Monday, November 10, 2008

What It Means

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. -- Martin Luther King

The Weekly Sift is taking a two-week post-election vacation. The next Sift will appear December 1. In the meantime, if you happen to be in Quincy, Illinois, you can hear Doug Muder preach at the Unitarian Church on November 23.

In This Week's Sift:
  • The Republicans. They're working their way through the stages of grief, but most haven't made it past denial yet. Eventually they'll have to accept the reality that their jock/cheerleader ticket couldn't beat a nerd. That's a problem.
  • The Democrats. Is it "overreaching" to do what you told the voters you'd do? Pundits seem to think so.
  • Short Notes. I congratulate myself on my election predictions, then thank Nate Silver. The Constitution is back on top. Activist administrators in the Treasury Department hand bankers $140 billion Congress never intended. Why Obama is a headache for Iran. And more.

The Republicans
[I posted a snarkier version of this to DailyKos.]

As soon as the competition for votes ends, a new battle begins: The struggle to define what the election results mean.

To hear Republicans talk about it, Obama's victory doesn't mean much. They immediately began chanting "This is a center-right country" as if the Constitution said so and mere votes can't change it. Most of these same people had been telling us (until Tuesday) that Obama is a socialist, so you'd think seeing a socialist carry states like Indiana and North Carolina would shake their world. But something about losing messes up your ability to draw logical conclusions.

The Kubler-Ross stages. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross called that something denial. It's the first-stage reaction to extremely bad news, like Montana becoming a battleground state. So, for example, Christine Todd Whitman: "One pollster I heard zeroed in on people's obsession with Barack Obama the person, not necessarily Obama the ideology, and I have to agree. When the dust settles, I don't think we'll find a liberal recalibrated nation on our hands." (Somehow, Obama the person also elected at least six new Democratic senators and close to 20 new representatives. Maybe they're just great people too.) Robert Novak: "[Obama] neither received a broad mandate from the public nor the needed large congressional majorities."

Another form denial takes is to attribute losses -- this is the second straight Republican thumping, remember -- to one-of-a-kind causes that have no long-term consequences. So Charles Krauthammer can believe that the 2006 loss was all about Iraq, and 2008 was just the economic meltdown. And since the Iraq War and the meltdown are random acts of God, unrelated to Republican policies, nothing needs to change.

The folks inside McCain's campaign probably knew weeks ago that they were going to lose, so they've moved on to the second stage, anger. How else to interpret their anonymous sniping at Sarah Palin? McCain aides charged the most incredible things about Palin: that she thought Africa was a country, didn't know which countries were in NAFTA, spent even more than $150,000 of expense-account money on clothes, and lacked knowledge of basic civics. (That last one I had already figured out from her statement about the First Amendment. She thought it was supposed to protect her from criticism by the press, not free the press to criticize politicians like her.) Apparently an RNC lawyer has been dispatched to Alaska to retrieve Palin's clothes. (No, that's not a scene from Nailin' Palin. It's a news story. Really.) For her part, Palin charitably attributes the criticisms to "a small, bitter person" or to "jerks".

Like most expressions of anger, these are appallingly self-destructive. If half this stuff is true, those same McCain aides have been lying through their teeth for the last two months about how qualified and capable Palin is. And their guy is the one who picked her to begin with, so they can't sling mud at her without hitting him -- and themselves.

The other odd thing here is that Fox News, the conservative movement's version of Pravda, broke the story. And some folks on, the flagship conservative blog, are so incensed that they are calling for a boycott of Fox News. Seriously. This can only mean a Republican civil war is starting, which you can expect more people to join as they get through the denial stage and move on to anger. (Should I make popcorn? With butter?)

The Wall Street Journal -- always one of the most advanced conservative bastions -- has made it all the way to the third stage, bargaining. They'll accept that Obama has won on the condition that he agree never again to talk about racism in the present tense: "One promise of his victory is that perhaps we can put to rest the myth
of racism as a barrier to achievement in this splendid country. Mr.
Obama has a special obligation to help do so." (The best answer I've seen to this point is from Episode 12 of Elon James White's This Week in Blackness: "I hate that people are using the Obama presidency as a get-out-of-jail-free card." He mentioned newscasters talking encouragingly about how white voters "looked past" Obama's race and "still" voted for him. "If you have to work past it," White said, "it's still a problem.")

It's hard to tell when the fourth stage, depression, has begun, because the depressed tend to hide from public view. Personally, I hope it holds off until Obama's first bills arrive in the Senate. I picture Mitch McConnell getting up to start the filibuster, then saying, "Oh, never mind. It's all hopeless."

Eventually, though, nearly all the Republicans will reach acceptance. (Around 2016, most of them.) Here's the reality that they will need to accept if they're ever going to get back to power: The 2008 results are even worse than the 53-46 gap between Obama and McCain shows, because of who voted against them and why.

Neither black nor white. The worst news for Republicans is that Hispanics have started to identify with the Democrats. Obama won them about 2-1, and that made the difference in Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada -- three states that used to be reliably Republican. (With a candidate other than McCain, Arizona might well have gone blue too.) Republicans wrote off the black vote when Nixon adopted his "southern strategy" in 1968; if the Hispanic vote (and the Asian and Arab vote, which also went heavily for Obama) hardens against them as well, they'll start every campaign with a quarter of the country lined up on the other side. And that quarter is growing.

Worse, the racism-friendly (if not overtly racist) atmosphere of the Republican Party is precisely what energizes the conservative base. McCain had to back off of his reasonable immigration-reform position (to the point of saying he would vote against his own bill) because the electorate in the Republican primaries was so inclined to villainize Hispanic immigrants. Technically, candidates like Tom Tancredo only railed against the illegal immigrants, but they definitely appealed to the more general sentiment that there are just too many brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking people in America today. And when Republicans talk about "real America" or Sarah Palin tells lily-white rural crowds that they are the "pro-America" parts of the country, Hispanics (as well as blacks, Arabs, Asians, and Jews) all get the message that they're not wanted.

Young people. The second piece of Republican bad news is the under-30 vote, which also went 2-1 to Obama. If the under-34 vote goes 2-1 Democratic in 2012 and the under-38 vote does the same in 2016, Republicans are toast. I'm not saying that will definitely happen, but what's going to stop it? Again, current base-rallying issues are a huge part of the problem. Scapegoating gays and lesbians, for example, turns off young voters, who have grown up in a much less prejudiced world than their elders.

Another Republican tactic that is ineffective among younger voters is the elitism attack. To Republicans, elitists aren't trust-fund kids like George W. Bush or Cindy McCain, they're people like Obama, who worked his way up by getting an education. An elitist, in other words, isn't somebody born to privilege, it's somebody who's smarter than you are. In high school terms, the 2008 elitism attack amounted to this: McCain and Palin were a jock/cheerleader couple ridiculing the idea that a nerd could be president.

It didn't work this time, as Nicholas Kristof notes: "Yet times may be changing. How else do we explain the election in 2008 of an Ivy League-educated law professor who has favorite philosophers and poets?"

What changed? Well, pop culture for one thing. When 50ish people like me were young, action heroes were jocks. If the jock-hero needed smarts, he'd have a nerd sidekick. (Think Kirk/Spock in Star Trek.) But things started to flip around in the 80s. The second generation of Star Trek had Picard/Ricker -- a nerd with a jock sidekick. In the 60s, Stan Lee created the comic-book Spiderman to be a hero for nerds. Now he's a mainstream hero, the most successful movie action hero ever.

In the 21st century, in other words, smart can be cool. So when aging jocks and cheerleaders point to their opponent and jeer "He's a nerd!" voters who were kids in the 80s (or later) say "So?"

Summing up. The Republicans face larger problems than just a bad candidate or a bad campaign. They can't win in the future with the voters they currently appeal to, and the messages that best rally their current base turn off the new voters they need to reach. It's not a hopeless situation, but it's not going to fix itself.

If they're smart -- which they may not be -- Republicans will run somebody like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal in 2012. He's a young non-white Rhodes scholar who did his masters degree in political science even though he'd been accepted by both law schools and medical schools. His conservative credentials are in order, and his biography alone would solve a lot of problems. Or they could nominate Sarah Palin and just underline everything they did wrong in 2008.

The Democrats
Related to the idea that "this is a center-right country" is the worry that the Democrats will "overreach" -- go so far to the left that the country rebels and elects a bunch of Republicans in 2010, the way it did in 1994 after Clinton's first two years. And I suppose I'll even agree with this point if Democrats start talking about nationalizing the oil industry or confiscating all the guns. But so far "overreaching" seems to mean "doing what they promised the voters they'd do".

Obama campaigned on these issues:
  • making the tax code more progressive by letting the Bush tax cuts expire for the wealthy and cutting taxes on everybody else,
  • doing something major to restructure how we pay for health care, with the goal of drastically reducing the number of people uninsured,
  • drawing down our forces in Iraq at a measured pace, until we have a much smaller "residual force" in about 16 months,
  • creating jobs by rebuilding infrastructure and pursuing green energy.
Trying to fulfill those promises cannot possibly be "overreaching". He may or may not succeed, but he owes it to the voters to try.

BTW, Mike Lux on OpenLeft disputes the idea that the Democrats' problem in 1994 was Clinton's liberal overreaching. His interpretation says that the Democrats didn't deliver for the working class, which then stayed home in the 1994 elections. Paul Krugman and E. J. Dionne give similar warnings: They worry that Obama will attempt too little, not too much.

One common opinion in the Washington establishment -- a few months ago liberal bloggers started referring to it as "the Village" and establishment pundits as "villagers" -- is that campaigns are meaningless because things really only work one way. And so the subtext of article after article is that Obama won't really change things: Our troops will stay in Iraq. The middle class won't get a tax cut. Health care reform will consist of a few modest changes, like expanding the S-CHIP program for children.

To hear the villagers tell it, Obama's most important job is going to be to stand up to the Left. Obama's real opposition, says the Wall Street Journal, will come from the Democrats in Congress, who foolishly will want to implement the policies that Obama campaigned on and the voters voted for.

The strangest part of this center-right fantasy is that Republicans have any interest in bipartisanship. Which Republicans will be receptive to Obama's overtures? On which issues? What bipartisan solutions might they embrace? Bush's attempt at bipartisan immigration reform was torpedoed from the right, not the left. Why does anybody think they'll treat Obama's attempts at bipartisanship any better?

Digby writes:
This is why this bipartisan fetish is so dangerous. It sets up an expectation among the villagers that actual politics can be like a DC cocktail part (or the CNN green room) where everyone has a spirited conversation and then pat each other on the backs agreeing that the only reason these things are so contentious is because the silly people out in the country just don't understand how things really work. ... All over television this morning the gasbags seemed convinced that Obama had been elected to stop the left from ruining the country. And when it turns out to actually be his supposedly cooperative new partners in governance -- the right -- that stand in his way, they will blame him for being too far left. It's a trap.
Fundamentally, I think Matt Yglesias had it right the day before the election: Obama shouldn't worry about whether his policies are perceived as centrist or leftist or whatever. He shouldn't even worry about whether his proposals are initially popular. If they don't work, the public will turn against them. If they do work, if people perceive the country as being in better shape, all will be forgiven. Gus Cochran: "The party that successfully gets beyond public relations and provides effective governance will be rewarded with a bright electoral future."

Short Notes
Scorecard: I have been annoyingly smug this week about the accuracy of my election night simulation, which predicted that Ohio would be called for Obama between 9 and 10, and that we could all go to bed at 11 when the networks called California. I was surprised that Virginia took so long to resolve and that Pennsylvania came in so early, but otherwise I had it about right.

Other bits of self-congratulation from the campaign: Catching on early (December 9) to McCain's comeback in the Republican primaries, and realizing right away (September 8) that Palin would alienate more Republicans in the middle than she gained on the right. But let's not talk about my prediction that Obama would do better than expected in the New Hampshire primary.

The reason I could have it right on election night was that the polls had it right. No Bradley effect. Nate Silver's meta-poll projection was so accurate that a less enlightened age would burn him as a witch. He projected the popular vote as 52.3-46.2%, when it actually came in at 52.6-46.2%.

TPM has spotted evidence of true radicalism in the incoming administration: The Obama transition team's org chart puts the President back under the Constitution, and returns the Vice President to the executive branch.

Speaking of executive power, the Treasury Department has learned a trick from those Justice Department memos that made our laws against torture meaningless. It "reinterpreted" the tax code to say the opposite of what it really says.

The law actually says that profitable companies can't avoid taxes by acquiring companies with losses. But the Treasury has said, basically, "Oh, never mind." The change is worth an estimated $25 billion to banking company Wells Fargo, which just acquired failing Wachovia. The overall benefit to the banking industry is about $140 billion, in exchange for which the public gets ... well, nothing, actually. Think of it as a going-away present from the Bush administration.

This is the ironic part of all that conservative rhetoric about "activist liberal judges" who supposedly make the law say whatever they want. (I critiqued this myth back in 2005.) There are no activist liberal judges in that sense, but it is quite literally true that the Bush administration has been full of activist administrators, who make policy and then interpret the laws to fit.

President Bush has been fond of saying that his first duty is to keep Americans safe. But what the Constitution actually says is: "He shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed." That's what "executive branch" is supposed to mean.

It continues: AIG needs still more government money. Circuit City is bankrupt. GM stock hasn't been this low since 1946.

On the environment, Matt Yglesias writes: "Simply declaring that the EPA is going to start following existing law ... could make a huge difference."
Relive the whole campaign in one big graphic.

A lot of conservative ink has been spilled raising the alarm that Democrats are going to kill right-wing talk radio by restoring the Fairness Doctrine, which used to require balance on the public airwaves. Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum have both tried to figure out what the conservatives are worried about and have come up blank. Talk on, Rush Limbaugh. It's a free country.
The Carnegie Endowment's Iran expert, Karim Sadjadpour:
If you're a hard-liner in Tehran, a U.S. president who wants to talk to you presents more of a quandary than a U.S. president who wants to confront you. How are you going to implore crowds to chant "Death to Barack Hussein Obama"? ... Obama just doesn't fit the radical Islamist narrative of a racist, blood-thirsty America bent on oppressing Muslims worldwide.

Bill Ayers has finally spoken out on what it's like to suffer the collateral damage of a negative political campaign.
Obama has continually been asked to defend something that ought to be at democracy's heart: the importance of talking to as many people as possible in this complicated and wildly diverse society, of listening with the possibility of learning something new, and of speaking with the possibility of persuading or influencing others. The McCain-Palin attacks not only involved guilt by association, they also assumed that one must apply a political litmus test to begin a conversation.

David Letterman gets the last word with John McCain: "You don't show up for me, America doesn't show up for you." Or maybe this was Letterman's last word. Maybe.

The Onion News Network shows us the human cost of the Obama victory.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Reading the Signs

Can you read this graffiti?
Can you decode this information?
Can you work out what they're saying to you?
Can you read the signs?
-- Shriekback, "Can You Read the Signs?"
In This Week's Sift:
Why I Want What I Want
Anybody who has read the Sift before knows that I want Obama to win and that I want substantial Democratic majorities to come in with him in the House and Senate. I want this for a very simple reason: I think this country is very seriously on the wrong track, to the point that sometimes I can barely recognize America any more. Today, my government
  • believes that it has the right to torture people
  • makes up bogus reasons to invade other countries
  • asserts that it can imprison its own citizens indefinitely without trials
  • spies on its own citizens without warrants
  • believes that the solution to any conceivable economic problem is for rich people to pay less tax and corporations to be less regulated
  • doesn't think that the increasing concentration of wealth is a problem
  • believes that every government activity -- including science and law enforcement -- should serve a partisan purpose
  • doesn't believe in separation of church and state
  • wants to divide the country into real Americans versus the rest of us
  • doesn't believe that the people -- or even the people's elected representatives -- should be allowed to know what it is doing
This, believe it or not, is the American government today. I think this is so wrong and so unendurable that I want the people responsible rejected root and branch. I don't just want their party and their allies to lose in a wait-til-next-year way. I want them to lose in a fire-the-coach, trade-all-the-players-for-draft-picks, we-need-to-start-over way. I want the words "Bush administration" to be a conversation-stopper for generations to come. Whenever someone says, "They did it that way in the Bush administration" I want the response to be "Jesus! What was I thinking?"

Just so you understand where I'm coming from.

Now, I realize that John McCain has said, "I am not George Bush." And I know that across the country, Republicans running for office are not asking Bush to campaign for them or even using the word Republican in their ads. But none of them have changed their basic conservative philosophy. And that -- not some personal quirk of George W. Bush -- is the problem. If we re-elect Republicans, none of those wrong-track things I listed above will change. And even if the Democrats have a squeaker of a win, those things will just change temporarily, until the wind starts blowing in the other direction.

Remember: The original core of the Bush administration -- Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and so on -- came from the Nixon administration. The whole unitary-executive theory of government is a Nixon-administration notion. Dick Cheney has spent his whole subsequent career trying to undo the restraints Congress put on the executive after Nixon. And even though the American people rejected Nixon personally, and Carter squeaked out a win over Ford, Nixon's people made their way back to power.

I don't want Bush's people to ever make their way back to power. If McCain and the Republicans win, or even if they lose in a woulda-coulda-shoulda way, Bushism will rise again. That should never happen. I want 2008 to be a silver-bullet, stake-through-the-heart election for the whole Bush-Cheney way of thought. No sequels.

Just so you understand where I'm coming from.

Finally, we come down to the personal contrast between Obama and McCain. I didn't warm up to Obama right away. I didn't vote for him in the primary in January. It wasn't until February or so that I started to realize that this guy is something special. He's something we haven't seen in the presidency in my lifetime -- a strategist. Back in 2006, he and his people laid out a plan for how he was going to win the presidency, and he has carried it out. At every stage, he has been like the pool player who doesn't just sink one shot, he sets himself up for the next shot and the one after that.

Back in April, when Hillary Clinton was pummeling him with Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, and appealing to hard-working white Americans, Obama's supporters were begging him to hit back hard -- to dredge up the Bill Clinton scandals, to make a big deal out of Hillary's enemy-fire gaffe, and throw the kitchen sink right back at her. He didn't, because he knew he was on track. The delegate totals were piling up, and he was going to win the nomination anyway. Down the road, he knew he was going to need the Clintons and their people. (He's got them. I attended a rally in Nashua yesterday and shook hands with Bill Clinton.)

At the convention, people were begging Obama to make Hillary his VP. He didn't, because he knew he was on track, and he was looking ahead. Biden will fit better in an Obama administration.

This fall, he has refused to bring his campaign down to John McCain's level. His half-hour commercial didn't even mention McCain. It was all about the people he wants to help and how he plans to help them. When McCain yelled "socialist" Obama didn't yell "fascist" back at him. Because he's looking ahead. He wants to govern.

Again and again, Obama has refused to demonize people, even if it would get him a short-term advantage. He isn't appealing to 50%-plus-one and to hell with everybody else. He hasn't labelled part of America as "real" and the rest as ... something other than real. Because he's looking ahead. He doesn't just want to be president, he wants to lead a united country. He wants to be something that George Bush appeared to be for a couple of days after 9-11: the president of all the people, even the ones who didn't vote for him.

I know it's difficult, but try to imagine having a president who thinks ahead, someone with a strategic vision of where the country should go. As commander-in-chief, John McCain would react to the news of the day. He would respond to insult with insult, attack with attack. Barack Obama will consider where he wants events to go, and how he can drive them there. He won't be thinking about this morning's headlines or tomorrow morning's headlines; he'll be looking one year, two years, ten years down the road.

Remember the speech he gave about racism? The Wright controversy wasn't just a bad news cycle he wanted to close off; it was a teaching opportunity, a chance to appeal to our better angels, a way to make progress on an issue that has been stalled for decades.

Imagine having a president who thinks that way. What if we'd had a president like that after 9-11? When the American people were asking "Why do they hate us?" we might not have been given the self-serving answer that President Bush gave to a joint session of Congress:
They hate what we see right here in this chamber -- a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms -- our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.
Instead, we might have had a real discussion about the effects of our policies, all the devilish bargains we have made over the years, and all the reasons why young Muslims might choose Bin Laden over America. We might have learned something. We might have become a better country.

We didn't. Filled with self-righteousness, we became a worse country. We became a country that tortures, a country that starts unnecessary wars, a country that makes excuses when our "collateral damage" kills innocent people. We became a cowardly country, one that has been willing to let the government scare us into giving up one freedom after another. We became a more callous country, one that shrugs when its citizens go without health care and its middle class slips closer to poverty.

It's got to stop.

Tomorrow is the time to draw the line. Every single vote makes a difference. I don't care if you're someplace like Massachusetts or California or New York where Obama is sure to win without you, or someplace like Tennessee or Utah where he won't win even with you. This isn't about defeating the Bush administration, it's about burying it. If your vote makes the difference between a national plurality and a national majority, that matters. If your vote turns a 999,999-vote margin into a million-vote margin, that matters.

Drive the stake. Shoot the silver bullet. Don't ever let this stuff rise again.

What's Going to Happen
Obama's going to win.

I know you're hearing a lot of noise about how the polls are "tightening". In reality, it's not clear whether they are or not, and if they are, they aren't moving nearly fast enough to turn the election to McCain. They tightened some in the week that ended with Obama's half-hour commercial, and then they widened again until this weekend. Tremayne on OpenLeft dissects the undecideds-will-break-to-McCain theory.

In most polls, to get a McCain win you have to assume that he gets all the undecideds, plus the margin-of-error. It's not going to happen.

Finally, there's reason to believe that the polls favoring Obama are just better polls. Nate Silver has been looking at the cellphone effect: Of 15 recent polls, the top five for Obama all try to account for cellphone-only households, while the bottom six don't. "Obama leads by an average of 10.0 points in the cellphone polls, versus 5.1 in the landline-only's."

For the reasons I gave above, that's no reason to slack off. If we're going to put this country back on the right track, we don't just need a win, we need a big win. The bigger the better.

As for Senate races, Nate Silver thinks the only real cliff-hanger is Franken-Coleman in Minnesota, which he thinks tilts in Franken's direction. He sees the Democrats picking up seven other seats: Warner in Virginia, the Udalls in New Mexico and Colorado, Begich in Alaska, Shaheen in New Hampshire, Merkley in Oregon, and Hagan in North Carolina. If Franken wins, that brings the Democratic total to 59 (if you count the independents Sanders and Lieberman, who currently caucus with the Democrats). To get to the filibuster-proof 60, Democrats would have to knock off either Chambliss in Georgia, McConnell in Kentucky, or Wicker in Mississippi, which Nate doesn't think is going to happen.

Electoral College Math
A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. The states carried by both Gore and Kerry amount to 248 electoral votes. Of those states, McCain has given up everywhere but Pennsylvania (21 votes). So essentially Obama starts with 227 votes in the bag.

Next look at the states won by either Gore (New Mexico - 5; Iowa - 7) or Kerry (New Hampshire - 4). OpenLeft's poll-averager gives Obama a double-digit lead in all three states. The more conservative-leaning Real Clear Politics site has New Mexico at a 7.5% margin and the rest higher. Obama's going to take all three of them, bringing his total to 243.

Now we get to the five states that Nate Silver believes decide the election: Virginia (13), Colorado (9), Pennsylvania (21), Ohio (20), and Nevada (5). Obama needs 27 votes out of this group. Any two of Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio do the trick, and Virginia-Colorado-Nevada does it even if Obama loses Pennsylvania and Ohio. Pennsylvania-Nevada gets Obama to 269, a tie, from which position he probably wins in the House of Representatives.

OpenLeft (7.5%) and RCP (7.6%) both rate Pennsylvania as the most likely of these states to go for Obama. That gets him to 264. (These are the 264 "strong Obama" votes on as of Monday noon.) OpenLeft has Colorado (7.4%) almost as likely to put him over the top, but RCP has Nevada (6.2%), and then Colorado (5.5%). Both poll-averages give Obama an advantage in all five states. If he gets all of them, he'd be at 311.

Going outside that group you find Obama with a 2-2.5% lead in Florida (27) and even-or-better in North Carolina (15). He's also got an outside shot in Missouri (11), North Dakota (3), Indiana (11), Arizona (10), Georgia (15), and Montana (3). This is landslide territory. If he got all of these states, he'd win 406-132.

My Election-Night Simulation
Using the DailyKos electoral-vote-tracking map and the Swing-State Project's poll-closing map, I imagined how Election Night might go and what to watch for at various points in the evening. All times are Eastern.

On Tuesday night, look up results here. Nate Silver does his own hour-by-hour.

Before the polls close. Exit polls start becoming available to insiders well before the polls close. Now, in 2004 those early exit polls didn't match the final vote tallies, so nobody is going to go too far out on the limb based on them. But they do generally say something meaningful. And while the TV talking-heads are committed to withhold the exit-poll results until the polls close, they're not committed to say things that will make them look foolish later on. So you can sometimes get an idea what the exit polls say by listening to how the pundits hedge their bets.

This is a good time to listen to Fox News if you can stand it, because the big clue in this prior-to-closing banter is whether Republican pundits start setting up the spin for their loss. If moderate Republicans are talking about what a drag Palin was on the ticket or religious-right types are saying how McCain never really was one of them, you'll know the exit polls are good for Obama. But if they're all saying that it's not over until it's over, then the exit polls are good for McCain. If you can't stand to watch Fox, listen for whether liberal pundits go on-and-on about Obama's amazing "ground game". That means he's winning.

7 p.m. The real action starts at 7, when polls close in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Vermont, and Virginia. Vermont goes immediately to Obama, Kentucky to McCain. Which of the other three is called first is your first real sign of who's going to win and how big. If Obama gets Virginia, it's hard to see how McCain will stop him. If he gets it early and easily, Obama could have a landslide. But if Virginia is too close to call while Georgia goes easily to McCain and Indiana is leaning to McCain, it's going to be a long night. My best guess: Fairly soon we see Obama 16, McCain 23; Indiana too close to call. If Virginia can't close its polls on time because of heavy turnout, that's a good sign for Obama too.

The Senate races in Georgia and Kentucky are important to watch. If they go Republican, probably the Democrats don't get 60 votes in the Senate.

7:30 p.m. Ohio, North Carolina, West Virginia. None of them are called right away. If McCain loses any of them, it's over.

8 p.m. A long list of states worth 171 electoral votes. Obama goes up by 95-61, with Pennsylvania, Florida, and Missouri joining the ranks of the uncalled. West Virginia gets called for McCain.

8:30 p.m. Arkansas goes for McCain. 95-67

9 p.m. A bunch of big easy states like Texas and New York. 172-127. Arizona and Colorado too close. Watch for who wins the Minnesota Senate race.

9-10 p.m. Some of the too-close early states start coming in. Ohio and Pennsylvania for Obama. 213-127. If that's true, it's just a matter of time.

10 p.m. Iowa for Obama. Utah for McCain. Montana, Nevada too close. 220-132. Indiana or North Carolina might come in about now, but I can't guess which way they'll go.

11 p.m. California comes in for Obama with its 55 votes. That's 275. Obama wins. I plan to drink a glass of champagne and go to bed.

Short Notes
The ugliest ad in the country this cycle has got to be the Elizabeth Dole "Promises" ad, where she tries to tie her Presbyterian Sunday-school-teacher opponent Kay Hagan to atheism. Fortunately, she got slammed hard for doing it, both by the North Carolina press and in a powerful counterpunch by Hagan: "My campaign is about creating jobs and fixing our economy, not bearing false witness against fellow Christians."

North Carolina also has one of the funniest get-out-the-vote ads. The gist of it is that all those other idiots are going to vote, so you'd better vote too.

One reason to stay up past 11 is to see how the California same-sex-marriage proposition comes out. The Yes-on-8 (anti-gay) forces make their case here and here. (It's basically a natural-law argument. I'm generally skeptical of natural-law arguments, because it's so easy to confuse what's natural with how-I-was-brought-up. There was a time when people thought it was unnatural for women to vote.) Samuel L. Jackson does a No-on-8 ad. Far and away the creepiest ad of the campaign is this one.

A close second to Dole's atheist attack is McCain's attempt to tie Obama to Palestinian-American scholar Rashid Khalidi. Unlike Bill Ayers, the only suspicious thing about Khalidi is that he's an Arab. His books look at the Middle East from a Palestinian point of view, which is only objectionable if you believe that Palestinians have no right to have a point of view. (If I sound like I have an ax to grind here, I do. I covered the talk Khalidi gave to the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in 2007. I liked it.)

Anyway, Obama and Khalidi were on the University of Chicago faculty at the same time, and Obama went to the going-away dinner held before Khalidi left for his current post as director of Columbia University's Middle East Institute. Apparently they used to talk, though there's no indication that Obama agreed with Khalidi about Israel/Palestine issues.

Juan Cole weighs in on this.

Dick Cheney's less-than-coveted endorsement went to McCain. Obama immediately put out an ad making sure the event didn't go unnoticed.
Add this to the list of things Sarah Palin doesn't understand: the First Amendment. Media criticism of her negative campaigning makes her fear for the future of "First Amendment rights". Steve Benen explains.

The Justice Department, to its credit, ignored President Bush's push to get involved in voter suppression in Ohio. TPM summarizes voter-suppression efforts state-by-state. Politico finally notices that there's no evidence behind the vote-fraud charges that voter suppression is supposed to deal with. And Richard Hasan suggests that private organizations like ACORN could get out of the voter-registration business if the government would just do it right.

Fun stuff: McCain on SNL. A human Obama logo in Anchorage. Two Canadian comedians play a prank on Sarah Palin, and another hockey mom sings an "Evita" song to her. A panel worries about losing the true meaning of Halloween. The James Rocket looks at the Obama logo and sees donuts and bacon.