Saturday, August 28, 2004

The Emerging Iraq

Can you identify these men?

If you want to understand the present and near future for Iraq, you need to.

On Friday, a Kerry supporter accused President Bush of letting terrorists get away, by agreeing to the cease-fire in Najaf today. Such an opinion is extremely ill-informed, but unfortunately is also not uncommon. Many people do not realize the meaning of the handover of Sovereignty, now nearly two month sold, nor the sort of developing identities of the groups which will direct and lead Iraq to its future. More directly, far too many people do not understand the reasons why the cease-fire in Najaf can mean a major step towards stability and success for Iraq and its people.

I begin with the fellow on the far right, Muqtada al Sadr. A BBC report describes al Sadr brifley, but cryptically:

"At times he has called for a national rebellion against foreign troops and sent out his militiamen to confront the "invaders" and Iraqi police. At others he has appeared more compromising, seeking for himself a political role within the new Iraq.

"He is thought to be about 30 years old - a youthful leader in a society which considers age and experience essential to religious authority.

"Moqtada Sadr mixes Iraqi nationalism and Shia radicalism, making him a figurehead for many of Iraq's poor Shia Muslims. His detractors see him as an inexperienced and impatient radical who aims to dominate Iraq's most revered Shia institutions by force."

All of these statements, actually, are on the mark. I'll come back to these as I introduce the other key figures.

The next fellow from the right is the most revered Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Yes, he looks and sounds, to Americans at least, like another Khomeini, but there is a lot more to this man, and the dynamic he represents, than is apparent at first. I will come back to cover this more, but for right now, it's worth mentioning, that this man was recuperating in London from heart trouble, and he negotiated his way to Iraq, then with the interim government, then with al Sadr's organization to resolve the stalemate in Najaf as peracefully as possible.

The second picture from the left is Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Allawi has been the most visible member of the new Iraqi government, and in the Najaf issue, it's worth noting that Allawi, on the one hand, agreed to Sistani's proposal to make Najaf and Kufa "weapons-free' cities. But on the other hand, Allwai personally reinstated the death penalty, and warned that martial law would be considered if the violence continued. This combination of force and reason illustrates the balance Allawi hopes to maintain in his work to create a functional coalition of Iraqis.

The far left photo is a man almost unknown to Americans, and yet he may be the most significant of all. President Ghazi Yawer of Iraq represents the traditional Arab authority, and performs his work without much attention or controversy.

This brings us to the events in Najaf.

For the past 22 days, Iraqi, Coalition, and rebel forces have been killing each other in the town of Najaf. I put it that way, because the resolution proposed needs to be seen against that backdrop.

The Ayatollah Sistani was recovering in London from medical treatment, and he took it upon himself to travel to Iraq, and to meet face to face, first with Allawi, then with al Sadr. The result bloomed this morning, when thousands of Shiite pilgrims entered the shrine of the Imam Ali Mosque, where al Sadr and his buddies had been holed up. Mixing with the pilgrims, al Sadr's men were able to simply walk away from the mosque without getting killed or arrested. This was an optimal solution, for the following reasons:

  • For al Sadr, he avoided a humiliating defeat and the loss of his power base in Iraq. Muqtada is popular with the poorest Shiites, so it was necessary to accomodate him to some degree. Also, this solution avoided allowing al Sadr to become a martyr, and taught him a lesson that cooperation can be preferable to direct opposition;
  • For Sistani, a peaceful solution avoided the deaths of Muslims at the hands of other Muslims. It also taught al Sadr his place in the hierarchy of Iraqi Islam, as Sistani proved his ability to accomplish more in one meeting, than al Sadr has with more than a dozen threats and provocations;
  • For Prime Minister Allawi, two cities which have been hot spots are now pledged to non-violence, and regular Iraqis have reason to believe there is a foundation of cooperation on which to build;
  • For President Yawer (and President George W. Bush), it means that Iraqis were able to work out their issues with other Iraqis, with no foreign involvement. The new Iraqi government has gained some stature, and can now work on other issues put on hold.

Iraq is by no means done with the long road to its new identity. But the succesful arrangement, if it holds, could represent some of the first steps taken on its own by the child who must grow up so quickly.

Presidents Yawer and Bush could have good reason to be proud of this accomplishment, even if most people do not realize the significance.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Indicators and Demographics

Gazing even closer than usual at the election, I find myself in the deepest jungles of Demographica. Before the readers’ collective eyes glaze over completely, or worse yet, they leave my site in search of something with more zip, let me say that I am trying to find those demographic points which are really relevant to the race. In any case, since so many polls refuse to reveal their demographics (making their conclusions suspect, in my opinion), there’s not always a lot of data available for comparison. Nevertheless, there are some points of reference, to let one determine weak and strong points in a candidates’ position.

As always, Gallup proves to be tremendously valuable, in this case providing the Exit Polls for every Presidential Election since 1952 (Roper is also useful, but their data only goes back to 1976). Gallup cites over thirty categories of Demographics, but because not every year has information for every category, I will simply use the information I consider relevant and complete. For the 2004 demographic numbers, I have pulled the internals from the following polls:

The Battleground Poll
Marist University's
Last Two Polls
Pew Research
Fox News' Last Two Polls
LA Times
The CBS/New York Times Poll
Quinnipiac University
CNN/USA Today/Gallup's Last Two Polls
The Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll
Democracy Corps

OK, On to the results:

In 1992, Bill Clinton won the White House with 43.2% of the Popular Vote. So, both Bush (46.0% avg) and Kerry (48.2% avg) are in range if things should shake out.

In 1992, Bill Clinton won the White House with just 41% of the Men’s vote. In 2000, Bush took 53% of the Men’s Vote. Bush right now has 49.0%, Kerry 42.2%. Both are below the average for their parties at this point, because of the undecideds.

In 1968, Richard Nixon won the White House with just 43% of the Women’s vote. In 2000, Bush took 43% of Women’s Vote. Kerry right now has 49.0%, Bush 40.8%, so this is a clear point of advantage for Kerry, and a problem for Bush. However, Bush can and will address this with speeches by Laura Bush and Lynne Cheney.

In 1992, Bill Clinton won the White House with just 39% of the White vote. In 2000, Bush took 54% of the White Vote. Bush has 54.0%, and Kerry has 40.0% right now.

In 2000, George W. Bush won the White House with just 9% of the Black vote. Kerry has 84% , and Bush has 12% of the Black vote right now.

In 2000, George W. Bush took 22.8% of the non-White Vote. Right now, Kerry has 73.1% and Bush 24.1% of the non-White Vote.

In 1968, Richard Nixon won the White House with just 38% of the under-30 vote. In 2000, George W Bush took 46% of that group. At this time, Kerry and Bush are effectively tied at 48% of that group.

In 1968, Nixon won the White House with just 41% of the 30-49 vote. In 2000, W. took 49% of that group. Right now, Bush leads Kerry, 49%-47%, in this group.

In 2000, George W. Bush won the White House with 45% of the 50+ vote. Right now, Bush leads Kerry, 48% to 46%, in that group.

In 1960, John F. Kennedy won the White House with just 38% of the Protestant Vote. In 2000, Bush took 55% of that group. Right now, Bush has 57% of the Protestant Vote, Kerry has 33%.

In 1968, Richard Nixon won the White House with just 33% of the Catholic Vote. In 2000, bush took 46% of that group. Right now, Kerry leads Bush, 50% to 37% , in that group.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan won the White House with just 86% of the Republican Vote. In 2000, Bush took 92% of the Republican Vote. Right now, Bush has 88.4% of the Republican Vote.

In 1992, Bill Clinton won the White House with just 82% of the Democrat Vote. Kerry has 85.4% of the Democrat Vote right now.

In 2000, Bush won the White House with 10% of the Democrat Vote. Right now, Bush is polling 8.3% of the Democrat Vote.

In 1960, John F. Kennedy won the White House with 5% of the Republican Vote. Right now, Kerry is polling 6% of the Republican Vote.

In 2000, Bush won the White House with 42% support in the East. He is polling 37% there now, while Kerry is at 58%.

In 1992, Bill Clinton won the White House with just 44% support in the Midwest. In 2000, Bush took 49% in the Midwest, and right now, Bush is leading Kerry in the Midwest, 50% to 43%.

In 1968, Richard Nixon won the White House with just 38% of the South Vote. In 2000, Bush took 54% of the South Vote. Right now, Bush leads Kerry in the South, 56% to 41%.

In 2000, Bush won the White House, and in 1992, Bill Clinton won the White House, with just 47% support in the West. Right now, Kerry leads Bush in the West, 48% to 46%.

There’s a pulse in there somewhere…

Overall, the indicators are what one would expect for this point in the race, but there are two points to watch.

First, it should be remembered that this position is in between the two conventions, when Kerry has rallied and energized his core, while Bush is stil preparing for the GOP Convention. I expect the Bush numbers to rise when the GOP Convention has its effect.

Second, Bush has risen in a number of areas from his 2000 performance. Like his Job Approval, this hints that a large number of people will decide to support Bush, if he just gives them a good reason. Between the Convention, the 9/11 anniversary, and the debates, I fully expect President Bush to provide a sound reason, and then some.

Thinking Ahead

Blogging has become trendy. This means, among other things, that there is a great deal of trash out there, to wade through to find the gems and useful perspectives. I hope, since you are reading this, that my site will qualify as useful or perhaps amusing.

Having a look around the horizon, I notice that there are three basic types of blog out there; the ones about Sex (or more accurately, hoping to use sex to lure guests in), the writing their personal diaries, with variable degrees of lucidity, and the political blogs. The political blogs have become the darlings of late, with political bloggers being credentialed for political conventions, garnering advertisers, and even occasionally getting a grudging reference from the Mainstream Media (MSM). This is all very good to a point, but I wonder how many of these blogs will be around, or worse, will still be cogent after November?

There were a number of interesting websites in 2000, addressing the campaigns between then-Vice President Al Gore and then-Governor George Bush. They weren't called 'blogs', but they included some polling analyses, commentary, the odd bit of history, but for the most part, they went bye-bye right after Al Gore (at long last) conceded the election. This raises the question of the fate of the present blogs, especially considering how much of America will lose interest as soon as the results are known.

I certainly intend to keep blogging. For one thing, I see some interesting trends worth attention. I think that once the results from this coming election are known, I want to be the first blogger to begin the track on Hillary's inevitable 2008 run. I also think, as some other bloggers have pointed out, that the trend of political evolution is becoming apparent. Once Kerry has lost, and especially if my prediction of a 12-point Popular Vote margin is correct, the Democrats will be forced to consider their tactics, and this must eventually lead to some measure of reformation. The GOP had better consider this, as well - the reason President Bush has not already locked away the win, is because the Republicans have also been very poor listeners at times. The clock is running, and the stakes now are for domination of American politics for the next generation.

I also intend to address Global Military Strategy. Not the details of local firefights or daily skirmishes, but to consider the plan (or lack) for overall advancement of American interests in the world. I know this sounds a bit radical, but when I say 'American interests', I mean the classic goals of advancing democracy and freedom, and providing the foundation for long-term agreements beneficial to the people involved. I also think it is absolutely necessary for Americans to be honest and enthusiastic about advancing our own interests, because the alternative is to submit to someone else's interests, no matter with whom we are working.

I also intend to address moral issues, as I see them. For here and now, it's likely that a moral statement will get diverted to political discussions, and while there is a vaue to that, it tends to detract from understanding issues, which can be intense personal and complex.

As always, I welcome comments and perpsectives, and the interests of the audience will drive the focus of my columns. So please feel free to mention what you want to see.

That's something else great about blogs: It's as much about you, as it is the subject or the writer.

Thanks for coming by!

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Shadow Boxing

Now that I have reviewed the bias in state polling, I have applied the results to the existing record, and trended the polls (more recent = greater value) to see where we are.

The first thing I did, was establish the "shadow" line. This is the point in each state, determined by the average Margin of Error (3.1%) added to the average percentage of undecided voters. The most decisive leads, then, the ones pretty much off the table, I call "past the shadow line".

The next groups are those states which are within the "shadow", but outside the 3.1% Margin of Error.

Finally, there are those states which are within the Margin of Error, and so are too close to call.

Here are the five categories, as they broke down:

Kerry, past the Shadow Line:
Washington, D.C.
New York
(for 71 Electoral Votes)

Bush, past the Shadow Line:
North Dakota
South Carolina
(for 128 Electoral Votes)

Kerry, inside Shadow but outside MoE:
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
Rhode Island
(for 177 Electoral Votes)

Bush, inside Shadow but outside MoE:
North Carolina
South Dakota
(for 71 Electoral Votes)

Inside Margin-of-Error:
West Virginia
(for 91 Electoral Votes)

So, looking at our scoreboard, Kerry leads Bush 248-199, but most of his EV are in states inside the shadow; that is, states he could lose when the undecideds make up their minds. Remember also, this look is after the Democrats' Convention, but before the Republicans have theirs.

Worst case for Bush/Best case for Kerry: Kerry 410, Bush 128
Worst case for Kerry/Best case for Bush: Bush 467, Kerry 71

It's also worth noting, that at this point, none of the states are significantly different from their 2000 position. While President Bush has to work to secure his key swing states, the trend is headed his way. The question at hand, then, is whether Bush takes the gains he hopes from the convention and September, or whether Kerry can steal the states he needs to gain an Electoral victory.

Monday, August 23, 2004

State Poll Bias - Poll Groups

After reviewing the state polling results for eight-one polls in the fifty states and the District of Columbia, I have found the following results for apparent bias.

Eighty-one polling agencies or groups have performed polls in the states during the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election campaign since the primaries. As noted in an earlier post, I drew up the average poll results by state, and was thus able to determine a bias point for each poll in a state. I decided to draw up trends for only those polls which take surveys in at least three states. Thirteen polls met that requirement, and this post shows their results.

I have ranked the polls in order of Average Variance from the state average in those states they polled, also noting the widest variance (average and widest variance gives you a decent idea of a realistic Margin of Error), as well as average bias for/against President Bush and Senator Kerry.

1. Strategic Vision - Average Variance Poll (AVP) 2.0%, Widest Variance Poll (WVP) 4.8%, Bush -0.4% Average Variance Bush (AVB), Kerry -0.5% Average Variance Kerry (AVK).
2. Rasmussen - AVP 2.4%, WVP 5.7%, AVB -0.4%, AVK -0.2%.
3. U/Minnesota, HHI - AVP 2.6%, WVP 3.7%, AVB +0.5%, AVK -1.5%.
4. Research 2000 - AVP 2.8%, WVP 5.1%, AVB -1.2%, AVK -0.2%.
5. Survey USA - AVP 2.8%, WVP 9.4%, AVB +0.9%, AVK +1.2%.
6. Zogby Interactive - AVP 2.9%, WVP 5.4%, AVB +0.7%, AVK +1.7%.
7. Quinnipiac University - AVP 3.3%, WVP 5.7%, AVB -0.8%, AVK -2.0%.
8. American Research Group - AVP 3.3%, WVP 6.4%, AVB -0.8%, AVK +0.1%.
9. Mason-Dixon - AVP 3.4%, WVP 5.8%, AVB -0.1%, AVK -2.4%.
10. CNN/USA Today/Gallup - AVP 5.2%, WVP 8.6%, AVB +3.0%, AVK -2.7%.
11. LA Times - AVP 5.2%, WVP 9.8%, AVB -1.9%, AVK -2.7%.
12. MRI - AVP 8.0%, WVP 13.6%, AVB -1.5%, AVK -2.0%.
13. Fox News - AVP 8.3%, WVP 10.5%, AVB +0.5%, AVK -7.0%.

Details to follow in my next update. For now, note that while not impressive in its accuracy, the Zogby internet polls actually hold up fairly well. Fox News and MRI, however, have abysmal overall accuracy, they trend to be outliers.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Swaying the Undecided

When an election looks to be close, naturally there is great interest in the direction the ‘undecideds’ will select. The respective sides, of course, present emotional arguments why the undecideds will choose their guy. So, while I happen to believe this election will not, in fact, be close when the votes are counted, I have some thoughts about past elections, and how this year might shake out.

In 1940, as World War 2 raged in Europe, the question of American involvement was a hot topic. President Roosevelt found Wendell Willkie closing in a bit close to him, to within 4 points by mid-October. The question of possible U.S. involvement in that war made undecideds swing to Willkie, almost enough to change who would be President when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

In 1948, Tom Dewey had been effective in casting President Truman as ineffective and aloof. Considered by many experts to be beyond the point of no return, Harry’s late campaign by train (the same one, by the way, that Kerry and Edwards used in their post-Convention attempt to convince America they are somehow just like Harry) swayed the fence-sitters.

In 1952, General Eisenhower had enjoyed a lead all summer long against Adlai Stevenson. But Stevenson’s performance in the debates was impressive, enough that the final Gallup poll only showed the two men 2 points apart. Eisenhower took the undecideds, enough to take 55% of the PV, by reminding people of the need for National Security emphasis, as the cease-fire discussions in Korea, and the first televised viewing of a nuclear test on November 1.

In 1976, the final poll was very close, just 1 point apart. Governor Carter got that extra nudge, as voters saw the succession of Hua Guofeng to Premier of China, and Prime Minister Rabin’s peace efforts in the Middle East, as evidence that the U.S. needed a subtler hand, and a more diplomatic one.

In 1980, President Carter led Governor Reagan by 3 points in the final Gallup poll. But the actual election results were nothing like that, with Reagan winning easily. The blow-up of fighting between Iraq and Iran into full warfare emphasized the need for decisive leadership and an energized military.

In 2000, the late October polls had Governor Bush comfortably ahead of VP Al Gore, but Gore managed to take the Popular Vote. The DUI story dropped on Bush during the last week hit him hard, because it struck directly to the heart of his claim to be qualified to be President. The undecideds found Gore’s position more believeable than Bush’s, as a result of that story.

So, here we are in 2004. I happen to believe that the situation in the Middle East, along with the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, will remind people that we cannot afford to assume our enemies will leave us alone. Also, Kerry’s inability or refusal to answer plain questions about his record and intentions, cannot help him, and in the end, if the race is close, will work to the advantage of President Bush.