SC Presidential Debate Tag Cloud presents a series of  tag clouds from last night's Democratic Presidential debate in South Carolina. Comparing the tag clouds for the different candidates gives you (some kind of) a measure of the way each of the candidates uses words. I posted the following as my observations:

Obama's tag cloud is almost devoid of words with powerful emotional content. Contrast that with Hillary. Edwards isn't bad, either. This is a weakness for Obama. If his words were not powerful, how will people remember him, unless his personal presentation made up for the weak content.

One of the key aspects of right-wing framing is the use of emotionally loaded language, in particular words that code for powerful images.

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Comparing Ideology and Partisanship Across State Legislatures


Andrew Gelman at Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science points to a very interesting article by Christopher Berry and Nolan McCarty Mapping State and Congressional Ideology looking into ideology and partisanship as measured by voting patterns within state legislatures. What is really clever and useful is that the authors have scaled the State ideological dimension to the US Congress, allowing us to compare the partisanship between state and federal levels as well as between different states.

How do they do the scaling? Using "bridge" politicians who have graduated from their state legislature to the US Congress. As Andrew comments:

Cool. This is sort of like those things where people compare Babe Ruth to Mike Schmidt, or whatever: Ruth played with Gehrig, who played with etc etc., going up to the present time. I guess the next thing to do is check that the "bridge actors" identified by Shor et al. are not systematically different than other legislatures, for example, in changing their attitudes when moving up to the big House.

Not all states provide good databases of voting records, so they only have a few states mapped: PA, FL, MI and CA. The short of it? Measured by median voting records, MI Republicans are very conservative, CA Democrats are fairly Liberal, and PA Dems are relatively more to the middle, and both PA and FL Reps share the same, moderately conservative voting record.

For deep statistical discussions, I really enjoy the blog Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science which writes a lot on statistics applied to political analysis. These guys are <hush> Bayesians </hush>, a branch of statistics with alchemical reputation when I was back in school.

Here's the abstract:

Two major problems exist in applying ideal point estimation techniques to state legislatures. First, there has been a scarcity of available longitudinal roll call data. Second, even where such data exists, scaling ideal points within a single state suffers from a basic defect. No comparisons can be made across institutions, whether to other state legislatures or to the US Congress. Our project is a solution to both of these dilemmas. We use a new comparative data set of state legislative roll calls beginning in the mid-1990s to generate ideal points for legislators. We then take advantage of the fact that state legislators sometimes go on to serve in Congress to create a common ideological scale between Congress and the various legislatures. These "bridge actors" are similar in concept to members of the House who go on to serve in the Senate, thereby providing the "glue" necessary to scale the House and Senate together. We have successfully prototyped this approach for California, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Florida. Using these bridge actors, we create a new state-federal congressional common space ideological scores. We conclude by using these common space scores to address important topics in the literature.

The money quotes start at page 16 in the PDF of the article:

Now, for the first time, we can directly compare the results from different states with each other, as well as with the US House. We do so first by comparing the range of ideological preferences in each institutional setting. The US House is constrained by the NOMINATE procedure to lie in the (-1,1) range. Unlike scaled scores, predicted scores can range beyond the (- 1,1) range of NOMINATE. Therefore, California's and Michigan's most conservative Republicans are quite conservative indeed by congressional standards, reaching out as far as 1.5 on the first dimension. In contrast, Florida has an ideological range that look more like that of Congress.

Second, we compare medians of each state's bichamber "legislature." The congressional median is at 0.5, understandable as the House was dominated by Republicans over the course of 1996-2006. Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania also have moderately conservative institutional medians over their respective time periods, while California has a moderately liberal median. The results largely echo Berry et al. (1998)'s elite ideology scores for the states (see below).

Third, we can compare the party medians. Michigan's Republicans stick out by being extremely conservative, while the other states' Republicans mirror the House. Democrats are far more diverse, ranging from less liberal in Pennsylvania and Michigan to most liberal in California. Florida sticks out again, and looks most like a microcosm of the US House, with identical Democratic and Republican medians.

Fourth, we can say something about partisan polarization which has become such a hot topic in American politics (McCarty, Poole and Rosenthal 2006). The baseline remark, of course, is that preferences are distributed bimodally. Beyond this simple fact, what more can we say? One way to compare polarization across institutional settings is to check the distance between party medians. Pennsylvania's party medians are closest together, California's are furthest apart, and Florida's look like the US House.


Iraq Withdrawal Magic Wand: "Making a List, Checking it Twice"

Big Tent Democrat at Talk Left has been insistently pushing the idea that defunding is THE way to end the Iraq fiasco. He criticizes the "netroots" for not agreeing with him, and he criticizes other out-of-Iraq strategies, such as the Making a list; checking it twice strategy which advocates increasing pressure against Conservative and Blue Dog Democrats by threatening Primary Challenges. I'm with Matt Stoller on the "making a list strategy".

Big Tent Dem has a good point, namely that all the Democrats have to do is NOT pass a funding bill. In other words, Bush/Cheney are in a position where they need the Dems to proactively SUPPORT the war by voting to continue funding. This explains the intense pressure on the Dems coming from the Republicans and the right-wing media machine begging, even challenging them to defund the war. This heavy artillery pressure is designed to strike fear into the hearts of Blue Dogs and the Democratic establishemt of being called "soft on terror" or "not supporting the troops".

My position is that the Republican Party is more likely to get us out of Iraq then the Blue Dogs. They could do this the moment they decide to throw Bush/Cheney and the neocons under the bus. I'm thinking Giuliani may even be the one to pull a Nixon, and lead the Republican coalition of the willing to end-the-war. This leaves the Blue Dogs hanging like the neo-liberal Democrats in 1973.

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Second Shoe Drops on Prosecuter Purge Scandal.

The Prosecuter Purge Scandal (aka Gonzales Gate?) flared into national prominence with the firing of 6 US Attorneys for political reasons. What political reasons? Because they refused to pursue investigations of Democratic candidates or elected officials, or they refused to stop investigations into Republicans.

Now the second shoe drops: The Un-Purged Prosecutor Scandal, namely all the un-fired US Attorneys must have been playing nicey-nicey with the Bush Administration.  Paul Krugman in Friday's NYT picks up the story percolating up from Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker. H/T also goes to to  Barbara O'Brien at Mahablog.

The original source for the Un-Purged Prosecutor Scandal comes from an article published at The Political Profiling of Elected Democratic Officials. Media reseearchers Donald Shields and John Cragan document the pattern of targetting Democratic investigations and indictments by Bush Justice Deptartment over the 6 years of the Bush Administration. I'll let them talk:

We compare political profiling to racial profiling by presenting the results (January 2001 through December 2006) of the U.S. Attorneys' federal investigation and/or indictment of 375 elected officials. The distribution of party affiliation of the sample is compared to the available normative data (50% Dem, 41% GOP, and 9% Ind.).

Data indicate that the offices of the U.S. Atttorneys across the nation investigate seven (7) times as many Democratic officials as they investigate Republican officials, a number that exceeds even the racial profiling of African Americans in traffic stops.

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Religious Gerrymandering and Party coalitions, not just Party-line Voting

Past gerrymandering has benefited the Republican Party, but has also left them with some vulnerabilities. In a big hurricane year like 2006, their 55-45 levees were just a little too low, and they lost bigger than expected. Obviously the disaster of Iraq and the failure of George Bush had a lot to do with the losses. The sub-plot is the shift of Independents and moderate Republicans to the Democrats, which has thrown a monkey wrench into traditional patterns of Gerrymandered seats.

Simply looking at Dem vs Rep voting results by district is insufficient for predicting voting patterns. Better understanding results by looking at how the Parties' coalitions and demographics are distributed by district. In other words, looking at the cross-tabs in each the district is essential to understanding why the Republicans lost in 2006, what to expect in 2008, and what strategies to use for redistricting the next time around. More than that, it helps understand the ideological trends as well.

The dominance of the Religious Right in the Republican party is a result of two things: (1) Slow changes in the  Republican coalitions, and (2) Uneven distribution of the religious right portion of the coalition.

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Rocky Mtn News aims but misses on DEM vs GOP GOTV operations

Today's Rocky Mountain News (Oct 28, 2006) has an interesting article by journalist Chris Barge GOP Voting Machine Keeps Dems on Toes, about the Colroado Republican GOTV operation and its use of datamining, microtargetting and sophisticated calling operations. The thrust of the article was how the GOP has a better operation than the Dems.

The article is not bad as far as it goes, but (as usual), the reporter misses some important context by not doing more research. If I may point Chris Barge toward some additional details, his next article might be better.

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The McCain-Lieberman-Salazar Party?

(Cross-posted to

David Brooks of the NYT calls for a McCain-Lieberman Party! Sounds like something Ken Salazar the Jr Senator from Colorado might be interested in. I sense that Salazar truly wishes that politics weren't so partisan. He has worked diligently to make space in the middle (between the Dems & the Reps). Unfortunately (and inevitably) this ends up being a conservative plot of landscape.

Salazar's positioning might not be bad for him personally and Colorado Democrats generally, as we live in a moderately conservative state. I mean, Colorado Dems are perhaps more liberal than our co-partisans in Connecticut, but we have a relatively larger percentage of Republican voters not to mention extremist Republicans.

But, if Salazar pulled a Lieberman in a purple state like Colorado, all he would accomplish is to hand over the seat to an ultra-right-wing Republican.

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NPR Polling on 50 Most Competitive Districts

Mystery Pollster has a spectacular analysis of The NPR Survey and the Race for Control of Congress of the recent Greenberg Quinlan Rosner-NPR polling on the 50 most competitive House districts. Both MP's analysis and the polling itself is fascinating:

If the election were held today, the results of the NPR survey indicate a much different overall outcome than in 2004 or 2002.  Republicans won 55% of the vote cast in these districts in 2004 and 58% of the votes cast their in 2002, but the Republican candidates are currently preferred by only 43% of the voters in the NPR survey.  The gap is similar across various sub-groupings of districts reported in the survey.

See more from MP and a list of the districts below...

The races with which I am most familiar include CO-07 (sure to go Dem) and CO-04, which is held by the odious, gay-baiting, "Lady in Pink" Marilyn Musgrave. My take on CO-04 is that the Northern Colorado district is more even than the Dem/Rep/Indep registration ratios indicate, and that the Indies in Colorado typically vote 2/3 for the Dems. On the difficult side, Indy turn out is lower in an off year election. The CO-04 wild card is the implosion of the GOP as theo-cons and lbertarian-cons seize control of the Part, which has led to a third Party bid by an establishment, old-school Republican.

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Neocons Driving Ideological Realignment

Glenn Greenwald, insightful as always, cuts to the essence of today's political debate. We are no longer a country of Liberal, Moderate and Conservative ideologies, rather the debate is whether you are for or against the neoconservative agenda: Increased militarism, Expanding war against our enemies, support of George Bush and the unitary president. Greenwald's essay is essential reading; here are some tasty quotes:

American political conflicts are usually described in terms of "liberal versus conservative," but that is really no longer the division which drives our most important political debates. The predominant political conflicts over the last five years have been driven by a different dichotomy -- those who believe in neoconservatism versus those who do not. Neoconservatism is responsible for virtually every significant political controversy during the Bush administration -- from our invasion of Iraq to the array constitutional abuses perpetrated in the name of fighting terrorism -- and that ideological dispute is even what is driving the war over Joe Lieberman's Senate seat. It is not traditional conservatism or liberalism, but rather one's views on neoconservativsm, which have become the single most important factor in where one falls on the political spectrum.

More than anything else, this ideological realignment is what accounts for the intense passions ignited by the Joe Lieberman Senate seat. Despite his history as a life-long Democrat and a "liberal"on the predominant 1990s issues, Joe Lieberman is a pure neoconservative, which now matters much more. On the predominant issues of the day, his political comrades are Bill Kristol, Lawrence Kaplan, National Review, The New York Sun, and Dick Cheney.

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Mexican Elections... Not yet over.

The fat lady has yet to sing in the Mexcian elections.

According to an LA Times story they "found" 2.5 million more votes that tended toward Obrador. The margin between Calderon of the business-oriented PAN and Obrador of the more leftist/populist PRD has shrunk from 400,000 to 250,000 votes or 0.6% by percentage. In addition, there are still 900,000 votes coming in slowly from rural, Southern districts, which is a region favorable to Obrador.

The missing ballots were from districts with supposed irregularities which were processed, but not counted. There are also accusations of double-counting of precincts in certain PAN-favorable precincts.

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