The 2012 Electoral College Map

Interesting piece from the New Yorker’s John Cassidy about a possible (and surely unwise) Obama strategy to largely concede the industrial midwest:

According to a recent front-page Times story, Obama’s Chicago brain trust has come up with an interesting answer: bypass some of the battleground industrial states, such as Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, where disgruntled white men are ominously thick on the ground, in favor of traditionally Republican states like Colorado, Virginia, and Nevada, where an influx of urban professionals and Hispanics is helping the Democrats. Said David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist: “There are a lot of ways for us to get to 270, and it’s not just the traditional map.”

Really, Axe?

Much as it makes a good story to suggest that Obama can ride back to the White House on the shoulders of a Frasier-J. Lo coalition, the electoral math simply doesn’t add up—not yet anyway. One day in the not-too-distant future, a Democratic President may well be elected on the basis of largely bypassing the Midwest, but it won’t be Obama.

To be sure, Axelrod and his colleagues can cite some impressive demographic trends to support their strategy. These developments go back to the late nineteen-eighties, when amidst the ruins of Michael Dukakis’s campaign there were some hopeful signs for Democrats: the gradual move to the left by suburban states like California, Connecticut, and New Jersey; and the rise of the Hispanic vote in places like Florida and Arizona. In 2004, John Judis and Ruy Texeira took these trends and turned them into a provocative and well-researched book, “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” in which they wrote: “We are witnessing the end of Republican Hegemony.”

After Obama swept to victory in 2008, Judis and Texeira looked like geniuses. But an inspection of the electoral map suggested Obama’s victory represented a more familiar phenomenon: a nationwide turn against an unpopular incumbent party. Yes, Obama picked up Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia–and impressive that was. But he also swept the Midwest, winning Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—states that, taken together, account for a hundred and eleven votes in the Electoral College. Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia account for just forty-three.

Sounds about right to me.  Nothing original to add, just thought the election junkie readers would enjoy this (and I do enjoy things that site Judis and Texeira’s work).

EJ Dionne vs. George Will vs. Elizabeth Warren

Well, apparently I wasn’t the only one who found George Will’s ridiculous “straw man” takedown of Elizabeth Warren to be a post-modern, ironic use of a straw man.  Or s0mething like that.  Even WP colleague EJ Dionne gets in on the action:

Will is a shrewd man and a careful student of political philosophy. I am a fan of his for many reasons, but more on that in a moment. In this case, he demonstrates his debating skills by first accusing Warren of being “a pyromaniac in a field of straw men,” and then by conceding the one and only point that Warren actually made.

“Everyone,” he writes, “knows that all striving occurs in a social context, so all attainments are conditioned by their context.” Indeed. He gives us here a rigorous and concise summary of what she said.

Will then adds: “This does not, however, entail a collectivist political agenda.” In intellectual contests, this is an MVP move. Having accused Warren of setting fire to straw men, Will has just introduced his own straw colossus.

Thinking people 1; George Will 0.

Video of the day: Dr. Zaius

Watched large parts of the original Planet of the Apes on HBO yesterday.  Evan was in the room and he kept playing with toys, etc., but was irresistibly repeatedly drawn back to the film.  Anyway, I’ll never see any of this movie again without thinking back to one of my favorite Simpsons parodies ever:

The “failed” stimulus in two lines

Fabulous column by Ezra Klein about the recession, the Obama administration’s response to it, and the political context that shaped what Obama could and could not do to address our economic problems.  Surely Obama made some mistakes and could have done some things differently that led to better outcomes, but given his available options and the political context, it’s hard to conclude that he did not act reasonably.  Most importantly, almost no one fully appreciated just how bad the economy was getting at the time time Obama was elected.  The stimulus was based on a fundamental mis-understanding of just how bad economic conditions were.  However, that fundamental understanding was essentially a mainstream consensus and based on the best economic data at the time, which we now know substantially underestimated our problems.   Anyway, if you really want to understand Obama’s economic response to the recession, just take 5-10 minutes and read the whole thing.  It’s really worth your while.  But since you probably won’t, here’s an especially important excerpt and a graph:

To understand how the administration got it so wrong, we need to look at the data it was looking at.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis, the agency charged with measuring the size and growth of the U.S. economy, initially projected that the economy shrank at an annual rate of 3.8 percent in the last quarter of 2008. Months later, the bureau almost doubled that estimate, saying the number was 6.2 percent. Then it was revised to 6.3 percent. But it wasn’t until this year that the actual number was revealed: 8.9 percent. That makes it one of the worst quarters in American history. Bernstein and Romer knew in 2008 that the economy had sustained a tough blow; t hey didn’t know that it had been run over by a truck.

And the chart:

Actual unemployment rate

So, the two lines referred to in the title are the top two.  Basically, the Obama administration thought that if they did nothing, the economy would get as bad as the light blue line.  In reality, they did something and we still had the red line (don’t even argue the stimulus made things worse– the article has quotes from Republican economists who explain just how ludicrous that idea is).   In short, their worst case scenario was drastically off and that really shaped everything.  Again, most everybody believed similar figures except for a pair of economists– Reinhart and Rogoff who do a great job explaining all this on a Planet Money podcast]

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