Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Democratic Super-Duper Tuesday

For Democrats, Super-Duper Tuesday is pretty simple: Hillary or Obama. Each will get delegates in every state because there are no winner-take-all contests.

Obama will carry Illinois pretty handily while Hillary takes New York with ease. Apart from those states, most will be pretty close if polls are any indication.

Hillary seems to have a bit of an edge, but what about the McCain factor?

For many Democrats, it was hard to believe, until just a few days ago, that McCain could really emerge as the GOP nominee. That does change the calculus: McCain has tremendous support among independents and moderates, precisely because he isn't afraid to tell Rush Limbaugh and his ilk to go to hell.

McCain is, in fact, quite conservative, but thanks to the holier-than-thou wing of the Republican Party, he comes across as a moderate. And the media does like him, quite a bit, so they cut him a break when it comes to private asides that could cause him trouble.

So, if you're a Democrat and you're facing McCain in November, what do you do? There's a good case to be made for nominating Obama: he's a good contrast to McCain--much younger, has appeal to independents, energizes young people, presents the face of change.

But then there's also a good case for Hillary: energizes women, fights hard, hits back, has more experience on national security issues. She also presents a face of change--c'mon, the first woman President?

We're still undecided, but we're concerned. A lot of people, including a lot of independents, really don't like Hillary. Most people do like Obama, and probably still will even after the Republican slime machine gets going in earnest. But Obama is still pretty new at this, and he could trip up, although it's been a grueling campaign so far and he still looks just as clean and fresh as when Biden shot himself in the foot with a similar remark.

We'll wait and see what happens on Tuesday. We think it will still be very close when the dust settles, and then the Curmudgeon will have to make up his mind, since the Virginia primary will, at that point, be only a week away (Feb. 12).

Apoplectic Republican Conservatives Deserve John McCain

With John McCain now the odds-on favorite for the GOP nomination, conservative pundits are going into apoplexy. The Rush Limbaughs and other blow-hard commentators are burning up the airwaves with doom and gloom over the prospect of a Straight Talking Republican, having failed to foist one of several sure-fire losers on the party.

Don't you bet these folks all lament the moment former Senator George Allen macaca'd himself to death two years ago?

In any event, it's quite clear that there are more moderate, and even liberal, Republicans than some people thought, and they are clearly enjoying being the ones propelling McCain to victory.

What happened to the once all-powerful conservative wing of the GOP? The answer is pretty easy to see: George W. Bush. With "W's" election in 2000, and especially after his re-election in 2004, conservatives were in complete control of the government. And they blew it, big time.

They wasted a generous budget surplus faster than a redneck lottery winner. They went on an earmark spending spree. They borrowed over a trillion dollars, in part to give themselves a tax break and in part to pay for an unnecessary war. They mismanaged the economy to where it is today. They engaged in scandal.

Along came 2006 and Republicans got drubbed at the polls. But who paid the price in the GOP? The conservatives? No, it was moderates, left twisting in the wind, unprotected, by their party purity brethren.

So now the moderate wing of the Party is getting it's revenge, voting for McCain while the conservatives fight amongst themselves over the remaining candidates: Huckabee is a "liberal" says the Club for Growth; Romney is a Mormon--is that even Christian?--say the evangelicals; Thompson is lazy say the voters; none of them is Reagan (or at least, their ideation of Reagan).

Don't believe the Limbaughs, the Weakly Standard's, the Coulters who say McCain will "destroy" the party. They are the ones who destroyed it. McCain might just manage to put it back together again.

And the claim that conservatives will simply "stay home" in November if McCain is nominated? We could only wish that were so. They're not going anywhere. They'll complain, but they'll come out and vote in November, especially if Hillary is the opponent. (Or maybe not--they haven't been voting in large numbers in the primaries.)

When it's all over, John McCain should thank the conservatives for making his nomination possible!

Tom Davis's Retirement Should Result In a Dem Pick-up

The confirmation of those long-rumored retirement plans of Rep. Tom Davis from Congress should bring joy to the hearts of local Democrats.

Davis's 11th Congressional District, encompassing most of Fairfax County, has long been trending Democratic demographically. Davis's retirement sets up an interesting match-up in the Democratic primary between former Representative Leslie Byrne--whom Davis defeated after one term--and Fairfax Board of Supervisors chairman Gerry Connolly. Like Connolly, Davis also used the chairmanship of the Fairfax Board to spring to his congressional seat.

A recent poll, conducted by Byrne's people, showed her in the lead, but we have to be suspicious of such polls. From our standpoint, both Byrne and Connolly would make excellent replacements for the moderate Davis.

Democrats should pick-up this GOP seat come November, provided they don't get too divided over the primary.

Let It Rain!

The weather wonks, for example those at the Capital Weather Gang, are telling us we'll finally get some real rain tonight and especially tomorrow.

Good. We're still dry. The entire Southeast is dry, some parts deep into severe drought. It seems like the last time we got a real, good old-fashioned soaking was in October.

It seems that of late we've had many piddling little storms that fizzled on their way through here, giving us no more than a quarter inch of precipitation--if we're lucky. We like sunny days, but we'll put up with a good soaker every once in a while.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

After Florida: GOP Super Duper Tuesday

My, how much can change in two weeks. We ventured forth, after New Hampshire, to analyze the Super Duper Tuesday landscape on February 5, but--as we expected--much of our prognostication needs revision in light of interim developments.

Just two weeks ago, it was at least possible that Fred Thompson would win SC and Giuliani would win Florida, developments that would have virtually guaranteed a deadlocked GOP convention. Thompson was a longer shot, but we thought Rudy G. would at least make it interesting in Florida. Now both are gone, with Rudy endorsing John McCain and Thompson probably hoping his buddy McCain is the nominee.

Clearly, McCain in now the front runner. Some Romney folks will complain, but crowning Senator McCain as the leader is fair at this point.

The Straight Talker hasn't yet wrapped it up, however, and there's still a couple scenarios where he could be denied the nomination, or have to wheel and deal--probably with Huckabee--to get it.

With that in mind, let's re-examine the Super Duper Tuesday landscape. To re-cap, Republicans in 21 states will select roughly half of all delegates to the national convention on February 5. Some states will conduct winner-take-all primaries, others will have closed caucuses, and many will do something in between.

Let's start with the easy calls (numbers in parentheses are total delegates for a state): Romney will win Massachusetts and Utah. The bad news is that Massachusetts (43) awards its delegates proportionally--so he won't get all of them. The good news is that Utah (36) is winner-take-all.

Huckabee will win Arkansas (34), which is a modified winner-take-all. He should get most of those delegates under that system.

McCain will win Arizona (53), which is winner-take-all.

Now for the next tier--states with decent polling info or other indications of how it is likely to go.

McCain looks strong in the East Coast blue states where Giuliani had been the favorite. All of these are winner-take-all, meaning he can clean up and there is no incentive for Romney to waste money fighting for them. Those states (winner-take-all, unless otherwise noted) are: New York (101), New Jersey (52), Connecticut (30) (Lieberman is a big help here), and Delaware (18). The fact that McCain can pick-up 201 delegates in these states, plus 53 in Arizona, all without doing much work or spending any money virtually assures that he will come out of Super-Duper Tuesday with the most delegates and hence retain the front-runner title.

McCain also should do well in two other blue states: Illinois (70) and California (173). Neither is winner-take-all, but in California McCain can take all delegates in any congressional district he wins, even by a plurality, plus the state's at-large delegates. At a minimum, we'd expect McCain to take well over 50% of the delegates in both these states. And for media purposes he'll be declared the "winner" of both based on the total vote count.

Huckabee has a good chance to do well in Georgia (72) and Alabama (48), both of which are winner-take-all at the congressional district level. He won't get every delegate, but he'll get most.

After that, Huckabee has a shot at Missouri (58), Oklahoma (41), and West Virginia (30). He also has a shot at Tennessee (55), but may be hurt by voters who pull the lever for Fred Thompson notwithstanding the Fredster's having dropped out. He could also be hurt in West Virginia by an unusual set of caucus rules that require a series of run-offs for an ultimate winner-take-all (Romney could win under that rule). We can't see the Huckster winning anything else, however.

Romney needs to pick his shot and hope that between himself and Huckabee, they can keep McCain's delegate count down. Romney has a shot in red state caucuses in Alaska (29), Colorado (46), Montana (25), North Dakota (26) and maybe West Virginia (30). They're all caucus states, so independents are out and conservatives are in. Montana has a large Mormon population that will help. West Virginia has a winnowing process that could favor Romney.

Minnesota (41) also has a caucus, so that might help out Romney, but we wouldn't put Minnesota out of reach of McCain.

The problem with caucus states is they tend to be more proportional in awarding delegates, so while Romney could "win" a bunch of these states, he'll probably have to share some delegates with both McCain and Huckabee.

By the same token, Romney should be able to pick up some delegates in Illinois and California. It may also be worth it for him (and McCain) to contest Missouri, which is winner-take-all and has 58 delegates. Indeed, Missouri may be the one truly hot contest on February 5!

We've now handicapped all the states, but we'll add one more caveat: McCain has momentum and will be the lead story in the news for the next week. That means he could easily do better than we forecast here--for example, he could take Oklahoma, Colorado, Alaska and a few other states where no one has a really clear advantage.

The biggest risk to Romney is that he loses out to Huckabee, either in "wins" (i.e., states where he gets the most votes), or in delegates. The biggest risk to McCain is that he only wins "blue" states, leading Republicans in the remaining contests to doubt his credentials (but maybe leading them to believe he can win in November).

Finally, here's how we see the candidates coming out in terms of a delegate range on Feb. 5. There are 1081 delegates at stake, although some won't actually be awarded until later in the process. Of those, we'd expect McCain to get between 300-600; Huckabee should get between 170-350; and Romney would range from 200-350.

Those numbers don't look terrific for Romney, especially if Huckabee is angling for the Veep nod with McCain, as many speculate (and which would be a very wise move on McCain's part--at least today; but the political landscape, as we've seen, is ever-shifting, so McCain can and should wait).

We'll keep an eye on the polls and pundits between now and Super Duper Tuesday and let you know if things change. If they do, it's most likely to be in the direction of McCain, unless he does something really dumb in the next few days.

Later tonight, or tomorrow, we'll do a post on what Edwards' dropping out means on the Democratic side, along with how Democrats should calculate McCain as their likely opponent.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

McCain Owes Win In Florida To . . . Hispanics!

As we write this, John McCain appears headed to a narrow victory in Florida, somewhat akin to his narrow victory in South Carolina. He's pulling just over a third of GOP voters in these primaries, but with the rest of the field badly fragmented, it's enough to keep on winning.

And hey, Florida is winner-take-all, so that 35% plurality gets him 100% of the delegates.

We took a look at the exit polls and guess what? There's a pretty good case to be made that Hispanic voters put McCain over the top in Florida. For all the carping that McCain's position on immigration had killed him in the Republican party, it may actually have saved him.

Hispanics made up 10% of Republican voters in the primary. While that's not a large percentage, they broke heavily for McCain: 51% for McCain versus only 15% for immigrant bashing Romney. That's enough to explain McCain's three percentage point victory over the Mittster.

All of which is why we'd rather see the GOP nominate an immigrant basher, making Democrats an easy choice for Latinos, than to see McCain as the nominee.

Now, wouldn't both Romney and Huckabee like to get a clean shot at McCain, in a closed primary, one-on-one? And yet with Giuliani now finished--his weak third place in Florida will be the end of his road--both Romney and Huckabee find themselves fighting for the hard-core party conservatives, while McCain consolidates the center and left of the party.

We'll have a more detailed analysis tomorrow of how all this affects Super Duper Tuesday, but McCain is now the clear favorite to win the Republican nod. With Giuliani mortally wounded, McCain should be able to sweep the blue state Republican primaries--NY, NJ, CT, Delaware, Illinois, probably California--while Mitt and Huck fight for the redder states.

With McCain now the clear odds on favorite, Democrats have to give serious thought to who they want to put up in opposition. We'll have some ideas on that as well tomorrow.

So, the Straight Talk Express is picking up steam. Unless conservatives in the party can really rally around Mitt Romney, they're going to have to learn to live with a "maverick" (i.e., someone who doesn't kowtow to party purity).

More On Edwards The Spoiler

While we wait around for Florida results in the hotly contested GOP primary, we thought we'd pass along this piece from The Hill--"Edwards Eyes A Brokered Convention"--in which Edwards' deputy campaign manager Jonathan Prince says that in a "worst-case scenario" the former Senator from NC will snag 20-25% of Democratic delegates. (!!)

Well, if that were true, the Dems would probably have a deadlocked convention, with Edwards as "Kingmaker." We highly doubt that Edwards will come anywhere close to the 20-25% range, but he might get 10-15%, and even that might just be enough to snag everything up. Doubtful, but maybe.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Getting The SC Results Right

The Clinton gang is doing it's best to spin Hillary's crushing defeat in South Carolina this weekend at the hands of Barack Obama.

The big knock is that Obama allegedly failed to attract white voters because he got only 25% of the white vote in SC. What's important, however, is that undecided white voters broke almost entirely for Obama--he had only 10% in polls a couple days before the primary.

It's also significant that Obama got 25% of the white vote in a state where he was running against TWO very strong white candidates--Hillary, who ran well with white women in a primary where an amazing 61% of voters were women; and John Edwards, a semi-native son, who ran well in the upstate and among white men. The way we see it, Obama in fact demonstrated a breadth of support in the Palmetto state.

The Curmudgeon household seems to be a microcosm of the greater political universe: Mrs. Curmudgeon supports Hillary; the Curmudgeon kids love Obama; and the Curmudgeon is still undecided. However, the Clintons' spinning and posturing is making us start to lean toward Obama. (On the other hand, the Clintons' hard-fighting and clear desire to win makes us think Hillary will be tough enough to stand up to all the mud, crap and sleaze the GOP will throw at any Democratic candidate.)

A couple other thoughts on SC: turnout in the GOP primary--which was close to the end, and a hard-fought four-way battle--was lower than in 2000, despite a larger population; in contrast, Democrats had a record turnout, notwithstanding polls showing it probably wasn't that close. Now we're not saying SC will be blue in November--it won't, unless the Republicans nominate Giuliani (and even then I wouldn't bet real money on it). But Democrats are clearly enthusiastic.

Finally, the gender gap that is emerging is quite astounding. Democrats can look at the fact that 61% of their primary voters were women and say that's good, but it shows they have a problem with men. This is nothing new, but the gap appears to be growing.

On to Florida.

Giuliani's Wasted Chance

Barring a miracle, Rudy Giuliani's odd run for the presidency will be over tomorrow night. We said all along that he was running on a flawed strategy.

Here's a piece from the New York Post analyzing that strategic failure ("Rudy's Last Stand"). We generally agree, although we don't accept the initial premise that perhaps Giuliani had no other choice.

As the analysis makes clear, Rudy could've taken a stand in New Hampshire--while managing expectations such that he didn't have to win (top three was a must). He would've weakened McCain in the process, and would've stayed on the national radar screen.

We'd add that he could've competed in Nevada, rather than ceding the state to Romney, and shot for second there.

Romney's campaign is instructive--he lost both Iowa and New Hampshire, with the punditocracy saying he was dead. But he had a strategy of competing everywhere, and staying relevant, and as a result he is in the thick of it with a decent shot, especially if he can win Florida.

Maybe Florida will surprise us--it has a habit of doing that--but we'd bet good money today that the Rudester's journey will end tomorrow.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Hawaii Republicans Begin Caucusing Today

In Hawaii, they do things differently, generally having more fun while at it.

When it comes to the Republican presidential nomination, the Hawaiian GOP is hosting caucuses, like many other states, except that they will start today and won't end until February 5. As with Louisiana, attendees at the Hawaiian caucuses won't be asked to state a presidential preference (although some districts plan to hold "fun, secret" straw polls that won't be released to the public--but no doubt will be posted by some blogger or another).

Instead, attendees will vote for specific delegates to the state convention, some of whom may be uncommitted, others of whom may be openly supporting a candidate, such as Ron Paul. (Paul supporters have been organizing themselves to attend caucuses across the country, with a fair amount of success--and some frustration.)

It will be pretty difficult to which candidate, if any, gets a leg up on Hawaii's 20 delegates to the GOP national convention, and since the Hawaii state convention isn't until May, we won't know for some time. The good news for Hawaiians: maybe no candidate will be over the top by May and Hawaii can be a Kingmaker. (Although we are increasingly thinking the prospect of a deadlocked convention is less likely, unless Giuliani pulls a rabbit out of a hat next Tuesday.)

McCain Apparently Won Louisiana

As our readers know, we did our best this week to ferret out information on the arcane Louisiana Republican caucus, which occurred this past Tuesday in a process so obscure and complex that the mainstream media decided simply to ignore it.

It now appears that John McCain "won" Louisiana, or at least that's the official line of the GOP poohbahs in the state. Finally, the Washington Post got around today to carrying a brief story on the contest.

As the Post accurately stated, "Explaining -- let alone understanding -- what happened this week in Louisiana presents a serious challenge for even the most devoted of political junkies."

In any event, as we reported well before the Post, a slate of "uncommitted" delegates running under a "pro-life/pro-family" banner (and a big picture of Ronald Reagan) won a majority in every district. However, John McCain got the most delegates of any individual candidate, followed by Ron Paul. But McCain gets to double-dip, because evidently a number of those "uncommitted" delegates are McCain supporters as well.

We wonder how many Loosianans who voted for the picture of Reagan realized they were also voting for John McCain--sort of. Just a guess, but we bet a lot of Huckabee supporters probably thought this was their group.

Whether McCain will come out of the state convention with any actual national convention delegates is yet to be seen, but it's certainly likely.

In any event, as evidenced by the comments on our blog, Ron Paul had enthusiastic support at the caucus, and a lot of Paul supporters--justifiably, it would appear--felt they'd been had by the mysterious "pro-life" slate. Frankly, it sounds a lot like the politics of another century--the 19th. Perhaps next time around Louisiana can run some No-Nothings versus some Whigs.

Edwards versus Edwards

In a recent comment to a comment, we promised to say no more about John Edwards, given his irrelevance. But just like the folks running for office, you can't count on anything we say here.

A couple quick points. First, Edwards' campaign manager Joe Trippi now openly admits that Edwards' strategy is to stay in and see if he can become a spoiler, taking just enough delegates to deadlock the Democratic convention and become a Kingmaker.

How nice.

Second, we couldn't agree more with Charles Krauthammer's column in today's Washington Post, "John Edwards: Losing Ugly" on the basic problems with the man--today he's against just about everything he voted for in his brief stint as a U.S. Senator. Edwards is less grounded than Romney.

We liked John Edwards a lot in 2004. Had he stayed himself, he might even have had a shot this time around. We don't think he'll get to be Kingmaker at the convention. We sure hope he won't.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Desperate Giuliani Panders His Way Through Florida

Desperate to win Florida, Rudy Giuliani is pandering his way across the state. Rudy had no choice--poor strategy has painted him into a corner where the only hope for a foundering campaign is to come in first (not second) in Florida.

Furthermore, Giuliani's poll numbers in the Sunshine State remain weak--in most polls reported this week he's a relatively distant third behind McCain and Romney. Even in New York and New Jersey--voting on Feb. 5--the Rudester is trailing McCain in polls. Which raises a question about Romney: does he need Giuliani to be strong enough through Super Duper Tuesday to siphon support from McCain, or with the G-man out will anti-McCain forces coalesce around the Mittster?

But back to pandering. On the one hand, Giuliani is pushing a massive tax cut, disguised as tax simplification, without any indication of how he would pay for it. Inflation, we guess. Or maybe through one of those magical Laffer curves, where lower taxes miraculously turn into higher revenue. Mind you, Giuliani is not talking about an economic stimulus--his tax cuts would overwhelmingly benefit the rich, and they aren't temporary.

On the other hand, far from cutting government spending, Rudy G. proposes that the government subsidize Florida homeowners' hurricane insurance costs. One reason you gotta like McCain is that despite the huge benefit he'd get from winning Florida, he opposes such government largesse. (For more on the hurricane insurance issue, see today's WSJ: "The Panhandle Pander.")

Giuliani epitomizes borrow and spend Republicanism--borrow from the poor and spend it on the rich.

It's not likely he can win Florida, unless he has a fabulous debate performance tonight at McCain's expense. In any event, Giuliani shouldn't win: all he's proven so far is that he is a poor strategizer, a poor manager of consultants spewing bad strategy (reminds you of how the neocons got W Bush into a protracted war in Iraq), and a fiscally reckless big government Republican. We've had all that for the past eight years, without success, so no need to try it again.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Louisiana Republican Caucus: What Happened Last Night?

Last night, the Louisiana GOP held presidential nominating caucuses. It had to be the most convoluted caucus process yet, and it has been difficult to get information on who might have scored delegates to the national convention out of the process.

Unlike other GOP caucuses, Louisiana did not conduct a "straw poll" of its caucus attendees, so there are no percentages to report as to presidential preferences of those who went.

However, those who attended voted for delegates to county conventions, which in turn will select delegates to the state convention, which in turn will determine who goes as Louisiana's 47 delegates (about the same number as highly contested Florida) to the national convention. If a majority of delegates at a particular caucus site voted in their slate, then the candidate supported by that slate will ultimately get some delegates to the Big Dance in September.

As best we can tell, Ron Paul supporters enthusiastically attended the caucuses and voted for their delegates. Many Paul supporters, in web-posts, suggested that they had enough votes to win a majority of the delegates at their caucus sites. The Republican Party of Louisiana, however, reports that a slate of "uncommitted" delegates under the banner of "pro-life/pro-family" swept the caucuses in all congressional districts (subject to resolution of disputes over some provisional ballots) and will thus control which candidate gets support from Loosianans.

As best we can tell, the "pro-life/pro-family" slate represents a coalition of candidates, excluding Ron Paul, but including McCain, Romney, Huckabee and Thompson. If that's so, how they'll divide up the spoils--smoke-filled back room?--is pretty unclear. Here's a sample ballot from the pro-life slate, featuring a photo of Ronald Reagan and urging voters to "[k]eep the Republican Party focused on Ronald Reagan's values of less government, more freedom, strong families and a strong national defense." Well gosh, who could be against that--maybe they should run in every state!

Louisiana is also holding a non-binding primary on February 9. If a candidate gets more than 50% of the vote in that primary, then he will win 20 of Louisiana's delegates (the at-large and bonus delegates). Otherwise, those delegates will be "uncommitted"--but will be picked by the mysterious "pro-life/pro-family" delegates who won out last night.

Of course, the pro-life slate will ultimately have to figure out who they really support, which could lead to all kinds of squabbling.

Bottom line: we won't know who's gotten delegate support from Louisiana until after the state convention on February 16.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Louisiana GOP Caucus Results?

This evening, the Louisiana Republican Party held caucuses at 11 sites across the state to select delegates to a state convention at which Louisiana's GOP convention delegates will be determined. The caucuses could potentially benefit one of the Republicans running for President, but this one really takes the cake--it's so complicated that no one is reporting on it.

The caucuses closed at 8:00 pm--9:00 here--so maybe it's a bit early for results, which will be difficult to interpret in any event. But so far the only thing we could find was from a Ron Paul supporter who stated that the Paulies had a majority of the turnout at the Lake Charles caucus site.

Here's how Louisiana's caucus works (I think): The attendees at the 11 caucus sites voted on delegates to the statewide convention. Those delegates are nominally "uncommitted." But if a majority of attendees at a caucus site were, for example, Ron Paul supporters, they would vote for delegates who, in turn, will support Paul. But that process only accounts for about half the La. delegates to the GOP national convention. The remaining delegates--those who are "at large" or "bonus" delegates--will be selected at the state convention; if someone gets 50% of the vote in a "beauty contest" primary on Feb. 9, then he gets that second tranch of delegates; otherwise, they're also nominally uncommitted.

That said, it looks like Ron Paul has a decent chance of ultimately having quite a few Louisiana "uncommitted" delegates in fact committed to him.

And if that's so, it will certainly teach the Louisiana Republican Party leadership a thing or two about having such a ridiculous nominating process.

In any event, it looks like Loosianans will be ignored, despite this amusing quote from Roger Villere, the chairman of the La. Republican Party, earlier this month: “We’re excited about the upcoming caucuses. I believe this system will allow Louisiana Republicans to have a strong impact on the election of the next President of the United States.”

For The GOP, It All Comes Down To Florida

A very foggy picture is beginning to clear just a bit on the Republican side of the race to the Presidency.

Fred Thompson has dropped out, but without endorsing John McCain. That's bad news for McCain and terrific news for Mike Huckabee. In SC, Thompson served as McCain's stalking horse, ripping into Huckabee and probably denying the Huckster a win in a state he needed pretty badly. For Big Mike, however, Big Fred's departure may be too late--Huckabee probably can't take Florida, and after that it will be tough with little money or organization.

Florida also appears to be setting up as a pretty decisive contest for the Republicans, although not in the same way that many pundits are predicting.

Here's our take: if McCain wins Florida, he will get the GOP nomination. Polls in northeastern states, including New York, show McCain leading Giuliani as of now. If Giuliani cannot pull out a win in Florida, or at least beat McCain (behind Romney), then McCain should have enough momentum to win several big contests along the East Coast on Super Duper Tuesday.

If Giuliani wins Florida, it vastly increases the likelihood of a deadlocked GOP convention. This is where we depart from many other pundits, who evidently buy into the Giuliani strategy that if he wins Florida he can somehow steamroll to victory. He can't, but he could win New York and New Jersey--both winner-take-all states--and do well enough in California to pick up a decent number of delegates.

But Giuliani's strategy of waiting so late, for a contest one week before roughly 20 states vote, was always flawed. Now he has to win Florida simply to stay alive, which is an unenviable position. If he does win, it won't be by much--hardly a mandate--but it will be sufficient to allow him to pick up enough delegates on Super Duper Tuesday to deny the nomination to McCain or Romney.

Perversely, if Romney wins Florida, and knocks Giuliani out, it may benefit McCain, at least for awhile. Romney needs Giuliani and McCain to duke it out over the Republican hawks, cancelling each other out, in order to win more states in a narrower contest. But whether Romney could take in enough delegates in a three-way race to win before the convention is doubtful. On the other hand, if it becomes a two-man race and anti-McCain Republicans go with Romney, he could definitely win it all.

And then there's Huckabee. We don't see how he can win at this point, even with Thompson out. Huckabee is the least likely of the four remaining candidates to capture Florida, which leaves him limping into Super Duper Tuesday. Still, if Giuliani wins and all four slog on to February 5, Huckabee could benefit from the split and capture wins in Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas and maybe a couple other states.

So Florida sets this up: McCain wins, he probably has the nomination. Giuliani wins, no one has the nomination. Romney wins, it becomes a two-man fight, in which Republicans have to decide which candidate they find the least objectionable. And if Huckabee wins we ought to quit blogging (but we won't).

Monday, January 21, 2008

Curmudgeon Clarification on Lousiana and Hawaii GOP Caucuses

Spurred by one of our commenters, we took a closer look at the Lousiana and Hawaii Republican caucuses that take place next week, before Florida, but are being ignored by the Mainstream Media and even sophisticated pundits.

Having looked more closely, we can see why they're being ignored--both are so complicated and/or unusual that they are difficult to follow.

First, Louisiana: Next Tuesday, Louisiana Republicans will hold a closed caucus--i.e., open only to registered Republicans. The caucus will select delegates who, officially, will be "uncommitted." About half the delegates will not be allocated to any candidate until after a presidential primary selection process on February 9; the other half will remain "uncomitted"--however, each candidate will be running candidates for delegate who will support that candidate.

That's a simpler explanation than the way it really works, but it's good enough for here. The point is that it will be pretty difficult to parse at the end of the day on Tuesday who "won" because the caucus attendees won't be expressing a candidate preference. Nonetheless, someone (or ones) will walk out with a few delegates from the process, so the candidate whose campaign spends the time working it out can get something valuable from the process.

Hawaii is also weird because it's caucuses open next Friday, Jan. 25, but they go on through Feb. 5, at various locations. Thus, we won't really know who "won" Hawaii until Super Duper Tuesday, at which point the info won't be of much use in terms of anyone's momentum, etc.

Both the Louisiana and Hawaii selection process suffer from a not too uncommon Republican Party trait: paranoia. Worried that independents (heaven forbid) or even not particularly politically active or acute registered party member will get involved in the selection process, the GOP in some states erects elaborate procedures designed to make sure that only the party faithful have a say in the outcome. These are kind of mini-brokered affairs.

McCain, who does well with independents and moderate Republicans (who increasingly are frozen out of party leadership) presumably is at a disadvantage in these contests. Romney is at an advantage because of his extensive organization. Huckabee could be at an advantage given the disproportionate influence of evangelicals in these things, but he suffers from disorganization.

In any event, we'll be a little less critical of the MSM for its failure to cover these contests. The Curmudgeon, however, will do its best to check on what's happening with them and factor them into the larger picture.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Will Real Republicans Back McCain?

We just finished reviewing at least a dozen articles analyzing the results from yesterday's Republican contests in Nevada and South Carolina, and we while we shouldn't be surprised, not a one mentioned that both Lousiana and Hawaii are holding closed party caucuses next Tuesday.

We looked around on, and there's no mention there either. Maybe we're just dreaming.

McCain is not likely to do well in closed caucuses--his strength has been among independents and moderates in open primaries. Romney, on the other hand, has done a good job of courting the party faithful in the Wyoming and Nevada caucuses, but in both he had a lot of help from Mormons.

To us here, it will be quite interesting to see how the candidates do in these two diverse caucus states, because they are, in a sense, like the Super Duper Tuesday states: contests where no one candidate can focus his resources.

If McCain does win in either Louisiana (less likely) or Hawaii (more moderate) then it's a terrific sign for him that he truly is consolidating front-runner status. If Romney--or someone else--wins those states, then it goes to show that McCain still has a big problem in trying to secure his party's nomination, no matter what the Media wants you to believe.

We won't update our analysis of the Super Duper Tuesday contests until after the Hawaii/Louisiana caucuses. We have, however, seen one poll result that gives McCain some very good news and suggests he could do much better than our initial predictions: in Connecticut, McCain commands a huge lead in a Hartford Courant poll, with 39% to Giuliani's 16% and Romney's 13%. While that sounds great--after all, Giuliani and Romney are from the two neighboring states--we have to remember that Connecticut is Joe Lieberman territory, a state where most Republicans are moderates or independents.

Our final thought: will Thompson drop out and endorse his friend John McCain? We doubt it. Thompson is doing McCain more good by running than by dropping out. Thompson might endorse the Straight Talker, but his supporters are unlikely to vote for McCain. More likely, they'll peel off to Romney and Huckabee, making McCain weaker. Indeed, it is quite clear that but for Thompson in SC, Huckabee would've beat McCain. So look for Thompson to limp along.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

SC/Nevada Saturday Winners and Losers

Ok, now we're settled in NY and ready to analyze what happened today.

Let's start with the Republicans, since they had two contests.

McCain is a winner because he "won" South Carolina and the Punditocracy had declared that South Carolina was a major contest. But put an asterisk by McCain's win for a couple of reasons. First, his win was quite narrow--just three points over Huckabee. If the Straight Talker's buddy Fred Thompson hadn't been actually trying for a change in SC, Huckabee probably would have won. And that's the thing about this many-headed hydra of a GOP campaign--a lot depends on who's trying and who isn't in any given contest. Second, as we predicted a couple days ago, McCain's got far fewer votes in "victory" in SC today than he did in defeat in 2000, when he carried 42% of the vote.

Still, with everybody pretty much out of money at this point, having your name under the word "winner" in the Mainstream Media at this point is surely worth celebrating, and it gives McCain a little momentum going into Florida.

Except for one little problem: the next contests aren't in Florida. They're in Lousiana and Hawaii. How are the candidates doing in those states? WHO KNOWS! According to the MSM, they don't exist. But someone will nonetheless capture their delegates, which might turn out to be valuable come this September.

The next winner for today is Mitt Romney, who won the GOP Nevada caucus on the cheap. For all the dumping on Romney by the punditocracy, he leads in delegates after the completion of six contests, three of which he won: Wyoming, Michigan and Nevada. McCain is third in delegates, despite the MSM crowning him "front-runner." And it's just a guess, but we bet Romney has positioned himself to win a good chunk of delegates in Hawaii and Louisiana next Tuesday, too.

On top of that, Romney has positioned himself well to pick up the rapidly coalescing anti-McCain vote, especially if Giuliani and Thompson both collapse entirely, which could easily happen after Florida. All those right-wingers who hate McCain--Coulter, Limbaugh, etc., are starting to line up behind Romney.

Romney also has something else the others don't: moola. It's his own money, of course, but it could be a decisive advantage now that we're in the thick of it. In short, don't count Romney out by a long shot.

Huckabee is also sort of a winner today. He came in a strong second in SC, despite Thompson cutting into his base. How much longer Huckabee can compete, however, is a question. If we were the Huckster, we'd concentrate on winning delegates on Super Tuesday in Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama and maybe Missouri.

Huck is also a loser, however, as he limps out of SC in the eyes of the MSM, with little momentum going into Florida.

Speaking of Florida, why do we let those people have any say in our national elections? Talk about F'd up--Florida is going to have a winner-take-all primary where no candidate is likely to take more than 30% of the vote. Heck, the winner might just get around 25%. What kind of way is that to run a nominating contest? Thank goodness the RNC stripped the state of half its delegates.

Those stripped delegates--not just from Florida, but several other early primary states as well (Michigan, SC)--are going to come back to haunt the GOP if there is a deadlock. As part of the inevitable maneuvering, people are going to haggle over whether those delegates should be restored, and someone, of course, will stand to benefit more than someone else. But that's a story for a later day.

One other winner for the day on the GOP side: Ron Paul. He won four delegates in Nevada. Now he's got a seat at the table come September.

Losers: Fred Thompson. Way too late, he staked it all on SC, but he didn't come close--a distant third. Should he throw in the towel? We say know, but he ought to cut back. The Fredster should stick it out through Super Duper Tuesday and take Tennessee as a favorite son. After that, he may just want to sit on those delegates, not piss anyone off, and see if he can be everyone's second choice in event of a deadlocked convention. All along we've said Thompson had no strategy, but maybe we were wrong--clever like a fox, this was his strategy all along. Darn, why didn't we see it!

Rudy Giuliani is another loser. Another big day out of the limelight. And, unfortunately for him, McCain comes into Florida with a bit of momentum, probably enough to beat the Rudester, who is competing for the same sub-base of voters as McCain. Much as we'd love to see Giuliani win Florida just to scramble the pie some more, he surely deserves to lose and be done with for political stupidity.

Now quickly to the Democrats. We already said in our brief post this afternoon that Edwards is a big loser. Omigod--4% in Nevada. Turn it in, John.

Hillary is a winner--like McCain, she got the headlines because all the media can digest is the percentage of the vote in the horserace. She needed the victory to dampen the likely loss in South Carolina next weekend, and to give her some momentum into Florida.

But Barack is not much of a loser--he actually got one more delegate than Hillary, and he's keeping it close. However, the theory that Edwards being out of it will help Obama seems to be false--Edwards was invisible in Nevada, yet Hillary won (votewise, at least).

The Democratic Party is also a loser, as the campaign between Hillary and Obama is getting uglier and uglier and starting to create a nasty divide in a party that only a few weeks ago was exuberant over its chances of capturing the White House after eight years of torture. The Democratic race is likely to go on like this for some time, although with Edwards out of the way the likelihood of a deadlock is quite low at this point.

What about the pollsters? ARG is the big loser, having predicted Huckabee by 7 points and Romney in single digits. It's a toss-up among the rest, none of whom got Thompson in third. Slight edge to Survey USA, which called a four-point McCain win with one point between Romney and Thompson.

That's enough for tonight--if you got through all that, you're a true addict.

Sayanara John Edwards

We only have a minute to post something now on Nevada, but we'll have something more comprehensive tonight--late tonight--after the SC results are in (and we're into NY on our MLK weekend trip).

As for Nevada, it's the death knell of Edwards' campaign. He worked the state hard, ran advertisements, courted labor and . . . was ignored. Getting less than 5% in the state just shows that most Democrats aren't willing to throw away a good vote on him in an otherwise tight contest.

Edwards may yet stick around, just to see if he has enough delegates to be a broker in a tight race, but we doubt it will be that close.

On the other side, Romney, as expected, pulled out a strong win. It will be interesting to see if he sweeps all the delegates. Romney is not stupid--he realizes this is a delegate slog and he's the only one contesting every state. In a close fight, those Wyoming and Nevada delegates the Mainstream Media is ignoring may tip the scale.

Meanwhile, Giuliani has to wonder about his strategy--in a state all the other candidates (except Romney) ignored, he still placed last among them, at a paltry 4%. That's not good. Shows the wisdom of taking a Florida vacation when everyone else is working.

Friday, January 18, 2008

There Is No Republican Front-Runner

If John McCain gets the most votes in a six man contest tomorrow in South Carolina, the Mainstream Media is prepared to anoint him the "Front-Runner."

Yet, if McCain wins--and most polls give him a small lead--it is likely to be with something between 30-35% of the vote. That, my friends, is LESS than the 42% McCain got in 2000 when he was "trounced" by George W. Bush in the state.

It's hard to see how someone can be called a "front-runner" when he does worse the second time than he did the first time.

Don't Buy Books From Crooks--Confessions of a GOP Trickster

In 2002, Allen Raymond, your typical bland Republican Party backroom political operative, helped concoct and carry out a scheme to jam the Democratic Party's get-out-the-vote phone lines in New Hampshire, in the midst of a very close Senate election, by using a computer phone caller.

A simple scheme, not unlike hundreds of dirty tricks used by campaigns on both sides of the aisle every year. The only difference this time: Raymond actually got caught and even did time in the Big House--a little that is, three months--for his crime.

Now Raymond--who took the fall for some bigger wigs in the White House--is out of jail, and out with a book, "How To Rig An Election," in which he confesses to other sins as well. We don't purchase books by crooks, and we don't advise you to get this one. But since the WaPo has a story on the fellow and his book--giving it far more promotion than it deserves, we thought we'd see what he had to say for himself.

What he says is that he was caught up in the "game," where all that mattered was "winning." He didn't even care about ideology or any of that. What he doesn't do is name the names of the people who approved and paid for his dirty work.

He talks about other dirty tricks, like having robo-calls made in support of a Democratic candidate with the voice of an angry black man making the pitch. Racism is part of the steady diet of tricksters--remember Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich's scheme to bus in African-Americans from Philly to confuse voters in Prince George's County a couple years ago?

Anyway, if you've ever wondered just how high danger is that someone would try to rig an election by tampering with computerized ballot machines, then just read the WaPo article (not the book), and you'll have a pretty good idea: VERY high.

Chris Matthews: Obama's Worst Enemy

Every time Chris Matthews, and any of the other abrasive male television political commentators, go after Hillary Clinton, they hurt Barack Obama.

We saw it clearly in New Hampshire--women, offended by all the attacks on Hillary and sympathetic to her tears, turned out in droves, resurrecting her candidacy. Had Obama won, he'd probably be on his way to the nomination now.

After more than a week of defending his silly comment that Hillary owed her Senate seat and her standing in the presidential race to her husband's affair with Monica Lewinsky, Matthews sort of backed off, but not really, conceding that maybe his remarks were a bit "nasty."

We can tell you what Mrs. Curmudgeon thinks about Matthews' view, but it wouldn't be printable in what we like to keep as a clean blog. Frankly, we share her view--a little more dispassionately. A lot of people don't like Hillary, and that's their perogative, but to say that's she's somehow not smart enough, not skilled enough, not politically adept enough to gain public office on her own is ridiculous. It certainly helped that she was the First Lady--that's a lot of exposure and name recognition. But she didn't get into the Senate because of sympathy over the Lewinsky affair.

Matthews, of course, won't keep his mouth shut--he gets paid good money to make an ass of himself. But if we were Barack Obama's people, we'd wish Matthews would concentrate on the GOP race.

Oh, and by the way, we think Chris Matthews owes his place on MSNBC to his much more talented wife, Kathleen (former News 7 anchor and now Marriott executive) pictured above.

How Rudy Giuliani Blew The Race

Reading through today's commentary on the presidential race, we were struck by two statistics that neatly illustrate how Rudy Giuliani and his campaign "brain"trust have blown the race through pure incompetence.

The first is from the Project For Excellence In Journalism's index of media exposure for the major candidates during the past week, in which Giuliani got far less free media exposure than McCain, Romney or Huckabee, or even John Edwards, copping just about 5% of the stories.

It's been like that for Giuliani for several weeks now--as if he put a self-imposed media blackout on his campaign. For someone running out of money, that's not a smart thing to do.

The second is from a detailed Pew poll (highlighted in a blog post from Jay Cost at Real Clear Politics showing that Giuliani has a 67% net favorable rating among supporters of John McCain. Just so you know, that's extremely high and basically indicates that McCain voters are also favorably disposed to Giuliani.

If McCain wins it all, it will because Giuliani refused to confront him in the early contests, thereby letting McCain drain away Rudy's base of support. At this point, Rudy must attack McCain in Florida and hit him hard if he wants any chance of succeeding. He can't just be a "me too" to McCain--he'll have to show the voting constituency that they share that Rudy is the better choice.

Rudy wouldn't be in this predicament, however, if he hadn't shied from the fight. He badly needs for either Huckabee (or Thompson, however unlikely that is) to beat McCain in SC. At the same time, Thompson is dragging Huckabee down--they, too, share a lot of the same base--and opening the way for McCain, although it will be a close one.

One last comment, this one on Thompson: his people are saying the Fredster needs a "strong" showing in SC, which they explain as second place. Second place? That's so lame. What would that prove? Only that Fred can't win anywhere, except maybe Tennessee. He needs to win in SC. He should have recognized that all along and built a strategy around it, but instead he's just bumbled around the country.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Republican Nomination Process Phantoms: Louisiana, Hawaii and Maine

Funny thing about the presidential nominating contests: the Mainstream Media anoints some contests as important and others as insignificant.

Remember the Republican caucuses in Wyoming after Iowa? Mitt Romney won, but the MSM deemed it not important. You can bet this, however: if McCain, Giuliani, Romney and Huckabee all make it past Feb. 5 with sufficient wins to be viable, those Wyoming delegates could be crucial.

The MSM is also ignoring some other upcoming Republican contests that could end up being important in a four-way race: Lousiana, which holds its caucuses on January 22--next Tuesday--with 47 delegates at stake (twice as many as SC); Hawaii, where 20 delegates will be up for grabs on January 25 (before Florida), and Maine, with 21 delegates awarded on February 1.

That same MSM is also playing down the Nevada caucus (34 delegates) on the GOP side this weekend, while playing up the South Carolina primary.

Believe us, it's a mistake for the media to ignore these contests. For some reason, the punditocracy thinks it's a normal election year, and all they can focus on is the "horse race." They keep thinking that whoever wins the next contest will quickly lap the field and sew up the nomination.

That's not how it's working out, however. Indeed, for all the criticism heaped on Romney for losing Iowa and then New Hampshire, Romney is the only candidate so far to compete in EVERY contest, and that could be a terrific strategy in a delegate slog.

The chattering class seems to think it's fine for a candidate to take a bye on a particular race where he's weak, then show up where he's strong. If the NFL worked that way, no one would play the Patriots.

It's not clear who will try to contest for Louisiana, Hawaii and Maine--we suspect Romney will, McCain should, Huckabee oughta in La. at least, and if Giuliani doesn't then, well, he's a wimp. And the MSM should give these states (who did not buck party rules to get in early) their share of coverage.

One thing you can count on: the Curmudgeon will be there (figuratively) for you. (In case you're wondering, the Dems don't have contests in those states until after Feb. 5.)

Dirty Republican SC Race Tightening Up?

We predicted it awhile back and field reports confirm it: the GOP race in South Carolina has gotten down and dirty. South Carolina is the birthplace of legendary dirty campaigner Lee Atwater, and politics in the state have long been the muddiest around.

It's not the type of mudfest where candidates call each other names. Rather, it's a campaign where surrogates attack the candidates from the shadows, with innuendo and sleaze. It's all done via whispering campaigns. In the decisive 2000 GOP primary contest between "W" and McCain, Republicans started using their tactics on each other, and 2008 is no exception.

South Carolina is also the first contest where four of the five major GOP candidates are all putting up a fight, with only Giuliani sitting it out. (Romney's not conceding the state, but he's concentrating a bit more on Nevada, which the media will somehow try to ignore.)

In polls of SC voters taken after Iowa, Huckabee had the lead; then, in polls since New Hampshire, McCain took the lead. There's only one poll out now that is entirely after Romney's Michigan victory, from Rasmussen, and it has McCain and Huckabee tied, with Romney and Thompson not too far behind, and a lot of voters still undecided or likely to change their minds.

Giuliani may regret not contesting SC--it's pretty clear that McCain has benefitted from Rudy's decline in the state, picking up voters from among the state's large veterans populations for whom national security is the biggest concern. If McCain wins and leverages his momentum into Florida, Giuliani can blame his silly strategy of disappearing from view during the most critical month of the campaign.

Super Duper Tuesday: The Democrats

Yesterday, we analyzed the February 5 "Super Duper Tuesday" nominating contests on the Republican side. Today, we look at it from the Democrats side. It's a much simpler--but far less conclusive--analysis.

We'll assume that Obama wins SC, Hillary wins Florida and Nevada is a toss-up. If so, neither candidate goes into Feb. 5 with a whole lot of momentum. As with the Republicans, it will be impossible for either Hillary or Obama to campaign effectively in all those states; however, both have sufficient money to run decent media campaigns in the more important races, whereas the Republicans are all so broke that, absent Romney writing himself a big check, they'll be relying on the free media for their publicity.

On Super Duper Tuesday, 22 states hold nominating contests on the Democratic side. Those states account for 2088 delegates--roughly 50% of the total at the August convention, although not all of them will be awarded on Feb. 5.

Unlike with the Republican candidates, however, there are very few states on the Democratic side where either Hillary or Obama has a distinct advantage. We assume that Hillary will comfortably carry New York (280) and New Jersey (127), and probably Connecticut (61). Obama will easily carry his homestate of Illinois (185). (Numbers in parentheses are the delegates allocated to the state.)

We also give Obama an edge in some southern states where African-American voters make up a disproportionate number of Democratic primary voters: Georgia (104) and Arkansas (47).

After that, it's a crapshoot. Edwards is a complete non-factor--he cannot do media and he can't possibly carry any state. Whether he can crack the 15% barrier to even get delegates is a question, but he's not likely to walk off with more than a couple dozen, at most.

The other complicating factor is that all the Democratic contests award delegates proportionately--there's no winner-take-all contests like on the GOP side. That means that even in New York, Hillary will have to cede some delegates to Obama, while Obama likewise will give up some delegates in Illinois to Hillary. That factor makes it difficult for either candidate to single out particular states for special attention.

In effect, the Democrats are hosting a national primary on February 5. But if it's close, say one candidate gets 45% of the vote and the other gets 40% (the rest going to Edwards and other forms of wasted votes), then their delegate totals at the end of the day are going to be very close. Edwards, if he can pick up enough delegates, could become a spoiler.

The other spoiler is the Democratic Super-Delegates--various elected and party officials who aren't bound by the primary/caucus votes.

Right now, we don't see February 5 being decisive for either Hillary or Obama, with one exception. Obama has a shot, at least, of running the table--SC, Nevada and Florida--before Feb. 5, which would give him sufficient momentum to score a big enough victory on Super Duper Tuesday to propel him, eventually, to the nomination. (The same would apply to Hillary is she ran the table, but we just don't see her winning SC).

As with the Republican side, we'll update this analysis after Saturday's contests in SC and Nevada and see if the picture is any clearer.

Virginia's GOP Just Doesn't Get It

The Republicans in Virginia really don't get it. Faced with steady declines in recent elections and facing the loss of John Warner's Senate seat and possibly one or two congressional seats in November, they continue to do things that can only speed the state's tilt to blue.

For example, in the GOP controlled House of Delegates, the Republican leadership has decided to force controversial bills, which typically would die in a committee, to the House floor for a vote. Their goal is to "make" Democrats vote against these bills--typically socially conservative proposals on abortion, gay marriage, guns, sexual abstinence and the like--and get them "on the record."

As if voters in Virginia don't know which party favors those bills and which is against them. Despite that knowledge, Republicans have been losing races. Indeed, it's precisely because the GOP controlled legislature has been screwing around with conservative social engineering, instead of addressing the state's more serious problems, like transportation, that the Republicans have been losing ground.

Another example is a bill introduced by Republican Sen. Ken Cuccinelli, from Fairfax, who got re-elected by the smallest of margins. He's proposed that employers be allowed to fire workers who don't speak English. Mind you, this is not a bill aimed at illegal aliens--this bill would apply to workers who are CITIZENS, but have trouble with their English. (See "Bill Targets Workers Who Speak No English.") It's simply a mean-spirited bill aimed at Spanish speaking workers. (Somewhere is his ancestry, Cuccinelli certainly has a forebear who came over from Italy and couldn't speak English, at least for awhile, but who no doubt somehow worked hard so that his offspring could live a good life, not realizing they might turn out to be conservative jerks like Ken.)

If you look closely, you'll see that the Republicans never support any bill that would penalize employers for hiring illegals, despite knowledge that employers do it all the time to gain a competitive edge.

In any event, Cuccinelli's bill, which won't pass, will do nothing but piss-off the rapidly growing Hispanic community in Virginia, as well as other LEGAL voters of various ethnic backgrounds. Why in the world would Republicans want to do that?

Part of the problem is that the GOP losses in the General Assembly have come from the moderate wing of the party, which has gotten punished by moderate voters for the vitriol and intolerance of the party's right wing. As those moderates disappear, the rest of the party gets even more hardened and incapable of helping itself. Another part of the problem is that some of the geniuses behind these strategic blunders have gerrymandered themselves into impregnable districts, so they don't personally have to worry about the effects of their strategy.

As for us at the Curmudgeon, we're happy to see Republicans keep shooting themselves in the foot in the state. They're only hastening the transition of Virginia to a blue state.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Your Complete Guide To Super-Duper Tuesday: The Republicans

With Mitt Romney's win in Michigan last night, it's pretty clear the Republican field will traipse on through to the mega-contests on February 5--"Super Duper Tuesday"--without any clear leader. (Caveat: if McCain wins SC and Florida, he could re-emerge as the GOP favorite.)

Let's assume that Huckabee wins SC and either Giuliani wins Florida or it's so close as to be a four (or five)-way tie.

That then sets up a HUGE day for Republicans on Feb. 5 (it likely also will be a big day for Dems--we'll get to them in a later post). What to expect? Below, we go state-by-state, making your job as easy as sitting in a recliner and watching the Super Bowl.

First, a couple observations. 1. No candidate in the GOP race has the funds left to overwhelm his competitors in the Super Duper Tuesday races. There's simply too many states, including the massive media markets of New York and California. Nor is there time between Florida--on January 29--and the Feb. 5 mega-races for any candidate to do any meaningful retail campaigning. That means Florida is important from a momentum standpoint, but Florida will only get you so far.

2. The rules for awarding delegates vary considerably from state to state--we sort those out below as we handicap the races.


On February 5, nineteen states will hold presidential nominating primaries/caucuses for both parties, and two states--Montana and West Virginia--will hold Republican state conventions to make their picks. Roughly 40% of all delegates to the GOP national convention in September will be selected in these contests, including large numbers in New York and California. (Rougly 1081 delegates are at stake, although arcane rules in the various states mean that some of these won't actually be allocated on Feb. 5.)

No Republican candidate has any chance of sweeping, or even coming close to sweeping, the Super Duper Tuesday primaries. All five of the major GOP contenders have at least one easy win: their home states. Romney gets Massachusetts; Huckabee gets Arkansas; Giuliani gets NY; Thompson--if he makes it this far--gets Tennessee; and McCain gets Arizona.

As we see below, the rest of the states divide out across the field, with California and Illinois being the two largest contested prizes of the day.

Who'll Win What

We'll update this as we get closer to Super Duper Tuesday, but as of now, here's how the races stack up by candidate. Numbers in parentheses are the total number of delegates from that state.

Romney: Wins Massachusetts (43) and Utah (36). Utah is a great win, because it's a winner take all state and has a lot of bonus delegates for its past GOP loyalty. Massachusetts awards its delegates proportionately, so Mitt may have to share a few delegates with other candidates--probably McCain and Giuliani. Romney has a shot at Montana (25), but Montana is picking from a closed convention of roughly 3000 invited Republican insiders. Otherwise, Romney's only other pick-ups are from individual congressional districts in, possibly, California (173) and maybe Illinois (70).

Huckabee: Wins Arkansas (34), Alabama (48) Georgia (72), and Oklahoma (41). If he gets 50% of the vote in homestate Arkansas (no guarantee of that), it becomes winner take all; otherwise, he may have to share a few delegates with McCain or maybe Thompson. Georgia, which is a big prize--it's so red state that is has a large number of bonus delegates, giving it the third highest delegate total of the day--awards its delegates on a winner-take-all basis by congressional district. Huckabee should get everything in the rural parts of the state, but may give up a district or two around Atlanta. Alabama is like Georgia--winner-take-all by district. Oklahoma is a closer call, but if Huckabee can do well, it's also winner-take-all by congressional district, so he could sweep.

The Huckster has a shot at delegates in Montana (25)--there's a good chance the evangelical right makes up a big percentage of those GOP convention insiders--and maybe West Virginia (30--only 18 of which will be selected Feb. 5), which also has a convention. He could also pick up delegates in various congressional districts around the country that have high proportions of evangelicals and homeschoolers, like downstate Illinois.

Giuliani: Rudy should win New York (101) and New Jersey (52), both of which are winner take all states. He also has a good shot at Connecticut (30), which he and Romney will have to fight it out over. IF Giuliani wins Florida, his chances in Connecticut go up, but if Romney bests him in Florida, then we'd give the edge to the Mittster. In any event, Connecticut is winner-take-all, so it's worth the fight for both of them.

Otherwise, Giuliani has a shot at Illinois (70) and Delaware (18), but we think both states will be hotly contested between Rudy, Mitt and McCain. Delaware is winner-take-all, but Illinois is a delegate selection contest, meaning candidates can easily divide up the spoils. Indeed, we think Giuliani (IF he comes out of Florida viable), Romney, McCain and Huckabee will all come out of Illinois with some delegates. Giuliani also has a shot at some California congressional districts.

McCain: Here's where it gets tough for the old warhorse. His only sure bet is Arizona (53), which is winner-take-all. McCain has no real regional base in the party--his is more nationally oriented. Still, McCain can come out of the day with a large number of delegates from individual congressional districts--in states that award delegates that way--around the country. His best bets for pick-ups are delegate rich California (173) and Illinois (70).

Thompson: The Fredster doesn't have much of a shot, unless he outright wins South Carolina, and even then it's hard to see his path. However, if he stays in through Feb. 5, he should win his homestate of Tennessee (55), which awards delegates proportionately, except for winner-take-all in any congressional district where a candidate polls 50% or better. If we were Fred, we'd stay in, because those delegates could be a big bargaining chip in a deadlocked convention, and, of course, Fred could still emerge from such a deadlock as everyone's second choice.

What does that leave as openly contested?

Alaska (29): Alaska is caucusing. The delegates will probably get split up between three or four candidates.

California (173): These delegates are awarded on a winner-take-all basis by congressional district. McCain, Romney, Giuliani and Huckabee should all have a shot at some of these delegates. The statewide winner gets all--eleven--of the at-large/bonus delegates.

Colorado (46): Colorado is also caucusing. McCain should do well here, but Huckabee and Romney could also collect delegates.

Delaware (18): Winner-takes-all, so worth the fight between Giuliani, McCain and maybe Romney.

Illinois (70): Delegate selection, will be roughly proportional, so count on McCain, Giuliani, Romney and maybe Huckabee (downstate) to have an opportunity to make a few pick-ups.

Minnesota (41): Another caucus state, so expect roughly proportional distribution. McCain, Huckabee, Romney, maybe Giuliani, could collect delegates.

Missouri (58): Winner-takes-all and up for grabs. Worth contesting by Huckabee, McCain.

Montana (25): Totally insider system--closed statewide convention where the winner takes all. McCain, Romney and Huckabee should all contest this one.

North Dakota (26): Winner-takes-all. Huckabee could get this if he gets the evangelicals out in the cold; McCain has a shot, too. Maybe Romney?

West Virginia (30): Statewide convention, where the winner-takes-all in a multiple ballot process. Interesting! There will be a runoff amongst the top three candidates, then, if none gets a majority, another run-off among the top two. Winner-takes-all of 18 delegates, the other 12 to be awarded later in a primary. This could go any which way, depending on how losers' delegates pick their second choices. It could come down to who West Virginia Republicans dislike the least.


As you can see, there's no scenario that greatly favors any of the four most viable GOP candidates (sorry, Fred). More likely than not, each one gets some delegates, and it's doubtful any one of them would pick up more than 35% of the delegates at stake on February 5. It's almost impossible for anyone to get 50% of those delegates.

For example, if Giuliani does well, and wins NY, NJ, Connecticut and Delaware, plus some delegates in Illinois and California, he could haul in as many as 250 delegates--a little less than 25% of the total awarded on the day. Rudy's problem is that he runs well in blue states, which have few bonus delegates and thus are disproportionately small in the GOP world.

Likewise, if Huckabee does well, sweeping up Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, and even Montana, West Virginia, North Dakota and Missouri, he'd have 334 delegates--a little less than 35% of the day's take.

A good day for Romney would be Mass., Utah, Montana, Connecticut and decent blocks of delegates from California and Illinois, (say 25%), which would put him around 200 delegates.

And a good day for McCain would be Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Missouri, Montana, West Virginia and a good haul from California and Illinois and a few more from other proportional states, still giving him less than 300 delegates.

[Each of the candidates above could reap another 50-100 delegates from various proportional contests.]

In other words, unless someone comes out of the next three contests--SC, Nevada and Florida--with real momentum, the prospect for Republicans to have a nominee by February 6 is pretty small. The only ones who could get that kind of momentum are (1) McCain, by winning SC and Florida, or (2) Huckabee, by doing the same thing. And both of them have fairly large "anti" contingents awaiting them even if they do pull off such a mini-sweep.

As we said, we'll update this analysis after the SC and Nevada contests over the weekend.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Romney Win In Michigan Scrambles The GOP Field

After the punditocracy said Romney would be dead if he lost Iowa and New Hampshire, his zombie has returned to capture Michigan.

After the punditocracy said McCain would run all the way to the nomination after capturing New Hampshire, his stumble in Motor City could prove fatal.

Next up is South Carolina, where a win by Huckabee--or heaven forbid, Freddie Thompson (is he still running?)--would further scramble the race going into Florida and Super Tuesday.

Giuliani's people are no doubt cheering--they're like one of those football teams that can't get into the playoffs on it's own, but instead has to have another team (in this case, McCain) lose. But it hardly vindicates Giuliani's strategy. He could yet win Florida--by a small margin--but that will only set up a very messy day on February 5, with the likelihood that all five major candidates (if Thompson makes it that far) would capture at least one state (Thompson=Tennessee), with Huckabee, Romney, McCain and Giuliani all getting three or four apiece.

Romney's win puts the GOP back--potentially--on a path to deadlock. There's still another way: if McCain earns a convincing victory in South Carolina Saturday, then pulls out any kind of win in Florida, he should get the nomination. The only way McCain gets there, however, is for his friend Fred T. to take just enough votes away from Huckabee to open the door.

Will South Carolina, which derailed the Straight Talk Express in 2000, be the spark that propels McCain to the nomination? Or will the Palmetto State once again be the last station stop? We'll know in a few days.

Meanwhile, it's not all that clear where Romney goes from here. He certainly can win Massachusetts and Utah on Super Tuesday, maybe Nevada this Saturday. But how does he get the delegates to win? We don't see it.

Deeper Doo-doo For Dickie Scruggs

Already facing indictment for an alleged scheme to bribe a Mississippi state court judge, mega-tort lawyer Dickie Scruggs' name has now come up in a second case involving illegal attempts to influence a judicial officer.

In the new case, according to a report in today's Wall Street Journal, Mississippi lawyer Joey Langston has agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to influence state court judge Bobby Delaughter by offering him favorable consideration for a federal judgeship.

Langston previously represented Scruggs in a dispute over asbestos litigation fees. Scruggs is accused in court papers of having conspired with Langston to influence Delaughter, although Scruggs has not been charged in the case.

Coincidentally, Delaughter happens to be the judge who just ruled yesterday in a high profile political/legal dispute that Mississippi must hold it's special election for the open Senate seat vacated by Trent Lott by mid-March, instead of in November, which is when it had been set by Republican Governor Haley Barbour.

We have to wonder, also, whether Lott's name will surface in connection with the Langston case: Lott is Scruggs' brother-in-law and it's hard to see how anyone could credibly have suggested that Delaughter would be considered for a federal judgeship without at least invoking Lott's name, although it could've been done without Lott's knowledge.

Are more judicial corruption cases on the horizon in Mississippi? Possibly. It does appear that a sleazy culture of corruption had developed in the state, and Scruggs is certainly at the center of the allegations. So far, three lawyers have plead guilty. Scruggs denies the claims and says he'll fight them, but one has to wonder whether Scruggs tremendous success over the years might have been more than just skill.

Monday, January 14, 2008

McCain's For The Taking?

John McCain is oh so close to making a run that would get him the GOP nomination. He now leads, somewhat comfortably, in the national polls--having snagged, apparently, most of Giuliani's supporters--and also leads, albeit narrowly, in some Michigan, SC, Nevada and Florida polls.

But then, it was just a few weeks ago that Mitt Romney had the lead in Iowa, New Hampshire and SC, and looked like he might just sweep to victory.

The key is Michigan. If McCain wins there, even by a whisker, his chances go up exponentially. But, if he loses--even by a whisker--then Republicans are back into the soup.

Frankly, Giuliani has been a huge disappointment. But a guy who's run the worst possible campaign and shied from the fight is hardly worthy of the oval office.

Surprisingly, we may know the GOP nominee before the Democrats make their choice--something the Curmudgeon certainly would not have predicted even a couple weeks ago!

Giuliani's Advisors Now Working For What They're Worth: Nothing

Rudy Giuliani's senior advisors reportedly are now working without pay to help the cash-strapped campaign stay afloat through the Florida primary.

Heck, they should be working for free! These are the same advisors who concocted the wacky theory that Rudy G. could lay low for the first six or seven nominating contests and somehow still be relevant come Florida. Their advice was worthless, so they're now making what they were worth all along.
After leading in national polls as late as two months ago, the Rudester had been in free fall in national polls. Indeed, McCain should richly reward Giuliani's men, because most of the Straight Talker's newfound support is clearly coming from national security conservatives abandoning the USS Giuliani as it founders in bad advice.

Slip-Sliding Away: Anarctica Melting Faster Than Thought

Today's news brings us word that the western Antarctic ice sheet is melting a good deal faster than previously thought. (See "Escalating Ice Loss Found In Antarctica" in the Washington Post.)

Since air temperatures have not risen appreciably in the Antarctic--at least not yet--compared to a fairly dramatic rise in the Arctic, scientists had not expected to find much in the way of melting to the South. It turns out, however, that because the ocean itself is getting warmer, the portion of ice in Antarctica that sits on the water is melting, more so than previously thought.

Significantly, in the most recent IPCC report on global warming, the forecast sea level rise by the end of the century, which was modest, excluded any contribution from melting in Antarctica and Greenland, the two potentially largest contributors to rising oceans. By the time of the next IPCC report, additional data may merit some rather dramatic revisions to the predictions for coastal flooding.

We do wish, however, that the Post's article--similar ones in other publications--had addressed the data from this past summer (the Antarctic winter) reporting that sea ice formation was at a record high, which is certainly different than one would expect with warming. There may be reasonable explanations for both the observed melting and the anomolous record ice formation, but we'd like to hear them, and, at a minimum, have the ice formation story acknowledged when reading stories about melting in Antarctica.

As for the Curmudgeon, we're sticking to mountain properties for our old age.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Thousand Dollar Fine For Bicyclist Under Virginia "Abusive Driver" Law

For those of you who don't live in Virginia, here's the background on this story: last year, the General Assembly, desperately needing to raise money for transportation improvements, but equally desperate to avoid doing so with a "tax," decided to fund it with a hodge podge of disguised taxes, the most significant of which were enormous fines on "abusive drivers."

As with all silly laws, this one has had some silly results. The worst we've heard of, so far is this one (from today's WaPo):


19-Year-Old Cyclist Faces Abusive-Driver Fee

A traffic court in Newport News, Va., has ordered a 19-year-old man to pay a $1,050 abusive-driver fee for driving his 18-speed bicycle recklessly in traffic.

Kajuan Cornish, who is appealing the fee, got a ticket Thursday after police said motorists had to slow down to avoid hitting him.

The day before, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) called on state lawmakers to repeal the fees, saying they were a mistake. The General Assembly and Kaine approved them last year in an attempt to raise money for transportation projects by cracking down on drivers cited for the most serious offenses, such as reckless driving.

Now really, does that make sense? We might add that we caught a clip of the bicyclist offender on the TV news and, lo and behold, he was African-American. Would that happen to a white guy on a bicycle? We don't think so.

We're not against ticketing a reckless bicyclist, but let's get real.

Michigan Up For Grabs

Should we even bother with the polls in Michigan after what happened in New Hampshire?

Well, the New Hampshire polls were pretty accurate with the GOP side of the race, so let's give it a try.

Six polls have been released in Michigan covering interviews conducted January 9 or later. Of those, three give Romney the lead and three give McCain the lead, with the largest lead for Romney at 8% and the largest for McCain at 7%. Huckabee is in third, about 9 points back.

(For a complete tabulation of the Michigan polls, go here.)

That means Michigan is a toss-up. A lot hangs in the balance: if McCain wins, his momentum could be enough to run the table in SC, Florida and Super Duper Tuesday. If Romney wins, however, it knocks McCain down a peg, gets the Mittster back into the race, keeps SC up in the air (leaning Huckabee) and even gives Giuliani a shot in Florida.

McCain could even come in third in Michigan--Huckabee's numbers may be a bit better than the polls, because his people will turnout. We think Romney is enjoying a mini-surge of support in Michigan, and it's not clear that independents, who McCain needs, will really turn out.

And, if Romney wins Michigan, he could end up with a very good week, as he has a good shot at Nevada with it's large Mormon population.

Looks to be another interesting week.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Start Of A McCain Bandwagon, Or The Latest GOP Fad?

Based on the post-New Hampshire polls, it sure looks like a McCain bandwagon is starting up on the Republican side. He's leading in polls in Michigan, SC, Florida and in a couple of national polls, including CNN poll with McCain leading Huckabee by 14 points and everyone else trailing. (We will say that CNN's track record with polls in this election has been erratic, at best.)

But then, McCain had the lead early last year. Then it was Thompson. Then Giuliani. On occasion it has been Huckabee. So maybe McCain is just the latest fad.

We'll know pretty soon.

Fractured GOP: Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

If you want to know how fractured the GOP is today, just compare the following analyses of last night's Republican debate in Myrtle Beach, SC from respected political pundits:

Chuck Todd, MSNBC: "Post-Debate First Take: Fred's Not Dead . . ." Todd thinks Fred Thompson did the best. But this isn't the first time pundits thought Fred was superb in a debate--they said the same thing in Iowa. Problem is whether anyone is watching. Fred probably is dead, due to poor campaigning and lack of strategy.

Jonathan Martin, Politico: "McCain Emerges Unscathed." Martin says no one touched McCain, but these other commentators beg to disagree--for example, Dean Barnett, below, who said McCain had some good and bad moments, the bad including "annoy[ing] conservatives for no apparent reason" with his discussion of global warming.

Dean Barnett, Weakly Standard: "A Big Night For Huckabee." Barnett praises Huckabee as "an exceptional politician whose package of skills is often sold short" and says his political skills were on full display in the debate.

The two candidates who seemed not to bet much out of the debate were Romney and Giuliani, but if we look hard enough we'll probably find someone reasonably neutral who thought one or the other was superb.

Is McCain the "front-runner?" Martin, above, is one of those who thinks McCain is the "front-runner"--evidently on his own say-so. National polls of Republicans show no such thing. In the Rasmussen's four-day tracking poll, McCain is on top--by two points--over Huckabee and Romney today, but Huckabee was on top yesterday.

The more interesting story in the national polls is Giuliani--having deliberately sat out Iowa and New Hampshire, and doing the same with Michigan and Florida--Giuliani has been out of the mind's eye during all this intense media glare. He's now down to 9% in the Rasmussen tracking poll. He could resurrect himself with a strong showing in Florida, but that's not going to be easy, and even then, all he does is get himself back into the race--he hardly becomes the favorite.

McCain has small leads in recent Michigan and SC polls, but will they hold up? If they do, he will be the front-runner. On the other hand, suppose Mitt wins Michigan and Thompson wins SC (highly unlikely, but within the realm of possibility)--then we have four winners in four contests. Give Rudy Florida and you start all over on Super Duper Tuesday!