Editors’ Blog

This issue is sort

This issue is sort of a perennial — the ridiculously lavish paychecks and perks of the execs at the Educational Testing Service, the SAT folks. But apparently it’s getting even worse. There’s an article about it in today’s Times. The new CEO — the aptly-named Kurt Landgraf — had to get by on a mere $800,000 for his first ten months on the job.

The Times talks about the salaries. But ETS’s campus in Princeton, New Jersey is equally outrageous. Those SAT sign-up fees — paid by this and that striving high school senior, or his or her parents — are so fat that there’s just nowhere to put all the money. So to find something to do with all that money that keeps pouring in they end up finding new fountains, or sculpted gardens, or whatever other knick-knacks of abundance cash can easily be converted into. The ETS campus is like the Versailles of American meritocracy. Or, I guess it’s better to say that it’s the Versailles of the folks who administer the American meritocracy. It’s a perennial scandal. It never changes.

I spent the day

I spent the day yesterday at a conference about blogging at Yale Law School. Very interesting panels, two very entertaining and thoughtful talks by Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit and Mickey Kaus of Kausfiles. I made some meandering comments about what it’s like to write a blog and work as a professional journalist at the same time. And one of the folks involved in putting the thing together did a sort of loose transcription of what I said.

(That’s me in the foreground and Mickey Kaus in the background in that picture.)

Loved the conference, but one of the issues that came up at the post-conference dinner last night is one I’ve really wanted to write about for some time: blog triumphalism. What do I mean by that? I guess I mean the many folks who write blogs and live in a world in which there is a place called The New York Times populated by several dozen basically feckless and cocooned reporters, constantly outdone and corrected and outwitted and generally ground into the dirt by a few bloggers up at odd hours jabbing away at a laptop keyboard. As Mickey Kaus said at dinner last night, it’s easy when you’re writing one of these things to start thinking that you rule the world.

I find myself recently

I find myself recently on weekend trains home, reading pdf versions of The Weekly Standard, and happening upon articles that inspire me to write new TPM posts. Last week’s winner was an article by the prolific curmudgeonist Charles Krauthammer. This week we’re on to Clint Bolick writing about the horrors of Arizona’s campaign finance law which, Bolick says, proved pivotal to the election of Democrat Janet Napolitano as governor.

I’m ambivalent about a lot of campaign finance legislation. Public funding of campaigns — though a clear solution to many of the most dire problems of election funding — strikes me as problematic on constitutional, political and simply pragmatic grounds. But Bolick’s article (“Fundraising Arizona: We’ve just seen the future of campaign finance reform, and it’s not pretty”) is one of those articles which sways with a soft comedy the author couldn’t be aware of because he is too deeply nestled in the cocoon of his own side’s cliches and comforting self-justifications. Partisans of both sides do it; this is just a really sweet example.

The first half of the article is a narrative of GOP candidate Matt Salmon’s doomed effort to make due on campaign donations from the interested and well-heeled in the face of the state-subsidized juggernaut which was Napolitano’s campaign. He tried, but apparently the ability to raise money from wealthy donors more or less at will, get help from the state party, and get plenty of fundraising time with President Bush just wasn’t enough to stem the tide.

Salmon, we learn, is something of twilight struggler on behalf of various causes like freedom and right.

Salmon, a former congressman who honored his term limit pledge, refused to accept campaign subsidies. “I have advocated all my life personal responsibility and less gov-ernment,” he explained, so “it would be hypocritical for me to take taxpayer money for my campaign.”

But Napolitano, who served as one of Anita Hill’s lawyers during the confirmation battle over U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, had no such qualms. As
the Arizona Republic reported, Napolitano deployed labor union minions to collect the requisite 4,000 five-dollar contributions, then sat back and watched millions in tax-payer subsidies roll in.

Did we mention he honored his term limit pledge?

The second third of the article raises some interesting points about the funding of the law. According to Bolick, the law is financed by a state tax return check-off. But unlike the federal one, which simply moves some of your tax dollars into the campaign finance system, this one moves some of those dollars over and gives you back personally another five bucks. It’s hard to say precisely why this is wrong. But if Bolick’s upset with it, I can’t say it sits all that well with me either.

The last third is taken up with the standard sort of partisan yada. Campaign finance reform is a conspiracy to elect liberal Democrats. The system is stacked against us. Big government programs bring us big government politicians. Big, big, big, government, government, government, yada, yada, yada. The final passage is a slip-n-side of watery and facile Hayekian cliches.

Once again the Washington

“Once again, the Washington press corps is getting creamed on a major story — this privatization of the federal workforce for patronage purposes — by a guy with a day job.” Those words are Eric Alterman’s. And he’s talking about Paul Krugman’s column in Tuesday’s Times. I’d read the piece earlier in the day but after reading Eric’s mention I realized that I really needed to mention it here just in case anyone hasn’t seen it yet. This is a very, very important column and it shows just why Krugman is so important in today’s media ecosystem. By the way, there’s an excellent article coming out in a few weeks on just that topic — Krugman, that is. More on that soon. Now back to Blood on the Tracks

Not that I want

Not that I want to bash Tucker Carlson. But can you read the following exchange from Tuesday night’s Crossfire and not think Tucker’s antics are silly and grade-schoolish? Even for Crossfire?

CARLSON: Now I noticed that Al Gore, people say he’s changed a little bit. I’ve noticed a change. I didn’t understand it until I read Time Magazine this week, a long interview with Mr. Gore in there with Karen Tumeltee (ph).

Here’s the explanation. I’m quoting now. “Both Tipper and I have meditated for quite a while.”

Tell me more about that.

KIKI MCLEAN: It means he actually stops to think about what happened…

CARLSON: No, no, truly.

MCLEAN: … and think about what he says.

BEGALA: Oh…

CARLSON: Is it — I know, but you worked for him.

MCLEAN: It is, Tucker?

CARLSON: But no, no, hold on. This is a fair question. Is it Lotus position, incense…

MCLEAN: Tucker, Tucker…

CARLSON: What does he mean by that?

MCLEAN: Do you ever say a prayer? Do you ever give a thought to something you did during the day?

CARLSON: I do. I’m talking about meditation, and that’s distinct from prayer. He said, “We meditate, we pray.”

MCLEAN: I am willing to bet…

CARLSON: What’s the meditation?

MCLEAN: I’m willing to bet, if you asked your pastor, if you asked a rabbi, if you asked a priest…

CARLSON: We’re not talking about a pastor. We’re talking about Al Gore.

MCLEAN: They’ll tell you that prayer and contemplation is meditation.

CARLSON: It is Lotus position?

Okay, maybe Junior High …

If youre a subscriber

If you’re a subscriber to the Wall Street Journal, definitely take a look at this article in yesterday’s paper about Instapundit, Talking Points Memo, and AndrewSullivan.com. For once, something I said in an interview actually makes sense to me when I read it later.

Liberals are out-of-touch elites

Liberals are out-of-touch elites, led by a few aging movie stars and public TV hounds, doing constant battle and facing perpetual defeat at the hands of salt-of-the-earth conservatives whose bedrock understanding of real Americans and real American values is liberalism’s constant undoing. This is Charles Krauthammer’s world. Whatever other causes or effects the election may have had, it popped the cork on a new bottle of conservative conceit and self-congratulation. It gave new life and currency to a bundle of hackneyed phrases, tropes and ideas.

I did business in the world of professional liberalism long enough — to a certain extent I still do — to realize there’s more than a hint of truth to the stereotype. That’s all true. And I’m a big critic. And so on.

But one of the best ways to judge someone’s moral and intellectual seriousness — perhaps also their moral and intellectual caliber, but at least their seriousness — is to see who they pick as their enemies, who they choose to pick fights with. Someone like David Horowitz is a great example of the effectiveness of this method — a sorry sort of guy, bubbling on churning rapids of cash, constantly casting about for some new lefty freak to mount a new crusade against, all mixed-up with aggrieved passion and outrage. The whole enterprise is about as grave and righteous as tricking retarded grade-schoolers out of their lunch money.

Krauthammer is a very different, much more creditable, sort of animal. But the mode of operation seems fundamentally the same. (Columnist Michael Kelly belongs in the category too.) How serious are columnists who get all hyped-up for battle with cliches and outliers?

I can’t show you the link to the article that got me thinking about this — since I’ve been traveling this weekend and am writing at the moment without an internet connection. But it’s an article by Krauthammer in the new issue of The Weekly Standard (“The Fantasy Life of American Liberals“).

Now let me shift gears to discuss another point. And I want to be careful to make clear the ways in which the two points are not connected.

The question is simple … What happened to conservative reform? National Greatness conservatism? You know, McCain-ite TR worship and the rest?

Some will say that National Greatness Conservatism is alive and well in the zeal for the drive to Baghdad. But that’s a weak rejoinder. Aggressive foreign policy was only part of the equation. The truth, I think, is pretty clear: it’s dead. It doesn’t exist anymore. Now, the whole enterprise was never that big in terms of people. It was a few people around McCain, a couple editors at the Standard, and some miscellaneous other GOP malcontents and polemicists. The whole movement — inchoate as it admittedly was — was in significant measure a response to the crack-up of Movement conservatism, or rather the winnowing down of organized conservatism till it was little more than a vehicle to serve the interests of corporate power and politically-organized money. Of course, it was also an effort to give the party back its intellectual muscle and political fire.

What happened is that Bush got popular because of the war. And after that happened why did anyone need reform anymore? McCain’s political strategist, John Weaver, recently re-registered as a Democrat. Marshall Wittman has now taken a gig as McCain’s Communications Director, closing down his Project for Conservative Reform at the Hudson Institute. So, publicly at least, Marshall’s voice is silenced. At the Standard you just don’t hear those same themes voiced like you did a year ago — certainly not as you did two years ago. Why not? is a very good question.

I have little doubt that the silencing of that voice is bad for the country. I think it’ll probably prove even worse for the Republicans.

My first blush opinion

My first blush opinion was — and I think still is — that Tom Daschle’s presidential prospects were severely diminished by the Democrats’ showing on November 5th. But I’m told he’s making his decision now and will likely have that decision made by the end of the year. One interesting detail is that if Daschle decides to run he’d probably have a good chance of holding onto the core of the team that ran Tim Johnson’s winning campaign in South Dakota. That would likely mean much of the senior staff and thus most of the couple dozen field staffers who would be key in early primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Johnson was the only Democrat to pull out a victory from one of the close or dead-even races last week. And he managed to do so in what was probably the most pro-Bush state in contention. A lot of that — as we said and predicted here months ago — was a matter of staffing. We’ll be saying more about this.

There are a million

There are a million things to be said about this batch of polling data which Stan Greenberg assembled for the Campaign for America’s Future. But I need to nurse the illusion that I have something better to do on this Friday night than write about polling data. So just make a point of browsing through the charts and graphs yourself.

The one number that really caught my attention is on page five. In the November 8th poll of actual voters, on the question of which party was better at “keeping America strong,” Republicans beat out Democrats by an astronomical thirty-nine points — Republicans 59; Dems 19. (The specific breakdown of the responses can be found on page 18 of the questionnaire. Yes, it sounds like it should be 40, not 39, but they must be rounding off or something.)

Republicans will crow over those numbers. And it’ll be terribly annoying listen to them do so. (I overheard one of the most annoying of them crowing about it today. And, boy, did I want to slap this dude around …) But Democrats really need to think long and hard about what those numbers mean. That’s just an astonishing number.

This is both a substantive problem and a political one. In fact, the key is that it is a political problem in large measure because it is a substantive problem. This issue is starting to get more attention among professional Dems. I discussed it a month ago in The New York Post and Heather Hurlburt wrote a powerful piece on the issue in the current issue of The Washington Monthly. It’s starting to get attention. But it needs to get a lot more.

TPM tomorrow night on

TPM tomorrow night on CNN’s Reliable Sources. 6:30 PM Eastern Time on Saturday evening.

More on Pelosi. For

More on Pelosi. For all the conservative chattering and outrage about alleged Democratic gay-baiting in Montana and South Carolina this Fall, don’t we all know the subtext of Republican efforts to tag Pelosi as a “San Francisco Democrat”? Is this something we’re not allowed to discuss? And why not?

The new Conventional Wisdom

The new Conventional Wisdom is that the Democrats’ are moving to the left after last week’s election. David Broder says it. So, by definition, it’s Conventional Wisdom, though he’s by no means the only one saying it. But a lot of the thinking that’s gone into this line of thought is really sloppy.

Let’s start with the ascendence of Nancy Pelosi as House Minority Leader, the woman who Broder calls “the near-perfect embodiment of a San Francisco liberal.”

I have some concerns about her ascendency. But her election doesn’t have anything to do with ideology. It’s all about hierarchy. Pelosi’s the Minority Whip, the second in the House leadership. Had the Democrats won the House, Gephardt would have become Speaker and she would more than likely have become Majority Leader. House leaders almost all ascend the ladder in this way. Just look at Tom DeLay, who’s just gone from Whip to Majority Leader — exact same thing. Gingrich followed the same path too.

This doesn’t mean that Pelosi’s elevation won’t have any effect. But the fact that she’s becoming Minority Leader isn’t really a sign of anything.

This is but one part of the puzzle. But the whole Democrats moving to the left line is filled with lots of similarly lazy or shabby thinking. And many of the quotes you’ll see from the predictable quarters in the Democratic party are from people whose understanding of the party is still rooted in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

More on this to come …

Lets hash out a

Let’s hash out a hypothetical. What if there was a columnist for one of the prestige news weeklies and suddenly he completely lost his mind and started penning column after column about how he had taken command of a ragtag army of snails and lemurs who were running through the neighborhood stealing from the rich and giving to the poor?

Would there be an intervention? Would he lose his column? Or would things just keep going on as per usual with maybe a few people chiming in about his edgy new style and crackerjack reporting?

You guessed it: We’re talking about Howard Fineman.

Look at this final graf from his new article about Democratic power-brokers …

With Bill Clinton’s humiliation in last week’s election (Democrats lost virtually everywhere he campaigned), there is only one revered elder statesman figure left in the party, and it’s Sen. Ted Kennedy. The Democrats have decided to hold their convention in Boston, in good measure because, as one party insider told me, “Teddy wants it so much.” Kennedy’s support would be a crucial benefit to Kerry, his Senate colleague from Massachusetts, but the relationship between the two is chilly. Teddy seems somewhat taken with Edwards, as a matter of fact. But however much he is a symbol of faded liberalism to the GOP, Teddy is a power in the party — and his word about whom to support (and whom not to) will be pivotal.

Let’s take the first part of this. Bill Clinton humiliated? Is this cut and paste out of Karl Rove’s talking points or dictated over the phone? (Margaret Carlson churned the same CW here.) As nearly as I can tell, Bill Clinton campaigned for Mark Pryor, Gray Davis, Rahm Emanuel, Ed Rendell, Frank Lautenberg, Bill Richardson, etc. Did he also campaign for a lot of folks who totally got their butts kicked? Absolutely. But in case you hadn’t noticed Democrats pretty much all got their butts kicked last Tuesday. And they didn’t really need the former President’s help to accomplish that.

Now of course I’m a fan of the former president. How effective he was on the campaign trail is certainly debatable. And I certainly realize there are plenty of places in the country I probably wouldn’t send him to campaign. Like, say, Alabama or Mississippi, for instance. They don’t have philandering in those states so he really doesn’t go over very well there. Anyway, you get the idea.

But now let’s go on to the choice morsel. The revered elder statesman-power-broker isn’t Bill Clinton. It’s Teddy Kennedy. His support for president is pivotal.

This is pretty much the point where you’re talking your rag-tag army of snails and lemurs. What the hell is Fineman thinking? I’m a big fan of Teddy Kennedy’s. Big admirer. Love that he’s in the Senate. All that good stuff. But his support is really pretty damned far from being pivotal. I mean, he couldn’t even get his niece and especially his nephew over the hump in frigging Maryland this year.

One thought Democrats are

One thought: Democrats are grinding their teeth about all the terrible blood-letting going on amongst them. Republicans are giddy over it. Democrats wonder whether the in-fighting will be productive or just leave a lot of blood on the floor. Will it turn off voters to see the party in such disarray, etc.?

Why does it matter? Who cares if there’s a lot of in-fighting? It only matters to political obsessives and insiders who, obviously, are not politically up for grabs anyway.

So let them fight. Or not fight. Get it out of their system. It will all be ancient history by the next election. Doesn’t matter a bit.

I hesitated to discuss

I hesitated to discuss Charlie Cook’s newsletter today because you have to sign up to get it by email. And thus I can’t link to it. And you — the esteemed TPM reader — cannot easily read it. But he has some very sage points to make about how much last Tuesday’s election is being over-interpreted. It wasn’t a wave or a rout and certainly not some decisive election result. There’s no reason to have a Slate Dialog with the headline “Can the Democrats Be Revived?

Part of what happened is that Democrats just underestimated the continuing post-9/11 salience of national security issues. But more generally, to me, this was the wifflebat election. Democrats put very little on the table, didn’t run that aggressively. And since they put very little on the table the Republicans were able to knock them back with the fairly weak cudgel of a presidential barnstorm and some misleading but relatively effective hits on the Homeland Security Department issue. The Dems came into the election ill-prepared and the President beat them with a wifflebat. You can’t take their victory away from them. But it was still just a wifflebat.

One of the unique

One of the unique things — possibly one of the lamest things — about ‘blogs’ (hate that word, but I can’t resist the tide any longer) is that you can start commenting on a topic before you’ve really pulled together all the information or even decided quite what you think about it. The generous description would be ‘running commentary.’ Another unique thing is that you can start a post with a dreadfully opaque lead sentence which has little to do with what you’re actually writing about and somehow it seems to work out okay.

That said, let’s talk about Howard Dean.

A few days ago I wrote a post that some took to mean that I was saying Howard Dean wasn’t a ‘serious candidate’ for president.

That is what I meant. But let me take a moment to explain what I meant by those words. Fundamentally, by a ‘serious candidate’ I mean a candidate who I can seriously imagine being nominated by the Democratic party to run for president.

Like a lot of people who follow Democratic politics I’ve watched Dean for a number of years and I find him very compelling. Smart. Good on policy from what I’ve seen. Articulate. Lots of good stuff.

But when the Democrats are out of power there’s usually one person among the field of contenders who is clearly the most thoughtful of the candidates and, perhaps because he also seems — for whatever reason — unlikely to get the nomination, he also ends up being the most courageous in the stands he takes and the interests he’s willing to take on. (Republicans usually take a different course, having one lovable freak like Alan Keyes in the hunt.) Inevitably this candidate becomes the toast of the advanced degree and latte set and various star-struck journalists write “if only…” articles for smart-set monthlies. He often ends up teasing the debate out in interesting directions. But he is pretty much never the one who gets the nomination or even gets close. This guy is the olive in the martini. Or if you’re closer to my habits — and tolerance levels — the slice of lime in the Corona. The archetypal case here is Bruce Babbitt in 1988.

I guess I’m saying that Howard Dean looks a lot to me like the Bruce Babbitt of 2004.

Having said this, though, I’m not certain of it. A lot of really thoughtful people really like the guy. A number of people I know who are serious A-list political operatives have talked to me about possibly working for him — which is an important factor at this stage in the campaign. And I keep getting word from the early primary states that he’s really generating some serious interest. He also just signed up former DNC head Steve Grossman as his chief fundraiser. And that means something — not everything, but something.

So, as I say, I haven’t given the question a lot of serious thought yet. These are the assumptions I have going in. But my mind is open — a bit.

What makes tomorrow different

What makes tomorrow different from all other days? No, no, it’s not a Judaism-based trick question … What makes tomorrow different from all other days? What? Right, right, exactly! It’s the second anniversary of TPM. Two years ago tomorrow this esteemed institution got off the ground.

So anyway, we had been planning to bring out this troupe of long-legged dancers from Vegas for the entertainment at the gala anniversary party. But we did a conference call yesterday with the staff and decided that that was just going to be a bit off message.

Anyway, though, there’s still going to be plenty of celebrating. Stay tuned.

Could it be that

Could it be that the administration — for all its fooleries and flip-flops — simply had the better part of the argument on Iraq?

Better, that is, than the Democrats?

That’s the argument I make in this new piece in Salon.

Let the hate mail commence!!!

P.S. For hawks who might feel overly cocky about all this, consider the following: administration Iraq-hawks had two real angles on Iraq policy. One was avoiding working through the UN. The second was opposing the uniformed military’s plans for a massive invasion force of a quarter million troops and supporting something closer to the so-called Afghan model. They lost both. Powell and the uniforms won both. For a prediction of all this from six months ago, click here.

I guess its time

I guess it’s time for me to start weighing in on post-election questions. First, my day-after prediction that the results actually hurt President’s Bush’s reelection chances. Second, who’s up and who’s down for the 2004 nomination.

First, President Bush’s odds. As you can see from this article I have today in The Boston Globe I’m not someone who softpedals how big a debacle last Tuesday was. And I’m not saying this is some sort of disaster for Bush’s prospects. What I am saying is this: If the Republicans see this as a mandate for their domestic policy agenda they’re fools. Yet I think they will see it that way. Indeed, they’re telling reporters they see it that way. There is going to be heavy pressure — and pressure not bucked by the White House — to push through a lot of very conservative and not-particularly-popular legislation. And that will hurt him.

Basically, we’re still in the same ideological world we were a few weeks ago. A mix of a wartime mood, a personally popular president, and a poor Democratic campaign allowed the Republicans to pick up seats. But an unfettered political and policy-making hand for this White House will do a lot of things that cut against where the country is politically. And that will create problems for the president in 2004.

As for the nomination sweepstakes. My basic take is that most people on Capitol Hill are damaged by this: Gephardt and Daschle certainly, but Lieberman too — though he may not know it. The people who aren’t from Washington — and thus aren’t damaged — don’t strike me as really serious candidates. Gore, in a sense, is helped since none of this 2002 pile-up is on his dime. But he seems very far out in the wilderness at the moment. So I’m not sure quite where any of this leaves the Democrats. Much more on this in the coming days.

Here is my take

Here is my take on what happened in Tuesday’s election — from The Boston Globe’s new Ideas Section. Another piece coming tonight on the Dems and Iraq.

Wait Wait How cool

Wait! Wait! How cool is this?

This week the first question of the program on NPR’s quiz show “Wait, wait … don’t tell me!” is based on a quote from TPM! I think this really secures TPM’s status as the unofficial political blog of the Starbucks and latte set. Click here if you wanna hear the audio. It’s about two minutes and thirty seconds in …

How cool is that?

Yada …

PlayPlay
Most readers seem to

Most readers seem to have enjoyed yesterday’s riff at the expense of out-going House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt. A few, though, thought I was either unfair or premature in counting him out of the presidential running.

I should be honest that I come to this question with certain preconceptions. People are always telling me how Gephardt is a logical contender for the nomination in 2004. And I am always confidently — though, I guess, perhaps wrongly — telling them there is simply no way that’s ever going to happen.

Why this is impossible exactly is a little hard to say. But I’ve always thought it was a little like that whole thing with nothing being able to go faster than light. Precisely why it can’t happen is a little difficult to explain. And to really understand it you need to know various complex formulas and math tricks. But even if you can’t quite get your head around it that doesn’t change the fact that the fundamental laws of the universe say it can’t happen.

Same with Gephardt.

I wasnt surprised by

I wasn’t surprised by the news that Dick Gephardt was stepping down as House Minority Leader. I wasn’t, that is, until I saw the text of his comments, in which he pretty much implies that he’s stepping down to try to run for president. What’s this dude smoking? This is sort of like having your girlfriend dump you and then you say, “Okay, baby, I can live with that. But I’ve got another idea for you. How ’bout you and me get married? Huh? Huh? Yeah, baby … Whaddya think???”

As a young Democratic political consultant told me this afternoon, this guy’s got the biggest #$%&@ in Washington.

I see that Mickey

I see that Mickey Kaus is still pushing this line that the general inattention to the late generic polls showing a GOP surge was an example of liberal media bias. I’ve always thought that Mickey’s is far too great a mind to waste — even a part of it — on the liberal media bias canard. But we can deal with that issue another time. The truth is that those late generic polls were on to something. But the reason people didn’t pay more attention has nothing to do with liberal bias. It’s rather more subtle than that — and for that reason ignored.

To make sense of this you’ve got to go back to the 1998 midterm where an expected landslide for the Republicans turned into a small but significant Democratic victory. This was supposed to have been a great shocker. But if you were paying attention it really shouldn’t have been.

At the time I was working at the now long-abandoned Cambridge offices of The American Prospect — the then-bi-monthly, now bi-weekly, and soon to be monthly liberal policy mag. I was going around saying that I thought the Democrats would actually pick up seats and I wanted to write an article on the dynamics in play. That got vetoed by the higher-ups who thought we’d look stupid running an article talking about a good Democratic year after the Republicans had picked up forty seats.

Now as you can probably tell I’m rather proud of having gotten this one right. But the truth is that it was really only a matter of watching the polls. As I said before, the 1998 results were treated as a big upset. But if you looked at the polls it wasn’t at all. The generic polls and those of individual races were really quite close to the mark. And at the end of the campaign they were switching over, if I remember correctly, into the Dems’ column. The key was that everyone was so convinced that the Democrats were going to pay the price for Clinton’s shenanigans that they found ways to argue themselves out of the what the polls were saying. Not just Republicans, but Democrats too. (See, it wasn’t conservative media bias then either.)

The favored argument was that whatever the polls said, the massive turnout among aggrieved Christian-conservative whack-jobs would tip the scales in the Republicans’ favor. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

And I think that’s pretty much what happened this time too. Going into the weekend most people were pretty convinced that the Democrats were going to hold or pick up a few seats. That consensus in that direction was very strong. And since people didn’t see an obvious reason for the late move in the Republicans’ direction, they just ignored it.

The point, I think, is that group-think is often more powerful than actual data.

Is TPM down for

Is TPM down for the count because of the dreadful election news? No, just busy, busy, busy with an election wrap-up article. There is an update on the contest, though. From our initial run-through of all two-hundred-odd entries, not a single person got all the Senate contests right. Not a one. We won’t even need to go into the percentages. It wasn’t that no one predicted a GOP sweep. It was that no one saw a GOP sweep and Tim Johnson pulling it out in SD. More soon.

Ha I told you

Ha! I told you Tim Johnson would win South Dakota! Okay, okay … But I did tell you. Anyway, Democrats are right to be devastated and to a degree ashamed about these results. But there is a faint silver lining here. I think these results are actually bad for President Bush’s reelection prospects in 2004. We’ll be saying more about this …

Well that really could

Well, that really could have gone better.

Let’s be honest. On the Senate side, the Democrats lost basically every race that was even remotely losable. Not that much different on the governor side.

Not too much time for comment right now. But a few thoughts. There will be a lot of talk about poorly executed tactics in various races. And there does seem to have been a late wave for Republicans — probably just enough to seal a number of contests, and quite likely related to the president’s election swing. But I think the issue here isn’t poor tactics so much as an over-emphasis on tactics in general. The Democrats have lots of long-term political and demographic trends in their favor. But they don’t really have a politics, a vision, or a message — or perhaps, better to say, the courage and imagination to get behind one. And I suspect that that is the underlying issue.

The reaction among professional Democrats is one of profound shock. And a lot of heads are going to roll over this. Starting at the DNC, moving on to the leadership on the Hill, and likely spreading out from there.

This clip off the

This clip off the AP Wire …

Its operation riddled with errors, Voter News Service abandoned its state and national exit poll plans for Election Night, depriving media organizations of information to help analyze the vote.

The decision did not affect VNS’ separate operation for counting the actual vote. VNS also hoped to have limited information from the exit poll surveys to give its members guidance in projecting winners for individual races.

Still, it was a major setback for VNS _ a consortium consisting of ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox and The Associated Press. VNS had completely rebuilt its system in response to the 2000 election, when television networks twice used its information to make wrong calls in the decisive Florida vote for the presidential election.

Maybe the VNS is toast? Florida and now this?

Were just going to

We’re just going to have to call this real time news reportage. A number of different number sets are floating around. And the most consistent thing I’m hearing is that the VNS system has somehow broken down or that they themselves aren’t trusting their numbers. More soon when I feel I have something I can confidently report …

I have it on

I have it on good authority that these are the first looks at where we’re going tonight. A ‘+’ means a Dem advantage …

AR +18

CO +20

SD +2 or +4

MN +3

NH +6

MO -10

TX -10

GA -3

NC -4 or -6

You’ll notice that in a few cases there’s two possibilities. This reflects conflicting information I’m getting. But on balance the outlines seem clear so I’m passing them on. Bear in mind though, these are the earliest sounds. Just indicators…

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