What National Election? Electoral College Is the Only Tally That Counts

This is a static snapshot of today - the version in the side column will be updated dynamically.

It’s time once again to launch Electoral-Vote.com’s tracking widget — almost exactly four years to the day after it made its first appearance on my humble blog.

For better or worse, we don’t have national elections in America. We have 51 state elections.  Occasionally this matters a lot — just ask President Gore about his half-million-vote “national victory” in 2000.

It takes 270 electoral votes to win, so if the election were held today, polls indicate Obama would win with 284 electoral votes (plus or minus 13, depending on Virginia, which currently is deadlocked). Looks like the Senate would be deadlocked at 49-49, with two seats too close to call.

But the races can be volatile.  Four years ago this week, the same widget predicted 275 EV for Obama, 250 for McCain.  On Election Day, Obama actually won 365 electoral votes, more than twice McCain’s total of 173.

This year on Nov. 6, the Web Goddess and I will cast presidential votes that are utterly meaningless — not just because we’ll cancel each other out, but also because there is zero chance that Romney will carry New Jersey. The states that matter most this year are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

As near as I can tell, every poll ever taken on the subject shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans think the Electoral College should be eliminated in favor of direct national elections.  But don’t look for a Constitutional amendment any time soon — the amendment process is even more strongly skewed in favor of smaller states than the Electoral College itself.

A non-profit called National Popular Vote Inc. has been pushing a proposal that would technically retain the Electoral College, even while rendering it irrelevant.  From their homepage:

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the entire United States. The bill preserves the Electoral College, while ensuring that every vote in every state will matter in every presidential election. The National Popular Vote law has been enacted by states possessing 132 electoral votes — 49% of the 270 electoral votes needed to activate it.

Interestingly, the big state vs. small state struggle doesn’t seem to come into play.  Jurisdictions that have passed the NPV bill range from the smallest of the small — Vermont and District of Columbia, with three electoral votes each — to California, the biggest jackpot, with 55 electoral votes.

No, the divide that matters is on red-blue lines.  The other states that have enacted the bill include New Jersey (which managed to enact it in 2008 without me noticing), Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and Washington.  Every single one of these states has gone to the Democratic candidate in each of the past five presidential elections, going back to 1992.

Maybe the red-blue split has something to do with the fact that the only election in living memory that would have gone the other way in the absence of the Electoral College is Bush vs. Gore in 2000.  The last time before that was Harrison vs. Cleveland in 1888.

DADT: Some Days It’s Not Easy Being a Socially Liberal Republican

For national security and economic reasons I generally vote Republican, but I’m quite liberal on social issues.  For example, my support for same-sex marriage equality puts me to the left of Barack “marriage-is-between-a-man-and-a-woman” Obama.

This occasionally leads to cognitive dissonance, when people I otherwise admire take positions I find offensive.  I voted for Jon Corzine against the man I now think of as Governor Awesome, solely on the basis of Christie’s declaration that he would veto any legislation providing for same-sex marriage. Now the man I proudly backed for President has substituted tantrums for argumentation in leading the opposition to repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  The repeal was approved yesterday — the Web Goddess considers it a birthday present — and I take some solace in the fact that enough Republican Senators crossed the aisle to make the vote a landslide, 65-31.

I agree with Nick at GayPatriot that this legislative outcome is hugely preferable to the judicial ruling that no doubt was just a matter of time.

I cannot express how grateful I am that this didn’t happen at the rap of a judge’s gavel. Nothing could have been more destructive than had our military been forced to make this change not because our commanders had been directed to do so by our elected civilian leaders, but by judicial fiat. Simply put, the judicial branch is not (despite this Administration’s obsession with trying our enemies in civilian courts) charged with, nor does it have the temperament for, taking on the responsibility of national security. While all would agree that the policy is discriminatory, that in and of itself is a very very poor reason to make such a huge change to policy. For example, the ADA doesn’t quite apply to the military, now, does it? On the other hand, give me a truly national-defense reason for considering applying it so, and I (and all military commanders) will be all ears.

Some Senators argued that a change of this sort should not be made in time of war.  Two Republican Senators, Richard Burr of North Carolina and John Ensign of Nevada, voted to support a filibuster attempt that failed… and then later in the same day voted in favor of repeal. “Despite my concerns over timing, my conclusion is that repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is the right thing to do,” Burr said in a statement after the vote.

I agree that the timing is not ideal — it should have been done years ago. I have every confidence that the men and women of the armed forces are equal to the challenge posed by colleagues who no longer have to lie about who they are.

Meanwhile, the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network offers a grim warning: “The bottom line is DADT is still in effect and it is NOT safe to come out.”

Even after the successful votes in Congress and even after the President signs the bill, the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must certify that the Defense Department is prepared to implement repeal. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will still be the law until 60 days after the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs certify repeal can happen.

It’s tempting to think this is excessive caution — the President, SecDef and Chairman all are on record supporting repeal.  The 60-day waiting period was a fig leaf provided to those concerned about moving too quickly.  But when the Bush tax cuts were originally passed in his first term, I don’t think many people expected the ridiculous sunset provisions to be triggered — and they almost were.

I’ll give the final words to Nick at GayPatriot, himself a veteran:

I thank God for the gay men and women who have been serving during (and even before) DADT in spite of it. While many gay activists have been on the sidelines carping about “rights” and “integrity” and “honor”, these brave men and women put their Nation before themselves and sacrificed as their colleagues never had to. They were called by service and answered in a way that speaks volumes about their dedication to the mission of the military. They chose to serve even as doing so meant keeping such a big part of themselves under wraps.

The bottom line is DADT is still in effect and it is NOT safe to come out.

Bragging Rights vs. Governing Rights

Neo-neocon sparked a raucous conversation in the comments of a brief post about the followup to a mischievous Zogby poll that surveyed Obama voters about their level of knowledge of various statements, and reported that the Obama voters surveyed got questions wrong more often than if they had simply guessed randomly.

I say it’s a “mischievous” poll because it makes no sense to poll only Obama voters, there’s no context. So another polling firm went out and sort-of replicated the poll, but this time surveying random people (thereby capturing both McCain and Obama voters).

I say “sort-of replicated” because they added a question to what Zogby asked, and a lot of the Zogby questions are arguably biased. (In fact, Neo’s commenters argue about this at great length.) Viewers of right-leaning Fox News and left-leaning MSNBC News scored differently on various questions, and there’s plenty to argue about there, too.

So throw out all of the questions about individual candidates and viewing habits, just look at the simple, objective, no-way-to-skew question about Congressional control, as reported by the pollster:

Respondents were asked which party controlled both houses of congress before the past election, Republicans or Democrats.

  • McCain voters knew which party controls congress by a 63-27 margin.
  • Obama voters got the “congressional control” question wrong by 43-41.

I want to be careful here, because the vast majority of my friends and neighbors voted for Obama. If I know you personally, I’m confident that you would have correctly answered “Democrats.” But the overall difference in political awareness between Obama and McCain voters is stark.

So, let’s review: McCain supporters are better informed, and Obama supporters are celebrating. Advantage: Obama.

A McCain Voter Finds Silver Linings

Differences on policy issues should not, on this day, obscure the marvel that has occurred. A man who in his early childhood could not use certain public restrooms has just been elected to the most powerful office in the world.

The 109-year-old daughter of a slave lived long enough to help elect a black president.

There will always be toxic individuals, but it’s now permissible to hope that we may have seen “The End of Racism” as a potent force in our society.

I’ve read a lot of conservative commentary in the past few hours, some of it cranky and bitter, more of it gracious and respectful. Here’s an excerpt from my favorite, from Mike Potemra in The Corner:

I voted for John McCain because I admire him immensely as a person, and agree with him on many more issues than I do with Senator Obama. And I ask a rhetorical question: Can we McCain voters, without embarrassment, shed a tear of patriotic joy about the historic significance of what just happened? And I offer a short, rhetorical answer.

Yes, we can.

As Peggy Noonan said earlier, “this means a great deal.”

It also means a great deal that America’s first black President is not a grievance monger like Jesse Jackson or a race-baiting thug like Al Sharpton. Obama is an archetypal family man who exudes a sense of calm leadership and stresses personal responsibility, and who built a winning coalition by earning the support of millions of people of all races. Jackson, who as recently as 2006 was named America’s “most important black leader,” will never wear that mantle again, and America will be the better for it.

More silver linings (and no, dammit, the silver lining metaphor is NOT racial code):

  • As I’ve written before, it’s probably too late to surrender in Iraq — even though Obama’s support for doing so helped him win the Democratic nomination. Enough progress has been made that once it becomes Mr. Obama’s war, 76 days from now, he will not want to be the President who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
  • Obama’s election will, at least temporarily, dramatically improve America’s standing in the eyes of the rest of the world. (I consider this to be similar to the redemptive benefit of electing a black President. It’s not reason enough for me to vote for Obama in a time of war, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be pleased by that part of the package.) When the time comes to respond to the next terrorist assault, President Obama will be more free of the phony unilateralist label than President McCain could ever hope to be.
  • Despite holding the Presidency and both houses of Congress, the Democrats will be constrained in their ability to increase the size of government by the financial crisis that will take at least a year or two to unwind. The Obama Administration may well turn out, against its instincts, to be more financially conservative than the Bush Administration. Not a high hurdle, I admit.

I’ll close this tour of silver linings by returning to the theme of the first post I wrote about Obama: I Prefer the Chicago Politician to the Obamessiah. Obama is an extraordinarily charismatic and talented politician. To quote The Corner again:

The manner of this political victory is important, as well. This was not some prize bestowed upon him, and Barack Obama didn’t just buy a winning lottery ticket; he out-smarted and out-worked both Hillary Clinton and John McCain. It is healthy that the American political system gathers the energies and talents of those who feel excluded into the nation to change it, rather than pushing them away from the nation to oppose it.

“Politics” is often considered a dirty word, but politics is the craft of government, and America has elected a master craftsman. He is a man comfortable in his own skin. Even while taking full electoral advantage of the cult-like following he inspired, he remained self-aware enough to jokingly deny rumors that he was “born in a manger.”

Although I’ve written at length about his occasional appalling choices in associates, to me that always seemed much more of a blot on his judgment than on his own moral character. No person is without flaws, and no successful politician can always take the high road. But I believe President-Elect Obama — like the man he defeated — is fundamentally a good and decent human being with the capacity to be an inspirational leader. The fact that our political system gave us a choice of two such candidates may be the greatest silver lining of all.

A McCain Voter Contemplates an Obama Presidency

I was going to write a poignant, insightful post about why this McCain voter is undismayed by the prospect of an Obama victory, but Peggy Noonan beat me to it. Saves me a few pixels, I suppose. An excerpt:

A great moment: When the press was hitting hard on the pregnancy of Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, he did not respond with a politically shrewd “I have no comment,” or “We shouldn’t judge.” Instead he said, “My mother had me when she was 18,” which shamed the press and others into silence. He showed grace when he didn’t have to.

There is something else. On Feb. 5, Super Tuesday, Mr. Obama won the Alabama primary with 56% to Hillary Clinton’s 42%. That evening, a friend watched the victory speech on TV in his suburban den. His 10-year-old daughter walked in, saw on the screen “Obama Wins” and “Alabama.” She said, “Daddy, we saw a documentary on Martin Luther King Day in school.” She said, “That’s where they used the hoses.” Suddenly my friend saw it new. Birmingham, 1963, and the water hoses used against the civil rights demonstrators. And now look, the black man thanking Alabama for his victory.

This means nothing? This means a great deal.

I’m voting McCain because I believe he has a better understanding of the cost of meekness in the face of fascism. But Obama has demonstrated that he knows he can’t afford to be held hostage by the extreme pacifist wing of his party. Ironically, the success of the surge has worked against its champion, McCain. An Obama Presidency that might have been a disaster two years ago is much less frightening now that the advocates of surrender have lost interest in the war.

For me, the redemptive potential of electing a black man as President is not a sufficient reason to support the candidate I consider less qualified to be commander-in-chief. But if Obama wins, my vote for the other guy will not prevent me from celebrating a joyous milestone. As Noonan wrote, this means a great deal.

Wall Street Compensation in the Bailout Era

As bonus time approaches, Wall Street firms are trying to balance the need to retain key executives against concern about the “optics” of giving boatloads of bailout money to the people who arguably created the need for the bailout.

It’s easy to sneer at what passes for frugality on Wall Street when it comes to compensation… so let’s indulge for a moment. From today’s Wall Street Journal (I think it’s a free link, but if not you can get the gist from the excerpt below):

In a sign that Wall Street is waking up to the political tempest over billions of dollars in year-end bonuses likely to be paid out at securities firms lining up for government infusions, top executives are in discussions to possibly cap their own compensation, according to people familiar with the situation….

“There are going to be some people in the financial-services industry who will show real leadership here and recognize the reality of the situation,” one senior Wall Street official said.

At least one major firm has looked at former PepsiCo Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Roger Enrico’s move in 1998 to give up his $900,000 salary. Instead, Mr. Enrico asked PepsiCo directors to fund scholarships for children of “frontline employees.” Mr. Enrico still got a $1.8 million bonus that year.

Yes indeedy, “real leadership” — give up the high six-figure salary but keep the seven-figure bonus. And of course, the 1998 bonus of a soda-pop CEO is one or even two orders of magnitude lower than what is available on Wall Street in a good year.

I have mixed feelings about this. I’m a fervent capitalist and I lean libertarian, so I believe salaries and other prices should be set primarily by markets, not by government decree. I toiled in the Wall Street vineyards for many years, mostly at Merrill Lynch, and I believe my old firm and its competitors play a crucial role in the economy. I was support staff, not a revenue producer, which meant my annual bonus was a fraction of my salary, not a multiple. But I never complained about executive comp, because when the poobahs got more money, so did the gumbies.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, has renewed calls for capping compensation for executives of bailed-out companies at the $400,000 salary of the U.S. President. The idea has a lot of populist appeal — even John McCain expressed support for it during the height of the turmoil last month. (I could probably scrape by on $400K a year. I’d like to give it a shot, anyway.)

But I suspect the best financial minds on Wall Street will continue to find ways to reward themselves handsomely. If such a limit could even be enforced realistically, it would simply drive the top talent into less-regulated pursuits. Do we really want to move the center of gravity of global finance out of the public securities firms and into hedge funds?

So, what should be done about the admittedly scandalous prospect of paying zillions of dollars in bonuses with money ponied up by taxpayers? I dunno… that’s above my pay scale.

Catfight in The Corner! Lopez vs. Parker

Welcome, Andrew Sullivan and 3QuarksDaily readers. While you’re here, I hope you’ll take a look around and leave a comment! The “Labels” section in the right column can be used as a menu.

I’m a big fan of National Review Online’s group blog, called The Corner. It has been described as “the Id of Conservatism,” and it’s the first political blog I visit on most mornings. I visit multiple times on most days — there are a dozen or more contributors who participate with varying degrees of regularity, which means there is fresh content throughout the day.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, known as K-Lo, is the Editor of NRO. She’s also the most frequent poster in The Corner, and serves as its “Mother Hen,” keeping her predominately male colleagues in line when they spin off on tangents such as Star Trek discussions. [Sexist metaphor alert: This post contains politically incorrect, gender-specific references, starting with the headline. What can I say — I’m a man, and men are pigs.] I disagree strongly with Lopez on social issues (she’s an anti-abortion absolutist and opposes gay equality), but I admire her work ethic and I admire, evaluated as a whole, the product she produces at NRO.

In short, I’m not a K-Lo basher (cf. Sullivan, Andrew).

But she made a cryptic post this morning that inspired me to drop everything and figure out what the heck it was about. She thereby called my attention to a column on her own site that she finds “embarrassing and outrageous,” and that I likely would not have seen otherwise.

She doesn’t link to the column in question. Whatever could she be talking about? I had a hunch, but didn’t want to leap to a false conclusion. So I did some research.

Tempted though I am to document my sleuthing with step-by-step screen captures, I have actual professional obligations to get to today. So suffice it to say that I laborious opened each and every column listed under the daily “New on NRO” digest, below:

On each column I searched for the word “Monica,” and found it, as I expected, only on Kathleen Parker’s “Tragic Flaw” column. (Hence the “catfight” reference in the headline — they’re both women, get it? Har, har, har.)

A month ago, Kathleen Parker became one of the earliest and most prominent conservatives to go public with a strong condemnation of the Palin selection, saying she should withdraw for the sake of the party and her country. Pundits and bloggers on the Left gleefully plastered links to the column all over the Internets, while a few on the Right did so more in sorrow than in anger.

Gotta wrap this up, my phone keeps ringing — a happy problem for a self-employed writer/consultant. In today’s column, Parker suggests, without actually saying it in a quotable soundbite way, that McCain picked Palin because he thinks she’s a hot babe. The “Monica” in K-Lo’s headline, as you may have guessed, is a reference to Monica Lewinsky. Here’s the closing of the column:

It is entirely possible that no one could have beaten the political force known as Barack Obama — under any circumstances. And though it isn’t over yet, it seems clear that McCain made a tragic, if familiar, error under that sycamore tree [McCain apparently “proposed” to Palin under such a tree — Ed.]. Will he join the pantheon of men who, intoxicated by a woman’s power, made the wrong call?

Had Antony not fallen for Cleopatra, Octavian might not have captured the Roman Empire. Had Bill resisted Monica, Al Gore may have become president and Hillary might be today’s Democratic nominee.

If McCain, rightful heir to the presidency, loses to Obama, history undoubtedly will note that he was defeated at least in part by his own besotted impulse to discount the future. If he wins, then he must be credited with having correctly calculated nature’s power to befuddle.

K-Lo (and apparently some readers who corresponded with her) are outraged at the idea that Parker arguably has compared Sarah Palin with Monica Lewinsky, and by extension arguably has compared John McCain with Bill “Can’t Keep it Zipped” Clinton. One can certainly interpret the column that way, but I urge you to read the whole column and consider whether the Lewinsky/Clinton analogy is central to her thesis.

I think Parker is on to something — it boils down to “men are pigs.” I don’t think McCain is nearly as big a pig, in the sexual sense, as Clinton… but I think an analogous dynamic is at work. It’s the best explanation I’ve seen for throwing caution to the winds and making the disastrous Palin selection.

I’m not a Palin-basher either, btw, at least not in any absolutist sense… I criticized the choice the day after it was made (“The Five Stages of Adjusting to Palin“), then was wowed by her convention speech (pig that I am, no doubt) and tried to make the best of until Palin became too much of a national joke. Here’s a link to all of my Palin-related posts.

Update: From the comments, Pretty Lady (who blogs about relationships, sex, politics, spirituality and other matters) offers a thoughtful personal perspective on how men relate to, well, pretty ladies:

When I adopted my blog moniker, I thought of it as a staggeringly obvious and overtly ironic joke. I was shocked to discover that it was taken absolutely seriously by the vast majority of bloggers and their commenters, and that it entirely colored their initial take on my observations.

Simply, people pay much more attention to words coming out of the mouth of a Pretty Lady. They may reflexively deride those words, or fawn on them, but they are definitely responding to context, rather than content.

Update: This post led to a Sullivalanche.

Stick a Fork in Mac, He’s Toast

Something not quite right metaphorically in that headline, but I’m too tired to figure it out.

To win, Obama needed to refrain from burning an American flag onstage, and he more than met that challenge. He looked more Presidential than McCain. I’m trying as hard as I can to find reasons to stay on the McCain bandwagon, but when he gave that sarcastic “I got it” smirk at the end of the discussion on vouchers, I wanted to slap him. He also didn’t help himself by mocking Obama’s eloquence — even though he was making the valid point that Obama’s willingness to “look at” offshore drilling was a form of weasel-wording.

I was astonished that neither candidate directly addressed the Palin issue in response to Bob Schieffer’s question about whether the respective VP candidates are ready to serve as President — and Schieffer didn’t follow up. McCain convinced me that he’s proud of Palin, but didn’t claim she is ready to serve. Obama could have gallantly confined himself to saying he thinks Biden is more qualified, but he didn’t even do that — he spun off on a tangent about funding for autism.

I didn’t see the point of McCain coming back to bang on Congressman Lewis again after already making his point once. McCain has a legitimate grievance about Lewis’s remarks, but it’s hard to see how that helps him. And Ayers still is not a five-run homer.

I liked McCain’s jibe near the beginning that if Obama wanted to run against George Bush, he should have run four years ago. But it was all downhill from there.

The Allure of Going Nuclear in the Late Innings

Losing the Presidential race has to be even worse than losing the World Series.

If you lose the World Series, you at least get to put up a banner proclaiming that you were the League Champion for the year. Your hometown throws you a consolation rally, and you start talking about the future (“hey, we’re tied for 1st place” in the coming season). There may be regrets about missed opportunities that could have produced World Series rings, but your own fans probably will not vilify you.

McCain, however, can already hear the long knives being sharpened on his own side of the aisle. (Oops, wrong metaphor.) McCain knows the throw is going to beat him to the bag, but he has to be seen running it out just as hard as he can. This is the big leagues.

Set aside ideology and partisanship for a moment and reflect on the momentous achievements of these two men, McCain and Obama. Think about how much they had to go through to get to where they are today. Neither one was given much of a chance coming out of Spring Training. From the Nov. 7, 2007 WSJ:

Democrats enter the 2008 presidential race with powerful political advantages, but face a tough and unpredictable battle because of the vulnerabilities of front-runner Hillary Clinton. … She’s locked in a dead heat against leading Republican candidate Rudolph Giuliani.

(Wow… remember Rudy Giuliani? But I digress.)

Flash-forward to October 2008. Now it’s getting late in the World Series, and McCain is badly behind. Real Clear Politics shows eight states as tossups (CO, FL, IN, MO, NC, NV, OH, WV). Even if McCain wins every single one of them, he comes up short of the 270 electoral votes he needs, unless he also can turn a blue state red. In baseball terms, McCain has made it to Game Seven of the World Series, but he’s down by five runs and he’s got nobody on base. It’s not the 9th inning yet, but it’s getting late in the game.

So he tries to hit a five-run homer. “Hey, let’s pick that hot Alaska governess for VP.” (Note to the beautiful blonde I’m proud to call my wife: This isn’t me talking, Sweetie — I’m channeling McCain.) “That’ll shake things up and energize the base.” He knew Palin’s national credentials were thin (to put it charitably), but there was no way to predict she would become such a target-rich environment for Tina Fey.

That move didn’t work out, and now it really is late in the game. He’s got his ace starter warming up in the bullpen on two days rest. He tries to bunt for a base hit with two outs, desperate to do something to get a base runner. Et cetera, et cetera — I don’t want to get overly tedious about matching baseball moves with specific McCain tactics, but I’m talking here about things like “suspending” the campaign, and announcing a half-baked, buy-individual-mortgages proposal in the second debate.

What do you do now, Mr. World Class Athlete who has come so far? This ain’t no basketball game, where the last few minutes turn into garbage time when the game is out of reach. It’s still theoretically possible to win until the final out.

“I know! Let’s go nuclear with Ayers, Rezko and Wright! Maybe that will take voters’ minds off of their 201Ks. It’s a long shot, but it’s all we’ve got.”

Now, let me be clear. I think Obama has made some appalling choices in associates over the years, and calling attention to those choices is a very legitimate campaign issue. As the indispensable Charles Krauthammer puts it, the most disturbing thing…

… is the window these associations give on Obama’s core beliefs. He doesn’t share Rev. Wright’s poisonous views of race nor Ayers’ views, past and present, about the evil that is American society. But Obama clearly did not consider these views beyond the pale. For many years he swam easily and without protest in that fetid pond.

“Fetid pond” is a nice touch. But while this is a legitimate issue, it’s not a five-run homer — and meanwhile, McCain has his Keating Five baggage.

I fear that McCain and the Republicans, in their understandable desperation, are going to ratchet up the negativity at the very time that people like me, who favor McCain despite his flaws, are trying to reconcile ourselves to Obama, despite his flaws.

I’m trying to reconcile myself because it’s clear to me that McCain is toast. Yes, it’s theoretically possible to come back when you’re down by five runs with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth. And monkeys might fly out of my butt. (Crude perhaps, but I gotta come up with something to compete with “fetid pond”.)

The economic crisis is driving votes to the Democrats. That may not be fair or logical, but it’s a fact. And the only thing that could possibly knock the financial crisis off the front page between now and Election Day would be an Unspeakable Event that I most fervently do not want, and that no loyal American wants. If such an event were to occur, it is not clear to me which way the votes would shift.

Going negative can be effective at the margins, but it will backfire if the Republicans take it too far. Ayers is an unrepentant terrorist, but Obama is not. Rezko is a criminal, but Obama is not. Wright is an anti-American racist, but Obama is not. Obama also is not a Muslim or a Marxist or a Manchurian Candidate, and however fervently some people may believe those things about him, the umpires are not going to be convinced.

Out of all the people who have any conceivable chance of winning the election next month, Obama to my mind is the second-best choice. I have serious qualms about him, but there is an upside as well, and I have no doubt the Republic will survive an Obama Presidency.

To paraphrase the best thing Al Gore ever said, during extra innings in December 2000, “if at the end of the day, [Obama] is sworn in as President, then he’ll be my President. He’ll be America’s President.” To which I would add, let’s treat the man with the respect the office deserves.