free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ... taking an imposing analytic toolkit out of the box, over the wall and into the street ... with callous disregard for accepted wisdom and standard English

reading tea leaves from original angles, we've led with uncannily prescient takes on the federal surplus, the dotcom crash, the "Energy Crisis", the Afghan campaign, the federal deficit.

More where those came from ... stay tuned.

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All "major" articles of older material have now been imported, some with updates worth perusing. We'll keep it all on the main page for a while, will add a few loose pieces of history, will trim the main page and index the archives for convenience later.


free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ...
... gateway to the next Progressive Era?
Some say it's nothing but a train wreck ... roll in the big cranes, clear the track, see what the crew was smoking. If I thought so, I'd not be writing this ... and if they thought so, they'd not be drumming so hard.

Many thanks to Tony Adragna and Will Vehrs, still shouting 'cross the Potomac at QuasiPundit. Early Camp Enron material can be found in QP's Dispatches department.
Monday, November 04, 2002

--- Election Outlook 2002, State by State ---

A commentary grab bag, pertaining to the Senate contest unless noted otherwise. Apologies if I found your state uninteresting.

Alabama. No big race here except for Gov, where GOP may beat out an incumbent Dem. Just a convenient place to note that Gov's matter ... setting agendas, test-flying policy innovations, fund-raising, appointing replacements for dead Senators (about one a year). Remember, the political landscape would look radically different today but for Paul Coverdell's untimely death and Georgia's Governor of the opposite party. Over all, 2002 is a boom year for Dem Gov's ... just in time to enjoy budget disaster (most states can't borrow, they have to spend reserves or cut spending ... and tax revolters already ate their way through most states' prudent reserves). Bonus points for capturing the majority of states (Dems narrowly favored), setting agendas at National Governors Conferences and such.

Alaska. A peculiar state ... a vast expanse of public land represented exclusively by government-bashers. A cold state ... without cheaper, cleaner (alternative) energy it has no economic future, but today's economy is the oil economy. Its Congressional delegation is set on expanding the present and preventing the future. Murkowski is in a toss-up race for Gov ... if he wins, he gets to appoint his own Senate replacement. A chance to wheel a deal, but he'd have to resign, leaving a GOP seat open for a brief interval in the lame duck session.

Arkansas. Character issues terminate yet another professional Clinton-basher. Dem pickup.

California. Notable for lack of interest. 53 House races, only one contest (Condit's old seat). A serious malfunction in small-"d" democratic data flow.

Colorado. The most badly-represented state? One incumbent is a novelty act Republican with a pony tail and a Harley. The other incumbent is derided as "Senator Dullard" even by prominent voices on the Right. If Dem challenger Strickland was any ball of fire, he'd be way ahead. How does this happen in a resourceful realm like CO? Something broken in the farm system? A stuckfault along the usual cityfolk/countryfolk divide? With both candidates polling low 40's, look for Allard's leaners to break Libertarian, Strickland's to break Democrat. Dem pickup.

Florida. "Jeb!" has breathing room after McBride took a good run at him. [A good test of polling and turnout models if it comes out the other way around.] McBride mishandled a debate question on funding class-size limitations, and mishandled the ensuing spin war. Jeb got away without answering the same question (and still refuses to answer). McBride never got back on message, i.e., Jeb's bungling ... a case study in big races turning on small occasions. The real drama -- vote count fiascos, dirty tricks, erroneous purges of qualified voters (using the same bogus purge lists as 2000). GWB loses either way -- big embarrassment if Jeb loses, an endless stream of little embarrassments if Jeb stays in office.

Georgia. Incumbent Max Cleland is running scared from Republican Saxby Chambliss "you're no Zell Miller" campaign. On a fair representation basis, GA should have one Zell and one not-Zell ... the not-Zell would be Max. Chambliss ran an effective race, probably no change but an early evening indicator of major trends in turnout and sentiment.

Illinois. Dems coming on strong statewide, with big futures, but GOP Gov candidate is coming back from way behind.

Iowa. Liberal Tom Harkin cruises to a win. In the House, multiple swing seats up for grabs. Iowa did the only redistricting of this 10-year census cycle that was NOT calculated to preserve incumbents. Result: multiple interesting races in non-gerrymandered swing districts, and potentially more electoral "signal" from IA than the next 49 states combined.

Kansas. Dem favored in Gov race, going boldly where no Dem has gone in a good long while.

Louisiana. Is this a great country or what? No primary, everybody in the general election pool, top two finishers go to a 12/7 run-off if nobody gets 50%. Dem incumbent Landrieu survived 3-against-1 tag team debates, is a toss-up to break 50% and a favorite in the run-off. Shenanigans beaucoup but no change with or without run-off.

Massachusetts. Gov's race is a squeaker ... Romney (R-MA/UT) one of my three "great nominee, terribly candidate" picks. (Others were Liddy Dole and Lamar Alexander.)

Minnesota. I figure "memorial service blowback" plays bigger nationally than locally ... it's a story custom-made for the mediatarian Kool Kidz Klub. Minnesotans understand, they'll do the right thing for Paul. Ventura stepped in it himself by appointing a Senate replacement out of pique during the Coleman-Mondale debate. The oxymoronic "Independent Party" is in rapid decline, which may torpedo Tim Penney's bid for Gov. Coleman looked strong in debate, probably dominating the "time of possession" statistic, but still an edge to Mondale.

Mississippi. A fun incumbent-vs-incumbent House grudge-match. Dem Ronnie Shows has been the piont man in holding GWB's feet to the fire over veterans benefits. Chip Pickering is a Trent Lott protege in the WorldCom orbit. (Senate nixed Chip Sr.'s judicial appointment.) The district was designed (with GOP judiciary support) to eliminate Shows ... now the Chip is ahead by a mere sliver. Trent Lott is favored to retain the Minority Leader position (confounding my earlier change-of-horses prediction), for reasons I may never understand.

Missouri.Two-year incumbent Carnahan remains unproven but promising, after coming into the job cold with a competing agenda of grieving for her life partner of many decades. I like Carnahan -- likely a better Senator than candidate. Challenger Talent is a champion of Gingrich "neat ideas" so lame they had to be taken out and shot. Flashback to December 1996, as conservative commentator Arianna Huffington enthused
"Margaret Thatcher ... laid down a challenge ... Gingrich rose to it. ... At Heritage, Marshall Wittmann has worked hard to bring together the Renewal Alliance ... to promote an ... agenda of non-governmental solutions ... Together with Sens. Dan Coats, John Ashcroft and Spencer Abraham, [Sen. Rick Santorum is] providing the Senate leadership ... on the House side, the effort is spearheaded by Reps. Jim Talent, J.C. Watts, David McIntosh and John Kasich."
Fast forward to 2002. Huffington is an ex-neocon. Gingrich is ex-Speaker. Wittmann is ex-Republican. Coats retired (1998), Ashcroft lost (2000), Abraham lost (2000), Talent retired and failed in a race for governor (2000), Watts retiring (2002), McIntosh retired and failed in a race for governor (2000), Kasich retired (2000). Santorum is the sole survivor.

All in all, GOP's best shot at a pick-up. No call ... election day riptides carry this one in or out.

Nebraska. No feature race, but an emerging center of gravity in the new landscape. Nelson (D) is as close to center as it gets, and Hagel (R) is a potential alternate GOP power center and 2004 challenger if Bush fades.

New Hampshire. Shaheen demonstrates that all campaigners are not created equal, and races are not won on paper. Dem pick-up.

New Jersey. A late replacement (Lautenberg) for a Dem with ethics problems (Torricelli) beats a late replacement (Forrester) for a GOP'er with ethics problems (Treffinger). What more could be fairer?

North Carolina. Dole is fading, Bowles on a roll ... if the season was a week longer he'd win by a length. It's a toss-up Tuesday night.

Oklahoma. Gay-baiting choir-boy Steve Largent said "bullshit" on-air. He could lose a "safe" GOP Gov race.

Oregon. Early on I would have put Gordon Smith in the "no sale" bin with Allard, but he out-maneuvered and out-spent the Dem challenger. OR has a tradition of maverick Republicans (Hatfield, Packwood), and there are liaison advantages to preserving one GOP senator on the Left Coast. Good keeper, good race, while the battle for Oregon's political heart and soul continues.

Rhode Island. Chaffee is Dem's ace in the hole if the Senate leans right, even temporarily. He'd like to help the GOP to move back toward center ... but that could be a long wait. On the other hand, post-election realignment could turn GOP moderates into players while marginalizing official GOP "leadership".

South Carolina. Dem candidate Sanders is fading, and resorted to a gay-baiting shot at Giuliani (who made a campaign stop for Lindsey Graham). Graham is fading and thrashing, too. Figure GOP to win, with declining positives. After that, my gut says Graham is the biggest weasel in the whole ecosystem.

South Dakota. Bush bashing Daschle is a mistake ... they like Tom. Dirty trickery in an everybody-knows-everybody state is a mistake. Libertarian hold-outs may tip this, if it needs tipping. A Dem win, and a Bush embarrassment.

Tennessee. Lamar Alexander was one of my "great nominee, terrible candidate" picks. He has stumbled (the hand-squeezing incident) but not fallen. He'll probably make it.

Texas. Great story, tightening senate race, definite GOP advantage but the pro's make it "no call"! Sanchez for Gov is toast, but his GOTV program is delivering votes for Kirk. No surprise which ever way it goes Tuesday ... which is a BIG surprise in a solid Red State. Dems can pick up the Lt. Gov spot -- more powerful than the Gov in TX's peculiar system. Disappointment: nobody really challenged the Bush legacy ... programs that looked great in real time, but look bad in the rearview mirror. Perry/Sanchez attack ad war drove real issues off the screen, where they remain ... unfinished business.