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State of the Nation

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9 years 46 weeks ago

January 4, 2008

18:21

The campaign volunteers fanning out around Iowa and New Hampshire probably are finding themselves in some odd, out-of-the-way towns. One of the rewards of a life spent on the move is that you get to see a lot of colorful small towns. For a long time it's been a hobby of mine to collect colorful place names, and this is as good an occasion as any to celebrate off-beat nomenclature.

Began as a child noticing strange names. I didn't really think twice about the Indian toponyms of New England, which seemed natural and inevitable. But I was intrigued by mangled mispronunciations of borrowed foreign names, such as Cairo IL, Havre de Grace, and Calais (in both ME and VT it rhymes with 'palace'). While living abroad I started to collect what I'd call laugh-out-loud place names such as Great Snoring in England, as well as Giggleswick, Nasty, and Leatherhead (an arch-conservative town). Germany has its Anger (yeah, I know the word means "meadow", but still...).

But it's the U.S. that has something close to a gazillion peculiar place names. My region of Pennsylvania boasts a Grimsville (actually rather a pleasant little town), a Krumsville (speaks for itself), and a Virginville (this one seems to have a lot of promise until you've actually gotten familiar with it). The latter is a considerable distance from Intercourse. There's an Oddville, KY and Frostproof, FL (not today perhaps). My parents live in NH close to a Lummoxville Road, which suggests there once was a village by that name. But for sheer descriptive power it's hard to top the name of a small town we used to live near in NC: Tick Bite.

Anyone who can beat that deserves some major mojo.

Categories: Politics
17:42

That's what Ohio voters will be able to ask at the primary, thanks to a recent directive issued by Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner:

Franklin County and all other Ohio counties that use touch-screen voting systems must provide a paper ballot to any voter who asks for one in the March 4 primary, the state's chief elections officer has ordered.

Poll workers won't be told to offer the option to voters but must provide a ballot if requested to help "avoid any loss of confidence by voters that their ballot has been accurately cast or recorded," a directive from Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said. The paper ballots would be counted by optical scanners at county elections boards.

An imperfect system, yes, but a welcomed band-aid approach in a state that was notorious plagued by touch-screen machine irregularities in 2004.

Categories: Politics
16:54

Right-wing blogworld is abuzz with something we here haven't heard a great deal about: the possibility that George W. Bush may issue an executive order directing federal agencies not to execute spending directives designated as "earmarks" in the recently-signed omnibus appropriations bill. The idea appears to have surfaced first, perhaps unsurprisingly, at the Heritage Foundation.

The vehicle of the executive order got a brief mention a day later in the Washington Post's coverage of Bush's general (alleged) dissatisfaction with the number and cost of those earmarks, but it's not entirely clear from what the White House has said whether or not they believe an executive order is necessary to do this.

Calling Congress irresponsible for lumping 11 spending bills into a single, 1,400-page measure nearly three months into the fiscal year, he added, "Another thing that's not responsible is the number of earmarks that Congress included." While Congress "made some progress" curbing pet projects, he said that "they have not made enough progress."

Bush said he asked Jim Nussle, director of the Office of Management and Budget, to draft possible actions to take, but he would not elaborate. One option, aides said, would be to ignore the vast majority of earmarks that are included only in conference reports rather than in the appropriations bill itself.

As with most of this Congress' exercises of "power," this "administration's" first instinct is simply to ignore it, and for the "unitary executive" to exercise its "inherent power" to just direct the agencies not to spend the money as outlined by Congress. Can they do that? Well, in their world, of course, they can and will do anything they want until some larger force makes them stop.

But what about in the real world? Here's what the Congressional Research Service (CRS) has to say (PDF):

Most of these earmarks, however, are included in the Senate and House Appropriations Committees’ reports explaining a measure as reported. These earmarks are also frequently included in the managers’ joint explanatory statement (or managers’ statement) that accompanies the conference report.  Committee reports and managers’ statements do not have statutory force; departments and agencies are not legally bound by their declarations.  These documents do, however, explain congressional intent and frequently have effect because departments and agencies must justify their budget requests annually to the Appropriations Committees. [Emphasis added.]

Note that this is something we addressed in a slightly different context back in July, when we were looking at how effective a hypothetical defunding of the Iraq occupation might be. Another CRS report, "A Defense Budget Primer" (PDF) told us:

In a strict legal sense nothing requires DOD to adhere either to the recommendations in congressional reports or to its own program budget proposals in spending money appropriated by Congress at the line item level.

That's pretty much true of most earmarks and applicable to the other agencies as well. But if they're not binding, what makes them stick under normal circumstances? The first CRS report cited above (titled "Earmarks and Limitations in Appropriations Bills") tells us the agencies comply because they must justify their budget requests to Congress each year. The  "Defense Budget Primer" puts it in more concrete terms:

A failure to spend funds in accordance with the detailed justification materials and committee reports, however, could cause Congress to lose confidence in the requests and might result in reduced appropriations or in line item appropriations acts.

George W. Bush, of course, does not give a shit about what happens to next year's appropriations. And frankly, I can't imagine that he'd be all that worried about the agencies being punished by Congress even if he weren't on his way out of office next year, because no one on Capitol Hill has given him any reason to expect any kind of serious, constitutional-level pushback on anything, anyway.

It's also worth noting that we've been down this road before, so it can't come as a complete shock. NRO's Phil Kerpen notes that this move has precedent. And, surprise! It comes from the Reagan administration. So this sort of power-grabbing, it appears, doesn't really just go away forever when we elect a Democratic president. It just goes into stasis to be revived by the next Republican. The result of that standoff, by the way?

Appropriators and other members of Congress predictably were outraged, and they used every lever of power available to retaliate. (They even threatened to de-fund Miller’s Office of Management and Budget.) Reagan, who had his hands full with Iran-Contra, ultimately backed down.

Another tick mark in the long and growing count of reasons why aggressive, forceful push-back from Congress across the board is absolutely critical to the effective exercise of power. But don't get me started.

So if most earmarks aren't legally binding, what's the attraction of the executive order? Well, for one thing, as the CRS report on earmarks and limitations notes, there are many different kinds of things included under the broadest definition of "earmarks," and that includes some that actually are included in the text of appropriations bills, and therefore are legally binding. Further, as the Heritage Foundation's memo notes:

The appropriations bills' texts contain several sections stating that a certain amount of a program's budget "shall be available for projects and in the amounts specified in the explanatory statement described in section...." This may effectively make many of the earmarks in the conference reports legally binding.

The attraction of the executive order, then, is its ability to (possibly) overcome the binding language in the bill.

Would Bush do it? There are very few political reasons for him not to. He certainly has no reason to believe the Congress is prepared to vindicate its prerogatives against him (see our long and ongoing discussion of Congressional "subpoena power"). And any punishment exacted on the agencies in next year's appropriations is someone else's problem.

Besides, consider the optics of a Democratic Congress finally roused to go to war with this president... over earmarks. Yes, it's the practical incarnation of the "power of the purse," and even defensible as a method (under normal circumstances) of insisting on Congressional spending priorities over the president's. But earmarks are also most familiar to the voting public by its more vulgar name: "pork."

So it should come as no surprise that Bush just may be testing the waters in a backhanded fashion as we speak:

Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) authored a provision that scrapped the pilot program allowing Mexican long-haul trucks into the United States. It was included in the Omnibus Budget Bill that was signed by President Bush just before the Christmas break.

So far so good, right?

Well, last week the Department of Transportation announced it will continue the pilot program anyway. And this, my friends, is called breaking a federal law.

The DOT, is trying to get around this bipartisan mandate by saying the law says that funds will not be used to establish a pilot program. "Well," they say, "we don’t need to establish a pilot program; we already have one ... So keep em rolling!"

The DOT, it should be noted, may indeed have a point. Dorgan's provision may well have been poorly drafted, leaving them enough wiggle room to pull this end-around. But the subtext here may be an effort to gauge Congressional resolve when it sees its "power of the purse" tested, first on grounds justifiable with creative legal interpretations, and later, just maybe, in an outright frontal assault.

And if those earmarks are now in danger after all, now would be the time to recall what Appropriations Chairman David Obey suggested in mid-December:

A $522 billion omnibus spending bill had been scheduled for a House vote Tuesday, but House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D., Wis.) abruptly announced he won’t file it tonight and recommended substantial revisions before a floor vote. Obey said he is prepared to cut billions from domestic programs and eliminating all home-state projects or spending "earmarks" favored by lawmakers in both parties.

"I’m not in the business of trying to pave the way for $70 billion or $90 billion for Iraq for $10 billion in table scraps," Obey said. "We asked Bush to compromise. He has chosen to go the confrontation route."

"I want no linkage what-so-ever between domestic [spending] and the war. I want the war to be dealt with totally on its own. We shouldn’t be trading off domestic priorities for the war."

That bill, as we all know, did indeed get pared down on the earmark side, and the way was in fact paved for $70 billion for Iraq.

How "politically savvy" and "realistic" is that strategic retreat looking now?

As our friend occams hatchet put it, "What part of 'cataclysmic fight to the death' did you not understand?"

Categories: Politics
16:20

Mine:

Entrance Poll:

         Predicted   Actual

Obama       29.5       35
Edwards     26         23
Clinton     27         27


Final Results:
          Predicted   Actual

Obama       36         38
Edwards     31         30
Clinton     28         29

Not a bad job, considering I pulled out the numbers from you know where. Good thing I didn't try to predict the GOP's results. I thought (wishfully) that Romney would pull it off.

So how good were your predictions?

Categories: Politics
15:49

I know you are perfect and infallible and yours is the word of God. Furthermore, I know that those pictures you have of your editors in "compromising" positions ensures that they'll never ask you to, well, adhere to things such as "truth", "reality", and "accuracy". It's a sweet gig, no doubt. It's tough being hampered by reality and all.

Now you, like many media outlets, "reported" today that I had endorsed Obama:

The blogger Daily Kos endorsed Obama at first then, frustrated by the lack of fire, un-endorsed him.

Aside from that silly "the blogger Daily Kos" thing (should I call you "the columnist Time Magazine"?), on the merits, fact is I never endorsed Obama. In fact, I said very clearly that I think the notion of "endorsements" is stupid, since I trust my readers to decide for themselves who they like. They aren't automatons begging for direction from me. And since I didn't endorse him, it logically follows that I couldn't "unendorse" him.

In fairness, you aren't the only person to have made this mistake. I saw it in three or four other media outlets. But when I pointed out their mistake, every single one of them quickly offered corrections. Will you?

Furthermore, I know you hate to think about stuff before you write, given that you don't have the time nor expertise to, well, do your job. But are you sure about this?

The second-tier candidates, who need 15% of the total at each caucus to win delegates, found themselves overwhelmed by armies — the very well run organizations of Obama, Clinton and Edwards. Forced to make second choices, the overwhelming majority chose Obama.

Let's look at the entrance poll results:

Obama 35
Clinton 27
Edwards 23

The final results:

Obama 38
Edwards 30
Clinton 29

Tell me, Joe, who got the second-choice votes? It really is simple arithmetic.

Given your track record, I'm having a hard time seeing you admitting your mistakes. Your ego has prevented that from happening in the past. But it sure would be nice to be proven wrong. Unlike you, I don't have a problem with that.

Hugs and kisses,

kos

p.s. My frustrations with Obama had nothing to do with "lack of fire" from Obama, but from my perception (arguable, of course) that he was directing his fire at progressives and progressive institutions. But again, I'm well aware that expecting the truth and accuracy from you is a fools errand.

Categories: Politics
15:12

In Polling Interlude Part I, we talked about house effects and holiday polling in Iowa. In Part II, we talked about respected IA polls and the Des Moines Register's topping the list based on 2004 results.

Well, guess what? Despite skepticism this year, DMR [and J. Anne Selzer, their pollster] nailed some very important points. They predicted the 200K Dem turnout, and they predicted (Obama 32%, Clinton 25%, Edwards 24%) the Obama win (final numbers: Obama 38%, Clinton 29%, Edwards 30%). Obama hit 35% in the IA entrance poll.

Other important factors picked up by DMR:

In an indication of the Obama's appeal in Iowa, Democratic caucusgoers say they prefer change and unity over other leadership characteristics.

52% of Dem delegates listed "can bring change" as the top candidate quality in the Entrance Poll (Obama grabbed 51% of that vote), while only 20% listed experience (Hillary got 49% of them). Edwards got the 'cares about people' (19%) delegates and the 'electability' group (only 8%).

All of the three leaders in Iowa draw a majority of support from new caucusgoers, although Obama benefits the most with 72 percent of his support coming from first-timers compared to 58 percent of Clinton's and 55 percent of Edwards'supporters.

According to the Entrance Poll, 57% of attendees were first time caucus goers (Obama won that group, by 41% to 29% Clinton and 18% Edwards).

On the GOP side, DMR had Huckabee 32% to Romney 26% (and had McCain 3d at  13%, Thompson at 9%, even though Thompson edged out McCain by a whisker).

Huckabee, whose Iowa support has soared in the last two months, continues to benefit from the backing of religious conservatives who have an affinity for him and the values he espouses:

- Nearly one-half of likely Republican caucusgoers describe themselves as born-again or fundamentalist Christians. Within that large group, Huckabee outpolls Romney, 47 percent to 20 percent. Romney has faced questions about his religious standing as a Mormon.

In the Entrance Poll, GOP voters described themselves as very conservative (45%) and somewhat conservative (43%) and they went for Huckabee, as did Religious Beliefs of Candidate Matter delegates... A Great Deal (36%) and Somewhat (31%) went for Huck; Romney won the Not Much (18%) and Not At All (15%) factions. (Iowa is not New Hampshire).

More analysis on the Entrance poll is here by Gary Langer (ABC).

Broad interest in "change" among Democrats and overwhelming Republican turnout by evangelicals spelled victory for a pair of insurgents in Thursday's Iowa caucuses, opening the 2008 election cycle with a boom.

Young voters, independents and first-time caucus-goers lifted Barack Obama to victory, along with his theme of a new direction in politics. Remarkably, he even beat Hillary Clinton among women.

After reading the DMR poll for both sides, no one should have been surprised by either of the results. Kudos to them, and the fact that even they didn't nail every number tells us a great deal about how difficult Iowa is to poll.

Categories: Politics
13:46

One thing that's fascinating about the Huckabee victory in Iowa is that the movement that propelled him to victory -- his Evangelical base -- is truly a cousin to our very own people-powered movement.

Think about it -- these are people that have been taken for granted by the Republican establishment, exploited and overworked, only to receive crumbs and empty rhetoric in return. Sick of being marginalized except when needed (election time), they have taken matters into their own hands and -- without money or "professional" organization, propelled their candidate (one of their own) to victory.

I've noted before that Ron Paul was the only people-powered candidate in the race, based on his ridiculous fundraising ($19 million in Q4 alone). But his movement was only able to muster 10 percent in Iowa. It's a new movement, like the Dean people in 2004, and still finding its sea legs in an unfamiliar environment. They can deliver lawn signs and stickers, but it might be a while before they can deliver votes (we'll see how they do in New Hampshire). Huckabee's supporters may not have much scratch to give, but boy can they deliver bodies and votes, even when facing a full frontal assault from their party's establishment. Being part of the GOP's ground game going on two decades, they've got the experience to actually deliver.

They are true gate crashers, perhaps the best we've seen in politics. Trained as worker bees for the GOP machine, they are now throwing off those shackles and attempting a veritable coup.

Their impudence has of course earned the fierce enmity of their party's neocon and corporate con wings, and they will strike hard with every Rovian tool at their disposal. Gate crashing is never greeted with open arms.  

Categories: Politics
13:25
  •  The Washington Post reports that new hiring has "slowed to a trickle" and as a result the unemployment rate jumped to 5%, its highest rate in two years. - Meteor Blades
  •  Do not believe the hype.  Mike Gravel is not surrendering..  There is still a chance that he could beat "uncommitted".

    Once again, the Mainstream Media has not gotten the facts straight.

    MSNBC pundit Keith Olbermann has incorrectly declared that Sen. Gravel has dropped out of the race following the January third caucus in Iowa. This is not true, and Sen. Gravel is still an active member in this race. We are requesting that MSNBC and Keith Olbermann retract their statement, and issue an apology to the campaign for promoting blatantly false misinformation.

    Again, Sen. Gravel has not dissolved his campaign, and has no intentions of doing so.

     - Meteor Blades

  •  The saga of the sleeping Peach Bottom Nuclear Plant guards continues as detailed by the Washington Post. The fallout (pun intended) within the nuclear industry is non-trivial, as the NRC, private security contractors, government nuclear facilities, and private nuclear plant owners are being forced to evaluate a rather shady history of safety problems.

    -- Plutonium Page

  •  It's not only blogs that have to fight off sockpuppets and online deception.  Facebook has deleted two profiles of a 19 year old college student who supposedly claimed  "I am not a born leader. I am not a politician or a great thinker. I'm merely a student...I do the things that students do like make mistakes, eat junk food, watch Buffy [the Vampire Slayer] but most importantly of all... learn." The profiles were bogus and not created by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of Benazir Bhutto and the recently anointed ceremonial leader of his family's PPP party. - DHinMI
  •  New Jersey is trying to change the way its electoral votes are counted.  

    TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- New Jersey is close to entering a compact that would eliminate the power of the Electoral College to choose a president if enough states endorse the idea.
    The state Senate voted Thursday to approve delivering the state's 15 electoral votes for president to the winner of the national popular vote. The Assembly approved the measure in December and needs Gov. Jon S. Corzine's signature to become law.

  •  As of this week, France has banned smoking in all cafes, restaurants, and bars.  It is estimated that 25% of adults in France are smokers.
  •  The so-called king of spam, Alan Ralsky, and 11 other notorious spammers were indicted on 41 charges, including a fraud scheme that manipulated Chinese stock prices.

Categories: Politics
12:30

He just can't stop himself.

He flatlined in Iowa and he's struggling in New Hampshire, but
Rudy Giuliani shook off the early-state blues Thursday as only he can.

"None of this worries me - Sept. 11, there were times I was worried," Giuliani said.

"We're sitting in a pretty good position right now. So we're not worried and not concerned," he told a news conference here. "Maybe other people acted nervous in a situation like this, but this is not unexpected."

I would have been worried if he hadn't found a way to get a 9/11 comment in.  Thanks for not disappointing us, Rudy.

Categories: Politics
11:38

John McCain, January 3, 2008:

Q: President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years --" (cut off by McCain)

McCain: "Make it a hundred."

Q: "Is that ..." (cut off)

McCain: "We've been in South Korea ... we've been in Japan for 60 years. We've been in South Korea 50 years or so.  That would be fine with me. As long as Americans ..."

Q: [tries to say something]

McCain: "As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. That's fine with me, I hope that would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Qaeda is training and equipping and recruiting and motivating people every single day.

A hundred not enough for you? How about this?

Asked about the remark later by Mother Jones’ David Corn, McCain reaffirmed it, "excitedly declaring that U.S. troops could be in Iraq for ‘a thousand years’ or ‘a million years,’ as far as he was concerned."

Now watch what else Matt Corley at Think Progress catches for us:

John McCain, November 27, 2007:

ROSE: Do you think that this — Korea, South Korea is an analogy of where Iraq might be, not in terms of their economic success but in terms of an American presence over the next, say, 20, 25 years, that we will have a significant amount of troops there?

MCCAIN: I don’t think so.

ROSE: Even if there are no casualties?

MCCAIN: No. But I can see an American presence for a while. But eventually I think because of the nature of the society in Iraq and the religious aspects of it that America eventually withdraws.

Video here.

In Iraq forever? Depends on what day of the week it is. This is where you turn for truth? Is he gonna tell you whether American troops are gonna keep dying or not? Does he even know where he stands?

Straight talk? Not on this planet. Good luck sorting out the baloney, Yankee Republicans! Does your party have a position on this or not? Show us on Tuesday.

Categories: Politics
08:34

Who walked away with the most impressive number of the night?  We did.

In 2000, the last time there was a caucus in both parties, Republicans turned out 87,000 voters, while Democrats produced 59,000.  There are around 600,000 registered Democrats in Iowa, and about 550,000 Republicans, but when you consider that on caucus nights, Republicans just need to show up and point to a name, while Democrats are committing to two hours of public wrangling, it's not a surprise that more Republicans show up to be "first in the nation."

Except for yesterday.

When the Des Moines Register poll was predicated on a turnout of 200,000, I was scornful.  And they were wrong -- but only because they were too conservative.

Last night, the Republicans produced around 115,000 voters -- an impressive 30% increase.

But the Democrats turned out 236,000.  That's an increase of roughly one whole helluva lot.

And it's a huge indicator of both how energized Democrats are this year, and how ready independents are to put their chips on the D line.

Categories: Politics
05:54

Trolling around various locales in wwwLand last night, I was a shocked to discover a few bloggers saying that Barack Obama is the first African American to run a nationwide campaign seeking the presidency of the United States. I won't embarrass any of them by linking. But - and this takes nothing away from the campaign team that put together Obama's winning effort in Iowa - it should not go unsaid that the Senator has had predecessors who deserve a good deal of credit for taking on the Democratic establishment at a time when this was, for an African American, considerably more difficult than now.

In 1972, Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress (in the iconic year of 1968), became the first woman AND the first black to seek the Democratic nomination for President. She knew she would not get the nomination, managed to raise only $300,000, campaigned in 14 states (11 with primaries) and arrived at the Democratic Convention with just 28 delegates committed to her. But when actual voting took place, she counted 152 delegates. None came from Iowa.

In 1984, the Rev. Jesse Jackson became the second black person to seek the Democratic nomination. Jackson won primaries in Virginia, South Carolina, and Louisiana, garnering 3.15 million votes nationwide (a fifth of the total). However, he only received 8 percent of the committed delegates, coming in third behind Walter Mondale (6.8 million) and Gary Hart (6.2 million). Only 20 percent of Jackson's total was from non-blacks, and he won 77 percent of the black vote. He got 1.5 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses.

In 1988, Jackson did far better, for a time becoming the front-runner after winning the Democratic caucus in Michigan. He went on to victory in 11 primaries, including five in the South, capturing 6.6 million votes and, eventually gaining 1200 delegates at the Democratic Convention, second to Dukakis (who won 9.7 million votes). That year, 31 percent of Jackson's vote came from non-black voters, and he got 92 percent of the African American vote. In Iowa, he came in fourth, with 11 percent of the vote in a field of 13 Democratic presidential contenders.

It would be more than brazen to pat ourselves on the back because this year an African American might very well go from winning the Iowa caucuses to winning the Democratic nomination and, a little more than a year from now, be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. After all, legal slavery was done away with 142 years ago, and the Civil Rights Act was passed 44 years ago. "Overdue" scarcely covers it. Anymore than it does for the fact that a woman might win the nomination and the presidency this year. It was 88 years ago, after more than 70 years of activism, that women got the right to vote.

On the other hand, however one feels about the specific political views of either of the two candidates who could make an historic if belated breakthrough over the next 12 months, it is heartening that, finally, finally, finally, a majority of Americans don't seem to have qualms about electing a woman or an African American to the highest post in the land.

May I live to see the day when we can add "gay" and "atheist" to that list.

[Addendum]: I should point out that merely because progress has been made in this sphere doesn't mean I believe that racism or misogyny is all washed up in America. There is a difference between attitudinal racism, call it "state-of-mind racism," and the deeply embedded institutionalized racism that still afflicts our society. A lot more people are likely to vote for an African American for president than would support his or her doing what is needed to wholly defeat racism. The same can be said for sexism.

Categories: Politics
02:49

(A good night all around -- kos)

Lost in the excitement of tonight's Iowa caucauses was a Democratic victory in the race to fill a vacant Republican state senate seat (SD25).

It's not being reported on the Secretary of State's website, but a credible report on the ground indicates that Northfield contains a wide enough margin of victory for DFLer Kevin Dahle to avoid a recount and give him the win and the DFL Senate caucus a veto-proof majority.

The final numbers:

Dahle (DFL):  6802
Cox (GOP):  5225

A huge turnout for Iowa Democrats and a red seat turns blue in Minnesota. Overall, a good night for Democrats.

Categories: Politics
02:35

(From the diaries - georgia10)

Barack Obama may be riding the momentum of a caucus win into New Hampshire, but the real winner in tonight's Iowa caucus was young voters.

It's been a long and rocky road for young voters - in the media and in the party -  For four years, the media has declared (incorrectly) that young voters were the downfall of Howard Dean, whose over-reliance on an "unreliable demographic" ushered in his defeat in the 2004 caucus.  This, despite the fact that youth turnout at the caucus increased that year.  For the last year, we've heard how Obama's strategy was foolhardy, and even from the campaign we heard that the youth vote would be "icing on the cake."

It turns out, it was the cake.

According to estimates by CIRCLE (pdf) youth vote turnout at the caucus tripled tonight, rising from 4% to 11%.  Within the Democratic caucus, over 46,000 young people participated, and young voters comprised 22% of all  caucus-goers.   According to entrance polls by CNN, 57% of those 17-29 year old caucus goers stood up to caucus for Barack Obama.  Tonight, they drove his campaign to victory.

The numbers themselves were larger than expected, especially considering the early caucus date during winter break for most colleges. But no one who has been paying attention to young voters in the past four years should be surprised that young Iowans played such a significant role in tonight's caucus.  These are not isolated incidents.  In 2004, youth participation in the Iowa Caucus quadrupled.  In the 2004 general election, youth turnout saw the largest increase in over a decade.  Turnout was also up in 2006 (pdf).  Tonight's caucus turnout was part of a four year trend in young voter turnout.

Tonight was also a victory for the Democratic Party.  Participation in the caucus almost doubled.  212,000 Democratic voters turned out compared to 125,000 in 2004.  About 46,000 of those caucus-goers were young voters.  Compare that to the Republicans: CIRCLE (pdf) reports that only 10,000 young people participated in the Republican caucus, just 10% of all Republican caucus-goers.  This too is a trend.  In 2004, young voters broke in favor of John Kerry over President Bush 54 - 45%.  In 2006, young voters chose Democratic candidates 60% - 38%, increasing a growing trend towards favoring progressive candidates.  

Young voters are increasingly moving in the direction of Democrats, and tonight, the Obama campaign - thanks to a savvy youth operation that reached out on Facebook and MySpace, at high schools and on college campuses - was able to capitalize on that to attain victory.  His win confirms what many have been saying for years now: young people will vote if you pay attention to the, speak to their issues, and reach out.  New technologies can certainly help make that initial connection, yet it's still good old fashioned face to face politicking - peer to peer organizing - that makes the difference.  Years ago, when young people began voting Republican during the Reagan Era, Democrats stopped asking young voters to participate.  Tonight's victory shows what individual candidates, and the Democratic Party stand to gain by courting today's young voters.  

Tonight we saw the the core of a future progressive majority make its presence known in Democratic politics.  Young Voters are not a hidden vote or icing on the cake, and after tonight, everyone knows it.

Categories: Politics
01:16

So Democratic candidates drew hugely more voters than Republican ones in Iowa tonight, and in that expanded voter pool, Barack Obama won by a significant margin.

Why would that be?  Well, according to Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times, there are two possibilities:

Whether it was because Iowans were searching for an agent of change or they wanted to send a message that a white state would elect a candidate regardless of race, Senator Barack Obama seized victory here Thursday as a coalition of Democrats and independents flooded caucuses in all corners of the state to support his improbable candidacy.

Even odds, apparently, that Obama's win was because Iowa voters decided en masse that they wanted to prove they weren't racist.

I'm not sure who that insults more, Obama, the people of Iowa, or the readers of the New York Times.

Update: In the comments, guavas points to a change in the NYT story, which now reads:

Whether it was because they were eager to leave behind the bitter divides of the last two decades or because they wanted to send a message that a small white state could transcend the issue of race, Iowa voters dispelled the skepticism that Senator Barack Obama was too inexperienced in world affairs.

Instead, what seemed to drive them was the idea that Mr. Obama would present a new face for America in the world, with a coalition of Democrats and independents flooding caucuses in all corners of the state to support a man who went to Washington three years ago.

That's a fair bit better.  Always interesting to watch a reporter and his editors sort of thinking out loud for a while, eh?

Categories: Politics
00:55

Harry Reid is going to cry.

I count the past year of campaigning for the presidency as one of the most rewarding in a career of public service.

Unfortunately, I am withdrawing from that campaign tonight.

But there is no reason to hang our heads this evening -- only the opportunity to look towards a continuation of the work we started last January: ending the Iraq War, restoring the Constitution, and putting a Democrat in the White House.

I know a lot of you came to this email list through a shared desire to return our nation to one that respects the rule of law, and I want to make one thing clear to all of you:

The fight to restore the Constitution and stop retroactive immunity does not end with my Presidential campaign. FISA will come back in a few weeks and my pledge to filibuster ANY bill that includes retroactive immunity remains operative.

You've been an invaluable ally in the battle, and I'll need you to stick by my side despite tonight's caucus results.

So, one more time, thank you for all of your efforts throughout the course of this entire Presidential campaign.

We made a real difference in shaping the debate, and we'll continue to do so in the coming days, weeks and years.

I'll never forget you, and what we've fought for, together, over the past year.

Chris Dodd

After Dodd's successful efforts to delay this bad FISA bill in December, Reid made a dismissive comment to the effect that this would have an easier time sailing through in January since the presidential primary would be mostly behind us. In other words -- Dodd would have dropped out by then, and he'd have little reason to "grandstand".

Except it wasn't grandstanding. Dodd is dead serious about protecting our Constitution, and I hope we can all pledge to do whatever we can to support his efforts. I certainly will.

Categories: Politics
00:45

From the Group News Blog:

Total Voter Turnout (approximate)

356,000

Percentage of total vote

24.5% Obama
20.5% Edwards
19.8% Clinton
11.4% Huckabee (R)

Says it all, doesn't it?

Categories: Politics
00:38

So it's caucus night. The Democratic Party website hums along, churning out results efficiently and without a single hiccup.

The Republican Party website crashes.

Democrats tallied their votes and have 100 percent precincts reporting, despite caucuses that could last for hours on end.

Republicans are still stuck at 93% reporting, despite having a much more simple and efficient caucus process (show up, vote, go home).

Democrats made this look easy, while Republicans have bumbled their way through the night.

Categories: Politics
00:20
00:05

John McCain's comments at the Adams Memorial Opera House in Derry, New Hampshire, Thursday provide another good reason (as if we needed one) that so many of us would love to see his (and Joe Lieberman's) backsides as they leave Washington permanently.

Transcript:

Q: President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years --" (cut off by McCain)

McCain: "Make it a hundred."

Q: "Is that ..." (cut off)

McCain: "We've been in South Korea ... we've been in Japan for 60 years. We've been in South Korea 50 years or so.  That would be fine with me. As long as Americans ..."

Q: [tries to say something]

McCain: "As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. That's fine with me, I hope that would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Qaeda is training and equipping and recruiting and motivating people every single day.

Uh-huh. Could you recall for us, Senator, how many Americans were killed by resistance forces in postwar Korea, Japan and Germany? Slip your mind? Well, the number is zero. In Iraq last year, 901 Americans in uniform lost their lives.

That fantasy of a serene Pax Americana is the kind of world you and your hug-buddy George Bush would love to persuade us we can have, with no casualties, no sacrifice. Another Republican illusion abetted by your new hug-buddy Joe Lieberman.  

But, don't listen to me. Just keep pounding the 100-year proposal for the next four days. If this approach nudges you up a few percentage points in New Hampshire next Tuesday and gives you momentum in your comeback campaign, maybe you can put Mister Bush on the stage touting your proposal during the later primaries. Then both you and Joe can hug him tight all the way to November.

Categories: Politics