Friday, February 8, 2008

Emily Bazelon wonders about the possible Supreme Court nominees for a potential Obama administration with some of Obama's legal advisers:

One of Obama's close advisers on legal matters, Cass Sunstein, is a proponent of judicial minimalism—the theory that judges should hew closely to the facts in the cases before them rather than issuing forth with bold and sweeping opinions. So I wondered if Obama might favor moderate judges over strongly liberal ones—a translation to the bench of his calls for unity and bipartisanship, in other words. But Minow and Tribe rejected that. And Sunstein himself has written that given the roaring conservative voices currently on the court and its shift to the right, minimalism isn't necessarily the best posture for the next justice. "I clerked for Justice Marshall, and while I don't agree with him on everything by any means, there is an argument that the court would benefit from someone with a vision of equality and liberty," Sunstein said. "That is clearly absent."

On Obama's staff, that absence is also keenly felt. How to fix that? "We'd want a nominee who would do what John Roberts did," one staff member said. "You go through the process and say 'Hey, I'll look at each case as it comes.' You have a moderate temperament. You're affable and everybody likes you. And then you get up there, and after a year and a half, you vote on the opposite side from John Roberts in every single case where that's warranted and it matters."

The judicial version of Barack Obama, perhaps?

Some Rasmussen polling may have a sliver of good news for a worried GOP. Voters surveyed trust the Republican party more than the Democratic party on national security, Iraq policy, immigration, and taxes (just barely):

On other issues, Republicans now have a 9% edge of 49% to 40% on National Security and the War on Terror, (Very Important to 66%); a 3% edge on the War in Iraq, (Very Important to 58%); a 4% edge on Immigration, (Very Important to 50%); and a 2% edge on Taxes. This is the first time since tracking began in the fall of 2006 that the Republicans have had an advantage on four separate issues.

Every issue is considered at least Somewhat Important by a majority of respondents; Abortion, for example, is Somewhat or Very Important to 60%, but is Very Important to only 39%. The issue of Taxes is at least Somewhat Important to 84%. But it's Very Important to only 54%.

The Democrats currently enjoy a much larger advantage on their own strongest issues, Health Care (54% to 32%), which is Very Important to 61%; and Education (51% to 34%), Very Important to 62%. But a month ago the GOP could not claim even a thin margin on a single issue, managing only a tie on National Security. Then, the Democrats led by double digits on six issues. Now, they lead by double digits only on Health Care and Education.

The Democrats have a six-point lead on the Corruption issue—where, as usual, a big slice of voters (30%) are Not Sure which party they can trust more. The Democrats are also favored by eight percentage points on Social Security, (Very Important to 64%); and by eight points on Abortion.

The voters surveyed also trust Democrats more than Republicans on the economy.

Some scientists are concerned about the sun's cycle of activity:

Solar activity fluctuates in an 11-year cycle. But so far in this cycle, the sun has been disturbingly quiet. The lack of increased activity could signal the beginning of what is known as a Maunder Minimum, an event which occurs every couple of centuries and can last as long as a century.

Such an event occurred in the 17th century. The observation of sunspots showed extraordinarily low levels of magnetism on the sun, with little or no 11-year cycle.

This solar hibernation corresponded with a period of bitter cold that began around 1650 and lasted, with intermittent spikes of warming, until 1715. Frigid winters and cold summers during that period led to massive crop failures, famine and death in Northern Europe.

Tapping reports no change in the sun's magnetic field so far this cycle and warns that if the sun remains quiet for another year or two, it may indicate a repeat of that period of drastic cooling of the Earth, bringing massive snowfall and severe weather to the Northern Hemisphere.

Scientists want to do more research on this phenomenon.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

CQ lays out some of the possible domestic accomplishments/aims of a potential McCain administration:

If he wants to accomplish things — and every president wants to accomplish things — he will have to do so on the Democrats’ terms.

That means his agenda will include those things on which he agrees with the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate:

• A cap and trade regime for climate change.

• Expansion of McCain-Feingold regulations for campaign finance.

• Expanded legal rights for enemy combatants, and probably the closing of Guantanamo.

• Comprehensive immigration overhaul, with a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants already in the country.

This will not be a “reaching across the aisle.” This will be a full partnership of the president and the Congress, who just happen to be of different parties. The shrunken GOP minority in the Senate might serve as a brake, especially on immigration. But it will be only a brake, not a standing astride history yelling “stop!”

"Change" is coming?
The best technology is the one you don't think of as technology? Jim Manzi thinks so:
What’s so funny about this is that CFL proponents (or more precisely, proponents of laws that would make it illegal for you to use incandescent bulbs in your house) often refer to “inefficient incandescent technology that has barely changed since the invention of the tungsten filament nearly a century ago.” This profoundly misunderstands technology. The best technologies last hundreds or thousands of years, and become so much a part of the built environment that we don’t even think of them as technologies anymore: books, stone houses, woven shirts, fire. The fact that incandescent bulbs have lasted as long as they have and that a law is required to make people give them up probably indicates that it is a great technology.
Romney's out? It seems like a sudden decision.
UPDATE: The text of Romney's speech withdrawing him from the race. He says he's withdrawing for the sake of party unity and to ward off a potential Obama/Clinton presidency:

I disagree with Senator McCain on a number of issues, as you know. But I agree with him on doing whatever it takes to be successful in Iraq, on finding and executing Osama bin Laden, and on eliminating Al Qaeda and terror. If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.

This is not an easy decision for me. I hate to lose. My family, my friends and our supporters… many of you right here in this room… have given a great deal to get me where I have a shot at becoming President. If this were only about me, I would go on. But I entered this race because I love America, and because I love America, I feel I must now stand aside, for our party and for our country.

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox claims that most "illegal immigrants" from Mexico have no interest in becoming US citizens:
Fox said most illegal immigrants from Mexico don't want to become U.S. citizens and plan to return to their homeland someday because "they like better tacos, tortillas and chilies than hot dogs or hamburgers." He thinks a temporary guest worker program would solve many problems.
John McCain's "Hispanic Outreach Director" Juan Hernandez (a former adviser to Fox) has also said that immigrants to the US from Mexico should not/will not "assimilate."
Mark Krikorian has four questions for John McCain on immigration.
Do-over? Howard Dean seems to be pushing for Florida and Michigan to have another Democratic primary vote; the delegates from these states, which were both won by Clinton, currently are not supposed to be seated at the national convention because the primaries were held too early based on DNC rules.
Jim Geraghty has a breakdown of the upcoming GOP February primary votes and their various policies.
One law for all a nation's citizens? The Archbishop of Canterbury doesn't think that's such a good idea:

But Dr Williams said an approach to law which simply said "there's one law for everybody and that's all there is to be said, and anything else that commands your loyalty or allegiance is completely irrelevant in the processes of the courts - I think that's a bit of a danger".
"There's a place for finding what would be a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law, as we already do with some other aspects of religious law."

Some wonder if such a divided legal system might ultimately widen cultural rifts in the UK.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Bush administration plans to reform part of the agricultural "guest worker" program to make it easier for foreign workers to come to the US:
The proposed changes to the program, which would relax the requirements for the H-2A visas granted to foreign farmworkers, come against a backdrop of growing anger over illegal immigration and tension among the presidential candidates over the issue.

The new regulations could be a boon to growers, who have long complained that the program is too cumbersome and leaves them little choice but to turn to illegal immigrants.

The simplified rules are certain to generate outrage among anti-immigration activists, who say the program steals jobs from Americans. At the same time, advocates for farmworkers charge that under the new rules, growers could exploit workers by paying them less than they do now.

The proposed changes, which would take effect after a 45-day period of public comment, would modify how foreign laborers are paid and housed, and slightly expand the types of industries that can use the program. The administration would also ease the standards farmers must now meet to show they have tried to hire U.S. citizens first.
Romney sounds like he's not giving up yet.
After Super Tuesday: A Lot of Little Races: Or, Is a Brokered Republican Convention Still Possible?

Some are predicting a brokered GOP convention. Some are saying McCain's guaranteed a win. Who's right? Who knows? I sure don't, but here's one possible route to a brokered convention (Note: Possible does not mean probable):

While it may be very hard, if not impossible, for Romney or Huckabee to get an absolute majority of delegates before the convention, it is also possible, in a three-man race, that McCain may still not get an absolute majority, either. McCain’s people are claiming 775 delegates (of the 1191 needed for a majority) and say that 963 are left outstanding. McCain needs to win over 400 (around 40%) of those remaining delegates to get a majority. Has the deal been sealed? Not necessarily.

While, at this point, it seems likely that McCain will win the Republican nomination, particularly with a possible McCain-Huckabee alliance, it is also possible that Huckabee and Romney could together prevent McCain from getting an absolute majority. To do so, they will (combined) need to win nearly 60% of the oustanding delegates.

Virginia with 63 delegates is the only remaining sizable winner-take-all primary state. The rest are some variant on proportional-voting primary systems and caucuses. Louisiana (47d) and Kansas (39d) are both closed primary votes and both include conventions as part of their delegate-selection process; LA also has a proportional primary vote. These caucus states might be in Romney’s favor since he seems to run stronger in caucuses. McCain's present numbers rely heavily on winner-take-all states. The proportional open states cut into the ability of Romney and Huckabee to rack up big numbers, but they also cut into McCain's ability to get big boosts, too. McCain seems very likely to get a number of votes and delegates from those states where all delegates are assigned proportionately, but Romney and Huckabee are likely to score some delegates there, too.

Where could be the real turning point for a hard-fought campaign? Those states following a winner-take-all by Congressional district method of delegate allocation. What right now might be Romney/Huckabee’s best strategy to deny McCain a majority of delegates in those states: to run less a general state-wide campaign and more a number of little congressional campaigns. A number of the upcoming states are winner-take-all by Congressional district: Ohio (88 delegates–March 5), Maryland (37 delegates–Feb. 9), and Wisconsin (40 delegates–Feb. 19). Mississippi (33 delegates–March 10) also relies upon Congressional districts for assigning some delegates. Winner-take-all by Congressional district can lead to candidates with a broad but diffused level of popular support from gaining delegates. For example, McCain won California 42-34, but it looks like he might get 160 delegates to Romney's 10 due to CA's winner-take-all by Congressional district. Numerically close races statewide need not lead to close delegate counters under winner-take-all by CD. If Romney and Huckabee sufficiently concentrate their efforts, they could cut into McCain's delegate counts in these states.

Texas, the biggest outstanding R state, with 140 delegates at stake, has a complicated method of vote distribution. It all depends on if any candidate receives a majority in each Congressional district or statewide:
Each congressional district elects three delegates, for a total of 96.
--If one candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in a congressional district, that candidate wins all three delegates.
--If no candidate wins 50% of the vote, but two candidates win 20% or more of the vote, the candidate with the higher vote total wins two delegates and the candidate with the lower vote total wins one delegate.
--If one candidate wins 20% or more of the vote but less than 50%, and no other candidate wins 20% of the vote, the candidate with more than 20% of the vote wins all three delegates.
--If no candidate receives more than 20% of the vote, then the top three vote-getters receive 1 delegate each.

Forty-one delegates are elected statewide, making a cumulative total of 137.
--If one candidate wins a majority of the votes statewide, that candidate gets all 41 delegates.
--If no candidate wins a majority of the vote, but at least one candidate receives 20% or more of the vote, the delegates are awarded proportionately among the candidates receiving 20% or more of the vote.
--If no candidate receives 20% of the vote, all 41 delegates are rewarded proportionately.
50% and 20% are major thresholds for Texas. Congressional-district campaigning could be especially salient there.

McCain’s relying on open primaries as a way of helping him power past Romney. But will Democrats vote Republican when they have their own hard-fought election? Could Romney’s/Huckabee’s dropping out help Obama? A non-contested GOP primary might free up more independents, who often seem to favor Obama. With open primaries, could some of the GOP switch to vote for Clinton?

It’s hard to predict many of these states because there doesn’t seem to be, according to RCP, any recent polling for most of them. Absent any knowledge of public opinion, it’s hard to tell if this district-based strategy could even work. Still, it seems as though it might be structurally possible for Romney/Huckabee to deny McCain a majority of convention delegates.

There's another question: what would a brokered convention ultimately mean? McCain and Huckabee seem to have an alliance, so Huckabee could just throw his delegates to McCain in exchange for a VP nod.

But, if it did come to a brokered convention for the Republicans, things could become very uncertain. Different states have different rules for how bound delegates are to their candidates. Arizona, for example, does not seem to bind its delegates; Texas's delegates are bound for 3 ballots. This site seems to have a reliable breakdown of delegate rules for each state.

This has been a pretty topsy-turvy election cycle so far--why should the fun end now?

(All delegate counts for this post are based on Real Clear Politics's count. Primary allocation rules are based on this helpful index.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Mickey Kaus wonders how much present "campaign finance reforms" favor large corporations over grass-roots political organizations:
American Apparel, giant L.A.-based maker of mostly crappy t-shirts, has apparently sent an email to its employees urging them to vote for McCain or Obama because Hillary has shown an insufficient "committment" to immigrant legalization ... P.S.: You mean a huge, rich company can send an email urging its captive audience of workers to vote for Obama, but if I spend $1,001 starting a Web site or handing out leaflets on the street for the same purpose I have to pay a lawyer to register with the federal government as a "political committee"?
Strategy question: Numbers USA is urging its members to vote in certain states for Mike Huckabee in order to stop John McCain. But there does seem to be some hint of an anti-Romney McCain-Huckabee alliance, so does it really make sense (from their perspective) for their strategy to support Huckabee--particularly in states where Romney's pretty close to McCain/Huckabee? Like Tennessee or Missouri...
A stronger showing on Super Tuesday could give Huckabee more of a motivation to stay in, and, if Romney decides to keep fighting for the nomination after today, won't that presence of Huckabee represent a continued risk of splitting the non-McCain vote? Which is what McCain/Huckabee may want....
UPDATE: Gallup offers some statistics showing that pro-Huckabee forces may be more likely to break for McCain than Romney. But I think it partially matters which aspects of the Huckabee coalition may favor McCain over Romney--particularly in close states. But there are other ways Huckabee can hurt Romney, too. His persistent attacks on Romney don't seem to have helped Romney too much...
Signs of a McCain-Huckabee alliance multiply. Ambinder at the Atlantic reports on the West Virginia GOP caucuses (which Huckabee won):
But sources say that representatives for John McCain called many of his reps in WV and asked them to vote for order to thwart Romney on the second ballot.
Ron Paul's people also seem like they may have swung for Huckabee, too, in WV.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Real Clear Politics has a number of state polls posted for Super Tuesday primary states. California seems like it could be close for both parties. Some polls have Clinton ahead and some polls have Obama ahead; among Republicans, sometimes McCain leads and sometimes Romney.