Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays

We hope everyone has a great holiday season! We will be back on Jan. 2nd.

Until then--stay safe and warm!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Know Your Third Parties: A Conclusion

We hope you have enjoyed reading our series on America's Third Parties, and perhaps learned a thing or two.

As you may have noticed, we tried to cover a large spectrum of these minor political organizations. They include left and right wing splinter parties, such as the Greens or Constitutionists. They include parties of forgotten, but important ideologies, such as the Libertarians.

Some of these parties – like the Modern Whigs – appear to be on the rise. Others – like the Reformers – are dying down. Some – like the Prohibitionists – are really dying down.

And then there are the parties for extreme ideologies – like the several Nazi and Communist parties – which do considerably more marches and rallies than actual politicking.

Because of the traditions in the American electoral system, it is more than difficult for a Third Party to become a major party – it is virtually impossible. First-past-the-post elections and single member districts make a choice between two parties easier for the voter than a choice between three – thus Third Parties almost always appear to be a waste of a vote.

But Third Parties do have a very real place in American society – they offer organization and a platform for those who have their beliefs overlooked by the masses (for better more often than worse, probably) or are fed up with the crass partisanship that the Two Party System seems to offer.

Although it is unlikely to ever see a Third Party match the Democrats or Republicans, they will remain in the American political realm for ages to come – and it doesn't hurt to know who they are.

For those with further interest, visit www.ThirdPartyWatch.com.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Know Your Third Parties: Part 10 - the Reform Party

The Reform Party became a prominent Third Party in the 1990s as the base for Presidential candidate Ross Perot. Since the turn of the century, however, they have declined significantly as a result of inter-party squabbles and lack of cohesive vision.

It should be noted that there is also an American Reform Party - a splinter party which split from the Reform Party of the United States because they believed Ross Perot rigged the nominating process in 1996.

Members: 42,376 registered (as of November 2006)


The Reform Party (or Reform Party USA) was founded by Perot in 1995 to be a base for his second Presidential campaign. Perot said Americans were disillusioned with the state of politics as being corrupt and unable to deal with vital issues, and wanted a new party.

For the 1996 Election, the Reform Party ticket appeared on all fifty state ballots. Perot ended up receiving over 8 million votes - down considerably from his first candidacy in 1992 - which was approximately 8% of the electorate.

In 1998 the Reform Party saw its first - and arguably only - major victory by electing former pro-wrestler Jesse Ventura as Governor of Minnesota.

Due to federal matching funds law - and Perot's 8% in 1996 - the Reform Party ticket was able to secure $12.5 million for the 2000 presidential campaign. The party's nomination was subsequently sought by two well supported candidates, the editorialist Pat Buchanan and three-time Natural Law Party candidate John Hagelin.

The race for Reform Party nomination resulted in a bitter division for the party, which ended up holding two simultaneous conventions in 2000. Several state affiliate parties split off, but Buchanan ended up winning the nomination. However, he secured less than 450,000 votes (.4%) in the General Election.

As a result of the poor performance, the Reform Party lost its matching funds, ballot status in nearly every state, and considerable credibility as a major Third Party.

Between these financial and organizational problems and consistent infighting, the Party opted to nominate Ralph Nader as its 2004 Presidential nominee - despite the fact that Nader never sought their endorsement.

In 2006 the Party started to build again, running several Congressional races across the country - earning as much as 11% in Colorado's 4th Congressional District.

In 2008 the Reform Party nominated Ted Weill of Mississippi as their Presidential nominee. However, the party did not announce the nomination until October, so Weill only appeared on the ballot in his home state - earning just 470 votes.

On the Issues:

The Reform Party has always held to a series of issues regarding taxes and trade. While they do not have a real platform on their website, they do have a Mission Statement and a "Core Mission".

Since the days of Ross Perot, the Reform Party has always stood for a few key positions:

  • A Balanced Budget Amendment
  • Campaign finance reform that includes banning PACs
  • Enforcing immigration laws
  • Opposition to Free Trade deals (particularly NAFTA and CAFTA) and withdrawal from the WTO
  • Term limits for Members of Congress
  • Abolition of the Electoral College

The Reform Party does welcome members of all positions on Social Issues, which has led to a large number of moderates joining the party. Because of Pat Buchanan's staunch social conservativism, his candidacy led to much of the bitterness within the party.

Final Thoughts:

The Reform Party certainly had its moment in history. However, it was from the start a party built around the ideology of one specific man - Ross Perot. A serious political party in the United States cannot revolve around the specific policy beliefs of one candidate - especially one that has been out of the scene for over a decade.

Beyond that basic concept, however, the Reform Party has too many structural and organizational problems. The constant inter-party rifts have distracted them from accomplishing any victories like Ventura's. As these tensions continue, we can expect the Reform Party to spiral into obscurity.

Coming Tomorrow - our Conclusion

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Know Your Third Parties: Part 9 - American Nazis

Like many extremist political movements in the United States, the American Nazi movement has several splinters and factions within itself. Among these groups are the American Nazi Party, the National Socialist Movement, and the National Socialist American Labor Party.

It should be no surprise that these parties are extremely racist, anti-Semitic, and quite delusional. You can fully expect to be offended by some of their positions and histories. But do expect to learn a lot of things you would not otherwise imagine.

The American Nazi Party

Technically, the American Nazi Party is a political-education organization based on the ideals of National Socialism. It was formed by George Lincoln Rockwell in the late 1950s and led the group until his assassination by a disgruntled member in 1967.

Throughout the 1960s and 70s the American Nazi Party earned notoriety for rallies and demonstrations against the civil rights movement and what they perceived as Jewish control of the government and media. Such demonstrations accumulated until 1979 when five black protesters were shot by a crowd of Nazis and Klansmen in Greensboro, NC.

In recent years the American Nazi Party - like many White Supremacist organizations - have distanced themselves from overt racism, instead supporting segregation as a means of racial tranquility. While they now support the idea of racial equality, they remain very anti-Semitic and Eurocentric - believing that White America needs to be defended.

The party's chairman, Rocky Suhayda endorsed Barack Obama's candidacy for President arguing "any time that a prominent person embraces their racial heritage in a positive manner, it's good for all racially minded folks."

National Socialist Movement

The National Socialist Movement was founded by Robert Brannen - a supporter of the American Nazi Party under Rockwell - in 1974. They claim to be "America's Nazi Party", "the largest Nazi Party operating in the United States", and "the political party for every patriotic American."

Their platform is summed up in the "25 Points of American National Socialism." Among their proposals:

  • All non-White immigration must be prevented
  • Nationalizing all corporations
  • A flat income tax
  • Prohibiting abortion and euthanasia, except in cases of rape, incest, race-mixing, or mental retardation
  • That no non-American newspapers should appear without the express permission of the State, and no non-Whites should participate or influence American newspapers

They also throw in some normal positions:

  • Ensure the environmental integrity of the nation is preserved by setting aside land for national wildlife reserves, cleaning our water, and regulating pollution
  • Creation of a livable wage
  • Supporting physical education

The National Socialist American Labor Party

The NSALP is probably the closest of these three organizations to being a political party. They have a platform, state affiliates, hold conventions (or a "Party Congress") and supposedly run candidates.

They claim not to be a hate group, "White Power militia type entity", or neo-Nazis, but rather a political party based on the theories of National Socialism.

Among their recent advocacy campaigns, they have attempted to call Barack Obama's nationality into question, as well as a letter-writing campaign to Defense Secretary Bob Gates to not ban racially-minded individuals from the military, arguing that Zionists have done far more damage to the United States than they have.

Among their platform positions, they call for:

  • Ending U.S. reliance on foreign credit
  • Massive public works programs
  • Protecting family farms
  • Environmental protection through alternative energy
  • Protecting social security
  • Making college more affordable
  • Compulsory military service
  • Ending abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or risking the mother's health
  • Ending relations with Israel

Final Thoughts

These Nazi organizations are more of a liability in terms of public safety (particularly to minorities) than they are towards American politics. The simple reason is that National Socialism is probably by far the most unpopular political movement in the United States.

We do not expect any American Nazi party to gain any significant influence or have any meaningful impact on American governance. But National Socialism is a real movement in the United States nonetheless, and it only seems right to include them in our discussion of America's third parties.

Coming Saturday - the Reform Party

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Filling the Senate Vacancies

With Barack Obama's rise to the White House, several key Senate seats are open across the country as the President-Elect chooses his cabinet.

In Delaware, the Governor has already found a replacement for Vice President-Elect Joe Biden, the Senior Senator. It is Biden's own Chief of Staff, Ted Kaufman. The 69-year-old politico is expected, however, to be nothing more than a place holder for the seat.

By Delaware law, the Governor's appointed replacement can only serve until a Special Election in 2010. By that time, the future VP's son, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden will have returned from service in Iraq.

In New York, the seat currently held by Sen. Hillary Clinton is up for grabs as the junior Senator is expected to be confirmed as the next Secretary of State. Although the decision is ultimately Governor Paterson's, everyone knows who the #1 Contender is - Caroline Kennedy.

The only other politician on the short list at this point is NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo - son of the former Governor Mario Cuomo. He has not said whether or not he is interested.

In Colorado, Sen. Ken Salazar's seat is suddenly up for grabs as the Democratic politician prepares for confirmation as Secretary of the Interior. There are several names on the short list including the Senator's brother, Rep. John Salazar, Rep. Diana DeGette, Rep. Earl Perlmutter, State House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, former U.S. Attorney Tom Strickland, and Denver Superintendent Michael Bennet.

In Illinois, Barack Obama's seat has been the most controversial following allegations that Governor Rod Blagojevich tried to sell the Senate seat to the highest bidder. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was considered a front runner until revelations arose that he was "Candidate 5" in the scandal.

However, new revelations that Jackson was a government informant for the Blagojevich investigation are likely to put him back in the race. It is still unclear whether or not there will be a Special Election to decide Obama's successor.

What Is Significant About These Vacancies

There are two important facts to note about the current vacancies and the short lists. First is that Obama was specifically choosing Senators from states with Democratic Governors and (typically) where the Governor makes an appointment. This ensures that no new Republican opposition will come up in the Senate during the incoming President's first two years.

The second significant fact is that many politicians on the short list are from famous political families. Beau Biden might very well take his father's seat in Delaware. Caroline Kennedy (the daughter of JFK) is expected to take her uncle's seat in New York, which is currently held by the next Secretary of State and wife of a former President. John Salazar might be appointed to his brother's Senate seat in Colorado, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson - a famous civil rights leader and former Democratic Presidential candidate - may see his son become the sixth black Senator in American history.

Charles Mahtesian of Politico points out how the Democrats are embracing dynasty politics in an article today.

All told, it's entirely possible that the Senate will be comprised of nearly a dozen congressional offspring by the end of Obama's first term as president.

"It's a very interesting American phenomenon, even though there is a line in the Constitution that says no title of nobility may be granted by the United States," says Stephen Hess, a senior fellow emeritus at the Brookings Institution and the author of America's Political Dynasties. "Given where we started, it's interesting that this has developed."

While the electoral success rate of name recognition may be the obvious reason for this trend, Bob Edgar - president of Common Cause and a former Pennsylvania Congressman - says "There are three issues behind this trend. Money is issue number one, money is issue number two and money is issue number three."

After the scrutiny that current President Bush received for taking the role of his father, and the rejection of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign this year, the dynasty trend may be thin ice the Democrats walk on.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Which Americans Support / Oppose the Bailout?

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that the majority of Americans opposed the recent automaker bailout proposal. 55% of those polled opposed the plan while 42% supported it. The latest version of the automaker bailout - which would provide $14 billion of relief - is much more popular than the original $34 billion request.

Poll analysts say the reason the majority opposes the bailout is the perception that the Big 3 are responsible for their own dilemma, rather than the failing economy. 75% of Americans blame Detroit over the financial crisis.

Perhaps more significantly, 60% of those polled said it would "make no difference" or "would be good for the economy" if the American automakers filed for bankruptcy.

Where Is There Support?

The poll also charted the partisan differences in opinion regarding the bailout. 52% of Democrats support the bailout - up 10% from Detroit's original proposal. While 72% of them blame the business strategy the automakers took for their problems, 42% said that the economy would be hurt if the Big 3 failed.

The poll also found regional differences. While the South and West were generally opposed to the bailout, Americans in the Northeast and Midwest - where the manufacturing operations are more heavily based - were split evenly on the idea.

In fact, Midwest Democrats support the bailout by 56%, and Northeast Democrats support it with 61%.

Where Is There Opposition?

Independents continue to oppose the plan at previous margins with about 57% while 41% support it. But GOP opposition has grown stronger. 69% of Republicans now say they oppose the bailout - up 12% from the original proposal by Detroit executives. More than half of these conservatives "strongly oppose" the plan.

Meanwhile, Americans in the South and West oppose the bailout by roughly 60%.

Most surprisingly, union households only supported the bailout 44% to 42% - although those union workers and families were typically "very supportive" when they were supportive.

Can It Still Pass In Congress?

While the anxiety politicians might feel about Detroit collapsing is likely to grow, it would be a great mistake for Senators to now switch their vote. Any explanation would be softly heard by their constituents. Meanwhile, many Democrats recently elected in conservative districts - particularly in the South and West - will be unlikely to show any support in the New Year.

It is more likely that President Bush will try to make loans to the Big 3 with the $700 billion already allocated to the financial industry to loosen credit. When the new proposal comes to Congress, Republicans will likely demand that the cash-strapped automakers declare bankruptcy before the government can give them loans originally intended for the financial market.

Time will only tell - but time is running out. GM claims they will be completely out of resources by the end of the month. But perhaps bankruptcy will start to change opinion polls.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Know Your Third Parties: Part 8 - the Boston Tea Party

No, we're not grossly confused about the Boston Tea Party of the history textbooks - the pre-Revolution act of civil disobedience in the Boston harbor - the Boston Tea Party we're examining today is a real American political party.

Founded in 2006 by displeased Libertarian Party members, the Boston Tea Party is a party of libertarian ideology. They split from the mother party over disagreements about the party platform - namely the deletion of a large number of specific policy points - at the Oregon convention in 2006.

The Party's slogan - as read on their website - is "Time to Party Like it's 1773!"

Members: 746

Members Holding Office: At least 2 (both local and non-partisan)


Following the annual Libertarian Party convention in Portland in 2006, several members, led by Thomas Knapp, left to found the Boston Tea Party.

By October of 2008, the party had grown to about 500 members with 12 state affiliates. At their national convention they nominated Charles Jay (picture below) as their first Presidential candidate. Jay went on to receive 2,346 votes nationally, appearing on three state ballots and earning approved write-in status in ten other states. They also won two local elections for the November 4 election.

The party saw dramatic growth after the Libertarian Party nominated former Republican Congressman Bob Barr as their Presidential candidate. Many Libertarians felt Barr was an inappropriate selection due to his past conservative stance on social issues.

The Boston Tea Party has practiced "cross-nominating" for elections, in which the party endorses candidates from other parties (often the Libertarian Party) when it does not have one of its own members running for the seat.

On the Issues:

Overall, the Boston Tea Party is almost indistinguishable from the Libertarian Party in terms of ideology. Their platform is very simple, but is supplemented with an annual program and several party resolutions.

According to the platform, "The Boston Tea Party supports reducing the size, scope and power of government at all levels and on all issues, and opposes increasing the size, scope and power of government at any level, for any purpose."

Among their more unique policy positions, they advocate an audit of the Federal Reserve and immediate withdrawal of forces from almost all military bases overseas. They are also especially concerned about the country transforming into a police state.

Final Thoughts

The Boston Tea Party has managed to be somewhat successful in the past two years, but is unlikely to make any more of an impact in the future. It is more likely that the Libertarian Party will try to correct the splinter and bring this faction back into their organization.

Whether the Libertarian Party succeeds in doing so, nonetheless, will probably be irrelevant to how little impact the Boston Tea Party can be expected to make. Overall, it seems they will be little more than a footnote on the Libertarian movement.

Coming Thursday - American Nazis.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bailout, Blagojevich, and Basketball

It’s Saturday, December 13, 2008. Here is what we’re looking at.

Senate Republicans block the automaker bailout and blame it on the UAW.

Thomas Friedman warns Congress about bailing out a dying business model in his editorial this week.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich refuses to resign despite the scandal and corruption allegations he faces. The IL AG is seeking a decision to remove him by the State Supreme Court.

Finally, a story coming out of Washington shows that the word “Obama” can even inspire a youth basketball team. At a recent boys basketball game between Sidwell Friends School and Maret School – two elite Washington prep schools – the Sidwell fans started chanting “O-ba-ma, O-ba-ma” because the President-Elect had decided to send his daughters to their institution rather than Maret (those were the two schools they looked at). And as a result, Sidwell came back to win the game 47-46.

Friday, December 12, 2008

It's Official - the MN Recount is Going to Court

After nearly 2 and 1/2 months, the Battle for Congress has come down to just two races - the Perriello-Goode House race in Virginia's 5th Congressional District (which will undergo a recount as of Tuesday) and the Franken-Coleman Senate race in Minnesota.

With a tight recount in the Minnesota Race, the State Canvassing Board met today to weigh in.

From the AP:

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Democrat Al Franken won a pair of victories Friday before the state board overseeing the Senate recount, including a decision that as many as 1,500 incorrectly rejected absentee ballots should be included.

The board also opted to recommend use of election night results in a Franken-leaning Minneapolis precinct where 133 ballots went missing, a decision that could have cost him 46 votes if it had gone the other way.


Coleman's campaign lawyers said they would go to court over the absentee ballot ruling.

With all precincts recounted, Coleman has a 192-vote edge over Franken — down slightly from his 215-vote lead entering the recount.

But there's a long way to go. That margin doesn't include the absentees. Nor does it include any of the 6,655 ballot challenges the two campaigns filed during the recount. Both sides have withdrawn hundreds, but the state Canvassing Board will tackle some 4,200 starting Tuesday.

The board's decision on improperly rejected absentees doesn't guarantee they will be opened and counted because it doesn't have the power to order counties to do so. Most counties have gone forward with a voluntary sorting, though others have balked.


Coleman's campaign planned to file a petition with the state Supreme Court as soon as Friday to seek uniform rules for dealing with the absentee ballots, arguing that leaving the task to counties would create inconsistencies.

Coleman lawyer Tony Trimble said the campaign is asking counties to hold off on any action involving the ballots until the court weighs in.

At least 638 absentee ballots are known to have been rejected for something other than the four legal reasons for disqualification. That's based on an assessment of about half of Minnesota's counties by the secretary of state's office. State officials estimate the total could top 1,500.

Stay tuned to WAYLA for further updates

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Know Your Third Parties: Part 7 - the Modern Whig Party

Everyone knows about the Whig Party - the 19th Century political front which formed for the sole purpose of opposing the Democrats and quickly dissolved after the rise of the Republican Party.

Today there is a little known Modern Whig Party - formed about a year ago to promote veterans affairs. With a centrist platform they hope to build a coalition between Reagan Democrats and disillusioned Republicans. They have grown quickly and now have affiliate parties in 25 states. They are self-described as the "fastest growing non-fringe party".

Membership: Approximately 20,000

Modern Whig membership has grown dramatically since the party's inception. By August of 2008 they had gained 10,000 members and the number nearly doubled following the November 4th election.

Members Holding Office: 1 (soon)

On November 4, the first Modern Whig was elected to office - Constable-Elect Ken Belcher of Lee County, AL (a Constable is the Alabama version of a Sheriff).


The Modern Whig Party was founded in late 2007 in Washington DC. The first and current party chairman, Mike Lebowitz, is a notable Washington attorney and former journalist who also served as a paratrooper in Iraq. He first became noticed in the political scene for testifying before Congress on improving military whistle-blowing law.

A Board of Benefactors who organized the party selected Lebowitz along with a 3-person Executive Committee. As a rule the Board instituted, at least one member of the committee must be a veteran or military spouse.

In July the party unveiled a long-term political strategy that focused on electing members to local and state offices, especially in districts with large veteran populations. They see running federal candidates this early in the party's inception as unrealistic and a mistake that too many third parties make.

On the Issues:

The Modern Whigs take moderate and often non-controversial positions on all of the issues. They advocate common-sense solutions for just about every policy. You can read some of their platform positions here.

Fiscally: They support fiscal responsibility based on practical budgetary outlooks. Among these issues they advocate for earmark reform that allows Congress a specific lump sum of taxpayer money to be allocated to local projects annually. They believe that science and technology innovation should be supported, but space and ocean exploration should be privatized.

Socially: While they describe themselves as progressive on social issues, they are fairly non-controversial. They believe that abortion is too divisive of an issue and support realistic approaches to reducing abortion, such as adoption law reform. They are pro-second amendment, but believe that individual states can and should regulate guns appropriately according to their local values.

They take no hard positions on gay rights, with the exception of their belief that homosexuals should be included in hate crimes legislation. They are against taxpayer money going towards anything religious, but do not feel public spaces should exclude holiday symbols so long as they are open to all faiths. They believe in non-race-based affirmative action, but rather affirmative action in education for the economically distressed.

Trade and Immigration: On the problems of trade (especially with China) they support tax incentives for U.S. corporations that they do not outsource. They believe that illegal immigrants that are caught should be deported - but that it is not realistic to hunt them all down. Instead they suggest amnesty to illegal immigrants that serve in the U.S. military, with the full benefits of the new GI Bill, with jobs that do not require security clearance.

Foreign Policy: They believe that troops should be pulled out of Iraq - with the exception of the northern Kurdish region - by the end of 2011. They also support President-Elect Obama's position on Pakistan - that the U.S. cannot allow the country to be a terrorist safe-haven, and that the U.S. must intervene if the Pakistani government cannot control the situation.

Because of the impact energy independence has on national security, as well as the danger of climate change, they have endorsed the Picken's Plan and the efforts of Al Gore's We Campaign.

Final Thoughts:

Watch for further growth of the Modern Whig Party in terms of both membership and electoral success. The progress they have already made establishing themselves in American politics is truly remarkable.

The Modern Whigs will be sure to make further inroad among centrist Democrats, disillusioned Republicans, service men and women, and independent policy-buffs. They have big plans to win local seats across the country in 2009 and it is more than likely they will see some victories.

Coming Monday - the Boston Tea Party.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Blagojevich Fallout

By now it is well known that Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) has been arrested for corruption.

Among the allegations is that he threatened to withhold hospital funding unless he received campaign contributions, he tried to stronghold the Chicago Tribune into firing critical editorialists in return for the state assisting their failing company, and even trying to "sell" President-Elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat.

Not only does this shake up the Chicago (and greater Illinois) political community, but Washington as well.

What Does it Mean for Obama?

While the President-Elect has often distanced himself from Blagojevich, Republicans are nonetheless trying to link him to the corrupt political culture of Illinois.

"Republican National Chairman Robert "Mike" Duncan on Tuesday said Obama's initial response to questions about the governor was inadequate. South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson, seeking the national party post, went further. He called on Obama to release any records of discussions between his transition team and Blagojevich about Obama's successor – citing Obama's oft-repeated pledge for greater transparency."

The chief prosecutor on the case, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, has emphasized that Obama was in no way connected to the charges against Blagojevich. But Republicans are sure to question a President that campaigned on cleaning up Washington, when he comes from the "steaming compost pile of Illinois politics."

What Does it Mean for Obama's Successor?

As Governor, Blagojevich has the sole responsibility of choosing a successor for Obama in the U.S. Senate to represent Illinois. The process of choosing the next Senator was already controversial before the arrest yesterday.

Many feel that the successor should be black - Obama was the only African-American in the Senate. Blagovich was considering several black contenders, including Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Rep. Danny Davis, and State Senate President Emil Jones - all Democrats.

He was also considering Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth.

But none of those names were used in the FBI-recorded conversations Blagojevich had with his staff. He referred to them as "Candidate 1", "Candidate 2", and so on. Only "Candidate 5" had indicated that he or she would deliver on the Governors bribe proposals.

So it is quite possible that "Candidate 5" might soon come under federal indictment.

Others are calling for the next Senator to be selected outside of Blagojevich's capacity. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Jones, and several other Illinois Democrats are calling for a special election.

Rep. Bobby Rush - a leading advocate for an African-American replacement - disagrees on the grounds that the Senate seat needs to be filled by the time the 111th Congress convenes, but that a special election would not be possible until spring.

Either way, the state of the succession is very much in question.

What Does it Mean for Fitzgerald?

It is an unspoken standard procedure for U.S. attorneys to step down when the new President is from the other political party. But given the high profile of this case, Fitzgerald may have to stay on in his role.

Fitzgerald, who became famous for prosecuting Scooter Libby following the Valerie Plame leak, has not yet been asked to stay. Illinois GOP Chairman Andy McKenna is pressing Obama to do just that.

In an interview with Politico, McKenna said "What [Obama] should do tomorrow is say, 'Patrick Fitzgerald has a job and can have for as long as he wants"'. According to Politico, "Republicans aim to all but dare Obama to remove the crusading Fitzgerald before he's done cleaning out corruption in Chicago and Springfield."

Only time will tell exactly what's in store for Fitzgerald, Obama, and Obama's successor. No matter what happens, the fallout from the Blagojevich scandal has totally changed the outlook for Illinois, and will have a profound impact on Washington.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Looking Back at the Exit Polls

To better understand the new American electorate, we decided to take a day to look back at the 2008 Presidential Election and provide some demographical analysis. Our source is the 2008 Post-Election Analysis provided by the Glover Park Group.

What Do the Exit Polls Tell Us?

The first and most important bit of information was party identification.

Party ID

% of Electorate















There are two significant pieces here. First, the independents – nearly 30% of the electorate – went overwhelmingly for Obama. Second, far more voters identified themselves as Democrats.

Compare this to 2004, where the electorate was split almost evenly between both parties (around 38% each). This doesn't mean that the Democrats were far more approved of. It does mean that either the Republicans were so unpopular that previous GOP voters identified themselves as independents this year, or that Republicans stayed home.

Another critical point was the extent that Obama carried demographics typically seen as Democratic, but waned in recent years. This is primarily young voters and minority voters.

Voters under 30-years-old made up about 18% of the electorate and carried Obama by 66% - compare that to 2004 where the same voters supported Kerry by 55%.

Black voters made up 13% of the electorate – the highest in history – and supported Obama with 95% of their vote, up 6% from 2004. Hispanics, who made up 9% of the electorate – backed Obama by 67%, up nearly 10% from four years ago. Other minority groups supported Obama with about 64% of the vote.

White voters made up only 74% of the electorate (compared to 77% in 2004 and 81% in 2000). While they supported McCain by a 55%-43% margin, it was a small improvement for Obama compared to Kerry's performance four years ago.

But beyond the demographical surprises, much of the race came down to the weak state of the nation.

The biggest factor on this subject – not surprisingly – was President Bush. Obama won substantially among voters that disapprove of Bush (the vast majority of the electorate).

Bush Approval

% of Electorate











And while voters were split on the question of whether McCain would take the country in a new direction, it was clear that even his supporters hoped he would.

McCain will…

% of Electorate



Cont. Bush policies




Take U.S. in a new direction




Not surprisingly, the #1 quality that voters cared about in the candidates was the capacity to bring needed change. And Obama won those voters in huge proportions.

Candidate Quality

% of the Electorate



Can bring about change




Shares my values




Has right experience




Cares about people like me




While it is no surprise that Obama failed to win (or even perform reasonably well) on the experience issue, it simply was not the issue of 2008. "Values" was also a low point for Obama, as Evangelical voters continued to support the GOP.

But his performance in the "cares about people like me" criteria was outstanding. Not only did it demonstrate Obama's ability to connect with the more non-political voters, but it demonstrates the Republican Party's poor image of helping the rich and special interests. The GOP will have to work hard over the coming years to rebrand their image so it appeals to such voters.

The biggest political issue of the year was, of course, the economy, and Obama won on that issue by a similar margin to his overall performance.

#1 Issue

% of Electorate



The economy




Iraq War








Health Care








Obama won on almost all of the issues, with sizable margins. But there is no question that the economy – and how the Bush Administration has handled it – was the biggest concern. It was significantly more important than in 1992 ("it's the economy, stupid") when only 43% of the voters identified the economy as their #1 concern.

Surprisingly – however – Obama substantially carried voters that were optimistic that the economy would get better. The electorate believed the economy would get better by a 47%-23% margin, with Obama carrying 61% of the optimistic voters.

Finally, there was the importance of how well the campaigns were run. It is conceivable that Obama's success was directly linked to the hard work of his staff.

Voter Contact

% of Electorate



Contacted by Obama only




Contacted by McCain only




by both campaigns




Contacted by neither campaign




While both campaign managed high success with the voters they contacted, the Obama campaign was able to make 37% more voter contact than the McCain campaign.

The McCain campaign and the GOP – which had significantly fewer resources to begin with – waited to dump their cash into the race at the last minute on mailers and TV spots. But the chunk of the electorate that decides at the last minute almost always splits their votes 50-50. This year was no different.

Decision made…

% of Electorate



In last 3 days




Anytime earlier




This demonstrates not only the importance of early voter contact (and plenty of it) but it also demonstrates the lack of foresight and fundamental understanding of voters on the part of the McCain campaign.

The issues and hope for change might have been significant, but one cannot understate the significance of these last findings.

What Don't the Exit Polls Tell Us?

Unfortunately, the exit polls do not alone hold the keys to understanding this election. The most important reason was the large number of early and absentee voters this year. Nearly one in every four votes was cast early.

While exit polls do try to account for early and absentee voting, they are typically not very successful.

Another problem on Election Day is when the polls are taken – they are typically taken long before polling stations close, and miss large demographical proportions of the electorate. As a result, the exit polls may show us a very different view of what actually happens.

In fact, exit polls are not very scientific in many ways. You can read more from Exit Poll FAQs here, or a "Top Ten" summary by Nate Silver here.

But for what they're worth, the exit polls we've examined today have given us further insight into why Barack Obama won, and why the American electorate decided to chose him.