for Obama than his momentum would suggest.

If I have time, I'll try to do the same for the Republicans tonight or tomorrow morning.

Without further ado:

Alabama: Clinton by less than 5. Total delegates split about evenly
Arizona: Clinton by 5-10, with a slight advantage in delegates
Arkansas: Clinton by about 20-25, and about 2/3 of the delegates
California: Clinton by about 5 on the strength of early votes. Delegates split about evenly.
Colorado: Obama by 5-10, delegates split about evenly.
Connecticut: Obama by one or two points, delegates split evenly.
Delaware: Obama by about 5, and a slight advantage on delegates.
Georgia: Obama by about 20-25, and about 2/3 of the delegates
Idaho: Obama by 20-25, and about 3/4 of the delegates
Illinois: Obama by 30+, and about 3/4 of the delegates
Kansas: Obama by 5-10, and a slight delegate advantage
Massachussetts: Clinton by less than 5, delegates split about evenly
Minnesota: Obama by less than 5, delegates split about evenly
Missouri: Clinton by less than 5, delegates split about evenly
New Jersey: Clinton by 5-10, and a slight delegate advantage
New Mexico: Clinton by less than 5, and a slight delegate advantage
New York: Clinton by 20, but Obama wins NYC by a slim margin. Clinton gets about 60% of the delegates
North Dakota (no link): Obama by 15-20, about 2/3 of the delegates
Oklahoma: Clinton by 25, and about 60% of the delegates (with Edwards picking off a couple delegates despite dropping out)
Tennessee: Clinton by 20 and about 2/3 of the delegates
Utah: Obama by 10, and about 60% of the delegates

Final result: Clinton wins 11 states, Obama wins 10, with American Samoa and Democrats Abroad unknown (though I suspect Obama wins the latter handily). Total delegates awarded: Clinton, 850-900; Obama, 750-800, Edwards 0-50. The race continues on to February 12, and beyond.

***Revised to include North Dakota***
***UPDATE 2: The original version vastly understated the number of delegates at stake; mistake has been corrected***

Obama and Gun Control

Nick Gillespie discusses a Clayton Cramer post on Obama and gun control. Cramer views Obama as an anti-gun radical (although their voting records show that Hillary is far, far worse).

My take, left as a comment to Gillespie's post, is below. Bottom line: Obama is clearly an anti-gun Democrat; but I also don't think significant gun control is likely in the next Administration to the extent it is a wedge issue that requires tons of political capital.

The key question here is:"How much of a role will gun rights play in the election?" The answer: not much, nor should they. Violent crime in this country is extremely low right now compared with the 80's and early 90's. The so-called "assault weapons" ban has been expired for well over 3 years and (shockingly!) there has been no sudden surge of people being bayoneted to death with scary looking rifles.

Meanwhile, the economy is going to shit, we're spending hundreds of billions on a war of choice, health care costs have gone through the roof (because our current system has so many market distortions), and we're fighting a massive GWOT in which the executive branch has decided the Constitution is an obstacle to be overcome rather than a road map to success. I could go on...Right now, gun control is probably not on the top 100 list of things to do for the next President. Even if it were, it's worth remembering that any such legislation would need to get through two houses of Congress. Gun control is also a wedge issue that requires a lot of political capital to force through; with so many higher priorities, an incoming President isn't going to be able to waste that capital on gun control. The cost of that capital will be even higher if the SCOTUS rules that gun ownership is an individual right, and only slightly less in the event SCOTUS finds only a collective right.

While I can see candidates discussing gun control on the campaign trail, and the eventual winner even mentioning it in their initial address to Congress, I have a hard time seeing any of them actually spending political capital to force significant gun control through before the 2012 elections.

The most likely way for gun control to happen under the next President is actually to elect John McCain. McCain has a long history of supporting fairly harsh gun control measures; there is also a good chance he will only be a one-term President due to his age. Combined with the fact that he is also a Republican, this means he would have to spend much less political capital for gun control than any of the other candidates.

More reactions at memeorandum.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Concluding Blogroll Amnesty Day

All weekend, I've been linking to other small blogs in honor of today's Blogroll Amnesty Day. There are still a couple more blogs from my blogroll to which I want to give some special attention, but which I was unable to give full posts this weekend. Below are a couple of recommended posts from those blogs. If there is anyone else on my blogroll who would like to have a post added to this list, let me know.

For the record, not all of these blogs are smaller than me, and one or two are even substantially larger than me. But all are underrated in their own way.

East Coast Libertarian discusses markets, morality, and central planning with a special eye on the libertarian truism known in these parts as Kip's Law.

Cosmo's Brain on Mitt Romney and Godwin's Law (bonus anti-Donder-oooooooooooooooo! rant).

Crazy For Liberty discusses Ron Paul's Fourth Quarter fundraising haul from military members.

Doug Mataconis takes a look at the Super Tuesday polls.

Mattbastard on an outrageous case of excessive force in Ohio.

The aforementioned Kip Esquire on ethanol and Bill Clinton.

**UPDATE** I unforgiveably left out the irreverent To The People, with some not-so-irreverent questions for the Straight Talk Express - and they want details and specifics.

A New Low in Moral Equivalence

I haven't much followed Senator Specter's utterly insane obsession with the NFL/Patriots "Spygate" non-scandal. But Tony at RollingDoughnut points out what has to be a new low in moral equivalence from Ira Einhorn's favorite defense attorney:

"The American people are entitled to be sure about the integrity of the game. It's analogous to the CIA destruction of tapes, or any time you have records destroyed."

Read Tony's full post, or else you don't get a cookie.