Post from February, 2010

Speaking of Wave Elections…

Saturday, 27. February 2010 16:00

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Health Care Summit – The Live Event!

Friday, 26. February 2010 12:37

This is a funny paradoy of the Health Care Summit & C-SPAN. CAUTION: some bleeped-out curse words are used in this video so it may not be appropriate for younger viewers.

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Health Care Summit Video Roundup

Friday, 26. February 2010 1:48

I’ve tried to round up some representative video clips from the Health Care Summit. Here are a few:

Obama opens the Summit:

A CNN compliation of clips:

Paul Ryan’s take on the scoring of the Senate bill:

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Book Printing. Old School.

Friday, 26. February 2010 1:38

Yes, this IS before my time.

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The Health Care Summit

Thursday, 25. February 2010 22:45

errrr…or something. 😉

Filming Of Congressional Reality Show Disrupts Committee Meeting

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How many seats will the Republicans win?

Tuesday, 23. February 2010 23:52

We know 2010 is going to be a good Republican year. The polls all suggest they’re going to pick up seats in both the House and the Senate. But how many seats can we expect?

The Margin of Error Blog does a fairly sophisicated projection of the 2010 midterms based on past seat pick-ups relative to the generic party ballot (i.e. whether you would support a Republican or a Democrat, generally speaking, in the upcoming election). Here is a brief explanation of how the regression-based estimate works:

What you basically have is that the generic ballot this far from an election almost always overestimates the percentage of the vote the party who holds the White House… In your case, the 49.7% the Dems would get of the House popular vote would actually be more like 46 (and an 8 point edge for the Pubs) on election day considering historical trends…

Here is a figure illustrating the point he is making (namely that the generic ballot overestimates the vote in a midterm election for the party in control of the White House). The shaded areas are years the Republicans control the White House. Note that the dotted line (representing the % of Democratic seats) is below the average district vote during those years…while it is well above it during Democratic years. In short: Democrats do better than the generic when there is a Republican president and they do worse when there is a Democratic president.

Generic Ballot Trend Line

As for the analysis itself, again, briefly: regression analysis merely means fitting a straight line to a set of data points (the line that ‘best’ fits those points…or the line where the distance between it and the points is the smallest). So here we see the line fitted for all elections since 1946 and, since lines extend out to infinity, that provides a point prediction for the 2010 elections. IOW, we have a number for what we expect the vote share of the Demcrats to be in 2010 (i.e. the point on the line). The two larger dots in the graph that MOE blog singles out are the best & worst ‘points’ on the fitted line that predict what the Democrats will win in 2010. Note how low those points are on the graph relative to the Y axis, which represents the % of seats for the Democrats. Being in the lower left-hand quadrant of the graph means your party is performing badly on the generic and your predicted vote total for a given election is low. And the Democratic points in 2010 are two of the worst points for Dems in the graph.

Election Data Analysis

He estimates Republicans could pick up as many as 60 seats in the House. This total not only gives them the House (and the speakership), but it would blow 1994, the Republican Revolution, out of the water (54 seat pickup). I have one reaction to this: wow.

With current polling in conjunction with Bafumi et al.’s paper predicting a Republican national vote between 53.6% and 54.7%, the Republicans could easily gain 50-60 seats from their current 178. Gains of greater than 60 seats also look quite possible. Even in the best case scenario for the Democrats, it would seem that holding the House would be very, very difficult.

It looks like a red blizzard is going to sweep through Washington in November.


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Delegate or Trustee

Tuesday, 23. February 2010 9:17

Megan McCardle gets to the crux of the representational issue when it comes to the possibility of the Democrats using reconciliation to pass Health Care. Money quote:

Of course, sometimes politicians have to do the right thing rather than the popular thing. But this cannot be a blanket authority to ignore the desires of one’s constituents.

Democrats have had plenty of time to make their case. They have failed to do so. The longer they have talked, the more firmly the voters have rejected their ideas. If Congress goes ahead anyway, they will pay a terrible political price.

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Jobs Bill gets Cloture in Senate

Tuesday, 23. February 2010 8:56

Harry Reid’s paired down 15 billion dollar jobs bill passed in the Senate. Four Republicans, including the newly minted Republican Senator Scott Brown, MA voted for it.

“I came to Washington to be an independent voice, to put politics aside, and to do everything in my power to help create jobs for Massachusetts families,” Brown said in a statement issued by his office. “This Senate jobs bill is not perfect. I wish the tax cuts were deeper and broader, but I will vote for it because it contains measures that will help put people back to work.

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What if George Lucas made Lord of the Rings?

Monday, 22. February 2010 0:49


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Cook on Obama

Sunday, 21. February 2010 0:28

Charlie Cook, a non-partisan election expert, talks about the mistakes Obama has made to this point: namely health care.

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Saturday, 20. February 2010 23:22

That’s right, folks. Health Care reform is back from the dead! As the Chicago Tribune notes (in an editorial of the same name): “So their [health care] bills are like zombies, floating in the netherworld. Not quite dead, clinging to life only because Democratic leaders keep whispering about this legislative maneuver called reconciliation.” So what does the Return of the Living Obamacare Bill mean?

There has been some interesting buzz around Washington, D.C. in the run-up to the bipartsan health care meeting between the president and the congressional parties. It actually helps to think of it in game theoretic terms. There is quite a bit going on that lends itself to strategic competition.

The first: should the Republicans show up for the health care meeting with Obama?

Let’s acknowledge from the outset that the stated purpose of the meeting–a ‘discussion’ of ideas on health care reform with an eye towards a bipartisan compromise– is almost certainly not the aim of either party. Obama can’t make substantial changes to the current bill without a) losing his liberal base and b) starting over. From the Republican perspective, they’ve won the public relations war on health care and are concerned with snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

So on our first question: does it make sense for the Republicans to go? If they don’t, Obama and the Democrats could paint the Republicans as partisan and uninterested in any reform (with them as the opposite, naturally). However, if they do go and don’t compromise with Obama (i.e. substantially adopt the Obama reform plan), then he may do that anyway.

Here is how the Reps addressed it in their weekly address:

On the Democrat side of things, they’ve lost the public on health care. They are looking at a very bad election enviornment in November. Indeed, their intransigence on health care could percipitate a wave election. Most non-partisan observers I have seen believe the Dems should forget comprehensive health care reform, pass something incremental, and pivot to jobs. But there are clearly substantial forces on the Left which continue to push for health care no matter what, and that may make a defeat on health care particularly unpalatable. The Democrats may be able to use “reconciliation” to avoid a filibuster, but the costs of such an unprecedented parlimentary move, to get an unpopular bill passed…could be devestating when they face voters in November. The signs are certainly all pointing in that direction.

And even if they decide to try reconciliation (a process designed for budget changes–not for the creation of a new entitlement), it isn’t clear that the bill could pass. This problem asrises from the fact the Senate and the House passed VERY different versions of Obamacare. And both sides hate the other side’s bill. The problem here is very reminicscient of the problem inherent to the Prisoner’s Dilemma: lack of trust. As the Tribune editoral argues:

There’s a problem: Trust. House Democrats don’t trust Republicans, of course. But they also don’t trust their colleagues in the Senate to pass the changes. So House and Senate Democrats are locked in a procedural scrum, trying to figure out how all of this might work.

Just like the two prisoners in our game theoretic problem, the House Democrats can’t be sure the Senate Dems won’t renege (rat) on a promise to pass a ‘fix’ to the Senate bill using reconciliation. A pareto optimal outcome for the Democrats might be a possible strategic choice (House passes Senate bill, Senate passes fix using reconciliation), but it isn’t a Nash equilibrium. Hence it will be difficult to get the House Dems to take the proverbial “leap of faith” and pass the reform bill and hope the Senate Dems cooperate.

Ultimately my guess is that the Republicans go and meet with Obama at the “Health Care Summit”, that no substantive compromise emerges as a result of that meeting, and that all the Democratic talk about reconcilliation is a bluff, or, they don’t have the votes even if they try it. What I’m not sure of is where they go from there. The Democrats are unlikely to give up and accept ‘nothing’…but they are also unlikely to spend the months necessary to start over and come up with a more incremental approach. But forcing a bill clearly rejected by the American people through on a party-line vote using procedural tricks…well, I have trouble coming up with a more politically risky strategy than that. It would be an unprecedented act that could yield unprecedented electoral consequences.

If they do pass health care this way…well, let’s just say I wouldn’t want to have a “D” after my name on the ballot in Novemeber.

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Election: 2010

Saturday, 20. February 2010 19:03

John Fund has some bad news for Democrats in the Wal Street Journal today.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report released a new update on the 2010 elections yesterday. A full 54 Democratic seats in the House are now rated as “highly competitive,” with nearly half already seeing the GOP challenger running even or ahead of the Democratic incumbent. Only six GOP-held seats are in play as possible Democratic pickups. Republicans need to win 40 seats to take back control of the House. Nervousness in Democratic ranks will be heightened even more by Cook’s finding that a total of 95 Democratic seats are potentially vulnerable — almost two-fifths of the entire Democratic caucus

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Things that make your brain hurt…

Thursday, 18. February 2010 18:47

Are we living in a big hologram?

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The Truth is Out There

Tuesday, 16. February 2010 13:29

The Aliens may already be among us.

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On President’s Day…

Monday, 15. February 2010 23:02

Remembering President Washington.

He lent his nationwide credibility to the Convention by agreeing to be its President. This was an extraordinary gesture. It’s easy for us to think nowadays that the Constitutional debate was fought over abstract principles and the highest notions of the public good – but, like everything else in America, politics mattered a great deal. That George Washington was willing to lend his good name to the Convention was a truly selfless act of statesmanship. His signature on the final document – the first of 39 – might very well have made the difference in the Virginia ratifying convention, where the Constitution passed by a hair’s breadth. Surely, if Washington had refused to support the Constitution, it would have failed.

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Winter Weather Advice…

Monday, 15. February 2010 12:59

For the movie-goer.

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Black Hole Simulation

Sunday, 14. February 2010 22:40

This simulator gives you a view of what it would be like to orbit, rocket into, or free fall into a black hole. IOW: fricken awesome!

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Too Late to Apologize: A Declaration

Wednesday, 10. February 2010 17:18

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I’ll take “Theories of American Politics” for 500, Alex.

Tuesday, 9. February 2010 19:18

Kurt Anderson, a progressive, complains about the effect the ‘mob’ mentality on jobs and the deficit has had on ‘governing’ in America. Basically, the populist rubes have to be placated in order that ‘responsible’ government can be conducted by their betters.

In his article he argues:

the job of serious Washington grown-ups with big populist constituencies–both presidents Roosevelt, Reagan, even Richard Nixon–is to respond to the rage with the minimum necessary demagoguery, throw them a few bones to calm them down, and then make deals with your fellow members of the elected elite.

Which theory of American politics we have discussed does this remind you of?

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Five Decades of Federal Spending

Tuesday, 2. February 2010 14:17



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