Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Good News for Democrats and Bad News for the GOP Part II

CNN is reporting that both Obama and Clinton are in a statistical tie with John McCain. I believe that reflects a relatively recent surge for Clinton against McCain. As recently as February, an LA Times poll had her far behind McCain. Obama has been tied with McCain for a while. Check out at the link to the right.

Why is a tie between either Democrat and McCain good? There are several reasons. First, I have to say I have been very worried about Clinton's prospects against McCain in particular. This poll suggests that a Clinton candidacy may not be fatal to the Democrats' chances in November. I'm still worried about Clinton's negative effect on down-ticket races, but I'm not thinking of dire consequences anymore.

Second, if the starting point is a tie, McCain needs to convince Democrats to stay home (unlikely given how pissed off we all are) or vote for him. To get them to vote for him he'll have to convince them on the main issues of the upcoming elections. Those issues are the economy and the war. Surprisingly, McCain is trusted on the economy. But I think this is due solely to name recognition. He is on record as not really caring about the economy and I take him at his word. I think he'll get shredded on the issue once he's up against the undivided attentions of a competent Democratic campaign. All he'll be in a position to offer is Republican Conventional Wisdom which is that if the economy is slowing there is always one answer: another round of tax cuts. But the problem isn't the tax rate (and the fact that we've got the lowest taxes we've had in decades and still have a sluggish economy is proof of it). The problem is the deficit which is directly linked to the war. What we need to do is end the war (something McCain will never do) and at least not lower taxes further and possibly consider ended the tax cuts for the top end of the income distribution. McCain can't say any of that. He'll come out sounding like a broken Republican record. The Democrats are probably already working up ads about how out of touch the nice old man is.

Finally, turnout in the primaries for the Democrats has been higher than for the Republicans by huge margins. In some primaries, both Democrats got more votes than all the Republicans combined. You have to figure that whoever the nominee is, anyone who voted for them in a primary will vote for them in November and they'll pick up 80%+ of the people who voted for the other Democrat too. If McCain gets 100% of the Republican primary voters he still can't win without also getting the lion's share of the folks who didn't vote in either primary. If those people split more or less evenly, the Democrats win in a landslide. If a significant group of Republican primary voters stay home in November because they don't like McCain, the Democrats win in a landslide.

So going back to the issues, it looks bad for McCain. He needs to clean up among people who are currently not engaged in the election - i.e. people who haven't voted in a primary for either party and probably aren't paying attention to the political coverage. Those people care about issues he will struggle on: the economy and the war. The only scenarios I see getting McCain elected would be for immediate and lasting peace to break out in Iraq or for there to be a terrorist attack in the US between now and November.


Anthony said...

Those are some very good points. However if Iraq breaks out in peace which is highly unlikely is far fetched. Your poibnt tying the economy to the war is dead on point. No other time in history have waged a war and cut taxes for anyone especially those who can most afford it. Bush and McCain are joined at the hip. When he was being introduced by the "Decider" George W. Bush he looked visibly uneasy. KEEP him tied to that disastrous presidency and Mickey Mouse as a democrat will win in November.

freeridersupermonkey said...

Interesting points. I have two objections, though:

1. Neither democratic candidate seems to have a particular strength on economy, given their talks about Nafta. You have a very good point about the connection of Iraq and the economy though.

2. Okay, this is not my objection but Brendan Nyhan's. (here:
He basically argues that primaries are not necessarily predictive for the outcome of a general election. For instance, democratic turnout might be higher just because the race is still open for democrats.

The Law Talking Guy said...

General election polls at this point are all but useless. As I learned in studying American politics, in past presidential election cycles, polling data becomes relevant to electoral outcomes no earlier than June of the electoral year. This year, with everything later, I wouldn't count on that.

Note that the economy is tanking and McCain is in... Iraq. That's what this election will be about. "It's the economy, stupid." versus "9/11, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11..." Political scientists have always said that the economy is the determinative factor, while foreign policy almost never is. I think this year will be about $5/gallon gasoline (yes, $5), inflation, unemployment, and the whole lot. Under those circumstances, as RBR suggests, even Hillary Clinton could win.

Raised By Republicans said...

I have heard that Obama has been more or less endorsed by most of the Economics professors at the University of Chicago. I wouldn't take seriously any hints or rumors that he's going to roll back free trade.

Also, he's going to get great advice on economics. Granted, LTG won't like the advice those people give, but it will be a good starting point for policy goals.

Pombat said...

As far as the war goes, I really don't think getting out soon is going to be an option I'm afraid. Not if Iraq is to be left in any kind of functioning state at any rate.

I'm basing this on a look at the UK troop involvement in a couple of other conflicts around the world (started in very different ways, granted, but the length of the 'peace keeping' deployment phase is the relevant thing to look at here):

- Bosnia & Kosovo. UK troops were peace keeping in Bosnia & Kosovo for 15 years, leaving once the countries were stable. Yep, that says 15.

- Northern Ireland - 38 years engaged "in the defeat of terrorism and the maintenance of public order". THIRTY-EIGHT years, yes, I'm serious.

And this is why I don't think the US is going to be able to pull out of Iraq any time soon - the country is still a complete mess, nowhere near stable, and what's more, it's a complete mess that was chiefly caused by a US president's decision (I'm not shirking the responsibility for it that lies with 'my' two countries btw, and I can't see the UK disappearing any time soon either).

It's not about how much the war is costing. It's not about blaming those who decided to go to war for doing so, or for having seemingly absolutely no plan after the 'invade' bit (although introducing some additional training for the general troops, so that they understand the difference between 'liberate' and 'conquer' could be an idea). It's not about getting out quickly to save American lives. Now it's about fixing that country, for the sake of all the people who live, or should I say struggle to exist, there - war's a very very big thing to commit to.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Peacekeeping and fighting are very different. American dead in Iraq are now 4,000 - more than on 9/11 -and our soldiers die almost every day there. We've had troops in Korea for 60 years, as McCain is fond of reminding us. True, but they're not dying every day. I'm quite certain that if British troops were dying in large numbers in Kosovo or Cyprus, they would withdraw but quick.

Nobody seriously expects that we can start having a casualty-free peacekeeping force in Iraq at any time in the forseeable future (McCain pretends he does, but even he can't be serious).

Pombat said...

Very true, there were not as many UK troop deaths in Kosovo or Ireland (my examples), nor Cyprus (your example, shouldn't be deaths there though, we just have strategic garrisons) as in Iraq. But that's because they are very very different situations. In Bosnia/Kosovo, the UK troops were welcomed by the general population, seen as a helpful force, come to assist with putting the country back together. Even in Northern Ireland, where there were certain historical issues with the mainland, the majority of the population saw them as helpful. And, at the start, Iraqis saw at least the UK troops in this way too.

Incidentally, I agree with your statement that peacekeeping and fighting are very different - but I thought that the Iraq situation was meant to be peacekeeping now, supporting the new & friendly government, having gotten rid of the old one, something more akin to the Northern Ireland situation I mentioned above? What do you think it is / should be?

I think that the main issue now with American deaths in Iraq is that the American troops are being targeted simply for being American. And that, I believe, is greatly due to the way the American troops (right up to their Commander in Chief) handled the 'liberation' and immediately following period, resulting in many seeing it more as an invasion & conquering.

But your main issue seems to be that Americans are getting hurt, and the American economy is getting hurt, and therefore Iraq should just be dropped like some kind of hot potato, and sod the Iraqis, even if they do have more problems than just a bit of credit card debt.

You say American deaths in Iraq are now around 4,000 - according to one source I found (here), the Iraq people suffered almost that amount in just September 2006 - one thirty day month. Hundreds of Iraqis are dying every single day, on average at least 16 people a day, well over a hundred a day in a bad month, according to the stats on that site.

Do you care what happens to those Iraqis as a result of America's actions (past or future), or is any outcome ok provided America is ok?

Raised By Republicans said...

Pombat is right to expect that all Hell will break loose when the American forces leave. The question is "will the change if we stay longer?"

Research I've seen on civil wars shows that when you have a 3rd party intervene to impose a ceasefire on the beligerants the truce only lasts until the 3rd party leaves. As soon as they leave all Hell breaks loose again.

The problem in Iraq is that they have at least 3 deep ethnic divisions: Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs, and Sunni Kurds (who themselves are divided between Marxists and Nationalists). But almost the entire economy is dependent on the division of oil revenues. Capturing the state means capturing the entire economy as well. Even if a distribution mechanism is found during the "surge" or "pause" or whatever Bush-McCain are calling it now, as soon as the US leaves, the dominant groups will renew their fight over those revenues.

I'm convinced that if we stay for 1 year or 10 it won't matter. All Hell is going to break loose as soon as we leave. From that point of view, the choice facing the United States is this:

Are we going to spend 10 years, thousands of lives and trillions of dollars waiting before all Hell breaks loose?


Are we going to leave now and see all Hell break loose.

To me the choice is obvious: leave now!

Dr. Strangelove said...

I think RbR says it well. The American occupation (er, "presence") in Iraq does not lay the foundation for long-term stability and political reconciliation. It postpones and undermines these things. While we remain, any stability or reconciliation we broker for short-term will hold out only as long as we hold out. When we leave, the dynamics and forces change, and all stability or reconciliation based on it will no longer be based in reality. I wish this were not so, but as RbR says, the evidence is strong.

In the end, the Iraqis will have to find their own peace and security by themselves, for their own reasons.