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Monday, November 10, 2008
A Look at the Election Results: National

Notes on presidential, US Senate, and House races, and marriage referenda in a few states.

Obama over McCain

Bearing in mind the landslide of 1988 (436 to 111 electoral votes, Bush I over Dukakis) and the "Reaganesque" landslides of 1984 (525 to 13, Reagan over Mondale), 1980 (489 to 49, Reagan over Carter), and 1972 (520 to 17, Nixon over McGovern), I don't think we can call the 2008 presidential election a landslide. There is by definition no final count yet -- the Electoral College has not voted -- but it appears that Obama/Biden's seven percent victory in the popular vote translates into an Electoral College margin of a little over two-to-one. This is roughly the equivalent of Bill Clinton's 1996 victory over Bob Dole, which might say something about John McCain and the Republican Party.

I think it's safe to say that voter fraud did not carry this election. Ohio turned out to be irrelevant, and at two percent the margin in Florida was probably too large to be completely fraud-driven. Come to think if it, if both Ohio and Florida had gone for McCain, Obama would still have won. If there is any proximate misconduct to be blamed for the election of a social(ist) democrat to the highest office in the land, it is the Big Media Acronyms' failure to examine Barack Obama's past and its failure to report accurately and aggressively on the causes of the mortgage collapse -- a somewhat bipartisan debacle demonstrably led by Democrats. However, nothing the press did was illegal -- just shamelessly partisan.

Of course, it is noteworthy that Obama will be the first African-American president, despite that silliness years ago about Bill Clinton being the first. However, race was not a factor in my own voting, and I doubt that race alone accounts for the last few days of euphoria. I think the euphoria would be nearly at its present level had a white liberal Democrat been elected.

(I've already been taken to task here at the blog for underplaying the racial -- or post-racial -- triumph Obama's election represents. See a comment and my response, and also this excellent piece by Shelby Steele.)

It remains to be seen how near the center or how far to the left Barack Obama will actually govern. I suspect that the earliest attempts, probably including a deskful of executive orders, will be further left than what will become the norm for his presidency. As Noemie Emery reminds us, we don't yet fully know what happened in the election or how Obama will govern -- or what major events will shape his presidency.

US Senate

Senate Democrats expanded their 51-49 majority, but we don't yet know by how much. They appear to have 57 seats locked up, but three races' results are not final.

The campaign isn't even over for Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss, a Republican, and his Democratic opponent, Jim Martin. Chambliss finished about four percent ahead of Martin on November 4, but failed to receive 50 percent of the vote. In Georgia (as in some other states) this means that there will be a runoff between the top two finishers on December 2. Based on the November 4 results, one has to think Chambliss the favorite, but this one could go either way.

An automatic recount looms in Minnesota, where Republican Senator Norm Coleman leads bitter, nasty, partisan comedian Al Franken by 204 votes out of almost three million cast. Quite apart from the effect of another Democratic win on the majority in Washington, I'd love to see a US Senate without Franken. That said, we have to give odds to the Democrat in any recount. Historically, the Democrats are better at winning these than Republicans, for reasons which some would call partisan finger-pointing if I listed them.

The Democrat would have won the 2000 presidential recount in Florida, for example, had the US Supreme Court not stepped in and required them to follow Florida election law, which the Florida Supreme Court had thrown overboard. Later recounts by major media organizations all came up with a Republican victory, but that wasn't enough to save us from eight years of Democratic ranting about a stolen election. It's also not enough to dissuade me from believing that the Democrat has an edge in this Minnesota recount, despite the fact that the Republican starts with more votes. Citing the recent Washington gubernatorial election as a precedent, I have to think it's only a matter of time before a bag of "misplaced," mostly-Democratic votes turns up in a closet somewhere.

A recent story quotes a Coleman campaign official saying,

Minnesota has a history of fair and clean elections, and we are committed to ensuring that this election is no different. That is why it is so troubling to us that instead of the normal slight changes in vote totals one would expect during this process, we are now seeing huge chunks of votes appearing and disappearing -- statistically dubious and improbable shifts that are overwhelmingly accruing to the benefit of Al Franken.

I'll be surprised if this one doesn't go Democratic in the end. We'll know by December 19. Meanwhile, here is further explanation of "statistically dubious and improbable shifts."

In Alaska, where a newly-convicted felon, Republican incumbent Ted Stevens, leads by a percentage point or so, reportedly a lot of ballots remain to be counted. Stay tuned.

So the Democrats still have a shot at a 60-40 filibuster-proof majority, but in practice that number is a bit fuzzy, anyway. There are usually two or three liberal Republicans who are willing to cross the aisle, and we often see a few Democrats voting with the Republicans. My guess is 58-42.

Neither senator from Utah was up for reelection this year.

US House of Representatives

There were some projections of a 30-seat Democratic pickup, but the real change is more like 20 seats. Three races are still too close to call, one each in California, Ohio, and Virginia. In California and Ohio, the Republican leads. All three races are within the 0.5 percent which typically triggers an automatic recount. If all three finally end as they are leaning now, the head count in the House apparently will be 257 Democrats and 178 Republicans. It could have been worse.

In Utah, Republican incumbent Rob Bishop won District 1 handily, by a 35 percent margin. His job description, basically, has been and will be to keep Hill Air Force Base open and thriving. In District 3, Republican Jason Chaffetz won by a 38 percent margin. In my District 2 Democratic incumbent Jim Matheson, who knows how to campaign, beat Republican challenger Bill Dew by about a 29 percent margin. I hope someday the Utah Republican Party will produce an strong, excellent candidate for this district, but my confidence that it will happen soon is low.

Marriage Initiatives

Among state ballot initiatives, we heard mostly about California Proposition 8, to amend that state's constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Last year, a similar referendum creating a law to this effect passed in California, but a state court struck it down. The way to go over a court's head is to amend the state constitution; the proposed amendment passed by about 4.5 percent. No doubt it will be challenged in the US Supreme Court.

Similar initiatives passed last week in Arizona and Florida, and Arkansas voters enacted a ban on gay couples adopting children.

Don't think the battle for marriage, and therefore society, is over. It was a good week, but the struggle continues.

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