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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Democratic Primary Delegates and Projections

Here are enough numbers to make you grin and enough analysis to make you cry.

Updated pledged delegate count in the Democratic Primary:

Hard Count (Allocated pledged delegates... the only thing we know for sure)
Obama - 1,168
Clinton - 1,018
Unallocated - 53 (19 in Maryland, 10 in Colorado, 10 in Georgia, 6 in Wisconsin, 4 in Hawaii, and one each in DC, Tennessee, New York and Illinois.
Difference - Obama +150
Presidential Politics for America analysis: For a month, I have been projecting 150 as approximately the lead Obama would need to maintain a pledged delegate lead and superdelegate lead through March 4th. This lead combined with his ten-straight-contests momentum, he will easily maintain his lead in both categories through March 4th.

MSNBC's conservatively projected split from the unallocated 53 delegates is 27-26 in favor of Obama, bringing the projected pledge delegate standings to:
Obama - 1,195
Clinton - 1,044
Difference - Obama +151
Remaining - 981
Percentage of remaining pledged delegates needed by Obama to win pledged delegates - 44%
PPFA analysis: Slap a guarantee on this: Obama will win pledged delegates. Clinton cannot comeback in that category.

Delegate count with superdelegates:
Obama - 1,195 + 185 superdelegates = 1,355
Clinton - 1,044 + 257 superdelegates = 1,276
Difference - Obama +79
PPFA analysis: As the number of announced superdelegates grew, Clinton's lead in the category was supposed to have grown with it. Instead, as Obama keeps pace, her percentage lead in superdelegates shrinks. This is yet another sign of momentum for Obama. He can cut into the superdelegate lead if he maintains a pledged delegate and popular vote lead for the rest of the contest, and he will.

Pledged Delegates up for grabs on March 4th (Clinton's last stand):
Texas - 193
Ohio - 141
Rhode Island - 21
Vermont - 15
Total - 370
PPFA analysis: A surprise to no one who has paid attention to this blog or the mainstream media, March 4th is Clinton's last stand. If she does not win both Texas and Ohio, you might see a Clinton concession some time in March. If she wins both, even by the smallest of margins, she will stay in at least until the Pennsylvania Primary on April 22nd, continually reminding us that she wins the big states.

If Clinton wins an unlikely 60% of the split on March 4th:
Clinton - 222 pledged delegates
Obama - 148 pledged delegates
Difference - Clinton +74
PPFA analysis: It is highly unlikely that Hillary Clinton wins 60% of the pledged delegates on March 4th, so we will consider this the most extreme plausible scenario. She would have to win 60-62% of the vote in Texas and Ohio, which means winning by 20-25 points. Her lead has not been that large in those states in months, and one would expect those leads to shrink to single digits with Obama's unchecked momentum since February 5th.

Totals delegate count, superdelegates included, with the unlikely 60/40 split on March 4th:
Obama - 1,503
Clinton - 1,498
Difference - Obama +5

PPFA Final Analysis: Even with Clinton's very best performance on March 4th, she still trails pledged delegates by 80-100, and trails in the overall delegate count by a handful. Of course, if she pulls off 60% of the vote on March 4th, the following scenario could unfold:

1. A lot more superdelegates will come out of the woodworks to support her, and she might be able to reclaim her total delegate lead on the morning of March 5th.
2. Luckily for Clinton, she does not have to be in the lead on the morning of March 5th. This entire primary has been shifts of momentum. If she can significantly win Ohio and Texas, she would reclaim the momentum heading into Pennsylvania's 158 delegates on April 22nd, where she currently has a commanding lead in the polls. With only tiny Wyoming and small Mississippi separating March 4th from Pennsylvania, it would be difficult for Obama to reclaim momentum.
3. This would lead to Clinton officially reclaiming the total delegate lead on April 22nd, and with even more momentum at that point, the eventual nomination when superdelegates push her over the top.
4. This would lead to a loud but ultimately benign outcry from the electorate. In an attempt to appease the masses, Clinton asks Obama to be on the ticket, an offer he respectfully declines for several reasons.
5. Clinton gets beat by McCain in November
6. Obama beats McCain's vice-president in 2012.

Of course, that is all under the assumption Clinton wins by a convincing margin on March 4th, 2008. First things first.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Conservatives' Four-Year Plan

One has to wonder, when Rush Limbaugh previewed and framed a potential John McCain nomination as a precursor to a "fracture" in the Republican Party, did he intend for it to be a self-fulfilling prophecy?

I will not use this space to analyze Limbaugh's animus towards McCain, nor will I appraise his intent. I will, however, examine the possibility that if the Republican Party does indeed split upon McCain's official ascension to Republican nominee, would McCain have any shot of winning the White House? And if not, can we not assume that Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and co., whom despite being inarguably self-promotive and agenda-driven are brilliant and talented pundits, knew they were hurting the Republicans' November chances when they made their audacious attacks against Arizona's Senior Senator? If so, is the conservative base planning to punt the 2008 general election, hoping to hand off a sliding economy, an acrimonious international relationship, an increasingly hostile Muslim world, and a perilously prodigious debt to the Democrats, in hopes of licking their wounds and coming back strong with, say, Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich in 2012? And if that's the case, do the Limbaugh's and Hannity's of the world really think it is crucial to keep a Republican in the Oval Office after all?

Let us start at the beginning. Thanks to weeks of consistent and calculated comments from the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Ann Coulter, an unusually incohesive Republican Party was experiencing a prelude to a civil war. It would pit the social conservative base, flanked by the conservative media, against everyone else who called themselves a Republican, which meant social conservatives, moderates, war hawks, and red-staters caught in blue states - blue states which very much play a role in the nomination process of the Republican Party. There are shades of the English Civil War, when Anglicans and Catholics teamed up to take on all comers.

The aim of the social conservatives was to rally enough Republican support around Mitt Romney before McCain opened up too large of a lead in pledged delegates. To this end, they failed. Miserably. Romney won less than a third of McCain's delegates and pulled out of the race soon thereafter. At that point, the two Republican candidates that Rush Limbaugh continually denounced, McCain and Mike Huckabee, were the only two viable candidates that remained.

Now, all of a sudden, Huckabee isn't looking too bad, despite his fiscally and executively liberal (for a Republican) tendencies. When compared to McCain, conservatives drool over Mike Huckabee. It probably explains why Huckabee forges on in a race he cannot win. He is the last hope of Republicans who cannot bear to see McCain represent their party. Despite his success in the states below the Mason-Dixon line, however, Huckabee has no realistic avenue to victory.

Here's what political pundits cannot escape, though: We knew Huckabee could only compete in the southern states. We knew Mitt Romney could not compete with McCain in the big ones. Surely, if amateur bloggers are predicting the Republican race since New Hampshire and South Carolina, Limbaugh, Coulter, and Hannity must have seen it coming, too.

Why, then, did they move forward with the assault on McCain? Surely they realized that verbal attacks on McCain's conservatism would hurt McCain's chances in November, and, by extension, hurt the chances of the Republican Party. Only one conclusion can be drawn.

They do not want a member of the Republican Party to be sworn in upon President Bush's exit on January 20th. The Republican Bush Administration, and for 3/4 of their stay in Washington, a Republican Congress, saw a steady downfall in approval both from the American people and foreign countries from all continents. The reasons were loud and clear.

A rash and incautious war with poor results has produced more tentacles of terror on a headless foe. Irresponsible spending from the self-proclaimed fiscally faithful party has produced an outrageous debt never before seen in history, perhaps irrevocably damaging the United States economy. These policies have concussed the working class to the point where even our ever-optimistic President must admit we are in uncertain economic times. The median salary falls while the number of millionaires and billionaires grow. The United States is still tending to fractured relationships with foreign allies who stood shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. as 2001 came to a close, only to steadily put distance between themselves and the unrelentingly bellicose world superpower.

The next President faces these challenges and more. Is it at all possible that the Republican base wants no part of a battle that is, at best, uphill, and, at worst, a brick wall? In fact, from a Republican perspective, either a Democrat inherits this mess and fails, or McCain inherits this mess and fails. Either way, in four years, while the U.S. and the world are still shattered in partisan and precarious pieces, Republicans put up a strong social conservative who claims to be the broom.

If this is truly their intent - to sacrifice 2008 in order to regain power in 2012 - one can only wonder how much they really do want an established presence in Iraq. One can only wonder how much they really do want President Bush's tax cuts to stay in place. One can only wonder if they really worry about the impending Supreme Court retirements and appointments that could overturn Roe. One can only wonder how sincerely they believe that the growing Islamo-fascist threat must be dealt with through concentrated and unilateral force.

Because if these issues were truly as imperative and paramount as they claim, how can they possibly live with themselves if they split their party and allow a Democrat in the west wing of the White House? It is as monstrously mindless as it is myopic, though Democrats might argue that such a characterization of the Republican Party is neither surprising nor new. Even more would argue that partisan games are being played with the future of this country.

The attitude of the Republican base is ultimately as defeatist as they accuse their ideological adversaries of being in foreign policy. To them, the November 2008 elections will produce no winners, just someone who gets more votes.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Presidential Campaign History: 1796

(Editor's Note: This is the conclusion to today's earlier post about the first three presidential elections in American history. To read about the elections of 1789 and 1792, click here. Check back in the weeks and months to come for future installments.)

Part 2: Adams v. Jefferson I (1796)

The residue acrimony from the 1792 vice-presidential fight carried into the presidential election of 1796. At times, this election looked both familiar and unfamiliar to modern contests.

There was no formal nominating process like the familiar primaries of the 20th and 21st centuries. Instead, influential party members met and discussed who should be their candidate in the upcoming election. The Federalists naturally gravitated towards Vice-President John Adams, who had been President Washington's #2 for nearly eight years, and had always been central in the fight for independence and good government. The 1796 election even gave the American people the first whiff of geographical balance for a vice-presidential candidate, as the Federalists coupled Adams with South Carolinian Thomas Pinckney in hopes of garnering southern votes for the election.

The Republicans naturally countered with Thomas Jefferson, one of the most popular figures in the country and one of the lead architects of the Democratic-Republican Party. They, too, considered geographical balance when deciding on their running mate for the Virginian, and selected New York Senator Aaron Burr.

With this being the first contested election, campaigning for a particular candidate was now acceptable and appropriate, but neither Adams nor Jefferson themselves were expected to join the fray. Many planks of each party's platform were polar, similar to modern campaigns. The Federalists pushed a strong central government while the Republicans championed states' rights. The Federalists boasted, close to accurately, that they had the support of the still extremely popular President Washington. They criticized the Republican dissension as border-line anarchy, similar to the constant revolts seen across the Atlantic in revolution-plagued France.

The Republicans, in defense and offense, countered with a drawn parallel between the Federalists desire for a strong central government with the British monarchy, an entity with which Adams and Hamilton, approximately twenty years earlier, famously pushed for dissolved political bands. This was also the first case of a challenging party bringing up the record of the previous administration in an attempt to score political points. For example, Alexander Hamilton's national bank was fervently opposed by Jefferson and the Republicans, as was the controversial Jay Treaty of 1794, which many considered too friendly to the British. Both the national bank and Jay's Treaty were heartily accepted by President Washington.

Verbal attacks in presidential campaigns also trace their lineage to the 1796 election. Since the vice-presidency was an incredibly weak position, with legislation rarely attached to it, John Adams' record as VP was relatively unblemished. Therefore, the path to diminish Adams' credibility went, at times, through President Washington. For example, Benjamin Franklin's grandson, Benjamin Bache, a Republican, insisted that Washington had "debauched" and corrupted the nation. Another prominent Republican, William Duane, thought Washington's final address to the nation was "fraught with incalculable evils," and openly wished Washington had stood aside after his first term.

The Federalists were not to be outdone. In their attacks of Secretary Jefferson, they commonly referred to him as atheistic, anarchistic, and cowardly, claiming he who would rather plunge into bloody French chaos then push forward with a strong central government. A famous Federalist description of the Jeffersonians proclaimed that they were "cut-throats who walk in rags and sleep amidst filth and vermin," which, frankly, makes "Bush-Cheney light" look like a warm hug.

When it came time for the day of the election, the flaws of the original electoral process became apparent. The method of 69 electors each choosing two candidates was fine when Washington was supposed to win and the best anyone could have hoped for, or desired, was finishing in second, and thusly becoming Vice-President. However, once two parties each ran two men for two available spots, the plot considerably thickened. One man would win the Presidency, one the Vice-Presidency, and two men would win nothing.

Despite winks and nods from the 69 electors, to say nothing of brokering and backstabbing from Alexander Hamilton, the result was an Adams victory, but Jefferson received the second highest total. (Presidential trivia: Adams is one of only three incumbent Vice-Presidents to be elected President after their boss completed two terms.) Therefore, under the rules of the time, the runner up of the election, Jefferson, would have to serve as Vice-President under the victor, John Adams, who was a member of the opposing political party. Imagine that scenario now.

The most interesting facet of the outcome, perhaps, is how it was ultimately just a prelude to the next presidential election. It was an assumption that Adams and Jefferson would have a rematch in 1800, and it was also assumed that the rematch would be as rancorous as this one, if not more. Jefferson, however, was expected to still serve under Adams for four years, including during their next contest. How this would play out was anybody's guess.

But that's for another time...

Back to this in a few weeks. Back to modern presidential politics tomorrow. See you then.

Presidential Campaign History: 1789 &1792

(Editor's note: On this Presidents' Day, I thought it would be appropriate to begin a multi-part history of Presidential campaigns. This combines two of my three obsessions (history and politics), and I'm going to see if I can fit in the third (sports) somewhere along the way. The series will be added to during down times of the election, so check back for a few months. Enjoy.)

Part 1: The Washington Years (1789, 1792)

In 1789, George Washington became the first and only President to garner unanimous support from the United States Electoral College. In the earliest form of the presidential election process, outlined by Article Two, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, the Electoral College, most of which was not at all beholden to the voting public, was made up of 69 electors, each of whom would cast two votes for president. The American (note: NOT politician) with the most votes became President, and the runner-up became Vice-President.

At the time, there were no political parties, nor was there bickering or campaigns. To campaign for oneself, or to declare oneself as a candidate for any high office, was considered arrogant and unbecoming. It was understood that if a person was a desirable leader, then someone else would nominate them for the office. The nomination would be seconded, and all groundwork for the candidate's campaign would be done by supporters - never by the candidate.

All 69 electors cast one of their two votes for George Washington in the election of 1789, a surprise to no one, and thusly he won the first presidential election in United States history. John Adams amassed votes on 34 of those ballots - the plurality among the runners up - thus becoming the nation's first Vice-President.

It was the United States' last election without political partisanship.

Article Two had thus far served its purpose - it set up a system where George Washington was guaranteed a victory. However, as the idea of Washington's mortality in office became clearer, the Framers had hardly prepared for jockeying from heirs who wanted to ideologically steer the country (either left to Federalism or right to Anti-Federalism) in the direction of their choosing. By the election of 1792, while no one would dare dream of a political opponent to the fantastically popular incumbent president, political parties had their first taste of a competitive national election, a dish they have been devouring ever since.

Washington himself, while never a member of any political party, usually leaned toward federalism. His most trusted advisor, Alexander Hamilton, was the most brilliant Federalist of the era, and pushed across a Federalist agenda as Washington's Secretary of the Treasury, including the institution of a national bank, much to the chagrin of Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson and his states' rights platform naturally became the leader of the Anti-Federalist party, though he served dutifully under Washington and Adams. Still, he knew as well as anyone that the president to come after Washington could control the agenda of the executive branch.

With no illusions, private or public, of unseating Washington, the target of partisan attacks from the Anti-Federalists was his next in line, John Adams. His vice-presidency was targeted by the Anti-Federalists, who wanted the already predictable incumbency advantage to greater ensure the rights of states would be addressed and favored by Washington's successor.

Dating back to the country's first steps of independence, Adams had always argued in favor of a strong central government, similar to that of Great Britain. Treasury Secretary Hamilton often steered President Washington in such a direction, and therefore approved of a Federalist remaining as Washington's heir-apparent, though Hamilton's stance on Adams would eventually change. In opposition were the Anti-Federalists, who, needing a less resistive name, labeled themselves as Democratic-Republicans. They were led by State Secretary Jefferson and James Madison, a Virginia congressman who was a former Federalist when he had written the Constitution, but had broken ranks to join Jefferson after disagreeing with Hamilton on several fundamental issues.

These four goliaths of American politics, whom, along with Washington and Ben Franklin, were most responsible for the foundation of United States government, were now split in two groups. Vice-President Adams and Secretary Hamilton on one side; Secretary Jefferson and Congressman Madison on the other. In the late 18th century, these titanic fathers of American government were also the fathers of American partisan politics.

In an historical sense, the fight for the vice-presidency in 1792 served only as a prologue to the landmark presidential election of 1796, which in turn is only a prologue to the timeless election of 1800, but at the time, those watershed elections were still hidden over the horizon.

The Republicans, led by Jefferson and Madison, wanted New York Governor and fellow Republican George Clinton to be Washington's Vice-President, and both tried to rally Republican electors across the country. However, the Republicans ended up fractured on whom they wanted to come in second to Washington. As an example of this confusion, Jefferson himself received six electoral votes after championing Clinton for months. Therefore, not only did Adams end up once again coming in second to renew the Washington-Adams Administration, but he did it by a larger margin than in 1789.

The American people had their first taste of Four More Years.

It seemed as though the only thing Jefferson and Hamilton had agreed upon as Washington's advisors was to push him toward a second term, for the sake of the country, despite Washington's reluctance to do so. Once that mission was a success in his 1792 re-election, they were free to return to divisiveness. Washington's second term was filled with strife in his divided cabinet, though one can argue it could have been worse for Washington. In early 1793, France's chief executive, Louis XVI, was guillotined. In comparison, a divided cabinet didn't seem so bad.

It was absolutely clear to all involved that Washington's second term would be his last, despite no law restricting a third term. (No such law would be created until ratification of the 22nd Amendment in 1951.) Thus, the election of 1796, the first presidential election sans Washington, was the first election where the winner was not a foregone conclusion - Washington was unopposed in '89 and '92 - and therefore became the first contested election in the country's history.

To read about the election of 1796, check back later today.
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