Thursday, 31 January 2008

More dropouts during election season

Yesterday we found out that both Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards dropped out of the race to be the nomination for their respective parties. I wasn't particularly surprised about Rudy going - as I mentioned in my last post, he put an awful lot of work into winning Florida and he only finished third. That and he has failed to win any primaries or caucuses so far.

Here is a list of Giuliani's performance in all the primaries and caucuses that have happened so far:
StateVote %Delegates
New Hampshire90
South Carolina20
After deciding to drop out, he announced that he is going to be supporting John McCain, who recently went ahead of Mitt Romney in terms of delegates:
"John McCain is the most qualified candidate to be the next commander in chief of the United States"
In response to Giuliani's speech, McCain said:
"I want to thank my dear friend, my dear friend Rudy Giuliani, who invested his heart and soul in this primary and who conducted himself with all the qualities of the exceptional American leader he truly is"
After the mutual back-slapping was over with, they shook hands. Now that McCain has been endorsed by Giuliani, it must give McCain even more momentum and could influence the way a lot of people vote on Super Tuesday.
McCain and Giuliani
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

John Edwards leaving was more of a surprise. Although he hadn't got as many delegates as Obama and Clinton, he still had a few and with Super Tuesday coming up there was still an outside chance. Even though it wasn't a certainty that he'd get the most delegates, I thought he'd stay until all the states have finished voting.

Here's Edwards's performance in the primaries and caucuses:

StateVote %Delegates
New Hampshire174
South Carolina188
Remember that Wyoming hasn't happened yet for the Democrats and Edwards boycotted Michigan because of the controversy over there.
"With our convictions and a little backbone, we will take back the White House in November"
So, even though he's out of the race, he still makes an appeal to the nation in an attempt to get the Democrats back into the Whitehouse.

It will be interesting to see who Edwards endorses. As he has built up quite a following, whoever he decides to support will have a massive advantage. He might also be a viable vice-presidential pick - he'll definitely be in a better situation than he was with John Kerry in 2004. If he doesn't get picked I can see him campaigning to make a return to the Senate - he's young enough to be able to do that and stay there for a few years.

Alfred Thompson made this comment on my blog entry about South Carolina:
"If he is elected VP there is time for him to still be president some day. And I think he'd be a good one."
So, I'm not the only one who thinks he'd be a good VP pick! I'm not sure whether he'd go for President again though. I guess nobody will know for sure until the next President's term in office is over.

Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama congratulated him for a well-run campaign and thanked him for the hard work that he's done highlighting poverty, which was his central campaign issue. They obviously want to be really nice to him because they realise how important his support could be.

Apparently he is able to 'release' the delegates who supported him, so they would be free to vote for whoever they wanted. If they are released, it would make the convention even more interesting.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani, USA, Election, Politics

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

The Florida Primary - it's Michigan (the remix)

This state has plenty of election history attached to it. In 2000, there was the famous Florida recount, which turned into one of the most important factors in deciding the presidency. You will probably remember that Al Gore won the popular vote (which, in my opinion is the most important thing because you will be represeting those people), but George W. Bush got into the Whitehouse because of the Electoral College system.

These are the results for the 2008 Democrat and GOP primaries in Florida:
CandidateVote %ageDelegates
John McCain3657
Mitt Romney310
Rudy Giuliani150
Mike Huckabee140
Ron Paul30
Fred Thompson10
Duncan Hunter00
CandidateVote %ageDelegates
Hillary Clinton500
Barack Obama330
John Edwards140
Dennis Kucinich10
This was a terrific victory for John McCain. In terms of voting percentages it looks quite close between him and Mitt Romney, but because it's the delegates that matter, the difference was actually massive. The gains in Florida mean that McCain is now ahead of Romney overall. He will be hoping that the momentum can continue into Super Tuesday. If he does well in that, it would almost certainly mean that he'll become the GOP nominee for President. This is what McCain had to say after the victory:
"Thank you, Florida Republicans, for bringing a former Florida resident across the finish line first in - as I have been repeatedly reminded lately - an all Republican primary.

My friends, in one week we will have as close to a national primary as we have ever had in this country. I intend to win it, and be the nominee of our party."
Even though he got no delegates, it was one of Rudy Giuliani's best performances so far. The bad news is that he put a lot of work into winning this primary and ignored some of the states that have already voted. He felt that winning that state would show the rest of the US public that he can win the tough contests. As he finished third, there will be even more doubts about his credibility. He didn't say that he'd withdraw from the race, but he referred to his campaign in the past tense:
"I ran a campaign that was uplifting."
Apart from ignoring the early states, it didn't help that he was one-dimensional (frequently mentioning 9/11).

Mike Huckabee seems to be slipping down the results tables, which doesn't look too good. However, there is still Super-Tuesday where everything could change and he has shown the US population that he's capable of winning a primary. Even before the results were released in Florida, he knew that he wasn't going to win in the state, but he won't stop campaigning:
"Thank you folks for being here. God bless every one of you. Pray hard, work hard, get the votes out. Remember this -- if they're going to vote for me, make sure they come. If they're not, don't let them out of their driveway."
At the bottom of the results table for the GOP you'll notice that there's Duncan Hunter and Fred Thompson. I mentioned in a previous post that Hunter withdrew from the race and I assume that his name was left on the ballot papers because there wasn't enough time to produce a new batch. Apparently Fred Thompson has also quit the race and this actually happened a few days ago. It was such a quiet withdrawal and I don't think many people noticed (despite this, he still managed to get a small percentage of the vote - how strange). He said the following in a prepared statement:
"Today, I have withdrawn my candidacy for president of the United States. I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort"
The South Carolina result had sealed his fate.

It was a very different story for the Democrats. As you can see from the table near the top of this post, there were no delegates on offer (like Michigan). This was because they had brought their primary forward, but had not followed the rules. None of the leading candidates bothered to campaign in the state as a result of this, so you have to wonder why they bothered to have a vote. All it did was give Hillary Clinton - the 'winner' - a bit of extra press coverage (like Michigan).

You'll notice that Mike Gravel wasn't in the results table (that you can also see on the CNN website). This intrigues me, because he is still running (apparently) and this was confirmed when I looked at this. Do CNN not like him for some reason? Did they decide that he was no longer credible enough? I don't think it's for them to say. He was the only Democrat who campaigned in Florida. I didn't expect him to still be in the race at this stage because he's behind Dennis Kucinich overall and he doesn't have much chance of winning either. I suppose it's theoretically possible that he could do well in Super Tuesday, but it's highly unlikely that will happen.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: Election, USA, Politics, Florida, Rudy Giuliani, Republicans

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

State of the Union - it sounds familiar

The State of the Union address is a big deal in the USA. It's a chance for the President to tell the Congress and the public what the situation is and how the country should move forward. The 2008 address was the final one for George W. Bush and I bet the Democrats were glad.

Anyway, my thoughts on the speech are below. You can find the complete speech here.

Subject - The War on Terror™ and Iraq
"We gave our troops a new mission - work with the Iraqi forces to protect the Iraqi people."
He said this when he was talking about the 'surge'. What was the mission before the surge then? Were they not ordered to protect the Iraqi people? Supposedly, one of the reasons that the US went into Iraq was to liberate the Iraqi citizens from the likes of Saddam Hussein and terrorist groups. Saying something like that was a serious mistake.

After that he mentioned that the Iraqi people were "worried" that the US troops would abandon them, but instead of doing that, the troops would stay until the terrorists were gone. That is a huge, steaming pile of cra....erm, rubbish. I don't hear of a large number of Iraqis worrying about that. Also, if the troops stayed behind that is more lives at risk and many have died (needlessly) already. If the troops stayed it would also mean that the Iraqi government is undermined and that US forces would be stretched if they got involved in any other international conflicts.

At one point he mentioned that the troops have the "gratitude of the entire nation". This is totally true, but I couldn't help but feel this was purely done for TV because he knew both the Democrats and Republicans would give standing ovations for that - it was an attempt to make him look good, although he was only stating the obvious. There should be more detail in what he says.
"The American and Iraqi surges have achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago."
Ok, they have achieved results, but are they the results that he wanted? This statement was a cue for more clapping and then a standing ovation from the Republican supporters/members in the room. During this period, the Democrats remained remained seated and didn't clap at all. It shows that they (quite obviously) disagreed with what he was saying. It's not just the Democrats in the room that disagree with him - remember that his national approval rating has been below 40% for a while (the most recent poll showing him at 31%). Further evidence of that is shown in these statistics:
  • Over 60% of Americans want all troops out of Iraq withdrawn within one year.
  • 41% of Americans think that President Bush is "definitely worst than most" past presidents.
Anyway, back to the speech:
"Some may deny that the surge is working, but among the terrorists there is no doubt - Al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq and this enemy will be defeated."
Time for another round of clapping (another standing ovation with cheers). Again, he states the obvious and it was another obvious move to get the Democrats to applaud and therefore make him look good on TV. He's also got his terrorists mixed up again. I have no doubt that there's an Al-Qaeda presence there, but Osama Bin-Laden won't be there (way too risky) and it's mostly Iraqi citizens who are attacking US forces.
"You will have all you need to protect our nation"
He said this when talking about the US forces. He also mentions that some of them are returning home. This is yet more stating the obvious and boring, repetitive rhetoric. The current withdrawal of troops is slow. A huge chunk of the US population sees that - I've already shown you the statistics that prove that.
"We will stay on the offence, we will keep up the pressure and we will deliver justice to our enemies."
This was said when talking about the War On Terror™, and this section had a focus on liberty and independence. This was another opportunity for Dick Cheney to get out of his chair and clap. He could be employed as a cheerleading coach after he leaves office! I wonder if anybody's worked out if he spends more time standing up and clapping than he does sitting in the chair. This whole section was another exampled of rhetoric recycled from previous speeches. It contained no detail at all - totally pointless!

He mentioned that there was one thing that the US and the terrorists agree on - ending tyranny. I think this was a bad move. Ok, each side wants to end what they perceive as tyranny, but he said that we agree with the terrorists. That statement could easily be taken out of context and twisted by several groups.

The Democratic response
The response was delivered by Kathleen Sebelius, who is the Governor of Kansas. She was calling for action that is more reflective of America as a whole - a more balanced approach. She also stated that even though the withdrawal of troops were a good start, it's too slow and there is more work to be done. Here's a response from another Democrat - Russ Feingold:
"Perhaps most troubling was the President's steadfast commitment to an Iraq policy that has led to the deaths of nearly 4,000 American troops, continues to cost this country billions of dollars per month, and fails to make us safer in the global fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates. The president's policies are keeping nearly 160,000 American troops stuck in Iraq and sapping our ability to address the global terrorist threat presented by al Qaeda."
Dick Cheney and Nancy Pelosi
It was funny watching these two and they were a true contrast. Cheney was frequently smiling and gave a lot of standing ovations, whereas Pelosi looked uncomfortable, hardly smiled while Bush was talking and was less prepared to clap. She hardly gave any standing ovations either. Pelosi's attitude was reflective of the entire of the entire Democratic part of the room. The same can be said for Cheney and the GOP part.

The thoughts of the audience
Below are two of the reactions after the speech from the politicians in Congress. The first is from Barack Obama:
"Tonight was President Bush's last State of the Union, and I do not believe history will judge his administration kindly. But I also believe the failures of the last seven years stem not just from any single policy, but from a broken politics in Washington."
This quote is from John McCain:
"I applaud the president's efforts to reduce earmarks and their influence on federal government spending. Earmarks and pork-barrel spending steal valuable taxpayer dollars from national priorities, skew the budget process, and have led to corruption among lawmakers."
Those two quotes are further examples of how President Bush failed to unite Congress in his final State of the Union. It was a truly awful performance which had no detail and used far to much tired rhetoric.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: George W. Bush, State of the Union, USA, Politics

Sunday, 27 January 2008

South Carolina - not on topic, not much detail.

A few days ago I heard about a debate on CNN between John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I recently watched it on Youtube and made numerous observations.

The Withdrawal
The first observation was the absence of Dennis Kucinich, the person who seems to be forgotten frequently during this campaign. What was the reason for him not being there? Apparently, he has withdrawn from the race after several poor performances in the states who have already voted:
"Kucinich, speaking at a union hall, told supporters who chanted "Dennis, Dennis," that he would work to keep his campaign promises, not as president, but as a member of the U.S. House."
So, he'll continue his work in politics and will stay consistent with his policies. I expect him to get into Congress again.

The Debate
The first part of this televised debate was about fiscal responsibility (which has to be one of the most important topics at the moment) and employment. Hillary Clinton started off strongly, talking a lot about her policies. However, she didn't explain how these policies would be feasibile. The usually eloquent Obama started off shakily and stuttered through the first part of his speech. However, later on he became more analytical. As for John Edwards, it took a long time for him to get involved in this part of the debate, which can't be considered positive. He needs to keep himself in the limelight. He criticised Bush for some of his fiscal decisions, but not as much as Hillary did. He didn't say much about his own policies though. One good point is that he took control when the presenter tried to interrupt him, which gave him a chance to get more of his views across. This part (the first 10 minutes) was won by Hillary in my opinion due to her confidence and concetration on policies.

Clinton then decided to go way off topic and say that Barack Obama's speeches in the US Senate about Iraq did not match his voting decisions. John Edwards talked negatively about Obama and seemed to ignore Clinton, then went to to mention his family history, to give people the impression he understood what they were going through. Obama said the talk should be about policies they should employ, not personbal attacks. However, when he responded to reported criticism that said his policies were feasible, he didn't actually say how they'd work - which was disappointing. He still won this section though as he did try to get the debate back on topic and didn't mention irrelevant family history too much.

The next period was interesting because John Edwards started off extremely weakly. He was clearly sidelined during an argument between Clinton and Obama, who are seen by many to be the top two Democratic candidates. However, when forced into the debate by the presenter he took control and made an extremely strong speech. He felt that the arguments "would not move America forward" and cleverly pushed the debate back on topic. He also explained that he was the candidate who was first with ideas about things such as how to end poverty (this was something he repeated constantly through the entire debate).

The next few sections of the debate were dominated by Obama. The subjects covered included healthcare, voting records in Congress and Iraq. Healthcare was interesting because all three had different policies, but Obama was the only one who didn't want to provide for illegal immigrants. He felt this was necessary due to the country's lack of resources. Clinton and Edwards argued with him about this, but why should you immediately benefit from a system if you didn't enter the country using the appropriate methods? If you then apply for asylum later on and are successful, you should be allowed to benefit though.

I'm surprised Iraq wasn't discussed earlier on as it has been such a hot topic recently. I think Barack Obama was better in this area as he actually got into some detail about the removal of troops and bases. Edwards and Clinton said they wanted to remove troops quickly - but didn't mention how quickly.

Other topics covered included sources of campaign funding, their respective advocates and the voting patterns of African-Americans. It was interesting seeing the arguments between Edwards and Clinton at this stage. Edwards felt that it was wrong to take money from lobbyist groups, but Clinton said that Edwards also did that. However, she failed to realise that there's a big difference between taking money from lobbyist groups and taking money from individuals who work for or are affiliated with those groups.

The questions about African-American voters seemed tailor-made for Obama and gave him a bit more of a platform. It's unfortunate, but as South Carolina has a large African-American population, it was unavoidable. Obama said that it was important to focus on policies, not race or gender (obviosuly the gender issue was focused at Hillary).

There was even time during this debate for several jokes (some at the expense of John Edwards). For example, Obama said it was "a race where you've got a woman, an african-american and John". When asked about whether he thinks Bill Clinton was the first black President, he said that he "has to investigate Bill's dancing abilities before he decides whether Bill was a brother or not".

Towards the end of the debate, Hillary started to get more defensive, Obama appeared even more relaxed and confident and Edwards seemed weaker as he ignored policies and focused on family history. Overall, I believe Barack Obama won with an extremely strong performance. I think it would have been better if all the candidates stuck to the topics though.

The vote
These are the results from the South Carolina primary:
CandidateVote %ageDelegates
Barack Obama5525
Hillary Clinton2712
John Edwards188
According to the Daily Kos, Obama received more votes than all Democrats in the 2004 South Carolina Democratic Primary (292,383) and had more in this primary than George W. Bush received in 2000 when he beat John McCain (Bush won 293,652 votes). It was disappointing for John Edwards as he grew up in this state and won it when he went for election as the Democratic candidate in 2004. Click here to read his post-primary speech.

Anyway, Obama got the most delegates and that's crucial for him. It might give him momentum going before 'Super Tuesday', but pundits and polls have been proved wrong before (Iowa, New Hampshire).

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: Election, Democrats, USA, Politics, South Carolina

Monday, 21 January 2008

US election process confuses the media

After I found about about the results in Nevada and South Carolina and read some of the analysis on the internet, I ended up thinking the following:

Does the mainstream media in the US understand their country's election process?

At the moment I don't think they do. Recently Nevada had their caucus and the following is the results for the Democrats:
CandidateVotes (%)Delegates
Hillary Clinton5112
Barack Obama4513
John Edwards40
Dennis Kucinich00
Bill Richardson00
You'll notice that even though Clinton got more votes, Obama got the most delegates. It seems that most of the time getting the majority of the votes means you'll get the most delegates, but as you can see from this, it doesn't always happen (another example of this would be the election in 2000 when Al Gore won the popular vote, but George W. Bush won because more people in the Electoral College voted for him).

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, delegates mean more than actual voters in the US because it's those people who go to the conventions and decide who will be the presidential candidate for their party.

This article in the New York Times is a perfect example of how the media is reporting the result:
"Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton won the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, capturing strong support from women voters and adding a fresh boost of momentum to her campaign as the Democratic presidential race heads to South Carolina, where she is engaged in a fierce battle with her rival, Senator Barack Obama."
Yes, she won the popular vote, but as I've just mentioned, that means nothing. Obama got more delegates in that state and has the most overall on the Democrat side - so he's the real winner. The likes of the NY Times seem to forget that.

There was a poor result for John Edwards, but there is still time for his prospects to improve. There's always the possiblity that Super Tuesday (an event when multiple primaries happen on the same day) could make him the front runner. Uncommitted - that mysterious candidate who did so well in Michigan, managed to finish ahead of Dennis Kucinich, but both got 0 delegates, so they both must be disappointed. I noticed that Bill Richardson was on the results table, which is strange because he's withdrawn from the race. I noticed that same thing happening with Chris Dodd and one or two others in some states - I wonder why their names aren't removed?

On the Republican side, more candidates got delegates, but it was Mitt Romney who won by a signifcant margin in terms of delegates (18) and votes (51%). Surprisingly, Ron Paul finished second in terms of votes and joint second with John McCain (both candidates got four delegates). As usual it was a poor performance for Rudy Giuliani and as each state vote passes by, it looks even less likely that he will become the GOP candidate for President - but there is still time for things to change.

According to this Los Angeles Times article, only Romney and Paul were the active campaigners in Nevada though. I still think it's disgraceful when candidates don't treat every state with respect.

In South Carolina, the GOP primary also took place (the Democrat primary happens on January 26th) and there was a big win for John McCain, which makes him look more and more like a top contender. Even though he only beat Mike Huckabee by 3% in terms of votes, but he gained significantly more delegates (McCain got 19, Huckabee got 5). Ron Paul didn't perform as well getting 4% and 0 delegates (others to get 0 delegates were Mitt Romney - surprising, Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani and Duncan Hunter).

It's worth pointing out at this point that Duncan Hunter has now dropped out of the race:
"I ran the campaign exactly the way I wanted to, and at this point not being able to gain traction in conservative states of Nevada and South Carolina, it's time to allow our volunteers and supporters to focus on the campaigns that remain viable."
The media isn't the only people who are confused at the moment. Recently, USAToday mentioned the following in this article:
"The former president trumpeted New York Sen. Hillary Clinton's accomplishments while painting Obama as the "establishment" candidate who would bring only the "feeling of change.""
Obviously, this is heavily biased given that Bill is Hillary's husband and also part of her campaign team, but the former President seems to forget that Hillary is the one with the Whitehouse experience (as she was the former First Lady).

It was also implied in this article that Bill questioned Obama's opposition to the war in Iraq. I seem to remember in some of the debates that Obama, like most of the other candidates felt that a withdrawal was needed. I also decided to look at US Senate records and I found the following:

IRAQ -- (Senate - January 30, 2007)
"The American people have waited. The American people have been patient. We have given chance after chance for a resolution that has not come and, more importantly, watched with horror and grief at the tragic loss of thousands of brave young American soldiers.

The time for waiting in Iraq is over. The days of our open-ended commitment must come to a close. The need to bring this war to an end is here.

That is why today I am introducing the Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007. This plan would not only place a cap on the number of troops in Iraq and stop the escalation; more importantly, it would begin a phased redeployment of United States forces with the goal of removing all United States combat forces from Iraq by March 31, 2008, consistent with the expectations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group that the President has so assiduously ignored."
"I will vote today to bring up a resolution for debate that would disapprove of the President's policy of escalation in Iraq."
It seems that the President doesn't have a knowledge of recent senate activities or his wife's CV. It's amazing what bias does to a person.

So, what do you think?

Democrats, Republicans, Elections, USA, Politics

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Wyoming and Michigan - controversy reigns

Everyone seems to have ignored the result in Wyoming. This is possibly because only the Republicans had their vote - the vote for the Democrats comes later on in the year. Only three candidates got delegates. Mitt Romney did well and got eight, Fred Thompson got three and the surprise was Duncan Hunter who got one. It was surprising because he's normally bottom of the results table and this time there were no delegates for the likes of Ron Paul, John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani. As there is such a lack of reporting on the GOP Wyoming caucus, it's highly likely that this won't have any influence on the people who are waiting to vote.

So, why did Romney get so many delegates compared to the other candidates? This seems to give a good reason:
"One thing to note is that about 10 percent of Wyoming’s population is Mormon. That being a significant number, it may have given Romney an edge."
If you remember the Iowa caucus, you'll know that religion can have a big influence in United States politics.

Why was Wyoming virtually ignored? According to this article in the Kansas City Star, 14 of the 28 delegates were removed by the GOP. As there were fewer delegates up for grabs, perhaps some of the candidates felt it would be worth campaigning. There's also the fact that the cacus was done much earlier this time. Perhaps some felt they couldn't give necessary time. I hope that some of the candidates didn't ignore it because they felt it was an unimportant state. That sort of message could affect future performances.

This AP article gives the reason why the state was punished:
"RNC rules require the punishment for states that hold their nominating contests earlier than Feb. 5. Iowa, which held caucuses on Thursday, will not be penalized because, technically, the caucuses are not binding on convention delegates. Nevada, which plans to hold its caucuses on Jan. 19, will not be penalized for the same reason."
The states know the rules and they know what happens if they break them. I'd like to know who thought it would be sensible to organise the caucus so early.

I'm interested in seeing how the Democrats handle Wyoming. They've seen what happened to the Republicans. Surely they will do things differently.

Another rule breaker was Michigan, but this time it was on the side of the Democrats:
"...the DNC revoked the state's delegates to the national convention for moving the state's primary to Jan. 15 in violation of DNC rules."
Here are the Democrat results for that primary:
  1. Hillary Clinton - 55%
  2. Uncommitted - 40%
  3. Dennis Kucinich - 4%
  4. Chris Dodd - 1%
  5. Mike Gravel - 0%
It seems the success story of that particular vote was a mysterious candidate called 'Uncommitted'! Seriously though, the that category had such a high percentage was that John Edwards and Barack Obama withdrew from that state due to the rule breaking. As the Democrats removed their delegates from the state, Hillary Clinton's win meant nothing anyway.

I still don't think that Hillary has performed very well so far, despite her winning two primaries, compared to Barack Obama's one caucus victory. New Hampshire was a narrow victory and Obama finished second, whereas in Iowa Obama won and Clinton was way back in third. If Clinton was seen as credible in Michigan, then she would have got more of the votes from the people who would have gone for Obama and Edwards. I also have to remind everyone that there are still many states left, so she could still lose the race.

As there seems to be so much controversy over delegates in both Wyoming and Michigan, some of you may be wondering what the delegates do. I must admit that that aspect of the US elections was confusing me for a while. Well, it's a similar principle to the US Electoral College. If you were to e.g. vote for Hillary Clinton in a primary, you would also vote for the delegates that support her in that state. When it's time for the democratic National Convention, all the delegates vote for the candidate that they support. Theoretically, you should get a party candidate after that. However, if they don't get a certain majority, it goes to a second ballot and then the delegates could change their support. That second ballot rarely happens though. Usually the person with the most delegates gets to be the party's candidate.

This means that the popular vote means absolutely nothing. Supporters of the delegate system say that it's better because then the bigger states don't always get to control who becomes the party candidate. However, I feel a major disadvantage is that you could have a situation where e.g. Mike Gravel only has one delegate at the time of the party convention and if it goes to the second ballot he could then get all the delegates. This may be highly unlikely, but it's still possible and would reflect the views of the US population because not many people have voted for him (so far). You could also have 'faithless electors', who are people that are supposed to vote for one person, but actually choose someone else. It would be much better to let the people decide - at the moment the popular vote has no legal binding.

So, we have learned that some states aren't capable of following long-standing rules and regulations. We've also learned Mitt Romney can take advantage of candidates failing to campaign in certain states. We also know that Hillary Clinton is willing to stay in a primary just to get a perceived victory, when it actually means nothing to win it.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: Democrats, Republicans, Election, USA, Politics

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

New Hampshire - the aftermath

"I hope things are still unsettled after New Hampshire..."
The quote above is from a comment that Alfred Thompson left on my previous blog post, which was about the US election up to (and including) the Iowa caucus. He typed that because he doesn't want the whole process to be dominated by one person - which is fair enough. What would be the point of voting if that were the case?

Well, it seems he got what he hoped for.

The Democrats
For me, the result was a total surprise. Despite trailing Barack Obama by 10 points in the state polls, Hillary Clinton won the New Hampshire primary. All the momentum seemed to be with Barack Obama up until the actual vote.

However, it was only a narrow victory. A difference of 3% is negligable. In Iowa, Obama won and Clinton finished third, so in terms of positions so far, Obama is still ahead. I would give the vote totals so far, but it's impossible as the Iowa Democratic Party only releases a total estimating the number of delegates to the state convention each candidate will receive.

As for the other candidates, John Edwards (who finished second in Iowa), was third, but he was behind Obama by 20% - which has to be disappointing. He will still continue though. Bill Richardson had a better result this time (he got 5%), but he is still far behind the top three and I still believe he will drop out at some point. Dennis Kucinich got 1% and Gravel (once again) got 0%. I would be surprised if Gravel stayed in the race for much longer.

GOP (The Republicans)
The situation for the GOP candidates is very different. John McCain recovered from finishing joint third place Iowa to win the New Hampshire primary. However, the difference between first and second was 5% and Huckabee's winning margin in Iowa was 9%. The GOP race seems to be more open, although Duncan Hunter finished last for the second time and I don't think it will be a long time before he drops out.

Mitt Romney finished in second place again, which is more consistent, but not necessarily advantageous. The positive thing about his results is that he is still getting substantial numbers of people voting for him. Without that, some people might start to doubt his credibility.

Even though Ron Paul got 2% less in New Hampshire, he still has an outside chance because of the large internet following that he has and his record of getting large amounts of money in a short space of time. He needs to start finishing higher in the next two or three primaries though.

Rudy Giuliani continues to disappoint, but I expect him to continue until all 50 states have voted. Fred Thompson will also remain for a while, although he might not necessarily stay until the end.

Futher comments
I've noticed that after Hillary won in New Hampshire, a lot of pundits siad this may be the beginning of the end for Obama. That has to be one of the most ridiculous things I've heard. There are 48 states left! The people who said that must have no knowledge of the size of the country. A lot can change in that time. If you consider Hillary's poll-defying result then you'll realise that anything is possible.

The results of Iowa and New Hampshire should only be used as rough indicators of the end result. Historians will tell you that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush became President without a victory in the New Hampshire primary.

I've also noticed that the amount of personality politics has increased dramatically in this election now (there was a lot of that at the start though). I'm hearing less and less about the policies of the candidates. It's sad that election campaigns around the world often end up like that.

The next caucus will be taking place in Wyoming. The Democrats haven't started yet, but you can already see that Romney is ahead, with Fred Thompson second and Duncan Hunter a very surprising third. However, there are still a few days left for people to vote, which means a lot could change.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: New Hampshire, Primary, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain, USA Election Politics

Friday, 4 January 2008

U.S. Elections 2008 - up to Iowa

This is probably going to be the first of a few posts covering the presidential race in the United States. I've been following it very closely because I have an interest in US politics and something like this is internationally important.

First of all, below is a list of the candidates form the Democrat and Republican parties at the start of the whole process:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York)
Senator Barack Obama(Illinois)
John Edwards (former Senator)
Governor Bill Richardson (New Mexico)
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Ohio)
Senator Joe Biden (Delaware)
Senator Chris Dodd (Connecticut)
Mike Gravel (former Senator)

GOP (the Republicans)
Mike Huckabee (former governor)
Mitt Romney (former governor)
Senator John McCain (Arizona)
Fred Thompson (former Senator)
Congressman Ron Paul (Texas)
Rudy Giuliani(former Mayor of New York)
Congressman Duncan Hunter (San Diego)
Congressman Tom Tancredo (Colorado)
Tommy Thompson (former governor)
Senator Sam Brownback (Kansas)

N.B. - There are other candidates, such as independents. However, under the current US system, they hardly get a chance to compete with the GOP and the Democrats. Typically, they have to have significant funds to get any sort of presence (notable non-GOP/Democrat candidates in previous elections include Ross Perot and Ralph Nader).

There can be numerous reasons for a candidate dropping out of the race to become the nominee for their respective party. For example, the candidate might have failed to raise enough funds to campaign effectively. Another reason is that they have had poor ratings in opinion polls and they feel that there would be no point going any further. Early dropouts from this campaign are Tommy Thompson, Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo.

One reason for all of the early dropouts being Republicans could be that GOP approve most applications to be a presidential candidate. With the Democrats, they have a stricter system and don't approve an application unless they consider the person to have a realistic chance.

The campaigning has been relentless and I've noticed there seems to be a significant focus on funding (this link shows you the current funding levels for each candidate). I can understand this - more funding means you can afford more campaigning resources. However, the chosen GOP and Democrat candidates should not be decided on the money that they raise. It should be about policies.

That's why I was pleased to see Mike Huckabee finish top of the GOP caucus poll in Iowa as he isn't the biggest Republican fundraiser by quite a large margin. People have said this some of his success could be because of his religious beliefs and the fact that there is a highly influencial evangelical section of the US population (that point is mentioned in this article and also notes that Huckabee is a Southern Baptist minister).

One of the other GOP candidates, Mitt Romney, has a much larger amount of funding and finished second in the poll - 9% behind Huckabee which is quite a substantial difference. The former governor of Massachusetts (left the position on January 4th, 2007) was considered by many to be the front runner.

Another candidate who was supposed to be one of the favourites is Rudy Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York. He only got 3% of the vote and finished second bottom (ahead of Duncan Hunter). One problem I have with Giuliani's campaign is that he focuses on 9/11 too much. One person described it as '9/11 Tourettes'! It might have been an incredibly significant moment in modern US history, but it happened 6 1/2 years ago. He needs to comment more on other important issues, such as healthcare and the national debt. Yes, there should be talk about getting the US troops out of Iraq (how Bush linked Iraq to 9/11 is still beyond me), but it shouldn't be his only issue.

As for the Democrats, a few different prospects were offered. You could have the first woman President or the first black President. While it is good to see women and people from the black community entering the race, I don't think their gender or colour shouldn't be commented on so much or be the deciding factor. It should be about policies. However, in politics this is not always the case.

The Democrats seemed to be more focused on getting the troops out of Iraq, which will definitely please a lot of people - especially those families who have relatives that are in that particular country.

In the Iowa caucuses, it became clear that it's a three horse race to become the democrat candidate:
  1. Barack Obama: 929 (38%)
  2. John Edwards: 738 (30%)
  3. Hillary Clinton: 728 (29%)
  4. Bill Richardson: 52 (2%)
  5. Joe Biden: 23 (1%)
  6. Uncommited: 3 (0%)
  7. Chris Dodd: 1 (0%)
  8. Mike Gravel : 0 (0%)
  9. Dennis Kucinich: 0 (0%)
The only shock with the top three is that Hillary Clinton finished third - previous polls suggested she'd be one of the top two. The doesn't seem to be much coverage of Bill Richardson's campaign at the moment. If the results from this caucus are repeated in the New Hampshire primary, I doubt he'll continue campaigning for much longer.

I thought Biden and Dodd would have got larger percentages of the vote, but as they haven't I can understand why they've ceased campaigning (see this and this). I don't think that Gravel and Kucinich will stay around for much longer either.

When events such as this take place, I am thankful for the internet's existence. The BBC TV news and other news organisations in Britain only mention the big/recognisable names, so you don't get a complete picture of what's going on. They never seem to cover things such as the remarkable funding successes of Ron Paul, or his unique policies.

Without the internet, I wouldn't have heard about Paul, Brownback, both Thompsons, Hunter, Tancredo, Kucinich, Richardson, Biden, Dodd or Gravel. Even after the Iowa caucus result, they barely mentioned John Edwards despite him finishing ahead of Hillary Clinton. I think they might have even mentioned Clinton more than the winner of the caucus - Barack Obama!

There also seems to be much more coverage of the Democrats. Maybe the people making the TV news think they have a greater chance of getting a candidate into the Whitehouse. That is not for them to decide though - they should give balanced coverage of both parties and allow the viewers to make up their own opinions. The internet might also have it's fair share of opinions and bias, but you can always look at multiple resources to get a more balanced view.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: USA, Politics, Election, Republicans, Democrats