Thursday, December 11, 2008

Senate appointments

Media reports suggest that the Prime Minister will be making the wise political move, and wise move for the functioning of the Senate, of filling the 18 vacancies that exist in that body. He will however have to battle a perception problem as he has vowed only to fill vacancies with elected Senators.

While still placing a large number of Conservatives in the Senate and filling all vacancies, there is a process where he would appear to respect his pledge to bring democracy to the Senate.

The 18 vacancies cover eight provinces and one territory. Harper could look to the results of the recent federal election in each of those jurisdictions for "advice" from Canadians on how to fill the Senate vacancies.

For instance, in Prince Edward Island, the Liberals hold 3 seats in the Senate and there is one vacancy. The Liberals received 47.7% of the vote and the Conservatives received 36.2%. If you break that out it says that Liberals should have 1.9 seats and the Conservatives 1.4. But because the Liberals already hold 3 seats, then the one vacancy should go to the Conservatives.

If you apply this across the 18 vacancies, the Conservatives would get 10, the NDP would get 7 and the Liberals would get 1.

In 2005, despite the fact that the NDP wants to abolish the Senate and refused to recognize the appointment, Paul Martin appointed a nominal New Democrat to the Senate. Harper could do something similar, appointing Canadians who could be deemed associated with the NDP who favour his Senate reform agenda.

Following this formula Newfoundland and Labrador would get an NDP senator, New Brunswick would get a Conservative and a New Democrat, Nova Scotia would get two New Democrats and a Conservative, PEI would get a Conservative, Quebec would get three Conservatives and a New Democrat, Ontario would get a Conservative and a New Democrat, Yukon would get a Liberal, Saskatchewan would get a Conservative, and British Columbia would get two Conservatives and a New Democrat.

The standings in the Senate would be:
Liberal 59
Conservative 30
NDP 8
PC 3
Ind 5

If the prime minister simply appoints 18 Tories, the standings would be:
Liberal 58
Conservative 38
PC 3
NDP 1
Ind 5

-- marginally better for the Tories but not worth the PR nightmare of going back on the pledge to appoint based on the will of Canadians.

Food for thought for my Conservative friends who may have the ear of the Prime Minister.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A dangerous precedent?

Martha Hall Findlay looks at the prorogation angle differently than I had ever considered.

If the governor general does allow a prorogation, would it be the end of responsible government in Canada?

The premise of responsible government is that the executive remains in office only so long as it enjoys the support of the responsible house of the legislature. If the governor general allows a prorogation and sets a precedent that a prime minister can seek and receive a prorogation anytime, even when it less than two weeks after a throne speech, with no legislation passed. This would allow any future prime minister to simply prorogue whenever a confidence vote they fear losing is scheduled.

This is a very interesting and fair point. One I'm surprised I've never heard mentioned by one of the countless "experts" who've been on TV the past week.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Coalition cabinet revised

So we've learned that it will be a cabinet of 25: the prime minister plus 24 ministers.

Thus, I'm revising my list, and also because I left out John McCallum who I think almost certainly would be in the cabinet.

Dion did not say whether or not leadership candidates would be in the cabinet, but I cannot imagine he would put them in. In order to be fair, they should all be given 'equal' portfolios, which is essentially impossible. Both Rae and Ignatieff would be logical choices for foreign minister, but that job is not an ideal one for running a leadership campaign. Finance minister is not a logical choice for either of them. The NDP is purported to be getting a major economic portfolio. Suddenly, there isn't much available for either Rae or Ignatieff and we've not even thought of LeBlanc. So I'd say it is easier for all if the leadership candidates focus on running for leader.

Finally, it is important to note that this coalition is not a done deal; the prime minister may yet request a prorogation (which the governor general may deny) or, if the government falls, an election (which she may grant).

All that in mind, my revised guess. An asterisk denotes a change from my earlier thoughts.

Prime Minister of Canada
Rt. Hon. Stéphane Dion

Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Hon. Wayne Easter

Minister of Canadian Heritage
Hon. Marc Garneau

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Hon. Navdeep Bains

Minister of the Environment
Hon. Thomas Mulcair

Minister of Finance
Hon. Scott Brison

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
Hon. Jack Harris

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for International Cooperation
Hon. Ralph Goodale

Minister of Health
Hon. Ken Dryden

Minister of Human Resources and Social Development and Minister of Labour
Hon. Judy Wasylycia-Leis

Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Hon. Irwin Cotler

Minister of Industry
Rt. Hon. Jack Layton

Minister of International Trade
Hon. Gerard Kennedy

Minister of Justice
Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh*

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Hon. Libby Davies

Leader of the Government in the Senate
Hon. Claudette Tardiff

Minister of National Defence
Hon. John McCallum*

Minister of National Revenue
Hon. Bryon Wilfert

Minister of Natural Resources
Hon. Linda Duncan

Minister of Public Safety
Hon. Marlene Jennings

Minister of Public Works and Government Services
Hon. Mark Holland

Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs
Hon. Denis Coderre

Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
Hon. Martha Hall Findlay

President of the Treasury Board
Hon. David McGuinty

Minister of Veterans Affairs
Hon. Brian Murphy*

Coalition cabinet

I just can't resist a prediction.

Presuming that the government does fall, and the governor-general does call on Stéphane Dion to form a government, and that media reports indicating there will be eighteen Liberals and six New Democrats in the cabinet, and that the Finance Minister will be a Liberal are all correct, here is my prediction for the coalition cabinet:

Prime Minister of Canada
Rt. Hon. Stéphane Dion

Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Hon. Wayne Easter

Minister of Canadian Heritage
Hon. Marc Garneau

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Hon. Navdeep Bains

Minister of the Environment
Hon. Thomas Mulcair

Minister of Finance
Hon. Scott Brison

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
Hon. Jack Harris

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for International Cooperation
Hon. Ralph Goodale

Minister of Health
Hon. Ken Dryden

Minister of Human Resources and Social Development and Minister of Labour
Hon. Judy Wasylyvia-Leis

Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Hon. Irwin Cotler

Minister of Industry
Rt. Hon. Jack Layton

Minister of International Trade
Hon. Gerard Kennedy

Minister of Justice
Hon. Brian Murphy

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Hon. Libby Davies

Leader of the Government in the Senate
Hon. Claudette Tardiff

Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs
Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh

Minister of National Revenue
Hon. Bryon Wilfert

Minister of Natural Resources
Hon. Linda Duncan

Minister of Public Safety
Hon. Marlene Jennings

Minister of Public Works and Government Services
Hon. Mark Holland

Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs
Hon. Denis Coderre

Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
Hon. Martha Hall Findlay

President of the Treasury Board
Hon. David McGuinty

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Coalition making

As a nerd who specializes his geekdom in areas of political history, I am very interested in the current matters of confidence and coalition in Ottawa.

First I must point out to my friends in the media that in their coverage, they've missed the most recent example of coalition in Canada - the NDP-Liberal coalition in Saskatchewan formed in 1999. Also, I'm surprised they've not referred to the long lasting Liberal-Conservative coalitions in BC from the 30s into the 50s or the Liberal-Progressive coalitions of Manitoba. There is lots of precedent for coalition in Canada at the provincial level. However, there is little precedent for the situation before us today.

The most analagous Canadian example is the King-Byng affair of 1926 but it is still not a very good example. In that case, the incumbent Liberals won less seats than the Conservatives in the 1925 election but neither had a majority, the second largest party - the Liberals - continued in office with the support of the third-party Progressives. When that government was on the verge of falling - it had not actually fallen - Prime Minister King went to the GG and asked for an election. The GG's correct response was that the government had not fallen, the election had been only 9 months earlier, and a larger single party was willing to form a government.

In the situation before us today, the party with the most seats would be defeated and a coalition of two parties who, even taken together, have considerably fewer seats, would propose to govern. That is quite a different situation. Moreover, Harper's last minority began with 124 seats and, in terms of share of seats in the commons, it was the smallest majority ever. The Liberal-NDP coalition minority would beat that record having only 114 seats or 37% of the total.

I've not researched it, but the only comparable example I can think of would be the 1975 dismisal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in Australia. In that case, Whitlam's budget had been defeated in the Senate and the opposition argued that that was an expression of non-confidence, while Whitlam said only the House could weigh in on a matter of confidence. Whitlam refused to resign or call for elections as, in his view, he enjoyed the confidence of parliament due to his support in the lower house. The GG disagreed, fired Whitlam and named the opposition leader as PM. As Whitlam had a majority in the lower house, the new PM's first act was to call for an election.
That doesnt quite map on to the situation before us, but it is the closest example I can think of.

Anyway, all that aside, due to the unprecedented proximity of the potential loss of confidence to the last election, the GG would likely have to give the Liberal-NDP coalition a shot despite its lack of historical precedent either for or against.

On to the make up of the coalition itself, I think that there is a fairly easy way to iron out a coalition agreement without getting bogged down in details.

There should be a cabinet of 30 - 20 of whom are Liberals, including the PM, and 10 of whom are New Democrats. Portfolios should be chosen by the parties in order with the NDP chosing the first portfolio and the Liberals picking the next two and continuing until the 29 non-prime ministerial posts are assigned.

An agreement should be made that ministers would enjoy their regular authority over matters of administration but that decisions of the cabinet would require a formal vote with a 2/3s majority in favour. This would prevent the need for policy matters to be totally hashed out in advance as the government would need some degree of consensus between the two partners going forward.

This sort of agreement would allow the parties to focus on their response to the economic situation, including measures that would allow for the Bloc to support the measure and subsequently the government on and on subsequent matters of confidence without having the agreement fall apart on the details.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Irony

From Canadian Press:
Paul Martin says Rae Ignatieff rivalry won't divide Liberal party

Former prime minister Paul Martin says he's confident the Liberal party will emerge united despite sparring between its two principal leadership hopefuls.

Martin, whose own acrimonious relationship with former prime minister Jean Chretien eventually drove him from his post as finance minister, says front-runners Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae won't divide the party.

He says the Liberal party has learned its lesson and he's sure that once the new leader is chosen the party will be united.

Memories of past confrontations surfaced last week when Rae boycotted the party's closed-door, all-candidates' forum because chief rival Ignatieff wouldn't agree to lift the veil of secrecy.

That was the first public spat between candidates vying to replace Stephane Dion as leader after a disastrous defeat in last month's election.

It disappointed many in the party, who had hoped to avoid the kind of sniping that characterized the hard-fought campaign in which Dion came up the middle to win as a compromise candidate in the 2006 leadership race.

Neither Rae nor Ignatieff could take a clear majority last time around.

On Monday, Martin said all the candidates were ``outstanding'' but declined to endorse any one of them, saying he will remain a spectator.

New Brunswick's Dominic LeBlanc is also up for the party's top job.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lest We Forget

I'll be heading out soon to a local Remembrance Day ceremony, I hope you're doing the same.

A few things to think about:
  • 28% of all eligible Canadians fought in World War I
  • 36% of all eligible Canadians fought in World War II
  • almost all of these were volunteers
  • would you put your life on the line to help our neighbour, let alone an idea, to survive?
  • would you like to live under a Nazi dictatorship?
To all those Canadians and other citizens of the world who risked or gave their lives in these and other wars, including the one they're fighting today, thank you.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama wins

At 9:11 p.m. Atlantic standard time, based on the NBC and ABC calls* in the state of Pennsylvania, I am prepared to call the election for Senator Obama of Illinois.

I do not foresee a scenario where Senator McCain of Arizona can lose xxx and win a majority of electoral votes.

* - CNN and CBS still haven't called it, but I am unconvinced that McCain can win without Pennsylvania.

A bit tight

A little tighter than I expected in the early results, but time will tell. CBS is calling New Hampshire for Obama which makes a McCain win very difficult. He would have to sweep the remaining seven of my eight swing states and pick up Nevada.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Tomorrow's watching guide tonight!

Quite interestingly there are four swing states whose polls close early. The results in these states, which close at 8 p.m. Atlantic time, could predict the election. They are:
  • New Hampshire
  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • Florida
With the possible exception of New Hampshire, it is very unlikely that the networks will be able to call any of these states based on exit polls alone.

If Obama wins either North Carolina or Florida, he has almost certainly won the election. If he wins them both, he has won the election, probably in a landslide.

If McCain holds those two southern states and wins one of New Hampshire and Virginia, he has a small chance to win. If he wins all four stay tuned for a long night.

My read of the map shows Obama with 266 electoral votes in the bag, meaning McCain has to win all of the states in play (8 by my reading) to win the election.

Here is my take of the map:


McCain is likely to win some of these states, particularly West Virginia and to a lesser extent Indiana, Missouri and North Carolina. However, he must win them all to win the election.

It is also possible that Obama may win some of the states coloured red but, should he win any of them, he'll likely win all of the swing states as well and be headed to a landslide in the neighbourhood of 400 electoral votes.

It is also possible that McCain may win some of the states coloured blue, i.e. Nevada and Virginia (and if his campaign schedule is to be believed and the polls discarded Iowa). However, if he wins any of those states, I will expect him to have run the table with these and they'll be gravy.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

U.S. election prediction

Back in April, I drew up six potential electoral maps. These were my predictions for the likely, best and worst case scenarios in McCain-Clinton and McCain-Obama match ups.

As I mentioned in my post the other day, McCain has badly fumbled the campaign and I forsee the best case scenario coming for Barack Obama.

My April scenario for Obama included him picking up Alaska in the best case, which is not going to happen thanks to Palin being on the ticket. So rather than the 325-213 win I thought would be his best case, I'll make it 322-216.

Obama will hold all Kerry states plus pick up: Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The death of anonymous posting

I have avoided this for over two years, but today I have turned off anonymous comments. I try to reply to every substantive comment made on this blog but there is no fun in having to respond to nonsense.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Grasping defeat from the jaws of victory

For much of the political year, I've been indicating why I thought John McCain was going to win the presidential election. I have been accused of being a far-right conservative and a racist for doing so. This has caused me a great deal of pause.

It is unfortunate that so many people caught up by Obama's very impressive rhetorical ability have become unable to see past the hype and imagine that there would be anyone, anywhere who would oppose him for any legitimate reasons.

It is also unfortunate that people would be so caught up in Obamamania that they couldn't see the difference between looking at a political situation impartially and commenting on what one thought would happen, and support for the outcome one predicted.

Obama has many gifts and many flaws, just like any candidate (or any person for that matter). Based on the history of recent U.S. elections, and the country's right-leaning nature, I believed that Obama was unlikely to be elected. I have never seen race as a major issue in the contest because race would only affect voting preferences of significant numbers of people in states the Democrats were unlikely to win anyway.

However, John McCain has done his best to lose this race. As a friend of mine once said in refernece to John Tory's loss to Dalton McGuinty in 2007, he seems to have grasped defeat from the jaws of victory.

Nate Silver's brilliant site fivethirtyeight.com says McCain has a 3.3% chance of victory. I remain convinced that Americans will have a hard time voting for a liberal with a thin record so I would say it is more like a 20% chance, but still not very likely.

McCain's people, all but admitting defeat, are trying to blame the loss on the financial crisis and the weak Republican brand thanks to the Bush years. They forget however that at one time the media was willing to give McCain the benefit of the doubt, he was branded as a maverick beholden to no party, started the summer with higher favourability ratings than Obama and led in polls as recently as late September. George Bush and Wall Street did not lose this election for McCain, McCain did.

McCain's support of immigration reform could have bought him unprecedented support among Hispanics. Instead, he looks likely to get far less votes there than Bush did in either 2000 or 2004. This is but one example where he made a huge strategic error. This would have locked Nevada and New Mexico into his column and put California into the single digits forcing Obama to spend big money there to keep that Democratic-must-win-state blue. McCain did backtrack on his position during the primary, but after he locked it up, without flip-flopping, he could have easily stated a position that honoured his record and appealed to Hispanics.

On March 4, McCain wrapped up the nomination. On March 5, he should have been in Southern California announcing his immigration and border security platform. With Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mike Huckabee at his side (both supporters of immigration reform, one an independent figure and one popular with the base) he should have said:

"Over the past year, this country has had a profound debate on the question of immigration and border security. I have been in the middle of this debate and I have crossed party lines to try to find a solution. My friends, I was the first to admit during the primary campaign that the proposal put forward by myself and others become unsaleable. It was not what Americans wanted and during the primary, I said if it came back to the Senate I would vote against it because I must reflect the will of the people. What Americans have told me is, though they are compassionate, they also have legitimate concerns about their economic and personal security so long as our borders are not secure. If elected, I will ask the Congress to pass the Comprehensive Immigration and Border Security Reform Act. This law would incorporate the best of our bill from last June but would also ensure that while we treated those people who have come to this country to seek opportunity and the American dream with respect, we would make sure that no one else ever entered this country illegally."

With that, he would have regained credibility among the immigration reform lobby without going back on his statements during the primary.

Then he should have set out to tour around 10 or so Democratic states that he could win under some scenario, including several more visits to California. This would have put the scare into Democrats who were already fretting their long primary.

Some of these activities may have scared the base, and something would have had to have been done to counter-balance that. One of the big mistakes McCain made was that he wasted all kinds of time in the spring trying to make up with the base and then he announced a base-inspiring vice-presidential pick. He should have done one or the other, not both. A big centrist maverick tour of Democratic states could have put him solidly in the lead in polls by the time the Democratic primary wrapped up. He then could have followed it by picking a base vice-presidential candidate, such as Sarah Palin who, I think, if handled differently, could have inspired the base (as she has) without damaging McCain's credibility. But this should have been in June or early July, with the campaign doing a week or two of setting the tone for the vice-presidential pick.

The next big mistake made by the McCain campaign has been their abrasive relationship with the media. The media, which McCain himself used to call his "base", feel betrayed. Moreover, the restrictive, scripted campaign regimen that has been imposed on him has not been to his liking and it has made him grumpy which has help paint a very unhelpful caricature. There is a great web-editorial on ABC News that talks about how far the media has turned against McCain, check it out.

Is McCain going to win? Very unlikely. Could he have won? Very easily. Whose fault is it? The McCain campaign.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

McCain's TSN turning point?

Tonight Barack Obama and John McCain meet for their second debate. After Sarah Palin's better-than-expected debate performance last week, the Republican ticket has started to move back up in the polls.

The format of tonight's debate is a town-hall meeting. McCain is an expert at these, very comfortable and well experienced in them. Obama prefers a more structured/professional format.

If McCain can pull off a good night tonight, he will appear to be more in touch with regular people and could shift the momentum of the race. This could be the TSN turning point folks...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hot Rod

Riding projection update

After talking it over with some folks and watching the coverage, I am now convinced that Rodney Weston will be a strong candidate for the Conservatives in Saint John. He has been campaigning quite effectively against the Liberal Green Shift plan, which would impose a carbon tax. Weston's argument is that the choice is between a new refinery and new jobs or a carbon tax and no new jobs.

The CBC the other day did a streeter and the folks they talked to were unanimously against the Liberals. Green Shift may be enough to shift the 4% away from Paul Zed that would give the Tories a win.

I am moving this from a leans Liberal hold to leans Conservative gain.

Monday, September 08, 2008

A new election blog...

NB taxpayer and I are teaming up for the 40th general election. You can find our musings at New Brunswickers Paint the Political Picture - a bit of a play on our historical name, "The Picture Province".

My first entry is my previously promised Atlantic Ridings to Watch.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

And we're off!

The election has been called and the leaders have been making their first appeals on TV.

Stephen Harper was good both in speech and questions. He has also lost a lot of weight! His campaign would seem to be focussed on the government's record and leadership. No surprise there. The press in both his and Dion's question sessions seemed very focussed on the use of "family man" in Harper's commercials. He had a decent answer, saying he isn't arguing that others aren't family men but his advisors have pointed out that Canadians don't know him as a father, etc and it is worthwhile to inform people of that side of his persona.

Stéphane Dion used a teleprompter for his speech and the result was to show a stark difference between his ability in English when reading a speech and when answering unrehersed questions. I am not sure it would be wise for the Liberals to have him use a teleprompter in the future except when giving speeches where questions will not follow. Dion has boiled his "three pillars: economic prosperity, social justice and sustainability" down to the catchier "richer, fairer and greener Canada". Dion said "I am as nationalistic as Gilles Duceppe" which could come back to haunt him in an attack ad.

Gilles Duceppe had the same appeal as usual (only we will stand up for Quebec!) but the meat was a bit light because of the nationalistic things Harper's government has done ("nation within a nation", UNESCO, etc). Duceppe reminded people of Harper's 2003 support of the Iraq War which may be a wise approach for him to take.

Neither CTV nor CBC cut to Jack Layton has he began his remarks, CBC didn't even acknowledge that he existed while CTV showed him in a side box but did not cut to him. I am not sure why this was, I expect we will soon learn as the NDP complains. I left to write this post and am not sure if they cut to him or if they will cut to Elizabeth May.

Riding Watch

Two high profile Conservative candidates have been announced in New Brunswick. Former cabinet minister and Lord chief of staff Rodney Weston will run in Saint John while Downtown Moncton CEO and former Lord riding assistant Daniel Allain will run in Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe. Preliminarily, I am not totally sure what to make of these.

In Saint John, Paul Zed only won by four points (43% to 39%) in 2006, but Weston, while well regarded by the political class in Fredericton and by the media, was defeated in his attempt for re-election in 2003 despite representing a conservative riding. Weston is from rural Saint John County and his old riding (Saint John-Fundy) only includes a small part of the city. I am not sure how well he would play in the city proper and the higher-end suburbs. I'll keep an eye on this but this may actually be to Zed's benefit.

In Moncton, having a fluently bilingual individual with a record of public service inside and outside of politics may be formidable. The difference between Bradshaw in 2004 and Murphy in 2006 was 11% (59% vs. 48%). Allain certainly faces an uphill battle but this is interesting enough for me to move the riding from safe Liberal to leans Liberal.

In the next few days I will do a less detailed round-up of Atlantic ridings.

Monday, September 01, 2008

A brief look at the federal ridings

Back in August 2006, this site got started with coverage of the provincial election. Things really got rolling with my post, the ironically named, a brief look at the ridings which I continually updated throughout the campaign before making a final prediction.

It is beyond my level of free time, ability and interest to do something similar for all of Canada's 308 ridings. But, though I have gotten somewhat away from commenting on local politics, I just can't resist doing something similar for New Brunswick's 10 federal ridings.

So, here is my non-partisan evaluation of the lay of the land, in alphabetical order:

Acadie—Bathurst - currently NDP

When Yvon Godin upset Doug Young in this riding in 1997 many people, including yours truly, believed it was a one-time fluke. Godin's three successful re-elections (two against heavyweights) has proved me quite wrong. This is an easy call: safe NDP.
Beausejour - currently Liberal

In 1984, Brian Mulroney swept every seat in New Brunswick except for this one. Though I often hear chattering about whether or not Dominic LeBlanc pays enough attention to the little things and the Conservatives have not yet announced their candidate, this should be a safe Liberal seat.
Fredericton - currently Liberal *incumbent retiring

This should be one of the more interesting races in the province. A Liberal seat since 1993, and a solid Conservative seat for 4 decades before that, this is the only open seat in the province, with the retirement of former minister Andy Scott. The Liberals have nominated airport CEO David Innes and the Conservatives have nominated PC MLA and former provincial minister Keith Ashfield. Both candidates are "boring old white guys."

Ashfield represents a provincial riding which lies almost entirely in New Brunswick Southwest, though its largest community (New Maryland) is in this federal riding and Ashfield himself hails from Lincoln. He is a long time party guy (ran unsuccessfully in 1991 before winning in 1999, 2003 and 2006) and knows how things are done. He has been campaigning almost full time since being nominated.

Innes is more of a political neophyte, and has not been able to devote as much time to campaigning as Ashfield has, due to a busy day job.

The outcome of the election could depend on whether left-wing voters vote NDP or stay home (a likely Conservative win) or vote Liberal. Andy Scott survived some tough races in 1997 and 2000 thanks in large part to low NDP votes and a split right-wing vote. The latter will not be a factor in 2006, the former remains a question. The NDP vote in the past four elections has been 21%, 17%, 7% and 13%. If the NDP stays in the 20s, it will be hard, though not impossible, for the Liberals to win.

The NDP does not currently have a candidate, the one they had previously nominated stepped down and endorsed Innes the day he was nominated. Notwithstanding that, I will very tentatively class this as leans Conservative.
Fundy—Royal - currently Conservative

The only thing to dispute about this riding is whether it is the safest Conservative seat in Atlantic Canada or if New Brunswick Southwest is. Safe Conservative.
Madawaska—Restigouche - currently Liberal

This is something of a bellweather - both of its predecessors (Madawaska-Victoria and Restigouche-Chaleur) tended to go with the government. In 2006, the current incarnation missed that, but just by a hair. We'll be seeing a re-match between incumbent Liberal J.C. D'Amours and 1980s-era provinicial minister Jean-Pierre Ouellet.

The popular NDP candidate, Rodolphe Martin, is not running this time. Normally that would be good news for the Liberals but Martin's votes came from blue collar forestry workers who are just as likely (or maybe more likely) to go to Ouellet as they are to D'Amours. I would say this seat leans Conservative.
Miramichi - currently Liberal

This is a fairly safe Liberal seat. Charlie Hubbard had reason to worry earlier in the cycle when the Conservatives had nominated well known and well liked businessman Bill Tozer. Tozer has since stepped down and, barring another remarkable candidate, the seat should stay safely Liberal.
Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe - currently Liberal

Although former mayor Brian Murphy doesn't have quite the stranglehold his predecessor Claudette Bradshaw had here, it is hard to see this riding being painted any colour other than red on election day. To hedge, the Conservatives have not yet named a candidate, but it likely doesn't matter except in terms of margin. Safe Liberal. Moved to leans Liberal on September 7.
New Brunswick Southwest - currently Conservative

The only thing to dispute about this riding is whether it is the safest Conservative seat in Atlantic Canada or if Fundy—Royal is. Safe Conservative.
Saint John - currently Liberal

Who was the quote, "the reports of my death are greatly exagerated," attributed to? If you said Paul Zed, I wouldn't be surprised. Many pundits wrote Zed off for dead in 2004 and 2006 but he won both times. Margaret-Ann Blaney or Trevor Holder could be game changers but, for now, this seat seems to lean Liberal. Changed to leans Conservative on September 10.
Tobique—Mactaquac - currently Conservative

Though this seat went Conservative by only 336 votes in 2006, it shouldn't be too much trouble for Mike Allen to hold on. This is a solidly "small c" conservative riding, giving the combined forces of the PCs and the Reformers over 60% in both 1997 and 2000. Once wrestled away from the Liberals, it is hard to imagine this seat returning to them any time in the near future. To make matters worse, the Liberals had a candidate nominated for nearly a year but he has since stepped down (this past winter) and no new candidate has been nominated. Safe Conservative.
So the preliminary count is:

Conservative 5 (+2)
3 safe + 2 lean

Liberal 4 (-2)
3 safe + 1 lean

NDP 1 (n/c)
1 safe + 0 lean

UPDATE:
Sept. 7: CPC 5 (3+2), Lib 4 (2+2), NDP 1 (1+0)
Sept. 10: CPC 6 (3+3), Lib 3 (2+1), NDP 1 (1+0)


Am I missing something? Am I out to lunch?

Please set me straight either in the comments or at nbpolitico@gmail.com.

Friday, August 29, 2008

I was right?

When I went out on a limb on Tuesday and suggested Sarah Palin would make sense as McCain's vp pick, I was expecting to be wrong, as usual.

It seems I was right. Who thought it possible.

I think Palin is a brilliant pick for McCain. As I said on Tuesday:

In addition to the candidates I've named as possibilities for the spot, I'd like to add Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska. A lot may depend on the result of today's primary where the state's Lieutenant Governor, and Palin protogé, is running against the incumbent Republican for the right to run for the U.S. House of Representatives. Palin may be reluctant to accept the veep nomination if it means both her and Sean Parnell are running for national office which would mean, in the event they both won, control of the state would be handed back to the corrupt wing of the Alaska Republican Party she has recently defeated for control (UPDATE: This may not be as big of a concern, Palin's attorney general would succeed as governor, though this individual would arguably be more vulnerable than Palin or Parnell and the idea of both running for national office would still be a concern).

Palin is a strong candidate in a lot of ways. She is a reformer who has beaten down the corruption in Alaska which is so severe it would make most of the dirty tricksters in Washington blush. She is an outsider which will help provide credibility to McCain's argument that he would change how things are done. She is a woman who could help McCain make further inroads into the alienated Clinton voter and who has a compelling life story. The religious right would be totally energized by her candidacy and might turn out in similar-to-2004-numbers for a mother of five who is ardently pro-life.

If the Obama campaign or other Democrats want to criticize her for being inexperienced, McCain can say "I've served my country my whole life, first in the Navy, then in the House and then in the Senate. I want to be your president because I have always put my country first and through my experience, I think I can continue to do that as your president. Senator Obama, an outsider without a lot of experience, is criticizing Governor Palin's experience. Her experience is that of having battled corruption her whole time in public life and as serving as chief executive of a state. Senator Obama's experience consists of giving a popular speech in 2002, getting elected to the Senate in a race that was virtually non-contetested and after a year of few notable accomplishments there announcing his candidacy for president."

McCain's people will ask which is better - a change candidate without the experience to lead who needs to pick a Washington insider as his running mate in order to be sure he can govern or a change candidate with decades of service to country who is able to pick a less experienced running-mate, who has more experience (they could argue) than Obama, who can bring a real outsiders perspective to the West Wing.
According to Jonathan Martin, the Obama people are already mocking her lack of experience. But, I think the Obama campaign might want to note an old proverb about glass houses.

First, Sarah Palin is running for vice president, while Obama is running for president. There should be a higher threshold for the latter, but I think that the argument could be made that Palin is nearly as experienced as Obama.

Obama has no experience as a chief executive of any arm of government. Most of Palin's experience is at the executive level. The Obama campaign is mocking that she represented a community of 5-7 thousand people (it grew substantially during her tenure), but Obama's folks should note she led that community, not just represented it, while Obama's experience comes largely from being the non-executive representative of a Senate district with about 60,000 people. When one is discussing the leadership of a country of 300,000,000 people the difference between 6,000 and 60,000 is minute.

So let's do a little bit of a blow-by-blow comparison.

From 1992-1996, Palin was a non-executive member of town council, Obama had no political experience

From 1997-2004, Palin was the chief executive of her town, ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor and served for two years as Ethics Commissioner on the state utility regulator, Obama was a non-executive member of the Illinois Senate and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of representatives

From 2005-2008, Palin continued as chief executive of her town until becoming governor in December 2006 where she has served since, Obama was a non-executive member of the U.S. Senate and after two years ran essentially full-time for president

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Oops, I did it again

No surprise here folks, I got a prediction wrong. Though I had a good chance to nuance, I instead opted to double-down on my May prediction that there was no way Obama would pick Biden. As I often say at this stage, while wiping the egg away, my predictions are biased in terms of what I think would make the most sense and I have a hard time predicting that someone will make the wrong choice.

As potentially the biggest fan of Joe Biden in the world (or at least in Canada), it pains me to reiterate that I think he was a bone-headed choice for Obama. McCain launched within hours an ad using Biden against Obama. There is lots more roll around to do a series of ads. A candidate with Biden's strengths who didn't run against Obama and wasn't as tied to today's Washington (i.e. Sam Nunn) would have made more sense to me. It would have brought nearly as much to the ticket without doing collateral damage. However, in the end, I think the wisest choice would have been to double-down on change with Kathleen Sebelius.

The Obama campaign thought otherwise, and time will tell whether it works out for them.

In the coming days McCain will make his choice. I'll open myself up for another big fall: I think his floating the idea of Ridge or Lieberman (pro-choicers) is meant to show to the general electorate that he is not close-minded on that question and would not disqualify someone simply on those grounds, and will say so when he makes his announcement. However, in the end he won't actually choose a pro-choice candidate so as to keep the base behind him.

In addition to the candidates I've named as possibilities for the spot, I'd like to add Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska. A lot may depend on the result of today's primary where the state's Lieutenant Governor, and Palin protogé, is running against the incumbent Republican for the right to run for the U.S. House of Representatives. Palin may be reluctant to accept the veep nomination if it means both her and Sean Parnell are running for national office which would mean, in the event they both won, control of the state would be handed back to the corrupt wing of the Alaska Republican Party she has recently defeated for control (UPDATE: This may not be as big of a concern, Palin's attorney general would succeed as governor, though this individual would arguably be more vulnerable than Palin or Parnell and the idea of both running for national office would still be a concern).

Palin is a strong candidate in a lot of ways. She is a reformer who has beaten down the corruption in Alaska which is so severe it would make most of the dirty tricksters in Washington blush. She is an outsider which will help provide credibility to McCain's argument that he would change how things are done. She is a woman who could help McCain make further inroads into the alienated Clinton voter and who has a compelling life story. The religious right would be totally energized by her candidacy and might turn out in similar-to-2004-numbers for a mother of five who is ardently pro-life.

If the Obama campaign or other Democrats want to criticize her for being inexperienced, McCain can say "I've served my country my whole life, first in the Navy, then in the House and then in the Senate. I want to be your president because I have always put my country first and through my experience, I think I can continue to do that as your president. Senator Obama, an outsider without a lot of experience, is criticizing Governor Palin's experience. Her experience is that of having battled corruption her whole time in public life and as serving as chief executive of a state. Senator Obama's experience consists of giving a popular speech in 2002, getting elected to the Senate in a race that was virtually non-contetested and after a year of few notable accomplishments there announcing his candidacy for president."

McCain's people will ask which is better - a change candidate without the experience to lead who needs to pick a Washington insider as his running mate in order to be sure he can govern or a change candidate with decades of service to country who is able to pick a less experienced running-mate, who has more experience (they could argue) than Obama, who can bring a real outsiders perspective to the West Wing.

I'll slot her into my list and slightly re-jig it. Rob Portman's star has faded somewhat and I think McCain is more apt to pick some like Palin or South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford - people who can help him take some ownership of the change message through McCain's record on reform / anti-corruption-and-pork-barrelling.

1. Sanford (raised from third)


2. Huntsman (no change)


3. Palin (new addition)


4. Portman (bumped from first)


5. Dole (bumped from fourth)


6. Watts (bumped from fifth)


7. Jindal (bumped from sixth)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

VEEP!

So we're getting really close now. I am still confident on my lists posted ages ago. I posted McCain's veep possibilities back in February and Obama's in May, though I amended them slightly in early July. The only subsequent change is that Edwards should be, for obvious reasons, struck from the Obama list.

It looks like Obama will announce his pick tomorrow morning and McCain will on his birthday on August 29.

My top ranked pick since July 7 (and previously #2 pick), Kathleen Sebelius, has seen her name drop off of the radar but I do think she has a strong shot at being the pick. This thinking was reinforced by this tip I received today:

OBAMA WILL PICK SEBELIUS

Text msg/email announcement at 7 a.m. Eastern, Wednesday.

Event in Wichita, Kansas at 8 a.m. local (9 a.m. Eastern). Wichita is the birthplace of Obama's mother.

Obama and Sebelius will then fly to Virginia for an event at 11:30 a.m. and proceed on a tour of red states that may swing to Obama including Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Colorado.
What About Biden?

Anyone that reads this blog, knows that it is no secret that I am a HUGE fan of Joe Biden. Unfortunately though, despite the hype, I don't think Biden is a likely pick. As I wrote in May:

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)
I am a big fan of Joe Biden. I think he would have been an excellent presidential candidate this year but his campaign was DOA. Those who argue Biden would make a good VP candidate for Obama cite his many years of experience. He was elected to the Senate in 1972 before turning the required-to-serve-age of 30. He was considered to be almost certainly the Secretary of State had John Kerry won in 2004. He has served as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and currenly serves as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. His plan to bring peace to Iraq has been lauded and was endorsed by a bipartisan super majority of the Senate. Some have even suggested, sort of sarcastically, that Obama needs a racist as a running mate and that Biden fits that bill from his comments about Obama when Biden entered the presidential race.

However, I don't think Biden is the right guy for Obama. Though he needs someone with experience, he needs it in the form of someone who can also be credibly billed as a "Washington outsider". Obama's whole campaign, particularly when postured against McCain, is that McCain has served in the Senate too long and is out of touch with America. Biden has served almost twice as long as McCain, so his candidacy would make no sense.
In any event, exciting political times these next few months. I'll try to ramp my posts back up to cover it.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Obama veep update 2

NBTaxpayer's pick, and my 4th ranked pick, Jim Webb has withdrawn his name from consideration.

So, to update, here is my current list:


1. Katherine Sebelius (moved up one due to Clark being dropped down)


2. Sam Nunn (moved up one due to Clark being dropped down)


3. Wes Clark (dropped from 1st)


4. Howard Dean (new addition)


5. Lincoln Chafee (no change)


6. John Edwards (no change)


7. Hillary Clinton (no change)


8. Blanche Lincoln (no change)


9. Evan Bayh (no change)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Obama veep update

Back in May, I wrote about my thoughts for the Obama veepstakes. The most likely candidate in my view was Wes Clark, who has probably knocked himself down the ladder a bit over the past few days making sensible but politically incorrect statements about John McCain's military service vis-à-vis qualifications for the presidency. Though some argue it may help him.

In my view, it hurts him a bit, but Clark is still a compelling vice-presidential choice for Obama. I would move him down from the number 1 slot to 3rd or 4th (behind Nunn or Webb).

This is however a name I didn't consider before that I should throw in there.

Howard Dean

This sounds very irrational at first glance, but Howard Dean is a lot different than the caricature that has been drawn by the media.

Dean governed Vermont as a moderate and the Progressive Party grew stronger under his tenure due to his weakness on the left. Did you know that was endorsed eight times by the national rifle association? He also said he wanted to be the candidate for "guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks". This could be helpful in the Mountain West where gun control is the one thing holding Obama back and in the winnable states in the South (Virginia primarily but also North Carolina, Arkansas, Florida).

He was also a fiscal conservative who insisted on balanced budgets. Anti-pork much in the same vein as McCain.

He is an outsider and reformer which fits Obama's message and has already been vetted by the national media. He and Obama share a 50-state competitiveness goal for the Democratic Party.

Dean could be a real outlier in the veepstakes. Watch for it.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Morons

I am a little flabbergasted at the short-sightedness of the CBC on potentially dropping the Hockey Night in Canada theme apparently due to an inability to afford it (h/t Kits via Spink About It)

The last time CBC tried to drop an icon because of budgetary concerns there was chaos. No offense Ron, but I think the HNIC theme is even more iconic than you. Watch out CBC, trouble is a comin'.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Barack H. Obama Junior Veepstakes

As I promised way back on February 20, and delivered for John Sidney McCain III on February 24, here is my take on Barack Obama's likely vice-presidential candidate candidates and the selection process therefore.

As I said in looking at McCain's choices:

It is often said that the vice president serves two purposes: 1) to balance the ticket, 2) DO NO HARM! (to win more votes than he or she would lose).
What does Obama need for balance? Region, age, experience, race and party unity could all come in to play. A lot of parallels have been drawn between Obama's campaign and that of Bill Clinton in 1992. In that case, Clinton largely doubled down on the balance question by presenting another young southern centrist, though one with more federal and foreign experience. Obama might chose another young reformer, to reinforce his message of changing Washington while running against a man who has worked on Capitol Hill since the late 1970s. On the other hand, when running against a well experienced, older war hero, he might opt for a more traditional balance choice in chosing someone older, more experienced who is either a war hero or who has military credentials.

I'll lay out all of the candidates I've been able to find listed, and add some of my own, and give a brief run down on my thoughts. I'll then give you a final ranked list of who I think is most likely.

Without further ado, in alphabetical order:

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN)
Bayh is an attractive candidate having served for eight years as governor of Indiana, a traditionally Republican state which some have argued could be in play under the right circumstances, and as its senator since 1999. After briefly considering his own run for the White House, he endorsed and has been a very strong supporter of Hillary Clinton and thus could bring unity to the ticket. He has served on both the Armed Forces and Intelligence committees in the Senate giving him national security credentials, however he has never served in the military.

On the other hand, Bayh is noted as being not very charismatic and has likely tarnished his creditials in terms of being able to swing Indiana in favour of the top of the ticket after Clinton barely won his state despite demographic favourability and momentum coming out of Pennsylvania.

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)
I am a big fan of Joe Biden. I think he would have been an excellent presidential candidate this year but his campaign was DOA. Those who argue Biden would make a good VP candidate for Obama cite his many years of experience. He was elected to the Senate in 1972 before turning the required-to-serve-age of 30. He was considered to be almost certainly the Secretary of State had John Kerry won in 2004. He has served as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and currenly serves as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. His plan to bring peace to Iraq has been lauded and was endorsed by a bipartisan super majority of the Senate. Some have even suggested, sort of sarcastically, that Obama needs a racist as a running mate and that Biden fits that bill from his comments about Obama when Biden entered the presidential race.

However, I don't think Biden is the right guy for Obama. Though he needs someone with experience, he needs it in the form of someone who can also be credibly billed as a "Washington outsider". Obama's whole campaign, particularly when postured against McCain, is that McCain has served in the Senate too long and is out of touch with America. Biden has served almost twice as long as McCain, so his candidacy would make no sense.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I-NY)
For all of the opposite reasons that Biden doesn't make sense, Bloomberg doesn't make sense either. Obama is going to be painted by the Republicans as an out-of-touch liberal. Bloomberg makes the cariacture complete. Besides, I can't imagine he would be interested in being vice president anyway.

Fmr. Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ)
Bradley makes a lot of sense on paper. He has many years of experience in Washington, yet is viewed as an outsider. His chances however would be somewhat damaged due to his left-wing campaign for president in 2000 in which he abandoned some of his previously moderate positions. The fact that he has endorsed Obama and opposed the establishment candidate Gore in 2000 would make it difficult for him to help unify with the Clinton wing of the party.

However, he would have an outside chance of being nominated as a candidate who meshes with Obama, has an outsider image and has experience.

Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA)
This name has been floated, as near as I can tell, only because Casey was the senior Pennsylvanian to support Obama. However, he has been in the Senate for barely a year and is pro-life. I can't imagine him being picked.

Fmr. Sen. Lincoln Chafee (I-RI)
A former liberal Republican senator from New England who, after being defeated for being a Republican, became independent and endorsed Obama's presidential candidacy could actually be an interesting choice for Obama. One of the biggest challenges that Obama faces will be McCain's ability to attract Rockefeller Republicans who have voted Democratic in recent elections, particularly in states like Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New Jersey which I believe McCain puts in play. Chafee, unlike McCain, is a real liberal Republican and could neutralize that effect. And, indeed, Chafee is a strong liberal (by American standards) like Obama so they would mesh well on policy issues. However, due to his having been a Republican senator until 2006, he would be prevented from being painted as too far left. This could be a real darkhorse choice for Obama.

Ret. Gen. Wes Clark (D-AR)
Notwithstanding his poor showing in the 2004 Democratic primaries, Wes Clark is likely a frontrunner, or at least should be, for the veep slot on the Obama ticket. Clark has oodles of military experience to bring to the ticket without Washington baggage and has been a strong Clinton supporter who could help unify the party. Moreover, a southern White former general goes a long was to neutralize John McCain's military credentials and the fears of southern White traditional Democrats who are reluctant to support Obama.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
This makes so little sense and so much sense all at the same time, that Politico.com actually posted a piece by the same authors arguing both sides of the issue.

I don't think that Clinton would be legitimately interested in this route. And her long standing divisive role in Washington politics takes away from Obama's central message. Obama would be better served to nominate an outsider like Clark who supported Clinton but doesn't have her baggage.

That said however, Obama will face a lot of pressure to offer the slot to Clinton and Clinton, if she truly believes Obama is going to lose either way, would be smart to run with him so as to innoculate herself against claims that she tried to sabotage his campaign and thus enable her to get the nomination in 2012.

Fmr. Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD)
Back in January, I floated his name for this gig. However, the more I think about it, the less likely I think it is. Daschle was the ultimate insider (Senate majority leader), yet had little play on military and foreign policy issues while in the Senate. He has been a long time Obama supporter and thus cannot unify the party. The Republicans have ample anti-Daschle research done and proved effective from their successful campaign to defeat him in 2004. Not a wise pick.

Fmr. Sen. John Edwards (D-NC)
John Edwards would be a good choice. He appeals to the same rural white voters that Clinton has been beating Obama for, but much more so. In fact, had Edwards not dropped when he did, I wonder if he might be running second now and Clinton third. Edwards proved a very able candidate both in the nomination in 2004 and 2008 and as the vice-presidential candidate in 2004. John Kerry supporters lament the fact that he was not loyal enough after Kerry threw away the 2004 campaign but, afterall, Kerry threw away the 2004 campaign. [Much of this post, including this blurb on Edwards has been in the works for a while. I wrote about Edwards before he endorsed Obama. I think that that endorsement makes Edwards a less likely veep pick because he alienated Clinton supporters by trying to strong-arm her out of the race with his strategically timed endorsement of Obama. He would however remain a very strong choice for the reasons stated here.]

Fmr. VP Al Gore (D-TN)
The fact that this totally unlikely scenario gets any ink makes me laugh. Gore might top a ticket with Obama as veep if there was a brokered convention (which there won't be) but he certainly won't run for a third vice-presidential term. Period.

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)
Barack Obama is against the Iraq War. Chuck Hagel is against the Iraq War. On every single other issue imagable, the liberal Democrat and conservative Republican strongly disagree. This idea has little basis in reality and, like Gore, ink should not be wasted on the proposition. Hagel is a likely pick however for an Obama cabinet were he to win the presidency.

Fmr. Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN)
Lee Hamilton, as former vice-chair of the commission on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, certainly has strong national security credentials. However he is old, frail looking and without charisma. Obama could get as good (or nearly as good) credentials by looking elsewhere.

Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA)
Tim Kaine may be the only person on this list with less-to-equal experience compared to Barack Obama. Kaine has four years as lieutentant governor and about two as governor. Obama has six years as state senator and about three as federal senator. Kaine would certainly reinforce the outsider image presented by Obama but it would also reinforce his image as lacking depth on national security and so forth. Moreover, it would hand the governorship of Democratic-trending Virginia over to the Republican lieutentant governor.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
Senator Lincoln is from Arkansas and has strong appeal to rural, southern Whites. She is female and a supporter of Hillary Clinton from the former Clinton home state. These factors make her a possibility, but her lack of foreign policy experience does not help Obama balance the ticket.

Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ)
No national security experience. No charisma. Villain of the right for having represented the infamous woman who accused Clarence Thomas of being sexist during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. I can't imagine she would be being considered if she weren't a female governor.

Fmr. Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA)
Nunn mused about running for president himself if a "post-partisan" candidate didn't emerge. Nunn and his co-conspirators (Bloomberg, David Boren, etc) now seem to have settled on Obama as their candidate. This would seem to make Nunn a good fit. Add to this the fact that Nunn has impeccible national security credentials and has been gone from Washington long enough to make him a plausible outsider and he starts to seem a very good fit. Moreover, if Obama is serious about making a play in Georgia and the Carolinas, this is the man to help him.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)
The only time I saw this floated was in reference to an odd plan in which Hillary was convinced to drop out in exchange for the Senate leadership and Reid was convinced to give up the Senate leadership in exchange for the vice presidential nomination. That doesn't make a lot of sense. However, Reid is a compelling candidate for other reasons. He is a popular moderate from the Mountain West which Obama wants to put in play. Carrying Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico is key to an Obama victory plan.

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM)
Richardson on the surface seems a compelling candidate. A former presidential contender himself with virtually unending experience in all things government who has (or had before endorsing Obama) close ties to the Clintons. Another plus, he is the governor of a swing state that Obama probably needs to win and a strong leader among Latinos where Obama needs to do some work. However, Richardson has a lot of baggage including lying for decades about being drafted to MLB and allegations of sexual harrassment.

Fmr. Rep. Tim Roemer (D-IN)
Roemer served in Washington for a number of years but was never considered an insider. He has considerable national security experience having been the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the commission on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Roemer would not be necessarily very palatable to Democrats due to his pro-life and general moderate-to-conservative stances on a number of issues.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS)
Unlike the other female governor on this list, Sebelius has a real shot at being on Obama's ticket. Sebelius is a rising star in the Democratic Party and has been twice elected governor of Kansas despite being a liberal-to-moderate on issues such as gay marriage, abortion and capital punishment. She would bring strong executive experience to the ticket without diminishing its credential as being "outside the beltway". She also brings advantages to the ticket being a native Ohioan (her father was in fact that governor of that state) and having summered her whole life in Michigan - two large states that Obama needs to carry. Though it would be unlikely she could put Kansas in play, she could be helpful in critical states like Iowa and Missouri. Finally, she is a Catholic and Obama has struggled with that key demographic in the primaries.

The only drawbacks to a Sebelius candidacy would be her lack of foreign policy experience, which the ticket needs, and superficially her awkward last name.

Gov. Ted Strickland (D-OH)
Strickland is the governor of a key swing state and was a big Clinton supporter. These are the only real advantages I can see him bringing to the ticket. He has been governor for barely a year and prior to that was in Congress where he didn't have any roles relating to national security.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT)
Though Schweitzer is very charismatic and comes from a state carried by Bill Clinton in 1992, he is not a very attractive candidate for vice president. He is a conservative Democrat who would not be embraced by the convention and Montana will not be in play - Clinton only carried it due to high numbers of votes received by Ross Perot at the expense of George H. W. Bush.

Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA)
Though Webb was just elected to the Senate in 2006, he has lots of experience to make him an attractive candidate for Obama. He is a veteran and served in the Reagan administration in senior defence roles before switching from Republican to Democrat in recent years. He is an authentic and popular southerner. However, he does not do a lot for party unity.

Ret. Gen. Anthony Zinni (D-VA or PA)
Zinni has no real political experience and Wes Clark could bring as much to the table in a more effective manner.

The likely picks, in order of likelihood in my view:

1. Wes Clark


2. Katherine Sebelius


3. Sam Nunn


4. Jim Webb


5. Lincoln Chafee


6. John Edwards


7. Hillary Clinton


8. Blanche Lincoln


9. Evan Bayh

Friday, April 25, 2008

U.S. politics: Prospects for November

I have written before that I think Hillary Clinton is a far stronger candidate in the fall than Barack Obama. I have also written before that Obama has already wrapped up the nomination and Clinton's recent win in Pennsylvania doesn't change that.

But, in case I'm wrong, and if the "superdelegates" want to change things, here is the picture I see of how the race could unfold for either of the candidates. I expect that McCain would win in the fall against either Democrat. McCain's ability to appeal to moderate voters puts California and New England in play. I am not saying McCain will win in either (the former state or the latter region) but his ability to put them in play will distract the Democrats from expanding beyond their base from the 2000 and 2004 elections which means, to me, their likely best hope is status quo (a narrow Republican win). A lot of outside observers forget that moderates and conservatives make up the vast majority of the American electorate; unlike in Canada and Europe there is no large base of liberals. A Republican who can draw out large numbers of conservatives can win on that basis alone (see Bush, George W. and Rove, Karl), one that can appeal to moderates and still draw significant conservative support is unstoppable.

Now mind you 2008 is a far different animal than 2000 or 2004 and, certainly, in theory, the Democrats have lots of opportunities to expand. However, my view is that they'll have to leave those opportunities on the table because they'll be too busy defending their own turf from a McCain assault.

Thanks to the handy tool at 270towin.com, I have created six electoral college maps. For each of the two remaining Democratic candidates, I have created a worst-case, best-case and likely-case scenario based on my analysis of the race.

Barack Obama vs. John McCain

This is the race we are likely to see play out. The biggest problem Obama has is that the Democrats' two biggest states (California and New York) may be in play in an Obama vs. McCain race.

Obama has a problem with Hispanic voters. McCain was the principle sponsor of immigration reforms that are very popular with Hispanics. McCain comes from a state that has many Hispanics and he won among them by a 3-to-1 margin in his 2004 Senate race. Hispanics are a key voting bloc in California. Despite conventional wisdom, the Democrats are not unstopable in California. In 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush, perhaps the most unpopular Republican in the history of that state, lost by only 12% and 9% respectively. McCain, who can count on some fairly strong Hispanic support and the enthusiastic support of popular governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, would only need to swing 5% of the Democratic vote his way to win. It is not all that likely that McCain could pull this off, but to prevent it Obama will have to spend a lot of time and money in the largest, most expensive state.

In New York, the Democrats tend to win by larger margins, but a recent poll shows that McCain would narrowly defeat both Clinton and Obama. Clinton has a natural base there and could recover more easily from the brusing primary fight to defeat McCain in the fall. Obama, on the other hand, would have a lot of work to do to make up a deficit in the second largest and second most expensive blue state.

Keeping this in mind, I would envision the following as the likely scenario in a McCain vs. Obama fight:


In this scenario Obama actually picks up three states from 2004: Iowa (where he is very popular and McCain is not), Nevada (where McCain's long support of using Yucca Mountain for nuclear waste storage will hurt him) and Virginia (which is trending Democratic and would be pushed over the top by enthusiasm among Black voters).

However, he is heavily damaged by losing the following: Michigan (McCain is popular and well-known here from strong primary campaigns in 2000 and 2008; Obama has written off this state time and time again in the 2008 primary process), New Hampshire (New Hampshire hearts McCain), New Jersey (this is a Democratic state that always seems to be on the verge of going Republican in recent elections [Kerry by only 7% in '04], McCain's appeal to moderates should push it over the edge), Pennsylvania (Obama has just proved that despite out-campaigning and outspending an opponent he can't seem to win here).

All of the above sounds fairly reasonable, no? The electoral college result in such a scenario: McCain 318 over Obama 220 in a landslide.

Now for the best case scenario for Obama:


In this scenario, Obama holds everything from 2004 and expands into Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio and Virginia. Three of these states I had him win in the likely scenario, under this best case scenario he also wins Colorado (trending Democratic and Obama polls well there), New Mexico (this is a real stretch, but it is a competitive state having gone for Gore in 2000 and Bush in 2004 and Obama could keep the teeter-totter going), Missouri (always a close race and has gone with the winner in every election since 1904, save one), Ohio (the economy is bad and Obama could manage to tie McCain to Bush). Under this scenario he would also hold Michigan and Pennsylvania (for the same reason he won Ohio), New Hamphire (the Democrats did so well in 2006 they have a strong institutional advantage) and New Jersey (McCain gets tied to Bush and deemed too conservative to attract moderates).

The result would be an Obama landslide similar to that I project for McCain in the likely scenario: 325-213. However, that is the very best case and I think no more likely than the worst case I'll lay out below which would be a total electoral blow out.



Under this scenario, an admittedly worst-case for Obama, the Democrat would win only his home state of Illonois, liberal Vermont and ultra-Democratic Washington, D.C. The electoral vote total would be 511 to 27. Ouch.

This may sound totally unrealistic to you but this is not a totally unheard of result for a Republican candidate. In 1972, the not-to-popular Richard Nixon crushed George McGovern 520 to 17. I've often compared Obama to McGovern as they both have the same base: enthusiastic anti-war youth. I drew out this map and began writing this post before I read this intelligent piece which draws the comparison as well. A similar result was seen in 1984, when Ronald Reagan was re-elected with 525 electoral votes to 13. Indeed, even in 1980, when Reagan (who is similar to McCain in his style and appeal to moderates) beat an incumbent president by an electoral college margin of 489 to 49.

So Obama's best-case scenario is to beat McCain by the same margin that McCain is likely to beat Obama by. His worst case scenario is to be crushed horribly. While I still think Clinton would likely lose to McCain, I'll lay out why I think it would be closer and how she could prevent the crushing defeat that Obama might face and indeed would have a better chance to win.

Hillary Clinton vs. John McCain

Running this race out is like playing fantasy baseball because it is so incredibly unlikely that Clinton can win the nomination. I would say that Barack Obama at this point has at least an 80% chance of winning the nomination and Clinton is probably in the neighbourhood of 10%. Right now, I think if for some reason Obama seemed unpalatable, a compromise candidate at the convention would be as likely as Clinton taking it. (See Thatcher vs. Heseltine for an example of the scorced-earth result Clinton could face by tearing down Obama).

Anyway, Clinton's unliklihood of winning the nomination is quite different from her strength as a general election candidate. Clinton's base in New York keeps that state out of play and she doesn't have a Hispanic problem thus preventing any realistic appeal from McCain to this group. This in and of itself means that, with Clinton as the nominee, the Democrats would not have to waste resources to hold their two biggest states totalling an astonishing 84 electoral votes (31% of the total needed to win the election) between them. Even if we assume that Clinton would trail Obama in fundraising prowess in the general election by as large a margin as she does in the primary (which is unlikely, though Obama could likely still raise more, it wouldn't be as stark a difference) this factor alone erases any monetary discrepency.

In the meantime, Clinton (and her husband, the campaign-surrogate-in-chief who would be much better suited to campaign against a Republican than a fellow Democrat) would be far stronger in the "rust belt" allowing her to hold Michigan and Pennsylvania and put Ohio in play for the Democrats. This strength would also put Florida into strong contention, a large state tha Obama has zero hope of winning. Also, Arkansas, which has become a reliable Republican state since the Clintons left office, would be strongly in the Democratic column.

This is the main difference. In an Obama vs. McCain race, McCain plays offense. In a Clinton vs. McCain race, McCain plays defence.

Despite this, I think McCain's overriding strengths would still allow him to win, though by a narrower margin.



The result I predict would be a nail-biter of 275 for McCain to 263 for Clinton (compare with 318 to 220 in McCain vs. Obama).

In this scenario, Clinton would pick up a lot of turf from the Republicans. Adding to the 2004 Democratic totals, she would win: Arkansas (Clinton home state), Missouri (swing state with fond memories of Clinton), Nevada (McCain has a Yucca Monutain problem), New Mexico (ultra-close state where Clinton doesn't have a Hispanic problem), Ohio (fond memories of Clinton) and West Virginia (Clinton appeal to rural white traditional Democratic voters).

McCain would make history, becoming only the second president since 1904 to lose Missouri and win the White House and, I believe, the only Republican to ever win the White House without carrying Ohio. He would do this largely due to his strength among voters who like "mavericks" and Clinton's weakness in that area. On top of 2004 states for the Republicans, McCain would carry: Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Wisconsin.

This race would be a tremendous one with close races in Florida (narrowly lost by Clinton), Missouri (narrowly lost by McCain) and Oregon (narrowly lost by McCain).

I can't underline enough how much better a scenario this is for Democrats than with Obama as the nominee. In an Obama-McCain race, I give McCain a 70+% chance of victory. In a Clinton-McCain race, McCain's odds are more like 55% or a bit less.

Now, here's how Clinton could win big:


This map may look familiar to you because it is a lot like the maps we saw in the 1990s under her husband. Indeed, by coincidence, though the map isn't exactly the same, the electoral college result precisely matches the 1996 race between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole.

In this race, vs. 2004, Clinton would hold all of the Democratic states but she would also pick up: Arkansas (see above [wins it even in the likely scenario]), Florida (even under the likely scenario, Clinton would come close here), Iowa (neither Clinton or McCain are popular here, but it would swing her way if she was winning big), Kentucky (the Clintons' experience in Arkansas has taught them how to campaign in a state like this), Louisiana (thanks to Katrina, this one would be pretty marginal but she could skid through if she was doing well overall), Missouri (see above), Nevada (see above), New Mexico (see above), Ohio (see above), Tennessee (see Kentucky), Virginia (this state is trending Democratic and though it doesn't favour Clinton as much as Obama, she could win it if she ran strong) and West Virginia (see above).

That sort of outcome should make Democrats' mouths water.

And even in the worst case scenario, it's not that bad...


Ok, it is pretty bad for the Democrats. But compared to Obama's worst case it is ok. She would lose by a large margin of 395 to 143.

Here Clinton would still manage to pick up Arkansas, but McCain would sweep through many of the remaing states. The only thing saving Clinton from the Obama wipeout scenario is her ability to hold California and New York under all scenarios.

The moral of the story? McCain is a very formidable candidate. While Obama has the potential to open new doors for Democrats in states where they've not recently been strong, this is not the election to try such a strategy. It would have been great against Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole or George W. Bush. But Republicans like Reagan and McCain have such a strong appeal to so many people that the only way to beat them is to focus on your own strengths.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A shocking statistic

We all know that Barack Obama has been picking up more than his fair share of the Black vote in most states but the results of the CNN exit poll in the deep south state of Mississippi give one pause:



Clinton takes 3/4 Whites and Obama takes 9/10 Blacks. A real stark contrast; one that makes me very grateful that (at least I'd like to think) we live in a country where racial tensions pale in comparison.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

U.S. politics: So now what?

Last night gave me two consecutive humiliating losses in the prediction game. After being way out to lunch in Alberta, Hillary Clinton blew the lid off of my projections. She managed to win Rhode Island by a far larger margin than I guessed, won Ohio, won Texas (which I said she might do) and may even win the Texas Caucus - with only a third of the results counted, she trails Obama by 4 points, about the same margin she trailed him by when that number of primary votes had been counted.

Hillary Clinton had a very good night last night. In fact, if she pulls off a win in the Texas caucuses, it may well be the best possible night she could have had. That said though, it is still over for her and she will take her surge last night and use it to really painfully drag out the inevitable.

Right now Obama can rightfully point out that, since Tsunami Tuesday, he has won 12 states and Clinton has won 3. Let's look at what's coming up:

Saturday - Wyoming Caucus
Tuesday - Mississippi Primary
Six Tuesday's later - Pennsylvania Primary

Obama has won a plurality of delegates in every single caucus to date. With the exception of Nevada, he has won them all convincingly. Indeed, if you don't count Nevada or Iowa (which was a three-way race), he has won them all by 20 points or more, in many cases much more. Even if Clinton goes into Wyoming and campaigns hard with a huge surge of momentum, Obama will win by at least 10 points. And she isn't likely to focus too much time there.

Obama repeated his feat last night, which we've seen over and over, of winning almost 90% of the Black vote. Mississippi has the largest proportion of Blacks of any state; he will carry it hugely.

So, after next Tuesday, there will be a six week unfettered slog fest in Pennsylvania during which time Obama will be able to tout a record of 14-3, which is pretty good. Clinton may or may not be able to win Pennsylvania. Let's assume she does, the journey thereafter isn't impossible but still is not an easy one for her:

Indiana (Clinton favoured), North Carolina (Obama favoured), West Virginia (Clinton favoured), Kentucky (Clinton favoured), Oregon (Obama favoured), Montana (toss up), South Dakota (toss up)

It is now mathematically impossible (barring one of the candidates dropping out and allowing the other one to sweep the remaining primaries by huge margins) for either candidate to win enough delegates to clinch the nomination without the support of superdelegates. Regardless of what happens, Obama will go into the convention with an edge among pledged delegates. Therefore Clinton can only win by winning a very large majority of superdelegates. The only way she can do that is to a) run the table, beating Obama in states he is expected to win, thus giving superdelegates the view that Obama was a fad that cannot last; b) for Obama to be engulfed in a huge scandal. Neither of these outcomes seems likely to me.

Moving on to the Republican race. Last night, John McCain accrued enough delegates to convince the media to call him the de facto nominee. Mike Huckabee withdrew from the race and George W. Bush is set to endorse McCain at the White House today. I am not sure what McCain's plan is, but if I were advising him, I would send him out on a big campaign tour. The reason why I have said that John McCain will win the general election easily is that he can put states in play that have not been in play for the Republicans since at least 1988. He may not win many, or even any, of these states, but by campaigning there he will force the Democrats to do so as well, leaving the "swing states" unattended and thus in the Republican column.

McCain should go on a straight talk 50-state tour and visit, if even only briefly, each of the 50 states to hammer home the message that he plans to compete across the board. During this tour, he should focus very strongly on Democratic states that he can win or at least put in a good fight:

The swing states that have gone for Democrats in recent years: New Hampshire, Iowa, New Mexico and Pennsylvania. States that have been consistently Democratic but the Republicans do well: Michigan, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Minnesota. And then some strong Democratic states where McCain can play: Connecticut (where he leads in the polls over both Obama and Clinton!), California, Oregon, Maine, Maryland, etc.

This will scare the living daylights out of Democrats and probably lead to an even bloodier Democratic primary where elders supporting each candidate will loudly try to force the opposite one out of the race so that McCain will not go unanswered in those states they have won and need to win.

Regardless, it should be interesting.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

This week's predictions

Monday in Alberta:
  • Ed Stemach's Progressive Conservatives: 47 (majority)

  • Kevin Taft's Alberta Liberals: 26

  • Paul Hinman's Wildrose Alliance: 5

  • Brian Mason's NDP: 4

  • Others: 1
Tuesday in America:
  • Texas: Clinton may win the popular vote in the primary but not necessarily the delegates; Obama will win the most votes and most delegates in the caucus. Confused? It's complicated.

  • Ohio: Obama will win narrowly.

  • Rhode Island: Clinton will win by single digits.

  • Vermont: Obama will win by double digits.
If Clinton manages to win both Ohio and Texas (I doubt she can win Texas outright, but it could be enough of a moral victory for her to move on if she wins the primary), Clinton should beware the Ides of March(ish) as she is sure to lose BIG in both Mississippi and Wyonming on March 11. I am not sure how she holds on for the six week campaign in Pennsylvania if she has lost 14 out of 17 contests in a row, fought one to a draw and won only two (this would assume a win in Ohio and Rhode Island and a win in the Texas primary but loss in the caucus and delegate total). As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, it is all over for Clinton, it is just a matter of when. If she is smart, she will go gracefully and politely after Tuesday, which will still allow her to either a) have a good shot at the nomination in 2012; or b) become Senate Majority Leader, which has always seemed to be her "plan B". If she sticks in much longer, I think she loses both of those fall back options.