Rick Santorum just tied Mitt Romney in the Iowa Caucuses last night, which is hilarious for dear old Mittens. What's even more hilarious (and you're probably aware of already), is that whenever you search for Rick Santorum in Google or Bing, the website spreadingsantorum.com is usually featured in the top few results. If a concerned conservative (or liberal) voter tries to learn about Rick Santorum's policy platform or Rick Santorum for president, or even Rick Santorum's family values, said voter is instead subjected to a mental association likely to hurt Santorum's chances of winning the Republican nomination and the White House. And that is a problem for America. Why? Because spreadingsantorum.com isn't the top result. But we can fix that. This post contains a handful of keywords and phrases Santorum needs to own if he's going to direct curious voters from Google or Bing to Santorum-friendly websites. This post probably needs more (and should probably contain hostile keywords Santorum will likely buy in order to bury spreadingsantorum.com in search results), and you can add them by editing the post when you reblog it. Which you should probably do now. Go to work, Internets. via Geoff Barnes.
Finding Fame With a Prescient Call for Obama
At 9:46 p.m., blogging on his site FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver called the presidential election for Barack Obama. The television networks followed suit about an hour and 15 minutes later after most polls in Western states closed.
Of course, Mr. Silver had a head start: he had forecast that Senator Obama would beat Senator John McCain back in March.
In an election season of unlikely outcomes, Mr. Silver, 30, is perhaps the most unlikely media star to emerge. A baseball statistician who began analyzing political polls only last year, he introduced his site, FiveThirtyEight.com, in March, where he used his own formula to predict federal and state results and run Election Day possibilities based on a host of factors.
Other sites combine polls, notably RealClearPolitics and Pollster, but FiveThirtyEight, which drew almost five million page views on Election Day, has become one of the breakout online stars of the year. Mr. Silver recognized that people wanted to play politics like they played fantasy baseball, and pick apart poll numbers for themselves instead of waiting for an evening news anchor to interpret polls for them.
FiveThirtyEight is “among the very first things I look at when I get up in the morning,” said Allan McCutcheon, who holds the Clifton chair in survey science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “He helped make sense of some of the things that didn’t seem sensible.”
Mr. Silver has also become an in-demand analyst, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, “The Colbert Report” and Fox News.
“From a marketing standpoint, I’d rather hedge a little bit more,” he said, “but we’re the ones who are bold enough and are stupid enough to say what the polls translate to.”
He spent election night in a small studio inside the Newseum in Washington, as an on-air analyst for “Dan Rather Reports” on HDNet. During the campaign, Mr. Silver had learned a thing or two about television polish: he smoothed his hair, ironed his jacket, applied Visine drops and dabbed on concealer before a “hit,” as he had learned to call it.
This was his second television booking of the day, and a producer from “The Tonight Show” had called earlier. A makeup artist brushed on powder and a producer yelled into a cellphone as Mr. Silver sat sideways at his computer, his elbows splaying from his keyboard at angles that would alarm an ergonomist, squinting at Excel spreadsheets.
Mr. Silver has believed in numbers the way authors believe in words, as capable of expression and provocation, since he was young.
He “was a numbers fanatic,” said his father, Brian Silver, a political science professor at Michigan State University.
“When we took him to preschool one time, we dropped him off, and he announced, ‘Today, I’m a numbers machine,’ and started counting,” Brian Silver said. “When we picked him up two and a half hours later, he was ‘Two thousand one hundred and twenty-two, two thousand one hundred and twenty-three...’ ”
By kindergarten, he could multiply two-digit numbers in his head. By 11, he was conducting multivariate analysis to figure out if the size of a baseball stadium affects attendance (it doesn’t). By age 13, he was using statistics to manage a fantasy baseball team. When his parents refused to buy him computer games, he taught himself the Basic programming language and created his own.
He graduated from the University of Chicago in 2000, and was working for (and bored by) the accounting firm KPMG when he began messing around with baseball statistics. He tried to predict players’ performance based on their similarity to players from the past, like Bill James, a pioneer in baseball statistics, had done. But unlike Mr. James, Mr. Silver adjusted for body type, including factors like height and weight, discovering, for example, that taller pitchers age better.
He built a predictive system called Pecota around that, and sold it to Baseball Prospectus, a statistical organization, in 2002, staying on as a writer and consultant for the company. For the 2007 season, he correctly predicted the White Sox would lose 90 games. And for the season that just concluded, he predicted the longtime basement-dwelling Tampa Bay Rays would be a top team.
“I think everybody in our field is pleased and proud to see Mr. Silver’s work in political analysis taken seriously, and I’m sure that analysis is shaped to some extent by the ways of thinking that have been developed in our field,” said Mr. James in an e-mail message. “It’s a vicarious pride, much as one takes in the performance of the old school’s football team.”
Late last year, Mr. Silver, an Obama supporter, became frustrated with how primary poll results were being reported, and how sloppy polls and rigorous polls were given the same attention.
“What you heard on television was, Hillary was inevitable, she’s up 20 points,” he said. “She’s up 20 points because people had heard of her. They hadn’t heard of Obama.”
Mr. Silver posted his speculations on the liberal Web site DailyKos.com, and earned attention when he projected Senator Obama would win 833 Super Tuesday delegates, which was within about a dozen of the actual vote estimates.
He began feeding a database with every poll available, from the University of Akron to Zogby International, state demographics and election results from 1952 forward. He weighted all the polls on historical accuracy, and adjusted them for whether they tended to favor Democrats or Republicans and other factors, then built a model that simulated elections.
He began to see patterns, like leads in polls over the summer should be discounted, or a shift in opinion in North Carolina usually moves with one in Virginia.
In March, he introduced FiveThirtyEight.com, and it quickly became a go-to site for readers whose interest in raw numbers had grown after the close (and miscalled) elections in 2000 and 2004. As his reputation grew online — there’s a Facebook group called “There’s a 97.3 Percent Chance That Nate Silver Is Totally My Boyfriend” — the mainstream media he disparaged for sloppy reporting came calling.
Political predictions are “big this year because of Nate Silver,” said Sam Wang, who runs the rival site Princeton Election Consortium. “He loves discussing the details of the data, and his commentary is quite good. He’s made this hobby mainstream.”
Between his live TV appearances on election night, Mr. Silver updated his model and determined around 8 p.m., after New Hampshire went to Senator Obama, that Senator McCain had no way of winning. By the end of the night, Mr. Silver had predicted the popular vote within one percentage point, predicted 49 of 50 states’ results correctly, and predicted all of the resolved Senate races correctly.
The show ended at 1 a.m., and minutes later producers outside Mr. Silver’s studio were celebrating and popping Champagne corks. A crew member started to dismantle the desk where Mr. Silver was still examining data.
“You don’t have to go home, but we’ve gotta take your desk away,” the crew member said.
“O.K., just let me post this,” Mr. Silver said, narrowing his eyes at the screen.
One thing Mr. Silver cannot predict: what happens now. He suspects that Nov. 4 was the height of his popularity, and that producers will not be phoning as frequently any time soon. Publishers have been calling about a book, and he will continue with FiveThirtyEight, using it to predict Congressional votes during the Obama administration — if anyone cares.
“That’s the paradox,” he said. “You would think that you elect this guy and you want him to effect change, and then he gets elected, and people don’t care about bills being passed.”
Newsweek has done a 7 part, very lengthy series of articles written from behind-the-scenes information gathered by their embedded reporters from within the various candidates' campaigns. They were given great access but had to agree to not write about any of it until after Election Day. Below are links to the 7 chapters of this awesome documentary of words.
I mentioned earlier today that it was quite a thing to see John McCain denouncing Barack Obama for breaking his word on public financing when McCain himself is at this moment breaking the law in continuing to spend over the spending limits he promised to abide by through the primary season in exchange for public financing. (By the FEC's rules, we're still in the primary phase of the election and will be until the conventions.)
I want to return to this subject though because this is not hyperbole or some throw away line. He's really doing it. McCain opting into public financing, accepted the spending limits and then profited from that opt-in by securing a campaign saving loan. And then he used some clever, but not clever enough lawyering, to opt back out. And the person charged with saying what flies and what doesn't -- the Republican head of the FEC -- said he's not allowed to do that. He can't opt out unilaterally unless the FEC says he can.
The most generous interpretation of what happened is that McCain's lawyer came up with an ingenious legal two step that allowed him to double dip in the campaign finance system, eat his cake and spend it too. But even if you buy that line, successful gaming of the system doesn't really count as strict adherence. And the point is irrelevant since the head of the FEC -- a Republican -- says McCain cannot do this on his own.
Like everything that has to do with campaign finance, the details are a little ... well, detailed. But they're worth understanding.
AP reports that Clinton will report about $30 million in debt, $11 million of it to herself, and that she'll seek Obama's help in clearing it.
That's a lot of money.
A few notes here: First, she's under no personal obligation to pay it off. The debt belongs to her committee, not to her personally, and if she wants to run again, she can start another committee. But if she doesn't clear it, it'll make fundraising and dealing with vendors much harder on a future run, and generate quite a bit of ill will.
Second, Obama can't pay it directly. He can ask his donors to help. There's a question of whether they'll balk at the $11 million that would go directly back into the Clintons' pockets.
Third, Clinton is able to conduct a kind of trade. She has her own massive fundraising machine, and can now point it in Obama's direction — though many of her donors will go that way with or without her urging.
Also: Expect Clinton to do a lot of fundraising for Senate and House candidates this cycle, another way to cement her place as a leader of the party.
Jeanne Cummings does the math:
• If each of Obama’s donors gave him a modest $250, he’d have $375 million to spend during the two-month general election sprint. That’s $186 million a month, $47 million a week.
• During the same September to Nov. 4 period, McCain will have about $85 million to spend, since he has decided to take taxpayer money to help finance his campaign activities.
• The Republican National Committee, which is charged with closing the gap between McCain and Obama, has $40 million in cash. Obama raised almost as much — $31 million — from just his small donors in the month of February. His total for the month, $57 million, exceeded the RNC’s cash balance.
• Obama has more than 1.5 million donors; McCain has a few hundred thousand. If just a million of Obama’s donors sent him the maximum donation, $2,300, he could raise $2.3 billion.
Barack Obama was campaigning last October in South Carolina when he got an urgent call from Penny Pritzker, the hotel heiress who leads his campaign's finance committee. About 200 of his biggest fund raisers were meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, and among them, near panic was setting in. Pritzker's team had raised money faster than any other campaign ever had. Its candidate was drawing mega-crowds wherever he went. Yet he was still running at least 20 points behind Hillary Clinton in polls. His above-the-fray brand of politics just wasn't getting the job done, and some of his top moneymen were urging him to rethink his strategy, shake up his staff, go negative. You'd better get here, Pritzker told Obama. And fast.
Obama made an unscheduled appearance that Sunday night and called for a show of hands from his finance committee. "Can I see how many people in this room I told that this was going to be easy?" he asked. "If anybody signed up thinking it was going to be easy, then I didn't make myself clear." A win in Iowa, Obama promised, would give him the momentum he needed to win across the map — but his backers wouldn't see much evidence of progress before then. "We're up against the most formidable team in 25 years," he said. "But we've got a plan, and we've got to have faith in it."
More than seven months later, that faith has been rewarded. The 2008 presidential campaign has produced its share of surprises, but one of the most important is that a newcomer from Chicago put together by far the best political operation of either party. Obama's campaign has been that rare, frictionless machine that runs with the energy of an insurgency and the efficiency of a corporation. His team has lacked what his rivals' have specialized in: there have been no staff shake-ups, no financial crises, no change in game plan and no visible strife. Even its campaign slogan — "Change we can believe in" — has remained the same.
How did he do it? How did Obama become the first Democratic insurgent in a generation or more to knock off the party's Establishment front runner? Facing an operation as formidable as Clinton's, Obama says in an interview, "was liberating ... What I'd felt was that we could try some things in a different way and build an organization that reflected my personality and what I thought the country was looking for. We didn't have to unlearn a bunch of bad habits."
When Betsy Myers first met with Obama in his Senate office on Jan. 3, 2007, about two weeks before he announced he was forming an exploratory committee to run for President, Obama laid down three ruling principles for his future chief operating officer: Run the campaign with respect; build it from the bottom up; and finally, no drama. Myers was struck by how closely Obama had studied the two campaigns of George W. Bush. "He said he wanted to run our campaign like a business," says Myers. And in a good business, the customer is king. Early on, before it had the resources to do much else, the campaign outsourced a "customer-service center" so that anyone who called, at any hour of the day or night, would find a human voice on the other end of the line.
Meanwhile, Obama's Chicago headquarters made technology its running mate from the start. That wasn't just for fund-raising: in state after state, the campaign turned over its voter lists — normally a closely guarded crown jewel — to volunteers, who used their own laptops and the unlimited night and weekend minutes of their cell-phone plans to contact every name and populate a political organization from the ground up. "The tools were there, and they built it," says Joe Trippi, who ran Howard Dean's 2004 campaign. "In a lot of ways, the Dean campaign was like the Wright brothers. Four years later, we're watching the Apollo project."
Even Obama admits he did not expect the Internet to be such a good friend. "What I didn't anticipate was how effectively we could use the Internet to harness that grass-roots base, both on the financial side and the organizing side," Obama says. "That, I think, was probably one of the biggest surprises of the campaign, just how powerfully our message merged with the social networking and the power of the Internet." But three other fundamentals were crucial to making Obama the Democratic nominee:
A Brave New Party
In most presidential elections, the Iowa caucuses are an anomaly. Competing there is a complicated, labor-intensive undertaking that, once finished, is cast off as an oddity and never repeated. But in 2008 it became for Obama the road test of a youth-oriented, technology-fueled organization and the model for many of the wins that followed. It was also a challenge to history. The iron rule of Iowa had always been that caucusgoers tended to look the same year in and year out: older people, union households, party stalwarts — just the kind of folks who would seem more inclined to back Clinton or John Edwards — trudging out into the cold night for a few hours of political conversation. Instead, Obama saw the Iowa caucuses as a chance to put a stake through Clinton's inevitability. "Mission No. 1 was finishing ahead of Hillary Clinton in Iowa," recalls Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. "If we hadn't done that, it would have been hard to stop her."
But counting on new voters had proved disastrous for Dean in 2004. The Obama campaign knew that it would have to build a network of Iowans rather than supporters brought in from other parts of the country, says Plouffe, but "we didn't have to accept the electorate as it is." At bottom, Obama built a new party in 2008. It was difficult. Not until the morning of the caucuses did the campaign reach its goal of 97,000 Iowans pledged to support Obama that it thought it would need to win. Then came the real question: Would these people show up?
Show up they did, shattering turnout records. Obama prevailed with a surprising eight-point margin over Edwards, who came in second. Obama counts Iowa as his biggest victory, the one that foreshadowed the rest. "Voters under 30 participated at the same rates as voters over 65. That had never happened before," the Democratic nominee says. "That continues to be something I'm very proud of — how we've expanded the voter rolls in every state where we've campaigned. I think that means we can put into play some states that might normally not be in play."
The Iowa playbook, as everyone now knows, hasn't always worked. In Texas, for instance, the grass-roots operation counted on more African-American voters than actually turned out. In California, organizers expected more young voters. But while Obama rarely managed a clean win against Clinton in the big states — the ones that will count most in the fall — he kept winning delegates even when he lost primaries. By April, it became almost mathematically impossible for Clinton to catch him.
The Key-Chain Campaign
Atlanta businessman Kirk Dornbush has raised millions of dollars for the Democratic Party and its candidates over the past 16 years. Before campaign-finance laws banned unregulated soft money, he recalls, there were times he walked around with six-figure checks in both pockets of his jacket. But these days, he does much of his fund-raising in a much humbler fashion: selling $3 key chains and $25 T shirts at Obama rallies. At the first merchandise table Dornbush set up for a Georgia event, "we were just completely sold out," he says. "There were lines of people. It was unbelievable."
Dornbush's experience explains the second fundamental change Obama has brought to politics: his campaign was built from the bottom up. Even fund-raising, once the realm of the richest in politics, became a grass-roots organizational tool. At nearly every event this year, Team Obama set up little tabletop trinket shops, known as "chum stores" because all those little Obama-branded doodads aren't only keepsakes; they are also bait. Every person who buys a button or hat is recorded as a campaign donor. But the real goal of the chum operations was building a list of workers, supporters and their e-mail addresses.
A similar innovation came in fund-raising. Normally, it is only the big donors who get quality time with a candidate. But Obama devoted far more of his schedule to small-dollar events. In Kentucky, the month after he announced his run for President, the first such effort quickly sold out all 3,200 tickets at $25 a head — and produced the beginning of a local organization. "It's the difference between hunting and farming," says Obama moneyman Matthew Barzun, 37, the Louisville Internet-publishing entrepreneur who arranged the event. "You plant a seed, and you get much more."
Obama uses a different frame of reference. "As somebody who had been a community organizer," Obama recalls, "I was convinced that if you invited people to get engaged, if you weren't trying to campaign like you were selling soap but instead said, 'This is your campaign, you own it, and you can run with it,' that people would respond and we could build a new electoral map." The chum stores, the e-mail obsession and the way Obama organizations sprang up organically in almost every congressional district in the country meant that by the time Obama's field organizers arrived in a state, all they had to do was fire up an engine that had already been designed and built locally. "We had to rely on the grass roots, and we had clarity on that from the beginning," says Plouffe.
By contrast, the Clinton campaign, which started out with superior resources and the mantle of inevitability, was a top-down operation in which decision-making rested with a small coterie of longtime aides. Her state organizers often got mixed signals from the headquarters near Washington. Decisions from Hillaryland often came too late for her field organization to execute. Obama's bottom-up philosophy also helps explain why he was able to sweep the organization-heavy caucus states, which were so crucial to building up his insurmountable lead in pledged delegates. What was not appreciated by many at the time: while Clinton spent heavily in every state she contested, Obama's approach saved money. Says Dean-campaign veteran Trippi: "His volunteers were organizing his caucus victories for free."
Obama Means No Drama
The team that Obama put together was a mix of people who, for the most part, had never worked together before but behaved as if they had. Some — like chief strategist David Axelrod and adviser Valerie Jarrett — came from Chicago and had advised Obama in earlier races. Axelrod's business partner Plouffe had worked in former House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt's operation; deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand, who oversaw the field organization, had come from former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle's. Daschle's former chief of staff Pete Rouse served that same role in Obama's Senate office, from which the candidate also brought aboard communications director Robert Gibbs, who had briefly worked for John Kerry. Obama tapped the business world as well, filling key operational posts with executives who had worked for Orbitz, McDonald's and other firms.
And yet, Obama says, they all had the same philosophy. "Because I was not favored, that meant that the people who signed up for this campaign really believed in what the campaign was about. So they weren't mercenaries. They weren't coming in to just attach to a campaign," he explains. Temperament mattered too. "It was very important to have a consistent team," Obama says, "a circle of people who were collaborative and nondefensive."
Like the team around Bush, Obama's is watertight. Leaks are rare, and for all the millions Obama has raked in, Plouffe keeps a sharp eye on where it is going. Consider the salaries: Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson was paid almost twice as much in a month — $266,000 went to his firm, according to her January campaign filing — as the $144,000 that Obama paid Gibbs for all of last year. Obama staffers are expected to double up in hotel rooms when they are on the road and are reimbursed by the campaign if they take the subway (about $2) to the downtown-Chicago campaign headquarters from O'Hare International Airport but not if they take a cab (about $50). Volunteers are asked to take along their own food when they are canvassing.
How will a team that has been living off the land fare against the kind of GOP operation that was so effective at turning out the traditional Republican base in 2004? John McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, flatly declares that what got Obama the nomination "is not a general-election strategy" and contends that Obama's operation will be weak against McCain's crossover appeal in such states as Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nevada.
Maybe so, but compared with McCain's, Obama's operation has been a model of efficiency — and executive function. Obama has already changed the way politics is practiced in America — and he is poised to keep doing so. After delivering his dramatic victory speech in St. Paul, Minn., Obama walked offstage and spent the next 45 minutes signing dozens and dozens of his books that had been brought to the Xcel Center by admirers. When he finished, he happened to see fund raiser Dornbush and told him, "Enjoy the celebration tonight." Then Obama took a few steps, turned around and added, "But it's right back to work tomorrow."
The Associated Press weighs in with another big one (and with a bit of luck on the news orgs' part, this one will turn out to be accurate)...
Barack Obama effectively clinched the Democratic presidential nomination Tuesday, based on an Associated Press tally of convention delegates, becoming the first black candidate ever to lead his party into a fall campaign for the White House.
Of course, the AP's track record today leaves something to be desired. But put that aside for a sec.
The key to understanding how the AP reached its conclusion is this from later in the piece...
The AP tally was based on public commitments from delegates as well as more than a dozen private commitments. It also included a minimum number of delegates Obama was guaranteed even if he lost the final two primaries in South Dakota and Montana later in the day.
The AP is including over a dozen super-dels who privately indicated to the news org that they will ultimately back Obama, should the contest continue, but haven't said so publicly. Not everyone counts private commitments; the Obama campaign, for instance, only includes publicly declared supporters in its super-delegate tally.
So this isn't an official clinching of the nomination, obviously. And indeed, it's really a no-brainer that Obama has reached the magic number when you factor in private commitments. It's highly likely that far more than a dozen have privately signaled support for Obama.
UPDATED 11:55 AM - Before I even finished writing this post, the AP and CNN have both changed their stories due to Clinton top aides denying this.
FINALLY!!!!!! The day has arrived where facts finally overrule spin!
Clinton set to concede delegate race to Obama
By BETH FOUHY, Associated Press Writer 5 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - will concede Tuesday night that has the delegates to secure the Democratic nomination, campaign officials said, effectively ending her bid to be the nation's first female president.