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Sunday, August 31, 2008

More Light Reading

I have some more light reading for you on this Sunday, but first a quick clip from last week. Jack Cafferty seems to think that Wolf Blitzer has something to worry about.

We should keep in mind that "swag" has multiple meanings. We've heard the term a few times this week referring to "convention swag" meaning "Stuff We All Get." But there's another meaning that could be used for "Blitzer's office swag": A burglar's or thief's booty; boodle.1

Photo by Will Brumas for Congressional Quarterly

Alex Strachan from the Canwest News Service did an article last week on John King. Here is an excerpt:

The King of CNN

John King doesn't get any residuals from constantly being ribbed by the likes of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

"I wish," CNN's fast-rising election star said, laughing easily during an interview last month in Beverly Hills.

"I get nothing," King said. "Sometimes they say nice things about me on the comedy shows, and other times they mock me. More power to them."

King, CNN's senior White House correspondent from 1999-2005, has been almost as prominent of late on the cable news network as that other King, Larry - no relation.

With his infectious enthusiasm and a high-tech toy that has wowed everyone from political pundits and serious news junkies to Stewart himself - "I want one of those!" the Daily Show host said, when he first saw King spinning the numbers on CNN's touch-sensitive electronic screen of U.S. states, counties and small localities - King has arguably become the face of CNN during the most enthralling U.S. presidential campaign in a generation.

With a flourish of a hand, King can flash hundreds of miles across U.S. state lines, calling up individual electoral districts with the touch of a finger and breaking them down into their constituent colours: blue for Democrat, red for Republican. Or dark blue for Barack Obama and light blue for Hillary Clinton, as he did during the countless Democratic presidential primaries leading up to this week's coronation of Obama.

Why, it's almost enough to make even the most jaded, cynical viewer interested in politics again.

And if Stewart wants to lampoon him . . .

"Hey," King said cheerfully, "everything I do on TV is fair game. If they're getting people to watch and getting people interested, whether I'm their whipping boy or comedy victim, it's fine by me. You have to have a thick skin in this business."

King prides himself on having a reporter's instincts - objectivity is job one ("I try to be fair and stay in the middle, unyielding") - and for being more interested in working sources on the phone than how good, or not-so-good, he looks on TV.

"I get no residuals," King insisted. "People are interested in the election, and that's a good thing. If they don't like what I do, they don't have to watch me. TV is a democracy, too, you know. The remote control is as true a tool of democracy as the voting booth. If people don't like what they see, they can go somewhere else."

King, for one, got a kick out of Saturday Night Live's lampoon in February of how CNN moderators seemingly favoured Obama over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

"Look, we're far from perfect," King said. "I would remind you, though, that we cover these things in the moment. At the outset, the Clinton campaign presented itself almost as the incumbent. `We are inevitable; we are a powerhouse; we have more money; we have more organization; we have the stronger, more tested candidate.' The Clintons' pitch was that they were coming back to power, and so we covered them as if they were Fortress Clinton. Being the incumbent front-runner does bring tougher questions. It invites a more skeptical coverage. But when Barack Obama started to win, the emphasis started to shift. As much as the Saturday Night Live skit was a wake-up call - and it was - the race progressed, and the coverage progressed with it, as it usually does. I think if you go back in time through history, you will see other examples of the pendulum shifting as the race shifted."

CNN's Soledad O'Brien, herself no shrinking violet, suddenly burst in on the conversation, hauling a suitcase and reminding King that he had a late-night flight to catch.

"I'll meet you in the lobby in 10 minutes," King said, with a quick glance at his watch. "I need to get my stuff, and I don't want to hold you up."

King had warmed to his subject and wanted to squeeze in some last-minute thoughts about November's vote might break down before calling it a night. U.S. politics hasn't been this much fun - or unpredictable - since Dewey beat Truman, he said.

King is not beholden to polls.

"If the question is, do we overuse and over rely on polls, my answer is yes, " King said. "If the question is, should we get rid of them, my answer is no. They can be helpful barometers of how people are thinking.

The rest of the article can be found on

Happy Birthday to John King who celebrates his birthday today, August 31st!

This week's CNN article in the Metro features Tom Foreman with Playing the political numbers. The full paper can be downloaded here.

"You can count on me"

That is the overwhelming message from both Barack Obama and John McCain amid the dog and pony shows that pass for political conventions. “Count on me for a better economy, cheaper gas, national security, affordable health care, better service at the dry cleaners, foot rubs and maybe even a winning season for your football team.”

But there is a corollary both parties better keep in mind: Count on math.

This is hard for me to admit, because I was once an eager young scholar reduced to blank stares and drools by algebra. When geometry came along, I threatened to hole up in the basement with canned goods. I still wake up screaming, “No, no, no, I will not solve for Y!”

All that said, politics has taught me something that my teachers never could. Math really matters.

Presidential elections are all about calculating which states are “safe” for a candidate (meaning they can be safely ignored), which states are leaning a candidate’s way (meaning, like toddlers, you don’t have to hold their hands, but you better keep them in sight) and which states are toss-ups.

Ten states are considered toss-ups on one of our latest CNN electoral maps: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia. They account for 123 electoral votes.

Much has been made about how McCain and Obama, heading into their conventions, were neck-and-neck in polls of likely voters. Undeniably, McCain has been moving up. So much so that even staunch Democrats are privately shuddering that the chill winds of autumn will somehow, once again, blow away their late summer advantage over the Republicans.

But do the math on the electoral votes, and the picture is decidely different. According to our latest calculation, if America voted right now, Obama would get 226 electoral votes, McCain only 189, and they would duke it out for the toss-ups. That means by pumpkin season, McCain has to gain a good bit more ground than Obama to win.

Obama beat Hillary Clinton because he figured out the numbers game. While she was scoring big wins in Democratic strongholds, he was racking up delegates in smaller states. And delegates decide the nomination.

So weeks before she surrendered, the delegate math said she was finished.

Right now, the math still says each man has a good shot at winning. But they better have their calculators humming. The candidate who best figures the tricky equation of toss-up states, days left until the vote, and electoral totals, will get the White House. The other one? You can count him out. | Catch Tom Foreman on CNN every Saturday at 6 p.m. on This Week in Politics for a look back at the presidential campaign trail.

1 swag. (n.d.). Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary. Retrieved August 31, 2008, from website:

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1 comment:

S said...

The real issue is not how well Obama or McCain might do in the closely divided battleground states, but that we shouldn't have battleground states and spectator states in the first place. Every vote in every state should be politically relevant in a presidential election. And, every vote should be equal. We should have a national popular vote for President in which the White House goes to the candidate who gets the most popular votes in all 50 states.

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral vote -- that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Because of state-by-state enacted rules for winner-take-all awarding of their electoral votes, recent candidates with limited funds have concentrated their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. In 2004 two-thirds of the visits and money were focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money went to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential election.

Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide.

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes — 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.