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Saturday, November 09, 2002
[ See Addendums, Clarifications, & Updates at the bottom — added a bit since the item was originally posted Update II added at the bottom]

Larry ain't done...
Neither am I...
Gotta buy the book...
and it came down to 3 seats...

Tony Adragna
We're gonna hafta read Sabato's book, Will — I wanna know what he thinks happened. I've got my own idea — Nothing!

Look, everybody is talking about how historic it is that the President's party picked up House seats in a mid-term. That's true in the long-term view of history, but we've got a recent example — the Democrats picked up 5 seats in the '98 mid-term. Then we get to the 2000 election — where the trend in Presidential Election years has the winner's party riding in on the coattails — and we see that the GOP lost seats in the House and the Senate. That's two trend bucking events , and they're in consecutive election cycles.

Now we've got a third event — not only does the President's party pick up seats at the mid-term, but it's also coincident with the same party holding a majority in the legislature going into the election. And it's the third consecutive election cycle where voters didn't do what they've historically done.

Why aren't voters following the old pattern? I don't know. But, my gut is telling me that those three seeming anomalies aren't going to seem so anomalous in the future, and that's why I'd like to find out exactly what moved voters this time around.

Confirming my suspicion that something new is going on is the total failure of most pundits to get it right — not just before the election, but now. If I hear or read another "major shift" spiel, I'm gonna hurl. Fact is that the shift was small — eight seats at most. Yes, it was enough of a shift to give the President's party control in both houses of Congress, but as I noted before, the GOP already had that after the polling in 2000. But for a defection, we wouldn't be talking about Democrats losing control. And what shift there is — 2 [or 3] seats in the Senate and 5 in the House — isn't enough to even hint at anything approaching a "major shift" toward the GOP on a national level.

Not even if you aggregate all of the changes from '96 onward do you see a "major shift". If anything was a signal change, it was the '94 election where Democrats lost their 40-something year hold on the legislature [noting that the GOP did hold the Senate for six years during the Reagan years] But the Democrats are net positive since then:
'96 -2
'98 no change
'00 +4
'02 -2

'96 +2
'98 +5
'00 +2
'02 -5
That is, the Democrats are up from where they were after the '94 election — restated: the GOP is down from where it was after '94. So if any trend exists,.then it's a trend favouring Dems. But is there a trend?

Honestly, I think the shifts are too small to call a "trend" in anybody's favour. With the last redistricting (read: gerrymandering), barring any large mood shifts in the electorate, we're likely to see the same types of small shifts in the House for years to come [I heard you, Will. But even retirments won't buck that trend, because the gerrymandered seats help not just the incumbent individual — they help the incumbent party too]. The same holds for the Senate except that here Leadership replaces redistricting and control will change with a single election's minor shift — or a single senator's defection.

These small shifts at the polling place do produce major shifts in governance when the legislative chamber is as closely divided as the Senate, but they are counter-indicative of a large scale movement in the electorate. That's especially true when we see winning candidates out-poll incumbents by small margins, as was the case in two of this year's Senate contests. And it's most especially true when the incumbent candidate owed the seat to a slim victory in the prior election. What these shifts actually indicate is the wishy-washiness of the electorate, and that points to continuing close division. The way out is for candidates to invigorate the electorate, and that means Leadership.

So, what happened in the '02 Senate races — what restored & deepened the GOP control of that body — is capital-el Leadership. To borrow an example from history, it's the contest between Winston Churchill and Clement Atlee, and we know which was the "modest man, who has much to be modest about."

And so I come to Thomas Nephew, who makes the case that GOP leadership on going after Iraq helped them get out the vote. He also points out that because war was on the agenda the Democrats couldn't talk about domestic issues. Both points are valid, but is either responsible for the Democrats' losses?

Let me first dispense again the notion — which I don't believe Thomas subscribes to — that the nation overwhelmingly supports Mr. Bush on the war, and therefore the GOP won. If that kind of support did in fact exist, and if it were a major factor in individual voting, then a lot more of the 126 Democratic & 6 GOP House members who voted Nay would have lost their seats. And neither were the close race losses due to a failure at getting out the base, nor a protest by liberals against the moderate & conservative factions of the Democratic Party: as John Judis points out, the base turned up and voted as they always do — for the Democrat.

It was, beyond a doubt, the President being seen to Lead that was responsible for GOP gains. The President led a unified party against an opposition whose leadership showed up in an empty taxi. But more important than being a good partisan leader, Mr. Bush was able to reach out to non-partisan voters in those contests where help was needed, and voters responded.

To the extent that the war gives Mr. Bush an opportunity to Lead, I'll concede that national security has something to do with GOP gains. But here I'll depart from Judis: there was something the Democrats could've done — be better at Leading. They even had an opportunity to do exactly that on the Iraq debate. But they opted to attempt controlling rather than leading, and we see what happened — Mr. Lieberman's Dec '01 call for war got turned into Mr. Bush's Oct '02 victory in the legislature, and the Democratic leadership forfeited any leverage they might have had with non-partisan voters in Nov '02.

It's about more that leading your base, faction, or party — it's about Leading the Nation, and Democrats in Congress haven't been able to do that since at least 1994...

Addendum: On reflection, I don't think Democrats were able to Lead even before '94. While that party mostly did well, and there were some men of stature who did in fact Lead, the party's control of government was mostly due to control of the party's machine. The Mechanics are a dying breed...

Clarification: I started out writing the above to make the point that, in my opinion, the election had nothing to do with whose message got a better reception, and I stand by that point. Still close to half the country voted with the Democrats, and the anti-war, anti-imperialist message from the liberal wing didn't adversely impact their incumbancy [for instance, of the the Baghdad Boys, McDermott won by a large margin, but Bonior lost his gubernatorial primary run. Where's the clear signal?]. What does that say about Democrats losing on the "national security" issue? It says to me that CW is, as it often is, plain ol' vanilla wrong...

But, it is true that whoever wants to cause a large shift in the balance — like 10 seats in the Senate, or 20 - 30 seats in the House — is going to have to get out strong messages on the issues, and those messages are going to need a good reception by a wider base of support. One of those issues is national defense, not denying that...

Update: The Clerk of the House has historical data on Party Divisions in that chamber. It looks to me like the 104th through 107th Congresses represent the longest period of close divisions since the Founding, and you can add another two years — at least — to that.[ Historical Party Divisions for the Seate are also available]

Update II: A reader emails to note that my comparison of the '98 mid-term to the '02 mid-term is a false comparison — this was Mr. Bush's 1st mid-term, while '98 was Clinton's 2nd. Well, I shoulda been clearer, so here goes.

Actually, I'm not so much "comparing" as I'm pointing out other "historic events", and Clinton's 2nd term mid-term pick-up, slim as it was, is exactly that. FDR lost lots of House seats (71) in his second mid-term (1938), and lost more seats (40) his third mid-term (1942). Truman lost 29 seats in his 2nd mid-term. Eisenhower lost 48 in his second mid-term. Reagan lost 5 seats in his second mid-term. Of the eight Presidents who served 2 full terms1 (or more in the case of FDR) in the last [100 years], they've all lost House seats at the second mid-term — except Clinton.

In other words, the distinction between 1st mid-term and 2nd mid-term is without a difference.

FN 1 There are 3 others besides the ones listed above — TR, Wilson & Coolidge — all of whom lost seats in their 2nd mid-terms. TR, however, is one of three presidents over the last 100 years who picked up seats during any mid-term, and that — like Mr. Bush's accomplishment — was in his 1st term. But Clinton is the only to have picked up seats in his 2nd mid-term.

Is the mid-term pick-up any longer such a great accomplishment? My point is that going forward it may not be, and with the close divisions, even a small pickup can change control.

Friday, November 08, 2002

QP Vespers

Will Vehrs
Larry Sabato has published his Crystal Ball wrap-up. He should have waited until you finished your Maryland research, Tony ...

Anyway, Professor Sabato's final results:

HOUSE: CB accurately predicted 47 of the “Nifty 50” most competitive House races.
SENATE: CB accurately predicted 32 of 34 races.
GOVERNOR: CB accurately predicted 31 of 36 races.

Look for Sabato's 2004 outlook to be up soon!

Burt from Bah Humblog wrote to modestly point to his very accurate predictions. He's also hot on the trail of potential voting mischief on South Dakota Indian Reservations.

Tapped Out It's not often that I cite the very liberal Tapped. Reading this afternoon, though, I had to agree with their take on the House Minority Leader battle between Frost and Pelosi. They used Newt Gingrich as a model!

Newt Gingrich was an effective minority leader not because he was conservative, but because he was a cunning, ruthless fighter who was willing to wage all-out war on the Democratic House sultans during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Democrats need to think of themselves as the Guerilla Party now. Time will tell whether Pelosi will prove as effective an opposition leader as Gingrich. But Tapped's impression is that she's got more piss and vinegar than Martin Frost, her rival for the post, does. And both piss and vinegar are in rather short supply these days.

Liberal Democrats have safe seats; why not fight liberal battles? They would provide a convenient "Sister Souljah" target for moderate Democratic Presidential aspirants. Of course, I later learned that Frost has withdrawn and Harold Ford of Tennessee is "back" in. Ford declared for the race on the Imus radio show, didn't announce when he planned to, but then apparently did announce. My agreement with Tapped was short-lived when they wrote this:

Ford is the kind of smooth, urbane, moderate young congressman who regularly gets fawningly profiled. But he's too young, too ambitious for himself, to conflict-averse, and too slippery to be the leader Democrats need. A hoary old partisan like Pelosi is the better choice, for now. If, that is, she heeds Tapped's call for Democrats to dedicate themselves seriously to issues of national security.

I'm sorry, but a capable black candidate is a better choice for Democrats. How long do they continue to expect the absolute loyalty of black voters when they fail to promote and support black candidates for leadership? Ford would be better for the party than Pelosi, even better than a guerilla fighter. It's hard to understand, though, why Ford would want the job. It's not exactly the best ticket to higher office. Of course, maybe he's just sending a signal ....

The UN is Resolved...

Tony Adragna
... "to remain seized of the matter."

It's a lot of boilerplate lingua diplomatica, and still the teeth haven't come out of the glass — like an old lady gumming peanuts at a Roller Derby match. But, the "material breach" language along with the unanimous vote might signal that this time really is Hussein's last chance.

Well, it is anyway, regardless whether there's compliance — so says David Ignatius, and I can't disagree. Ignatius does end on a cautionary note:
The danger is, how many Americans, Israelis and Arabs will he take down with him? The Iraqi leader has an endgame strategy, too. We just don't know what it is
Despite the statement being tautological, it still needs to be heard in some quarters. But, in the final analysis that's not a reason to not go — Hussein's endgame doesn't matter so long as we can get to checkmate...

p.s. Working on a little election related research project focused on the MD Gubernatorial Election just gone by. I've posted some data [scroll waaay dooown] but there's some more I'm waiting for...

Two Minute Drill Zapped

Will Vehrs
I wrote my usual blather this morning, pressed the button to post it, and it disappeared into thin air. I hate it when that happens.

Update: Rewrote it and tried again. Gone. You'd think I would have saved it, but you would be wrong.

One Last Try: I want to congratulate one of The Refuge's most provocative (or is provoking?) posters, Dan Dickinson. Dan is this week's winner of the Caption Contest, a long overdue honor. Compare the tone of this Paul Krugman harangue (Krugman was once an economics columnist, but is now vying to lead the Democratic Party) with the NYT lead editorial on the same page. Memo to Drudge: Pryor won in Arkansas. Get over it. For some insight into the prosecutor who will try Beltway and elsewhere killer John Muhammad, check out my post from October 31st.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Does the President Have a "Mandate"?...
... And Were the Dems Ever "In Control"?...

Tony Adragna
The short answer to question one is, Yes. But so it was when Mr. Bush took office and the 107th Congress began its 1st Session. Mr. Bush's ability to pursue that mandate then was dependent on one of two things: Unanimity within the GOP, or pulling votes from the Democratic caucus. How well did Mr. Bush pursue that mandate?

Well, on the big ticket item from 2001 — the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 — without Democrats the conference report would not have passed, even with Cheney's tie breaking vote: McCain & Chafee voted Nay.

With a 50-50 split and the absence of unanimity within the senate's GOP caucus, the ability to move Mr. Bush's agenda was in serious trouble — then Senator Jeffords bolted. That last bit is important to answering question two. The short answer is, Yes. But that control wasn't won through the ballot, so while the President's mandate was on a shakey footing, the Democrats' mandate was non-existent.

But much worse than not having a mandate, the Senate Democrats couldn't even act as if they did. Instead, by not offering an alternative domestic agenda they defaulted to Mr. Bush. And, they allowed themselves to be portrayed as soft on National Security at the same time that folks like Cleland, Carnahan, and Johnson — two of whom lost their seats — were voting with Mr. Bush on going to war against Iraq.

In other words, the Democrats wanted control, but never got around to leading — not even in the house they controlled. Indeed, "Democratic Leadership" might even be this season's most freshly minted oxymoron.

Now, you'll hear it said & read it written that September 11th & all that's transpired since are responsible for a swing in votes. I'm not buying that notion, the most facile form of which suggests [Democratic losses were due to] that voters took into account a politician's position on Iraq. If that were true, then Durbin, Levin and Reed should have lost. Instead, they won their races by overwhelming majorities — 60 - 38, 61 - 38, and 78 - 22 respectively. Of the three Democrat senate seats that changed hands, two of the incumbents — Cleland & Carnahan — voted for the resolution authorizing force against Iraq. Something else is going on.

What do I think is happening? Were the election results the final surge in a trend toward the GOP? Or, is there a resurgent tide sweeping toward GOP shores? I don't know, but what I do know is that the other night shouldn't have been a surprise — Cleland's win in '96 was by 1½ points, Mel Carnahan's 2000 win was 2.4 points, and Wellstone's in '96 was an "eke" by 2 points. To wit: The Dems hold on the Senate was tenuous before the 2000 election — September 11th had nothing to do with that.

But, I'm not seeing a trend for the GOP either. In fact, what I saw the other night was a wishy-washy national psyche not willing to fully commit one way or the other. Notwisthanding GOP gains, the nation is still fairly closely divided. What that means is that Mr. Bush and the GOP need exercise caution in pushing their agenda — voters can turn very quickly. Besides, if the GOP pushes too hard, some few members may revolt.

So, the Democrats lost that which they never [really] owned [after Jan 2000] — control of the Senate. Mr. Bush may now assert — with vigour this time — a mandate that is clear, if not cogent. The only thing left for me to do is kick back and watch — whether we're off to hell in a handbasket, or up on cloud nine, either way I'm along for the ride...

Addendum: I'll admit surprise at one point — the spread in the Cleland-Chambliss race. I am saddened at the treatment of Max Cleland during the campaign — politics is not a friendly sport, but there was over the top questioning of his committment to defense of the nation. 'Course, I don't think that mattered to his loss...

A Good Cause

Will Vehrs
It was "Community Service Day" today where I work. A small group from my office went to the Hospital Hospitality House, a Ronald MacDonald House type operation associated with the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) Hospital. We stripped wallpaper, pulled up old carpet and washed walls in the aging rooms of the 8th floor. The Hospitality House wants to renovate the rooms to accommodate children from the Third World. These children come to MCV for free treatment of debilitating and disfirguring diseases.

It felt good to do some manual labor for a good cause.

I'll be back tomorrow, hopefully commenting on the routine news and issues of the day.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Punditwatch Special:

"Pundits Get Pasted on Predictions"

Get your copy at — it's a must read...

If Nominated, I Will Not Know

Will Vehrs
Jeesh, Tony, I have to maintain some semblance of impartiality here and I can't be praising you for a campaign where you never asked for my advice. Now that you've thoroughly humiliated me, I acknowledge the unique brilliance of your campaign. Tell your write-in staff to clue me in next time, ok?

A bleary-eyed Larry Sabato is answering election questions live at this moment. Guess who submitted a ton? You can find the transcript here.

What, No Consolation!?!...
And What Really Went Wrong?...

Tony Adragna
Will, I know that my campaign was the likes of never has been seen in the Free State — my staff was but one Unqualified Individual, and I didn't even know I was running — so I had no expectation of winning.

But the least you coulda done was wish me luck next time!

Talk about "no class"... Wait 'til you need my vote, Will...

Seruiously, though, Parris is dead on. KKT did run a lousy campaign from the begin — the worst thing she did was decide to run. But, it couldn't have helped that KKT got caught up in the acrimony between Glendening and The Mechanic — that would be MD's noted political mechaninc, Ex-Governor, and current Comptroller William Donald Schaefer [the guy just keeps winning elections. Go figure!].

If Glendening prefers recrimination over commiseration, the the least he ought to have done was waited 'til Ethel boarded her flight home...

Can't blame the loss on "voter turnout", either — voter turnout was up in total from 1990 when Schaefer won by 20 points. I'm not even sure that there's a correlation between higher turnout in the last three elections and higher percentages of the vote going to Republicans — results range from a statistical tie to a ten point spread for Dems to a five point spread for the GOP — and I don't know whether '90's turnout was a dip or consistent with previous elections.

I think Josh is right — there were certainly tactical blunders, but losses across the slate were mostly about failing to get the message out, or failure to have a message to put out. I do think it worth noting, though, that the Dems put up some pretty defunct candidates. I've provided sufficient evidence of one example, and now I've got another — Bob Clement! Did you see any of the debates between Alexander and Clement? The Dem candidate struck me as an "aw shucks" Fifeish kinda doofus.

The last bit of looking I need to do is the breakdown by county in MD — that's the meat of the story in Free State politics...

p.s.: I didn't "take down" Noonan for predicting that the rally would cost the DFL votes. Rather, I simply thought that the bit was tactless and disingenuous...

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Random thoughts after the election ....

Poor Predicting I've just written a Punditwatch Special, gratuitously pointing out how wrong many election predictions were. I'm not sure they'll run it. As I think I wrote last week, most people can't help but predict what they hope will happen. Democratic-leaning folks took it on the chin this time, but Republican-leaning prognosticators had many of their predictions of GOP gains out there long before it became clear that a GOP "tide" was developing. That's luck. While most individual races weren't as close as expected (South Dakota Senate close), it certainly wasn't clear last week at this time that Cleland was in trouble, for example, or that Allard wasn't. On balance, though, Democrat-leaning pundits and bloggers were much more bullish on their chances than Republican-leaners were. Advantage: nobody.

Minnesota Coulda-Beens Tony, I think Peggy Noonan's Wellstone-channeling piece looks a little better this morning than when you took it down. I feel even more sympathy for the Wellstone family now. They're blamed for a memorial service that turned the tide against the very thing they seemed to most want in the wake of a devastating tragedy. I'd prefer, however, to believe that it was Monday's debate that ensured Coleman's win. Mondale, who had just waltzed into the race, was shaking his finger at Coleman and criticizing everything the Mayor stood for or had ever done. That negative tone contrasted starkly with a much more positive message from Coleman. It took away Mondale's huge advantage in experience. We want someone with experience to uplift us, not be a cranky nay-sayer.

Virginia Fall-Out Virginia Governor Mark Warner lost big--two transportation referendums he championed. A special election for the House of Delegates and one for the State Senate went to Republicans. Warner is in danger of becoming a lame-duck with three years left in his term. There's no appetite for raising taxes. He needs to reinvent himself, becoming the Efficiency in Government Governor, making what Virginia can afford into the best it can be. Warner can attack Republican "pork" and become a latter-day Douglas Wilder, former governor known for his hard-nosed fiscal discipline.

The Republican who won the special election for the House of Delegates, Ben Cline, was shown not to have voted in the last three general elections. It didn't hurt him. So much for civic responsibility being a litmus test.

Pitt's Resignation I'm sure Pitt's resignation announcement was timed to "bury it," but I think it can be spun another way, too. At his moment of triumph, Bush did not "arrogantly" stand by Pitt, but let him go. I think that was a smart move. It didn't look like Democrats forced him into it.

File This Under No Class

Will Vehrs
Undoubtably, there will be classless comments from winners and losers alike after this election, but I'd like to nominate Maryland Governor Parris Glendening for a special Nixon award:

[Kathleen Kennedy Townsend] was originally expected to coast to victory in the heavily Democratic state, but her gubernatorial bid foundered under the direction of an inexperienced campaign team and the burden of the public's growing dislike for Glendening, her political partner.

Glendening, for his part, blamed Townsend, saying she conducted "one of the worst-run campaigns in the country."

"She was a great lieutenant governor, and she would have been a great governor with all kinds of options available," Glendening said. But "she had a very small group of advisers, and they put on the oddest campaign for governor anybody has ever seen. You have to remember your base, and they did not

This is from a WP story on Ehrlich's victory.

"S.E.C.'s Embattled Chief Resigns"

Tony Adragna
Chairman Pitt finally exercises some good judgement...

I'm not gonna lie and say "whatever happens with the election, this makes up for it", but it's something good for everybody — 'cept those bean counters I used to work for...

Tony for State's Attorney?

Tony Adragna
Hey Will, there was a write-in campaign to elect... no kidding... ME!

According to Jim I got several votes — all his...

[Memo to Jim: Neither was on my ballot — I'm in MD's 4th. I didn't vote in the Cong. race 'cause I'm not sure 'bout Wynn or Kimble — I was redistricted into that race sans my paying attention]

And a must read is Jim's "The Two-Party System We COULD Have" — he echoes my own sentiment, so how can I disagree...

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

How's Tony's Picks?

Tony Adragna
Just checked in with CNN to see how far off my tummy was on results here in the Free State. Wynn & Cardin are right on track — no surprise

I was thinking that Van Hollen might get that which he hopes for — a vote down partisan lines. Earlier in the evening it looked like he might, but with 66% of precincts reporting it's only a 5 point difference.

Governor's race still could turn into a statistical tie...

Update: As of 10:28 PM, Ruppersberger is up by 4 points with 71% of precincts in — if Ehrlich loses the statistical tie, or loses by points, remember what I said...

As of 10:16 PM Van Hollen up by 3 points with 84% of precincts in — not the blowout he pushed for...

If both Ruppersberger & Van Hollen win, that makes Maryland's Congressional Delegation 6 Dem - 2 GOP, a two seat pickup for Dems ..

Update II: As of 10:46 PM Ehrlich is pulling away. Not only has he a good chance of winning, but It may not be statistical tie — Ehrlich's ahead by 5 points with 93% of precincts in...

Update III: Looks like y'all got some Constitutional Amendments approved, Will. The Innocence Claims Amendment did well, but I'm wondering what those people who voted against it are thinking... well, I know what they were thinking.

We had some Amendments on the ballot here, too. The only one I voted against is an attempt to give the legislature authority to pass "emergency" type legislation to make state offices go poof — I'm very not much in favour of giving people these types of "emergency" powers...

Update IV: It's a little before 11:30 PM and KKT is making a concession speech. No surprise that Ehrlich won, but I did think it was gonna be close — a lot closer than the 5 point spread.

Connie Morella made her concession speech a little while ago, but I missed it. No surprise here either, but I thought the spread would be wider than 3 points — not much wider, but wider...

Update V: It's 12:48 AM Nov 6, and I was right about the margin is MD's 8th — it is a little wider than 3 points. My gut was wanting to double that and make it 6, but that's 'cause I wasn't counting the third party candidate. With all precincts reporting, the spread is 5 points (52 - 47) with the 1 point left over for Bassett.

I'm still awed at Ehrlich's 3 point lead, but I shouldn't be...

Tony, I'm Proud of You

Will Vehrs
After all the negative commentary you had provided during this campaign season on KKT, I was shocked that you were still planning to vote for her, Tony. I'm glad you changed your mind. I would never have believed you again if you started criticizing a Democrat.

Elizabeth Dole and Jeb Bush have been declared winners. The Democrats would have dearly loved to steal one or both of those, but it was not to be. It's back to watching Ark, MO, CO, NH, and MN. Democrats are claiming Texas is really in play. I'm watching for some hard evidence.

Tony Voted With the Knuckleheads...

Tony Adragna
I struggled, Will... I really did. Before leaving the office I made up my mind to vote for KKT. But, right before I logged off the computer, I looked for some Unqualified Offerings on, you know, what I should do.

My sentiments don't perfectly match Jim's, but my disdain for the current state of two-party politics gets me close.

I wanted to vote for KKT for two reasons:
(a) I think she's trustworthy. What she lacks in Kennedy charm, she makes up for in lacking the Kennedy ethic.

(b) I trust Ehrlich not as far as I could throw him. "Moderate" in the political arena is a label akin to "natural" on something that's been through ADM's labs — I ain't buying it for the label. Whenever somebody tells me that so and so is a "moderate" who can "bring people together" and "work with the other side", I start getting that funny feeling. It would be more apt to say that when these folks aren't compromising their own principles, they're co-opting somebody from the other party, or leaving one of their own out in the cold. I'm not gonna name any examples, but I'll give a hint 'bout who it is of I speak: WJC & GWB.
So, even though I don't particularly care for KKT, I was prepared to not throw my vote away on Lancaster.

But, I got to my polling place and there were campaign folks trying to pull my vote, and that's when my tummy settled down. Between the "Working Hard For You" [I sure hope so!] nonsense from KKT's partisans and the "Ehrlich won't raise your taxes" [yeah right! Of course he won't] nonsense from his partisans, I'd had enough — told 'em both they'd lost my vote...

I stomped into the Edmonston Municipal Building and voted for Spear Lancaster. I mostly agree with him on the issues, and he makes great sense on the "''Wasting Your Vote' Syndrome" — there is an alternative to voting for the two parties, and I can't keep bitching 'less I'm willing to go there...

So I did...

It might not get me any real results, but at least I can sleep tonight...

Addendum: About those "voting machine problems" here in Maryland — didn't have any problems in my precinct. In fact, though there were lines — because it does take a bit longer to go through the electronic ballot versus simply flipping switches & pulling a lever — people didn't seem to be having any problems and the wait was only about 15 mins... No probs here...

Are Democrats Trying to Steal the Election?...
Or Are Republicans Trying to Send-Home the Vote?...

Tony Adragna
Three Big Stories this election season: Voter Fraud, Voter Intimidation, and The 50-50 Split. Where are those stories now, Will?

The "massive voter fraud" story that the Blogosphere latched on to — like a suckling pig at a sow's teat — came out of South Dakota. OK fine, voting fraud does have its genesis in fraudulent registration, and there is evidence of that in South Dakota. But, "massive"?

Not quite, and even South Dakota's AG — the same Mark Barnett from whence the "it could expand" came to lead others into making some wildly expansive charges — has been saying that not only were the irregularities not as widespread as the hyperbole suggests, but also that there is not any evidence of any actual fradulent voting. Advantage Josh Marshall!

Ironically, while Josh was defending the Dems on the South Dakota contratemps and Republicans were hyping the story into "massive voter fraud", I saw no mention [though I didn't look very far] of a very real case of voter fraud. Why hasn't this story been given greater attention?

Two reasons: (a) the "voter fraud" charges, and the replies, have less to do with integrity of the electoral system than they do with partisan considerations; (b) DC votes count for nothing on the national political landscape [and close to nothing even in DC].

How about "voter intimidation"? There's a bit more meat to this story than you suggest, Will. The example from Baltimore is amateurish compared to what's been seen in Texas. I'm not sure exactly what the deal is in Tennessee — waiting to find out what the "misunderstanding" was all about.

But, while there's meat to the story, it's not quite the quality that some would sell it as — more like what's left of a pot roast than a t-bone. And this story line is also bandied about more for partisan reasons than anything else — just look at how the US Civil Rights Commission politicized the issue in their review of the Florida Fiasco.

Will any of this end up in court? The 50-50 split suggests that close races are going to end up in court and evidence of the conduct above will be at the center of arguments. I'm not going to take a stab at how many cases we're talking about — there's bound to be some cases in any event [else why have lawyers who specialize in election law].

I do feel good about Dahlia's answer to my question:
The U.S. Supreme Court won't take these cases because they lost too much political capital over Bush v. Gore, and they aren't willing to look that bad again.
At least the gridlock that comes with divided government won't be resolved by clever lawyering & even cleverer judging — that's some comfort...

[Disclosure: Haven't voted yet, but I will for KKT — I'd rather a feckless Democrat who won't give the legislature too much grief, than a Republican whose Democratic friends in the General Assembly may cause some trouble... otherwise I had planned on voting Big L]

Will Votes With the Seniors

Will Vehrs
Most polling places in Virginia are at schools, so there was no school today. I packed my daughter up and headed for her elementary school to vote.

When we pulled into the school parking lot, I could see the bus from the senior living complex parked in front of the door. A few years ago I might have been perturbed at my timing, but now I'm not that far from maybe being a passenger in that bus. I also thought it would be an excellent opportunity to see non-Florida senior citizens deal with dreaded PUNCH CARDS. Yes, Virginia, we still use that antiquated method that many claim cost Al Gore the presidency.

The line was long when we got inside, with the odd situation of everyone being in the "L-Z" line and no one in the "A-K" line. I gave up my spot to an elderly lady with a walker even though she warned me that she was not sure she was at the right precinct. Sure enough, she had difficulty providing "proof" of her identity, but the poll workers were very helpful and gladly accepted her expired driver's license when she finally found it in her purse. She asked if she could take a magnifying glass with her into the voting booth and she was assured that she could. When she got her ballot and moved to the line to wait for a voting booth, she was guided to a special "sit-down" booth that had been set up for persons with physical limitations and was told that a poll worker would be there to help her if she needed it.

I had my voter registration card, had voted in the last election, and had not changed my address, so I did not have to provide photo proof of identity. It took me less than a minute to vote and 20 seconds to review my punch card to insure that I had made the right choices and had no "hanging chads." I absolutely cannot conceive of how anyone using the voting equipment I had could create a hanging chad unless they were punching several ballots.

None of the elderly voters seemed to have inordinate difficulty in voting and everyone, from voters to poll workers, was cheerful and helpful. A poll worker gave my daughter a piece of candy after asking my permission and we both got our coveted "I Voted" stickers.

Peter Beinart has a thoughtful column in TNR contrasting voting patterns between young and old and what that means for issues and campaigns. I strongly agree with him that the voting strength of seniors distorts public policy, but I disagree with him when he implies that making voting easier for younger citizens is the answer. I bet a young person who changes addresses makes damn sure that his/her friends and those who might send checks get the address change. Why is notifying the Board of Elections such an obstacle? As for voting on a Tuesday being a problem, I'll bet that young people with Tuesday appointments all the rest of the year manage to make them on time. What's so hard about making it to the polling place when you have a 13 hour window?

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
I hope everyone casts their vote today, then has the energy to stay awake and wait for the results. Handcounting the Minnesota Senate votes--up to 3 million of them--is going to be a nightmare.

Speaking of Minnesota The debate yesterday between Norm Coleman and Walter Mondale appears to have been a classic. Who you thought won probably depends on what side of the aisle you occupy. Most of the film clips I saw on the evening news were Mondale attacks. I found Byron York's account very persuasive, including this:

Coleman asked Mondale, "Could you find common ground on the issue of partial birth abortion? Do you believe parents should be involved?" Mondale shot back that Coleman was "an arbitrary right-to-lifer." In what would become the most dramatic moment of the debate, Coleman answered that he and his wife had had two children who died young. "I have a deep and profound respect for the value of life," Coleman said. "It's not arbitrary. Please do not describe it as arbitrary."

The response knocked Mondale back on his feet. Even in an emotional moment, Coleman had kept his cool and respectful tone, leaving the former vice president without an effective response

I'm disappointed that Will Saletan of Slate, who crowned Mondale a few days ago, did not cover the debate. It's also ironic that Democrats, still angry that George W. Bush's debate expectations were so low, played the low expectations game with Mondale, then crowed that he had had exceeded them. Whatever works ....

I still think Coleman is a significant underdog. Mondale's assured placed in the Democratic leadership if he's elected is a strong selling point, although it's preposterous for him to simultaneously make that case and declare that he'd be an "independent" voice in the Senate.

Predictable Josh Marshall tells us that he is working on a voter fraud and intimidation piece. Let me go out on a limb here and predict that he will find scant evidence of any voter fraud, especially any associated with Democrats. He will, of course, find both obvious and shadowy Republican connections to voter intimidation.

Condescending Charges of voter intimidation are flying after this flyer was seen on telephone poles around the Baltimore area. How condescending. Whoever wrote the flyer obviously has a low opinion of anyone who would believe this notice. Those decrying this amateurish stunt are confirming the perpetrator's stereotypes. I'm sure lots of people look for voting information on telephone poles, probably at the same time they're seeking up-to-date information on yard sales and get-rich-quick opportunities. We ought to start believing that voters can recognize obvious scams and disinformation, instead of contributing to the notion that voting is corrupt.

Throw Senator Warner From the Train Here's a bizarre story--Virginia's senior Senator, John Warner, jumped from an Amtrak train:

"I'm going to get to the bottom of this," Warner said yesterday, "because, a, I don't like jumping off moving trains, and, b, we can't be operating a railroad like this if it's going to function and deserve these monies coming in."

Apology My humble apology to C. Dodd Harris for inexplicably providing a faulty link to his site yesterday.

Monday, November 04, 2002

From Cloakroom to Bathroom

Tony Adragna
Hey Will, Jesse Ventura made his choice:
I'll do what I can do to help the people in the state of Minnesota," [Barkely] said. "I'll caucus by myself in a bathroom, if I have to."
As many of those folks up the road there are full of it, they could all stand some time on the toilet.[Update: Would you call that the "Caca Caucus"?]

Reminds me of an old George Carlin routine about Richard Nixon — looks like he ain't shit in a month... every four years he gets the runs... he's running again...

Well, not Nixon, but Lyondon LaRouche is at it again. As I stepped off the top of the Metro escalator this morning, I was handed a leafelet in which "The Ever-More Electable LaRouche" Tells You What You Must Do About the Economy--Now!... Some of us have been pretty harsh on the Bush administration's handling of the economy, but Mr. LaRouche goes over the top:
The first fact sane citizens will face, is that, contrary to current White House flim-flam, both the United States and the whole world monetary-financial system are hopelessly bankrupt, with banks, industries, and jobs in a spiral with no visible bottom. This is not just nations such as Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey. The combined world indebtedness total of some $400 trillions (loans, futures, mortgages, etc.), is unpayable.[emphasis added]
The man is inimitable — he makes the same charges as those folks who recently disturbed this small southern town, but he does it with such panache...

Zathras asks if it's true that "Ms. Townsend is fading in the Maryland Governor's race." That begs the question — a lot of folks assumed that Glendening won on the "Kennedy connection", but that was never proven and it's yet to be proven that KKT ever was a popular candidate. She polled 80% in the primary against "a retired grocery store clerk" [I've known the son of a fish merchant could do quite well, but 20% to the fish merchant himself is no mean feat] .

Polling will tell you that KKT does well with women and African-Americans [if my William reads this he's gonna smack me for that usage, but it's what Mason-Dixon used in a recent report]. That may be what lets her squeak by with a win, but I'm not betting on it. KKT's performance has been lackluster from the begin, and a lot of registered Dems are gonna end up voting for the other guy.

'Course, if people decide to vote partisan — as Van Hollen hopes in his contest — then KKT should have no worries. But I'm seeing Ehrlich's returns as something akin Sauerbrey's performance in 1994, except tipping the other way...

Sabato Stays the Course

Will Vehrs
UVA Professor Larry Sabato has just issued his final pre-election Crystal Ball. He's got updates on the closing trends in all close races, but he's sticking with his October 31st "final" predictions. He does acknowledge an apparent late-breaking GOP trend that might--might--make a 50-50 Senate possible.

Correction: I didn't look closely enough--Sabato has gone from +1 Democrat in the Senate to no change. Thanks to Dodd's post for pointing that out. Sabato also went from +3 Republicans in the House to +4. As close as this election is, those "tweaks" are epocal.

In a nice touch, Professor Sabato hopes the voters prove him wrong, demonstrating who really controls American politics.

[ The little pixies have fixed the problem... sorry folks...]

Two Amendments in Virginia

Tony Adragna
I had meant to comment on Virginia's "writ of actual innocence" amendment when I saw it in the paper last week — thanks for reminding me, Will.

The amendment to Article VI Section 1 does a lot with a little bit of language :
to consider claims of actual innocence presented by convicted felons in such cases and in such manner as may be provided by the General Assembly
That clause is necessary to give effect to five new provisions of Virginia's Criminal Procedure. The code provisions are, as usual, the chambers of that diabolical abode through which one must wend

I don't use "diabolical abode" pejoratively, but to make a point. Some Virginians may disapprove of the amendment at face value as another giveaway to convicted felons, or as opening a new floodgate of petitions to the court from convicted felons, or on both grounds. But, if they read the code provisions they'll understand the devil in the details. Specifically, § 19.2-327.3 spells out the "Contents and form of the petition", and it's clear from the language in Subsection A that the code places a substantial test on when a petition is approprate:
The petitioner shall allege categorically and with specificity, under oath, the following: (i) the crime for which the petitioner was convicted, and that such conviction was upon a plea of not guilty or that the person is under a sentence of death or convicted of (1) a Class 1 felony, (2) a Class 2 felony or (3) any felony for which the maximum penalty is imprisonment for life; (ii) that the petitioner is actually innocent of the crime for which he was convicted; (iii) an exact description of the human biological evidence and the scientific testing supporting the allegation of innocence; (iv) that the evidence was not previously known or available to the petitioner or his trial attorney of record at the time the conviction became final in the circuit court, or if known, the reason that the evidence was not subject to the scientific testing set forth in the petition; (v) the date the test results under § 19.2-327.1 became known to the petitioner or any attorney of record; (vi) that the petitioner or his attorney of record has filed the petition within sixty days of obtaining the test results under § 19.2-327.1; (vii) that the petitioner is currently incarcerated; (viii) the reason or reasons the evidence will prove that no rational trier of fact could have found proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; and (ix) for any conviction that became final in the circuit court after June 30, 1996, that the evidence was not available for testing under § 9.1-121. The Supreme Court may issue a stay of execution pending proceedings under the petition. Nothing in this chapter shall constitute grounds to delay setting an execution date pursuant to § 53.1-232.1 or to grant a stay of execution that has been set pursuant to § 53.1-232.1 (iii) or (iv).
If that's not good enough, then turn to § 19.2-327.5: The burden of proof in a proceeding brought pursuant to this chapter shall be upon the convicted person seeking relief.

In other words, this is no "soft on criminals" type of legislation. It's still a major step forward in protecting the rights of actually innocent persons who have been wrongly convicted notwithstanding that the conviction was correct in process and form. I like the idea of a petition for "writ of actual innocence" being reviewed by a High Court on "original jurisdiction"...

The other amendment — allowing local government to pass ordinances granting tax exemptions on property — makes perfect sense to me. This is about taxation of real property which the Virginia Constitution makes subject to "local taxation only"[Article X Section 4]. I concede that the General Assembly has a legitimate interest in seeing that there's some uniformity across the Commonwealth. But I think that so long as the property clearly fits into one of those classes in Section 6, then a local ordinance ought suffice.

In fact, since Section 6 makes those properties exempt, then I don't see why even an ordinance is necessary — any attempt to tax such properties should be deemed unconstitutional...

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Quip of the Day Mickey Kaus has the best line regarding George Stephanopolous' "scoop" that Gary Hart is pondering a 2004 presidential run: "Hart's way too young to be a credible Democratic candidate these days."

A Pox on Parity Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute has an op-ed in the NYT this morning lamenting parity between the two major American political parties:

But in these periods of parity, political considerations — and focus on the next election — tend to outweigh everything else. Legislation is turned into a tool to put the other party on the defensive or to insulate one's own party from attack.

Look on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning for the election winners. After that, look hard for legislative breakthroughs. They'll be tough to find

Amending the VA Constitution Tony, there's a good constitutional amendment on the state-wide Virginia ballot this year and it relates to our earlier discussion of DNA evidence:

If voters approve the ballot question, it would add consideration of "writs of actual innocence" to the responsibilities of the state's highest court.

Even though felons can have DNA tests conducted, they are not now allowed to take that evidence before a court if it proves to be exculpatory. The only option for felons who claim innocence has been to seek clemency from the governor.

The proposed amendment -- combined with legislation also set to go into effect Nov. 15 -- would give the state Supreme Court the authority to consider those cases

I'll be voting for this.

Spending Boondoggle Everybody thinks public transportation is a good thing in the abstract, but too often this happens:

Virginia taxpayers are spending about $3 million each year so about 260 people per day can ride public transportation in and around Chesterfield County, officials say.

"Based on this ridership, we could have bought each of these people a car," said Kelly E. Miller, chairman of the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors

I live in Chesterfield County and also see this bus unload two people downtown every morning. It would take me as much time to drive to where this bus picks up as it does to drive all the way to work.

From Adversity, Opportunity I've previously written about the travails of Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle employees who have been laid off when their branch offices closed. The closing of one office in the Norfolk area has spawned a new business:

People once lined up for hours at the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to have their paperwork processed by clerks Christie "Cat" Black and Pat Hannas.

But since they lost their jobs to state budget cuts, the women will be the ones in line as part of a new business - 2 DMV 4U - that takes over the wait for those who want to avoid the hassle of obtaining title and registration

Despictable Human Beings All Around Joseph Stastny, 26, delivered a pizza to the motel room of the Beltway Snipers the day after they had murdered a man at a nearby Spotsylvania County gas station. His account confirms that the snipers watched televised accounts of their deadly spree and that Muhammad was an arrogant scumbag:

Stastny said the television was flipped on in the two-bed room.

"I could see the TV was tuned in to CNN," Stastny said. Muhammad seemed nervous, glancing back at the television while making his purchase, he said.

Stastny didn't see anyone else in the room. But he sensed someone else was there: "I heard the toilet flush."

The charge came to $16.05. Stastny said Muhammad handed him some bills, a nickel and a penny - a one-cent tip.

"He said to keep the change," Stastny said

Let's try them in Virginia. Soon.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

It's Baaaaack

Will Vehrs
Punditwatch is back, that is!

Dear Peg

Tony Adragna
I know what you were trying to do, or what you sort of meant to do. But it was bad...
I agree with Brian — this is no better than Salter channeling Christ...

Addendum: I think Noonan is guilty of being disingenuous at best — I can't imagine her having given any deference to Paul Wellstone's thinking while he was alive, so I don't see how she can feign offer that Wellstone might have agreed with her thoughts on his memorial service...

Is There A Proper Blessing for the President?

Tony Adragna
Of course . . . May God bless and keep the President . . . far away from us!
OK, I stole that from Fiddler on the Roof, but that's what Free State Democrats are praying right now — I'm just not sure which one they're talking about...

Responding to the tweaking at the end of your last entry, Will, I coulda turned the above blessing into a Sicilian curse. All I need do is append: ... and may his children grow up to be progessive liberals...

Speaking of presidents' children & liberals, you hear what Ron Reagan is doing nowadays? I saw him hosting a show on Animal Planet TV the other night.

On the two Virginia cases, I agree with both decisions. In Wilkins v. West — the redistricting case — it's hard to disagree with the Court's analysis not only on standing and standard of review, but also on each of the districts in question. The other question — who the AG really works for — didn't need to be dealt with. I had already conceded last time around that there were folks named in the suit who the AG does work for.

In The Globe Newspaper et al v. Commonwealth of Virginia I think the Court is correct. Note, as the Court does, "that the trial court permitted the results of DNA testing of the material to be introduced in a post-trial proceeding prior to Coleman's execution", so this isn't a case where DNA evidence was never considered.

But, even though the Court is correct, I wish the Commonwealth would just go ahead and allow new testing with the "more sophisticated testing procedure." If the new test supports the conviction, then the Commonwealth loses nothing. If the new tests refute the conviction, I think that's something we ought to know. It's the latter that I think the Commonwealth is concerned about.

This second case comes down to a question between doing what's legally required [restated: defending inaction where action isn't legally required], and doing the right thing — I prefer to see the right thing done, but that's just my opinion...