Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Missouri Results

I don't have anything in particular to add about the Virginia and New Jersey Governor's races that isn't already being said, so instead I'm going to say a little about the outcome of the special election in Missouri that I mentioned yesterday. To make a long story short, the Democratic candidate Jane Bogetto won, and by a considerable margin:
Bogetto (D) 57.6% (4,866)
Byrd, M. (R) 42.4% (3,600)

Compare this to the results for the same seat in 2004:
Byrd, R. (R) 53.9% (11,206)
Cotten (D) 46.1% (9,567)

Part of this, of course, may simply be due to the changing demographics (or at least political leanings) of the area -- there is not much of the district that would be considered to lie within the realm of the traditional Democratic base, but as the suburbs become increasingly Democratic, that may no longer be the case. And in any case, the shift isn't limited to the past year alone: Cotten, the 2004 candidate, was the first Democrat even on the ballot in District 94 since 1996 (previous years had seen an unopposed Republican or only a Libertarian opponent).

Missouri Republicans can correctly point out that turnout was typically low and that they did retain a State Senate seat and pickup a State House seat in District 150 previously held by a Democrat yesterday as well. It's yet to be seen for certain, then, whether either party is registering net gains in Missouri or simply shuffling votes around between different areas and demographics. What does seem clear, however, is that Republican Governor Matt Blunt is in serious trouble; District 150 Republican winner Jason Smith and his Democratic opponent Bobby Simpson both signed a pledge criticizing the Governor's health care cuts. (Credit to Fired Up Missouri for unearthing that one.) Blunt himself continues to register extraordinarily low approval ratings; in the most recent SurveyUSA 50-state poll, he's at 33/61, tied with Arnold Schwarzenegger at 33/65. (These numbers are doubly stunning when you consider that the only Governors with lower approval ratings are the beleaguered Ernie Fletcher of Kentucky and Bob Taft of Ohio, also both Republicans.)

What does all this mean? Well, aside from making Blunt himself highly vulnerable in 2008, this probably elevates the standing of Claire McCaskill, the Democrat whom many Missourians undoubtedly wish they'd elected Governor instead of Blunt and who is now running against Republican incumbent Sen. Jim Talent next year. Missouri has trended increasingly Republican in recent statewide races and can be safely characterized as a socially conservative state, but Blunt's sagging popularity along with Bush's low approval rating in the state (SurveyUSA puts the President at 39-59 in Missouri) means that Talent can't rely on his party to put him over the top. A September poll by Rasmussen Reports in fact shows Talent and McCaskill tied 46-46, with perceptions of Bush strongly correlating to voter choice (those who strongly approve of Bush favor Talent 91-7, and those who strongly disapprove favor McCaskill 81-9).

I've said before that perhaps the Republicans have peaked in Minnesota, where Kerry outpolled Gore and Democrats made significant gains in the State House in 2004 (following the election of Sen. Norm Coleman and Gov. Tim Pawlenty, both Republicans, in 2002). One can only hope that such a trend back towards the Democrats is under way in Missouri.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Election Night

A few races worth watching tonight in this off-off-year election. The big prize is the Governor's mansion in Virginia, where Republican Ed Kilgore was favored early on but has fallen behind Democrat Tim Kaine in recent polling. With President Bush visiting Virginia last night to campaign for Kilgore, whichever side wins is certain to tout it as a referendum on his Presidency. Unofficial returns will be available here:

New Jersey also has a Governor's race, with incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine the favorite over former GOP Senate candidate Doug Forrester. Polls have vacillated between showing Corzine with a comfortable lead in the high single or low double digits, and some showing Forrester closing the gap. While Republicans would certainly like to pull off an upset here, it would likely be significant for the '06 New Jersey Senate race only: at the Presidential level, New Jersey is probably not likely to turn red in '08, and I don't think Bush has been involved in this one. This New York NBC site will carry real-time results:

In Rhode Island, we have a competitive mayor's race in the city of Woonsocket, with Todd Brien challenging incumbent Mayor Susan Menard. (The election is officially non-partisan; both are Democrats.) The local NBC station will be covering the race here:

Finally, back in my "other home," namely St. Louis County, my State House district is having a special election to replace the deceased Richard Byrd, a Republican. His widow is facing a challenge from Democrat Jane Bogetto. This district is traditionally Republican (in Kirkwood, the municipality where I grew up and am still registered to vote, the joke used to be that the Kirkwood Democratic Party had its meetings in a telephone booth), but has trended more Democratic recently. In 2004, for example, Byrd's Democratic opponent pulled in a percentage in the mid- to high-forties, which is not bad in a district where the Democrats sometimes didn't even bother to run anybody. Dissatisfaction with GOP Gov. Matt Blunt (and with President Bush) runs high in Missouri, so this is a chance for a Democratic pickup. Returns will be posted here:

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Virginia Candidate Needs Volunteers

According to this entry on the Daily Kos, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tim Kaine needs out-of-state volunteers to help with last-minute phonebanking before the election on Tuesday. The polls seem to be neck-and-neck in this one. If you're interested, scroll through the comments section for contact information.

Monday, October 31, 2005

SurveyUSA and Chafee

The Survey USA numbers (see below) present some interesting insights into the nature of the race here in Rhode Island. Perhaps not entirely surprisingly, Chafee has higher approval ratings among Democrats than Republicans:

Democrats (32% of sample)
Approve 64%
Disapprove 31
Not Sure 5

Republicans (19% of sample)
Approve 52
Disapprove 43
Not Sure 6

Independents (46% of sample)
Approve 54
Disapprove 40
Not Sure 6

Suppose we start out by assuming that all the Republicans who approve of Chafee vote for him, that all the Democrats who disapprove of Chafee vote against him, and that Independents simply vote their Approve/Disapprove preference. In that case, here's where we start:

Chafee 35
Democrat 28
Unassigned 34

Recalculating percentages so that they add to one hundred (it's unclear why the Democrats, Republicans, and Independents don't sum to 100 percent in the SUSA sample), we get:

Chafee 36
Democrat 29
Unassigned 35

The trick for a Democratic candidate to get to 50%, then, is to win big among the currently "unassigned" and/or try to decrease their numbers by causing anti-Chafee Republicans to stay home. However, even if you assume that all the anti-Chafee Republicans do in fact vote for Chafee, here's what you get:

Chafee 44
Democrat 29
Unassigned 27

If this happens, then the election will rest in the hands of the pro-Chafee Democrats and those currently in the "Not Sure" category -- of the 27% unassigned, the Democrat would need 78%, or 21% total, to get to 50%.

Of course, there's no guarantee that this is what will actually happen. The Independents in Rhode Island are probably a somewhat left-leaning (or at least more left than right) bunch, given how overwhelmingly Democratic the vote results here typically are. Some of them, then, may well be inclined to vote against Chafee even if they approve of him, and obviously not *all* the anti-Chafee Republicans will come out to vote (though perhaps most of them will).

Still, this illustrates the peculiarities of a race where the outcome may hinge on whether Democrats can be convinced to vote for a Democrat.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Belated Correction

Last June, I blogged about a story regarding allegations by Seymour Hearsh of sexual assaults against children in American-run Iraqi prisons. Through a Daily Kos thread, I discovered that Hersh has apparently corrected the story to some extent since then: he now says there was only one incident, and it's unclear what (if anything) American personnel had to do with it.

Grading the Senate Freshmen

Survey USA has released a new 50-state poll tracking approval ratings for each U.S. Senator. I decided to take a look at the current "freshman class," since their images are presumably less cemented back home and therefore perhaps more reflective of national trends:

Thomas Carper (D-DE) 63-28
Ben Nelson (D-NE) 63-29
Hillary Clinton (D-NY) 63-34
Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) 56-37
John Ensign (R-NV) 54-34
Maria Cantwell (D-WA) 52-37
George Allen (R-VA) 49-38
Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) 50-39
Mark Dayton (D-MN) 44-46

Democrat Average: 56-36
Republican Average: 53-36
Overall Average: 55-36

Tim Johnson (D-SD) 73-21
Mark Pryor (D-AR) 61-30
Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) 58-34
Lindsey Graham (R-SC) 58-32
Lamar Alexander (R-TN) 51-36
Norm Coleman (R-MN) 51-41
James Talent (R-MO) 51-40
John Sununu (R-NH) 49-39
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) 47-40
John Cornyn (R-TX) 46-41
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) 45-45

Democrat Average: 60-32
Republican Average: 51-38
Overall Average: 54-36

Barack Obama (D-IL) 73-21
John Thune (R-SD) 60-36
Ken Salazar (D-CO) 58-34
David Vitter (R-LA) 58-34
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) 57-36
Johnny Isakson (R-GA) 51-35
Tom Coburn (R-OK) 48-42
Mel Martinez (R-FL) 48-41
Richard Burr (R-NC) 47-38
Jim DeMint (R-SC) 47-41

Democrat Average: 66-28
Republican Average: 52-38
Overall Average: 55-36

Off the top of my head, I'm not sure quite what to make of this. For the class of 2000, there is no major appreciable difference between the two parties, but the gap widens in favor of Democrats for 2002 and then again for 2004. I see several possible interpretations, none of them necessarily mutually exclusive:

(1) Republican Senators who are relatively new and haven't had time to build an image and a rapport with their constituents are suffering from the current dissatisfaction with President Bush and the Republican Party, while Democrats are not.

(2) Given the Republican trend in the 2002 and 2004 elections, only Democrats who are especially popular or have some sort of "star power" were able to win at all in those elections, thus skewing the Democratic sample. One can certainly make this case for Obama, of course. Salazar is by all accounts the most popular Democrat in Colorado, and Pryor comes from an established Arkansas political family. I'm less familiar with Tim Johnson and thus can't comment on him.

(3) As a corollary, perhaps the Republican candidates of 2002 and 2004 were comparatively mediocre. However, the difference between the average GOP rating for 2000 and the average GOP ratings for 2002 and 2004 is one of only a point or two in each direction (53-36, 51-38, 52-38). The trend seems to be more one of Democrats going up rather than Republicans going down.

My best guess would be (2) combined with some small element of (1) -- that is, Democratic "star power" combined with a small sample has helped Obama, Salazar, Pryor, and Johnson stand out, whereas Republicans and to some extent veteran Democrats are viewed less favorably because of current dissatisfaction with the direction of federal policy.

I'll try to come back to this soon by comparing trends for other "classes" in the Senate, and I'll also have more to say about the Rhode Island numbers specifically.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Pandemic Flu Awareness Week

I'm admittedly jumping on this bandwagon at the very end, but I'd encourage everyone to check out

Thursday, September 15, 2005

New RI Senate Poll Numbers

Now that Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey has officially jumped into the race, we have a new poll testing all the possible matchups (minus low-profile Democrat Carl Sheeler) from Darrell West of Brown University:

Primary Matchups

Lincoln Chafee 44%
Stephen Laffey 24%
Don't Know/No Answer 32%

Sheldon Whitehouse 32%
Matt Brown 16%
Don't Know/No Answer 52%

General Election Matchups

Lincoln Chafee (R) 38%
Sheldon Whitehouse (D) 25%
DK/NA 37%

Lincoln Chafee (R) 41%
Matt Brown (D) 18%
DK/NA 41%

Sheldon Whitehouse (D) 35%
Stephen Laffey (R) 25%
DK/NA 40%

Matt Brown (D) 30%
Stephen Laffey (R) 26%
DK/NA 44%

For those of us in the Whitehouse camp, the good news is that he's outpacing Brown and that he holds Chafee well below 50%. The bad news is that he isn't nearly as close to Chafee as last time around (where he trailed Chafee 41-36). On the other hand, the folks at RI Future point out that the poll may have oversampled possible Republican primary voters (roughly 47% of the sample, which may be too high for Rhode Island even with independents who might support Chafee included).

Still, every one of these polls to date has indicated that the state is not locked into a "re-elect Chafee" mindset at that point, which is good news for Democrats. They have also mostly borne out the general wisdom that if Laffey were to unseat Chafee in the primary, the race is likely the Democrats' to lose.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Missing person

Passing this along for a friend:

Third Time's The Charm?

I have decided, once again, to try to start blogging a little more regularly again. If I am successful, the entries will probably take on a slightly different character than they have in the past, when they basically consisted of either long analyses about politics or brief comments and links to some oddity or other that I'd run across. Both of those kinds of posts will still show up, but I may delve into other topics, and at more variable length, than I have in the past.

Given that what few readers I ever had were, however, probably drawn in at least partly by the political content, I might as well go ahead and mention that I'm now volunteering for Sheldon Whitehouse's Senate campaign.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Kennedy also out of Senate race

I was out of town when this happened so now I'm playing catch-up. Patrick Kennedy has also decided not to run for Senate, saying that he thought he'd be more effective by keeping his seat on the Appropriations Committee. It's also been suggested that his mother's recent health problems played a role in his decision.

With Jim Langevin also having passed on the race, there seems to be a certain discouragement among some Democrats and a sense that we're now playing with the B-team against Lincoln Chafee -- namely Secretary of State Matt Brown and former Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse, who appears set to announce tomorrow. Kos, who openly says that Langevin "was driven out of the race by the pro-choice lobby," now gives the advantage to Chafee. For reasons I've explained in the past, I thought Langevin was probably the strongest candidate to challenge Chafee, and if he was in fact deterred from running by the prospect of a bruising fight over abortion, it's certainly a shame for him and for the Democratic Party. I was never too enthusiastic about Kennedy: though he's high-profile and capable of raising a lot of money, I get the sense that he isn't all that respected and that he wins mostly by being a well-funded Democrat in this deep-blue state and not on his merits or even his family name.

In any case, they're both out of the race now, and so it looks like Chafee will face either Brown or Whitehouse unless some other dark horse is waiting in the wings. Each of them brings certain advantages and disadvantages to the race. Brown is young and energetic and carries the impression of being honest and immune to Washington's insider games. He also articulates a convincing case against Chafee, namely that although he takes a number of liberal positions and sometimes votes against the Bush administration, he doesn't typically stand up and take the lead on issues and thus ends up accomplishing very little. By contrast, when Brown says he's going to fight for something, you believe him so instinctively that it's almost scary.

Which brings us to his major disadvantage, which is his rather abrasive and confrontational style. When I saw him speak, for example, he said, "I don't want anti-choice people in the Democratic Party," and you didn't get the impression he was interested in hearing other opinions than his. Maybe he'll drop this particular meme now that he won't be running against Langevin, but I suspect a lot of voters only want a "fighter" up to a point and may feel alienated by this sort of rhetoric, even if they happen to agree with Brown on the issues. Chafee, who is easy-going and respectful almost to a fault, poses no such problem, and I even worry that Brown might seem like a bully if he starts to attack the reticent Chafee too aggressively.

Or, for that matter, if he does it to Sheldon Whitehouse, who seems to have a similar reputation. I admittedly know less about Whitehouse's career, but I've crossed paths with him twice now, once on the day of the presidential primary when he came to vote at a polling place where I was doing visibility, and once at a fundraiser/party for the third presidential debate, and both times he seemed very polite and approachable. It's clear, from the article about Whitehouse's entry and this article about Langevin that the state's political establishment is skeptical of Brown and now seems to be lining up behind Whitehouse, even to the point of urging Brown to drop out. It's not clear yet whether he truly has deep support or is just the Anybody But Brown candidate, but either way this looks like a competitive primary.

The main knock against Whitehouse, I think, is that he couldn't pull off a win in the 2002 gubernatorial primary against already-twice-nominated Myrth York, who went on to her third straight general election defeat. This is a strike against him, but it was a three-way primary, and most seem to think he'd have won if third-place candidate Tony Pires had not been in the race. As a Brown-skeptic myself, I'm leaning in Whitehouse's direction at this point, whatever his drawbacks. The biggest challenge for either of them, however, will be to make themselves better known to the state's voters and elevate their stature to the point that they can credibly take on Chafee and win.

Assuming, of course, that Chafee doesn't lose his primary to a conservative challenger. But that's another blog entry.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Langevin to skip Senate race

According to the Providence Journal, Rep. Jim Langevin has decided not to enter the Senate race against Lincoln Chafee. I've written in the past about why I thought Langevin might actually be the best candidate to take on Chafee, but this does at least spare us from the year-long spitting contest about abortion that seemed inevitable if he did run.

The article goes on to state that party leaders may ask Rep. Patrick Kennedy to reconsider his decision not to enter the Senate contest, and that they are less than enthusiastic about the prospect of Secretary of State Matt Brown, the only announced Democratic candidate so far, as the nominee. Personally, my sense is that Kennedy is not actually very popular or well-liked, and wins mostly by virtue of having a lot of money and being a Democrat in Rhode Island, so I'm not sure that he's necessarily an improvement over Brown (who is energetic but almost too combative for my tastes).

In any case, in such a tiny and overwhelmingly Democratic state, every race can set off a round of musical chairs, and these last two paragraphs from the ProJo article sum it up nicely:

Langevin's decision will ripple through the state's political hierarchy, affecting the plans of other Democrats and perhaps some Republicans. For example, Democratic Lt. Gov. Charles J. Fogarty, and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, a Republican, had both been considering running for the 2nd District House seat if Langevin was not a candidate. Now, neither can be expected to take on Langevin, who easily won reelection in 2004.

"This is the shoe everybody has been waiting to drop," said [William] Lynch, the state Democratic chairman. "Now that is has happened, everybody has to make up their minds."

I may have a chance to see Fogarty, with whom I'm not very familiar, speak later tonight at the Brown Democrats meeting. He seems likely to run for something next year, though it's probably now anybody's guess as to what.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Arctic Drilling Passes Senate



Does anyone know why the two Dems from Hawaii voted for this garbage?

Thursday, March 10, 2005

In Defense of Lincoln Chafee

Looks like Chafee provided the crucial vote on Bush's Orwellian-titled "Clear Skies Act":

President Bush's bid to rewrite the nation's air pollution laws ground to a halt in Congress Wednesday when Republicans were unable to overcome objections in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that the bill would weaken central pillars of environmental protection.


Democrats, joined by Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt., and Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., said that negotiations had been conducted in bad faith, that the initiative's pollution control targets were set too low, and that certain loopholes in the bill were irresponsible.

I've been a staunch member of the "Vote Chafee Out" faction among Rhode Island Democrats, but I have to say that things like this make it difficult. To play devil's advocate for a moment, putting aside whatever personal respect I have for Lincoln Chafee, there are certain practical arguments in favor of re-electing him. Since legislation is controlled more by the committees than by floor votes unless there is a majority of only one or two, we're arguably better off with Chafee in a narrowly Republican Senate than we would be with a Democrat. If Chafee loses the next election but the Republicans retain control, his seat on the EPW Committee won't go to his Democratic replacement but to a different Republican. Which means that unless that Republican is somebody like John McCain or Susan Collins, we'll probably be screwed on these sorts of votes. (And even then we might be, in that Chafee is still more pro-environment than any other Senate Republican.)

In other words, it's a nasty Catch-22. If we can't have a Democratic Senate, we might be better off with Chafee. But if we don't beat Chafee, it's going to be even harder to have a Democratic Senate.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005


Daily Kos thread: Bono for President!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Return of the Weird Spam Report

Lately I've been getting a number of spams that are even weirder than the ones from last year, in that these don't even attempt to sell anything or generally make any sense at all. They're just medium-sized collections of aphorisms and pithy sayings. The best part (for those who enjoy these sorts of things) is the names of the people supposedly sending them. Yesterday, for example, I received this from a certain Anopheles T. Reestablishing:
What's up, then?

Sampai jumpa lagi All men are alike in their lower natures it is in their higher characters that they differ.

The sweetest joy, the wildest woe is love.
The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts.
A lie can run around the world six times while the truth is still trying to put on its pants.
A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.

What is important is not to be able to read rapidly, but to be able to decide what not to read.
Civilization -- a heap of rubble scavenged by scrawny English Lit. vultures. If ignorance is bliss, why aren't more people jumping up and down for joy.

A book is a mirror: If an ass peers into it, you can't expect an apostle to look out.

The major justification for a life is the happiness and reward it brings to other lives.
Character is the indelible mark that determines the only true value of all people and all their work.
You have to make it happen.

Thou shalt not covet but tradition approves all forms of competition.

Character builds slowly, but it can be torn down with incredible swiftness.
A father is a banker provided by nature.

In good films, there is always a directness that entirely frees us from the itch to interpret.
Lawyers know life practically. A bookish man should always have them to converse with.

Divorce is a declaration of independence with only two signers.
Previous such spammers have included Monoxide A. Goner, Selectmen M. Infestations, Venal C. Suspicions, and Gujranwala C. Cosmetic (the latter two were less verbose -- all they said was "Oops... :) Hei, hei," and "What's up? :) Bo yi bo wa," respectively).

I'm not really sure what all this tells us about anything, other than that Strong Bad is probably right about the Internet.