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Archive for January, 2008

McCain wins Florida Primary

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on January 30, 2008

As the votes came in last night from the highly-contested Republican Primary election in Florida, it was clear around an hour after the last polls closed that Senator John McCain won this crucial vote. McCain earned 36% to Mitt Romney’s 31%, a decisive margin in a state where over 1.8 million Republicans voted (and where the closed primary prevents registered Independents, allegedly McCain’s strongest supporters, from voting). Rudy Giuliani came in 3rd with 15%, edging out Mike Huckabee’s 14% by 22,000 votes. The 57 delegates awarded to McCain for his victory under Florida’s winner-take-all system catapult him into 1st place in the delegate count, where he previously trailed Romney and Huckabee.

My take: In next weeks “Super/Mega/Ultra Tuesday” primaries, McCain can win Arizona, California, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey, as he led in the polls in these state before yesterday’s victory. McCain’s prospects in these states as well as in the closer states of Connecticut, Tennessee, Alabama, and Oklahoma will probably be better once voters and pollsters react to Giuliani’s decision to leave the race and endorse McCain. After McCain’s good-but-not-great performance in tonight’s Republican California debate,  all major news bureaus are reporting that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will endorse McCain tomorrow. It looks like McCain will come out of February 5th with a substantial lead in pledged delegates if not a plurality. McCain is also ahead in the later-primary but delegate-rich states of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Texas, and Ohio. Even if many in Republican Party establishment refuse to back McCain due to his frequent breaks with the party on high-profile issues (such as climate change, campaign finance reform, stem cell research, torture of terrorist suspects, and immigration reform) his support from delegates and voters makes it increasingly unlikely that Romney can edge him out for the nomination.

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A well-designed auction can benefit everyone

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on January 23, 2008

A very important auction will be held tomorrow.

Unlike some who doubt the utility of highly mathematical theoretical microeconomics such as auction theory and mechanism design (for which the Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics was recently awarded to Hurwicz, Maskin, and Myerson), consider the case of the 700 MHz wireless spectrum auction, which begins tomorrow. Don Dodge, a Microsoft employee (formerly of AltaVista and the original Napster) and technoblogger, explains why competition for the spectrum between Google and the existing cellphone companies combined with the US government’s apparently clever policies will lead to higher quality wireless service, and possibly open access to cell phone networks.

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Runner up for the Remark of Last Week

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on January 23, 2008

This, by the way, is why things like personality and leadership style are relevant to voting decisions (and are tough to capture in surveys). A candidate’s policy positions are not the only thing that matter. The way in which the candidate will try to implement these policies matters too. I wouldn’t vote for a candidate who shared my precise policy positions but decided to implement them by constitutionally questionable methods, for example. Process matters just as much as substance.

Daniel Drezner, professor of international politics at the Tufts Fletcher School (formerly an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Department of Political Science) and high-profile academic blogger. He is discussing the Electoral Compass, a below-average-quality online political quiz that purports to tell you which candidate’s positions are closest to your own.

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And I think it’s gonna be……a long, long time

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on January 16, 2008

And now, for something completely different:

Today was the 30-year anniversary of the day that William Shatner delivered his now-infamous live spoken-word rendition of the song “Rocket Man” at the 1978 Science Fiction Film Awards.

Enjoy this improved-quality video of that historic event. (Link from Fark and Andrew Sullivan.)

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Michigan Primary Results

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on January 16, 2008

The votes from yesterday’s Michigan primary elections have been fully counted, but the results are a bit confusing.

Hillary Clinton won the Michigan Democratic Primary election, beating “uncommitted” 55% to 40%.

Over the summer, the Michigan Democratic Party and Michigan Republican Party authorities decided to move their primaries earlier to have more influence, against the wishes of their respective parent organizations, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Republican National Committee (RNC). In retaliation for disobeying instructions (and for escalating a timing race between New Hampshire and Michigan, as New Hampshire state law requires its primary to be a certain number of days before any other primary), the DNC stripped the Michigan Democratic Primary of all delegates to the Democratic Party nominating convention this summer, making that primary meaningless. Barack Obama and John Edwards removed their names from the Michigan primary ballot in solidarity with the DNC, so Hillary’s “victory” is very unusual.

The RNC punished the Michigan Republican party by removing one-half of Michigan’s delegates to the Republican Party’s nominating convention. The Michigan Republican Primary still affects the race for their party’s nomination, as with 30 total delegates allocated by the primary Michigan has more Republican delegates than New Hampshire.

Mitt Romney won the Michigan Republican Primary with 39% of the vote to John McCain’s 30%. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee won 16%, followed by Texas Congressman Ron Paul with 6%. Romney was born in Detroit, and his father George W. Romney was one of the most popular politicians in Michigan state history (serving three terms as the governor of Michigan before being appointed Secretary of Housing and Urban Development by President Richard Nixon). Mitt Romney faced a “must-win” in Michigan, and his victory there ensures that he will not have to abandon his bid for the presidential nomination.

John McCain’s second place finish in Michigan ensures that he and Romney will split the state’s delegates, with Romney receiving around 20 delegates and McCain earning around 5. The current delegate count places Romney in first with 52, Huckabee in second with 22 (depending on how you count Iowa’s delegates), and McCain in third with 15. Each of the three men has won a major competitive contest, and no one has gained clear command of the race. They now move on the South Carolina, with a primary this Saturday, and Florida’s January 29th primary. Fred Thompson (who has won 6 delegates) and Rudy Giuliani (whose strategy involves skipping the early primaries and caucuses) respectively are essentially making their last stands in those two states, so it is very difficult to predict which Republican will be riding a wave of popularity into February 5th’s “Super Tuesday”. On that day, the majority of the delegates for both parties will be in contention across 24 states (including Illinois, New York, and California). For the Democrats, Super Tuesday will almost certainly be a slugfest between Obama and Clinton, with the overall tone of the race determined by whoever seizes the mantle of national front runner via the upcoming Nevada, South Carolina, and Florida Democratic contests.

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Judas not a Superstar?

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on January 13, 2008

A great story from the end of 2007 that I missed:

The purported Gospel of Judas, a fourth-century Gnostic religious text discovered in the 1970s and translated last year by the National Geographic Society and a team of biblical scholars, appears to have been substantially misinterpreted. Based on the preliminary translation released by National Geographic in 2006, this “lost gospel” states that Judas Iscariot was actually a hero and martyr, who was asked by Jesus to orchestrate the infamous betrayal to the Romans so that Jesus could fulfill a holy destiny. According to a Rice University Biblical studies professor, the previous translators made many egregious mistakes, and the text actually describes Judas Iscariot as a demon who sacrificed Jesus to dark powers.

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(Politically Incorrect) Remark of the Week

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on January 13, 2008

The exit poll split makes it pretty clear that large numbers of Democratic women voted for her because she has ovaries.

Megan McArdle, explaining why Hillary Clinton upset the pollsters and won the New Hampshire primary, while criticizing the “identity”-centric view of choosing one’s candidate.

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US economy less bad than it seems?

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on January 10, 2008

Weekly claims for unemployment benefits have fallen dramatically. Some analysts believe that this does not provide useful information, as the holiday season distorts the number of unemployment applicants. However, the jobless claim figures have historically tracked overall unemployment very well, despite the seasonal sampling problems. Developments in employment/unemployment numbers are being followed closely, as total US unemployment rose to the (historically low but recently high) rate of 5% after last month.

Also, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced earlier today that he is ready to further reduce the target interest rate to support the economy as it works through the recent disruptions in the housing and credit markets.

By the way, I think the answer to the title questions is “yes”. In my mind, there is a better than 50% chance that the United States will not experience a recession in 2008, and will at worst experience a mild recession some time over the next 3 years. I won’t go so far as to predict “no recession”, especially because I’m not sure how the economy will actually respond to the Fed’s new stimulus. (Recall that Tyler Cowen once wrote, “All propositions about real interest rates are wrong”.)

Posted in Economics | 1 Comment »

“It doesn’t depend on the refrigerator…”

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on January 9, 2008

Walt Mossberg reports from the Consumer Electronics Show, videos here and here.

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Primary Election Results (and background info)

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on January 9, 2008

After the somewhat unexpected victories of the young, “paradigm-shifting” candidates Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama in the Iowa Caucuses, last night’s New Hampshire Primary results have changed the tenor of the primary elections.

Hillary Clinton, New York Senator and wife of the 42nd President of the United States, narrowly beat Illinois Senator Barack Obama 39% to 37% in yesterday’s election. Although the two Democratic Senators will split the state’s delegates about evenly, polls predicted an Obama victory. Former Senator John Edwards finished in a distant 3rd place. After delivering a highly-regarded New Hampshire concession speech, Obama has received more than $500,000 in donations over the past 20 hours (Hilary is trying to beat that total), while the top news headlines often failed to note how close the final vote totals were (and the fact that a few weeks ago, Senator Clinton held a commanding lead). Obama and his campaign representatives assert that they are preparing to adjust their strategy in the weeks ahead. Moreover, Hillary’s victory has reversed the seemingly-unstoppable momentum granted to Obama by his Iowa win, suggesting that the two well-known and well-funded rivals have a long fight ahead to win their party’s nomination for the 2008 presidential election.

Arizona Senator John McCain won the New Hampshire Republican Primary with 37% of the vote to Mitt Romney‘s 31%, followed by Mike Huckabee with 11%. Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani edged out Texas Congressman Ron Paul for fourth place by approximately 2,000 votes (<1.5%). McCain was predicted to win, but only by around 4-5%, and considering that his campaign has been short on supporters and money, and was declared dead by the media over the summer, the victory is significant. Many who backed McCain when he challenged George W. Bush for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 abandoned him for Giuliani (if socially liberal), for former Tennessee Senator/Law and Order star Fred Thompson (if socially conservative). or left the Republican party entirely (if extremely dissatisfied by the conduct of President Bush). With Giuliani and Thompson finishing poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire (both are pinning their hopes on later states where they are more popular) McCain’s campaign is attracting new recruits and donations and hoping to bank on their recent success (McCain tied with Thompson for 3rd in Iowa, despite not campaigning in that state–not to mention McCain’s strong opposition to federal ethanol subsidies, the largest beneficiaries of which are Iowa farmers and agribusinesses). McCain is now moving to compete against Romney and Huckabee in next week’s Michigan and South Carolina primaries. Romney–the son of extremely popular Michigan governor George Romney–faces a “must-win” in Michigan, while McCain won that state in 2000 and Huckabee has made inroads with the working-class socially conservative voters there (who were called “Reagan Democrats” in the 1980s).

Finally, RealClearPolitics has tentative general election polls, which show that McCain is the only Republican candidate currently beating Hilary Clinton, as well as the only Republican candidate not currently losing to Obama (McCain and Obama are tied).

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New Hampshire Primaries in Progress

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on January 8, 2008

A little less than six hours remains until the polls close in the New Hampshire Republican and Democratic Presidential Primary Elections.

As of yesterday, polls indicate that Barack Obama leads Hillary Clinton far outside the margin of error in the Democratic Primary, with John Edwards in third and Bill Richardson in forth.

For the Republicans, John McCain and Mitt Romney are battling for first place, followed at a distance by Mike Huckabee while another close fight pits Rudy Giuliani against Ron Paul for fourth place. Most polls have McCain going into the primary with a 4%-7% lead over Romney (slightly less than the margin of error), but Romney’s perceived good showing in Sunday’s debate may make up some of the support he has lost in New Hampshire since he embarrassingly placed second in Iowa to Huckabee.

News reports and eyewitness accounts suggest extremely (possibly historically) high voter turnout. When projected turnout is compared to the existing electoral rolls, it appears that many independents and previously-nonvoters are participating today. Based on plausible speculation about the identities of these new voters, the high turnout is good news for Obama, McCain, and possibly Ron Paul (who is eager to beat Giuliani, as Congressman Paul and the former NYC Mayor have been involved in a bitter weeks-long argument over the root causes of the 9-11 attacks).

The Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder is again providing his excellent election liveblogging.

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Remark of [this past] Week

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on January 7, 2008

Let’s say that the government subsidized the price of bananas, you bought so many bananas, put them on your roof, and then the roof collapsed. Is that government failure or market failure?

Tyler Cowen, George Mason Economics professor, discussing the “housing bubble” and “subprime mortgage crisis” on his blockbuster blog Marginal Revolution.

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Iowa Caucuses Tonight

Posted by Eliot Weinstein on January 3, 2008

Happy New Year to all of my friends and readers, and Happy Iowa Caucus Day!

The 24-hour cable news networks are out in force to cover the developments.

For those who prefer a more “new media” approach, the Atlantic Monthly‘s Marc Ambinder is live-blogging Caucus news.

The Democratic Party Iowa Caucus is too close to call, with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards essentially in a three-way tie for first place, while Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd are trailing in the low single-digits.

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee has a slight lead over Mitt Romney (barely outside the margin of error), and John McCain, Fred Thompson, and Ron Paul are within a few percentage points of each other at a close 3rd, 4th, and 5th, respectively.

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