The London Olympics isn't the only venue for world-class sport this year. Political gold is waiting to be won in November, and the only way to grab the top U.S.A. medal is to master Electoral College math. It is both deceptively easy and maddeningly complex. A candidate has to accumulate 270 votes in a tiny universe of 538, but those 538 will be generated by 130 million votes cast in 51 separate entities. A game that looks like checkers is really multi-dimensional chess.
Three of the four candidates for the Republican presidential nomination -- Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul -- might soon agree with T.S. Eliot: for them, April may indeed be “the cruelest month.”
And just when we thought we weren’t going to have any big Snowe storms this year, the decision by…
Eh, enough with the Snowe puns.
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) shockingly announced her retirement on Tuesday night, which greatly frustrates Republican efforts to win back the Senate. This was a race that Snowe almost certainly would have won: She and her moderate Republican colleague, Sen. Susan Collins, are institutions not only in the U.S. Senate, but also in the Pine Tree State. Despite grumbles to her left and right, Snowe would have been very difficult to defeat in a primary or general election.
Phew! The sound you hear is the loud sigh of relief from the Romney campaign. A great deal was on the line for Mitt Romney in the oddest of places -- the state of his birth, the state where his dad served as governor, the state he won against John McCain four years ago. A few months ago, no one could have imagined Mitt Romney being hard-pressed in Michigan, and yet it happened.
Real votes make clear what polls cannot fully pick up. The Republican election season has been shaped by two forces, other than the obvious one to oust President Obama. First, the strongest potential candidates did not enter the fray, and the remaining contenders do not satisfy most GOP voters.
The moon over Miami was a blue moon for Newt, a bad moon rising for Gingrich. This moon’s shine was all for Mitt Romney, illuminating a moon river that seems set to eventually carry Romney to the Republican presidential nomination.
Could Mitt Romney have scripted a better opening to campaign 2012?
First, he squeaked to victory by eight votes in Iowa -- or so the preliminary tally would suggest. Then he managed to meet expectations in New Hampshire with 39.3% and secured his preferred second place finisher, Ron Paul (23%). His main challenger in Iowa, Rick Santorum, finished far back at 9.4%.
With the Iowa caucuses only five days away, we at the Crystal Ball wanted to suggest some possible electoral scenarios that could play out next Tuesday and beyond. Because we love history, and because the past is often prologue, each scenario has some historical precedent:
The Senate’s curious and byzantine rules and traditions are well explained in Robert Caro’s Master of the Senate, part of his sprawling, multi-volume biography of Lyndon B. Johnson (the fourth volume is scheduled to be released next year). Johnson, through his own cunning and ruthlessness, was arguably the most powerful Senate leader ever, as he bent the supposedly uncontrollable upper chamber to his will.
Over the decades, in every fourth year, we have noticed a tendency to close out the presidential nominating contest before the voting has even begun. There is a little of this impatience on display in 2011, too. It is only natural since the campaigns are nearly eternal. "Enough already!" many seem to be shouting.
Straw polls, real polls, debates, caucuses and primaries — these comprise the public side of presidential campaigns 14 months before Election Day. But behind the scenes, strategists for President Obama and his major Republican opponents are already focused like a laser on the Electoral College.
The recent decision by ex-Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) not to seek the seat of his retiring colleague, Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl, was a big moment for Republicans because it gave them yet another clean shot at a Democratic-held Senate seat. Feingold, still popular despite his reelection loss last year, would have been a favored quasi-incumbent had he run. Instead, his decision is just another piece of miserable news for Democrats in this cycle's race for the Senate.
President Obama has found himself in the cellar for the first time since taking office: He fell to 39% in Gallup Poll tracking over the past weekend. Obama may or may not have a month or months when his average is below 40%. Still, it is a number that has already imprinted itself on the mind of the political community.
Tonight marks the third televised debate of the 2012 campaign for the Republican contenders, and by far the most important one yet. It's not that the audience in Iowa or on TV will be enormous in the midst of August vacations and summer doldrums.
Although the calendar for gubernatorial elections in the 2011-2012 cycle is relatively light since most of the action in statehouse races occurred last year, several notable contests are developing for this November and next. States such as Indiana, Missouri and North Carolina, which happen to have been the three closest states in the 2008 presidential election, could see competitive races for governor in 2012, and two off-year elections -- in West Virginia and Kentucky -- will test Democrats' strength in deeply Red states.
As we take a fresh look at next year's Senate races, one thing is clear: Barring an unexpected reelection landslide by President Obama, Republicans are at least slightly favored to take the Senate. It's just a basic matter of numbers.
Right now, first-term Rep. Rick Berg (R-ND) looks likely to be elected to the Senate seat left open by the retirement of Kent Conrad (D) in November 2012. The Crystal Ball wondered: How rare is it for someone to get such a fast elevation from the House to the Senate? (We realize some House members will insist it is a demotion.) We've scoured the records and identified nine members of the Senate in this category. Only senators in office sometime in the previous 50 years were included.
With 18 months to go until November 2012, there is exactly one use for a current projection of the 2012 Electoral College results. This is merely a baseline from which we can judge more reliable projections made closer to the election. Where did we start--before we knew the identity of the Republican nominee for president, the state of the economy in fall 2012 and many other critical facts?