Sunday, December 23, 2007

'Tis the season redux

As I did last year, I would like to wish you all a Happy Boxing Day.

And, to keep things fresh, here is a bit of holiday humour:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice (with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others or their choice not to practice such traditions at all).*

Furthermore, I offer my (non-binding) best wishes for the onset of the generally accepted calendar year of 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make Canada great. (Which is not to imply that Canada is any greater than any other country). These wishes are offered without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, choice of computer platform or sexual orientation of the wishee.

Happy (if happiness is in your belief system) Holidays (if you recognize them)

* This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It implies no promises by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for his or herself or others, is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish expires within one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first.
Thanks as always for dropping by, I look forward to continuing the dialogue in the New Year.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Could Pennsylvania be the new decisive primary?

As I've written before, the result of the front-loading of the primary calendar could result in a presidential race being drawn out longer rather than concluded early as the conventional wisdom seems to suggest.

The early primaries and caucuses in Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina and Florida (as well as Wyoming and Maine for the Republicans) will all be held in less than a month. On the Republican side, it is almost certain that no one candidate will win all of these states and likely that no one candidate will even win a majority of them. On the Democratic side, it is conceivable to see a big split as well which could result from a Clinton loss in Iowa (seeming more likely). Especially in the case of a win by Edwards, and a strong fourth place finish by one of the also-rans, making him a semi-viable candidate in later contests, could get us to a split as big as four ways.

If we have the early contests split, then there will be no clear frontrunner dominating the media coverage heading into Tsunami Tuesday on February 5. On that date 20 states hold their contests for Republicans and 22 hold them for Democrats. Most candidates who have won primaries will be on relatively equal footing due to expanded media coverage and fundraising grown out of their victories. Some - like Clinton (who has a more established national organization), Romney (who has a fairly substantial organization and unlimited personal money to spend) and Giuliani (who has focused on the Feb 5 states since day 1) - will have a built in advantage on the whole, however each candidate that has had some success can focus his or her efforts on states where they have the best chance and still come out a "winner". It seems almost impossible to me for someone to win a January contest and then not win at least one of the Feb 5 states.

When America wakes on on February 6, there will have been presidential contests in 28 states for each party. If things play out as above, there could be 2 to 4 Democrats and 3 to 6 Republicans all on equal footing with the race, in terms of number of delegates, 56% of the Republican contest will be over and 57% of the Democratic race. We then go back into rapid succession with more contests being held in 13 more states on Feb 10, Feb 12, Feb 19, March 4, March 8 and March 11. On the morning of March 12, after candidates will have likely continued to focus on bases and split primaries, there would be no clear winner with over 80% of Republican delegates chosen and almost 85% of Democratic delegates!

Traditionally Iowa and New Hampshire have proved decisive because they have been the great equalizers. Money doesn't matter and the states are small enough on the ground that you can build an organization by simply meeting and pitching your case to everyone that matters on an individual basis. This contest could create a new equalizer. Iowa and New Hampshire never clinch the nomination for anyone, they matter because of perception and momentum. With over 80% of delegates chosen by this point, if things are split up, the only way someone could actually clinch the nomination would be if they had carried about 50% of all of the contests to date and swept the remaining contests.

As of March 11, the longest gap between two contests (that began over two months before on January), would have been the rest between the contests in Hawaii, Washington and Wisconsin on Feb 19 and the left-over Super Tuesday states of Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont on March 4. That is to say two weeks without a victory for someone and it could well have been a victory for three people on each side, a two week wait, and another split of victories. In most cases, there will have been a week or less between contests. Thus, there will have been no chance for candidates to do anything but campaign and the campaigning they have done has either just skimmed the surface or ignored a great number of states and focused on a small sub-section where they have won.

However, after March 11 there is no contest until April 22. And that April 22 contest is only in one state. And, after April 22, there is no contest until May 6. Thus, after this non-stop electionfest, candidates will have six weeks to focus exclusively on winning the Pennsylvania primary. Whoever wins it will be the first person to have won the only contest on a single day and have had the ability to ride the free press and momentum of that lone win for more than 7 days. In Iowa and New Hampshire, traditionally, momentum can enable you to sweep the other 48 states, so one could imagine Pennsylvania could give the momentum to carry the remaining 8 or 11 (depending on the party).

After a split primary season, a clear winner in Pennsylvania could clinch the nomination or come very close and generate some much momentum that it would be clinched for the second ballot.

All of these states who anxiously moved their primaries to February 5 may need to be reminded of the old adage: be careful what you wish for. They will have succeeded in taking from two states - Iowa and New Hampshire - the power of choosing the major party nominees but, ironically, in doing so they may have taken the power from two states and given it to one.

Number of delegates at stake after penalties by national parties on those states who have gone earlier than permitted:

- by Feb 5 - 1268
- by Mar 11 - 1817
- total - 2264

- by Feb 5 - 2177
- by Mar 11 - 3260
- total - 3838


Friday, December 21, 2007

Political correctness gone way too far

Those watching the U.S. presidential race over the course of the last week or so have seen a lot of coverage of the "negative personal attack" launched by the Clinton campaign on Barack Obama.

For those that aren't watching, the general reportage has been as follows: Bill Shaheen, then the co-chair of the Clinton campaign in New Hampshire and the husband of former governor and former and current U.S. Senate candidate Jeanne Shaheen, stated that a question that will come up is that, if Barack Obama has admitted to using cocaine, then did he also sell it?

On the face, this does sound a bit nasty. But, as often happens, the comment has been taken totally out of context. There has been a media frenzy about it, Mr. Shaheen has stepped down from his role on the campaign, Hillary Clinton has personally apologized to Obama and Obama and his campaign have been milking it for all its worth.

However, here is the fullness of the quote:

Barack Obama's youthful drug use would be used against him by Republicans, if the Illinois senator captured the Democratic presidential nomination.

"It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?" noted Shaheen. "There's so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome."
In 2004, Republican groups accused John Kerry, a well decorated war hero, of being "dishonest, unreliable, unfit to lead, and had dishonored his country". Does anyone honestly believe that the Republicans wouldn't do just as Shaheen suggested? Shaheen never suggested, contrary to how the Obama campaign has spun this and the press has bought hook-line-and-sinker, that Obama may have sold drugs. He said that as a "dirty trick" the Republicans would make this claim. No intelligent person could possibly say that some Republican group wouldn't do it. Shaheen stated the obvious.

Political correctness has really gone awry when a man is punished and sidelined for predicting, almost certainly accurately, that someone is eventually going to do something mean and nasty.

What a joke.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Its funny how history can repeat itself

It was late 2003 2007 and after leading in Iowa for months Dick Gephart Hillary Clinton, a moderate with strong labour support, has slipped into second place behind Howard Dean Barack Obama, a left-leaning progressive with little federal political experience who is gaining strong support online and among students. As a result, the tone of the campaign is quickly shifting from positive to negative with both top campaigns attacking each other more directly and aggressively every day.

Behind these frontrunners are a charming southerner named John Edwards John Edwards whose campaign has focussed almost wholly on Iowa and is routed in contrasting the class struggle; and John Kerry Joe Biden, a senator with many years of experience and a strong network of supporters and key endorsements despite being in the single digits of most polls.

Though the negative warfare between the two frontrunners may risk damaging them both it seems unlikely and we've seen before that the others could catch them.

Something to think about...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Predicting New Hampshire

On Thursday, I posted my prediction for the Iowa Caucus. Today, we are four weeks away from New Hampshire so I will try to do the same there, though it is more difficult to do so because the results will depend a lot on Iowa.

On the Republican side, I think it is a bit easier to predict. Back in September, I predicted something that was viewed as very unlikely then and is still considered unlikely: John McCain will win the Republican nomination for president. I still believe that that will be the case. The road map for doing so is a bit different than I mused at the time, however.

In September I said that McCain would finish first or second in Iowa. I presently have predicted that he will finish sixth. My earlier prediction was grounded in my view that Thompson would fizzle (which he did), that Giuliani has a ceiling around 15% (which he seems to have) and that Romney would slip (which he has). Thus, I assumed McCain would be able to pick up ground from all of these areas and become competitive with Romney. I failed to predict the rise of Mike Huckabee, however, which throws any shot for McCain out the window. Notwithstanding that, a loss for Romney, or a hollow victory over a surging Huckabee (which I've predicted) will wound Romney severely and still allow McCain to win New Hampshire.

So my prediction for New Hampshire would be: McCain, Romney, Huckabee, Giuliani, Paul, Thompson. I suspect Hunter, and possibly Tancredo, will withdraw the night of the Iowa Caucus and if they don't their numbers will be in the 1% range anyway. Huckabee and Giuliani will finish very close to each other and I consider them within the margin of error of my prediction so it could go: McCain, Romney, Giuliani, Huckabee, Paul, Thompson. This all depends on how much press momentum Huckabee gets out of his Iowa strength. Ordinarily I would think a lot, but based on the expectation that he will do well there a month out, he will not get as big of a bump. I think the Republican results in New Hampshire, like in Iowa, will mirror the breakdown of the Democrats from 2004. In that instance, Kerry beat Dean, but they were relatively close, and Clark, Edwards and Lieberman were clumped together in, essentially, a tie for third. I see Giuliani, Huckabee and Paul all in the 8-15% range with McCain near 40 and Romney in the 20s.

On the Democratic side, if my Iowa prediction holds, I believe Obama will suffer a complete meltdown. A third place finish in Iowa would be a disaster for him. Unlike Howard Dean, who governed a neighbouring state for over a decade and began his campaign with a focus on New Hampshire while virtually ignoring Iowa, Obama has no New Hampshire roots and has always played both here and in Iowa. Clinton, I think, could sustain a second place finish to Edwards in Iowa and still win New Hampshire. I would presume that a fifth place finish for Richardson would cause him to withdraw, and Dodd has all but said he is betting the farm on Iowa where he will get 1 or 2%, so I suspect he's out too.

So my prediction for the Democrats, relying highly on the results in Iowa going as I've projected, would be: Clinton, Edwards, Obama, Biden, Gravel, Kucinich. Depending on the strength of Obama's meltdown and if Joe Biden's fourth place finish in Iowa is strong, i.e. competitive with Obama, he could surge and place second or more likely third in New Hampshire and, in turn, be very competitive in Nevada where last year's Senate candidate (Jack Carter, son of Jimmy) is backing him, which would, in turn, make him competitive in South Carolina as the most moderate Democrat in the race. That is mostly wishful thinking on my part considering my affection for Biden as a candidate, but worth considering.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Predicting Iowa

Everyone here knows that I can't resist making predictions, today is 28 days - four weeks - from the Iowa caucuses for both U.S. parties.

My predictions are as follows:

Edwards, Clinton, Obama, Biden, Richardson, Kucinich, Dodd, Gravel

I think that the numbers of the top four finishers will closely mirror those of the top four Democrats from 2004. Edwards will lead Clinton relatively comfortably, but there will be a fairly large gap between second and third while Biden will trail Obama by only about as much as Gephardt trailed Dean. The 2004 results are here for a reference. I don't mean to suggest the numbers will be the same as I suspect the bottom finishers will do a bit better than 1 or 2%; an example might be Edwards 34, Clinton 29, Obama 16, Biden 10.

Romney, Huckabee, Thompson, Giuliani, Paul, McCain, Tancredo, Hunter

Romney will enjoy a healthy lead due to his strong organization, I would see Romney in the low-mid 30s and Huckabee in the low 20s.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


I am taking a step back from some of my blogging activity, including my blog at CanadaEast. I am under the impression that they will find someone else to carry the "from the left" mantra over there and hope that whomever succeeds me there will add to the important political debate in our province.

In the meantime, I will maintain this blog but will be posting less frequently and with a different focus. Rather than focussing on New Brunswick politics, I will focus on global politics and world affairs from my perspective as a New Brunswicker.

I want to thank you for reading and commenting over the past year and a bit and hope you will continue to do so.

Best regards,