Hillary’s last supers

May 16, 2008

Primary Folk will unquestionably remember the last few weeks as the time when Obama overtook Clinton in her last desperate stand: the number of super-delegates.

I am rather surprised, on the other hand, by the fact that Hillary got around twenty super-delegates endorsements of late. Why would a super-delegate who has been courted by both candidates for months come out and endorse the candidate that, according to everyone, has already lost? Why wouldn’t you stay on the fence a while longer and then endorse the next President of the United States? Isn’t it peculiar?

Three possible explanations:

1) principles: those super-delegates have finally realized that they identify with Hillary and her politics. Not a chance in the all bloody universe…

2) short-term personal gain: the Clintons are still able to guarantee significant political gains for people that, let’s remember it, are nobodies. But can it be that Obama was not able to outbid them?

3) those superdelegates know something that we don’t, and that’d have to do with Hillary’s prospects…

1 is out of the question and 2 isn’t very convincing. Can it really be 3 is on to something?



May 13, 2008

I would be delighted if Hillary humiliated Obama today in West Virginia, say something above 70% against something below 25%.

But I actually think that it would be better for Hillary to win by a norrower margin: if the margin is too big and way out of line with anything we have seen in the last few months, then that will offer the MSM the perfect excuse – and God knows how desperate they are for it – to ignore Hillary’s continuing campaign – on the grounds that West Virginians are just freaks: starving racists with a religious problem.

Therefore it would probably be better if Hillary got a solid but realistic win: something comfortably above 60% to 30% something. That would ‘look’ better – while still guaranteeing a delegate landslide, district by district.

Then, with WV under her belt, Hillary should manage to hold off the party for another week to go on and try to win both Kentucky and Oregon next Tuesday (which, according to this very interesting post, isn’t impossible).

Can this really be happening?

May 1, 2008

This chart describes betting patterns on the London Mayoral Elections for the last three months – converting them in implied probability. It’s got two messages, really: as unpredictable an election as I can remember; in the last few days most people seem to have made up their minds that Boris will actually do it, as unbelievable as this might sound on Earth.

Brown’s strategy will backfire both north and south of the border

April 16, 2008

You don’t need a nostalgic Blairite to waste his precious time convincing you that Gordon Brown is a poor political strategist: you already know that all too well. So it’s no surprise that Mr. Brown is getting his strategy for the next election completely wrong. Roughly, this is what Brown and whoever advices him are thinking: we’ve got a Scottish problem. If the English electorate perceives us as too Scottish, we really have no chance at the next general elections against two candidates, Cameron and Clegg, who are quintessentially English. So what we are going to do is making sure that the English public can’t say that we are being partial to Scotland. That will also suit the purpose of giving Salmond a very bumpy ride; so that whenever we decide to call the next general elections – because it’s we who call the shots – we’ll get respect from the English for not having given in to our Scottish roots; and also Scottish Labour will be stronger against the SNP just in virtue of the fact that we have made it so difficult for the SNP to govern, thanks to a – relatively to the past – underfunded Scotland.
That sounds, if not clever, at least reasonable. And it explains, along with many other things, the anti-Scotch budget; and the recent unsuccessful trip to Westminster by John Swinney, Scotland’s Finance Secretary. Problem is, Gordon Brown’s strategy is going to backfire. Here’s why: the Scots are going to be particularly outraged by a Scottish Prime Minister who appears to be particularly tough on them of all people. That will inevitably result in a perception of the SNP as the only party standing for Scotland – as was more than obvious over the budget, when Scottish Labour MPs had to go on telly defending anti-scottish legislation: Salmond knows how to play that card; has played it ever since the beginning of his time in office; and Brown is being thick enough to continue playing in Salmond’s hands. This could ultimately result in the SNP being a serious player in the next general elections: it is estimated that, with the present level of support, the SNP could get as many as 30 Westminster parliamentary seats next time around – which could prove decisive in case of a hung parliament (and, needless to say, it’s not with Labour that the SNP would strike a deal).
But Brown’s strategy might backfire in England as much as in Scotland. His thinking is that by being tough on Scotland he’s going to prove to the English that he would do their interest, and never put Scotland’s interest ahead of the interests’ of the majority. Fair enough: problem is that if Brown alienates the Scots, he offers the Conservatives a brilliant argument against him. Cameron can then tell the English: here’s a Scottish politician loathed by his own people; why should we English trust him?

Setting the record straight on Berlusconi

April 7, 2008

Both The Economist and BBC News refer to Silvio Berlusconi – who is likely to be elected Italy‘s Prime Minister for the third time next weekend – as Italy‘s richest man. That is no longer true: Forbes‘ 2008 Billionaires survey found Berlusconi to be ‘only’ Italy‘s third richest man, behind Michele Ferrero (chocolate) and Leonardo Del Vecchio (shoes).

Hillary’s electability argument

March 13, 2008

Obama supporters are misrepresenting Hillary’s electability argument. The argument isn’t that Hillary has more chances in November because she has won the bigger prizes such as New York, California, and Texas; while Obama’s victories are mostly in small Republican states. The point about Hillary’s big-state wins against Obama’s small-state wins is that even though Obama has more pledged delegates, Hillary’s fewer delegates come from more significant battlegrounds (even though obviously Hillary’s camp can’t make the point as plainly as that, otherwise they are going to offend an awful lot of folk).

Hillary’s electability argument is, rather, that she has better chances in those states that will decide the November general election against McCain. And there is plenty of evidence that Hillary has better chances in four such major swing states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and New Jersey.

There are two main ways to compare two candidates’ November chances in a particular state: how the candidates did in that state’s primary election; and what the general elections’ polls for that state say. Hillary has won the Ohio primary; she has won the New Jersey primary; she has won the Florida primary (even though it didn’t count); and she is predicted to win the Pennsylvania primary on April 22nd.

Furthermore, according to the RCP poll averages, Hillary has a better chance than Obama of beating McCain in each of those four states come November:

Ohio, Hillary vs. McCain & Obama vs. McCain;

Pennsylvania, Hillary vs. McCain & Obama vs. McCain;

Florida, Hillary vs. McCain & Obama vs. McCain;

New Jersey, Hillary vs. McCain & Obama vs. McCain.

So Hillary’s electability argument looks pretty strong.

Obama ads on Politico.com

February 18, 2008



I’m not sure this should be allowed: both Obama ads are displayed alongside pieces on Sen. Obama himself and his opponent, Sen. Clinton.

The Superdelegates Argument

February 14, 2008

Whatever happens between now and April 22nd, the Democratic Presidential Primaries will be decided by superdelegates. There is no plausible scenario in which either candidate can get 2,025 pledged delegates, apart from the one in which one of them drops out pretty soon. Therefore the question of what are the grounds on which a superdelegate should choose which candidate to support is paramount.

Obama and Hillary have different answers to that question: according to Obama’s camp, superdelegates should not overturn ‘the will of the people’; and since the ‘will of the people’ is supposed to be expressed by the number of pledged delegates, Obama’s camp has it that superdelegates should support the candidate who’s got more pledged delegates (this argument is put forward in detail in a new website, Obama Is Winning).

Hillary’s camp argues, on the other hand, that superdelegates can choose according to criteria other than just who’s got the more pledged delegates: things like who they consider the better candidates, who better represents their own views, who they consider to have better chances against the Republican nominee, and so on.

The striking difference between Obama’s argument and Hillary’s is that, according to Obama, superdelegates shouldn’t be there in the first place. If they ought to vote for the candidate with the most pledged delegates because they mustn’t overturn ‘the will of the people’, then quite obviously they would best achieve that by not being at the convention in the first place. Indeed, if there is any point in distinguishing between pledged delegates and unpledged delegates (superdelegates), and in seating them both at the convention, then superdelegates must be able to vote on grounds other than those proposed by Obama’s camp. Their argument, then, is pretty simple: the whole selection system must be changed, superdelegates are a bad idea – let the nominee be chosen only by people who actually vote at primaries and caucuses across the country.

It is quite obvious why this is a troublesome argument: Obama’s camp is saying that the electoral rules – by including superdelegates – don’t fairly represent ‘the will of the people’. But this is the same electoral rules that Obama accepted when joining the Presidential race. So the basic problem for Obama, apart from the merits of the electoral system, is that he is now wanting to change the rules halfway through the game.

But what about the merits of such mixed system? It is difficult to argue, as Obama’s people are trying to do, that it is undemocratic. I cannot think of any liberal democracy that has a purely proportional system: I am thinking of Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, to mention but a few. The US Senate itself, of which Senator Obama is a member, isn’t purely proportional – Rhode Island and California having the same number of representatives. And almost no one, in Britain, wishes for a completely elected House of Lords.

So one need not even appeal to the otherwise important fact that most unpledged delegates are nonetheless elected representatives to argue for the need to balance proportional representation: every liberal democracy I can think of – including the US – already accepts that.  There are, then, plenty of good reasons to think that unpledged delegates should continue to participate in the election of the nominee. But those reasons aren’t even necessary: it is sufficient that those were the rules when Obama joined the race.

I have a dream (ticket). Do I? I do, don’t I? I think I do, anyway…

February 1, 2008

What if Hillary and Obama made the following deal: whoever ends up with more delegates come February the 6th will be the Presidential nominee. The other one gets to run as their VP.

Not bad, eh? Here’s a few advantages:

– both would get to run for the White House no matter what;

– the Democratic Party’s unity would be preserved and recent tensions, which are threatening the party’s chances to win in November, would be soon forgotten;

– we would get possibly the most revolutionary presidential ticket, at least from a symbolic point of view, in modern times (and than would probably scare Nader off)

One issue would be that while Obama can easily be imagined as HRC’s VP, the opposite is hard to think of (maybe ’cause of Bill?). But then again the most likely scenario’s still Hillary getting the nomination, and she could do much, much worse than choosing Obama as VP.

On the other hand, this arrangement would probably penalize the candidate who has the best chances in the states that vote after SuperTuesday, since however things go then, neither candidate will probably end up with a sufficient number of delegates already on the morning of the 6th.

Why Teddy’s endorsement is NOT good news for Obama

January 28, 2008

The reasons why Teddy’s endorsement‘s good news for Obama are plenty and obvious. So let’s focus on how Teddy might possibly damage Obama – in no fewer than four ways, actually:

divisive: it has often been said of Hillary that she is the most divisive (yes, that includes Rudy) candidate. And so far that argument has been available to Obama, especially so that he could claim that Hillary would be a liability to the Democratic Party in November. But now that Obama has joined forces with the Kennedys, he can hardly say with a straight face that Hillary is divisive. People will sing ‘Bridge over troubled water’ back at him (if they are in a good mood, that is)

new: so far Obama has easily been the ‘new’ candidate, and the self-branded candidate of ‘change’. You don’t need to work very hard at it if you are running against Hillary CLINTON. But if all of a sudden the whole Kennedy family is on your side, then you will find yourself smelling of ’60s hair gel. Yes, you are now ‘big’ news; but it’s suddenly ‘old’ news too.

the left: somehow, Obama has so far managed to hold on, at the same time, to his inclusive message of cooperation with the Republicans, and to his status as to the left of Clinton (which means, for example, Edwards’ votes if that scumbag drops out or his delegates if he doesn’t). But now that he’s got the Kennedys on his side, a lot of the left will have to admit to his belonging to the establishment. Yes, Kennedy means ‘liberal’ – but does it mean ‘left’? I mean JFK and ‘left’ in the same sentence?

overshadowed: the way in which Hillary risks being overshadowed by Bill, Obama now might have to leave much of the spotlight to Teddy for the next few days (and SuperTuesday is just around the corner, a week away). Obama breaths spotlight. Without it, he no longer is. Watch out, Barack Hussein.