Archive | February, 2012

Scorekeeping the Republican nomination, and the national media – tonight’s results

The one and only car race I ever attended, at Texas Motor Speedway, ended up being a total cluster-eff.

Apparently the race officials lost track of the number of laps run. As a result, the driver who thought he’d won drove into the winner’s circle, only to be followed by the next driver across the finish line whose crew had tabulated laps independently of race officials and thought he’d won instead, due to the fact that the first guy across the finish line had apparently been lapped hours before by the second guy. That’s when the two drivers promptly got into a fistfight, which of course to me was the most entertaining part of the race. Race officials had to consult whatever such race officials consult, then were forced to admit they’d checker flagged the wrong car, and declared a different winner.

That situation may be a close parallel to reporting the results of tonight’s Republican Presidential primary tonight, with returns coming in from Arizona and Michigan – and perhaps more importantly, how national media score the results.

In fact, despite everything you’ve heard to the contrary, Mitt Romney has probably already won the night handily, unless he confounds pollsters and fails to win in Arizona. But the Presidential campaigns are so sure that Romney has won Arizona that all those campaigns broke camp and left the state forever as soon as last week’s debate in Mesa was over.

But the fact is, if everybody’s right and Romney wins Arizona as expected, but narrowly loses Michigan which is a toss-up, Romney is still a huge winner tonight by the measure that really counts: delegates.

The possible disconnect: I wonder if it will be reported that way by national news organizations, who tend toward the more interesting, and more squishy measure: momentum.

Here’s the deal: Arizona, with 29 delegates, is a winner-take-all state. Michigan, with only one more delegate, will allocate its 30 delegates proportionally, based on the winner in each congressional district.

Here’s the math: Assume Romney carries Arizona. Over in Michigan, whether he wins or loses, in a closely-divided (by congressional district) outcome, he’ll split that state’s delegates. So even if Romney has a “bad” night and “loses” Michigan, he’ll net 40-43ish delegates to Santorum’s net 16-19ish delegates tonight, even as Santorum is claiming “victory.”

For Santorum to have a real victory, he must confound all the pollsters and beat Romney in Arizona, which would reverse the above delegate math to Santorum’s advantage. It would certainly surprise Arizona Republicans, however.

Will the national media accurately characterize the results that way – that Romney wins the night, despite a narrow loss in Michigan? Or will they ignore the delegate math, play the expectations game, and talk about “Santorum’s surprising momentum?”

The media characterization may well be more important than the actual results tonight, because tonight’s results will be the run-up to next Tuesday’s big show, in which ten states will weigh in. Those states include Gingrich’s home state of Georgia with 76 delegates, the battleground of Ohio with 66 delegates, and Tennessee and Virginia with 58 and 50 delegates, respectively.

Throat-clearing season is over, folks; the real discussion has begun. We’ll find out tonight which driver the national media steers into the winner’s circle.

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Attention Texas political operatives:

Why didn’t you think of this??!

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Headline of the day so far, Texas style

“I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the big hairy beast.”

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The long, brutal road ahead for the Republican nomination

While onlookers await next week’s contests in Michigan and Arizona to see who the clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President will be, let’s also keep in mind the longer view beyond. When you look at the math, it looks downright depressing for Republicans.

The Republican election calendar and delegate selection rules are set up assuming that somebody will start running away with it relatively early in the process. But nobody has. Romney, Gingrich, and Santorum have all won states. All three, plus Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, have amassed delegates.

But the devil is in those delegate counts, and when you look at the election calendar, it appears that it may be a very long time until the Republicans are able to stop bickering among themselves, and instead turn their attentions to President Obama.

Here’s why:

The winning number of delegates at the Republican National Convention is 1,144. Currently, Romney has an estimated 111, Santorum 44, Gingrich 30, and Paul 15. A growing number of states’ Republican nominating process rules are not winner-take-all (although upcoming Arizona is), so as long as Romney can’t shake Santorum or Gingrich, his delegate count is unlikely to grow as fast as he would like. And if Santorum wins either Michigan or Arizona next week, then Romney is in real trouble, but then Santorum moves into the delegate math hell himself.

The key to the lack of closure in the race is as much about what isn’t happening as what is: big key states not playing ’til late.

Texas, whose primaries are now delayed until at least May 29th because of redistricting uncertainties, allocates 155 delegates. California, which allocates 172, isn’t until June. Those two states alone account for about 25 percent of the delegates needed to win the nomination.

Add to that Pennsylvania, Santorum’s home state. Their primary date was originally scheduled for April 24th, but since they’re in a similar redistricting situation to Texas at the moment, many believe their primary will be rescheduled until a later date as well. They allocate 72 delegates.

These three states alone account for 35 percent of the delegates needed to win at the Republican convention. Yikes.

It’s tempting for Republicans to dismiss the perils of a protracted primary season, since four years ago we Democrats had one ourselves, and it obviously didn’t hinder our ability to win the general election. But there is a key difference: four years ago, Democratic primary voters had trouble making up their minds between Obama and Clinton because each were candidates who Democratic primary voters widely adored, or at least respected. This time, the Republicans see each of their four remaining choices as fundamentally flawed damaged goods, and they’re struggling to decide which is the least of their evils.

The longer the Republicans take to settle on a nominee, the longer they will continue to hammer on each other, and the longer they’ll continue to debate issues considered long-settled by general election voters, but which excite the extreme wing of the Republican base. That’s what the silly birth control debate is about. It may help a candidate get the edge with primary voters, but there’s no doubt it’s hurting them in November.

Ironically, Newt Gingrich, the guy nobody’s talking about at the moment, may hold the key. Gingrich’s continued candidacy is the main reason Santorum isn’t running away with the nomination these days, since he’s helping to split the “Not Romney” vote. In that light, it wouldn’t surprise me if Romney calls Gingrich every night, promising him the VP slot if he stays in, and Santorum calls Gingrich every night, promising the same slot if he withdraws.

If there’s anything Gingrich understands, it’s how to leverage the cards he’s dealt. No matter who wins Michigan and Arizona next week – Romney or Santorum – look for all eyes in the Republican establishment to look toward Gingrich after the results come in.

And the longer the Republican primary season trudges on, the more the Republican establishment groans in despair, and the wider the smiles in the White House will become.

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Headline of the day so far

Austin, Texas. Keeping it weird. And somewhat gross and disgusting. But what the hell, everybody should have a goal.

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Redistricting status in Texas from thirty thousand feet

I’ve been watching this redistricting mess play out with great interest, and a healthy level of both amusement and empathy for all involved.

From the start, the state’s legal team has struggled. It might surprise some readers that I don’t particularly blame Attorney General Greg Abbott and his legal team for this, although a lot of people (including Republicans) are. After all, you try defending the crap-ass maps the legislature passed. If Abbott’s team can’t do it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Abbott’s team is goofball-infested. Defending the indefensible is pretty rough work. The state’s whole legal effort reminds me of situations in which criminal defense attorneys artfully defend perps who damn well did it.

Various plaintiffs have struggled as well. It’s hard to know the right thing to do sometimes. Some have showed up for court every day loaded for bear and ready to rumble. Others have, like the Jack of beanstalk fame, been tempted to trade it all, for a handful of beans.

Much of my empathy has been reserved for the judges involved. I’ve never empathized more than I did during yesterday’s court hearing in San Antonio, in which it was incredibly easy to get lost in the minutia of hundreds of details having more to do with the mechanics of putting on an election than in the overriding issues involved with ensuring that districts maintain their fundamental purpose – giving all voters an effective voice in their representation.

The perfect example of the fundamentals: at yesterday’s hearing, a settlement was announced on the state Senate map. The legislature had passed a status quo map, with the exception of trying to get rid of Wendy Davis in Fort Worth. Maybe it’s because they can’t hear women’s voices. Setting aside my personal fondness for Davis, there’s nothing illegal about getting rid of her. What is illegal is how the state went about it, and the affect of doing it – they silenced the voices of the minority voters who elect Davis. Here’s a pro tip: if you want to get rid of Wendy Davis, I suggest you do so in the time-honored old fashioned way – by lying your ass off about her and convincing her constituents they need to fire her.

Why would we imagine that the state would settle on that map? Lawyers settle nothing until lawyers have to. It was established in testimony, both in D.C. and San Antonio, that map-drawers intentionally discriminated against minority voters in Davis’ district by fragmenting them, and that’s illegal. That’s what the legislature’s map did, that’s what forced the state to settle, and that’s the reason Wendy Davis’ voters will still have a voice in the Texas Senate after the next election.

It’s a similar situation regarding courtroom conversations on Congressional maps. The state’s lawyers  agreed not to oppose a new proposed compromise district in the D/FW metroplex, which would likely elect the candidate of minorities’ choice, in order to address claims of intentional discrimination by fragmenting minorities.

Yesterday a couple of the (probably exhausted and flabbergasted) judges wondered aloud if the bulk of the courtroom squabbling regarding the map for the state House of Representatives is only about a couple of districts.

Well, no. It’s not about whether there are 50 or 52 solidly minority districts. It’s about minority Texans continuing to have a voice in the districts beyond the hard core 50. It’s about the state’s efforts to silence those voices in many more than two chunks of geography. And that, in turn, is about whether legislators who represent those minorities are able to participate in meaningful dialog on legislation, or whether those legislators, like in the most recent legislative session, merely look on as witnesses, as an artificially-inflated majority assaults their constituents by cutting public education by billions, harassing them with voter photo I.D. laws, or ignoring attempts to make health care affordable to folks in their neighborhoods.

Texas has a majority minority population. There are 150 seats in the state House. The squabbling in court should not be about whether 52(ish) of those 150 districts should be the geography in which minority voices are heard.

If you’re the “quantify it” type, in addition to those 52(ish) seats, minority citizens were also decisive in electing their candidates of choice in House districts 57, 93, 96, 101, 102, 107, and 133. Minority citizens are also naturally emerging as effective deciders of their own fate in districts 26, 105, 132, and 138.

So if the remaining argument is about “just a couple of state House districts,” it’s only because lawyers cleverly, or foolishly, narrowed the focus. It’s not because minority voters in many, many other areas of Texas evaporated, were raptured, or suddenly moved to Detroit after Clint Eastwood inspired them during the Superbowl. And while the priorities of those Texans are just as real as the priorities of those living in Wendy Davis’ district, or the proposed new metroplex Congressional district, their communities are being fragmented in the exact same way, and for the same purpose: to silence their voices.

So, moving forward from yesterday’s hearing, let’s get back to the thirty thousand foot view. We now have a probable primary date, and that’s progress. There are continuing discussions about how the political parties mechanically make that primary date work, and that’s just spiffy. But please do not for a minute conclude that all the legal wranglings associated with this situation are about mechanics, legislative body counts, election calendar predictability, where Lloyd Doggett is forced to move his yard signs next, or the electability of any particular human being. And it is most certainly not about two remaining House seats still in question.

I don’t worry too much about the judges – judges have an advanced ability to walk and chew gum at the same time. But reading the resulting news stories this morning, I do worry about everybody getting lost in the mechanical weeds.

In the end, the final districts should be about ensuring that the minority citizens of this majority-minority state are not silenced due to efforts to fragment them into adjoining districts in which they have no voice. In the end, the districts should reflect an understanding of the difference between ramming policy down the throats of the legislators elected to represent those minorities, versus those legislators being enabled to participate in meaningful dialog affecting final legislative outcomes. That’s what it should have always been about.

Update: Burnt Orange Report has more on this.

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The dangers of the protracted Republican nomination process

Interesting intramural discussion going on at the moment among Republican candidates for President. They are so locked into their primary battles that they’ve forgotten all about mainstream general election voters.

They’re fighting over birth control – as in keeping women separated from it – which is a stinker of an issue for an overwhelming majority of general election voters. They’re pretending to support the Catholic Church, which long ago lost the support of even their own members on the issue. What they’re really doing is trying desperately to find something bad to say about the President’s move to ensure that birth control is covered under health insurance policies.

What the Republicans running for President are accomplishing, however, is alienating a wide swath of voters, in the process of sucking up to the only narrow segment they’re each battling over at the moment: Republican activists. It’s one key reason why, the longer the Republican nomination is in question, the better position President Obama will be.

Scott Braddock and I discussed this on News92FM this morning. Give it a listen.

And while we’re on the subject, if you live in the Houston area and haven’t given News92 FM a try yet, you’re really missing out. Check them out. What a concept, Houston: an actual news station on Houston radio that isn’t drowned out by right-wing wacko content and nationally syndicated audio junk food.

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Attention Corpus Christi guys

She’s probably available.

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Headline of the day so far

Good luck with that, Newt.

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Buzz from the TV show

On this week’s Capital Tonight show on YNN Austin, I was asked about the Presidential nominating process moving forward into Texas. However, I got on a roll and forgot all about the “Texas” part of it, probably because nobody has a clue as to when the Texas primary will be.

But I left little doubt that I believe Romney’s falter means the Republicans are in disarray.

You can catch Capital Tonight on Thursdays at 6:30 and 10 pm, and Sundays at 11 am on YNN Austin, on the Texas Channel in other Texas media markets (Time-Warner channel 888 in most markets), and you can watch the entire show online any ol’ time you want.

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Great news! Louie Gohmert is back in the saddle!

I have no idea why all you people are so upset about Rick Perry dropping out of the Presidential race. Your concern that politics won’t be any fun anymore is completely unfounded. Have you already forgotten about another fine Texan still on the national stage, namely Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert?

You remember Gohmert, don’t you? Oh, sure you do. He’s the guy who invented terror babies, and who felt so strongly about it he went berserk on Anderson Cooper because Cooper had the nerve…the nerve…to question Gohmert’s claims.

Well apparently Gohmert has a new claim, another one in which babies are potentially involved. This time, it’s caribou babies. Caribou – you know, the cute-looking big-ass deer-looking animals in the frozen tundra. It seems that Gohmert is concerned that there won’t be enough caribou babies, if he doesn’t get his way.

See if you can follow along. Stick with me here. But first, let’s review.

Gohmert is a proud member of the whackadoodle Republican So-Far-Right-We-Can’t-See-Him Caucus in Congress, and as such it is his patriotic duty to figure out what The Next Big Republican Talking Point will be, then go so utterly nutso-over-the-top with his own unique angle on the topic that even the other Congressional whack jobs are embarrassed to be seen, both with him  and with that issue, ever again.

That’s what the “terror baby” thing was about. Gohmert got the memo – two memos actually. One memo explained that Republicans are supposed to scapegoat immigrants, even to the point of questioning birthright citizenship. The other memo advocated for continuing to spread fear of terrorists endangering Americans. Gohmert, being the clever, sly, and sexy little devil he is, invented terror babies – preggo terrorists who get smuggled into the U.S., where they have their baby on U.S. soil (who is then a U.S. citizen), then go back home to their Godless middle eastern nation, where their Godless terrorist parents invest the next 18 years or so teaching their Godless Junior terrorist how to hate America and kill us all. Then the terror baby comes to America to do just that. Of course there was, and remains, absolutely no evidence whatsoever that this happens, and even the FBI ridiculed the notion. But it didn’t stop Gohmert from smearing this flavor of whackadoodle dandy all over the place until people just started ignoring him.

Fast forward to now, to caribous. Apparently Gohmert got a new memo, and it said something about promoting a massive petrochemical pipeline in Alaska. Well, ok, so far this is fair enough, he’s also undoubtedly a proud card-carrying member of the Drill-Baby-Drill Caucus.

A horny caribou

Here’s the theory Gohmert managed to come up with: we can’t stop this pipeline. Because if we stop this pipeline, the caribou will suffer. The caribou will suffer because the pipeline provides warmth. Without the warmth, the caribou won’t want to mate.

Yes, friends, apparently Gohmert believes oil pipelines make caribou horny. Without the pipeline, he’s concerned there won’t be enough caribou screwing going on. Pipelines apparently make the other caribou look really hot to each other, and they have sex with wild abandon. Pipelines apparently bring out all the slutty caribou who might otherwise stay home. But with the pipeline, it’ll totally be like a cari-booty call situation all the time. In conclusion, pipelines are caribou beer goggles. Gohmert is in favor of caribou orgies. He doesn’t want a pipeline, per se, he wants caribou caligula.

I, for one, am proud of Louie Gohmert. His newfound concern for this majestic wild species, and their sexual needs, is refreshing. But let’s put Mr. Gohmert back in the advanced placement class where he belongs. This isn’t quite up to his “terror baby” standards yet. This isn’t yet enough to again get Anderson Cooper’s camera-squinting-at attention.

Somebody please tell this esteemed Member of Congress that there is some evil satanic Alaskan Planned Parenthood for caribou, and they’re just dying to move into the pipeline zone and provide affordable birth control options to these otherwise-slutty caribou hussies. Let’s watch Gohmert’s brain explode in confusion about what to do about that one. If that doesn’t do the trick, let’s spread the rumor that many of these caribou are gay. And want to get married. At the pipeline.

Meanwhile, let us once again celebrate the stunning live-action fail that is Louie Gohmert. He is taking up the slack of other Texas Republicans who just don’t have the staying power to embarrass we Texans on the continuing basis to which we have proudly become accustomed.

[h/t to Kuff for pointing out this gem]

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Republicans’ really crappy terrible horrible week

I trust others besides me have noticed that the last week or so has been the worst for conservative Republicans since Barack Obama won the Presidency in 2008?

It started last week when the Komen Foundation, at the behest of right-wingers so dead-set against Planned  Parenthood, one of the nation’s leading health care providers to women, tried to screw the organization out of breast cancer screening funds, and in the process only succeeding in destroying their own good brand. Komen is still writhing around in the muck, trying to salvage what little is left of their organization, without much success. Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, has raised millions in extra funding and will undoubtedly step up, not cut back, on breast cancer screenings and other crucial preventive health care services.

Score: right-wing Republicans: 0, everybody else: 1

Next, the new job numbers came out. Turns out that despite Congressional Republicans’ best efforts to block as much of the President’s plan to right the economy as they can, the Obama administration’s efforts have been humming right along, and there is new optimism that the economy is going in the right direction, after years of worry. Suddenly the people who have tried for two years to pin the unemployment picture on Obama were arguing that presidents don’t really affect employment anyway, so it’s irrelevant. Right.

Score: right-wing Republicans: 0, everybody else: 2

In another development which is undoubtedly directly attributable to the news on jobs, National polling immediately showed an up-tick in Obama’s support, for the first time opening up some daylight in the theoretical general election match-ups, and showing Obama beating Mitt Romney in November.

Score: right-wing Republicans: 0, everybody else: 3

But speaking of front-runner Mitt “pink slip” Romney, funny thing happened on the way to the Republican nominating process yesterday in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri. Romney didn’t win any of them. Neither did the self-proclaimed conservative alternative to Romney, Newt “vagina whisperer” Gingrich. Instead, back-bencher Rick Santorum won them all, in a stinging rebuke of virtually every big money Republican funder and every establishment Republican leader, except for the evangelical leadership most out of tune with general election voters.

After Romney’s big come-back in Florida, Romney had about ten days to consolidate his support into a national movement. And with all the money and organization in the world to do so, he failed. Gingrich, being the chief architect of his own demise, has made himself seem qualified to be nothing more than the governor of our newest state, the moon. Which left Santorum to reap the benefit of one of the biggest leadership voids to hit the Republican Party since Herbert Hoover.

Score: right-wing Republicans: 0, everybody else: 4

So where do they go from here? The Republican nomination is in complete disarray. This, by itself, is not necessarily a train wreck for them – need I remind Democrats that at this point in our own nominating process four years ago, we were incapable of making a decision between Obama and Clinton?

No, here’s the train wreck, and the difference: four years ago, Democrats couldn’t make up their minds because our choices were both so damn good. Republicans today can’t make up their minds because each of their remaining four choices is so utterly and fundamentally flawed. The conservatives who make up the bulk of the Republican base hate Romney’s policies. Gingrich has made himself completely unlikeable to more mainstream establishment Republicans. Ron Paul is very busy being Ron “you kids get off my lawn” Paul. And Rick Santorum, being the new guy with the wind at his back, is about to have the worst three or four news cycles of his life, dealt him by Romney’s attack machine, which has all the cash.

Republican voters freshly supporting Santorum do so knowing very little about the man – they’re just opposing Gingrich and Romney. They’re about to know more about Santorum than Mr. Santorum ever wanted them to know.

Score: right-wing Republicans: 0, everybody else: 5

And that’s just a week. Have a great day, Republicans.

Update: oops, I forgot about this, the Proposition 8 ruling supporting Californians’ civil rights, despite me listing it in my head earlier before I got to my computer.

Score: Republicans: 0, everybody else: 6

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Headline of the day so far

I certainly know I have been curious at times.

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Buzz from the TV show

I usually share much shorter clips from YNN’s Capital Tonight show, but the political discussion on last night’s show was so wide-ranging I couldn’t decide which part to share, so here’s the entire segment.

Interesting discussion, because both Republican Ted Delisi and I had “Nixon goes to China” moments: Ted very frankly acknowledged the shortcomings with the redistricting maps his Party’s leaders drew, and I undoubtedly horrified Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott by defending him.

You can catch Capital Tonight on Thursdays at 6:30 and 10 pm, and Sundays at 11 am on YNN Austin, on the Texas Channel in other Texas media markets (Time-Warner channel 888 in most markets), and you can watch the entire show online any ol’ time you want.

Also, where else but Capital Tonight can you watch a political show that features an armadillo? Yeah, I didn’t think so. You’re welcome.

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Komen Foundation, again

I thought I was done with the sordid tale of Komen’s silly funding decision, but Fox news called me again, for a story that aired Thursday night. The resulting story in one of the more interesting news stories I’ve participated in lately; I kind of like the in-your-face editing style. Stick with it, there were technical difficulties at the beginning during the live shot.

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