Monday, October 30, 2006

Surprise, surprise...

Looks like I just might be right after all - Write-in tightens race in District 22.

The Republican write-in effort to hold former Rep. Tom DeLay's congressional seat, once viewed as a long shot, has created a tight race, according to a Houston Chronicle-11 News poll.

Thirty-five percent of respondents said they would vote for a write-in candidate, a statistical tie with the 36 percent support for Democrat Nick Lampson, according to the poll of more than 500 likely voters in the 22nd Congressional District.

Most who say they will write in a candidate plan on naming Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, the Houston city councilwoman backed by the Republican Party. Two lesser-known candidates also are running as write-ins.

This is what I wrote two weeks ago:
[I]n an admittedly isolated personal observance, it appears that in Houston, the Republicans are starting to pour on the money. Commericals on the airwaves can be heard for Sekula-Gibbs - but I haven't heard anything from Lampson. In addition, there are two big billboards heading down 59 South for Sekula-Gibbs...nothing from Lampson.

Maybe it's just me - but in one of the most heavily Republican districts in the US, I think that the Vote Twice/Write In campaign is gaining traction, and she has a chance to upset ... the underdog.

If a write-in wins in TX-22 it will be unprecedented, but not wholly unexpected.

Related prior post:
An upset, of what would have been an upset, in the making?...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Why they'll hold...

Two interesting articles recently about the GOP's unequaled Get Out The Vote (GOTV) machine.

First, from today's Houston Chronicle - Republicans oil their successful turnout machine.
Despite the gloom, Republican campaign operatives sound confident. They have been fine-tuning their data-mining, micro-targeting and other methods that served them well in past elections. Some Democrats are beginning to sound worried.

Republicans, led by White House political guru Karl Rove, sought in 2002 to reverse a decades-long Democratic edge in voter turnout that was fueled in large part by well-organized labor unions.

The GOP developed a program that started three days before the election. It was aimed at identifying Republicans and likely Republican voters and getting them to the polls. The tactic was fine-tuned in 2004 and will be even more effective this year, Republicans said.

"We are putting forward the most unprecedented grass-roots effort in the history of midterm elections," said Danny Diaz, spokesman for the Republican National Committee. "We outraised the Democrats, we've made more voter contacts, and our (get-out-the-vote) operation is more robust — we are extremely confident we have built a foundation to maintain our majorities."

The Republican Party has raised $199.4 million since the 2004 elections, almost double the $108.4 million raised by the Democrats.

In 2004, the Republican Party used marketing-style data-mining — for example, calculating whether a certain voter in a particular district owned a snowmobile and was therefore a likely Republican voter, then targeting the prospect with a narrow political message.

This is precisely why I'm still skeptical that the Democrats will be able to win either the House or Senate. The margins in so many of the individual campaigns are razor thin - and it is the Republican's GOTV effort that will get them over the top.

On a similar note, the Washington Post had a great analysis of the most basic of Republican election year tactics - The GOP Leans on A Proven Strategy.
President Bush and Vice President Cheney have given multiple interviews to conservative journalists, senior adviser Karl Rove has telephoned religious and social activists, and the White House has staged signing ceremonies for legislation cracking down on terrorism and illegal immigration. Two weeks before Election Day, Bush aides invited dozens of radio talk show hosts for a marathon broadcast from the White House yesterday to reach conservative listeners.

The message that Bush and others are sending to alienated supporters is that, no matter how upset they have been about various policies or political missteps over the past couple of years, life would be far worse under the Democrats. They name liberal lawmakers who would take charge of key committees and warn conservatives that taxes would go up and protection against terrorists would go down.

The White House courtship of the right paid enormous dividends in the past, but this year it is complicated by a far more skeptical audience than in 2002 and 2004. Conservatives who were key to those victories have grown frustrated with the Bush policies on federal spending, immigration, Iraq and foreign affairs, and uncertain of his commitment to issues such as preventing legalized same-sex marriage. The Mark Foley page scandal did not help reassure "values voters," as strategists call them, nor did the publication of a book by former White House official David Kuo saying that Bush aides dismissed Christian conservatives as "nuts."

Manipulate the Christian right...even though Bush, Cheney, and Rove have stated that they are simply "nuts" who sole purpose is to be manipulated.

The Republicans are failures at governing our nation - but they are experts at elections. They'll show it again this year.

Related prior post:
This sums it up...

Lampson for TX-22...

Big step for Nick Lampson in his attempt not only to win TX-22 this year, but to retain the seat going foward - VFW endorses Lampson in District 22 race.

Lampson was originally the big underdog, running against Tom Delay in a heavily Republican district. After Delay's corruption led to an indictment and his subsequent withdrawal from the race, Lampson became the favorite. It is widely expected, however, that Lampson will simply be a temporary seat-filler, until a Republican can run again in 2008.

Maybe not:
The national Veterans of Foreign Wars PAC has endorsed Democrat Nick Lampson in his race for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's seat, an endorsement that Lampson's campaign says helps debunk claims that he is a liberal.

Lampson's staff has been touting his VFW endorsement and the endorsement of the National Rifle Association to show that the former congressman is a moderate to conservative Democrat in line with voters in this conservative Republican district.

Of course, this is the only other option:
Republican write-in candidate Shelley Sekula-Gibbs doesn't detail her stand on the war, except to say that she supports the president's war on terror and opposes an early withdrawal.To be fair, Sekula-Gibbs entered the race very late, and is simply not qualified for seat.
Go Nick Lampson!!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The key...

Will the Democrats be able to win the Senate in the 2006 midterm elections?

Back on 2-October I suggested that the Democrats would pick up 2 seats in the Senate. Since them, it seems as if Santorum really has lost his seat in Pennsylvania, which would bump the number to three...

But one of those two I was counting back on 2-Oct was Harold Ford Jr. pulling the HUGE upset in picking up a seat in Tennessee. Today, I feel much less confident that Ford will be able to pull that upset off ... but I have become more convinced that if he does win Tennessee, that is a much larger statement about the national scene, and the Democrats may be able to come up with the other three victories and take the Senate.

Let me explain...

First - why am I less confident that Ford is going to win Tennesse? Simple answer - typical Republican gutter-tactics - see the following two pieces: More on the Tennessee Mudslide; A Contentious Campaign in a Battleground State. Consider:

RUSSERT: Ken Mehlman, the Republican candidate in Tennessee has asked that you take that ad off the air, that it is over the top. Former Republican Senator William Cohen says it’s, quote, “overt racist appeal.”Will you take that ad down?

MEHLMAN: Tim, I don’t have the authority to take it down or put it up. It’s what called an independent expenditure.The way that process works under the campaign reform laws is I write a check to an independent individual. And that person’s responsible for spending money in certain states. Tennessee is one of them.

I’ll tell you this, though. After the comments by Mr. Corker and by former Senator Cohen, I looked at the ad. I don’t agree with that characterization of it. But it’s not an ad that I have authority over. I saw it for the first time the same time that they did.

RUSSERT: The whole idea of having a blond white woman winking at a black Congressman, the notion of interracial sex is not in your mind racist?

MEHLMAN: I think that that ad talks about a number of people on the street talking about things that Mr. Ford allegedly has either done or a proposal he has for the future. I think it’s a fair ad.

Disgusting. Or this:

[Republican candidate] Corker depicts himself as more "senatorial" than Ford but is running an almost entirely negative campaign at this point. He depicts Ford as a smooth-talking city slicker who has deeper roots in Washington, D.C. -- where Ford lived for part of his childhood -- compared with Corker, the self-described "real Tennessean" in the race.

The hardest blows have come from the national GOP. The National Republican Senatorial Committee ridicules Ford's expensive tastes on a "Fancy Ford" Web site, and the Republican National Committee is airing a controversial new ad that features a scantily clad blonde who says she met Ford at a Playboy party. "Harold, call me!" the woman chirps.

Ugh. When you have no ideas, you resort to slime. Unfortunately, these days slime is terribly effective, and such a dirty, nasty, negative campaign could very easily turn this campaign around in the final couple of weeks. It's a shame that a candidate with leadership, vision, and exuding confidence in Tennessee and America would be torpedoed by dirty-Republican tactics...but that's the way it goes.

But, Ford is a great candidate, and will keep fighting to the end of this thing - bringing lots of Tennesseans around:

John Layne is a 57-year-old white Republican with a long gray beard, no job and advancing emphysema. He arrived an hour early to hear Harold Ford Jr. speak in this struggling mountain town.

"Oh, sure, there's some prejudice," Layne said as he contemplated casting a ballot for a black man. "I wouldn't want my daughter marrying one." But he's more concerned about rising medical costs: When it comes to voting, "you gotta look at the person, not the color."

While visiting a diner in Oak Ridge, Corker stopped to shake hands with Linda Ramsey, who was having lunch with her husband, Dale, and daughter Kelcee. Ramsey responded with a big smile when Corker asked for her vote. But when he moved to the next table, she conceded she was leaning toward Ford.

Although she supported Corker in the primary, Ramsey explained, "all he wants to do is point fingers. Ford is stepping up above it."

If Ford can pull this off in Tennessee, then nationwide, Democrats have a real chance. To be able to fend off the dirty-Republican tactics would be indicative of a national wave of support for the New Direction of the Democrats, and a latent disgust of these typical Republican tactics.

Go Harold Ford Jr.!!

GM signs of life...

Can losing over one hundred million dollars in three months ever be considered a good thing? Maybe, just maybe - if we're talking about a US auto manufacturer.

The Houston Chronicle reports this morning - GM posts $115 million loss for third quarter.

Sure, $115 million is a lot of money to lose - but in compared to a year ago...or the $5.8 billion loss that Ford just actually looks pretty good.

GM's July-September loss of 20 cents per share was far better than the same period last year when the nation's largest automaker lost $1.7 billion, or $2.94 per share.

The company said that excluding goodwill impairment at its finance arm and charges associated with the reorganization at Delphi Corp., its former parts division, it made a profit of 93 cents per share.

It looks as if operations actually turned a profit. This could be a good sign for an ailing giant.

Not such good news at Chysler, a former US auto major, and not component of DaimlerChrysler. Altough the parent company posted a profit, the Chrysler division lost a boatload - Chrysler Announces $1.5 Billion Loss.

Executives at DaimlerChrysler said today that they were working on a plan to return Chrysler to profitability after a loss of nearly $1.5 billion in the third quarter.

But they would not rule out the possibility that Chrysler could be spun off or sold, breaking up the eight-year alliance between the German and American auto companies.
Chrysler blamed its loss, signaled a few weeks ago, on slumping sales of a product line that depends heavily on sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, and on the deeper discounts it has been obliged to offer consumers.

Last week, Chrysler said that it was striving to cut its manufacturing and marketing costs by $1,000 a car, under a plan called Project Refocus, the second extensive restructuring effort at the company in six years.
Until today, Mr. Zetsche [CEO of DaimlerChrysler] and other executives always insisted that Chrysler had a safe place in the DaimlerChrysler fold. But when the parent company’s chief financial officer, Bodo Uebber,was asked repeatedly today about Chrysler’s prospects during a conference call with analysts and journalists, he gave cryptic, noncommittal answers.

But over at Ford, it also looks as if asset divesture is in the works - Ford’s Dismal Results Renew Speculation on Asset Sales.
“Ford can do two things: borrow more money and sell assets” to buy time until their operations problems are fixed, John Casesa, a longtime auto industry analyst, told The New York Times.

Ford already has put a British maker of luxury cars, Aston Martin, up for sale. The chief financial officer, Don Leclair, said Ford is preparing a short list of bidders, but does not expect to close a sale before the end of the year. ...

Mr. Mulally confirmed that Ford is open to reviewing its other luxury brands — leaving the door open to a potential sale of Jaguar, Volvo or Land Rover. “I really think it’s going to hinge on how the businesses are doing and can we make profitable growth businesses out of them with the action we have taken and additional actions that might be required,” he said in a conference call.
But as it is noted above - this is only buying time, it's not a long term plan. New CEO Alan Mulallay noted after the poor results released on Monday that Ford would not start seeing the results from their turnaround plan until the end of 2007.
Indeed, the new chief executive at Ford, Alan R. Mulally, a former Boeing executive, said the automaker would require a full transformation in the way it thought about consumers and approached the American market.

The typical Detroit turnaround, based on plant closings and introducing a few hit vehicles but with little change in attitude, will not be enough to see Ford through, Mr. Mulally said ...

Related prior posts:
Ford takes a beating...
Black October for US Auto...
More Shakeups in US Auto...
Toyota chief fears GM, Ford demise...
GM pushing Union on Healthcare cuts...
The China Syndrome...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


How unintelligent does the Bush administration believe the American public is? The constant misunderestimation of us - the American people - is stunning.

Or maybe we really are as unintelligent as they think.

Bush and his cronies now believe they can simply pretend what they've said - over and over again - in the past never happened - and what they are saying now, is what they've always said. Does that remind you of anything? Say, George Orwell's 1984? In 1984, the totalitarian government would change their slogan, change who they were at war with, change who was a patriot and who was a villian - and simply deny and erase the evidence of their former statements - and the loyal public would buy it.

Bush’s new tack steers clear of ‘stay the course’
Phrase became liability for GOP in election year

After three solid years of the Bush administration holding firm on the line of "Stay the Course" - now they are trying to say that was never the policy. What?

President Bush and his aides are annoyed that people keep misinterpreting his Iraq policy as "stay the course." A complete distortion, they say. "That is not a stay-the-course policy," White House press secretary Tony Snow declared yesterday.

Where would anyone have gotten that idea? Well, maybe from Bush.

"We will stay the course. We will help this young Iraqi democracy succeed," he said in Salt Lake City in August.

We will win in Iraq so long as we stay the course," he said in Milwaukee in July.

"I saw people wondering whether the United States would have the nerve to stay the course and help them succeed," he said after returning from Baghdad in June.

But the White House is cutting and running from "stay the course."

Look at this terrific link from Thing Progress: Bartlett: ‘It’s Never Been A Stay The Course Strategy’

BUSH: We will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq. [8/4/05]
SNOW: The second thing you do is you stay the course. [7/10/06]
SNOW: But on the other hand, you also cannot be a President in a wartime and not realize that you’ve got to stay the course. [8/17/06]
BUSH: We will stay the course. [8/30/06]
BUSH: We will stay the course until the job is done, Steve. And the temptation is to try to get the President or somebody to put a timetable on the definition of getting the job done. We’re just going to stay the course. [12/15/03]
BUSH: And my message today to those in Iraq is: We’ll stay the course. [4/13/04]
SNOW: People are going to want more of it, and that’s why the President is etermined to stay the course. April. [8/16/06]
BUSH: And that’s why we’re going to stay the course in Iraq. And that’s why when we say something in Iraq, we’re going to do it. [4/16/04]
BUSH: And so we’ve got tough action in Iraq. But we will stay the course. [4/5/04]


Also - take a look at this link from the same blog: REPORT: Bush Officials Were ‘Rooting’ For North Korea to Test Nuclear Weapon

Before North Korea announced it had detonated a nuclear device, some senior officials even said they were quietly rooting for a test, believing that would finally clarify the debate within the administration.

Until now, no U.S. official in any administration has ever advocated the testing of nuclear weapons by another country, even by allies such as the United Kingdom and France.

One of these officials may have been Rice herself, Kessler hints. Rice, he reports, “has come close to saying the test was a net plus for the United States.” Rice has been trying to counter the prevailing view that the test was a failure of the Bush administration’s policy.
This is Orwell in action...


A cover story in yesterday's New York Times exposed serious problems in the recent wave to deregulate energy - In Deregulation, Plants Turn Into Blue Chips.

This has been the recent trend in energy production and distribution - deregulate the industry in the hope of stimulating competition and lowering consumer utility bills.

But this Times story points out that although massive investment firms may have been able to profit from deregulation - to the tune of billions and billions of dollars in just a few short years - consumers have not seen the wonderful benefits that were promised. In fact almost the opposite has happened - competition has not occurred, and consumers have paid the price for the profits the investment firms are reaping.

But even as some investors have profited handsomely by buying and sometimes quickly reselling power plants, electricity customers, who were supposed to be the biggest beneficiaries of the new system, have not fared so well. Not only have their electricity rates not fallen, in many cases they are rising even faster than the prices of the fuels used to make the electricity.

Those increases stand in contrast to the significantly lower prices in other businesses in which competition was introduced, such as airlines and long-distance calling.

Some electricity customers are also being saddled with monthly surcharges to cover construction costs for plants that were sold at bargain prices and then resold at huge profits. Some of these surcharges will continue for years.

And, look what market is analyzed as an example of the worst affects of deregulation:
Take the case of the Texas power plants. After the Texas Legislature, urged by Enron and big industrial customers, voted to make electricity generation a competitive business, the utility serving the Houston area sold 60 power plants that generate most of the power for the area to four investment firms — the Texas Pacific Group, the Blackstone Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Hellman & Friedman — which soon resold the plants at the $5 billion profit.

But state regulators have ordered electricity customers to pay an average of $4.75 monthly for 14 years to finish paying for the construction of the power plants, plus interest.

And the utility that sold the plants, Centerpoint, is suing for even higher payments from customers. Houston-area consumers now pay among the highest electricity rates, nearly double the national average.

Supporters of deregulation said customers would benefit from healthy competition among a growing number of electricity producers. But such competition has not developed.

Yuck. Talk about a total lack of planning...or at least planning with consumers in mind.
Many of the power plants that were sold are still owned by the utilities’ parent companies; they were simply transferred from the regulated utilities to unregulated sister companies. Some regulators allowed utilities to favor the sister companies with long-term contracts even if they did not offer the best price for electricity.

In fact, independent electricity producers argue that their modern generating plants often sit idle while older, inefficient plants owned by politically powerful utilities and their unregulated sister companies whir around the clock under long-term contracts. For example, Calpine, an independent generating company, and some big industrial customers have complained that Entergy, the Louisiana utility holding company, is favoring its own plants when Calpine’s power would be cheaper. Congress has ordered studies of the issue.

Because utilities are still allowed to pass on the cost of the power they buy, they have little incentive to choose a cheaper supplier. Electricity customers therefore end up paying more than they would have to if electricity production were truly competitive.
It’s a great deal, having ratepayers cover your managerial mistakes.”

This is what happens when you allow the energy companies to control energy policy within the states and federal government. There is no one left looking out for the consumers. Deregulation is good only for the utility companies, not for us consumers.

This is an excellent example of why there are some key industries that it makes complete sense for governments to highly regulate. I fully believe in the free-market, however, there are key industries that provide critical national services that our government has a responsiblity to oversee to protect consumers from this very type of activity.

(As an aside, deregultion played a major part in the power "shortages" in California some years ago, which played a part in exposing Enron as a manipulitive corporation, rather than the corporate beacon that they had generally been perceived of previous to the California episode.)

From Improbable to Possible...

Really nice profile about Texas Gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell in todays Houston Chronicle - Bell's Political Revival Harder than Imagined.

Chris Bell's political career was in the dumps by Christmas 2004.

Bell already had lost a bid for Houston mayor, and Republican redistricting had cost him his seat in Congress after his freshman term. But on the upside, Bell had become a hero among Democrats for filing a successful ethics complaint against then-U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land.

In the kitchen of his Houston home, Bell sat with Jeff Steen, his longtime friend and political adviser, trying to decide whether to run for governor, Steen recalls.

Bell knew it would be an uphill battle, requiring almost a miracle to win. But he believed it could be done by the right candidate in the right place at the right time, Steen said.

However, the road has been steeper than Bell could have imagined.

Democratic leaders and financial donors dodged his calls. The news media cast him as an underfunded also-ran.

It is almost utterly inconceivable that a Democrat could win the Governor's office in Texas - or almost any statewide office. But - if it was going to happen, this would be the year. There are five candidates in the race, and winner takes all - no run offs. The candidates are Republican incumbent Rick Perry. More conservative independent Carrol Keeton Strayhorn - who is running due to her distain for Perry, and belief that he is not conservative enough. Independent Kinky Friedman - who is an odd candidate who could pull disaffected liberal voters, but whose policy positions veer to the right. There is a Libertarian candidate - which will take conservative votes.

And then there is Democrat Chris Bell. Essentially, there are four conservatives and Bell. Clearly, the hope of the Bell campaign is for a very large Democratic turnout, Democrats vote for him instead of Friedman, and finally, that Strayhorn, Friedman and the Libertarian take many votes away from Perry.

Unlikely, but possible.

Age: 46
Family: Married to Alison Ayers. They were introduced by Allen and Elizabeth Blakemore, two of Houston's top Republican political consultants. The Bells have two sons: Atlee, 10, and Connally, 8.
Education: Graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and the South Texas College of Law. He was a member of Phi Delta Theta at UT.
Background: TV and radio reporter. Lawyer. Member of the Houston City Council, 1997-2002. Ran an unsuccessful race for Houston mayor, 2001. Served in the U.S. House, 2003-2005.
From the stump speech : "If you give me the bully pulpit and a veto pen, I will lead a 'New Texas Revolution.' " "Carole Strayhorn and Rick Perry are two sleeves of the same empty suit"
What you might not know about him: Bell has a dry, quick wit. But because it is situational and has a you-had-to-be-there quality, his humor rarely translates to the news media.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ford takes a beating...

Ford Reports Loss of $5.8 Billion in 3rd Quarter

Just a terribly ugly quarter for the US' second largest auto maker. New CEO Alan R. Mulally put it bluntly, saying, "Let me make it clear — these results are unacceptable." And the current turn-around plan doesn't look to pay any benefits soon:

“Without giving any specific guidance, the profits will be worse in the fourth quarter than in the third,” Mr. Leclair said, later clarifying that he was referring to operating income. Several minutes after he made that remark, Ford’s stock, which had been trading a few cents above last week’s close, fell sharply.

Early this afternoon, Ford’s shares were trading down 14 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $7.87 on the New York Stock Exchange.

In the third quarter, Ford’s continuing operations lost $1.2 billion, or 62 cents a share, roughly what analysts had expected.

The losses in Ford’s North American operations were $800 million more than a year earlier. The company’s Premier Automotive Group, which includes the European brands Jaguar and Land Rover, lost $593 million, five and a half times more than last year.
Those numbers, while dismal, did not surprise analysts, who expected the company’s performance to be far worse than a year earlier, when it lost $284 million.
Things are just ugly for US Auto. GM recently turned down the opportunity to work with Carlos Ghosn - who has effectively turned around both Renault and Nissan. Now, Ghosn may begin to eye Ford a little closer.

Ford had been seen as a potential partner for Nissan and Renault, which spent the summer exploring an alliance with General Motors. After those talks ended abruptly earlier this month, Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive of both Nissan and Renault, said he was still interested in collaborating with a company in North America.
Related prior posts:
Black October for US Auto...
More Shakeups in US Auto...
GM pushing Union on Healthcare cuts...
The China Syndrome...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The plan(s)...

It appears as if the Republicans have finally come up with a plan in Iraq...well competing plans...or secret plans...or hobbit plans.

Sadly, I'm not kidding:

GOP Sen. Conrad Burns [said] in Tuesday's debate that he believes President Bush has a plan to win the war in Iraq but is keeping it quiet.

“We're not going to tell you what our plan is,” Burns told Democrat Jon Tester. Matt McKenna, a Tester spokesman, likened Burns' comments to statements by President Nixon that led to rumors of a “secret plan” to end or win the war in Vietnam. “The comparison is two politicians who put their own ambitions above the safety and success of the troops,” McKenna said.

Burns' spokesman Jason Klindt said Burns is adamant that details of a plan to win should not be released. Klindt said he doesn't know if Burns knows any specifics of a plan, but added, “I think he knows the general strategy.”

From Burns' remark draws comparison to Nixon.

Are you kidding me. There might be a plan, but - voters of Montana - we're not telling you...and I think, I might know the general strategy of that plan, but Bush won't tell me - Senator, Republican, and member of the Defense appropiations subcommittee. That is the NUTTIEST thing I've ever heard.

Until I heard this:
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) offering a new way to understand the importance of the Iraq war:

"As the Hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else. It's being drawn to Iraq, and it's not being drawn to the U.S. You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don't want the Eye to come back here to the United States."

The Eye of Mordor, for those who don't follow the study of geopolitical dynamics, was used by the Dark Lord Sauron to search for the One Ring that would consolidate his power over Middle-Earth.

Next: What Harry Potter thinks of bilateral negotiations with North Korea.

From the Chicago Sun-Times.

Truly unbelieveable.

This sums it up...

Republican media consultant Craig Shirley said the party's national leadership appears to be trying to scare disaffected voters to the polls by arguing that Republicans aren't as bad as the Democrats. "It would be nice if the national party started talking about what we are for ... instead of simply trashing the left," Mr. Shirley said. "We used to be proud of our ideas about less government and more freedom."

Again, experts at winning elections, pathetic at governing.

From the Washington Times article Conservative voters likely to stay home.

Other telling excerpts:

Top Republicans -- including President Bush, his chief strategist Karl Rove, Vice President Dick Cheney and Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman -- have been meeting with conservative activists, columnists and broadcasters, emphasizing the importance of this midterm election. That message has rippled out via newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and the Internet.

An e-mail sent this week by the conservative group carried the subject line, "Don't you dare not vote," and featured a column by veteran activist Doug Patton appealing to Republican voters' patriotism.

"As you contemplate how to express your frustration with Republican leaders who may have mishandled the power we have entrusted to them," Mr. Patton wrote, "consider how you would explain your apathy to the 1.2 million brave men who have given their lives in America's wars over the last 230 years."

Securing the Common Good...

Clinton Reflects on His 2 Terms and Hits Hard at Republicans
Clinton Comeback

Fifteen years ago, then-Presidential-candidate, Bill Clinton went to Georgetown University and delivered a speech about a New Covenant between the people and their government. In that speech fifteen years ago, he said:
People once looked at the president and the Congress to bring us together, to solve problems, to make progress. Now, in the face of massive challenges, our government stands discredited, our people are disillusioned. There’s a hole in our politics where our sense of common purpose used to be.

Yesterday, now-former-President, Bill Clinton went back to Georgetown and delivered a speech intending to put the message of progressive politics under a unifying theme that the American people - voters - can understand:
This sort of politics — striving for a common good — for me stands in stark contrast to both the political and governing philosophy of the leadership in Washington today and for the last six years.

Striving for the common, it seems like it's been a long time since a political leader would talk about something like that. At least six years, I'd say. A Common Good - it is so encouraging to hear a politician talk about something higher than partisan politics - working together for American goals:
The country has been well served by its progressive and conservative traditions. We understand that campaigns will be heated, but we want it to be connected somehow to the real lives of real people, to the aspirations of ordinary Americans.

Hopefully, the Clinton's message yesterday will be studied by Democrats running for office all of the nation. The last thing that we need is for the Democrats to actually squeak into office in these mid-term elections and be just as partisan, just as corrupt, and just as unwilling to do the work of the American people as the Republicans currently are. We need to accomplish the goals of the people:
We believe in mutual responsibility. They believe that, in large measure, people make or break their own lives and you’re on your own,” he explained in today’s speech. “We believe in striving, at least, to cooperate with others because we think that there are very few problems in the world we can solve on our own. They favor unilateralism whenever possible, and cooperation when it’s unavoidable.

For some - completely unknown - reason the current Bush administration, and the Republican party in general, still blames Clinton for every issue that comes before them - North Korea, the Foley scandal, terrorism, etc. Such 'blame-Clinton' tactics are nakedly irresponsible... but they are also poor politics. Clinton is about as popular as he has ever been, and his popularity is only on the rise:
When Clinton left office, his approval numbers in the Gallup poll were at a low 39 percent in early 2001. Today they are 20 points higher, and they have risen steadily as President Bush’s numbers have dropped.

Sure, blaming Clinton may still stir the rabid, right-wing base of the party... but that is the opposite of reaching out to the common good. And it's wholly ineffective. Weeks ago, Clinton was ambushed while doing an interview for Fox News - and he took much criticism when he actually fought back. But that moment - the moment when a Democrat actually fought back against Fox News and, as an extention, right-wing talk radio - has been a rallying cry not only for progressives, but also for the average American. We saw someone stand up against the propaganda and lies spewed constantly from the right-wing media. That media, Fox News and talk-radio, made such a big deal about it because it was terrifying for them. Because the people understood where it came from - for too long, the party in power has irresponsibly attacked the left and Clinton himself, while being entirely ineffective in their governing. Republicans may well be experts at winning elections - but they have utterly failed at governing.

In another recent speech, Clinton said the following:
Democrats, Clinton said, have a “big responsibility.” “Forget about politics,” he whispered. “Just go out and find somebody and look them dead in the eye and say, ‘You know this isn’t right’… We can do better, and this year, it’s a job that Democrats have to do alone.”

We, the people, can do better. It's time for us to return to a focus on the Common Good.

Related prior posts:
Skewed Perspective...
The Democrat's Problem...
Positive Signs...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Looks like I am wrong...

Okay. I can admit it when I'm wrong, or when I'm potentially wrong.

Last week I wrote about the TX-22 campaign, and said based on personal observation that it looks as if Shelley Sekula-Gibbs campaign may be getting some traction in the heavily Republican district.

Individual personal obervation is often a poor indicator of the overall picture. - a hardcore right-wing Republican blog-site - recently carried a posting mentioning that the Libertarian candidate in the race in TX-22 is out-polling Sekula-Gibbs, the Republican write-in candidate. Yikes. That would be a monumental embarrassment for the Republicans.

Related prior post:
An upset, of what would have been an upset, in the making?...

A really, really bad day...

I heard this story on the radio this morning, then found this article on MSNBC - Picasso Dream Painting in Nightmare Scenario

Steve Wynn ... accidentally gave the multimillion dollar [Picasso] canvas an elbow.

Wynn had just finalized a $139 million sale to another collector of his painting, called “Le Reve” (The Dream), when he poked a finger-sized hole in the artwork while showing it to friends at his Las Vegas office a couple of weeks ago.

Ouch. Blowing up a $139MM deal with a clumsy elbow. What a bad day...

On Purpose...

Interesting nugget from Newsweek - Beliefwatch: On Purpose

Time was, not so long ago, that no one ever said a bad word about Pastor Rick Warren. He was the genius grower of churches, the California whiz who found a magic formula for marketing Christianity to the masses, who hit the jackpot with his book "The Purpose Driven Life," by some accounts the best-selling nonfiction book ever. The newsweeklies noticed him, The New Yorker profiled him, members of Billy Graham's family lauded him and Bill Gates himself hobnobbed with him.
Has Warren simply gotten so huge—with 400,000 pastors trained in the art of being purpose-driven and more than 20,000 people coming to hear him preach on Sundays—that he's an easy target? Or are American Protestants really beginning to tire of megachurches? The numbers wouldn't support this latter hypothesis: there are twice as many megachurches in America today as there were five years ago, and Warren himself handles the criticism like a giant shooing a pesky fly. "It's about time someone started to be negative," he says with a smile in his voice. "The media love to build people up, and they immediately love to tear them down." He has important things to do, he says, pointing to his new initiatives to stop poverty, AIDS and illiteracy in Africa. The negative press is nothing—"like a water spider on the pond of life." Then he quotes John 10:37: "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not." A verse that critics and fans alike can take to heart.

Related previous post:
A purpose driven nation?...

Monday, October 16, 2006

An upset, of what would have been an upset, in the making?...

Interesting article in the Houston Chronicle today about TX-22 - Big Gap in Cash Marks Dist. 22 Contest.

The article focuses on the big lead in cash that Democrat Nick Lampson holds over Republican Shelly Sekula-Gibbs, who is a write-in candidate for the Republicans after former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay had to resign in disgrace after being indicted for egregious corruption.
Lampson has $1.7 million in the bank compared with Sekula-Gibbs' $403,000 in the race to replace former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in suburban Houston's congressional District 22.

Since DeLay's resignation in the midst of scandal, and the Republican party's inability to replace a name on the ballot under Texas law, pundits have put TX-22 in the solid Democratic column, assuming that the Republican's would not be able to win with a write-in candidate. Maybe.

But, in an admittedly isolated personal observance, it appears that in Houston, the Republicans are starting to pour on the money. Commericals on the airwaves can be heard for Sekula-Gibbs - but I haven't heard anything from Lampson. In addition, there are two big billboards heading down 59 South for Sekula-Gibbs...nothing from Lampson.

Maybe it's just me - but in one of the most heavily Republican districts in the US, I think that the Vote Twice/Write In campaign is gaining traction, and she has a chance to upset ... the underdog.

Who would have thought a Democrat could have won TX-22? Who would have thought a write-in candidacy could beat the only major party candidate on the ballot?

This district could still come down to a crazy finish.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Not "Staying the Course"...

It appears that the bi-partisan commission set up by Congress and the White House to analyze current Iraq policies will reject Bush and the Republican policy/mantra of "stay the course."

Articles from both the New York Times and MSNBC indicate that James Baker, co-chairman of the commission, "said today that he expected the group to depart from Mr. Bush’s call to 'stay the course.'"

That is relatively good news. But - there is tragic news as well:

In interviews over the past two weeks, other members of the Iraq Study Group, an independent organization that came together with the reluctant blessing of the White House, have expressed concern that within months whatever course the group recommends will be overtaken by violence and other developments in Iraq.

“I think the big question is whether we can come up with something before it’s too late,” one member of the commission said late last month, after the group met in Washington. “There’s a real sense that the clock is ticking, that Bush is desperate for a change, but no one in the White House can bring themselves to say so with this election coming. It’s a race between our political calendar and the Iraqis.”
That's just beyond comprehension. Just like the Republican House leadership decided to risk the safety of kids in the page program in order keep their grip on power, and protect one safe seat in the House, the White House is willing to risk American soldiers, and countless Iraqi lives in order to wait to address the situation until after an election.


Sign of Weakness...

The Financial Times carries an analysis column of North Korea's apparent nuclear test earlier today (last night, our time). Interestingly, the FT concludes the North Korea test is a sign of weakness. Excerpts:

The test does imply, however, that the regime has enough weapons spare not to worry about losing one of them by testing. This probably means that it has more than the one or two weapons it was assessed to have by US intelligence a few years ago, and may have as many as 10.

Yet the test is more a sign of weakness than of strength. Though analysing what goes on at the top of the isolationist regime is difficult, some analysts have speculated that Kim Jong Il is under internal pressure. The country is plagued by food shortages – exacerbated by a drop in food aid from China and other countries – and has seen economic sanctions erode its ability to earn foreign exchange.

It also contains this biting analysis of the change in US policy under the Bush administration:

North Korea’s probable test of a nuclear weapon on Monday has triggered the second nuclear crisis in 13 years on the Korean peninsula.

In 1993, North Korea announced it would pull out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, leaving it free to divert nuclear material from its energy reactors to make a nuclear weapon and setting off a round of crisis diplomacy led by the Clinton administration. The result was the so-called agreed framework, which – in return for supplies of fuel oil to North Korea – froze most aspects of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme for the rest of the decade.

The agreed framework was in effect consigned to history when the Bush administration came to power in 2001. The new administration argued that although the road to a plutonium-based nuclear bomb had been frozen, the North Koreans were cheating by attempting to develop a uranium-based bomb that was not explicitly addressed by the agreement.

That five years later, North Korea has tested a nuclear weapon will be widely interpreted as a sign of the failure of the tougher approach favoured by the Bush team.

Back in 2002, Bush stood before an audience in Cincinnati and declared that there was an "Axis of Evil" consisting of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea.

Isn't it a shame that he chose to invade the one nation-state on that list that actually DID NOT have a nuclear program?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sunday Reading...

Several interesting stories caught my attention today - I thought I'd just link to them in case anyone may be interested:

Houston Chronicle:
The fight for The Woodlands - As Houston sets its sights northward, residents of the master-planned community are starting to weigh their options
Pope Urges Couples to Resist Modern Pressures - Pope Benedict XVI urged couples to resist modern cultural currents inspired only by a search for happiness and pleasure

New York Times:
As Exemptions Grow, Religion Outweighs Regulation - Religious organizations enjoy an abundance of exemptions from regulations and taxes, and the number is multiplying rapidly
Rumsfeld Shift Lets Army Seek Larger Budget - The defense secretary is allowing the Army to approach White House budget officials by itself to argue for substantial increases in resources

Off Message - Foley email scandal could tumble the GOP
For the Faithful, A Trying Time - Evangelicals fed up with GOP?
The Return of the Grim Speaker - Cheney is back with doom speech casting Democrats as danger to security

Thursday, October 05, 2006

No Responsibility...

It is often said these days that no one is willing to take responsibility anymore. As a general rule, that may well be true. Yet, it is difficult to understand how people are supposed to learn to take responsibility when all they see is their leaders ducking responsibility and blaming others...anyone else, no matter how implausible, and no matter how responsible those leaders are.

Where does the "buck" stop anymore? Harry Truman is famous for the statement - The buck stops here. The responsibility lies with me, and I'm man enough to take it. Oh, how we need leadership like that again these days.

I've always been a big believer than in business - and in life - you will always go far if you are willing to take responsibility for negatives, and pass the praise on to others for positives. It is scary - sure. But down deep, people respect those who are willing to step up, take responsibility for a situation, and with a steady jaw, accept the consequences of those actions. (The flip side is true as well, people always respect those who are willing to give credit to their co-workers and associates for triumphs, and it also engenders the respect and loyalty of those receiving the praise.) That's what people want. Accept your consequences, and then succeed anyway. That's how respect is earned.

And then there are people who respond like this: Hastert vows to hold on

In an interview with the Tribune on Wednesday night, Hastert said he had no thoughts of resigning and he blamed ABC News and Democratic operatives for the mushrooming scandal that threatens his tenure as speaker and Republicans' hold on power in the House.

Hastert refuses to take any responsibility. Instead of a concern for the people impacted by this scandal, instead of a concern for public perception, instead of a concern for the leadership of the House of Representatives...Hastert is concerned only about his tenure as speaker and Republican power. He's willing to blame Democrats (whom he purposefully kept the information from) and the media who broke this story. Pathetic and sad.

"I think that [resignation] is exactly what our opponents would like to have happen--that I'd fold my tent and others would fold our tent and they would sweep the House."

The election is more important than principal.

He went on to suggest that operatives aligned with former President Bill Clinton knew about the allegations and were perhaps behind the disclosures in the closing weeks before the Nov. 7 midterm elections, but he offered no hard proof."

All I know is what I hear and what I see," the speaker said. "I saw Bill Clinton's adviser, Richard Morris, was saying these guys knew about this all along. If somebody had this info, when they had it, we could have dealt with it then."

Even this is Clinton's fault...not the Republican leadership's who "only" covered up the story and refused to investigate the situation. [Here is where we all roll our eyes.]

In a day of rapidly unfolding developments, former Foley chief of staff Kirk Fordham charged that he had alerted the speaker's chief of staff to Foley's behavior well before a former page complained last year of inappropriate e-mails from the Florida Republican congressman. Fordham resigned earlier in the day as chief of staff to Rep. Thomas Reynolds (R-N.Y.), the GOP national congressional campaign chairman; Reynolds was among those involved in discussions of the page's complaint about Foley.

Fordham's lawyer, Timothy Heaphy, said Fordham warned Hastert chief of staff Scott Palmer at least two years ago about inappropriate behavior between Foley and pages."Palmer subsequently had a meeting with Foley and Foley mentioned it to Fordham," Heaphy said.

Fordham said he was unsure when the meeting with Palmer occurred, but Heaphy said it was between 2002 and 2004, when Fordham was Foley's chief of staff.

Hastert's office immediately denied the charge from Fordham, and the speaker challenged Fordham's credibility directly.

I admit that I might be wrong, but I feel strongly that Americans would have much more respect for Congress and their leaders if instead of pointing fingers, they would bear the responsibilities of their position. Leadership is not easy, but it's desperately needed.

[Edit: the blaming continues. MSNBC reports that Hastert will speak today and blame Democrats. Of course, his position is untenable. The ABC reporter who broke the story has gone on record as saying his information came from a Republican staffer, and The Hill is reporting that Longtime Republican was source of Emails. The cover-up continues.]

Hedge fund problems...

Weak Results Dim Hedge Funds’ Luster

For years now, Hedge Funds have been the darlings of Wall Street. Hedge funds are sophisiticated investments for institutions like pension funds and endowments and the wealthy. They are currently unregulated by the SEC because they are only open to a tiny minority of investors who: a) have a high level of sophistication and intelligence about investments, and b) have very large amounts of money to invest. (Thus, the "average" investor in a Hedge Fund may well be institutions like pensions and endowments mentioned above.) Part of the idea of Hedge Funds are they since they are not regulated, they do not carry the administrative costs of other investments, therefore they should consistently out-perform traditional stocks and mutual funds.

The SEC has in the past tried to get some control over these investment instruments, but have been halted in their attempts. But, as the article linked above discusses, the performance of some of the funds has not been stellar, and may provide an opportunity for the SEC to get back involved.
Recently, a well-regarded fund, Amaranth Advisors of Greenwich, Conn., made a wrong-way bet in the energy markets and lost more than $6 billion in a week. It will dispose of its remaining assets. Even the flagship hedge fund run by Goldman Sachs, whose trading prowess has few peers on Wall Street, fell 10 percent in August. A fund at Vega Asset Management, once among the 10 largest hedge funds in the world, fell more than 11.5 percent in September, leaving it down 17.5 percent for the year. Its assets, which once topped $12 billion, are now $2 billion to $3 billion, a person close to the fund said.

Returns for many hedge funds, which are supposed to be the market beaters, have paled in comparison with stocks. Hedge Fund Research’s weighted composite index is up 7.23 percent through September, according to a preliminary estimate, compared with the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, which, with dividends, has a total return of 12.4 percent over the same period.
The rise of hedge funds’ fame and fortune happened quickly. In 2000, the stock market began to slide, and almost overnight, a band of obscure money managers became the new millennium’s masters of the universe. Soon, huge buckets of money rained on these stars — $99 billion flooded into hedge funds in 2002, according to Hedge Fund Research. Since the beginning of 2001, nearly 7,000 hedge funds have been started.

With eye-popping compensation — the top manager took home $1.5 billion last year — hedge-fund performance, and the pay derived from it, redefined everything from job prestige on Wall Street to the price for art and real estate.

So while there has been nothing like a sweeping shakeout in the business or a market crisis like the near collapse of Long-Term Capital Management in 1998, some hedge funds, including some of the high-profile “safe” names, have failed to show any Midas-like magic.

Many of the big-name debuts of 2004, 2005 and even 2006 have produced lackluster results.
Hedge funds are Darwinian by nature: when returns are good, money flows in and when they are bad, investors scramble to get their money out as soon as possible.

So the spigot of new money into hedge funds has run hot and cold. After tapering off in 2005, with $46.9 billion flowing in, there has been a revival this year, with more than $66 billion poured into hedge funds in the first half of 2006 alone. That flood of money is not likely to end even amid the recent stumbles by hedge funds.
Pension funds, seeking to make up for years of being underfunded, have
increasingly turned to hedge funds. Many funds that cater to such institutions boast they can deliver consistent medium-range returns — 8 to 12 percent — that permit institutions to better manage their liabilities.

And endowments, which were among the earliest adopters of hedge fund investing, do not appear to be backing away.
Indeed, the changes that are likely to come in the wake of Amaranth will be in the form of increased vigilance by investors. Managers of funds of funds and consultants say investors may now temporarily delay their investments in hedge funds as they try to negotiate better terms to redeem their funds in the case of a crisis. And there may be calls from investors for greater disclosure, especially regarding how the funds are using leverage and derivatives.
In days when Hedge Funds are high-flying, it makes sense that it would be difficult for the SEC to be able to garner support for registration and disclosure within such funds. But, when performance is not so great - and especially when funds are losing $6BB in a week - the environment may be better to put some sort of rational registration requirements on the funds.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A link...

If you don't live in Tennessee it won't be as relevant, but anyone looking for a public servant to support should click here:

Harold Ford Jr. for Tennessee Senate

More finger pointing...

Rice Confirms Meeting with Tenet on U.S. Threat

It turns out Condi Rice "misrepresented" the truth over the weekend when she said she didn't remember meeting with George Tenet TWO MONTHS before the September 11th terrorist attacks, where he and the CIA disclosed to her that they had reports of an imminent terrorist attack.

But, even in confirming the meeting - she points fingers:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did receive a CIA briefing about terror threats just about two months before the Sept. 11 attacks, but the information was not new, her chief spokesman said.

In doing so, [Rice's spokesperson] confirmed a meeting - on July 10, 2001 - that [Rice] had said repeatedly she could not specifically recall. ...

A new book by reporter Bob Woodward of Watergate fame describes the White House meeting as an emergency wakeup call that Rice had brushed off. Rice was President Bush's national security adviser at the time and was promoted to the top diplomatic job last year.

Although spokesmen for the State Department and the National Security Council indicated Sunday that such a meeting had taken place, Rice was still saying Monday that she was not sure about it. She said she would have remembered the sort of forceful warning the book claims was conveyed there.

Woodward's book "State of Denial'' recounts the meeting among then-CIA Director George Tenet, Rice and the CIA's top counterterror officer. The book said the session stood out in the minds of the CIA officials as the "starkest warning they had given the White House'' on al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his network.

McCormack said that after the meting, Rice had asked that the same material be given to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.

So, her response is blame Rumsfeld and Ashcroft. But will that fly?
Meanwhile, Ashcroft said Monday that he should have been notified of any such report dealing with a pending attack on the United States. "It just occurred to me how disappointing it was that they didn't come to me with this type of information,'' he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Whoops! It's like cannibalism on the right...

Resign, Mr. Speaker...

The nation's most conservative newspaper, The Washington Times, carries an editorial today entitled: Resign, Mr. Speaker.


The evidence was strong enough long enough ago that the speaker should have believed Mr. Foley of his committee responsibilities contingent on a full investigation to learn what had taken place, whether any laws had been violated and what action, up to and including prosecution, were warranted by the facts. This never happened.

On Friday, Mr. Hastert dissembled, to put it charitably, before conceding that he, too, learned about the e-mail messages sometime earlier this year. Late yesterday afternoon, Mr. Hastert insisted that he learned of the most flagrant instant-message exchange from 2003 only last Friday, when it was reported by ABC News. This is irrelevant. The original e-mail messages were warning enough that a predator -- and, incredibly, the co-chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children -- could be prowling the halls of Congress. The matter wasn't pursued aggressively. It was barely pursued at all. Moreover, all available evidence suggests that the Republican leadership did not share anything related to this matter with any Democrat.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert must do the only right thing, and resign his speakership at once. Either he was grossly negligent for not taking the red flags fully into account and ordering a swift investigation, for not even remembering the order of events leading up to last week's revelations -- or he deliberately looked the other way in hopes that a brewing scandal would simply blow away. He gave phony answers Friday to the old and ever-relevant questions of what did he know and when did he know it? Mr. Hastert has forfeited the confidence of the public and his party, and he cannot preside over the necessary coming investigation, an investigation that must examine his own inept performance.

In addition, the finger-pointing is getting really, really, really nasty. Even by Republican standards:

Straining to hold the party together five weeks from Election Day amid unfolding revelations about the case, Mr. Hastert and his leadership team held a conference call with House Republicans on Monday night and heard blunt advice and criticism from participants who pressed for further action to reassure voters.
“This is a political problem, and we need to step up and do something dramatic,” Representative Ray LaHood of Illinois said afterward, adding that he had proposed abolishing the Congressional page program.

At the White House, Tony Snow, President Bush’s press secretary, initially characterized the scandal as “naughty e-mails,” drawing a blistering response from Democrats who said his words suggested that Republicans did not understand the gravity of the situation.

"There wasn't much there other than a friendly inquiry," Hastert said of the 2005 message from Foley, described as "sick" by the boy.

Hastert said he does not recall being told last spring by Rep. Tom Reynolds, the House GOP campaign chairman, about the questionable e-mail, but he doesn't dispute Reynolds' account.
"I don't think I went wrong at all," Reynolds said at a Monday evening news conference in his western New York district, surrounding himself with about 30 children and about as many parents. "I don't know what else I could have done."

Majority Leader John Boehner said the speaker had assured him months ago the matter had been taken care of. "It's in his corner. It's his responsibility,"
Boehner, R-Ohio, said in an interview on radio station WLW in Cincinnati.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Midterm Predictions for the Midterms...

Okay - so it's not exactly early predictions for the coming November midterm elections, but it's not last minute predictions either, so I'm calling it my "Midterm Predictions for the Midterms."

Early in the summer there was a lot of excitement in Democratic circles that during the 2006 Midterms they would take back both houses of Congress. That excitement was quieted a bit during September, when the White House used the 5th Anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks to do some campaigning, but it seems as if the Democrats are getting energized again.

The latest Mason-Dixon/MSNBC polls for contested Senate races would seem to justify Democratic excitement. As of last Friday (29-Sept.) the races stood as follows:

Maryland (Democrat held):
Cardin (D) - 47
Steele (R) - 41

Missouri (Republican held):
Talent (R) (i) - 43
McCaskill (D) - 43

Montana (Republican held):
Tester (D) - 47
Burns (R) (i) - 40

New Jersey (Democrat held):
Menendez (D) - 44
Kean (R) - 41

Ohio (Republican held):
Brown (D) - 45
DeWine (R) (i) - 43

Pennsylvania (Republican held):
Casey (D) - 49
Santorum (R) (i) - 40

Rhode Island (Republican held):
Whitehouse (D) - 42
Chafee (R) (i) - 41

Tennessee (Republican held):
Ford (D) - 43 ... (Rasmussen polls indicate - 48)
Corker (R) - 42 ... (Rasmussen polls indicate - 43)

Virginia (Republican held):
Allen (R) (i) - 43 ... (Rasmussen polls indicate - 49)
Webb (D) - 43 ... (Rasmussen polls indicate - 43)

Washington (Democrat held):
Cantwell (D) (i) - 50
McGavick (R) - 40

These numbers seem to indicate pretty good news for the Democrats and their hope to gain control of the Senate (they need to pick up 6 seats). They look pretty solid to win back thier incumbancies (MD, NJ, WA) although New Jersey seems to still be up in the air. In addition, of the seven Republican seats they are challenging in (which by the way does not include Connecticut, because although it is de facto Republican (Lieberman), it is relatively certain that the incumbent will defeat Ned Lamont in his run as an independant) they are leading in five and tied in two. Of course, five will not take the Senate. But even beyond that, these numbers should not be overly encouraging to Democrats.

What is one of the most striking and consistent things in the numbers above? The Democrats - even the ones in the lead - don't have 50% of the vote yet. Hmm... In my opinion, that does not bode well in the seven Republican controlled seats up for grabs. My guesses right now are that the Democrats will retain control of the three competitive seats they currently hold (MD, NJ, and WA). But, of the other seven seats, I am guessing that the Democrats are only able to pick up two of those seats (MT and TN), and those are both very close calls. Burns is an intrenched incumbent in Montana, and although Harold Ford Jr. is a TREMENDOUS candidate in Tennessee, that state has been voting Republican state-wide for some time now, and a Ford victory will still be a great upset.

So, what do I see in the other races? I see an electorate that is disgusted and disenchanted with the Republican leadership and the Bush Administration. Such antipathy is reflected in the poll numbers. But when election day rolls around, Republicans run superb GOTV campaigns, and that will make a difference. In Missouri, 14% are undecided, and if they go vote, they are more likely to vote for an incumbent. The exception may be Santorum in Pennsylvania. Casey is almost running at 50%, and there is a tight race with a Democrat emerging in the House district in the Philadelphia suburbs. If Santorum cannot win those suburbs, he cannot win Pennsylvania.

Overall, I'm going to guess as of today that the Democrats gain a grand total of TWO seats in the Senate (if they hold NJ) - and the Republicans and the media declares it a Grand Victory for the Republicans.

Over in the House, many have considered it a foregone conclusion since late spring that the Democrats would take back the house, based in large part on the Mason-Dixon polling which shows the Democrats having a BIG lead in the generic congressional ballot test, 48% - 43%, over the Republicans (see link above). The Democrats need to pick up 16 seats in the House to gain control.

The Cook Political Report (as of 20-Sept) lists 74 seats as potentially in play (55 held by Republicans and 19 by Democrats). BUT, of the 19 seats that Cook has listed as "toss-ups," 15 of those districts tend to lean Republican. Again, I think that in the House, as in the Senate, the Democrats are likely to gain seats, but I just don't think they will get the full 16 seats needs to gain the majority. Republicans will spin this loss as a win due to such low expectations.

Of course, all this could still change. The recent shocking scandal surrounding Florida Republican Foley, the questions surrounding why the Republican leadership never took action, and the White House characterizing the scandal as "simply naughty e-mails" and "overly friendly." If the Republican leadership and White House continue to respond like this, it could actally affect the midterms.

My Midterm Predictions for the Midterms are that the Republicans will retain both Houses of Congress. I just think that Democrats are being overly optimistic - Republicans strengths in the Districts in question, and in the GOTV operations will make the ultimate difference on November 7.

[Edit: I thought I would include my 26-Oct-2004 prediction post for the 2004 Presidential Election:

Swing States

As a quick recap, at that time I predicted Bush to defeat Kerry by an electoral college vote of 271 to 267. I was off, but only by a bit, the actual result was a Bush victory of 286 to 251 (I picked Ohio for Kerry).]