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Here, in short, is what to expect tomorrow:

Who will win?

The outcome of the election is not in doubt. Barack Obama will be the next president of the USA.

When will we know the results in each state?

Check out this article by Nate Silver for a nice time-line of when polls close in each state and when one can expect the networks to call them.

How low can Obama’s tally possibly go?

A variety of factors can go against BHO tomorrow. It may turn out that the pollsters were overestimating the youth and black votes. Obama may suffer heavily from Coal-gate, especially in some of the midwestern and Appalachian states. There may be a unexpected emergence of some kind of Bradley effect.

Several states, including biggies like FL, MO and NC, remain too close to call. On a bad day, Obama could lose them all. However, some things are not in doubt. Obama will win all Kerry states. He will win IA and NM easily. And even if he has a very bad day, he will still carry CO and NV, albeit by a small margin.

Taking these into account, the lowest Obama can go is 278. And he needs only 269 EVs to be the next president. Obama getting 278 EVs corresponds to a scenario like below:

How high can Obama’s tally go?

A very good day tomorrow, fuelled by massive youth and black turnout, will mean that Obama not only carries all the swing states, but also states like GA, ND and MT. And if he ends up winning these deep red states, he will probably also triumph in AZ, McCain’s home state. However, I do not see him winning WV or AR, notwithstanding some old polls suggesting he was close there.

If you do the math, you will see that the highest Obama can go is 406 . That would be a massive blowout. See the map below for the scenario that leads to this number:

So, what’s the likely range?

A variety of factors make this election rather hard to call. However, let’s face it, the scnearios that lead to Obama geting over 400 EV’s, or keep him under 280, are unlikely. Obama will probably lose GA and AZ . And most likely, he will win VA. So with a fairly high probability, Obama’s final EV count will lie between 291 and 381. My personal hunch is that he will get towards the high end of this range.

And finally, this is just an election. It is useful to remember the following points, articulated by Michael Totten before the 2004 election:

People who vote for the other guy aren’t stupid, brainwashed, or evil. They are your friends and family. Someone you love will almost certainly cancel your vote. (My wife cancels out mine.)

If, by some chance, everyone you know votes for the loser it won’t mean the election was stolen. It will only show that you live in a bubble.

If this thing is close (the victor could easily win by 0.1 percent) try not to read too much into it. We’ll still be closely divided.

If the election doesn’t go your way, don’t pop off as though America were Guatemala under the generals. You’ll get lots of attention, but it won’t be the kind you want. People will laugh, not near you but at you.

To which, let me add: both Obama and McCain are big government statists. Nothing that happens tomorrow will prevent tragedies like this, this or this. Both Obama and McCain will use your money to stop you from enjoying pot, driving without a seatbelt or eating bacon dogs. So chill out and enjoy.

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There are at least two good reasons why libertarians should not be supporting McCain this election.

One of those is fairly straightforward: Obama is better. I have written several posts in the past elaborating on this point. To put it briefly, Obama is no libertarian, not even close, but on some of the most important issues facing us — foreign policy, civil liberties, war on drugs, thwarting the Christianist agenda — he is better than McCain. Even on the economy, where libertarians usually agree with the conservatives, I’d go with Obama — McCain has been an erratic, populist, nightmare.

The second issue is one that I have not posted on as often but it is as important, if not more. The libertarians and the country need to teach the Republicans a lesson. The party of Goldwater and Reagan — once a friend to so many libertarian principles — is in its present avatar a populist, dogmatic, anti-intellectual, collectivist nightmare.

No one has expressed this second viewpoint more eloquently than Radley Balko. In a recent article, published at Fox and Reason, he writes:

While I’m not thrilled at the prospect of an Obama administration (especially with a friendly Congress), the Republicans still need to get their clocks cleaned in two weeks, for a couple of reasons.

First, they had their shot at holding power, and they failed. They’ve failed in staying true to their principles of limited government and free markets. They’ve failed in preventing elected leaders of their party from becoming corrupted by the trappings of power, and they’ve failed to hold those leaders accountable after the fact. Congressional Republicans failed to rein in the Bush administration’s naked bid to vastly expand the power of the presidency (a failure they’re going to come to regret should Obama take office in January). They failed to apply due scrutiny and skepticism to the administration’s claims before undertaking Congress’ most solemn task—sending the nation to war. I could go on.

[…] A humiliated, decimated GOP that rejuvenates and rebuilds around the principles of limited government, free markets, and rugged individualism is really the only chance for voters to possibly get a real choice in federal elections down the road.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that’s how the party will emerge from defeat. But the Republican Party in its current form has forfeited its right to govern.

Here’s the whole article.

And while I am at it,  if you are an eligible voter and a friend to individual freedom, do consider voting for Bob Barr. I’ll post more on Barr in the future, but suffice it to say that he is the real deal — a man who was won over by the power of libertarian ideas. He is an intelligent and experienced politician and his conversion to libertarianism — from every piece of evidence I have seen — is a genuine one. So do consider him,  especially if you live in a non-swing state.

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Watch McCain lose the remaining undecided women :

So how many EV’s will Obama get? 333? 348? 375? More?

Right now I am guessing 364 369 , on the assumption that he will win NC, MO and WV but lose IN.

[Update] Five Thirty Eight has a post today, where they … basically agree with me, though they leave West Virginia as a toss-up.

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The polling seems to be getting stronger for Obama with every passing day. Five Thirty Eight currently gives Obama a 95.8% chance of winning the election, and that is after accounting for some tightening of the polls in the coming weeks.

More astoundingly, no fewer than seven current polls show Obama with a double-digit lead nationally.

Nate Silver writes:

It’s fairly unusual for a candidate to have such a sustained run of momentum so deep into the campaign cycle. And it does appear to be real momentum, with some real feedback loops: the worse McCain’s poll numbers become, the more desperate his campaign looks, and the more desperate his campaign looks, the worse his poll numbers become.

McCain now has to go on a run of his own, a large enough run to wipe at least 8 points off of Obama’s lead, and perhaps more like 9 or 10 to cover his inferior position in the Electoral College and the votes that Obama is banking in early and absentee balloting. It is imperative that McCain does not just draw tomorrow night’s debate, does not just win a victory on points, but emerges with a resounding victory, the sort that leaves the spin room gasping for air. Failing that, we are getting into dead girl, live boy territory.

The question is no longer whether Obama will win, but by how much. The electoral college has a size of 540 EVs. If things continue the way they are, Obama will end up winning close to 400 EVs which would be a stunning landslide.

McCain has to completely destroy Obama in tomorrow’s debate to get his campaign back on track. Unfortunately for him, that is about as likely as Sarah Palin writing a dissertation on the theory of evolution.

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Both candidates running for presidency are bad from a libertarian perspective, but, my opinion, as I have often stated on this blog, is that McCain is clearly worse. Radley Balko, who shares that view, has a fine post explaining why.

Obama is a seriously flawed candidate. And yes, Obama united with a Democratic Congress is a scary proposition. But on the issues I cover and that I think are most important this election, Obama is clearly the better choice. Will he disappoint, even on those issues? Almost assuredly.

But we’ve had eight years of a GOP administration, and before that eight years of a mostly GOP Congress. The result has been an explosion in the growth of government that by every measure has been the largest since at least the Johnson administration, and by some measures since FDR. I see no reason why a McCain administration would be any different, particularly given that he has made bipartisanship and deal-making the hallmark of his career (and let’s face it, “bipartisanship” is rarely a case where the parties come together to shrink the government–it almost always results in more government). In other words, the GOP has consistently been worse than the Dems even on the issues where they’re supposed to be better.

I agree. And as I point out in his comments, it is not just about the issues. Obama might have positions I strongly disagree with, but anyone who has followed his career closely or read his works will see that he possesses undoubted intelligence, a good temperament, intellectual curiosity and above all an ability to see both sides of a question (more than McCain does, anyway). Also, as he has demonstrated with his stand on several issues, he prefers a ‘nudge’ to outright force in influencing behavior (see this post of mine). That’s much more than one can say about McCain, who epitomizes authoritarianism.

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A month an a half from now, when John McCain’s team tries to pinpoint the reason they lost the election, they will eventually stumble upon a date: September 24.

It was a day that saw McCain making his disastrous debate postponement offer (stellarly countered by Obama) that saw him mocked by Dave Letterman and much of the National Review crowd. It was also the day when Sarah Palin’s unbelievably bad interview with Couric started airing on TV.

Make no mistake, unless something spectacular happens for him in the debates, or a devastating event, like a terrorist attack on US soil takes place, John McCain threw away his shot at the presidency yesterday.

For more evidence, check out the amazing videos below:

First, Palin’s interview. It is, by turns, depressing, hilarious, embarassing and ends on a surreal note.

Next, watch Dave Letterman eviscerate McCain. It’s funny and truthful. The ultimate salt on the wound is at the very end, when he uses CBS’ in-house cameras to expose McCain as a liar, who cancelled his show with Letterman citing the need to rush to Washington, but ended up rushing to Ann Couric to give an interview.

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Conservative columnist George Will is bang on the money:

Channeling his inner Queen of Hearts, John McCain furiously, and apparently without even looking around at facts, said Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, should be decapitated. This childish reflex provoked the Wall Street Journal to editorialize that “McCain untethered” — disconnected from knowledge and principle — had made a “false and deeply unfair” attack on Cox that was “unpresidential” and demonstrated that McCain “doesn’t understand what’s happening on Wall Street any better than Barack Obama does.” . . .

In any case, McCain’s smear — that Cox “betrayed the public’s trust” — is a harbinger of a McCain presidency. For McCain, politics is always operatic, pitting people who agree with him against those who are “corrupt” or “betray the public’s trust,” two categories that seem to be exhaustive — there are no other people. McCain’s Manichaean worldview drove him to his signature legislative achievement, the McCain-Feingold law’s restrictions on campaigning. Today, his campaign is creatively finding interstices in laws intended to restrict campaign giving and spending. . . .

Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

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Neither of the major candidates of the upcoming US presidential election offers much hope to those who believe in individual liberty and limited government. In this post, I will outline the five things to fear most from each of them becoming President.

Five things to fear from an Obama presidency:

1. Card check. This ought to be one of the definitive issues of the election and it is worrisome that it is not. Obama supports the farcically named “Employee Free Choice Act“, which is basically a measure to drastically alter the process of forming labor unions. As of now, the decision to unionize is undertaken by the workers via the process of secret ballot. Under the proposed Act, this would be replaced by ‘card check’, that is, the signing of authorization cards. In theory this may appear fine, but in practice this will lead to illegal coercion. Basically, unionizors can keep browbeating a worker until he or she signs the card; and the moment there is a majority of signatures, unionization can take place. Not only is card check a terribly collectivist idea that will effectively allow workers to be harassed and ostracized by union leaders, it will also pave the way for the degeneration of the American labor force into militant socialism. As someone from the Indian state of West Bengal, where shut factories, labor troubles, strikes and violent unions are the norm, I can tell you that the future under this Act is bleak.

2. Fairness Doctrine. According to the fairness doctrine, broadcasters have to present issues in a balanced manner, such as by presenting equal amounts of liberal and conservative viewpoints on an issue. It is a terrible idea that rides roughshod over the basic principles of free speech and property rights. Also, as the internet era has aptly demonstrated, the free market of ideas is the best system (*). Forcibly attempting to remove perceived bias in the media does much harm and no good. Obama’s stand on the fairness doctrine has been ambivalent, and judging by his stand on other issues and the position of his Democratic friends like John Kerry (who thinks that the fairness doctrine ought to be there), there is reason to worry that this terrible law might be reinstated during his presidency.

3. Over-regulation. Obama has been long sympathetic to the idea that companies ought to be regulated more and laws such as antitrust ought to be enforced more strongly. It is a viewpoint that shows a lack of understanding of both property rights and the modern world. Much of the troubles with the global economy arise not from too little control but from too much. To give a simple example, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the failed giants, were among the most regulated guys in the business. By contrast, relatively unregulated companies like Goldman Sachs are doing fine. As for antitrust laws, they have always done more harm than good. If history has taught us anything – if there is any lesson to be drawn from the emergence of Firefox, the toppling of the Detroit three by Toyota in US sales, the fairy-tale of Google and the ascendancy of Apple from nowhere to the pre-eminent position it is in today – it is that you cannot keep a good product down. In this age of instant dissemination of information, companies do not need the help of antitrust laws to rise to the top. And the consumer doesn’t either.

4. Broadening of hate crimes and anti-discrimination statutes. Regular readers of this blog are aware of my extreme distaste for hate speech laws and anti-discrimination statutes (when applied to private entities). They increase disharmony between communities, not bridge them. More pertinently, they violate all the fundamental freedoms of man — freedom of speech, freedom of association and property rights. As these works ([1], [2]) show, they also have other negative repurcussions. Obama wishes to expand the scope of such laws.

5. Mandatory national service. Obama’s idea of putting people to work attempts to reshape American society in a way they do not really understand, as Jim Lindgren notes here. On the surface there is nothing wrong with the proposal. Voluntary community service can be an enriching experience both for the child and the community. The trouble starts when the government steps in. The inevitable effect is the substitution of individual volunteerism by a huge bureaucratic machine that subsists on tax money. Like many bad proposals, the detrimental effects show up slowly, but when they do, they are hard to remove. Eventually, these kind of proposals convert non-governmental organizations that flourish on private philanthropy into inefficient arms of the government. Furthermore, as this article points out, those who lead these social-services groups tend to become advocates for government-funded solutions to social problems. The result is more social problems, not less. Volunteerism is a wonderful thing but to be truly voluntary and useful, it needs to be more than an arms length away from government control.

Five things to fear from a McCain presidency:

1. Country First. Don’t get me wrong, patriotism is a wonderful thing, but only when it is not forced down your throat. McCain’s entire philosophy of governance centers around the idea of a cause greater than yourself, which really means blind trust and servititude to the government of the day. McCain not only disrespects rugged individualism, he simply does not even consider it. His philosophy is a soldier’s, and God save the country which has to abide by it. As Reason pointed out once, [McCain] has lauded Teddy Roosevelt’s fight against the “unrestricted individualism” of the businessman who “injures the future of all of us for his own temporary and immediate profit.” He has long agitated for mandatory national service. His attitude toward individuals who choose paths he deems inappropriate is somewhere between inflexible and hostile. “In the Roosevelt code, the authentic meaning of freedom gave equal respect to serf-interest and common purpose, to rights and duties,” McCain writes. “And it absolutely required that every loyal citizen take risks for the country’s sake….”

2. Endless war. McCain is a warmonger if there ever was one. Much has been made of his “hundred years in Iraq” comment. More pertinently, he thinks it is entirely appropriate that the US spend millions of dollars in military bases abroad while the country suffers from financial crises at home and extreme ill-will abroad. He loves hard power but does not even understand the concept of soft power. And if he ever becomes president, a war with Iran appears certain.

3. Christianization of the US. If McCain wins, the evangelists will be the one who carry him over the top, and most certainly they will be rewarded. The Bush era has seen the reinvigoration of the obscenity law, and a ban on stem cell research. McCain will carry all these things forward. He is also likely to appoint judges who overturn Roe vs Wade (**). He will carry the war on victimless crimes forward and his VP will encourage the teaching of creationism and abstinence only sex education.

4.  Further weakening of civil liberties and the First Amendment. McCain does not respect the concept of free speech. To him, it comes with caveats and clauses, and is subservient to collectivist and national interests.  Here’s a real McCain quote: “I know that money corrupts…I would rather have a clean government than one where quote ‘First Amendment rights’ are being respected.” And here’s a statement from his campaign: “Neither the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001.”

5. It’s the economy, stupid. Generally, Republicans are better at controlling spending and balancing the budget. But not the present-day ones. The national debt has grown tremendously during the Bush era, fuelled by wasteful spending and the war in Iraq. McCain does not even understand economics, as he has himself admitted. He is likely to continue spending on useless things like war in foreign countries and is going to continue the Bush tax cuts, which, while a good thing in principle, are incompatible with the spending he has in mind. His reaction to economic issues has been a bizarre mixture of soundbites against earmarks and populist drivel. In the last week, he has both supported and opposed government intervention, made irrelevant threats about sacking the SEC head, and called for salary-limits for CEOs. He is quite simply not the right guy to be in charge of the present crisis.

Notes:

(*) This quote by a Reason commenter may be pertinent:

Dear Senator Obama

Let me tell you about something called the Internet.

It is a medium where every sort of opinion – from far left to far right and way beyond either – gets aired. And thrashed.

It is a wide open, no holds barred, forum where anyone can speak his piece and find those who agree with him. Those who don’t agree are equally free to rebut, make counter-assertions, abuse or insult the first one. They, in turn, are subject to the same give-and-take. (Try googling “flame war”.)

The internet is almost unregulated (aside from a few asinine attempts by your fellow senators and their counterparts in other countries), yet still manages to achieve this remarkable fairness.

I humbly suggest that this example should persuade you that fairness will be best achieved if the regulation of media is decreased, not increased.

Yours truly,

Your neighbor, Aresen.

(**) Many libertarians, including many pro-choice ones, oppose Roe vs Wade and believe that the abortion issue should be decided by the state. I disagree. Some things are just too fundamental to be left to the states. The right to life is one of them. So is the right to sovereignty over one’s body. Such a right cannot be overturned by a state just as a state should not have the power to kill without cause or to make slavery legal.  A foetus is not a person — but even if it were, it does not deserve full human rights for the simple reason that it is a part of someone else’s body and thus any attempt to assign rights to it obviously contradict the more important rights of the host on which it is completely dependent.

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Two predictions

McCain will never again hold the lead in either the Gallup or the Rasmussen daily tracking polls.

The election won’t even be that close — Obama will win by at least 30 EVs.

[Update, October 11]: My first prediction has held good so far. As for my second, I now think Obama will win by at least 100 EVs.

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Check out the graphic above. Obama received a big bounce from the Dem convention, but then, McCain went..whoosh! Sarah Palin is the GOP dream — a potatoes-and-meat, ultra-glib, sexy, super-charismatic, Republican version of Obama.

As Althouse said:

It’s as if some mad right-wing scientists designed and built an android to counter all the things that Obama is. Can she be real? Can it be that there was this actual human entity, on ice in Alaska, waiting for this moment to be thawed out and set loose in the lower 48?

But things are not as bad for Obama as the graphic might make it look. What has happened is that Palin has energized the Republican base, so that the red states that Obama was going to lose by 10 points, he will now lose by 30. However Obama does not need to win those states, what he needs for a majority is the Kerry states + Iowa + Colorado + New Mexico. At the time of writing, the polls show Obama ahead in all the above states.

So, all Obama needs to do is concentrate on the above states (especially PA, MI and CO) as well as make a serious effort for Florida (which has a huge 27 electoral college votes, and right now is barely leaning Republican). Also, he would be be better off if his campaign stops attacking Palin and instead releases some crisp, succint ads, highlighting key issues that voters care about (e.g. the fact that 95% of Americans get a bigger tax break from Obama’s plan than McCain’s). If he can drive home these messages successfully, and stand strong in the three debates, he will still be the favourite on November 4.

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Cindy McCain, Sarah Palin

John McCain left both his first wife and Mitt Romney for beauty queens.

Honestly, that’s the best political witticism I have heard in a long time.

[Edit:] Check out this video.

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From the still-under-construction Republican platform for this election:

On stem-cell research — The 2008 Republican Platform calls for a ban on all embryonic stem-cell research, public or private.

On gambling — Millions of Americans suffer from problem or pathological gambling that can destroy families. We support legislation prohibiting gambling over the Internet or in student athletics by student athletes who are participating in competitive sports.

And it goes on…

Obama’s politics are not exactly pro-freedom either (see [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7]) but news like the above reminds me that on November 4 voters will have to make a choice — and from the libertarian perspective, McCain is the worse choice.

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The Obama campaign’s response to the nasty and misleading Ayers ad is highly disappointing in its own way.

Barack Obama is striking back fiercely and swiftly to stamp out an ad that links him to a 1960s radical, eager to demonstrate a far more aggressive response to attacks than John Kerry did when faced with the 2004 “Swift Boat” campaign.

Obama not only aired a response ad to the spot linking him to William Ayers, but he sought to block stations airing the commercial by warning station managers and asking the Justice Department to intervene. The campaign also planned to compel advertisers to pressure stations that continue to air the anti-Obama commercial.

[…]

In a letter to station managers, Obama campaign lawyer Robert Bauer wrote: “Your station is committed to operating in the public interest, an objective that cannot be satisfied by accepting for compensation material of such malicious falsity.”

Bauer also wrote to Deputy Assistant Attorney General John C. Keeney, noting that the ad is a “knowing and willful attempt to evade the strictures of federal election law.”

For those like me who are supporting Obama at least partly due to his superior stand on civil liberties and free speech, this news is extremely disappointing. Obama has in the past strongly expressed his support for free expression and he has helped pass criminal justice reform laws to protect the civil rights of detainees. But do you want a president who will be willing to bully opponents into not saying certain things?

On the other hand, here’s a real quote from John McCain, the man behind the anti free-speech McCain-Feingold law, which, ironically, is the law that Obama is now trying to use against the Ayers folks:

I know that money corrupts…I would rather have a clean government than one where quote ‘First Amendment rights’ are being respected.

And here’s one from his campaign:

Neither the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001.

It’s a frustrating choice for libertarians. Taking foreign policy, the religious right and the war into account, Obama seems a slightly better choice, but not by much.

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Yesterday, at a campaign stop, John McCain was asked how many houses he owns. He couldn’t remember. The Obama team was quick to incorporate that into an ad:

Now, there are two things that strike me about this ad. First, the houses gaffe is a gift-send for Obama. It combines several themes that Obama would love to associate with his opponent. It allows him to portray McCain as old, forgetful, extremely rich and disconnected with the economic struggles of ordinary Americans. This is especially useful because Obama has been portrayed in the past — successfully — as elitist and out of touch.

Secondly, the ad itself signifies a change in tactics for Obama. It is an attack ad, the first real attack ad he has brought out against McCain. This might take some sheen off his message of change but ultimately these kind of attacks do tend to work, as Hillary (and McCain) have demonstrated in the past. Obama’s numbers in the polls have been sinking. Notwithstanding his charisma, idealism and proclamation of change, Obama is an extremely ambitious politician. He will do whatever is necessary to win.

(For those of you who think the ad is silly and irrelevant, of course it is. But in that case, it is likely you have already made up your mind who to vote for.)

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This happened at a town hall meeting today:

QUESTIONER: […] If we don’t reenact the draft, I don’t think we’ll have anyone to chase Bin Laden to the gates of hell.

[Appaluse]

MCCAIN: Ma’am, let me say that I don’t disagree with anything you said.

If the Obama team is smart, they will incorporate this into an ad.

But then, the Obama ads have been really lame of late, so maybe he shouldn’t bother.

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