Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Centre Cannot Hold

I apologize for the repeated Yeats quotes but it seems appropriate. I dealt with the substantive policy difference of this crisis in the last post. Now, to the politics. It has been over eighty years since a sitting prime minister was replaced by a prime minister of the opposite party without an election taking place. That record is not a trifling thing. It represents for the most part stable governments which have had the confidence of the Canadian people and parliament. We face now a constitutional crisis that few Canadians are old enough to recall any comparable circumstance. Let's start with the basics.

If on December 8th or sometime thereafter, the government is brought down either on a money bill or a vote of no-confidence introduced by the opposition, the government will fall and Prime Minister Harper will take a trip to Rideau Hall. There, in all likelihood, he will tell Governor General Jean that parliament is no longer workable (for real and for true this time) and ask her to kindly dissolve parliament, drop the writ of election for a date in January (probably similar to the timing of the 06 election). The Governor General would then have a decision to make. She could simply call an election or she could ask the rag-tag coalition that appears to have formed in the last few days to try to govern the country under the leadership, presumably, of Stephane Dion. Prime Minister Dion would then have the unenviable task of picking a cabinet (Gilles Duceppe for intergovernmental affairs!). M. Dion would then introduce a budget in the spring (with or without The Green Shift) and subsequently resign upon the election of his successor in early May in Vancouver (when he will cease to be the leader of the largest coalition in the House). With the Prime Minister resigned, a new Prime Minister (Dom, Iggy or Rae) would be sworn in with their own cabinet some time in May or June with the likely responsibility of passing the budget introduced by the Dion government. Thus, we would, in all likelihood, have three Prime Ministers after only one election for the first time since John Thompson was sworn in to succeed John Abbot in 1892. Sound like fun yet?

I do not, for the life of me, understand the thinking behind this plan. The optics of Stephane Dion leading a government supported by separatists would do irreparable damage to an already tarnished legacy. I argued in my last post why I thought Harper's economic approach was misguided. That does not mean I want to throw the country into a political crisis to stop his inaction. The real poison pill in all this, the removal of the elections subsidy, has been pulled back. The rest is negligent but the timing is, by Mr. Harper's design, unquestionably terrible for the opposition. Canadians understand that they elected a Conservative government on October 14th. They would be more than a little disturbed to see that government removed from office two months later. There is not a discernable sense that Canadians are truly angry with Harper's inaction. I think they would have like to have seen more, but I think they still respect the election that we just had.

Moreover, we have seen in the past weeks how little it takes for these already fragile markets to panic. We saw the panic in the United States when Barack Obama did not have his economic team announced weeks before he assumes office. What message do we send to the world if in the middle of an economic crisis we change governments without an election.

Beyond the markets, should we as Liberals be going down this road? We are (or were) the party of federalism and moderate government. We now look to work with separatists to overthrow the elected government. Mr. Harper's seeming inability to seek actual compromise is distressing and irresponsible but I do not believe the Canadian people will side with us in this fight. Even if you believe that the government must be thrown out, is it worht working with these people? What do Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton want for Canada? Do we want to be working with a man who doesn't believe our country, as it currently is constituted, should exist? Do we want to put a man who views business as an enemy into cabinet? Is it so crucial that a stimulus package be passed today instead of six months from now that we should so fundamentally compromise our values? My answer is no. I don't know how to explain such a decision to myself, let alone to another voter whenever the next election may come. Politically, I cannot see this doing anything but giving Stephen Harper the majority he's always wanted so that he can, unincumbered by a minority government, trash Prime Minister Chretien's legacy of election subsidization. If we thought we faced the worst of the people's wrath last time, just wait. Remember, it is possible that the GG could send us back to the polls immediately, without a new leader. It may be that the die is already irrecovably cast. I hope not. We need to back away from this cliff that we are standing on.

Things Fall Apart

Yes, it appears mere anarchy has been loosed upon Ottawa while I was traveling state-side this week for US Turkey Day. It may take a couple of posts to sort through this mess. Let's start with the non-stimulus package. The Canadian economy is naturally and through sound practice connected with the rest of the world. We do not aspire to be a hermit kingdom. Thus, while this economic crisis cannot be laid at the feet of Canadians or their government, the crisis has certainly breached our border. A response of some sort is appropriate. The nature of that response is a question for economists and policy experts to debate. However, some sort of response is expected. To simply sit and think that nothing has changed, that the policies that were introduced in anticipation of burgeoning oil revenues holding up a struggling manufacturing sector will continue to apply in a climate where oil prices have plummeted is simply unwise and illogical. The question is what to do. This is not an easy question. However, it does have answers.

It is true that we cannot respond the way our friends in the United States and the UK have responded. There is no need to bailout failing banks to restore solvency or liquidity to the markets. Our banks through the benefit of better regulation, and perhaps more importantly, better management, avoided the depths of the crisis which has imploded so terribly in other parts of the world. Our housing markets, while hurting, are not consumed by foreclosures. If Canadians start losing their homes it will be because they have lost their job not because their mortgage rate doubled overnight. Thus, the massive bailouts that have made all the news worldwide are not a Canadian solution. Nor, for the most part is a manufacturers bailout. Canada's manufacturing sector is dominated by the automotive sector. While there are steps we can take to ensure that jobs remain in Canada, it is neither possible, nor within the jurisdiction of the Canadian government to bailout the auto makers. They are simply not Canadian companies and are not really the responsibility of our government. If Frank Stronach or one of the other ancillary manufacturers were to ask for money, I think we should listen, but I don't that's really on the table. The issues above are the part of the landscape that justify the inaction we've seen from the Tories. However, it is nowhere near the whole picture.

The Canadian government, through years of fiscal restraint in discipline, finds itself well positioned in terms of debt to GDP ratio. Are we the best? No. Are we completely secure? Definitely not, but we are in a position of relative strength. The same cannot be said of Canadian infrastructure. The Obama administration planned infrastructure investments are as needed in Canada as they are down south. The Harper government could have announced new spending in roads, transit and electrical grids. This spending would not only improve crumbling infrastructure and provide jobs but have the ancillary benefit of reducing long term greenhouse gas emissions. While I am reluctant to advocate government deficits, I believe infrastructure is a worthy cause to do so. Conservatives often say that we should manage government like we manage our households and I don't think it is a terrible analogy. However, when your house needs a rennovation or repairs, you spend the money in order to reap the future rewards. You take out a loan (if you can get one) either through a line of credit or directly on your mortgage. It is sound management of a household and it is sound management of government. Infrastructure investments are also one time costs. In other words, you don't have to worry about escalating deficits year over year because once the subway track is laid, it requires little further investment. If you are going into deficit to pay for government services such as health care, you have a problem. An investment in infrastructure would not create that kind of systemic problem.

Stephen Harper, Jim Flaherty et al. are wrong to do nothing while the economy collapses. They have an opportunity to make their mark upon this country in a profoundly positive way, and they are missing the boat. Shame.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Experience You Can Change With

No, this isn't the new slogan of the Dominic LeBlanc campaign. I'm talking about Obama's cabinet. Here's what we know/think we know:

VP: Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)
State: Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
Attorney General: Eric Holder (former Justice Dept official)
Treasury: Tim Geithner (Chair of the New York Federal Reserve)
Homeland Security: Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ)
Defense: Secy. Robert Gates (current Secretary of Defense)?
Commerce: Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM)?
Health and Human Services: Fmr. Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD)
National Security Advisor: Gen. Jim Jones?

What's Left?

Housing and Urban Development
Veterans' Affairs

I think the talk about Obama tapping too many Washington insiders is ridiculous. I think Obama learned from the opening days of the Clinton administration and is not going to put untested people in charge in what looks to be a crucial first hundred days.

A couple of names to throw around as possibilities in the other portfolios. First, I think the talk of getting Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) in to cabinet is very encouraging. It not only shows bipartisanship, it keeps one of the smartest guys in Washington in town. Obama has ambitious plans for the VA and the decorated Vietnam vet would be a great fit. It would also position him nicely to take over defense once Gates deals with the withdrawal from Iraq. Putting Hagel into the VA for now would also give time for Tammy Duckworth (D) to get more experience at the Illinois VA. Duckworth is the woman Obama laid a wreath with on Veterans' Day (Remembrance Day this side of the border) and is an Iraq vet who lost both her legs in combat. She narrowly lost a congressional race in 2006 and has been praised as innovative for her work at the Illinois VA. I'd love to see her brought to Washington. Colin Powell (R) has been mentioned in terms of Education. I wouldn't mind that one. Energy is going to be a key portfolio. Some talk of Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) but I think three Western governors (Richardson and Napolitano already likely candidates) in Cabinet might be a little much. Although, the governor's chair is less important in Montana with only one Congressional District and, thus, no opportunity for gerrymandering in the upcoming redistricting. Schweitzer, who may be looking at the top job in 2016 (he'll be only 61), would probably want to keep some distance from Obama in case things don't go as well as hoped. Hillary Clinton, who would be 69 in 2016, has apparently decided that her chances of breaking through that glass ceiling are slim to nil. If she still was gunning to be President, she would not be accepting the job in Foggy Bottom.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Conservatives Telegraph Strategy

I think it is time to start paying attention to what Harper and Flaherty are saying vis-a-vis the economy. If you're like me, you get the visceral need to change the channel anytime they appear on television, but I think we are going to have to torture ourselves and listen for a minute. There is one argument that they are using repeatedly these days as they prepare to run a deficit worth paying attention to. The argument, such as it is, goes like this: in this time of crisis, we cannot afford to be bound by economic theories and academic abstractions; we need to save the economy. While I don't necessarily disagree with running a small deficit at this point in history, I think the language Harper and Flaherty are using is important.

There are basically two reasons for talking about the no deficit principle as an academic abstraction. The first is the Conservative Party Base and the second is Michael Ignatieff. First the base. The last time (at least the last time I remember) the Tories went to a major policy conference, Harper bullied and cajoled his party into moderating some of their more extreme views in order to show a more moderate and electable party. This time, the policies (as Danielle Takacs so excellently reported) were pure red meat. The core party principles. One of those party principles used to be balanced budgets. At least it was when Mike Harris, Jim Flaherty, Ernie Eves et al. were promoting their Balanced Budget Act in Ontario (for you non-Ontarians think fixed election date law with fewer teeth). A great way to get a right winger in this country or our American neighbours off a principle is to call it academic. Much of the right wing has developed an antipathy to the academe so strong as to put them off any idea even remotely academic. Thus, they are getting away from our commitment to fiscal responsibility because its academic.

The second part of the calcualtion is more important for Liberals. The Tories seem to agree with the media that the Liberal Leadership Race is Michael Ignatieff's to lose and as such are beginning to lay the groundwork for their attack strategy. How do you attack Iggy? You call him an academic who is ill prepared to deal with the realities of an economic crisis. Is it fair? Of course not. When's the last time the Tories were fair. However, they seem to be going that route. Putting Flaherty and Clement in charge of the economy is further illustrating the contrast they want to drive home. Flaherty and Clement have loads more experience as cabinent ministers, at both the federal and provincial level, than almost anyone in the Conservative Party or even at Parliament at this point. Harper is getting ready to make the steady hand argument. In order to do this he is creating a straw man who looks a lot like Michael Ignatieff. New rule: everytime Flaherty or Harper say they aren't doing something because now is no time for theories, everyone in the Iggy campaign takes a drink. It might take some of the sting out of the attack ads that will come out if Iggy is elected leader.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Fact Checker is a Beautiful Thing

I know this is from yesterday's star, but I just noticed it. Bob Hepburn is arguing in favour of one-member-one-vote. He makes is argument in part by arguing that:

"Indeed, the Liberals are the last major political party in Canada and the United States to still pick its leader this way."

Um... Bob... I know making sweeping statements can be fun but you need a serious American civics lesson. Yes, millions of Americans voted in the Democratic primary. This doesn't mean that they actually chose the Democratic nominee. That was done in Denver by the DELEGATES to the Democratic National CONVENTION. Remember the whole Super Delegate nonsense? Remember the roll call VOTE? In fact, the Liberals choose their nominee in almost an identical fashion to the Democrats. The only difference is that our primary happens over one weekend instead of over five months. It's really depressing that newspaper editors don't even bother to check the so-called facts that appear in their newspapers anymore.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Alma Mater Blues

Queen's University made a splash this week by canceling the annual homecoming football game. The football game has, in recent years, been a cause for celebration among Ontario university students culminating in the now infamous Aberdeen Street party. The party is unsanctioned and illegal. The city of Kingston, after a car was flipped and burnt in 2005, panicked and called in the cavalry (in the form of police from all over the province). Having failed to actually stop the celebration in the subsequent years, the pressure has been on the administration at Queen's to do something. So they did.

While I sympathize with the administration's position as being somewhere between a rock and a hard place. As someone who was on Aberdeen Street at various points in his university career, I feel I should share my thoughts. I think perspective is necessary. I think a question that I don't think has ever been addressed is why Aberdeen became what it became. Here's what I think happened.
  1. Kingston is not exactly replete with bars. When Alumni and others come in for a party, what bars there are fill up pretty quickly. This leaves the 16,000 or so university students who have a work hard/play hard attitude with no legal means of showing their school spirit (read desire to get drunk as humanly possible). This led to a growth in (illegal) keggers in students' homes.
  2. In 2004, the year before the car, a major kegger complete with private security was organized by one of the households on Aberdeen Street. In previous years, Aberdeen was the site of much homecoming partying due to the fact that all but one of the homes on the short street was/is occupied by students. However, most of the partying toook places in the backyards and homes of the residents, disturbing only the one family who insisted on living there (I believe the student council eventually bought the house after being turned down in previous years). Most of the homes are also large houses housing large numbers of students and provide perfect locations for house parties.
  3. When the party's invitation list overwhelmed organizers (and the private security guy), the cops were called in to break up the sizable kegger. The street subsequently filled with slightly displeased students. A couple of these students inexcusably threw beer bottles at the departing security guy.
  4. This incident led to a panic on the part of the Kingston Police for the following year's celebration (the car year). The KPD attempted to block off Aberdeen Street for the night placing officers at the four legal entrances to the street. This failed miserably as people quickly found the unfenced backyards which provide easy access to Aberdeen and quickly began partying behind the police barricade.
  5. The attempts to block access to Aberdeen left the crowd in an anti-establishment mood and the now infamous flipping and burning of the car resulted. Side note: how the police missed the stolen, plateless vehicle parked conspicuously on an otherwise car free street as they drove up and down Aberdeen all day is still a mystery.
  6. When news of the incident spread, along with pictures of thousands of students drinking in the street, the party became a destination for students accross the province. This meant that Aberdeen remained a crowded, if mostly peaceful, party in the subsequent years.
This picture is perhaps not consistent with the image of riotous students at war with an overburdened police force portrayed in the media but it is a lot closer to the truth. The problem with canceling the fall booze fest is, in a word, Facebook. A group proposing a non-administration date for homecoming already has 1300 members within a day of the administration's decision. Yes, social networking can be used for more nefarious means than political organization.

What has always frustrated me is the lack of any desire from the University or the city to organize what is needed: an open air beer festival, preferably in one of Kingston's parks or on its main drag, Princess Street. A sanctioned and licensed event where beer is sold and is in a well lit venue with bouncers from the bars or police officers checking identification to discourage underage drinking would be a huge source of revenue for whoever organized it. I don't think students come to homecoming because it's rebellious, I think they go because it is a damn good party. Legalizing it would make it more accessible to the true cause of the celebration: the alumni coming home. While the University has tried to organize alternate events (Billy Talent anyone?) they either lacked the requisite space or the ability to drink, which like it or not, is what people want to do on homecoming weekend. Instead of making money on a fabulous Princess Street Party, everyone involved will have to bite their nails and hope that the new date doesn't catch on. It is really too bad.

Bob the Chameleon

Bob Rae's shift on The Green Shift is almost comedic. You see campaign Bob said this when asked about The Green Shift when it was being attacked by Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall:

"we have to be realistic and put a price on pollution"

Contrast this with leadership candidate Bob now saying:

"Rae said the Green Shift was pursued without applying common sense, good judgment or the daily experience of ordinary people. "Politics is not about philosophy or theory," he said in an interview with Canwest News Service."

Apparently being "realistic", doesn't involve "common sense, good judgment or the daily experience of ordinary people". Now, I understand the good soldier argument. Here's the problem, Rae could have taken the route taken by his opponents saying that the policy was rejected by the voters and moved the party too far away from its centrist roots. Valid criticisms that one can make given the election results without sounding like a hypocrite. Instead Mr. Rae is saying "don't believe anything I said on the campaign trail, I was just doing the bidding of M. Dion." Why should we believe you now Bob?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Discrimination is Discrimination

I have to agree with my friend Will Norman on this one. I thought we were past the point where we passed laws against segments of the population based on negative stereotypes. I know proponents will argue that young adults are more likely to be involved in accidents. I don't care. Would it be okay if the law discriminated based on race? On gender? I didn't think so. Ageism may not be as loaded or destructive as racism or sexism but it is still discrimination. I don't drive (whole downtown Toronto/ easy access to subway thing) and I am just over the age affected by this law. I still find it abhorrent. Shame, Dalton McGuinty, shame.

CG for LeBlanc

I always feel a little better about myself when Dan Arnold agrees with me on something. There's a reason the Calgary Grit is the premier Liberal blog.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Iggy, Rae Squabble; Grassroots Lose

Well the Leadership Race is off to an ominous start. Here's the story. The organizers of a debate in Mississauga get all parties to agree to participate. They say the media will be invited only if all three candidates agree. Rae and LeBlanc say yes, Iggy says no. Organizers shut out media. Rae goes to Mississauga but refuses to debate. Let's break this down one point at a time. Starting with the Iggy contention that there are times to talk to the public and times "for family."

I understand that certain occasions are just for the party faithful. When discussing confidential information such as financial data or campaign strategy, I couldn't agree more: keep the media out. However, by the reports that have come out of the meeting (you should know about blogging, Mr. Ignatieff) there was nothing confidential or private about the forum. Nothing that would be particularly bad for the media to hear. Also, since the event (by my understanding) was open to the public as long as they paid a fee, what was to stop the media from coming in and taking notes? Notwithstanding all that, this was not exactly a well advertised event. Large parts of the family didn't get the invitation. Most of the family can't just zip over to Mississauga for a debate. It is useful for Liberals outside the GTA (yes they do exist Mr. Ignatieff) to be able to watch their prospective leaders debate without having to be in the city where the debate is taking place. We are early on in this race and all candidates should be interested in having their views heard by all Liberals not just the small group who went out to Mississauga this afternoon. Mr. Ignatieff, once again I have to quote Joe Biden, "that's not change, that's more of the same."

Mr. Rae appears to have regressed to his NDP roots here. Standing outside protesting is acceptable behaviour among Dippers, it doesn't fly among Liberals. If you really needed the media there to talk to Liberals you should have made that clear to the organizers at the outset. While I agree with Mr. Rae's position on the media for the reasons stated above, he did agree to the rules and should abide by them. If you want to criticize Mr. Ignatieff for his decision, do so in the forum so nicley provided to you by the LPCO. Don't punish the people who came to hear what you had to say just because Mr. Ignatieff is being stubborn.

Why is it that these so-called elder statesmen insist on acting like children?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Delightful Dismemberment of the Liberal Hopescape Part 3

Having dealt with Mr. Ignatieff and Mr. Rae, I move on to my choice for Liberal leader: Dominic LeBlanc.

Dominic LeBlanc: Two years ago, I supported Gerard Kennedy for the leadership of the Liberal Party. I supported Mr. Kennedy because I believed that our party needed to change the way it did business. I believed that our party had gone stale. I still believe that today. We need to fundamentally change course. The voters sent us a message last month. We do not need a makeover, we need major surgery. We need a new generation of thinking, of leadership. I believe Dominic LeBlanc is the man for the job. I'll deal with the questions surrounding Mr. LeBlanc's candidacy and then elaborate on why I'm supporting him.

Critics of Mr. LeBlanc, will undoubtedly say that he is too young. This will undoubtedly be the line of attack taken by the Conservatives. However, Mr. LeBlanc is just eight years younger than Mr. Harper. More importantly he will be only four years younger than Mr. Harper was when he sought the highest office in the land in 2004. It is a simple and cheap argument to say that Mr. LeBlanc and Mr. Harper are basically the same age and that if Mr. Harper is qualified so is Mr. LeBlanc. The age requirement for the job is 35. Mr. LeBlanc is over 35. If you think he is too young, we should change the rules and up the age limit. Furthermore, he has experience. He has more parliamentary experience than Mr. Harper did in 2004 or Mr. Ignatieff does today. He has more experience on the government side of the aisle than either of his opponents do in Ottawa. If four years in the Senate is enough for Mr. Obama, than eight years in parliament should plenty for Mr. LeBlanc.

The Liberal Party needs to do something to change its image. It is seen by too many as a function of big city elites. It is seen as a party of Central Canada. What better way to change this image than to elect as leader a rural New Brunswicker. The MP for Beauséjour has the opportunity to fundamentally change the map. He has the ability to speak to all Canadians, something we have not been able to do in a long time. We can't be afraid to talk to someone because they don't live in a condominium.

I've had the opportunity to hear Mr. LeBlanc speak about why he's running this job. Mr. LeBlanc outlines some of his vision here. I was impressed by Mr. LeBlanc's frankness when discussing the problems of the Liberal Party. Mr. Rae and Mr. Ignatieff seem to believe that with a coat of paint and some elbow grease we can become what we once were. Mr. LeBlanc understands the depth of the challenge for this party. As I've said before, I think it will take more than a leader to fix the structural problems of the Liberal Party. However, I believe M. LeBlanc will be the person to point us in the right direction.

I also believe that he is electable. Mr. LeBlanc is the excellent of combination of experience and a blank slate. His eight years in parliament, including time as parliamentary secretary of foreign affairs, gives him the gravitas and depth of understanding necessary for the job. He also does not have open wounds for his opponents to pick at. He is a Francophone who did his undergraduate work at the University of Toronto and is as comfortable in English as he is in French. He has talked about bringing the party back to the centre. Back to where we can be elected. On the economy, I believe Mr. LeBlanc has an excellent understanding of the global nature of the economic challenge and of the global potential which Canada has. I believe he understands how to make this party competitive everwhere. I also believe thta he has the judgment and the intelligence to be Prime Minister.

There are those who will say that I am wasting time on Mr. LeBlanc, that he can't win. I am not so old and cynical to believe that you shouldn't fight for what you believe in just because the odds are long. We have just witnessed the election of an African-American President. I think this is the time for long odds. It is the time to stand by the courage of your convictions. I believe in Mr. LeBlanc and I will work for his election.

The Delightful Dismemberment of the Liberal Hopescape Part 2

Having discussed Mr. Ignatieff below I move on to Mr. Rae.

Bob Rae: The former Premier of Ontario wants to lead again. Like Mr. Ignatieff, Mr. Rae is relying on a coalition he built last time around to be his base of support this time around. It is an impressive coalition. Mr. Rae is a man with a long and distinguished career to support his claim to this office. He has spent his life in the service of this country, and for that he should be honoured and respected. However, he is not applying for just any job, this is a job where the selection committee has 32 million members. This is Mr. Rae's problem. I do not for a second doubt Mr. Rae's ability to be Prime Minister. There has perhaps never been a candidate more qualified, in terms of resume than Mr. Rae. He has a wealth of experience both in Ottawa and at Queen's Park. He has penned important reports. He is a statesman. Win or lose, he will ever be thus. However, this is not enough.

I do not believe that Mr. Rae can be elected. Mr. Rae and his supporters will make the argument that he was a victim of circumstance when he was Premier of Ontario. The world economy did get pulled out from under his feet. However, he did not, in the judgment of the people of Ontario manage the economy well. As we face another economic crisis, one has to question the timeliness of Mr. Rae's decision. There is simply no evidence that the people of Ontario, outside of downtown Toronto share Mr. Rae's interpretation of history. I was too young to remember Mr. Rae's administration, that doesn't mean that I don't know my history. The Tories will not let the people of this country forget about Bob Rae's record. We don't have the money to turn this negative into a positive. It would be akin to the Tories electing Mike Harris and trying to salvage his term in office. It is not doable. We will spend the election attempting to defend a record that Liberals viciously criticized thirteen years ago.

Mr. Rae's supporters say that he is an incomparable campaigner. I don't see the evidence. Mr. Rae won one of the four elections that he was NDP leader. In his last campaign as leader of a political party his party lost 57 of its 74 seats and Mike Harris became premier of Ontario. The party which he led has still not recovered from his leadership. While Mr. Hampton deserves no credit for his term as leader, he has not much to work with. We are a party which has come dangerously close in the last five years to oblivion. The last time Mr. Rae led a party, he led it straight into oblivion. That is his legacy as a party leader. The people of Ontario have said in consecutive elections since his departure from the provincial scene that they do not want to return to the days of Bob Rae. If we are to form the next government we must do so by winning in Ontario. More specifically we have to win in the 905 and in the small cities of southern Ontario which have deserted the Liberal Party. Mr. Rae has no currency in these parts of the country. He is a danger to every seat we hold outside of the city of Toronto in the province. I can accept that Mr. Rae might be able to make inroads in British Columbia. However, even with Tory gerrymandering, the 35 seats available in BC will never match the clout of 106 seat Ontario. We cannot form a government without Ontario, and Bob Rae will never win again in Ontario.

The Delightful Dismemberment of the Liberal Hopescape Part 1

I have been reticent to comment on the Liberal leadership. It is not that I don't have a horse in the race, I do and I will explain my choice in this series of blog posts. However, the rhetoric that is surrounding this race in the blogosphere is ridiculous. Valid criticisms of leadership candidates have been decried as disloyal to the party or unfair. There are valid reasons for supporting any of the three hopefuls for leadership. There are also valid criticisms to be made of all three candidates. One of the lessons that we should have learned from M. Dion's tenure, is that we must be prepared to counter the Tory spin that is going to come our way. Given our limited resources, there is only so much spin we can counter. Without any further ado, my thoughts on the leadership candidates. This post will focus on Mr. Ignatieff. My posts on Mr. Rae and Mr. Leblanc will follow shortly. I am dividing this so that this post isn't ridiculously long.

Michael Ignatieff: Iggy, as he is known, is at it again. The American flag appears to have mostly disappeared from around his shoulders and with the war in Iraq slightly less of a bloody disaster than it was two years ago, Mr. Ignatieff is hoping that he can waltz into Strornoway without so much as a fight. I am not buying the Iggy spin that he is somehow an inevitable leader. We have no way of knowing how much support a given candidate has until the vote of the party membership in March. If you recall last time around Mr. Ignatieff's supporters thought they were going to come out super weekend with 40% of the delegates. They emerged with less than 30% and didn't reach 40% until the final ballot. Ask Hillary Clinton how inevitability worked out for her. There is a race to run and a decision to be made. An examination of each of the candidates is required. First the positives.

Mr. Ignatieff is a man of significant intelligence. He has studied the world for his entire life and would be comfortable governing in a globalized world. He has assembled an impressive team behind him. He has done an admirable job in the thankless task of opposition. He certainly knows the value of an attacking soundbite and under his leadership, the party would likely do well in question period. However, this is not enough.

I simply do not trust Mr. Ignatieff's judgment. On the issue of foreign policy, the issue that he is supposed to be most familiar he made a blunder of epic proportions two years ago and one that simply cannot be ignored. His contradictory statements on the bombing in Qana showed a man without political tact. He managed to offend both Muslims and Jews not by taking a classically Liberal position but by attempting to take two contradictory extreme positions. There are a lot of reasons why Jews have begun to leave the Liberal party. The Conservatives certainly deserve some credit. However, when Mr. Ignatieff accused Israel of war crimes in the middle of the last leadership it confirmed for many people of my faith what they already erroneously believed: the Liberal Party is anti-Israel. It is a myth. We have been a party that is pro-peace, an honest broker. What the Qana crisis demonstrates is Mr. Ignatieff's inability to think through, politically, his words. As an academic, which is what Mr. Ignatieff has been most of his life, his comments on Qana were fairly mundane, even reconcilable. As a politician, they were disastrous.

The lack of judgment continues today. Mr. Ignatieff has called for a policy conference after the leadership convention. This is unbelievably stupid. There will be of course a policy conference in Vancouver concurrent with the leadership convention. It will be the culmination of two years of policy efforts made by local and provincial Liberal associations. If Mr. Ignatieff wants ideas for his platform, he should take from that forum and encourage his supporters to dedicate some of their seemingless boundless energy for the policy proces as it already exists. Not only would a second policy conference be redundant it would be expensive and divisive. We are not a rich party as we once were. We cannot afford to be holding superfluous conferences when we should be worried about fundraising and building our party in parts of the country where it has fallen off the map. We also are a party with wide ranging views. There are few issues where Liberals actually agree. That is why all three leadership candidates have been decidedly vague in their platforms. We are not a party with a uniting ideology and as such we often have legitimate disagreements over policy. This wouldn't change after the leadership. In fact, it would be an excellent forum for rival camps to continue the bloodletting of leadership. It is the last thing the party needs.

Finally, we must consider what the optics will be, if we elect Mr. Ignatieff. The voters say to us we don't want an academic, with no political judgment who supports a carbon tax and what do we give them? An academic, with no political judgment who supported a carbon tax. I have heard the argument that all three men are learned and therefore academics. This misses the point. Mr. Rae and Mr. Leblanc are politicians. They have spent the majority of their professional lives in politics, either elected or in the backroom. Mr. Ignatieff was, for most of his career, an academic. As was M. Dion. To quote Joe Biden "That's not change, that's more of the same."

Aariak Elected

Nunavut has elected its second premier in history. Eva Aariak defeated incumbent Paul Okalik at the leadership forum yesterday. She becomes fifth woman to hold the title of premier in this country and the sixth first minister. With the possibility of Pauline Marois being elected in Quebec, we could have two female first ministers at the next first minister's meeting. Of note, Aariak is the only woman elected by the voters in the recent election to the legislative assembly. However, in that male dominated legislature she was elected premier. You don't necessarily need that magical twenty percent number to see women rising to the top.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Three to Tango?

It increasingly looks like a three way race for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. I will, in due time, give my opinion on this race. I cannot say that I am surprised that Gerard Kennedy, John Manley and Frank McKenna decided against running. I sometimes wonder if the media actually talks to anyone when they run their stories or if they just kind of look at a list of prominent Liberals and go from there. Interesting that there is no talk this time about these being the B-list candidates like there was in '06. I didn't think it was a B-List in '06 and I think we have three serious candidates for the job this time around. Anyone of them would be a marked improvement over Stephen Harper. However, none of them will be able to do anything unless we get our party back in some sort of working order. Renewal, renewal, renewal. It doesn't matter who's running the party.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President-Elect Obama

A monumental night south of the border. Barack Obama has completely changed the US electoral map. You have to admire the tactical brilliance of the Obama campaign. Let's look at the electoral college results regionally compared to 2004 assuming NC for Obama and MO for McCain:

Northeast: EVEN (Democratic Sweep both years)
Southeast: Obama + 55 EV (NC, VA, FL)
Midwest: Obama + 38 EV (OH, IN, IA)
West: Obama + 19 EV (CO, NM, NV)

He defeated John McCain by defending his home turf perfectly and picking off red state after red state. He knew he had the money advantage and the volunteer advantage and he used it to spread McCain/Palin so far that they snapped. He lost three swing states last night (MO, ND, MT) and won in a landslide. There was just no way McCain could defend twelve states with 85 million dollars. Obama knew it and last night you saw the result. This represents not only the end of John McCain but also the law that bears his name, McCain/Feingold. No presidential candidate is likely to ever take public financing unless the law is revamped to make it more competitive. More detailed analysis will follow.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

McCain's Problems Begin

Obama is up 40 points in early returns in New Hampshire.  In all seriousness, I feel like a kid before Christmas or something.  It should be a fun night.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Prediction Time Part Two

Onward and upward as they say. Twenty-five states left, so let's get going.

Montana (3): Another one of those red states that shouldn't be in play, Montana demonstrates another one of Obama's electoral strengths: Native Americans. Obama has reached out to Native Americans more than most presidential candidates and they are likely to return him the favour in numbers. In both Montana and North Dakota, the Native vote is pushing Obama closer than he would normally be. However, Montana seems to be a bridge too far with Obama looking like he's going to go down by 3-5 points. Democrats are looking at Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) as a possible 2016 pick if anyone's interested.

Running Total: McCain 101, Obama 189

Nebraska (5): The other state to split its electoral votes, Nebraska like Maine has never actually done so. There are those in the Obama camp that think the congressional district around Omaha may be in play. Call it the Buffett effect. I don't buy it. While the Oracle may be backing Obama, I think his fellow Nebraskans will follow McCain

Running Total: McCain 106, Obama 189

Nevada (5): Normally when people talk about Nevada swinging, they aren't talking politics. However, the Silver State is in play this time around. As with most Western states, the outcome depends how strong the Hispanic support is for Obama. With good early voting returns in Clark County (read Las Vegas), Obama appears to be in control here. If McCain wins on Tuesday it will be by pulling off upsets in states like Nevada. I just don't see him coming back here though. Not against a battle tested Obama ground game that figured out a way to lose the popular vote and still come away with 2 more delegates than Clinton in the winter.

Running Total: McCain 106, Obama 194

New Hampshire (4): If there's one race that's going to break John McCain's heart, it will be New Hampshire. The independent minded people of New Hampshire twice delivered for McCain in the primaries. However, in general elections, New Hampshire has taken a hard left turn since delivering the White House for Bush in 2000 (remember any state would have done for Gore). The Republican collapse in 2006 was visible from space in New Hampshire as they got swept out of congress and lost badly in the state elections. With former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) cruising to an easy victory against incumbent Sen. John Sunnunu (R), New Hampshire appears to be in a Democratic mood. Expect it to extend to the top of the ticket where Obama will finally have his New Hampshire win.

Running Total: McCain 106, Obama 198

New Jersey (15): Every cycle, the Republicans think they can get back to competitiveness in New Jersey. Then the polls show them ten points down and they abandon ship. This year is no different. The Garden State will vote for Obama.

Running Total: McCain 106, Obama 213

New Mexico (5): It is ironic that a Republican ticket with two Western candidates may lose the election because of a miserable performance in the West. However, that looks to be a distinct possibility and states like New Mexico tell the tale. New Mexico, in most years, is a swing state. This year Obama looks to be in command. Hispanics again tell a large portion of the story.

Running Total: McCain 106, Obama 218

New York (31): With the third most electoral votes, New York is a major prize. However, like states one and two (CA and TX), New York has not been competitive in a while. The Empire State may have voted more enthusiastically for their own junior senator but they will elect the junior senator from Illinois by a wide margin.

Running Total: McCain 106, Obama 249

North Carolina (15): John Edwards never could make his home state competitive for John Kerry in 2004. However, with Edwards mired in an affair, Obama-Biden is neck-and-neck in the Tar Heel State. While recent polls seem to favour John McCain, the early voting here (like Georgia) is jaw-dropping. Over 40% of North Carolinians have already voted and over half of those are registered Democrats. With Sen. Dole (R) facing a surging Kay Hagan (D) down ballot, I expect the Democratic ground game to put this one over the top. Obama on a hunch.

Running Total: McCain 106, Obama 264

North Dakota (3): If North Dakota falls, the Republicans may begin tearing their hair out. They'd be justified. This state has voted Republican in the presidential contest for a dog's age. However, recent polls in North Dakota show a dead heat. Like Indiana, I just can't believe Obama can win here. I may be wrong, but I think McCain may win by 5 points.

Running Total: McCain 109, Obama 264

Ohio (20): It is oft repeated that no Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio. It is oft repeated because it is true. However, Republicans have won Ohio and lost the election. Home to Joe the Plumber, McCain may pull Ohio out of the fire. It isn't that Obama can't win Ohio, I just feel like McCain-Palin's last minute assault on the state has worked.

Running Total: McCain 129, Obama 264

Oklahoma (7): Oklahoma is not a particularly interesting state politically. That won't change this year with McCain winning this reliably red state by a wide margin. They will also likely re-elect one of the most conservative Senators in the nation: James Inhofe.

Running Total: McCain 136, Obama 264

Oregon (7): In a different year, McCain could have won Oregon. In fact, earlier this year, I think he believed he could win Oregon. McCain's progressive views on global warming might have endeared him to this green state. As it is, Obama is looking like he's going to win in a walk. Things are so bad for McCain that Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) is running ads touting his work with Sen. Obama in the hopes of splitting off some of Obama's votes form his opponent.

Running Total: McCain 136, Obama 271 (Yes, he's over the top folks)

Pennsylvania (21): As demonstrated above, Obama doesn't need Pennsylvania state to win. It just makes his life easier. McCain threw the kitchen sink at the Keystone state. While Clinton threw the sink at Pennsylvania and came out on top, if broke, McCain is likely to come up empty. I think it may be closer than some of the polls, but still in the Democratic column. Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) called his constituents racist, and it may cost him. If he does lose, he will be a rarity: a losing Democratic incumbent. It should be a very good night congressionally for the Dems.

Running Total: McCain 136, Obama 292

Rhode Island (4): Blue state. Blue year. Really no hope for McCain in this tiny state.

Running Total: McCain 136, Obama 296

South Carolina (8): If New Hampshire breaks John McCain's heart on election day, he will take some solace from South Carolina. Eight and a half years ago, Karl Rove perfected his craft in South Carolina and effectively ended McCain's quest for the White House. In spite of the large African-American population, which Bill Clinton reminded us handed Jesse Jackson the Democratic primary twice, Obama will not have enough votes to be competitive here. Look for this to be one of the first states to be called for McCain on election night.

Running Total: McCain 144, Obama 296

South Dakota (3): While some of Obama's momentum in North Dakota has pushed south of the border into South Dakota, it is nowhere near enough. South Dakota will predictably vote for John McCain. The NRSC will be kicking itself that it couldn't find a serious candidate to face recovering stroke victim Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD). Running against a guy who almost died in office is difficult and the Republican bench is surprisingly short in South Dakota. Still, Johnson barely won in 2002 and should have been at the top of the NRSC target list.

Running Total: McCain 147, Obama 296

Tennessee (11): The centre piece of Obama's education policy may be volunteerism, but he has no chance in the volunteer state. Since rejecting its native son in 2000, Tennessee has become a Republican stronghold. Look for that trend to continue with McCain carrying the state in 2008.

Running Total: McCain 158, Obama 296

Texas (34): Democrats on the ground are excited about the future. The future does not mean Tuesday, however. While Hurricane refugees, a growing Hispanic population and the lack of a Bush on the ballot may pull the state closer to the Democratic column, closer not close is the operative word. Expect this one to be in the 10-15 point range for McCain.

Running Total: McCain 192, Obama 296

Utah (5): There are a lot of ways in which Utah is a quirky state. Politics, however, is fairly predictable. Unless Joseph Smith is resurrected and runs for the Democrats, the majority Mormon state is going for the Republicans. If Romney was on the ticket, the margin might have been DC silly. As it is it will just be regular old silly.

Running Total: McCain 197, Obama 296

Vermont (3): Vermont may have given the Democrats their largest advantage in this election and it has nothing to do with its electoral votes (although they don't hurt). Gov. Howard Dean's Fifty State Strategy deserves at least some of the credit for Obama's competitiveness in deep red states. This state is ridiculously liberal for the US. Heck, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) actually describes himself as a socialist. Expect Obama to win here blindfolded with both hands tied behind his back.

Running Total: McCain 197, Obama 299

Virginia (13): Obama's red state strategy has been successful in a lot of states. However, Virginia may be the most dramatic. The whole "real Virginia" comment won't help McCain either. It is odd two days before a presidential election to be calling VA for the Democrats. However, I don't see how McCain can possibly win here.

Running Total: McCain 197, Obama 312

Washington (11): The race here is apparently for the Governor's mansion where the Democratic incumbent who won by a nose (and I mean a nose, recount and all) is running for re-election. In spite of that tension, the race for the White House here is non-existent. Like Oregon, McCain could have been more competitive here but it never really materialized. Obama shouldn't have a problem.

Running Total: McCain 197, Obama 323

West Virginia (5): There was a moment in this campaign that West Virginia seemed in play. It didn't last. In spite of having two high profile Democratic senators (Byrd and Rockefeller), West Virginia will go to McCain and probably handily.

Running Total: McCain 202, Obama 323

Wisconsin (10): Like Minnesota and Michigan, Wisconisn was once thought to be in play. However, McCain never really caught fire here. Obama relied on the students in Madison and elsewhere to deliver him a large primary win here. Expect a similar story on Tuesday.

Running Total: McCain 202, Obama 333

Wyoming (3): The home state of Dick Cheney is unsurprisingly about as red as they come. There are some competitive down ballot races but the top of the ticket will be predictable. McCain by a large margin.

Final Tally: McCain 205, Obama 333

Prediction Time

With mere hours left until the polls open nationwide south of the border it is time to get going on my state by state predictions. Here we go in alphabetical order. I might divide this into two very long posts.

Alabama (9): The Obama campaign is surging across the south. Not so much in Alabama. African- Americans may vote in record numbers but this is safe for John McCain.

Running Total: McCain 9, Obama 0

Alaska (3): Had John McCain chosen anyone else as his VP, this state would have been, like North Dakota and Montana, in play. However, if nothing else, Sarah Palin has given him her home state. Even the likely defeat of a sitting Republican Senator (convicted of corruption) and Republican Congressman (suspected of corruption) won't help Obama's fortunes here. Palin/McCain hold this red state.

Running Total: McCain 12, Obama 0

Arizona (10): The home state of John McCain was expected to be a non-contest for most of this election. Then someone decided to actually poll the place and found Obama competitive. However, competitive is not the same as winning. I expect even with Hispanics voting 2:1 for Obama, McCain will hold on.

Running Total: McCain 22, Obama 0

Arkansas (6): If somehow Obama loses this election the Clinton supporters will harp on what is expected to be a poor showing in Arkansas. While this state has no problem electing Democrats to statewide office, Obama has been unable to make a move here. Another safe state for McCain.

Running Total: McCain 28, Obama 0

California (55): Arnold aside, California is about as Blue as they come. McCain originally thought he could win over independents in the home state of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, but that strategy was quickly abandoned. Yes, the pollsters overrated Obama's primary support, but not by twenty points. Chalk the largest electoral prize up in the Obama column.

Running Total: McCain 28, Obama 55

Colorado (9): If McCain loses this election, it will be places like Colorado that cost him. This is a state that voted for Bush twice and home to one of the largest evangelical churches in the nation. However, a growing hispanic community has pushed voter registration and this state in general into the Democratic column. They picked up a senate seat here in 2006 and are poised to snag the other one this year (one of the brothers Udall). This state has been polling strongly for Obama. Also, in spite of the efforts of the evangelicals (who are the ones who traditionally use advanced voting), more Democrats than Republicans voted early this year. Will it be close? Probably. Will Obama win? Probably.

Running Total: McCain 28, Obama 64

Connecticut (7): In a different year, the endorsement of independent Senator Joe Lieberman in this New England state might have made McCain competitive here. Joe-mentum though is usually an overrated commodity. This state has been reliably Democratic for a while, expect it to continue. There's a reason Lieberman, who spoke at the RNC, hasn't joined the Republicans: he wants to get re-elected. Obama wins here in a walk.

Running Total: McCain 28, Obama 71

Delaware (3): In arguing against choosing Joe Biden, I said that it didn't give Obama any states, Delaware being one of the bluest states in the Union. The only interesting thing in Delaware is who they get to fill Biden's Senate seat if Obama wins on Tuesday. His son, Beau, the state's Attorney General is seen as a natural successor. The only problem? He's in Iraq right now fighting for his country. At any rate, Obama picks up the electoral votes.

Running Total: McCain 28, Obama 74

District of Columbia (3): The least competitive race on Tuesday night will be at the centre of it all. DC is famous for its absurd Democratic margins and expect it to get downright silly on Tuesday with an African-American on the ballot.

Running Total: McCain 28, Obama 77

Florida (27): What would a presidential election be without the annual appeal to the elderly voters of Florida? With Jews looking increasingly comfortable with Barack Hussein Obama, and a major shift expected in Cuban-American voters to the Democratic ticket, I like Obama's chances here. If I was doing this prediction in a more intelligent way (i.e. not alphabetically) I would have left Florida until a later post. It really should be a coin flip. At the end of the day I favour Obama's ground game.

Running Total: McCain 28, Obama 104

Georgia (15): The very fact that Georgia's electoral votes are in question shows how bad a fall it has been for the Republicans. While the huge African-American turnout is certainly a large part of the story, there should have been enough white Republicans for McCain to take this in a walk. As it is, I expect a close race. However, I just can't believe Obama can pull this off. I do expect Senator Saxby Chambliss to be pushed to a run-off here.

Running Total: McCain 43, Obama 104

Hawaii (4): One of the convenient things about the two states outside the continental United States is that they basically cancel each other out. Alaska is as red as they come. Hawaii is similarly blue. Hawaii is excited about electing their native son to the White House. Obama may see his largest margin of victory here. It is interesting to see Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) standing up for his contemporary Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK).

Running Total: McCain 43, Obama 108

Idaho (4): This is probably the reddest state in the Union. It is home to the last school Sarah Palin went to (Univ. of Idaho). There is a competitive house race here. See what competing everywhere gets you Canadian Liberals? McCain wins easily but not easily as previous Republicans.

Running Total: McCain 47, Obama 108

Illinois (21): From one of Obama's homes to another. The best party on earth may be in Chicago on Tuesday night. This state is where the Republican Party's historic collapse may have begun. Obama was the first of many Democrats to benefit from the Republicans having a lousy Senate opponent. We shall see if the NRSC finds someone to run against whoever emerges from the Democratic primary in 2010. Jesse Jackson jr. is among the contenders so you know it will be interesting.

Running Total: McCain 47, Obama 129

Indiana (11): How is this reddest of red states in play? Well, a lot of people credit the economic collapse combined with the competitive Democratic primary. Had Obama picked popular Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) as his running mate, he probably could have had this state locked up. As is, it is a definite toss-up. However, I expect Obama to fall just short as he did in the primary against Clinton.

Running Total: McCain 58, Obama 129

Iowa (7): Remember the Iowa Caucuses? The people of Iowa do. They remember that Barack Obama went around talking to them and earning their vote while McCain held 100 townhalls in New Hampshire and ignored the Hawkeye state. Combine this with McCain's less than enthusiastic support for ethanol and Obama will carry this state that voted for Bush in 2004 easily.

Running Total: McCain 58, Obama 136

Kansas (6): There is the off-chance that had Obama chosen Gov. Kathleen Sibelius (D-KS) as his running mate, he would have had a chance in his mother's birth state. As it is, this state will go to McCain in a walk.

Running Total: McCain 64, Obama 136

Kentucky (8): The primaries are usually not a reliable indicator of future success. However, Obama's abysmal showing in Kentucy is likely to be repeated on election day. McCain should win easily. More interesting is the senate race where minority leader Mitch McConnell faces the fight of his life. If McConnell loses the Democrats may get to the sixty votes they need to have fillibuster proof senate.

Running Total: McCain 72, Obama 136

Louisiana (9): Louisiana is a bit of a curiosity. If it weren't for Hurricane Katrina, there might be enough African-Americans here to make Obama competitive. However, if it weren't for Katrina, the Republican Party would probably not be in such desperate shape. All in all, I expect the recent poll that showed Obama within 3 points here was an outlier. I expect a McCain victory by 7-9 points. The only potentially vulnerable Democratic Senator is Mary Landrieu (D-LA). However it appears that she will win re-election. The only question on Tuesday will be whether or not she can avoid a run-off.

Running Total: McCain 81, Obama 136

Maine (4): Maine is one of two states that divides its electoral votes. Two go to the overall winner and one goes to the candidate who wins in each of its two electoral districts. There was a time, when pundits thought that Maine might be close enough (a lot of hockey moms in Maine) to actually deliver one of its electoral votes for McCain. It seems increasingly unlikely. It also seems increasingly unlikely that Tom Allen (D) will unseat moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins.

Running Total: McCain 81, Obama 140

Maryland (10): Although not as Democratic as DC, Maryland is a reliable blue state. With record turnout expected among African-Americans, expect Maryland to go overwhelmingly to Obama.

Running Total: McCain 81, Obama 150

Massachussetts (12): In spite of Gov. Deval Patrick's (D-MA) decreasing popularity in the state and the recent revelation of a Democratic state senator accepting bribes, Massachussetts will continue to be a true blue state. Will Obama match hometown Sen. Kerry's margin? Maybe not. Will it matter? Definitely not.

Running Total: McCain 81, Obama 162

Michigan (17): Pundits may point to John McCain's decision to pull out of Michigan as the moment when he lost the election. It isn't so much that McCain lost because he didn't campaign in Michigan so much as the fact that he couldn't win Michigan meant that the Republican ticket was sunk. This is a state that Romney probably would have put in play. With convicted Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D) off the front pages, Obama should win by a decent margin here.

Running Total: McCain 81, Obama 179

Minnesota (10): The GOP held its convention in the twin cities with the expectation that the northern midwest (MN, MI, WI) would be in play. They haven't been and it increasingly looks like the GOP wasted its time in the land of a thousand lakes. If Gov. Pawlenty (R-MN) was on the ticket, the outcome may have been different. As it is, this state will be called quickly on Tuesday.

Running Total: McCain 81, Obama 189

Mississippi (6): Mississippi is a state that will be shaped by the size of the African-American turnout. If it is as high as expected Obama may get within 10 points here (a sizeable achievement). It may also be enough to carry former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) to victory over appointed Sen. Roger Wicker (R) in the special election to replace Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS).

Running Total: McCain 87, Obama 189

Missouri (11): The bellweather of bellweathers, Missouri is definitely a toss-up again this year. The question here, as it is in most swing states is whether or not Obama can actually turnout the massive crowds that have come to his rallies (100,000+ in St. Louis). If McCain loses here, it will be a very long night for the Senator from Arizona. I expect this to be one of the last states to be called on election night in spite of the fact that its polls close at 8pm. At the end of the day, I'll take McCain in a squeaker. A result which will in all likelihood make Missouri a little less bellweathery.

Running Total: McCain 98, Obama 189

Okay, by my count that's 25 + the district down, 25 to go. Good time to take a break.
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