Saturday, October 04, 2008

McCain: The Final Level of Desperation

It looks like John McCain is moving to the third level of desperation in his efforts to pull ahead of Barack Obama in the presidential election.

Of course, McCain's first level of desperation was launching the race-baiting "Celeb" ad back in July. Was that just two months ago? How time flies.

Unfortunately for McCain, attack ads don't have that long of a shelf life and the "Celeb" ad was pretty much forgotten during a strong Democratic convention. In response, McCain moved to the next level and nominated the unprepared Sarah Palin for vice-president. There was a certain cynical beauty to the Palin nomination as McCain came to a final decision that he realy didn't care whether his VP candidate was qualified at about the same time he was making "Country First" his big campaign theme.

Maybe patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.

But the Palin magic only lasted a couple of weeks and now Obama's stretching out to 7 and 8 point leads in the daily tracking polls. As a result, there's some indication that McCain's going to make the second presidential debate into National "William Ayres Day" in honor of the former Weatherman who Obama sort of knows from some education projects in Chicago.

That's Desperation Level No. 3.

But there's still more than four weeks to go and McCain hasn't come close to reaching the outer edge of his desperate longing to be president.

One sign that McCain has reached the final level of desperation when he does something really off the wall. And there's lots of examples of off the wall. Right-wing conspirarcy theorists were convinced that Bill Clinton was a serial killer. Maybe the McCain campaign will start accusing Obama of being the culprit in unsolved murders around the Chicago areas. There have to be hundreds of unsolved murders since Obama moved to Chicago. Can Obama prove that he wasn't involved in any of them? What about Obama's marital fidelity? Doctored photos of Obama on Muslim prayer rugs?

The field's wide-open for hair-brained accusations and John McCain could prove to be just desperate enough and unprincipled enough to make them.


When claiming that Rich Lowry wrote the single most embarrassing item I've ever read, I forgot that Jeff Goldstein has started writing again for the right-wing blog Protein Wisdom.

Here's the latest nugget from Goldstein (quoted in full).

Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, abridged, 33 (classical liberal edition)

The bike with the biggest seat carries the most riders; but the bike with the best seat worries about only one.

Goldstein is such a rare talent! Just ask him.

My apologies to Lowry.

The Most Embarrassing Thing I've Ever Read

There's water-carrying and then there's water-carrying. Here's Rich Lowry of the National Review slobbering over Sarah Palin:
Projecting through the Screen
A very wise TV executive once told me that the key to TV is projecting through the screen. It's one of the keys to the success of, say, a Bill O'Reilly, who comes through
the screen and grabs you by the throat. Palin too projects through the screen like crazy. I'm sure I'm not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, "Hey, I think she just winked at me." And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America. This is a quality that can't be learned; it's either something you have or you don't, and man, she's got it.
Say what you want about Rush Limbaugh, but I've never heard Limbaugh sink nearly this low.

A Little Stretch in Obama's Lead

The four daily tracking polls out so far today have Obama up by an average of 8. I like that, but there are several cases of the Bradley Effect where African-Americans have gotten 10% less of the vote than indicated by the polls.

I won't feel very comfortable until Obama is ahead by 12%. Of course, he is ahead by 12 in the Research 2000/Daily Kos tracker.

Personal Matters

No blogging day. Yesterday was a rare day without blogging for me. I just couldn't wrap my brain around the Biden/Palin debate again.

The Piano Lesson from Hell. I started with a new piano teacher yesterday. The bottom line--he's really good, I'm really nowhere. I've got to start over with my scales and trying to get my stubby little fingers to play legato. Damn.

Papers to Grade--A tough weekend ahead. I've got 50 papers to grade, about 5 pages apiece on average. Given that I assign take-home essay exams, I have no one to blame but myself. As I noted before, the papers themselves look good. About a third of them would be "A" papers anywhere in the country.

A Great Day--It's a crisp, cool autumn day outside. I don't think there will be the usual spectacular fall colors this year. It's too dry. But I still love the turn toward cooler weather. It crackles with energy.

The Month Ahead--I don't know about anybody else, but I'm looking at two grant applications, revising an article, a couple of job applications, and finishing the government faculty's response to the audit. By the time my sabbatical starts in mid-December, I'll be thoroughly fried.

Campaign Contributions--I've decided to take the big step of contributing $100 to the Obama campaign. Everybody should dig deep for Obama. Money is one of Obama's real advantages and we should help all we can. I need to ask Mrs. RSI before I go through with it though.

Onward and Upward!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Liveblogging Palin/Biden

I'm here in Rader Hall on the beautiful campus of Morehead State University and live-blogging the vice-presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.

Contrary to most commentators, I believe that Sarah Palin has to do more than be an appealing kind of working mom/politician.

Actually, a lot more.

As a vice-presidential candidate, Palin needs to be able to formulate John McCain's positions in an attractive and appealing manner. That's not an altogether easy thing to do. McCain's positions on domestic issues like tax policy, health care, immigration, and social security are not very attractive positions. McCain himself has trouble staying consistent. But Palin needs to show that she understands McCain's positions, formulate those positions in terms of principles, facts, and anecdotes, and be charismatically winning.

Who knows? Maybe she'll do great. But it's a tall order for someone who has a relatively hard time focusing on anything outside Wasilla, Alaska.

Paramaters. I have a hard time seeing how Palin helps McCain. Let's say she beats Biden on points. What does that do for McCain? I'm not even sure she helps McCain even if she scores a knockout punch. Biden's not in that much of a position to help Obama either.

9:03--First gaffe by Gwen Ifill who got the failure of the bailout legislation wrong.

9:04--I like the way Biden starts out in talking about the bailout legislation. He's talking about what Barack Obama thinks--not what Joe Biden.

9:05--Palin starts out by talking about how afraid everybody is about the economy. Not bad. She's talking about McCain making bipartisan efforts.

Both of the candidates make decent starts. Palin is avoiding most eye contact. Oooh--she winked at the camera.

9:09, Ifill asks about the sub-prime legislation. Palin talks about greed and corruption on Wall Street. One of the strange things about Palin is that she talks about the American people, hockey moms, and Wall Street as though it all existed in another country. Her efforts to "connect" give me the impression of her being separate from all that and artificial and off-putting as a result. I'm sure that part of the problem here is Palin's semi-Canadian accent. Another element no doubt is a lifetime of isolation in Alaska.

9:11, Biden connects McCain's position on deregulation in health care to deregulation in Wall Street.

9:12, Palin on Biden voting for the largest tax increases in American history. That's something that will come back to haunt her. Republicans routinely call Bill Clinton's tax hikes the largest in history, but I think Ronald Reagan's tax increases in 1982 were the biggest.

9:14, Biden and Palin really going at it. Excellent. Palin's bragging about not answering the question and it kind of works.

9:15, Biden is smiling too much when Palin is talking. I'm smiling a little bit too. But it looks condescending when Biden does it.

9:16, Bidens' doing well on middle-class tax cuts. Palin making a kind of weird response, but she's smiling while Biden talks. I guess it's okay if they both do it.

9:18, Palin on McCain's health care plan. McCain's got a horrible plan. Let's see how Biden responds to the health care issue. Yes! Biden hits McCain for taxing health insurance to pay for $5,000 tax credit. McCain's health care as the "bridge to nowhere." I like "Road to Nowhere" better. But McCainCare is nowhere no matter how you put it.

9:21, Biden is getting out too many numbers. He's getting garbled and confusing. He's also talking too fast for even the fastest typing blogger. Palin is getting tied up in some of her numbers as well.

9:23, No greed in Alaska? Palin's not going to cut it with that one. What 2005 energy plan?

9:25, Joe Biden using Palin against McCain on a windfall profit tax bill. It turns out that Palin enacted the same kind of windfall profits tax on oil that Clinton wanted. Go-o-o Joe!

9:26, If the debate stays relatively even like this, Obama is going to win. A vice-presidential tie goes to Obama even if McCain gets to breathe a lot easier.

9:28, Joe Biden is a little better on his facts even if he trips over them every once in a while. But Palin isn't being that cute and adorable either.

9:29, Palin goes back to energy but it's not very compelling. Biden's kind of nodding at Palin. That's good.

9:30, Palin's kind of confusing on climate change. She deosn't want to argue about the causes. She wants to "effect the impacts." Palin has a lot of odd little ways of speaking that are off-putting in that way. She wants to deal with "planet change." It's not that Palin's terrible, but she's also not a natural at this kind of political slugging.

9:32, Biden is making nice little pivots that highlight a lot of the weaknesses in McCain's positions. Biden emphasizes that McCain's voted 20 times against funding alternative energy technology.

9:34, Senator O'Biden?

9:36, Biden comes out fairly strong on equal rights for gay people. That's not the same thing as gay marriage. Palin claims to be "tolerant" of gay people. What a big favor!

9:38, Biden doesn't support gay marriage. Nor does Obama. I already knew that, but it's still disappointing.

9:39, Biden's teeth are so blindingly white it's scary. I have to give Palin credit for not overdosing on tooth whitener. Score two points to Palin for not blinding me with dazzlingly white teeth.

9:40, Onto Iraq. Palin is saying that McCain has a plan for withdrawing. Palin is doing pretty well with the details of things. She trips a little, not probably not as much as most people. Certainly not as much as me. Talking smoothly about complex issues to a camera is a relatively rare talent.

9:42, Palin's getting a little weak and looking at her notes as she talks about foreign policy. Now she's stumbling over the question of withdrawing Iraq. Here she's showing herself as more of a Triple A player than a Major Leaguer.

9:43, Biden got the last word on Iraq--excellent.

9:46, Biden is sounding really good on the dangers coming from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

9:47, Palin is very ineffective when she looks down in her notes while discussing foreign policy.

9:48, Palin talks about "America, our freedom, our democracy" as if America were a foreign country.

9:50, Biden is very effective talking about the need for negotiation with Iran and other enemy countries--in comparison Palin sounded very much like she was a Triple A politician again.

Still, the VP debate is a hell of a lot better than the presidential debate. They're not dodging, they're not insulting--they're debating. The quality of the debate is high.

9:53. Joe Biden is good on the failures of the Bush administration. Actually, he's better than either McCain or Obama.

9:55, Palin: every administration "makes mistakes and we'll learn for it. "
Change is coming."

Biden is tough on the similarities between McCain and Bush on Middle Eastern policy.

9:56, Now Palin is talking about "our planet" as though it's a foreign place. Maybe Palin is taking the Martian view.

9:58, Biden on Afghanistan: "Facts matter" as he emphasizes that the commanding general in Afghanistan concludes that the surge principles from Iraq won't work in Afghanistan.

9:59, Palin responds on Afghanistan--not quite convincing but far from terrible as well.

10:01, Joe Biden makes his first mispronunciation gaffe--The Bosniaks? But he's good on genocide in Darfur.

10:03, Palin hits Biden on voting for something before he was against it.

10:05, I'm feeling pretty good. Joe Biden is doing a really good job and he's helping Barack Obama by not hurting him.

10:06, Palin's not that strong on tying Biden to John McCain.

10:07, Ifill asking about Biden as president in the case of Obama dying--Biden's good on carrying on the Obama legacy.

10:09, She winks again.

Winking is just not very good. Nobody's feeling good enough for a winking politician at this point.

10:11, "Say it Ain't So Joe." Biden's wife is getting "her reward in heaven." These are the most painful Palin moments for me. But there will probably be more.

10:12--Her children as "public school participants." It's like the whole world and everyone in it is foreign to Palin. Maybe it's a way of speaking. Maybe it indicates a deep kind of isolation.

10:15--Biden would be the legislative point man for the Obama administration in Congress. That's a good idea.

10:16. Palin is setting herself up for a big fall by talking about the "flexibility of the office of the Vice-President."

10:17--This is predictable. Biden is hitting that weak idea on the vice-presidency out of the park.

10:18--Palin has a connection with the "heartland of America." But she doesn't seem well-connected as she's saying it and she's getting aggressive in her testimony to "tolerance."

10:21--Biden chokes up a little--

The debate is now starting to slow down a little. The debate has been successful. It's time to put this baby to sleep.

Palin's repeated the "maverick" mantra so many times that it's losing value.

I'm beginning to think that Biden is going to marginally help Obama. Palin's going to help McCain by not hurting him nearly as much as everybody said she was.

It's been an excellent debate and it's helped both sides.

It will be interesting to see how the polls evaluate the VP candidates as people. I think that Biden comes off as being real while Palin is oddly disconnected although she's doing well.

But I'd like to see if other people think the same way.

Palin's certainly happy with herself as she stares into the camera waiting for Obama to finish.

This time both candidates did bring their "A" games. It was sort of a surprise that Palin had an "A" game.

VP Debate at Nine: MSU Debate Watch in Rader 112

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Palin/Biden Rumble

The debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden is tomorrow night. I'm rather surprised that I haven't seen anything on this theme yet, but John McCain's candidacy might be riding on Palin's performance.

That's not hyperbole. That's a fact.

Obama's been pulling ahead in most polls and has a 5.3 lead in the RealClearPolitics poll average. If Palin's debate performance is as bad as her interview with Katie Couric, voters will view McCain's decision to nominate her as evidence of McCain's poor decision-making skills. A disastrous performance by Palin puts McCain even further behind the 8-ball in the polling.

It's not that hard to see Palin doing well, but

The Sarah Palin/Miss Teen RSI Challenge

Sarah Palin could only name one Supreme Court case--Roe v Wade. Could 14 year old Miss Teen RSI uphold her father's honor and name more than one?

Yes! Miss Teen RSI could name Roe v Wade and Brown v Board of Education. But that was it.

Pretty disappointing all in all.

But still better than Sarah Palin.

Gwen Ifill on Obama's Tire-Swing

Michelle Malkin is saying that Gwen Ifill can't do an objective job of moderating tomorrow's vice-presidential debate because she's done some puff work on Obama.

Give me a break.

Ifill is the senior political reporter for PBS and she got that way by being just as generically affable and good looking as Gloria Borger, Judy Woodruff, and John King. Glenn Greenwald's right about all of them being in the tank for the Beltway, Village, or elite consensus of the moment. As the host of Washington Week in Review, Ifill is totally non-descipt. She formulates her questions in terms of the highly skilled blandness that gets people noticed by publishers. She says nothing challenging, provocative, or even mildly out of the ordinary.

In other words, she's an empty pantsuit who could just as well be in John McCain's tire swing as she is in Barack Obama's tank.

McCain Campaign May Have Gotten It

John McCain is down 6-8 in the polls and the Palin/Biden debate is tomorrow night. But there's no attention grabbing negative ads, no bold campaign manuevers, and no stop the presses political stunts coming out of the McCain campaign today.

At least so far.

It looks like McCain's campaign geniuses might finally stop outsmarting themselves and just let Palin debate Biden straight up.

That would be a welcome development.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Palin: Not Just Uninformed--Remarkably Uninformed

Who knows how the debate is going to go on Thursday. Palin might clean Biden's clock for all I know.

But the Katie Couric interviews demonstrate that Sarah Palin is remarkably uninformed for a politician. It's obvious that Palin doesn't read newspapers or follow national politics and policy debates at all. For that matter, I would bet that she doesn't watch television news. Liberal blogger Digby doesn't think she's absorbed right-wing talking points from talk radio or Fox either.

Actually, I'm pretty sure that Miss Teen RSI (14) has more knowledge of public affairs than Palin.

Dick Morris' Obamacentric Election Map

Dick Morris is a Fox Commentator, a very smart political operator, and an all round creepy kind of guy. And not necessarily in that order.

He's also created the most Obama-optimistic map I've seen.

My apologies for the fuzziness of my cut and paste job. But the essentials are easy to see. The dark Blue states are solid Obama, light blue leaning Obama, dark red states solidly McCain, and the light red states leaning McCain. The yellow states are toss-ups.

The big development is in the toss-up category. North Carolina is no surprise. Several maps now have North Carolina as leaning Obama. Go Tar Heels. West Virginia isn't that much of a surprise either. But I was shocked to see Morris list Arizona, Louisiana, and Tennessee as toss-ups. And it was almost as shocking to see South Carolina and Georgia as "leaning McCain" rather than strong McCain.

What this map means is that the Solid Republican South is breaking up around McCain. With Florida gone (at least according to Morris), Virginia and North Carolina going, and Tennessee and Louisiana as toss-ups, Morris is posing McCain as a declining force everywhere in the South except Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama.

If I'm a Republican looking at the Morris map, I would be horrified. What Morris is implying is that the only "base" that the Republicans can count on is the deep, deep Confederacy, the Plains States, and some of the Mountain States.

As Morris observes, there's only 133 electoral votes in that base.

So what's happening to McCain?

To put it in a nutshell, McCain is driving voters in a number of (perhaps soon-to be-former) Red States toward Obama. McCain adapted conservative policies to win the nomination and started running a hyper-aggressive campaign to keep voters from drifting to Obama.

But now the combination of unpopular policies and constant aggression appears to be driving many voters to Obama instead.

And McCain is driving voters to Obama in states he thought he could count on.

Making the Grade

One of the irritating things about being a college professor is the endless whining by colleagues about the quality of student work. In the spirit of protest, I thought I'd mention that the first two take-home essay exams I graded tonight were just terrific.

I almost always feel like I'm getting good work from Morehead State University students and I often feel that I'm getting excellent work. But these essays were especially well done.

Back to grading. I'm trying to get ten papers read tonight so I don't have so much to do over the weekend.

Did Lack of Earmarks Kill the Bailout?

One technique that House leadership has traditionally used to corral votes for unpopular legislation is the earmark. In exchange for a reluctant "yes" vote from a member in a state like Texas, House leaders from Tip O'Neill to Tom DeLay would either put projects for that district in the bill or promise them projects in a later bill.

This kind of exchange is completely unethical--actually it's bribery.

But it did get a lot of legislation passed.

If Pelosi and Boehner didn't think they could do earmarks in the $700 billion bailout, that might be one of the reasons why it failed.

Personally, I'd rather pay for a lot of earmarks than an economic depression.

Pork Anyone?

Monday, September 29, 2008

On Other Matters

Unfortunately, Miss Tween RSI is subject to migraines. She's been getting them off and on for three years now and had another one tonight. Poor kid.

Failure, Shock, and Incoherence in Washington

The picture coming out of Washington now is one of failure, shock, and incoherence.

Failure. The most obvious failure is that the big bailout package was rejected by the House of Representatives this afternoon. The vote was 228 nays and 205 yeas.

The significance of the bailout defeat goes beyond the legislation in question. The U. S. has a fragile political system that depends on strong centralized leadership to function. As the system has become more strained by the rise of popular conservative movements, Congress has become more reliant on centralized leadership to perform almost any kind of task. Reponsibility for important legislation has gradually been taken out of committee and sub-committee hands and centralized with the party leadership. This has been true in both the Republican and Democratic Parties. The bailout legislation was not generated out of the Financial Services Committee. It was negotated primarily by Barney Frank as a representative of Nancy Pelosi. When Roy Blunt joined the negotiations, he was there as a representative for Republican leader John Boehner.

As a result, the defeat of the bailout package is not just a failure for the current Democratic and Republican leadership of John Boehner. Instead, it's a system failure of the organizational model that's been developing in Congress since at least the early 1980's when Tip O'Neill began to centralize leadership functions in his office as a response to the Reagan Revolution.

Congress is taking off for the Rosh Hashanah holiday on Tuesday and Wednesday. It's probably a good thing that the leadership of both parties has a couple of days to think about how they're going to breathe new life into a dysfunctional political system.

It won't be easy.

Shock. Unsurprisingly, the human consequence of the failure of the familiar leadership-oriented way of doing business is that everyone is in shock. The biggest shock is that Pelosi and Boehner's leadership failed on such a big issue and that's a shock that's felt by everyone. Of course, the leadership itself and the Representatives who voted with the leadership would be shocked. The House leadership has powerful tools for winning votes (whip system, committee assignments, earmarks, and campaign contributions) and has been very successful over the last ten years whichever party is in power. The fact that the leadership has failed NOW of all times must be a shock to those who have been generally supportive.

But the Democrats and the Republicans who voted against the legislation are probably also in shock. For a number of liberal Democrats and right-wing Republicans, this will be the first time one of their protest votes actually succeeded in killing a big piece of legislation. Big success can be just as big a shock to those involved as big failure.

Incoherence. As a result of the failure of the House leadership system and general shock throughout the House membership, there is very little that's coherent coming out of the House of Representatives right now. Everybody's pointing fingers--Democrats, Republicans, presidential candidates, pundits, and bloggers--but I haven't seen any coherent ideas on how the House of Representatives can move forward to put together a legislative package that can successfully address the current financial meltdown.

According to McClatchy:

Neither the House nor the Senate will vote Tuesday because of the Jewish New Year, but the Senate could debate the measure. No one, though, could say what might emerge as consensus legislation, or when.

Chairman Frank couldn't say if leaders will try to tweak the bill that failed or come up with a new, easier-to-explain plan.

"That's a question we have to address," said Frank."

"I don't know that we know the path forward at this point," said
House Republican leader Boehner.

And the meltdown continues. American bankers still aren't lending to each other and don't appear to be making short-term business loans either. That's a situation that can't go on for long without the entire economy beginning to seize up because of a lack of money.

The question then is whether the leadership and membership of the House of Representatives can recover from their shock and confusion soon enough to pass financial legislation before the current market panic turns into system-wide economic failure.

Unfortunately, the answer to that is very much unknown.

The Big Bailout Goes Down!

It's hold your breath time.

The big $700 Wall Street bailout package was just defeated in the House of Representatives by a 228-225 margin. I haven't seen vote totals but the initial stories indicate that Democrats didn't like it any better than Republicans.

The Dow Jones Average has already gone down 600 points on the news of likely defeat. It will be interesting to see if it goes down further.

Anybody who knows what's going to happen next should give me a call.

btw--I would have voted for the legislation. Having done some research on popular culture during the 1837-43 depression, my opinion is that we should go to great lengths to avoid depressions.

Update. The partisan breakdown from Greenwald via Kos was "140 Dems for, 95 against, and 65 Rs for, 133 against." Greenwald has an excellent critique of the legislation. If the oversight function, checks against CEO abuses, etc. are as weak as Greenwald claims, the legislation deserved to be defeated.

What Happened to Bruce Springsteen?

Oh no! Bruce Springsteen's agreed to perform at halftime of the Super Bowl. Mrs. RSI takes this as a sign of the apocalypse and wonders if fire is going to rain down from the skies as the Boss cranks out "Born to Run". Does this mean that Springsteen's getting old, that he's just another Britney Spears (whose Super Bowl appearance was Awesomely Aweful), or that he's decided that the game's so boring that he might as well play? Maybe he just needs the cash. I hear 401 k's aren't doing that well these days.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tired Candidate After the Debate

Running for president is a GRIND!!! Here's a spent looking Obama after the debate.

Could McCain be the First Bradley Effect President?

The race for president is getting to an interesting kind of point in relation to racial politics.

Barack Obama has pulled ahead by 5-8 points in the most recent tracking polls. Obama got a boost this week as a result of McCain's wretched gambits to "suspend his campaign," demand that the presidential debate be delayed, and interfere with negotiations on the bailout. But the trend toward Obama has been developing for about three weeks. Obama plowed ahead in his steadily charismatic kind of way, while John McCain lost his footing as persistent questions about the Palin nomination and his own misstatements about the prime minister of Spain and the financial meltdown put him on the defensive.

There's even more reason for Obama to be optimistic over the next week. Tracking polls like Rasmussen and Gallup have generally shown Obama as having less of a lead than ABC, CBS, the Los Angeles Times, and Newsweek. As TNR reports, it's reasonable to expect that polls will come out next week with Obama in double-digit leads.

Then there's the Bradley Effect.

The Bradley Effect is named after Tom Bradley, the African-American mayor of Los Angeles who lost to George Deukmejian in the governor's race despite having a substantial lead in the polls going into the election. In elections involving Bradley, Douglas Wilder, David Dinkins, and other black candidates, up to 10% of white voters will say that they're voting for African-American candidates to pollsters but still aren't willing to vote for them.

There is some argument that the Bradley Effect diminished in the 2006 election, but there's also a chance that the symbolic significance of electing the first black president might bring the Bradley Effect back into play. There's already reports that Obama might lose 6% of the total vote because white Democrats aren't willing to vote for a black person for president. What if other whites feel the same way but aren't willing to express those sentiments to pollsters.

Now that Barack Obama's lead is expected to climb into the 6-10 point range, he's entering the "Bradley Zone." This is where Obama could lose the election even though the polling showed him with a statistically significant lead (for example, Gallup's margin of error is 2%).

Let's say that Obama maintains a 6-8 point margin up to election time. That would set up a unique kind of choice for the American electorate. Either Barack Obama would become the first African-American president or John McCain would become the first "Bradley Effect" president.

Let McCain Be McCain

Conservative columnist Mona Charen writes that the McCain campaign should liberate Sarah Palin to be herself.
. . . the McCain team is roping her off from the press and surrounding her with Bushie advisors, which sounds like the third ring of hell. She’s a talented politician, Bill [Kristol] advises, so let her out to do what she is good at doing. I think Bill is mostly right.
I wholeheartedly agree that having "Bushie advisers" is like being in the third ring of hell. But wouldn't McCain's own Bushie advisors like Steve Schmidt have to free John McCain first?

Biden Should Worry About Himself

Over at Daily Kos, "risk communications specialists" Peter Sandman and Jody Lanard advise Joe Biden to openly discuss the ethical dilemnas posed by debating someone as uninformed as Sarah Palin.

Talk about disastrous.

What Biden should do is very clear. Most importantly, Biden should worry about his performance rather than Palin's. Biden should focus on making the Obama's campaign's points about the financial meltdown, Afghanistan, Iraq, and health care in as clear, distinct, and personable way as possible. That's his main job. If he wants to obsess over someone's weaknesses, Biden should obsess about his own tendencies to over-verbalize and get away from his main point.

Representing the lead candidate's views in an attractive way is the most important job of any vice-presidential candidate. Biden should focus on making sure he does that job well.

But what about Palin?

Well, what about Palin? Why should Biden focus on her at all? McCain's the guy running for president?

That's why Biden should focus primarily on McCain. When Biden's critical, his focus should be on being critical of McCain rather than Palin. When he disagrees with Palin, he should explain his disagreement as a disagreement with John McCain's policies. When he thinks Palin is saying something dangerous, Biden should explain why McCain would be such a dangerous president.

So what does Biden do when Palin has a huge flub that reveals her ignorance?

In most circumstances, nothing.

In other words, Biden shouldn't comment on the embarrassment at all. He should just express his opinion on the issue and outline his disagreement with Palin. If the circumstances do call for correcting Palin on facts, Biden should just correct her without trying to make her look worse.

If Palin is going to self-destruct, she won't need any help from Joe Biden.

Biden has other things he needs to worry about.

Creating an Office of New Markets

Newsweek has an informative article on the credit default swap market which started out as a new technique for allowing capital to be invested and ended up as the $62 trillion unregulated market--the "monster that ate Wall Street."

Some people never learn. Stanford economist Darrell Duffie responded to a question about outlawing credit default swaps by claiming that "the financial engineers will just come up with something else that gets around the regulation." Of course, this is the old conservative cliche that reform will never work because the corporations will always figure out new ways to shaft people.

But it might end up being pretty easy for the government to regulate capital markets.

All Congress would have to do is create an Office of New Markets in the Security and Exchange Commission or Federal Reserve Board that keeps an eye on new types of financial instruments and keeps Congress informed of the innovations--like credit default swaps--that threaten to destabilize the marketplace.

Obviously, there would be a lot of ways to try to get around that regulatory framework, but the connection of such an Office to Congress would make it possible to hold Congress responsible for markets that got out of hand.

That way, new regulations can be brought on-line as the impact of new financial strategies becomes clear.

Yet Another Bailout Agreement

There was yet another announcement of a bailout agreement last night.

Everybody wins.

The Bush administration got $700 billion to buy up bad debt.

The Democrats got their conditions for approving such a massive bailout. These include phasing in the money $350 billion at a time, getting options to purchase stock in companies, limitations on CEO salaries, and homeowner relief.

For House Republicans, a token "insurance provision was added as an alternative to having the government buy distressed securities."

The Bush administration and the Democrats thought the deal was important because it would avert a depression. The House Republicans wanted to show that they're still barely relevant. But caring more about their standing as a party then the economy is an indication that they deserve to become even less relevant to national policy-making.

And the House Republicans will be less relevant after the Republicans lose more seats in November.

But the person who probably was single-most driven to get a deal was Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

As a result of the financial crisis, McConnell's numbers have been sinking like a stone against his clueless opponent Bruce Lunsford. McConnell wanted a deal before years of representing the Republican Party rather than Kentucky finally caught up to him.

It would be overly generous to characterize Lunsford as a "potted plant" candidate who just kind of sits there doing nothing. Potted plants have more spirit and tenacity than Lunsford has been showing this fall.

But McConnell and Lunsford are now tied at 41% and it will be interesting to see if the bailout deal helps McConnell or not.