Archive for June 12th, 2006

As always, I get on the Missoulian for…well…for its generally shoddy editing. Take Sunday's editorial – "Money Talks but People Vote." (Wow! How gutsy!) The editorial basically says money usually wins elections, but not always!

Um…at risk of sounding (again) like a 13-year-old: "no duh."

The editorial, of course is attempting to say something insightful about the Senate primary races. What's the Missoulian's catch? Why, breaking down the money spent on each campaign by a dollar-per-vote figure:

Burns spent $3,611,449 as of the last week of May and took 72 percent of the Republican vote. Keenan spent a mere $34,352 and wound up with 22 percent of the vote.

However, let's look at these expenditures in terms of their “buying power.” Divide the number of votes received into the money spent, and Keenan's 22 percent share cost him $1.58 a vote. By contrast, Burns' 70,000 votes cost him a whopping $51.50 a vote. The incumbent spent 32 times as much money to get only 3.3 times the votes.

Back to the Democrats' slate: Morrison lost after spending $29.72 a vote, ending with 38,246 votes in total. Tester garnered 65,531 votes with an expenditure that works out to $10.11 a vote. Tester got 1.7 times the votes of Morrison while spending almost one-half the money.

In his last election, in 2000, Sen. Burns narrowly beat now-Gov. Brian Schweitzer with a total of 208,082 votes.

At this week's price of $51.50 a vote to Burns, those 208,000 votes would cost a staggering $10.7 million. Tester's cost, $10.11 a vote, might buy him the same number of votes for about $2.1 million.

I admit it's…fun…looking at these numbers. Kinda like studying a shortstop's batting average at night on turf against lefthanded pitchers from Arkansas. In other words, meaningless. Or, as the Missoulian puts it in its usual roundabout way (kind of like a septuagenarian looking for her glasses):

There are differences between primary and general elections, and similar expenditures hardly guarantee similar results. But it is interesting to look at Tuesday's election in terms of the amount of money and what we might call the efficiency of that money. Crunching these numbers hardly disproves the theory that money is important in elections. However, these figures would suggest that while money is a factor, it's not the only factor. Sometimes, it's not a decisive or even a significant factor. Comparing votes and spending in the primary at least suggests the possibility that the upcoming Senate race may turn on things other than money.

Um…you think?

I, Jay Stevens-slash-Touchstone promise never to write a blog post with as much useless information in it without, at least, making you chuckle a little.

Hire me to run the Missoulian! It would never, ever be dull, I promise. Just drop me a note and send me an application…

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Czechs 3, U.S. 0

So the U.S. mens' soccer team stunk up the joint, 3-0. I didn't see the game but someone who did said the U.S. squad was lucky it wasn't 8-0. The Czechs were better and faster. So much for hoping the U.S. squad gets out of the first round, let alone equals last year's effort.

U.S. coach Bruce Arena is pretty p*ssed, too. In a news conference, he railed star Landon Donovan and the rest of the team:

"Landon showed no aggressiveness," Arena told a news conference after his team's 3-0 defeat in their World Cup Group E opening match."I am very disappointed by the performance of our players over 90 minutes. But give the Czechs credit. They punished us every chance they got."

[snip]

"We certainly had a very poor start to the game – to put yourself down a goal after five minutes to a team like the Czech Republic," he said. "We were behind the eight-ball from the start."

Arena blamed his veteran goalkeeper Kasey Keller for "putting the ball upfield where we have nobody" at the start of the sequence that led to the first goal.

[snip]

Arena also singled out PSV Eindhoven midfielder DaMarcus Beasley — alongside Donovan one of his most important players — for strong criticism.

"We got nothing out of Beasley on the night," Arena said.

"Not enough players took the initiative. We didn't get too many good performances."

Although known for his generally blunt style, Arena was in top form as he rattled off his team's failings with refreshing candor.

"A number of players played poorly," he said. "Aside from giving up the early goal, second balls were a big part of the game and they won more than their fair share."

Harsh words from Arena, apparently completely justified. (So much for Keller being one of the best goaltenders in the world, eh?)

Let's face it: the US squad is in big trouble. With the Czechs and Italians winning their opening matches, it'll take a minor miracle for the US squad to advance. All the Czechs and Azzuri need to do now is tie their remaining two games. Because Italy-Czech…etc…play last, they'll probably play very conservatively…at best. In order for the US to advance, they need to win their remaining two games. Or tie Italy, beat Ghana, and hope for a Ghana win over the Czechs.

Double ugh.

So now it's time to pick a second-favorite team. I've always liked Holland…

(Update: Jan Koller's hamstring pull turns out to be not a serious injury, good news for the Czechs.)

As part of my neverending quest for the most tasteless political posts in the Montana blogosphere — heck, if I'm just a partisan hack, I might as well enjoy myself — we have the Denny Rehberg lookalike contest!

Your task is to either propose one of your own derogatory lookalikes for Representative Denny Rehberg, or vote for one of the lookalikes below.

First, the Representative from Montana:

4&20 finalists:

Jeff Kent

Ron Jeremy

Snidely Whiplash

Why, yes, I do realize I'm going to h*ll. That's why I'm leaning towards Snidely Whiplash. Not only is the portrait stunningly similar to Denny R, they both have the same cackling malevolence about them.

Update: One of the prime reasons I like Whiplash in this race is that both Snidely and Denny use the "evil hand clasp" feature prominently in the above pic. I looked around and found a grainy image of Rehberg doing the same:

The Western Democrat has an excellent post-mortem of California’s 50th Congressional District special election – in which the Republican candidate won – complete with some lessons that apply to Montana’s upcoming midterms.

1. Money counts. Busby did much better than in 2004 partly because she had more money. Nevertheless, she was seriously outspent, possibly by two to one. The Republicans will not hesitate to spend whatever it takes to hold on to their power. The lesson for November is obvious. A party that is considerably outspent will generally lose. Getting rid of the GOP crowd in D.C. won't be easy. Their fingers will have to be pried off the levers of power one by one. This means not only a push at election time, but on-going media, fund raising, think tanks, grass roots organization, campaign finance reform, etc.

Good lesson, and a sobering reminder of the financial state of both the House and Senate races in Montana this year. Tester has the better chance of corralling money and grassroots help than Lindeen – so far, thanks to lack of media coverage and the “conventional wisdom” that says she won’t win the race. She can, of course. As seen in the debate this weekend, Rehberg is very vulnerable to charges of corruption and business-as-usual Congressional spending. Remember, most Montanans think the country is headed in the wrong direction, and Rehberg has been front-and-center on a lot of poor legislation.

In the Senate race, despite Tester’s appeal, grassroots network, and a gaggle of eager pundits claiming Montana is turning blue, Burns is the front-runner…in campaign funding. Burns’ preferring to attend a fundraiser over a public debate shows how he’s planning to run this summer. On television and radio. Drown us in hate-filled messages intended to turn Montanans against one another. But Tester is now a national figure of hope, not just for Democrats, but for people who prefer honest, competent lawmakers of ordinary means. So he’ll get his fair share.

2. All politics is local. This district [CA HD 50] is conservative, white, and affluent. What works here might not work elsewhere. What works elsewhere might not work here. For a Democrat to win this district he or she must not only energize the Democratic base, but also reach out to a significant number of Republican votes or at least convince the Republicans to stay home. The GOP spent a lot of time and money making sure the Republicans turned out. The corruption issue alone was not enough for Busby because Bilbray was not closely tied to Cunningham. Bilbray played the anti-immigration theme hard, a logical strategy for this district, but one that won’t necessarily play as well elsewhere in California.

Excellent point. And this is where Tester and Lindeen have the advantage over their Republican counterparts. Both Democratic candidates are part of Montana’s immensely successful and popular state government, which produced good legislation under fiscal restraint.

Burns is woefully out-of-touch with Montanans right now, as evidenced by his decision to skip the first debate with Tester. People here are fed up with his fundraisers…and what does he do, but skip a public appearance to go golfing with his fat-cat friends. Appearance is everything in an election, and Burns appears like a corrupt politico slurping honey from the pot.

Rehberg, on the other hand, seems aware of the political climate in Montana. He denied support of Bush (misleading), hedged on the war, claimed he was concerned about energy, and touted his goat-farming past and social conservative credentials. All misleading, of course. If Lindeen can get the press to scrutinize Rehberg’s record, Montanans will see Rehberg is a pal of big business and couldn’t care less about average folks, like you and me. He’s participated in creating the deficit, he’s remained mum on the loss of our civil rights, and he’s no conservationist.

3. Political patterns are ingrained. No tectonic shift has hit this district. The easiest way to win this district would be by some redistricting in 2010. As currently drawn, the California congressional districts are not very competitive. Nevertheless, it drains the GOP coffers when they have to spend a ton of money to defend a safe district.

Wisely noted. I agree, but with the caveat that regions can shift from one party to the other if the opposition runs a good campaign and the incumbent is vulnerable. Like in Montana’s Senate race. Again in the House, I think we’ll need to see some dirt splash up on Rehberg before Lindeen will be taken seriously. (INSA?)

4. Whatever moral victory can be claimed from a close race in a GOP-leaning district, in the final analysis, if you don’t get the most votes, you don’t get to go to Congress. If you don’t win a majority of the House, you are still on the outside looking in.

Yes, yes. The Republican party is especially poor at paying attention to rumbling. President Bush used his slim “victories” in the 2000 and 2004 elections as a mandate to do whatever the h*ll he wanted, despite a significant and noisy opposition.

On the other hand, significant gains by Democrats in the House and Senate, short of majority, should hopefully embolden the DC insiders to be more aggressive. (That, and shots across the bow by Tester and Connecticut’s Ned Lamont should stir the complacent.) We’ll see how the story is framed, of course. If it’s framed as a complete loss by the Democratic party, look for a bunker mentality to set in among the leadership. If the story of the midterms is the rise of “plucky” Dems – like Tester and Lindeen – then look for aggression.

Whatever. Let’s win these things and frame our own story.

Links…

Pragmatic Revolt says Tester won because “he’s one of us.” Exactly.

Montana Jones reminds us that Rehberg voted against Net Neutrality. That’s probably because I said he had a porn ‘stache.

Matt picked this up from Roll Call a few days ago – I wanted to comment on it, too, but he beat me to it. Apparently the DC Dems thinks Tester needs the “cavalry” to come in and save him from Big Bad Burns. Um. I don’t think so.

So Zarqawi’s corpse was intact after being hit by two 500-pound bombs. Because he was running away after the first one hit? You know who else can outrun jet-launched heavy ordinance? Jack Bauer.

Crooks and Liars has an excellent post up about fundamentalist infiltration into our government and their attempt to curb premarital sex. Includes good links.

Digby on Newt Gingrich: “This guy takes himself very seriously as a military historian and strategist. He also likes dinosaurs. In other words, he's a twelve year old geek who wants to play with real soldiers. Like many wingnut ‘intellectuals’ he seems to have some serious developmental problems.”

Bush has recently been handling the Iran situation well, largely by abandoning his conservative ideology, that childish good-versus-evil view of the world. Surprise! Conservatives “uneasy” over his foreign policy decisions! They like war. (See Digby’s assessment of Gingrich.)

Orcinus has an amazing post up about the legalities and historical precedents of Bush’s post-9/11 power grab. Must read.

Upcoming media revolt on “he-said-she-said” coverage in favor of transparency and accuracy? Go, Froomkin!

Haditha and the other Iraqi atrocities are the direct result of leadership problems. In Haditha, troops were just following standard rules of engagement. And the people responsible for putting the troops in such a cr*p war go unpunished. As always.

“’Socialist’ is a scare word conservatives use when they've run out of serious arguments. But national healthcare isn't socialism any more than Medicare is. It's just a practical and efficient way of providing medical treatment for everyone in the country, the same way that interstate highways are a practical and efficient way of providing roads for everyone in the country.”




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