• on a comment on Sen. Ensign To Admit Affair over 5 years ago

    Maybe after the whole Edwards-fest either:

    1. Somebody decided that Ensign shouldn't be running with this baggage, or
    2. Ensign is still serious about running for president, and decided that if he was going to do that, he needed to get this out in the open.

    I don't personally give a damn about this sort of thing, and it's sad that people made such a big deal over what happened with Edwards.  So while I'd never want Ensign as president, I'm sort of rooting for it to be (2), and to see Ensign make a plausible run in the GOP primaries in spite of it.

    The guy's personal life should not disqualify him from office, period.  Even if we take into account his previous hypocrisy on Clinton.

  • While it's good to see all this data put together, J Ro's diary is an illustration why you don't want to conclude too much from too little data.

    The counter example is 1976, where the big story isn't that Carter won -- it's that he came very close to losing.

    After Watergate, after Nixon's resignation, and after Ford's pardon, and Ford almost won.  Might have won if the trend went just a little more his way.  And this after a primary campaign that was a hell of a lot more nasty than the current dust up between Hillary and Barack.

    I don't see the behavior of the media as all that important -- they are generally unhelpful, and I don't think that there are enough people who are that wound up about which of B or H prevails -- most of us will be fine with either.  But instead, we will be organized down to the precinct level in most of the country.

    A small number of folks on sites like this one are getting off on pissing matches among themselves.  It bores the rest of us to tears.  But at least, it is not going to make too much of a difference in November, one way or the other.

  • Senator Mitch McConnell, with Vice President Richard Cheney in the background:

    Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

  • There being no initiative system in Texas, that'll have to wait until the Democrats take back the Leg.

    Florida, on the other hand, does.  But I'd still check to see if we have a clear shot at it in 2008.  If not, then what's good for CA is good for FL, I guess.

  • Coulter: "I do think anyone named B. Hussein Obama should avoid using 'hijack' and 'religion' in the same sentence"

    Check out Media Matters for the video.

  • ...even if she doesn't smell as good as Fred Thompson

    -- Chris Matthews

  • comment on a post Governmental Change or Liberal Witch Hunt? over 7 years ago

    It's like what Harry Truman used say when people said to him "Give 'em hell, Harry"...

    I'm telling the truth. They just think it's hell.

    What's happening right now is just the return of normal Congressional oversight.  The guy you're referring to is unfortunately part of the problem, and had there been oversight two or three years ago, he would not have done what he did.

    Check out Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo, which describes in gory detail why these people have elected not to take the jobs that they were slid into using the secret PATRIOT Act clause.

  • on a comment on Disruptive Field Tools over 7 years ago

    A lot of what you're writing about the Obama campaign is news to me, and it sounds good.  I totally agree that the Facebook related strategies is an excellent addition to the portfolio of techniques candidates will need for 2008.

    You do misunderstand scaling issues when you write this:

    W/r/t scale, it sounds to me like you are conflating "scale" with a broadcast strategy.  The whole point and power of FaceBook is that it is decentralized and MAD cheap.  Doing this stuff costs next to nothing.  So rather than have some big central coordinating committee, you have 20, 30, 40 local organizers each responsible for a small area of the state.

    Finally, this DOES work in local elections, and targeting young voters on campus does win elections.  Minnesota DFL used the FaceBook voter model to much success in 2006.  Tester and Webb both credit their victories to youth turnout and outreach.  The real example though is Joe Courtney (D-CT).  Courtney did tarted youth outreach at the University of Connecticut.  The turnout went up 600% in UCT, and Courtney squeaked in after a recount by 83 votes.

    What you are describing here hits the people who can be reached via Facebook, which is not most people.  Your technique is easy replicable, which is a great virtue.  But it's a replicable narrowcasting technique.  This is what I mean when I say your technique does not scale.  You can do GOTV, Voter ID and other field activities doing the things you suggest.  But in the races you named,  most of the votes did not come via any web based technique, much less via Facebook.

    There's a comment upthread by janinsanfran that's worth reading in full.  From her blog:

    The gold standard remains the "at the door" personal canvass. Researchers provided a lot of useful information about how to raise the quality of these contacts. My takeaway from their findings follows (the academics are not responsible for every nuance I'm giving this.)

       * At the very least, the canvasser needs to be trained to carry on an actual conversation with the voter. This needn't be deep; the researchers were unclear whether messages that were partisan were more effective than messages emphasizing the duty of citizenship. But the canvasser needs to be able to solicit a back and forth interaction with the target voter.

       * Canvassers associated with a known and respected community group were relatively more effective than unconnected volunteers. Campaigns need those community groups in order to be heard by unlikely voters.

       * Canvassers of the same ethnicity and/or language group are more effective with voters with the same demographics. This is intuitively obvious, but it is nice to have research begin to confirm it.

       * Similarly, but not quite so obviously, the closer the canvasser lives to the voter, the higher the likelihood of turning the voter out. Researchers were surprised by how strong the effect was. A canvasser from the same precinct was measurably more successful than one from a few streets further away. For the researchers, the finding has prompted a desire to repeat and replicate the experiment because the finding seems so strong. For the campaign manager, this argues for using "precinct captains" or even "block captains" as much as possible to do the canvassing.

    She goes on to make the point that phone banking, to the extent that it has the same personal touch, has also been found to be effective.

    At some point, you have to work out from a voter file.  There's no substitute for it, and techniques like your Facebook page cannot do it.  On the other hand, especially compared to the best stuff the GOP can throw at us, Democrats do not use foot canvassing or phone banks as effectively s they could with better tools.

    There's good research on this stuff, as janinsanfran points out.  It's a pity not to put the research to use.

  • on a comment on Disruptive Field Tools over 7 years ago

    My concern for Obama (and Edwards as well) is not only with the early states of New Hampshire and Iowa, but the huge block of states that will hit on February 5, 2008.  Facebook is not going to cut it for that.

    For a campaign to do well on February 5th, they are going to need local organizations ready to go months before that.  Tools are needed to get these local organizations set up, and to get a "meat roots" presence.  You're going to need to create relationships with local press, local TV and radio stations.  You're going to need to get to churches, synagogues, and mosques.  And you're going to need get groups built up around interests  (environment, arts, seniors, students, unions...) well before the primary season starts.

    We developed some very good tools for these sorts of things for the Dean, Clark and Kerry campaigns back in 2004.  The campaigns, which are scared of local groups they don't control, aren't encouraging these sorts of things.  Don't wait for the campaigns.  Take things in your own hands and start working on these tools.  Now.

    Also: if you have never done a training in retail politics -- Democracy For American and the Wellstone people have good ones, with price breaks for students -- go and get one this summer.  Artists need creativity, but they need a bit of technique as well.

  • on a comment on Disruptive Field Tools over 7 years ago

    blogswarm -- If I remember right, you were pretty involved in helping the McNerney people, so I'm assuming you know the various things people did there.

    The netroots made a big difference.  But we shouldn't overstate our case.  Blogs and groups like MoveOn did not do that much to get the word out or to improve Jerry's name recognition within the 11th district.  It was certainly more than raising money, and it did have an effect on those things.  But the effect was indirect: the blogs got volunteers, and the volunteers called over on-line phone banks, and they showed up and helped canvass districts.  It also helped volunteers within the district to find the campaign and help too.  It's worth stressing that, since by the time the election rolled around, there was a very large local effort run from campaign offices or groups tied to the campaign in Dublin, Stockton and even Tracy, where Pombo is from.

    But still, ads on broacast TV, cable and over radio had a large role.  It was not possible to compete with Pombo over the air, but there did need to be a presence.

    I don't think the comment from the Obama campaign is inconstent with that.

  • on a comment on Disruptive Field Tools over 7 years ago


    Using Facebook like that is a good idea, but it doesn't really scale very well.  It's a good way to find voters on your campus for a very high profile election like a presidential election, but most elections aren't really like that.  Finding people who will go as far as to say what they're interested is important, but it's a very small population compared with what it takes to win an election.

    Ask yourself this: if someone does not sign up for Facebook, how do you find that person?

    That's the problem you have to solve with a field effort.  Typically, a field effort will try to find a population of voters to reach, and then go about systematically trying to reach them.  Traditional tools are things like mailers, or phone calls people make from voter lists, say from union halls if you're a Democrat, or something better funded (or maybe even for hire) if you're a Republican.

    You need to do the same things for initiative campaigns, which are very important in places like California, and can have a lot of impact on people.  Think of Proposition 187, which had a very negative effect on the rights of Latinos in California back in the 1990s.

    I did work for the Jerry McNerney For Congress campaign, as did thousands of others.  The voter file for that single district has hundreds of thousands of voters, and scores of organizations were involved in reaching them.  That's a big problem, and it's a very hard problem.  And there are tools that did a lot for winning that election for Jerry.  Some were better than others.  And we'll need better ones to get him re-elected in 2008.

    That's the problem you need to solve with field, and with field tools.  If you're job is to get people on a campus, you can do it as you describe. But it's a much bigger problem than that, and other kinds of voter populations needs approaches as well.

  • comment on a post Disruptive Field Tools over 7 years ago

    I can't speak so specifically to the youth vote.  I live in an area where the most under mobilized populating is Latinos, and I tend to look most closely at tools that reach that population well.

    I do think htat Matt is defining "field tools" too narrowly.  A lot of what needs to get done, particularly at the congressional, state, and local levels are tools that have existed for years at very high cost, using data controlled by very high paid consultants. Tools that help a campaign identify who their supporters are using neighbors-meeting-neighbors (foot canvasses, in other words), and reaching voters by phone via various kinds of phone banking.  MoveOn and others have come up with some very good tools for some of this stuff, where you can get volunteers from outside of a district and call voters.  With better tools for gathering information about voters' preferences ("voter ID", to use the field organizer's term), and better tools for integrating what we know about voters from other sources, we could do a lot to improve our results in many elections.

    This is not as hip as tools like Flicker or Facebook, but I think it can be a lot more effective, especially on a local level.

    I am a software engineer and open source developer that is doing software for these sorts of things; my largest effort is something called CiviVoter, which makes it a lot easier to use a voter file to "cover" a district.  There are other efforts out there (Advokit is one of the older ones).  And all of these efforts are important and are doing good things in different places.

    The problem is that we need to put more resources into them.  Political candidates generally cannot commit "infrastructure" money.  And I have found that the Democratic Party on the state and federal level is too tied up with the old line consultants to be very interested in these kinds of projects. Most of support for CiviVoter, ironically enough, has been Canadian, with the Green Party of Canada the biggest supporter.

    Frankly, we need netroots money for these kinds of projects, and I'm not sure how best to get the idea across to people.  I'm hoping this comment helps.

  • One section of your diary deserves extra emphasis:

    Caesar was a patricii, but aligned with the plebs politically. His conquest of Gaul(modern France and Belgium) made his soldiers and their families rich. At the same time, the patricii and the Senate were becoming richer and more corrupt. Caesar promised to end the power of the elite, and return it to the plebs. The plebs had been so abused for so long, and had lost so much because of the greed of the patricii, that they turned to Caesar. Caesar crossed the Rubicon into Italy, and fought and defeated the aristocrats. Pompey was defeated at Parsalus. Cato and Scipio were defeated at Thapsus. Pompey's sons were defeated at Munda.

    While this may have been good for the common people at that time, he seized absolute power for himself. The Senate appointed him Dictator for life. This was what got him assassinated. But the damage had been done. The result was 15 years of civil war, and the eventual destruction of the Republic and formation of the Empire, in 31 BC when Caesar's adopted son and heir, Gaius Octavius, defeated Mark Antony at Actium

    It's unfortunates that the way history gets taught in the US, people assume that democracy and republican government sort of sprang out of Constitutional Convention the way that Greek mythology taught that Athena sprang from Zeus' forehead (ouch!).  'Cause it ain't so.

    To a great extent, you can trace the history of US concepts of popular rule back to what the English monarchs had to do in order to free themselves from control by the English aristocracy. It goes back at least as far as Henry II (and to his grandfather Henry I, even) as these kings set up local governent and a legal system in the shires, largely to compete with the power of local nobles and their manorial courts.  It led to the gradual creation of what became the House Of Commons, and the monarchy's increasing dependence upon funding via taxes controlled by the Commons.  It made for a limited monarchy in the late 14th and the 15th centuries, and it ultimately brought down the dictorial rule of the Stewart kings in the 17th century, when the commons overthrew both monarchy and the Lords.

    To some extent we've seen this in the US as well, as populist politics going back to Andrew Jackson and earlier have pitted workers, small businesses owners and farmers against the "money power" in the 1830s, and Big Business in the 1930s.

    And it's a fight we are going to see again, as we try to figure out how to limit the power of multinational corporations.  The GOP "broke" federal government by making a corporate aristocracy sovereign in the US. We are only beginning to push back against the corporate power, and it will be a difficult balancing act to figure out how to balance corporate power against "executive power".

    The Romans failed in doing this;  by the time Caesar's adopted son Octavian had died as the Emperor Augustus, the Roman state had substituted a tyranny of aristocrats with tyranny of a different kind.  We will need to understand how these sorts of balancing acts work better than that, so that popular control will not be lost for us, as it was lost for them.

  • comment on a post Your Money and Your Votes over 7 years ago

    This is an interesting thread, and I'm appreciating how little I know about ad buys and how one would use market segmentation/targetting info in order to do an "optimal buy" of ads.

    Can any of you pros recommend articles/books on the subject?  My sense is that the quant-marketing literature will be more valuable than the political lit by itself.  In fact, if the political types are not reading the quant-marketing people, it's malpractice, pure and simple.

    What are some good sources to read to get a handle on this?

  • I'm suspicious that this came up today, of all days, when the major item on the calendar was actually Iraq.

    I'm suspecting that this is a bone thrown to the Blue Dogs so they will vote with the caucus on Iraq.


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