Computer models predict Obama victory

This is interesting.

Using computer forecast models, political scientists predict Sen. Barack Obama will win the popular vote presidency over Sen. John McCain on Nov. 4. Of course, the winner of the popular vote does not always win the presidency; it is the Electoral College that picks the winner.

Here’s the full press release from the American Political Science Association:

Forecast models developed by prominent political scientists, some made as much as nine months ago, predict a victory for Senator Barack Obama over Senator John McCain in the two-party contest for the popular vote in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

Obama is predicted to win an average of 52% of the vote with an 80% probability that he will gain more than half the total two-party popular vote. Six out of the nine presidential election forecasts predict an Obama victory with popular vote totals ranging from 50.1% to 58.2%, while two predict a race too close to call and one predicts a narrow McCain victory.

All of the predictions appear in an election-themed symposium in the October issue of PS: Political Science and Politics, a journal of the American Political Science Association (APSA). The forecasts are based on different combinations of statistical and historical data and differ in their complexity and how far in advance their predictions were made.

The earliest forecast was made 294 days in advance while the latest was made 60 days before the election; however, all were made before the Wall Street financial crisis of the past few weeks.

Together these forecasts use a range of approaches and indicators that are critical to understanding national electoral processes and the dynamics at work in U.S. presidential elections.


Realtors spend $500,000-plus on McNerney

The Hill newspaper in Washington, D.C., reports that the National Association of Realtors has now spent $510,000 advocating for Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, who faces challenger Dean Andal, a Republican from Stockton.

The PAC is supporting a mix of Republicans and Democrats. Per The Hill:

The PAC, which spent the second-most on congressional independent expenditures in 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, has already eclipsed its involvement from that cycle, spending nearly $4 million combined in seven battleground districts this year …

The PAC has also spent significant money this cycle on Democratic Reps. Jerry McNerney (Calif.) and Ciro Rodriguez (Texas) and former Rep. Al Wynn (D-Md.).

It spent $200,000 last week on Rodriguez, who is trying to hold his western Texas seat against Bexar County Commissioner Lyle Larson (R), and has spent $510,000 on McNerney, a freshman facing Republican Dean Andal.

Click here for the full story.


McNerney produces his first TV ad

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton

Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton has produced his first TV campaign ad although it appears he is also using it as a fundraising tool.

Click on the link to the ad and his web site asks you to donate in order to “keep this positive message on the air.”

The ad opens with a shot of a sweating, hard-working man and leads up to McNerney talking about his push to make college more affordable, his support for middle-class tax cuts, his call for an investigation into price gauging at the pumps and his drive for federal investment into renewable energy development.

It’s all true although his demand for a state investigation into price gauging at the pumps is a stretch. The demand consisted of a letter McNerney sent to California Attorney General Jerry Brown who apparently put it in the bureaucratic round file. Counties in California inspect the accuracy of gas pumps and there’s no evidence to suggest that pumps are wildly out of whack.

Dean Andal of Stockton, Republican nominee for Congressional District 11

Dean Andal of Stockton, Republican nominee for Congressional District 11

Congressional challenger Dean Andal, a Republican from Stockton and a former member of the Assembly and Board of Equalization, called the ad a bunch of hot air.

“Mr. McNerney’s claims are all hot air – enough to turn a wind turbine,” Andal said in a press release. “Not only did Mr. McNerney oppose new domestic drilling, he cast the deciding vote to adjourn Congress for five weeks at the height of the crisis. Instead of supporting efforts to reduce fuel prices, he went on vacation.”

It’s true that McNerney opposes opening up more domestic sources of oil and natural gas. The Democrat says the oil and gas companies already have plenty of areas under lease they could develop.

“Vacation” suggests that the members are all lolling about on the beach drinking rum out of pineapples (okay, that’s my idea of vacation) when, in reality, McNerney and other members with competitive races back home spent most of their time campaigning, fundraising and doing constituent work. On the other hand, plenty of people criticized Congress’ decision to take its annual, five-week summer break when energy and economic issues face Americans.

But it’s silly to suggest that McNerney was the “deciding” vote for adjournment. The vote was 213-212. Under Andal’s argument, every single one of the 213 members of Congress who voted to adjourn was the “deciding” vote.


California flunks political courage test

Project Vote Smart, a Montana-based nonpartisan group, released results today of its California “Political Courage Test” but contain your anticipation: Half of the state’s congressional candidates refused to answer the questions and two-thirds of legislative candidates declined.

A decade ago, candidates came under considerable political and public pressure to respond to the test. But as fewer and fewer candidates participate, the incentive has rapidly disappeared. The media rarely cover it, either — there’s no news in questions that no one answers.

Today, political consultants consistently advise their clients to stay clear of answering the test on the grounds that it will restrict their campaign messages and serve as fodder for nasty mailers. (It’s a set of questions on a broad range of issues: click here to see the site and the questionnaire.)

Some East Bay candidates did fill it out, though. Here’s a list of the candidates you can look up on Project Vote Smart’s web site and see how they answered the questions:

Congressional District 7: William Callison, Peace and Freedom; Camden McConnell, Libertarian; Roger Petersen, Republican. (Incumbent Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, did not participate.)

Congressional District 9: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Charle Hargrave, Republican; James Eyer, Libertarian

Congressional District 10: Nicholas Gerber, Republican; Eugene Ruyle, Peace and Freedom. (Incumbent Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo, did not participate.)

Granted, none of the incumbents in these races will face a viable opponent on Nov. 4.

But in the most contested congressional district in California and one of the top five targeted races in the United State, neither candidate participated including incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, and Dean Andal of Stockton. In McNerney’s 2006 campaign, foes used some of his answers in campaign literature.

Among the East Bay legislative candidates, Assembly District 15 candidate Joan Buchanan, a San Ramon Democrat, responded did not respond. (It’s unclear whether or not her Republican opponent, Abram Wilson of San Ramon, responded. His name does not appear in either the “willing” or “unwilling” lists.)

Sen. Tom Torlakson of Antioch, who is running for Assembly District 10, declined to participate as did his Republican challenger, Elizabeth Hansen.

NOTE CORRECTION THIS MORNING: An astute reader found my mistake in the reference to Joan Buchanan. Project Vote Smart sent out a “willing” and “unwilling” to participate list and I was looking at the wrong heading. My apologies. It was, however, a simple error and not a conspiracy.


‘Mom, he won’t debate me!’

GOP congressional candidate Dean Andal of Stockton (pictured on left) continues to press Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, for face-to-face debates.

Andal’s campaign sent out a letter this afternoon titled “Local Leaders for Open Debate” signed by esteemed officials — and Republicans — including Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren Rupf, Walnut Creek Councilwoman Sue Rainey, Danville Councilwoman Karen Stepper and retired Pleasanton police chief Bill Eastman.

“This is just another slap in the face to voters,” Rupf was quoted saying in the press release. “First, Mr. McNerney refused to debate Dean Andal in an open forum …”

Sheriff Rupf is an admirable elected official (who carries a gun, so I try to be really nice to him) but this is pure politics, folks.

There’s no evidence that McNerney has turned down any specific requests to debate.

Instead, Andal’s camp says McNerney didn’t answer in kind the challenger’s letter calling for a series of debates. Gee, how rude of McNerney not to reply to a letter that was sent out to the media. Maybe McNerney should have sent candy and flowers, too.

But it is true that incumbents often put off debates until late in the campaign and keep them to a minimum. It denies the challenger the free media coverage and reduces risks of a misstatement by the incumbent. It also denies voters the time and opportunity to hear from both the candidates face-to-face. Continue Reading


McNerney outraises opponent; Andal steps up his pace

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, (pictured on the far right) continues to outraise GOP challenger Dean Andal of Stockton (pictured on the immediate right) in one of the most competitive congressional races in the nation.

McNerney raised $2.1 million for his re-election as of June 30, according to federal campaign finance documents filed today. Andal amassed $829,000 in the same time period.

Click here to read McNerney’s report to the Federal Election Commission.

Click here to read Andal’s report to the Federal Election Commission.

The men are running in congressional District 11, which stretches from Danville to Morgan Hill, through the Tri-Valley and into Tracy and western and central San Joaquin County. (Click here to see a map of the district.)

Taking advantage of his incumbent status, McNerney has successfully collected cash from party and political action committees totalling about a third, or $768,000, of his contributions.

Andal has also harnessed the financial power of such groups, reporting contributions of $254,000 or slightly less than a third of his contributions.

The Republican challenger’s viability came under fire earlier this year when his fundraising numbers were lackluster for a major race.

But Andal raised $171,000 in the last reporting period, a nearly tenfold increase over the prior one. Andal spokesman Richard Temple said the Republican has four times more cash on hand than McNerney had at this point in the congressman’s successful 2006 race against then-Rep. Richard Pombo.

Andal reported $663,038 in the bank as of June 30 compared with $1.4 million for McNerney.

Despite the cash gap four months before Election Day, both men are expected to have plenty of money in a contest that national political experts and the two parties consider one of the top five most competitive congressional fights in the country. There’s also no way to know at this point how money special interests groups such as business and environmental organizations will spend independent of the candidates.