Alex's Outlook

Friday, October 31, 2003

Republican Bobby Jindal holds a comfortable 9-point lead over Democrat Kathleen Blanco in the Louisiana gubernatorial race.

Republican Ernie Fletcher appears poised to capture the Kentucky governor's mansion, the first time in three and a half decades that a Republican will have been elected as gov. of Kentucky. He is about nine points ahead of Ben Chandler, the Democrat candidate.

Republican Haley Barbour is well-positioned to win the Mississippi governors' race, although he is only about 5 points ahead of Democrat Ronnie Musgrove.

It appears that Republicans will sweep the governors' races this Tuesday. In the two bitterly contested ones (Mississippi and Kentucky), the Democrats attempted to nationalize the race by blaming the exodus of jobs on the Bush Administration. Both attempts have apparently failed miserably. A Tuesday sweep wouldn't mean much in itself - Bush will probably carry all three states in 2004 regardless of who's governor - but the mini-nationalizations of the elections might be a good indicator of 2004.

Prediction of the Week

I predict that George W. Bush will carry at least 40 states in 2004, with at least 55 percent of the popular vote. His coattails will result in a ~55-45 Senate and a ~237-198 House of Representatives. The War on Terror is going reasonably well, and the economy is growing at a blistering 7.2% rate. All of the viable Democratic campaigns, with the possible exception of John Edwards', are extremely left of center, at a time when Bush's tax cuts are finally getting credit for spurring economic growth. (I do not consider Wesley Clark's campaign to be viable. He has become the new Bob Graham - the guy with the great resume who self-destructs with loony criticism of Bush and the lack of a coherent domestic or foreign policy.)

Due to the severe polarization of certain states, I do not think Bush will win Rhode Island, Vermont, Massachussetts, New York, Maryland or Hawaii. California would normally be a lost cause, but if Schwarzenegger solves the budget crisis he could turn the state around.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Wesley Clark's commanding lead over Howard Dean has evaporated. Clark's flipflops on the war and on the Bush Administration (he talked about what a "great team" is in the White House in 2001) reek of the same politics-as-usual baggage that have doomed the Kerry and Gephardt nominations. Democrats are right to reject such opportunism. Clark had been interminably hyped by the big media, but he has offered nothing except the same Bush-bashing, but without the guts to stand for his beliefs, unlike Dean before the war.

Dean is still the juggernaut of the race. He is running almost even in Iowa and is the overwhelming favorite in New Hampshire. Edwards is well-positioned to win South Carolina, so his candidacy might get some life once the other Establishment Democrats (Kerry, Gephardt, Lieberman) have dropped out, and Edwards becomes the lone standard-bearer of moderate Democrats and liberals who want to win. But my money's on Dean.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Benito Putin
Mikhail Khodorovsky, Russia's wealthiest man, was thrown in jail recently, hit with a $1 billion tax-evasion charge. He heads YUKOS Oil, Russia's largest company. He is worth about $8 billion.

Khodorovsky's arrest was certainly politically motivated. He is hardly the first "oligarch" to have evaded taxes, but he made the mistake of funding two opposition parties.

Pres. Vladimir Putin seems to be telling the Russian business community: you can make all the money you want, but don't meddle in politics. I don't see what's wrong with a market-oriented dictatorship, though. The inequality inherent in free markets has put serious strains on Russian society, as it has with all others, and Putin probably figures that the only way he can maintain a relatively free market (refusing to embrace a welfare state) is by cutting down the political opposition, not to mention keeping power for himself.

"Democratic capitalism" is an oxymoron. Democracy is ultimately corrosive to the free-market system, no matter how much a democracy's founders try to defend it (e.g. the evisceration of the Constitution during the New Deal). Putin's new "fascist" experiment will be very interesting to watch.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Howard Dean has soared to a 23-point lead (40-17) over his nearest rival, John Kerry, in the New Hampshire primary.

Dean looks more unstoppable every day, which is good. I see Dean as having very negative coattails in the conservative South, where there are 4-5 competitive Senate races right now. Even if Dean somehow carried everything Gore carried, as well as Ohio or West VA, he will damage Democratic Congressional prospects even more than the current situation already has. If the Republicans sweep the competitive Southern races (GA, FL, SC, NC, maybe AR), they will net at least 3 Senate seats, so they will be able to do pretty much whatever they want as far as the budget is concerned.

Dean's juggernaut status among Democrats only further guarantees that the Republicans will build an enduring majority in 2004.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Fifty-nine percent of Palestinians believe that they should continue fighting Israel even after acquiring statehood. Huge majorities of Palestinians support continued suicide bombing. Why does the United States even pretend to support one of the most barbaric, pro-terrorism populations in the entire Mideast?

Monday, October 20, 2003

The deficit this year was $374 billion, about 3.5 percent of gross domestic product. That is historically pretty average, and much lower than the $455 (4.3 percent of GDP) billion forecast earlier this year. I dunno if that counts Bush's $87 billion Iraq bill, though.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Texas Chainsaw Gerrymander

The political front has been pretty tranquil since Earthquake Arnold. The only thing of note since has been Texas' final passage of a redistricting bill. The redistricting saga lasted six months, punctuated by two evacuations by Democrats to deny the Republicans a quorum. Texans reacted very negatively however, and the Democrat boycott broke down because of 2-to-1 voter disapproval. Then, after the Republicans fought each other over some technicalities, they finally passed it.

Republicans say the bill will net them "up to 6" new Congressional seats; the Democrats say seven. Apparently the bill also targets Ron Paul, the annoying Texas Republican who gets a lot of press as the "conscience of the House" but is a Democrat in practice, because he votes "no" on just about everything. (Pretty much everything passed by Congress today is unconstitutional in Paul's mind, which may be true, but for those of us who want to change the US for the better his incessant "nays" don't contribute anything to the cause.) Eliminating Paul will be almost as good as eliminating another Democrat.

In any case, the Democrats won't get the House in 2004. Assuming the gerrymander survives the inevitable court challenge, the Republicans could net 10+ seats in 2004, making the House about 240-195.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

I was worried that Arnold would go back on his no-new-taxes pledge and keep the car tax, as a concession for balancing the budget. Apparently he will still roll back the car tax as promised.

He also said he would "travel throughout the state to learn what needs to be done" - a.k.a. campaign for drastically cutting spending without raising taxes. Finally he promised to "work with Indian casinos so we can get additional funds." (Haha.)

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Davis Terminated; Arnold's Mandate

Liberals at the American Prospect and the Nation were celebrating as recently as 2001 the Democrats' one-party control of California. America's largest and formerly most conservative state had become a bastion of liberalism and a "laboratory" of progressive economics, a new city on the hill.

Two years later, that dream has been forgotten amid the wreckage of the California recall. The final results are in, with the recall winning 55-45 - not as lopsided as previously forecast - but Schwarzenegger winning over 48 percent of the vote. In an election of 135 candidates, and another major candidate from his own party, Schwarzenegger's victory comes as close as anything to a mandate; he and McClintock combined for 61 percent of the vote, compared to Bustamante and Camejo's paltry 35 percent. Not much chance of challenging that in court.

Given the solid Democratic majorities in both houses, Arnold has an enormous, but not impossible, task ahead of him. If he succeeds in bringing California's budget back into balance without raising taxes, he will be more than just the hero of his state. He will be the wildly popular governor of the most populous state in the union. He will be an unstoppable Presidential contender. Sen. Orrin Hatch is pushing a constitutional amendment whereby any foreign-born American who has lived in the US for twenty years or more - like Arnold - can become president.

Balancing the budget will be only the beginning of Arnold's problems, though. The Democrats, even as the hour of the recall approached, rammed one of the most liberal agendas ever across Gray Davis' desk. By far the most damaging bill was a health-care mandate, which will force even more businesses out of California. That should be terminated immediately. Only after Davis' regulations are rolled back will businesses return and California's budget woes end.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Recall, II

The Drudge Report's data indicate a staggering victory for the Terminator: the recall has won 57-43, Schwarzenegger has won 47 percent of the vote by himself, with Bustamante at 34 percent and McClintock at 12 percent.

Assuming Drudge's data are correct, the Republicans just won a major victory in the most liberal state of America. The Gray Davis regime of favoritism has been demolished. Schwarzenegger alone won a larger percentage of the vote (47) than Davis did (43). The two major Republicans, Schwarzenegger and McClintock, won a combined 59% of the vote - in the most liberal state of America.

I guess I'll refrain from further gloating/commentary until the figures are finalized.

US Senate

Owing to a bout of recent bad news as well as a recruiting disaster in the last year, Republicans have managed to significantly dilute their potential Senate gains. Senator Don Nickles, a conservative of principle as well as politics (as opposed to pork-barrel cardinals like Ted Stevens), has announced his retirement in 2004. The GOP has been a miserable failure insofar as Senate recruitment in 2004 is concerned:

  • In Illinois, former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar would have been a formidable candidate to replace retiring Sen. Peter Fitzgerald and keep the seat for the Republicans. Edgar demanded $2 million in up-front money for the campaign, and GOP operatives said no. Edgar dropped out, so the seat will probably go to the Democrats.

  • Republicans failed to recruit either a popular former governor or a popular pro basketball coach against North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan. A liberal Democrat will thus once again get a pass in one of the most conservative states in the nation.

  • Nevada Rep. Jim Gibbons, a famous foe of higher taxes, elected not to risk his career in a tossup against liberal Democrat Sen. Harry Reid. Reid will probably sail to another term in yet another one-party Republican state.

  • Rep. Jennifer Dunn would have been a tough candidate against Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Democrat. She bowed out. Republicans got half a loaf with George Nethercutt, another Representative who will wage a decently spirited campaign. Still, it could have been a much closer contest.

  • Rudy Giuliani would have toasted New York Sen. Chuck Schumer in a head-to-head contest. For whatever reason, he decided not to run. Another seat now sure to remain in liberal hands.

    Furthermore, Sen. Bob Graham has abandoned a completely feckless presidential campaign. His liberal campaign and vociferous criticism of Bush have weakened him enough to make his seat a remote contest, in a state that has swung decidedly Republican since the 2000 elections. But he will probably hold onto his seat, unless he announces his retirement.

    Bill Janklow apparently won't resign from his South Dakota House seat following his killing of a motorcyclist, which raises the chance that John Thune will run against Sen. Tom Daschle in 2004. Still, it would be a pretty close contest - not necessarily worth Thune's risking his career, from his perspective. If Thune decides not to run, another liberal will survive in conservative territory.

    Don Nickles' retirement will make his seat competitive, although probably not as competitive as the pundits say it is. Oklahoma is an uber-conservative state after all, and 2004 is a Presidential year.

    For those who didn't want to sift through all that, the Republicans have three likely pickups, in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. But the Georgia seat is occupied by a Democrat who is actually more conservative than most Republicans, so gaining Georgia won't be a net gain for the GOP. The Democrats have one, in Illinois. It might seem nice for the Republicans to gain two Senate seats in 2004, but it could have been eight!

    Not all is lost, yet. Nevada Republicans might yet mount a decent replacement for Gibbons. The likely Republican triumph in California could change the dynamics of the Senate race there. John Breaux, center-left lion of Louisiana, could retire, just like Nickles. But it seems like the Republicans have lost a great chance to gain a near-invincible majority in the Senate.

  • Recall
    I'm surprised that there's no data out yet on the California recall. No news is good news, though. At least there hasn't been any additional mudslinging for Arnold to dodge in the final hours of the campaign. Tradesports has Arnold's chance of winning at 84% now.

    Today Californians will have its first opportunity to stick it to the liberals who have ruined their state over the last five years.

    The final tracking polls put the recall, and Schwarzenegger, still easily in the lead. Below are the tallies from the tracking polls, first showing the recall and then the Schwarzenegger-Bustamante-McClintock tally:

  • Field (Oct. 1): 57-39; 36-26-16

  • Los Angeles Times (Sept. 29) 56-42; 40-32-15 [The LA Times polls have been lowballing Schwarzenegger's lead throughout the entire race. -ed]

  • Knight Ridder/NBC (Oct. 4): 54-41; 37-29-15

  • CNN/USA Today (Sept. 27): 63-35; 40-25-18

  • Survey USA (Oct. 5): 57-43; 46-34-13

  • Chamber of Commerce (Sept. 25): 53-41; 35-31-17

  • Knowledge Networks/Hoover (Oct. 4): 59-41; 43-30-13

    Schwarzenegger's lead over Bustamante averages about eight points. The recall leads by double digits; one poll taken in late September showed the recall with a 28-point lead. The last-ditch smear camapign against Schwarzenegger has narrowed that down to about 14 points. That won't save Davis or Bustamante. Furthermore, about 2 million people have already voted via absentee ballot, and their votes are about 56 percent for the recall, meaning that Davis will need about 52 percent today. Not going to happen.

  • Sunday, October 05, 2003

    The Drudge Report's headline bemoans how the barrage of late-campaign mudslinging is taking a toll on Maria Shriver, wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    I find that ironic, considering that Drudge himself has been at the forefront of the smear campaign against Schwarzenegger.

    Friday, October 03, 2003

    The US claims that it has found botulinum toxin in Iraq.

    Kyoto is dead.

    Kyoto says that governments whose economies account for 55 percent of CO2 emissions have to ratify the treaty in order for it to go into effect. The US, which accounts for 36 percent of carbon emissions itself, has flat-out refused to ratify the treaty. Australia has joined suit. That meant that Russia's ratification was critical, since it accounts for 17 percent of CO2 emissions. Today it refused.

    Interestingly, Russia had a significant incentive to join. The Communists controlled Russia when Kyoto was born c. 1990, and their factories belched out a lot more CO2 than Russia currently does. That means that today Russia can use sell all the old CO2 "credits" for a lot of money. But Putin still turned it down, noting that at the rate Russia's economy is growing Russia will be using all its extra credits by the end of the decade.

    With Russia's effective withdrawal, over 55% of CO2-emitting countries have refused to sign on. As the leader of Russia's Academy of Scientists said that Kyoto's only impact "would be on several thousand people who make a living attending conferences on global warming."

    Thursday, October 02, 2003

    Rush Limbaugh ignited a furor recently when he said that Donovan McNabb was an overrated quarterback, because he is black. He resigned his promised ESPN slot to save ESPN from the civil-rights shakedown crowd.

    I don't know that much about pro football outside of the St. Louis Rams (actually I don't know very much about them either), but some are already arguing that Rush's assessment of McNabb was correct.

    Matt Drudge must really hate Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now Drudge is blaring a photo of Hitler on his website, with Arnold's "I admire Hitler's public speaking" quote, taken out of context of course.

    First of all, Hitler obviously was an outstanding orator, if history is the judge. The quote is also at least a decade old, and was well-known before Schwarzenegger ran for the governorship. I guess Drudge wasn't happy with the number of hits for his grope-gate LA Times mouthpiece act.

    In any case, Drudge is being purely malicious. McClintock not only has a poor chance of winning, but he has also been bought and paid for by California's Indian tribes. He would also not have the same leverage over the Democratic legislature that Schwarzenegger would. There is no reason to vote for him. Drudge's attacks are accomplishing nothing.

    Wednesday, October 01, 2003

    Say What?

    The Hindustan Times claims that Kuwaiti authorities have nailed $60 million worth of WMD getting shipped from Iraq to a European country via Kuwait.

    I'm guessing that it won't pan out, just because every previous WMD "find" became a dud. But who knows? It'd certainly be nice if the WMD affair finally panned out.