MARCEL DUCHAMP vs. HARRY REID

Posted in Election 2010 on June 23rd, 2010 by Ed

Watch and listen to the following and tell me if you think this sounds like A) a serious, major-party candidate for the U.S. Senate in Nevada or B) Dadaist performance art, a parody of the worst possible candidate in the history of electoral politics extending her middle finger to voters and practically daring them to vote for her.

This is like Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross running for the Senate. "You're all spoiled, lazy assholes. Jobs are for closers. What's my name? Fuck you, that's my name." Angle is telling voters in the state with the highest unemployment rate in the nation – take that, Michigan! – that the root of the problem lies in their slothfulness and sense of entitlement. "Spoiled", that's what they are.

Let's investigate those claims, momentarily suspending disbelief and pretending that someone like Angle would choose her words based on readily available data.

Nevada's unemployment program is unremarkable, calculating benefits using the same "High Quarter" method employed (see what I did there?) by the majority of states. Using the most recent data I could find, a report from February 2010, the 2009 average weekly benefit ($305) and average duration of benefit (16 weeks) were both within 1% of the national average.

$305 weekly would be $7.62/hr assuming a standard 40 hour work week. The minimum wage is set by state law in Nevada at $7.55. At 40 hours that would produce $302 before taxes. So the unemployment benefits spoiling the hell out of Nevadans paid a premium of $3 over minimum wage – for about four months. On July 1 the minimum wage increases to $8.26 in Nevada, meaning that unemployment will pay the equivalent of about $30 per week less than what the most feebly compensated hourly workers will make.

In other words, unemployment benefits in Nevada do pretty much what they are intended to do: provide short term, subsistence level income for people who have been involuntarily separated from their jobs. Perhaps Sharron Angle should be prepared to tell us the proper level at which benefits should be set in order to properly encourage people to work. Perhaps a maximum benefit of $100 per week, paid in a moldy onion sack full of quarters placed atop a tall, greased flagpole, would provide the right incentive. If the issue is that the dole and menial jobs pay essentially the same, why are we supposed to jump to the conclusion that the welfare state is too generous? It is far more relevant to ask why all of these jobs our elected officials are telling us to take pay wages that barely cross the poverty line.

"Logic" like Angle's takes me back to my childhood, to lectures from brainwashed Reaganites about how poor people were just lazy and the problem was that welfare paid them a six-figure salary to sit on their asses enjoying their big screen TVs and bouncing cars and all those other silly things that negroes like (All unemployed people were black). It has been a while since we've been blessed with a politician sufficiently disconnected from reality to make this argument in the middle of a double-dip recession in a state with the highest unemployment rate in the country. We should bottle Sharron Angle – to preserve her special essence, not to deprive her of oxygen. We need to keep her talking, as she appears to be another gift that will keep on giving.

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STRANGE CURRENCIES

Posted in Election 2010 on May 18th, 2010 by Ed

Life and the job market have established that I'm not worth a whole lot and I generally lack useful knowledge or skills, but I know a thing or two about polling – at least enough to recognize something funny going on. And the disconnect between the current dominant media narrative and some of the numbers we're seeing looks an awful lot like shenanigans.

First, looking at the generic Congressionals you'd hardly know that for the past year the media have breathlessly covered TEA PARTY!!11!! and the impending GOP revolution:

Hmm. Now, generics are among the least useful polls, mostly because of Fenno's Paradox – people disapprove of Congress but keep re-electing their own Congressman. More broadly, the phenomenon means that expressing generic preferences for a party doesn't tell us who these poll respondents will actually vote for in their own district. With 95% of incumbents being re-elected in recent years, it's more likely than not that a person's generic preference and actual vote are poorly correlated. Nonetheless, if there was some sort of "revolution" brewing, I have to imagine that we'd see slightly more favorable numbers for the GOP. We're five months out and they're losing to the generic Democrats.

Second, a lot of the numbers coming out of Rasmussen are supporting the theory that they are going the way of Zogby and making the purposeful transition from legitimate pollsters to GOP Propaganda Services. This year they have been the only agency – like, literally the only one – consistently showing Rubio in the lead in Florida. Even when other agencies were showing Crist winning a three-way matchup, Rasmussen had Rubio up 20. That makes absolutely no sense. Variance among polls is expected but not on the order of 20% unless one of the parties involved is seriously off the scent. Check this out (all Rasmussen):

5/3/10 500 LV
Rubio 34%
Meeks 17%
Crist 38%
Undecided 11%

13 days later:

5/16/10 500 LV
Rubio 39%
Meeks 18%
Crist 31%
Undecided 12%

And while that was happening:

Rubio Favorability

04/21/10 Rasmussen
Favorable 52%
Unfavorable 37%

5/16/20
Favorable 46%
Unfavorable 43%

And…

Crist Favorability

04/21/10 Rasmussen
Favorable 55%
Unfavorable 40%

5/16/20
Favorable 57%
Unfavorable 41%

So his favorables fell 6% as he was taking the lead away from Crist in the head-to-head (to head) matchup. I've been to two county fairs and a live Carrot Top show, and this is the dumbest thing I've ever seen.

The problem inherent to Rasmussen (and every other agency, to some degree) is their bizarre, proprietary "likely voter" model. You can basically make a poll result look however you want by carefully parsing the definition of a LV. Rasmussen's LV model was disastrously wrong in 2008, as it was structured around the assumption that only old, white Republicans actually show up. I'm willing to bet that they're doing something similar here. If the electorate is defined as geriatric teabaggers, Rubio's going to look pretty good. Maybe the gamble will pay off for Rasmussen – midterm turnout is unpredictable and their guess may be as good as any regarding who is actually going to show up for this thing. Maybe it will be nothing but teabaggers. Maybe it won't.

I remain 100% convinced that this will be a year of Republican gains, but the numbers trickling in as the election heats up are wildly inconsistent with a sweeping Republican victory. Anti-incumbency might be the closest thing to a theme this year (just ask Bob Bennett, Arlen Specter, or Blanche Lincoln). Whatever happens, the teabaggers will declare victory but their Glenn Beck approved candidates have done horribly thus far. Defeating Bennett in the Utah primary was probably the first victory they can claim, and even that was probably unrelated to his opponents' Teabag credentials.

As expected, we're starting to see a little bit of a pullback from the GOP high water mark after the Scott Brown MA special election victory, after which gasbags were predicting a GOP takeover of both chambers of Congress. Predictions are getting a little more muted and a number of Democratic Senate candidates are not quite as dead as previously claimed. They'd actually be in great shape if they could re-energize the base that came out in droves in 2008. The odds of that happening without a major legislative victory apart from a confusing, watered-down health care bill are quite slim.

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THE GOOD NEWS

Posted in Election 2010 on January 20th, 2010 by Ed

If you're a veteran reader you've heard this before, but special elections always get blown far out of proportion. Elections are ratings events for the political media and it takes very little prodding to get them to cover whatever is at hand like it's some combination of the Super Bowl and presidential election. That said, what happened in Massachusetts yesterday was bad, bad news for the Democratic Party. If they had enough sense to learn anything from what happened, it probably wouldn't have happened in the first place.

The Democrats lost Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. The good news? There is no good news, unless you're a Republican.

The Democrats in Massachusetts nominated a horrendous candidate who proceeded to run a somnolent campaign (or non-campaign) that presumed victory and excited exactly no one. The Republicans were highly motivated even though Scott Brown is far from great shakes himself. So we're back to the pre-2008 electoral dynamics: Republicans vote, Democrats don't. And why would they? What kind of rallying cry could Coakley have used? "Get out to vote! Protect that watered-down embarrassment of a health care 'reform' bill! You know, the one we let the insurance companies write!" Something tells me that would not have worked. It is plainly obvious that Democratic candidates can't expect success without the voters who showed up in 2008, and they're not going to show up unless they're highly motivated by distaste for the GOP (which they aren't at the moment, given the results from 2006-08) or enthusiasm for the Congressional agenda. What we're seeing is not a schizophrenic electorate giving the GOP eight years to screw things up and expecting the Democrats to fix it all in nine months. We're seeing that nine months is more than enough time for the modern Democratic Party to disgust most of its base.

Is it accurate to say that this is a referendum on Obama? No, although you will hear plenty of that anyway. Is it a referendum on the Congressional leadership? Absolutely. I've never seen a group of elected officials so talented at getting voters to simply not give a fuck who wins or loses. Can you listen to Harry Reid for five minutes without completely losing interest in anything political? It is problematic to make the following claim – that the Democrats inevitably lose their grip on power because they fail to be liberal enough – because we often mock the GOP for making the same excuse in the wake of defeat. In the case of the GOP, however, the argument is patently silly. Their leadership is very conservative and not at all shy about ramming their agenda through Congress. When the Democrats are in power, only Glenn Beck and hysterical teabaggers would describe their agenda as "liberal." America gets a heaping serving of Republican Lite, tons of pointless commitments to pursue "bipartisanship" and therefore get nothing accomplished, and the powerful leadership skills of Steny Hoyer and Harry Reid. Enthralling.

Midterm elections are rarely good for incumbent presidents and 2010 will be no different. That said, the GOP is likely to get carried away with hyperbolic predictions of picking up 15 Senate and 100 House seats in November. The slow trickle of faint but positive economic signs will cushion the downside for the majority party, especially if the employment numbers pick up (which is no sure thing). In the end, however, Obama will get exactly what he deserves. He took office with all the enthusiasm in the world behind him and he proceeded to govern like an Eisenhower Republican. Like Clinton, Obama will probably survive re-election in 2012 because of his personal appeal and the pitiful field of challengers. But his brief window of opportunity to seize the initiative and take control of the Congressional agenda has passed. The partisan balance in the general public favors the Democrats, but the same can't be said among people who can be counted upon to vote regularly. The Democrats have only themselves to blame for the disparity between the two.

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CIRCULAR FIRING SQUAD

Posted in Election 2010 on November 5th, 2009 by Ed

Despite endorsements from America's most important and beloved political icons – Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, Armey, Tancredo, Bachmann, and so on – Doug Hoffman somehow managed to lose. Hoffman, a prototypical wingnut and poster boy for the new Palin/Beck version of the GOP, managed to lose a seat last held by a Democrat during the presidency of Franklin Pierce. This hasn't stopped them from declaring victory (my favorite "analysis" has to be Erick the Stupid over at RedState) and, even better, making grand plans for 2010.

When I started prepping the Senate 2010 material – eagerly awaited, no doubt – over the summer Charlie Crist was still on the fence in Florida. I liked him on that fence. Weak GOP incumbent Mel Martinez was smart enough to retire and it seemed a prime target for a Democratic pickup. Not with Crist in the race, though. Crist is extremely popular in Florida and the weak field of Democratic hopefuls couldn't touch him with a ten-foot pole. The RNC, the NRSC, and Republicans everywhere should be on their hands and knees thanking Crist for throwing his hat into the fray at a time of disarray for the party. But emboldened by the daily exhortations of Glenn Beck and the Hoffman "victory" – the kind that actually involves a humiliating defeat – the teabagger party-within-the-party is breaking out the pitchforks and torches to take him down in the primary. That there is nearly no conceivable way Crist could lose that race is irrelevant to these people.

The same holds true for Rob Simmons (who stands a good chance of taking out Chris Dodd in Connecticut) and Matt Kirk in Illinois. What do Crist, Kirk, and Simmons have in common? Well, they stand a chance in hell of winning the general election in their states. They adhere to the classical conception of fiscal conservatism. They don't base their personal political philosophy around a hatred of gays. They can speak intelligibly and occasionally read books. They are all more fond of Jack Kemp than Glenn Beck. All of these things make them Public Enemy 1a to the newly energized, more dumb-assed right wing base.

“It’s kind of like investors in a company saying they’re not going to tolerate it anymore. And that’s what we’re seeing here,” said Eric Odom, executive director of the American Liberty Alliance, a libertarian-oriented group. “We’re already gearing up. This is just the beginning.”

Hear that, GOP? Your people are tired of winning Congressional races anywhere outside of the deep south and the grain belt. Do they think Beck-approved rubes stand a better chance of winning in Illinois or Connecticut than the dreaded "moderate" Republicans? Either they do and they're delusional or they don't and they're willing to slice off their nose to spite their stupid, stupid face. Modern conservatism has gotten progressively less interested in accomplishing anything or having policies that work and progressively more interested in adhering to the sacred tenets of The Faith no matter the cost. But at the same time they have always been fanatically devoted to getting and staying in power. Now that last tether connecting them to reality is being severed. They no longer care if they win elections as long as Glenn Beck pitches a tent over their candidates.

As much as I'm cool with that, I can't help but feel a little depressed looking at what has happened to that party. In politics as in war we prefer to envision our opponents with some dignity – it makes our victory over them worth a little bit more. With the emboldened Teabagging movement slowly devouring the GOP, Democratic victories are starting to feel less like one army defeating another and more like an army firing tear gas into a disorganized mob.

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SENATE 2010 UPDATE: SOMEONE LOAN DODD A SWORD

Posted in Election 2010 on April 9th, 2009 by Ed

It's been a while and the ginandtacos snark-to-useful-information ratio has listed dangerously toward the former, so it's time to refresh the 2010 Senate races…just as the 2008 race is finally, maybe, possibly wrapping up. Norm Coleman, the conservative equivalent of legendary Japanese WWII holdout Hiroo Onoda, is just about out of bullets and even the wingnut illuminati are abandoning ship. Are we honestly still talking about this in April? Of course we are. The man in question, after all, is the reigning Ginandtacos.com Cocksucker of the Year.tm

While the good people of Minnesota do not get to move on yet, we are free to do so. On to 2010! I won't touch every race, but here are some of the highlights/developments since the last post:

  • The Kansas race (Brownback retirement) went from the potential barn-burner of the year to a non-event when Kathleen Sebelius accepted a Cabinet post. I fail to see her running from the Cabinet or resigning that post 8 months after accepting it. Without her, this race…isn't one.
  • The Governator has ruled himself out of the CA race, and rather emphatically if I may say so. He's about as popular as dick cancer right now, so I'm not shocked. The GOP is talking about throwing Carly Fiorina out there. Fiorina-Boxer will be a one-sided beating of historic proportions.
  • Everyone and their brother is either lining up or making noise about challenging Senator Hookers, a.k.a. David Vitter, in Louisiana. With challengers from both parties, he's toast.
  • Florida (Martinez retirement) is turning into a gangbang. Jeb's out, but Charlie Crist may be in. Crist would be the favorite, but it will be an expensive, brutal race with national attention. How badly does he want it? Badly enough to have his…uh, "romantic history" dredged up again? Kenny Meek looks like the strongest Democrat, but Crist would probably take him. The rest of the GOP field sucks.
  • Robin Carnahan is running in Missouri (Bond retirement). If there's one thing Missourians love, it's electing Carnahans to statewide office. Roy Blunt, one of the biggest hacks in Congress, intends to run. Good luck.
  • It does not appear that the GOP can talk Jim Bunning's insane ass out of running again, so he may face primary challengers. Democratic challenger and Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, who nearly took down Bunning in 2004, is the consensus challenger again. Bunning barely held on in 2004 and this time he's A) crazier, B) in the minority party, and C) absent George W. Bush's coattails.
  • Man, is Arlen Specter screwed. He has a 27% approval rating among Republicans in PA. He's also dying of cancer. He's also 80. Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz is likely to be the Democrat who will beat Specter or whatever rank amateur tops him in the primaries.
  • Dick Burr (*snicker*) still hasn't slept since Elizabeth Dole went down in November. Widely considered to be an anonymous-to-terrible incumbent in a state that has taken a serious lurch to the left recently, Burr is likely to go down to Atty. Gen. Roy Cooper or one of several Democratic House Reps.
  • Oh, Chris Dodd. Someone loan Chris Dodd a sword, as he badly needs to fall on one at the moment. Chris, a lot of people like you and all that, but you're toast. Already in serious hot water because of the Countrywide Financial scandal, and now his name is attached to the AIG bonus clusterfuck. The facts may or may not exonerate Dodd, but the damage to his name and public image is already done. Better for Dodd to walk away and let some other Democrat club the lame field of challengers (Gov. Jodi Rell, who'd probably win, is out). The alternative is a Peter Fitzgerald-Carol Mosley Braun type election in which a horrible candidate gets elected simply because a corrupt incumbent defiantly refuses to step aside. Chris, you're done. Unfortunately the candidate is often the last person to get that message. Is he a narcissist or does he care about what's best for his party?

    That's all for today. I'm sure most of you are having a hard time getting excited about it 18 months out, but trust me – this cycle will have plenty of entertainment value.

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    JOHN LYNCH: NO BALLS

    Posted in Quick Hits on February 3rd, 2009 by Ed

    This is about John Lynch the Governor of New Hampshire, not the nine-time Pro Bowl defensive back. That the latter has balls is beyond debate.

    I accept the fact that Gov. Lynch cannot appoint a Democrat to replace Judd Gregg and thus give the party a magic 60 in the Senate. Gregg simply would not accept the Cabinet post without assurances that he will be replaced by a Republican. But why did Lynch apparently choose Bonnie Newman as Gregg's interim replacement? Newman is, by any stretch of the imagination, a competent Republican of the type that plays well in New Hampshire. She will be a strong candidate in 2010. Were Lynch not a wimp he'd appoint some idiot that he, or any other Democrat, could easily knock off in two years.

    Remember this next time we have to debate which party is more selfish and partisan.

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