Monday, October 20, 2008

How close- or far- is this thing?

There's a bit of chatter this week about how the presidential race is tightening. It's a fair question, but what I've really been wondering is whether Obama was ever as far ahead as he seemed. Last week I remember reading about how some people at the networks were already thinking about an early election night, one in which it would be almost immediately apparent that Obama had won. It's easy to see why. Obama is way ahead nationally and leads in pretty much every swing state. He's even threatening McCain in traditionally Red territory like North Carolina and Indiana. Seems like this thing is over and done with.

The problem with this view is that electoral votes are, generally, an all or nothing affair. Obama might do unbelievably well in North Carolina, Indiana, West Virginia and Colorado, but that doesn't he'll actually beat McCain in any of these places. If he doesn't, that will bring the race back to traditonal swing states like Ohio and Florida, where things look more like a normal election. For instance, McCain has respectable, if not necessarily winning, support in Ohio. In other words, Obama's unprecedented strength in Red states could be great as fodder for political discussions and yet still be totally ineffective in terms of actually winning the election. Anyway, what do you all think? Just paranoia?

Franken's Got Map-Skills

In my continuing effort to promote the cool idea that Al Franken may soon unseat Norm Coleman for one of Minnesota's senate seats, I bring you a video of Franken drawing the continental US free hand. I found it via Digg, and a more extensive post on geography and Franken's drawing sills is available on the blog Parenting Squad. The Parenting Squad post sources Greg Laden for the story behind the drawing skills:
This [skill] stems from a bar bet Franken made some years ago in which he claimed to be able to name all fifty states. When he got to the end, the count was only 49, and there was no way to remember which state he had accidentally skipped. So he decided to learn how to draw a map of all 48 states so he could keep track.

A few friends from my study abroad trip to Rome used to razz a friend of ours who went to Waldorf Schools growing up about the fact that his alternate education should have endowed him with innate map-skills useful in any situation. Marky did, indeed, have quite a bit of cleverness... but I don't think his map skills were quite Franken-esque.

Mom, Dad, do you have a minute? We need to talk.

My friend Evelyn sent this clever little spot my way last week and it took me a couple days to post it up, but check out a nice little bit of advertising from my friends over at Makes me think of the famous, "I learned it from watching you!" anti-drug advertisement from back in the day.

Weekend Wrap-Up: Rachel Maddow, Endorsements, etc.

I've got a deep fondness for Rachel Maddow, and as she grows a bigger name on the national stage as a political pundit/voice in the national cable news blab-o-thon my respect for her grows. I think she's an interesting, playful, powerful and smart voice from the left, but I also think she represents the best possible version of progressive politics, an often polite, rarely shrill yet still strong, passionate and clear voice driven by a strong set of values. This last piece is important to me, as someone who has always identified his liberal bias as built off a foundation of values and as someone who has struggled with the right's easy ability to seemingly own the term "values" in the national debate.

This weekend the New York Times ran a nice piece profiling the private side of Maddow. It's a nice read for anyone who seeks balance in their life, since it depicts a rising star in the chattering class who counter-balances her life on a state in NYC with a quieter weekend existence 190 miles away in the woods of Mass. Maddow is a liberal lesbian who drives a pickup, takes her dog to the dump on Saturday mornings, and seeks out odd-ball art like the squirrel statue you see on the right. The questions the NYT posed were well chosen, including the following:
Worst thing about Obama: He’s measured to a fault. He is so calm and cool and collected that sometimes I want to know what he feels.

Best thing about McCain: He’s very funny...

Obsession: Loose nukes. I literally lie awake and worry that we haven’t paid attention to some of the real national-security threats that are out there.

Favorite item in house: The house mostly reflects Susan’s style, but I have to put my stamp on things. Once, I found a sculpture of a big, fat squirrel holding a reflector. You’re supposed to put it at the end of your driveway. We have it near the kitchen table; it’s the house mascot.
Meanwhile, back out on the trail, Obama's camp was celebrating Colin Powell's endorsement. We've written a couple things about that development already so I wont' dwell on it, except to raise a sad and strange little related news bit. The McCain campaign countered Sunday's endorsement with an email blast to reporters touting an endorsement of their own:
"As a Hispanic-American, I understand how important this election is for Hispanics," said Katie Barberi, a Telenovela actress currently on Telemundo's Dona Barbara. "We need a leader who can lower taxes, protect small businesses, and increase job creation nationwide. I have no doubt that John McCain appreciates the important role Hispanics play not only in the economy, but in our nation's culture as well...
Wow... um... so there you have it folks... two little tidbits that tell you a bit about how the weekend went. Seriously, I can't muster anything to say about this Telemundo Telenovela star's endorsement... except, "wow."

Oh, and the Tampa Bay Rays won the honor of going up against the Phillies in this year's World Series. Should be a good series, although I don't know how well it will do ratings-wise.