Friday, November 14, 2008

White support for Obama in the States

Here's an example of a pollster overanalyzing his data:

There is considerable variation in the percentage of whites who voted for Obama. Where African Americans made up less than 20% of the vote (according to exit polls), whites varied from 30% to 60% in their support for Obama but with no relationship to the size of the African American vote. As the African American electorate rose above 20%, white support for Obama fell sharply to barely 10%.

So whites are less likely to vote for a black man if there are "too many" blacks living in the state? I don't think so. Look closely at his chart and you'll realize that the entire basis of his inference relies on data from 3 states - Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama - which just happen to border one another.

White support for Obama varied by region, not by the number of blacks in each state. Obama did most poorly among whites in the deep south and in Mormon country. He did best in the northeast and on the west coast. White New Yorkers don't have the same values as white Mississippians. Voters in Vermont disagree with voters in Utah on just about everything. People in different places want different things and it shows up at the polls.

Simply plotting the data on a map shows a very precise pattern - slightly different in the western US than in the east, but with clear regional trends.

White support for Obama by state relative to the U.S. average (42%). White voters in states colored red voted disproportionately for McCain. White voters in states colored blue voted disproportionately for Obama. The intensity of the colors indicates the margin for the preferred candidate. (Data from NY Times exit polls.)

Take a trip from Alabama north to Maine, Michigan or Minnesota and you'll find yourself in states that are progressively friendlier to Barack Obama, irrespective of the percentage of blacks in each state. Even West Virginia, which many were suggesting was filled with white racists, fits the pattern perfectly (more supportive of Obama than Virginia and Kentucky, less supportive than Ohio and Pennsylvania).

Obama's support among whites in states along a path from Alabama to Maine. Does this look random to anybody?

Suddenly, the "considerable variation in the percentage of whites who voted for Obama" becomes very predictable.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

John Kyl: just kidding about the nuclear option

Wait! You mean all that talk about the need for an "up or down vote" was just a bunch of partisan B.S.?

November 2008
“He believes in justices that have empathy,” said Kyl, speaking at a Federalist Society meeting in Phoenix. The attorneys group promotes conservative legal principles.

Kyl said if Obama goes with empathetic judges who do not base their decisions on the rule of law and legal precedents but instead the factors in each case, he would try to block those picks via filibuster.

That didn't take long.

It seems like just yesterday Senator Kyl was wringing his hands over the thought that Democrats were destroying 214 years of "wise, carefully thought out" Senate tradition.

April 18, 2005
KWAME HOLMAN: But Sen. Kyl says the advise and consent role should include an up-or-down vote as well and changing the Senate rules may be the only way to guarantee it.

SEN. JON KYL: There may well come a Supreme Court vacancy soon. I just don't think the people of the country are going to stand by and let a minority dictate whether or not we're even going take a vote on a nominee.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER: My strategy is to use every ounce of my energy to try to confirm President Bush's judges without going to the so-called "constitutional" or "nuclear option."

KWAME HOLMAN: But Sen. Kyl says Democrats may give Republicans no choice.

SEN. JON KYL: Our Democratic colleagues have to make a decision. Will they continue their filibuster or not? If they do, and they're not willing to discuss any kind of a compromise, then I don't see any alternative but to reestablish the tradition of the majority vote.

April 25, 2005
SEN. JOHN KYL: This is strictly about whether or not a minority of senators is going to prevent the president from being able to name and get confirmed judges that he chooses after he's been elected by the American people. And it's never been the case until the last two years that a minority could dictate to the majority what they could do.


SEN. JOHN KYL: Well, I'll tell you what is shutting down the judiciary is not filling vacancies. We have according to the commission on the courts several emergency judicial emergencies, situations in which we need to put judges in to vacant positions. They're not -- we're not being able to act on them. It really is true that justice delayed is justice denied. So we need to give these judges an up or down vote. That's all we're asking for, and if some of my colleagues think that they're too conservative or in some other way unqualified then vote against them.

May 19, 2005
SEN. JOHN KYL: The reality is that the Senate is now engaged in an historic effort to protect constitutional prerogatives and the proper checks and balances between the branches of government. Republicans seek to right a wrong that has undermined 214 years of tradition – wise, carefully thought-out tradition. The fact that the Senate rules theoretically allowed the filibuster of judicial nominations but were never used to that end is an important indicator of what is right, and why the precedent of allowing up-or-down votes is so well established. It is that precedent that has been attacked and which we seek to restore.

Fortunately, the Senate is not powerless to prevent a minority from running roughshod over its traditions. It has the power – and the obligation – to govern itself. As I will demonstrate today, that power to govern itself easily extends to that device that has come to be known as the “constitutional option.”

Thursday, November 6, 2008

David Frum: its already Obama's fault

Who says conservatives have to wait until January to start blaming Obama for the country's problems?

Here's David "axis of evil" Frum, on the day after the election, claiming that FDR deliberately delayed an economic recovery until his inauguration and hinting that Obama will do the same:

[M]any suspected that Roosevelt understood that the worse things were on the day before he took office, the better he would look on his first day in.

Deliberately or not, Roosevelt maximized political and economic uncertainty for almost half a year at unknowable cost to the American people, but to his own ultimate political benefit.

Might such a temptation be repeated? There are signs that the worst of the Wall Street financial crisis lies behind us. Credit conditions are thawing, huge liquidity has been injected into markets and stock indexes seem to have apparently stabilized. A recession has begun, but its severity remains uncertain.

From the point of view of the new president, this bottoming out is premature. He needs the recovery to begin in January and will benefit if it can be made to look that way.

That would be understandable politics. It could be very dangerous economics.

Got that? The economy is already turning around. But if it isn't, it's Obama's fault.

Feingold as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee?

The Hill worries about the possibility that Russ Feingold could become chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

That leaves Feingold, an unapologetic champion of civil liberties and a staunch opponent of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq, next in line. Feingold opposed the war from the start and was the first senator to call for a U.S. troop withdrawal timetable.

You'd think the results of the last two elections would make that a no-brainer. But not everyone agrees:

Democrats could bypass the Wisconsin senator and choose a more centrist member, such as Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.), who initially supported the war and could be more open to compromise.

Yes. Why would anyone want a chairman who's an unapologetic defender of civil liberties and opposed an unpopular war, when we could have a man who reached across the aisle to vote for the biggest foreign policy blunder of the last 40 years?

I suppose in a bipartisan paradise Joe Lieberman would keep his committee chairmanship despite attacking the Democratic majority, and Russ Feingold would be expelled from the caucus for not playing nice with Republicans.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bob Barr's insurgent campaign costs John McCain two states

He didn't exactly cost John McCain the election, but if the current numbers hold, it looks like Bob Barr, the conservative Republican who famously broke from his party on the issues of the rule of law and torture, may have cost John McCain victories in North Carolina and Indiana.

    North Carolina with 98% of precincts reporting

  • Barack Obama(D) 2,098,401
  • John McCain(R) 2,084,344
  • Bob Barr(L) 25,031

  • Indiana with 98% of precincts reporting

  • Barack Obama(D) 1,330,959
  • John McCain(R) 1,315,916
  • Bob Barr(L) 28,692

Update: Too early to be sure, but Ron Paul may cost him Montana for the same reason.

Numbers via TPM at 12:30 Eastern time.
Image via Bob Barr for President under a Creative Commons license.

Congratulations President-elect Barack Obama!

Ohio plus all the Kerry States puts him over the top.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Just vote already

"Vote" Image originally uploaded by Dean Terry under a Creative Commons license.