Saturday, November 6, 2004

So much for the massive turnover prediction

Prior to the election, many conservatives e-mailed me stating that they shared my qualms about aspects of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, and that of course Bush was going to clean house after the election.

Reading Mike Allen's story in today's Washington Post, I have my doubts:

President Bush will not ask his appointees for the mass resignation letters that sometimes have been requested with a change of term but instead wants the aides to keep doing their jobs unless they are told otherwise, White House officials said yesterday.

White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and the director of presidential personnel, Dina Powell, held a conference call on Thursday with agency heads and their White House liaisons and assured them that although all appointees serve at the pleasure of the president, there will be no universal request for resignations.

The decision reflects both Bush's view that his government is working well, and his determination to move aggressively to pass ambitious legislation before he starts being viewed as a lame duck, officials said.

A White House official said the reprieve also reflects the premium Bush puts on consistency as part of his management style....

Although Bush plans no administration-wide housecleaning, not everyone who wants to stay will be able to. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow was subtly given the idea that he would not be staying for all four years but could take all the time he wanted to leave, administration officials said. Snow may help kick off Bush's proposal to overhaul the tax code and then return home to Richmond, officials said.

Attorney General John D. Ashcroft is also expected to leave. So are Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

What astonishes me is not that Bush wants to keep most of his cabinet officers on board -- that is certainly true to Bush's style. What's amazing is that these people want to stay on. Forgetting partisanship or performance, these jobs are just exhausting. Prior to this administration, the average length of tenure for cabinet or subcabinet position was somewhere between eighteen months and two years.

To paraphrase Michael Jackson, this Bush administration isn't like other administrations.

UPDATE: This site is getting rather worked up about this issue.

posted by Dan at 10:45 AM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (0)

Friday, November 5, 2004

Media whore alert -- ABC edition!!

I may (or may not) be on ABC World News Tonight this evening. The story is about the merits of releasing exit poll information to the public the day of the election. My mantra: the democratization of information is a good thing, but exit polls should be treated like cigarettes -- warning labels like this one are appropriate.

Mystery Pollster Mark Blumenthal may or may not be in the segment as well. I recommended him -- and he's already got his talking points.

They say I'll be on, but given what happened last time, I'll believe it when I see it -- three months from now.

If I go on, readers may get the extra-special bonus of seeing my patented one-fingered typing style. That's what I was doing when they shot the b-roll -- you know the "action" footage of an interviewee as you hear, "Daniel Drezner, assistant professor..." on the voiceover.

UPDATE: Alas, no b-roll, but they did use an excerpt. Note that when I'm interviewed as a blogger, I dress more casually.

One thing that bugged me about the closing of the piece was the assertion that Internet content providers somehow did something "wrong" in posting the exit polls. None of the sources I looked at posted wrong numbers -- the flaws lay in the exit polls themselves. Furthermore, none of those who posted them said anything remotely close to, "with these exit polls, we're calling the election for Kerry."

See Kevin Drum and Mark Blumenthal here and here for more on this.

LAST UPDATE: Wow, this is a first -- after reading this post, someone from ABC World News Tonight just called to apologize for the last sentence in the story (it was put in there at the last minute).

posted by Dan at 05:07 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

Blogs, American politics, and international relations

Subscribers to the paper version of Foreign Policy already know this, but Henry Farrell and I have an article on the blogosphere's influence on world politics and foreign affairs in the November/December issue. It's entitled "Web of Influence," but actually I like the teaser on the cover even better: How Blogs Have Changed the World. Here's the abstract:

Bloggers compelled Trent Lott to resign as Senate majority leader and Dan Rather to apologize to viewers on national television. But can these online diarists influence global politics as well? What began as a hobby is evolving into a new medium that is changing the information-gathering landscape for international journalists and policymakers alike.

Go check it out -- critiques have already been posted elsewhere in the blogosphere. Oh, and if your blog was not mentioned in the "Around The World in Blogs" section, don't blame us, blame the staff at FP!!

[Forget world politics -- did blogs influence the 2004 election?--ed.] Hey, I'm glad you asked -- I'll be on a panel to answer that very question in a few weeks:

IHS and Reason magazine present Ana Marie Cox, Daniel Drezner, Henry Farrell, and Michael Tomasky debating the role of blogs in the election on November 18.

A free-for-all discussion on the role of blogs and politics featuring Wonkette's Ana Marie Cox, blogger and University of Chicago political scientist Daniel Drezner, blogger and George Washington University political scientist Henry Farrell, The American Prospect's Michael Tomasky, moderated by Reason's Nick Gillespie.

Drinks and hors d'oeuvres to follow remarks and Q&A.

Thursday, November 18
7:30-9:00 pm

Topaz Bar
1733 N Street NW, Washignton, DC

Porter's Dining Saloon
1207 19th St. NW (19th and M Street)
Washington, DC

This event is co-sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies and Reason.

Space is limited, so please reserve a place by RSVPing to Alina Stefanescu at Free drink tickets will be given to the first 50 respondents!

posted by Dan at 12:40 AM | Comments (17) | Trackbacks (3)

Thursday, November 4, 2004

The social construction of television punditry

Virginia Postrel has two good posts up riffing on Fareed Zakaria's column bemoaning the Crossfiring of American politics. Zakaria's key point:

"Crossfire" is now a metaphor for politics in Washington. There are two teams, each with its own politicians, think tanks, special-interest groups, media outfits and TV personalities. The requirement of this world is that you must always be reliably left or right. If you are an analyst "on the right" you must always support what the team does. If President Bush invades Iraq, you support it. If he increases the deficit, you support that. If he opposes stem-cell research, you support that, too. There's no ideological coherence or consistency to these positions. Republicans are now fervent nation-builders, but only two years ago scornfully opposed the whole concept. You must support your team. If you don't, it screws up the TV show.

Postrel argues that Zakaria's thesis stops at the edge of the TV screen:

In reality, Washington's "right-wing" think tanks offer plenty of intellectual diversity (including a range of intellectual quality and integrity, sometimes within the same organization). You just won't see that diversity reflected in television bookings. There, as in party politics, the goal is predictability and message discipline. The lack of "honest debate" and "bipartisanship" isn't a bug; it's a feature. And it will remain a feature until a political crisis sends one or both parties looking for policy entrepreneurs or until media patrons decide that intellectual exploration and genuine debate are more interesting than talking points. In the meantime, the long-term debate will take place offstage.

However, Zakaria's hypothesis does seem to hold for television, as this e-mail missive to Postrel points out:

Fareed is right about the media pressure for guests to be partisan team players. I just got canceled out of what would have been one of my highest-prestige TV bookings ever because (they told me) top producers had decided I was not firmly enough committed to either side in the election.

My experience with the TV thing is that bookers tend to go with a two-person or three-person format when discussing anything of substance. In the two-person format, it's necessary that the commentators take clear positions on clear sides of the partisan fence. In three-person formats, the third person is allowed to be an "expert" or "referee" that's somehow above the fray.

Either way, you're confined to a stereotype.

posted by Dan at 03:33 PM | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)

Tyler Cowen reports from Bangalore

The good economist's assessment of the capital of offshore outsourcing:

Apparently production costs are rising out of control in a city that accounts for a third of India's software exports. The major culprit is congestion; a seven-kilometer commute can now take ninety minutes. Population has grown by a third since 1995, and the new metro and airport are badly behind schedule. Bombay has had similar problems.

The remedy? Madras (Chennai) is rising in popularity as is Calcutta, despite its propensity to elect communist governments.

The bottom line: Indian infrastructure is chaos. This economy has only a limited ability to absord outsourcing ventures.

Megan McArdle has further thoughts on this. Key line: "Trendline extrapolation is a silly business in almost any economic situation, but never more so than where trade is concerned."

posted by Dan at 02:53 PM | Comments (10) | Trackbacks (1)

What next for U.S. foreign policy?

The answer to the title question depends in part on who stays and who goes for Bush's second term. The New York Times had a Sunday piece about this ten days ago (sorry, no link) where one Bush official admitted that the variance for Bush's second-term foreign policy was wider than what could be expected of a Kerry administration.

This anonymous foreign service officer wrote in Salon last month that Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage are not staying for a second Bush term:

When he goes, the last bulwark against complete neoconservative control of U.S. foreign policy goes with him....

Powell is leaving. We need to repeat that. When this reality sinks in, we will finally understand what we are getting ourselves into in a second Bush term. A handful of conservative columnists, Republican senators and a few other GOP luminaries are trying to reclaim a traditional conservative Republican foreign policy approach. But it is clearly too late.

James Mann is the author of Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet -- and he disagrees on Foreign Policy's web site:'s “Anonymous” from the State Department is right that the internal dynamics of the second Bush administration will change when Colin Powell is no longer part of the administration. Bush is likely to appoint a new secretary of state (whether National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice or someone else) who is more subject to the political control of the Bush-Cheney-Karl Rove White House.

But it’s a mistake to leap from there to the judgment that the neoconservatives will have complete control of the second Bush administration. During the last four years, the neocons were the dominant influence on U.S. foreign policy when it came to Iraq (which was no small thing). The neocons did not control the Bush administration’s first-term policy toward China or Russia, which conformed to the classic realist principles of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft.

And the impact of the Iraq war has served to reduce further the neocons’ clout. The war they so strongly favored has lasted vastly longer than they predicted. It took more U.S. troops and cost much more money than they led the nation to believe. By early this year, even leading conservative Republicans, such as columnist George Will, were vehemently opposing the Iraq war and the larger goal of spreading democracy in the Middle East. That internal Republican opposition has been muted this fall during Bush’s reelection campaign, but it is sure to resurface.

I’m not suggesting that Bush’s approach to the world will be utterly transformed during a second term. The vision the Vulcans carried into office four years ago—a view of foreign policy based above all on overwhelming U.S. military power and a skepticism about accommodations with other countries—will not be abandoned.

But I also don’t think Bush’s reelection means that United States is gearing up for some new military invasion. There are limits. Iraq has proved that fact, even to the Bush administration. And a sense of limits may turn out to be one of the defining characteristics of Bush’s second term.

I don't know what the right answer is, but I do know this -- regardless of cabinet shuffles, the one guaranteed constant in the second term is that Richard B. Cheney remains the Vice President, and will remain a very active player in the foreign policy machinery.

Cheney may be extremely intelligent, but as I've said before, I'm not sure it's healthy to have the sitting vice president be that active in the foreign policy process.

UPDATE: Some of the commenters are puzzled by my concern about Cheney's activism in the foreign policy process.

I have two problems with this. The first is Cheney's Ahab-like obsession with the unchecked expansion of the executive branch powers. The second is that even compared to Al Gore, Cheney has participated more actively in the NSC decision-making process. And rank matters. As I said back in January, "the difficulty is that even cabinet-level officials can be reluctant in disagreeing with him because he's the vice-president. This leads to a stunted policy debate, which ill-serves both the President and the country." So unless you think Cheney is clairvoyant, this is not a good thing in terms of weighing the costs and benefits of different policy options.

I might add that Bush himself recognized the need for a good policy process in today's press conference:

I always jest to people: The Oval Office is the kind of place where people stand outside, they're getting ready to come in and tell me what-for, and they walk in and get overwhelmed by the atmosphere and they say, Man, you're looking pretty. Therefore, you need people to walk in on those days when you're not looking so good and saying, You're not looking so good, Mr. President.... that's what you want if you're the commander in chief and a decision-maker. You want people to walk in and say, I don't agree with this, or I do agree with that, and here's what my recommendation is.

Here's hoping he gets well-served on this front in his second term. I remain apprehensive.

One more link -- Walter Russell Mead has some interesting thoughts over at (link via this commenter): One part that stood out:

Bush essentially has no excuses now: he has a mandate, he has both houses of Congress, and he is in full control of the foreign policy machinery. The war in Iraq is one that he chose, that he planned, that he has led. Bush is going to look pretty good if even two years from now Iraq is more or less pacified, and there is a government that is at least, in some ways, better than Saddam Hussein, and you have an island of stability in the middle of the Middle East. In retrospect he will look like a visionary, and people will forget all the ups and downs. When people now think of the Mexican War, they think about it as this quick, glorious dash. But in fact [President James] Polk had terrible problems during the Mexican War [1846-1848]....

Politically, at home, there were questions like, "Will those Mexicans ever negotiate?" "Are we stuck in this quagmire?" And this was a war that ended with the United States getting a whole lot of territory. Likewise, if you think about the Filipino insurrection after the Spanish-American War, I think we lost significantly more troops in suppressing that insurrection than we did in the Iraq war. [American casualties in the Filipino guerrilla war are estimated at 4,000 killed and 3,000 wounded]. What's interesting is that by 1910, even people like Teddy Roosevelt, who himself was an arch-imperialist, were saying that it was a strategic mistake to take the Philippines because it gave us an Achilles heel exposed to Japan. So here you have a war with thousands of U.S. casualties to capture a place that we then basically spent the next 30 years trying to figure out how to get rid of. Yet nobody who supported that war ever paid a political price, and everybody who opposed the war paid a political price. And conceivably, if the war in Iraq goes even reasonably well, Bush looks good.

posted by Dan at 12:29 AM | Comments (39) | Trackbacks (5)

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Always look on the bright side of life.

The guy I voted for lost. Worse, the median voter in the United States appears to be a populist -- not exactly encouraging for a libertarian.

But you know what? The last time my candidate for president lost (1996), the next four years turned out swimmingly for most people in the country. So in the spirit of optimism, here are the good things to think about in the wake of Bush's re-election [What about the bad things?--ed. I'm sure those will come up in the comments section. And here.]:

1) We won't see a replay of 2000 -- or a replay of 1876, for that matter. I have no doubt that further voting reforms are needed, but the absence of any large-scale scandal that could have turned the election is a good thing.

2) There may be public hysteria over offshore outsourcing, but the odds of government action against it just went way, way down. And any Senate with Jim DeMint replacing Fritz Hollings is more likely to ratify the Doha round. [What about DeMint's gay-bashing?--ed. Dammit, I'm trying to stay positive here!]

3) On a related point, Patrick Belton argues in The Hill that the Bush administration's relations with most foreign governments are pretty good: "thus we are faced with the irony that a president who is not terribly popular with public opinion in most nations in the world is strikingly popular with most of their governments."

4) Given the bust that was the youth vote, there will no longer be any discussion of Eminem as a potent political force (though I must confess to finding the video hypnotic).

5) Foreigners will definitely not perceive the American electorate as soft on the sustained use of force. Although I thought this was an overblown argument, many people I respect made it.

6) The Republican party may be Jacksonian, but it's definitively shed its isolationist wing. One thing that haunted me the 24 hours before the election was that if Bush lost, one possible take-home lesson for the Republican Party was that an interventionist foreign policy was political poison. That's not going to happen.

7) Even if the U.S. government continues to deny funding to stem cell research, the state of California has picked up the torch. Thank you, California taxpayers!!

8) The odds of the Guardian ever attempting to woo American voters again? Zilch.

9) I no longer need to post anything about elections -- back to foreign policy, international relations, and Salma Hayek for me!!

posted by Dan at 04:43 PM | Comments (60) | Trackbacks (5)

My one useful prediction for today....

Thomas Frank's lecture fee just tripled.

UPDATE: More on this point here, here, here, and here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmmm.... perhaps someone at the the New York Times op-ed page has been reading this blog.

Glenn Reynolds reminds me to link to Josh Chafetz's takedown of Frank's thesis in The New York Times Book Review. However, that doesn't vitiate my argument that Frank's star going to be on the rise in the market of public intellectuals, for three reasons. First, regardless of whether Frank's normative distaste of the free market is correct, his positive analysis -- that Red State voters identify with the Republicans because of cultural issues -- seems pretty trenchant. Second, Frank's materialist theory of politics plays well in the places that will pay for Frank to talk. Third, contra Chafetz, I can't completely dismiss Frank's thesis -- that economic populism might resonate with Red State voters.

posted by Dan at 09:26 AM | Comments (72) | Trackbacks (3)

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Open election night thread

Comment on the election returns here. Some useful links:

Florida's Secretary of State presidential vote counter;

Ohio's Secretary of State presidential vote counter;

Iowa's Secretary of State presidential vote counter

Wisconsin's Election Bard, alas, "does not provide unofficial results."

UPDATE: Megan McArdle cheers me up -- a swap of free-trader Jim DeMint for uber-protectionist Fritz Holling in South Carolina is a good thing for foreign economic policy.

ANOTHER UPDATE: James Carville just said on CNN that Bush has the upper hand -- Kerry needs to "draw an inside straight" to win.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Four idle thoughts before I go to sleep:

1) No terrorist attacks times with the election -- an undisputably good thing;

2) As Kevin Drum points out, "Here's some good news: as near as I can tell from scannng the web, surfing the news channels, and reading email from folks like PFAW, this year's election is looking pretty clean."

3) I, for one, take Jeff Jarvis' pledge.

4) Unless there are truly some massive adjustments in vote counts, the exit polls were skewed towards Kerry.

OK, TWO MORE THOUGHTS: First, I just heard Kenneth Blackwell, the Ohio Secretary of State say (quite cogently) on ABC that the provisonal ballots cannot be counted until 11 days after the election. So if it's close there, and everything else breaks as expected, it could be a long two weeks.

That said, the current numbers have Bush up by 191,000 votes with about 80% of the vote counted. Even if there are 130,000-150,000 provisional votes, Kerry would have to close the gap significantly for those votes to really tip the election.

Second, Fox News is now calling Ohio for Bush. Intriguingly, their vote totals are higher than the Ohio Secretary of State's figures.

FINAL UPDATE: Good morning!! OK, if this count of provisional ballots is accurate (link via Jim Lindgren), the total nomber of provisional votes is still less than Bush's margin of victory in the counted votes. Which means Bush takes Ohio, which means the worst he can do would be a 269-269 split, which Bush would win in the House -- which would be appropriate, since he won the popular vote by more than 3.5 million votes.

So... calls it for Bush [Yes!! You beat CNN!!--ed. No, wait!! According to CNN:

[Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell] said he could not immediately put an estimate on the number of those ballots but said 250,000 might not be out of the realm of possibility.

While he said the exact number of provisional ballots was unknown, he said it is "trending toward 175,000."

That is larger than Bush's current margin -- but those votes would have to go to Kerry by 85-15 for it to matter. This Daily Kos e-mail suggests that this is how that vote split in 2000, but that would still be an extraordinary outcome. So I'm sticking with my call.]

posted by Dan at 09:05 PM | Comments (37) | Trackbacks (0)

Open exit poll thread

I always favor more information over less information, so any exit poll info I get my hands on will be posted here.

However, please, please, PLEASE read Mark Blumenthal on the inherent uncertainty and limited utility of exit polls (particularly the early ones) before reading further. Hell, read what I wrote about this two years ago (and forgot about until James Joyner linked to it!!). Remember, when you're looking at exit polls, you're looking at raw sausage [Wonkette will love that analogy!!--ed.]

OK, done with that? Let the rumors, extrapolation, and mindless speculation commence!!

3:00 PM ET: Very strange -- Drudge had early figures from the National Election Pool posted. As I was looking at them, the screen refreshed, and poof, they were gone! Fortunately, Jonah Goldberg has posted them -- as has Wonkette.

Here's the full set of numbers that have been floating around (first number is Kerry, second is Bush):

Arizona 45-55
Colorado 48-51
Louisiana 42-57
Michigan 51-48
Wisconsin 52-48
Pennsylvania 60-40
Ohio 52-48
Florida 51-48
Michigan 51-47
New Mexico 50-48
Minnesota 58-40
Wisconsin 52-43
Iowa 49-49
New Hampshire 57-41

The raw data has Kerry up by 20 points in Pennsylavania and up by 16 points in New Hampshire. That should tell you the size of the variance in these polls, because there's just no way Kerry wins by twenty points in Pennsylvania. Drudge says that the "early sample was based on a 59- 41 women to men ratio" -- which would partially explain those numbers. [59-41 for which states??!!--ed. Damned if I know -- though Cliff May has a silly theory for why this is true.]

Jonah adds here:

I'm being told that those Wonkette numbers are absolutely, positively not exit poll numbers. They might be results of early voting "exit" polls (i.e. votes cast over the last two weeks), but they do not track at all the exits for votes cast today. That said, I'm told the exits don't look great for Bush either. Of course, that changes none of the caveats about exit polls already posted below.

UPDATE: Jonah has more:

Okay. I've now got a third source. Here's what I feel comfortable saying. Those numbers with Kerry leading by 20 in PA were definitely from the Kerry campaign. Whether the represented an early voting tally or just a totally non-serious collection of tallies from various dudes with clipboards is unclear. But they are entirely bogus for the purposes of understanding what's going on today.

Slate promises to post the numbers on their site, so be sure to check them out on a semi-regular basis.

3:25 PM: Now Wonkette has new numbers (first number is for Kerry):

USA: 50-49
Florida: 50-49
Ohio: 50-49
Colorado: 48-50
New Mexico: 50-48

Those numbers are all way too tight to extrapolate anything for anyone.

4:10 PM: See, this is why I'm glad's audience is so.... selective.

4:20 PM: Slate's first set of numbers -- which appear to be a mixture of morning and early afternoon polls:

Kerry 50
Bush 49

Kerry 50
Bush 49

Kerry 54
Bush 45

Kerry 51
Bush 46

Kerry 51
Bush 47

Kerry 58
Bush 40

Kerry 48
Bush 50

New Mexico
Kerry 50
Bush 48

North Carolina
Kerry 49
Bush 51

Kerry 46
Bush 53

4:40 PM: Wonkette has new numbers:

FL: 52/48 - KERRY
OH: 52/47 - KERRY
MI: 51/48 - KERRY
PA: 58/42 - KERRY
IA: 50/48 - KERRY
WI: 53/47 - KERRY
MN: 57/42 - KERRY
NH: 58/41 - KERRY
ME: 55/44 - KERRY
FL: 50/49 - KERRY

NM: 49/49 - TIE

NV: 48/49 - BUSH
CO: 49/50 - BUSH
AR: 45/54 - BUSH
NC: 47/53 - BUSH

Drudge says, "One block from ground zero in NYC, 2 hour wait to vote..."

5:40: Slate now has the 4 PM exit polls [UPDATE: OK, these have now mysteriously disappeared from their web site -- may be due to the problem alluded to by Wonkette's source below]:

Kerry 52
Bush 48

Kerry 52
Bush 47

Kerry 51
Bush 48

Kerry 58
Bush 42

Kerry 50
Bush 48

Kerry 53
Bush 47

Kerry 57
Bush 42

New Hampshire
Kerry 58
Bush 41

Kerry 55
Bush 44

New Mexico
Kerry 49
Bush 49

Kerry 48
Bush 49

Kerry 49
Bush 50

Kerry 45
Bush 54

North Carolina
Kerry 47
Bush 53

NRO's Kathryn Jean Lopez proffers the following set of numbers at 5:28 PM:

FL 50-49
OH 50-49
PA 54-45
WI 51-46
MI 51-47
NH Kerry +3

NV 48-50
CO 46-53
NC 49-51
MO Bush +11

Both Drudge and NRO point out that early exit polls had Gore up in Florida by 3 and that didn't pan out as expected. This is true -- but if memory serves, those same polls had Bush winning the Electoral College pretty easily when you added up states -- Bush was winning in Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in the early exit polls of 2000.

5:55 PM: Much discussion of the political exchanges swinging towards Kerry. Check out Brian Weatherson and James Joyner for more.

6:05 PM: According to MSNBC, with "0% of precincts reporting," it's 61% to 38% for Bush nationwide!!! Seriously, I have no idea where those numbers are coming from.

UPDATE: Kudos to MSNBC for this page, which suggests that they'll be posting exit polls once the voting officially ends in each state.

6:06 PM: Scott Elliott says that, "My understanding is that exit polling does not include absentee and early voting. That is a very important point, given that as many as 20-30% of voters have already voted in some spots, and just re-emphasizes the worthlessness ofs exit polling." I don't think that's entirely correct -- I believe National Election Pool is trying to incorporate early voting, but they're doing it via phone polls -- less reliable than exit polls. Cleck here for more on early voting.

6:15 PM: Wonkette has fresh, hot, supple numbers:

CO Bush 50 Kerry 48
FL Kerry 51 Bush 49
IA Kerry 50 Bush 49
MI Kerry 51 Bush 47
MN Kerry 54 Bush 44
NV tied
NH Kerry 53 Bush 45
NJ Kerry 54 Bush 44
NM Kerry 50 Bush 48
OH Kerry 51 Bush 49
OR still too early to get accurate reading
PA Kerry 53 Bush 46
WI Kerry 51 Bush 48

Furthermore a source tells her, "There appear be problems with exits in the following states that could be tipping numbers toward kerry: MN, NH, VT, PA, VA, CT, DE. described only as 'serious' issues we're looking at. so i would not put too much faith in those results." UPDATE: Go check out Noam Scheiber on possible biases in exit polling and what they mean.

6:32 PM: Drudge now has Ohio tied, Kerry up by 2 in Florida and Minnesota, and up by 4 points in Wisconsin. I can't tell what he's saying about Pennsylvania, and Bush is up by seven in New Hampshire.

FINAL UPDATE: OK, go to this page at CNN or this one at MSNBC for all most exit polling information. I see that the nets are not providing the top-line results -- sneaky nets. Slate has the last word on exit polls, though check out this Wonkette post as well.

posted by Dan at 03:30 PM | Comments (14) | Trackbacks (2)

So you say you're still undecided....

Looking for a last-minute guide to make up your mind?

You can access my reasons for voting for Kerry by clicking here. Go read the Economist as well -- these paragraphs ring true for me:

Invading Iraq was not a mistake. Although the intelligence about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction has been shown to have been flimsy and, with hindsight, wrong, Saddam's record of deception in the 12 years since the first Gulf war meant that it was right not to give him the benefit of the doubt. The containment scheme deployed around him was unsustainable and politically damaging: military bases in holy Saudi Arabia, sanctions that impoverished and even killed Iraqis and would have collapsed. But changing the regime so incompetently was a huge mistake. By having far too few soldiers to provide security and by failing to pay Saddam's remnant army, a task that was always going to be long and hard has been made much, much harder. Such incompetence is no mere detail: thousands of Iraqis have died as a result and hundreds of American soldiers. The eventual success of the mission, while still possible, has been put in unnecessary jeopardy. So has America's reputation in the Islamic world, both for effectiveness and for moral probity....

This only makes the longer-term project more important, not less. To succeed, however, America needs a president capable of admitting to mistakes and of learning from them. Mr Bush has steadfastly refused to admit to anything: even after Abu Ghraib, when he had a perfect opportunity to dismiss Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, and declare a new start, he chose not to. Instead, he treated the abuses as if they were a low-level, disciplinary issue. Can he learn from mistakes? The current approach in Iraq, of training Iraqi security forces and preparing for elections to establish an Iraqi government with popular support, certainly represents an improvement, although America still has too few troops. And no one knows, for example, whether Mr Rumsfeld will stay in his job, or go. In the end, one can do no more than guess about whether in a second term Mr Bush would prove more competent....

Many readers, feeling that Mr Bush has the right vision in foreign policy even if he has made many mistakes, will conclude that the safest option is to leave him in office to finish the job he has started. If Mr Bush is re-elected, and uses a new team and a new approach to achieve that goal, and shakes off his fealty to an extreme minority, the religious right, then The Economist will wish him well. But our confidence in him has been shattered. We agree that his broad vision is the right one but we doubt whether Mr Bush is able to change or has sufficient credibility to succeed, especially in the Islamic world. Iraq's fledgling democracy, if it gets the chance to be born at all, will need support from its neighbours—or at least non-interference—if it is to survive. So will other efforts in the Middle East, particularly concerning Israel and Iran.

John Kerry says the war was a mistake, which is unfortunate if he is to be commander-in-chief of the soldiers charged with fighting it. But his plan for the next phase in Iraq is identical to Mr Bush's, which speaks well of his judgment. He has been forthright about the need to win in Iraq, rather than simply to get out, and will stand a chance of making a fresh start in the Israel-Palestine conflict and (though with even greater difficulty) with Iran. After three necessarily tumultuous and transformative years, this is a time for consolidation, for discipline and for repairing America's moral and practical authority. Furthermore, as Mr Bush has often said, there is a need in life for accountability. He has refused to impose it himself, and so voters should, in our view, impose it on him, given a viable alternative. John Kerry, for all the doubts about him, would be in a better position to carry on with America's great tasks.

However, in the interest of fairness, go read the Bush endorsements from Virginia Postrel, Megan McArdle, and Greg Djerejian.

Postrel's detached endorsement of Bush is the mirror image of my attitude towards Kerry:

Bush leaves me cold and always has. I never wanted to hang out with him, so I don't take our policy differences personally. I never idolized his leadership, so I don't feel he's failed me. He gets my vote in part because I don't identify with him. He's just a hired hand, and he's better than the alternative.

I feel somewhat despondent about voting against my party -- but reading this Guardian story about Tom Wolfe's attitudes towards New York society, particularly the closing paragraph, reminds me of the occasional virtues of going against the grain:

Parting cordially, it seems strange that such an effervescent maverick, such a jester at the court of all power - all vanity, indeed - should so wholeheartedly endorse the power machine behind George Bush. And so an obvious thought occurs: perhaps Wolfe is jester at the court of New York too. Would he really be happier away from New York, out on the plains, in the "red states" where everyone at dinner parties votes for Bush? Wolfe's eyes revert to that mischievous glint, and he allows himself a smile. "I do think," he admits, apparently speaking for himself, his country and his president, "that if you are not having a fight with somebody, then you are not sure whether you are alive when you wake up in the morning."

posted by Dan at 12:33 AM | Comments (19) | Trackbacks (1)

Monday, November 1, 2004

Hey, network news producers!! Over here!!!

Joe Flint and Shailagh Murray have a great Wall Street Journal front-pager on the major networks' plans for reporting on the election Tuesday night:

This time around, the TV networks swear they aren't going to make the same mistake again. They say they have revamped the way they collect and analyze polling data, using more sophisticated equipment and better communications. To tone down their competitive instincts in "calling" states for either candidate, some are blocking their news desks from watching rivals' shows. All the networks are also striving to get their respective "decision desks" -- the units that make the calls -- to work more closely with the producers and reporters so information doesn't fall through the cracks.

"The real race is to get it right, not to be first," says NBC News Vice President Bill Wheatley, the executive in charge of the network's election coverage.

Still, always keeping the snafus of 2000 in mind, to get it right and be first is the goal this time around. Toward that end, perhaps the most significant change in tomorrow night's coverage will be the absence of Voter News Service, the now-defunct consortium formed by major news organizations in 1994 to handle exit polls, vote tabulations and projections. The consensus among the networks is that VNS could have done a better job.

For starters, VNS botched vote data in several counties around the country. Its exit-poll samples were seen as too small to be accurate and didn't take absentee ballots into consideration. Its vote tally in Florida was off when compared with the Associated Press's. And while Florida got all the attention, VNS data also led to bad calls in New Mexico and Washington.

In an 87-page report analyzing what went wrong with the 2000 election coverage, CBS News said the computers VNS used weren't sophisticated enough to compare voting data with historical information and were incapable of raising red flags where they were needed. "The old VNS was based on mainframe technology and was probably about 30 years old and wasn't very flexible to update," concurs Dan Merkle, director of ABC News's decision-desk unit.

Of course, part of the problem is that exit-poll data can be unreliable or overinterpreted, especially in a close race. News organizations, though, can't resist the urge to get an early read on a race. Calling elections based on exit-poll data first started in 1980, when NBC declared Ronald Reagan the winner in a landslide over President Carter at 8:15 p.m. Eastern time -- well before West Coast polls closed and much earlier than when CBS and ABC called the race for Mr. Reagan. After that, the competition to call races first began.

In those days, each network had its own exit-polling unit. In 1989, a cost-cutting effort led the networks and Associated Press to form Voter Research and Surveys, the joint venture that preceded VNS, to do the polling for them. Warren Mitofsky, a CBS executive, was tapped to head the venture but had left by the time VNS was started.

Now Mr. Mitofsky, a veteran pollster, is back and working for National Election Pool, a new consortium of Viacom Inc.'s CBS, News Corp.'s Fox News Channel, Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, General Electric Co.'s NBC, Time Warner Inc.'s CNN and the Associated Press. NEP hired Mr. Mitofsky and another polling veteran, Joe Lenski, who heads Edison Media Research.

The two main tasks of the old VNS -- collecting actual election results and conducting exit polls -- have now been separated. Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International are conducting exit polls and collecting returns from sample precincts -- early indicators that give media organizations an idea of which way a particular state or city is headed. The Associated Press is separately responsible for reporting vote counts as they are tallied at county election sites.

If the new system works the way it is supposed to, throughout Election Day, Edison and Mitofsky interviewers will speak to voters as they leave about 1,500 precincts, asking them whom they voted for and why. The "why" part will be analyzed later, but the "whos" will be tallied and shipped out to give news organizations a first look at where the race is headed.

As soon as the polls close, actual returns will flow from more than 3,000 sample precincts in the 50 states -- a much more accurate early indicator. The pollsters will fold into that data the results from pre-election-day telephone polls of early or absentee voters in 13 states -- 10 more states than in 2000, reflecting the increased prevalence of early voting and voting by mail.

Meanwhile, the AP will dispatch 5,000 stringers to county election sites, who will phone in official returns to 16 vote-collection centers. The first states to report will be Indiana and Kentucky, where polls close at 6 p.m. Eastern time. But in hotly contested states, or states with balloting problems, results could take many hours, even days, to dribble in.

One significant change from four years ago, says Mr. Mitofsky, is that the vote-counting database will automatically compare live AP data from the county election offices to increments that the news organization had previously reported. That should help to avoid debacles such as when Volusia County, Fla., reported a sudden vote surge for President Bush in 2000 -- a "red flag" indicating a glitch that would immediately jump out this year, Mr. Lenski says, because the patterns would be clearly laid out in the data, highlighting any aberrations. "In 2000, there was no way to notice that," Mr. Mitofksy says.

As the information flows in, Messrs. Mitofsky and Lenski will plug it into their computer system and pass it through models to produce calculations. The pollsters will review the results and make judgments. But in a major change from the VNS system, the news outlets will be able to see precinct-level data in real time, giving them access to the early numbers that they couldn't see in previous years. "They may make different judgments than we make about the very same results," Mr. Mitofsky says.

I have a humble request for the nets -- show us how the sausage is made. In other words, instead of hiding the data from the exit polls from us, explain as the returns come in what the polls say and compare and contrast them to the incoing returns.

[Won't that be kind of... dull?--ed. It would still be much more interesting than Tim Russert and his f@#$ing midget whiteboard, or Dan Rather and his nonsensical similes.]

UPDATE: Some network should really hire myster pollster Mark Blumenthal to explain how the sausage is made -- go read his infomative post on the merit of exit polls.

posted by Dan at 05:49 PM | Comments (9) | Trackbacks (0)

A question for polling geeks

This Josh Marshall post raises a question that's been bugging me for the last 48 hours:

The final FOX news poll -- with calls on Saturday and Sunday only --has Kerry over Bush 48% to 46% among likely voters. Among registered voters it's Kerry 47%, Bush 45%. Among those who've already voted, it's Kerry 48%, Bush 43%. (emphasis added)

Here's a more in-depth story by Dana Blanton on Fox's results, which notes, "about one in five voters report they have already voted by early or absentee ballot, and these voters break for Sen. Kerry by 48 percent to 43 percent." I can't find that figure anywhere in Fox's .pdf report of the results, but there it is.

Here's my question -- this confirms other reports I've heard saying that the early vote favors Kerry [But see the update to this post below--ed.] So what does this mean for the election? There are three possibilities:

1) As in 2000, the polls for Election Day are missing turnout and early voting, and so the final vote tally will mirror the early voting and Kerry will win handily;

2) The early voters are disproprtionately likely to vote for Kerry so they have no bearing on the final outcome;

3) The polling of early voters relies on too small a sample and should be ignored.

Most cognoscenti seem to assume (2). My question is, why? The one argument that makes sense to me is that early voting is a sign of intensity of preferences, and the ABB vote is more intense than the ABK vote.

UPDATE: Stop the presses! CBS News also has early voting results -- but they have Bush beating Kerry!

Early voters split about evenly, one-third each between Democrats, Republicans and Independents. They are a bit older: one-quarter are 65 or over, and eight in ten are above age 45. President Bush holds a lead among them (51% to 43%). (emphasis added)

Let's take a moment to allow the heads of those obsessed with media bias to explode at the thought that FOX has a poll favorable to Kerry while CBS has one favorable to Bush.

However, the large contrast between the CBS and FOX results lead me to think that the answer to my original question is actually (3).

One final question -- the Fox result has 9% of voters voting for someone other than Bush or Kerry, and the CBS result has 6% of voters doing that. Who else are they voting for besides Nader?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Over at Tapped, Garance Franke-Ruta has early voting numbers for Florida (a third of the vote cast; 51 to 43 Kerry) and Iowa (a quarter of the vote cast; 52 to 41 Kerry). However, Franke-Ruta seems to buy hypothesis (2) -- early voters are more likely to go for Kerry. Link via Kevin Drum, who offers a hypothesis on why this might be true: "memories of Florida combined with news of Republican efforts to suppress voting have probably motivated Kerry voters to vote early in greater numbers than Bush voters due to their distrust of the voting process."

posted by Dan at 03:12 PM | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (3)

Tentative answers to some big voting questions

A quick follow-up to my last election post about possibilities not included in the polls:

1) Looking at the latest batch of polls, I notice that some of them include Nader, but I haven't seen any of them include Badnarik (if I'm wrong about this plase post a comment). Again, my hunch is that the Libertarian party candidate will be the equivalent of Nader for disaffected right-leaning voters.

2) Peter Wallsten wrote a story last week in the Los Angeles Times suggesting that the evangelical vote -- a vital Bush constituency -- might not turn out as much as the administration hopes:

An estimated 80% of the evangelical vote went to Bush in 2000. But Bush's senior political strategist, Karl Rove, said after the 2000 election that the president might have won the race against Democrat Al Gore by a comfortable margin had 4 million more evangelicals gone to the polls rather than sitting out the election.

This year, the Bush campaign and conservative groups have made enormous efforts to mobilize evangelicals, a group that includes more than 70 denominations, and which generally sees the Bible as the authoritative word of God, emphasizes "born again" religious conversion, and has committed to spreading its faith and values. Evangelicals are thought to make up about a quarter of the electorate.

In appeals to evangelicals, the president's supporters have pointed to Bush's stance against abortion, his appointment of conservative judges and his support for a constitutional ban on gay marriage. And yet a recent poll found a slight slippage in the president's support.

A poll published last week by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 70% of self-described evangelicals or born-again Christians planned to vote for the president, down from 74% in the same survey three weeks earlier. That was not only a slight decline, but lower than the 80% to 90% support that Bush campaign officials had been forecasting. (emphases added)

UPDATE: Chris Sullentrop speculates that there's another problem -- the Republican effort to get out the evangelical vote also triggered greater turnout among Democratic-leaning non-voters:

It's possible that Rove and the Bush campaign have turned up a huge trove of conservative nonvoters who were registered to vote four years ago and who therefore aren't showing up in the numbers of new registered voters. Unless that's true, however, the early indications are that Rove's repudiation of centrist politics will backfire. The secret of Bill Clinton's campaigns and of George W. Bush's election in 2000 was the much-maligned politics of small differences: Find the smallest possible majority (well, of electoral votes, for both men) that gets you to the White House. In political science, something called the "median voter theorem" dictates that in a two-party system, both parties will rush to the center looking for that lone voter—the median voter—who has 50.1 percent of the public to the right (or left) of him. Win that person's vote, and you've won the election.

Rove has tried to use the Bush campaign to disprove the politics of the median voter. It was as big a gamble as any of the big bets President Bush has placed over the past four years. It has the potential to pay off spectacularly. After all, everyone always talks about how there are as many people who don't vote in this country as people who do vote. Rove decided to try to get the president to excite those people. Whether Bush wins or loses, it looks like he succeeded.

3) The cell phone vote tilts towards Kerry -- maybe. Zogby has a poll:

Polling firm Zogby International and partner Rock the Vote found Massachusetts Senator John Kerry leading President Bush 55% to 40% among 18-29 year-old likely voters in their first joint Rock the Vote Mobile political poll, conducted exclusively on mobile phones October 27 through 30, 2004. Independent Ralph Nader received 1.6%, while 4% remain undecided in the survey of 6,039 likely voters. The poll is centered on subscribers to the Rock the Vote Mobile (RTVMO) platform, a civic engagement initiative launched last March by Rock the Vote and Motorola, Inc., responded to this poll between October 27 and October 30.

The problem with this poll is that while it went after cell phone users, it apparently did not identify those people who have no land line -- so there's no way to know the magnitude of any sample bias in more traditional polls. [Isn't another problem with this poll that they used Rock the Vote's database, which might be nonpartisan in theory but is undoubtedly Democrat-heavy in practice?--ed. Zogby says "The results of the survey are weighted for region, gender, and political party," so I'm assuming he's compensated for that kind of sample bias -- but this is open for debate.]

Again, remember the electoral projection motto of "I don't know who's going to win -- and you don't know either."

UPDATE: The three things mentioned in this post trend towards Kerry, so here's a thought that trends towards Bush. If I remember correctly, last time around Zogby's polling trended strongly towards Bush in the last week or two of the election, leading to one poll suggesting that California was a dead heat between Bush and Gore. Obviously, those polls underestimated Gore's growing strength over the final few days.

Now a lot of people are assuming that the polls will kick the same way this time, and that therefore a tie really means Kerry is up by a few percentage points. Click here for an example. However, what if the trend that the polls missed wasn't the late surge towards a Democrat, but the last surge towards the incumbent party? I know this flies in the face of the incumbent rule, but it's still worth keeping in mind.

LAST UPDATE: Will Saletan et al at Slate get the final word:

Here is the math that matters: If all the states in which the data lean discernibly to either candidate vote as the polls suggest, the election will come down to Florida and Ohio. If Bush takes both, he wins. If Kerry takes either, he wins.

posted by Dan at 01:18 AM | Comments (16) | Trackbacks (2)

Sunday, October 31, 2004

The two narratives on Iraq

In the days running up to the election, I see two contradictory narratives about how things are going in Iraq. The first one comes the Chicago Boyz (link via Glenn Reynolds):

Now the one thing that strikes me about the military efforts to date is just how incredibly successful they've been, and how masterfully planned and executed they turned out to be. Not perfect, of course (You mean there's terrorists setting off explosives? Against Americans and their supporters? In the Middle East, no less? Say it isn't so!). But a lot of the toys that John Kerry voted against turned out to be damned useful in the War on Terror. I don't want to even think about how an Afghanistan operation with Vietnam-era technology and tactics would have gone for us - I think in that case we'd have been wishing for another Vietnam. And if you've ever cracked a history book, you'll realize that only 1200 deaths in a year and a half of invading a dictatorship, overthrowing its dictator, and fighting a chronic insurgency is astoundingly good news, especially when added to the fact that the long-predicted flood of refugees never materialized, the terrorists that Saddam's regime had nothing whatsoever to do with suddenly got extremely interested in the fate of Iraq (and no, we're not turning peaceful, simple folk into bloodthirsty terrorists - at worst, we're forcing them to choose their side a little sooner than they would have on their own, and denying them the option of biding their time until the Great Satan looks sufficiently weak to try their hand at terrorism on their chosen terms), and Iraqis are still signing up to take on the battle for their country against these thugs and getting set to vote in their first-ever real election in a couple of months.

And the Commander-in-Chief at the helm during these amazing accomplishments is called incompetent? You've got to be kidding me.

For supporting lines of argumentation, check out Greg Djerejian and Arthur Chrenkoff.

There is one point in this narrative on which I absolutely agree -- the observable costs of the insurgency in Iraq, measured in either men or material, is nowhere near the cost of what transpired in Vietnam. We're talking about differences by several orders of magnitude.

There is, of course, the question of unobservable costs -- and read Ambassador Peter Galbraith's disturbing account in the Boston Globe on that issue.

More importantly, there is the question of trend -- are things betting better or worse in Iraq over time? And here's where I part company with the above narrative. According to Newsweek International's Rod Nordland, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Michael Hirsh, Secretary of State Colin Powell thinks things are getting worse:

For months the American people have heard, from one side, promises to "stay the course" in Iraq (George W. Bush); and from the other side, equally vague plans for gradual withdrawal (John Kerry). Both plans depend heavily on building significant Iraqi forces to take over security. But the truth is, neither party is fully reckoning with the reality of Iraq—which is that the insurgents, by most accounts, are winning. Even Secretary of State Colin Powell, a former general who stays in touch with the Joint Chiefs, has acknowledged this privately to friends in recent weeks, NEWSWEEK has learned. The insurgents have effectively created a reign of terror throughout the country, killing thousands, driving Iraqi elites and technocrats into exile and scaring foreigners out. "Things are getting really bad," a senior Iraqi official in interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's government told NEWSWEEK last week. "The initiative is in [the insurgents'] hands right now. This approach of being lenient and accommodating has really backfired. They see this as weakness."

A year ago the insurgents were relegated to sabotaging power and gas lines hundreds of miles outside Baghdad. Today they are moving into once safe neighborhoods in the heart of the capital, choking off what remains of "normal" Iraqi society like a creeping jungle. And they are increasingly brazen. At one point in Ramadi last week, while U.S. soldiers were negotiating with the mayor (who declared himself governor after the appointed governor fled), two insurgents rode by shooting AK-47s—from bicycles. Now even Baghdad's Green Zone, the four-square-mile U.S. compound cordoned off by blast walls and barbed wire, is under nearly daily assault by gunmen, mortars and even suicide bombers....

Just as worrisome, the insurgents have managed to infiltrate Iraqi forces, enabling them to gain key intelligence. "The infiltration is all over, from the top to the bottom, from decision making to the lower levels," says the senior Iraqi official. In the Kirkush incident, the insurgents almost certainly had inside information about the departure time and route of the buses. Iraqi Ministry of Defense sources told NEWSWEEK the Iraqi recruits had not been allowed to leave the base with their weapons because American trainers were worried that some of them might defect. "The current circumstances oblige us not to give them their weapons when they're taking vacations, in case they run away with them," said one Iraqi intelligence officer.

This account is buttressed by Eric Schmitt's New York Times report:

Commanders voiced fears that many of Iraq's expanding security forces, soon to be led by largely untested generals, have been penetrated by spies for the insurgents. Reconstruction aid is finally flowing into formerly rebel-held cities like Samarra and other areas, but some officers fear that bureaucratic delays could undermine the aid's calming effects. They also spoke of new American intelligence assessments that show that the insurgents have significantly more fighters - 8,000 to 12,000 hard-core militants - and far greater financial resources than previously estimated.

Perhaps most disturbing, they said, is the militants' campaign of intimidation to silence thousands of Iraqis and undermine the government through assassinations, kidnappings, beheadings and car bombings. New gangs specializing in hostage-taking are entering Iraq, intelligence reports indicate.

"If we can't stop the intimidation factor, we can't win," said Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, the commander of nearly 40,000 marines and soldiers in western and south-central Iraq, who is drawing up battle plans for a possible showdown with more than 3,000 guerrillas in Falluja and Ramadi, with the hope of destroying the leadership of the national insurgency.

The fact is that just about every official sources expresses a lot of concern about the current situation in Iraq. And I don't see a Rumsfeld-led DoD altering its in-country force levels or its in-country strategy, and I fear that this can lead to disaster.

Again, I have my doubts that a Kerry administration will do a great job -- this National Journal story by Carl Cannon lists the possibilities in a Kerry administration, and what scares the crap out of me is the overwhelming number of poor managers legislators on that list. But I do think they'll muddle through better than the current team.

posted by Dan at 05:07 PM | Comments (57) | Trackbacks (3)