These guys lose money when they're wrong

Tradesports is a gambling website. I've never placed a bet there, but I often look them up when assessing who's going to win an election. Unlike pollsters, the bookies lose when they get their spread betting odds wrong.

As of tonight, here's what they have to say about the Senate elections in November. Of the 33 Senate seats up for election, 25 are safe for the incumbent party. If we assume the Democrats hold all their narrow leads, win all their narrow leads, and take the ones where the Republicans have a reasonable but not overwhelming lead, and they get Vermont (independent), we get the following result.

Democrats 50
Republicans 50

So the Republicans would hold on by the Vice-President's casting vote. This isn't going to happen. For a start, I expect some of the races currently rated as safe to become closer. The bookies think the overall chances of the Republicans holding on are over 75%.

For the House of Representatives there is only a global bet on offer: here the Republicans are trading at about 56.5%.

For the governors' elections we find four Democrat gains and four close calls, all Republican held. If they all went Democrat we get:
Democrats 30
Republicans 20

Now that's more interesting. Same reservations as for Senators, of course.
I haven't yet made my mind up about these election races.

Get down to San Diego!

I wrote about the Congressional Election in the 50 district of California here some time ago.
Unusually for a two-round election, in California the leading candidates of all the parties in the first round go through to the second round, instead of the more commonly used method of taking the top two candidates only.

So far, so good for Republicans. The problem lies in the announcement this week that Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham has resigned his seat in Congress following his guilty plea on charges of bribery, tax evasion, mail fraud and wire fraud. He was first elected to Congress in 1990 and was serving his eighth term as a member of the House of Representatives. The Congressional seat in question is the 50th district of California, which covers the County of San Diego.

As these elections returns show from 2004, there is a sizeable Democratic vote in San Diego. If one in five Republican voters stays at home in disgust with "Duke's" ethical performance, the Democrats have a chance of picking up a seat they would otherwise not really compete for. In 2004, the presidential election would tend to have encouraged Republicans to come out and vote, whilst the comparative safety of California as a Democrat stronghold (in presidential elections at least) might have made some of their voters complacent.

Normally, I'd say that a campaign push by the Governor or even the President would be useful. However, apart from helping with fundraisers, neither Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger nor President George W. Bush would necessarily be a positive influence on this election. The recent presidential effort in Virginia for instance did raise a lot of money but failed to change the outcome. In fact, even hosting lavish fundraisers might cause a problem, given the circumstances in which this election has been provoked.

I think this is exactly the sort of election the Democrats have to take seriously.

It may be that the Republicans will hold this seat, but the least you can say is that Francine Busby is giving them a tough time. Only caveat, Governor Schwarzenegger's poll scores seem to have picked up a little.

Instead of dreaming about indicting yesterday's opponents or boasting of implausible electoral successes more than 200 days from now, if I were in the U.S., I'd be on the battle bus to San Diego, whichever side I was on.

Here's the message I'd be putting out if I was working the Democratic National Committee:
At this time, I still think it would be wildly optimistic for the Democrats to win control of either chamber in Congress. But if they keep holding their Governorships, and pick away at the Republican lead in the House of Representatives, they may hang on until 2008, when the Republicans will be defending large numbers of Senate seats, and they have as yet no clear cut presidential candidate.

The case for North Korea or have you seen those voting machines work?

First, I want you to imagine the worst experience you've ever had with computers.
- your bankcard got swallowed because the keypad on the cash machine had a dodgy button, which repeated the number "5" twice when you pressed it once;
- you rang to pay a bill and the transaction failed because the guys on the other end's computer system was down;
- your internet connection broke down for a month;
- you sat at work for hours waiting to find out if the work you were doing was destroyed when someone messed around with a server;
- your identity was stolen, or the police thought you were the dangerous child killer that jumped bail.

Then, consider this report about British government websites. I could have picked any number of this, but this one was the first one I saw today.

Is it really surprising that this and this happen?

All the election law you'll ever need:
1. Print a piece of paper. List the candidates in alphabetical order. Give voters a pencil and ask them to mark a "X" next to the candidate they want. Sort them by hand in front of scrutineers from all the parties. Count first by hand. Bundle papers into batches of 50. Two people check each batch to see that no votes in the wrong pile. Then run through a machine like banks use for counting banknotes. If there's a discrepancy re-check twice. Automatic recount if a candidate reuests it when the gap is narrow (to win, for a place, or to hold a deposit or secure automatic registration next time).

2. Don't start counting until all polling stations have closed. That means Alaska in the USA, too bad for New Hampshire. Don't allow exit polling if the results are going to be broadcast before all polling stations close. Again that means Alaska in the USA, too bad for whichever party thinks it got the women's vote out on the East coast. Don't allow postal ballots after polling day, unless there's a postal strike. Some post offices are lazy about enforcing wrongly dated franked envelopes, or they smudge. Tough.

3. Don't allow anyone to vote outside their voting area, expect by post. Don't allow anyone to register after the election has been called (say at least a month before the vote). Don't change the voting qualification, or the allocation of electoral college votes, or the location of polling stations (barring natural catastrophe)less than a year before an election.

That's it. Any fraud will be easier to spot, and the public will have better grounds for trusting the mechanics of the election.

Italian election: Berlusconi says no multiculturalism, Pope says no secularism

I'm not sure if these ploys will work. If I was trying to get out the secular anti-theocratic vote, I'd want these two press reports (in French).

In brief, Berlusconi having attacked Socialism and Communism as twin mass-murdering ideologies has lumped in multiculturalism as destroying the fabric of Italian society. There are two problems with this argument if it is true. 1) the people who understand are against you already. 2) if it's true, why are you giving another 200,000 passports to illegal immigrants?

As for the Pope, given the realistic choice of Islamic theocracy and secularism, one gets the feeling that he prefers the former. Can't see how that helps Christian democratic politicians.

On a more cheerful note, Berlusconi is frightening currency traders with his rants against the euro.

My mid-term election forecast: no change of control in Congress

A lot can happen between now and polling day, November 7 (222 days away).

If nothing major happened on the international scene to harm the U.S. President's standing even more than it is now, I forecast the following:

House of Representatives: no change of control
Senate: no change of control

Because Democrats persist in talking up their chances, and here, the expected no change is going to look like a huge victory for Republicans. It's all about managing expectations.

The Illinois 6th Congressional District is a case in point. The recent primary election saw the Democratic Party's establishment candidate win with 44% support against a fringe of unfancied chancers. Even diehard Democrats are worried that against a well-funded Republican campaign, it will be harder for their woman to get through. Over at Daily Kos, there are no worries.

Meanwhile, almost unnoticed, what I would have thought was a completely lost cause for Republicans apparently isn't: Arnold Schwarzenegger is at least competitive if not ahead in the Governor's race in California. If Democrats can't win back California, they don't seem too likely to hold onto Iowa, Michigan or Pennsylvania.

With this kind of bad publicity always liable to pop up at the wrong moment, opinion polls that seem incapable of getting a proper population sample, any Democrat poll lead of under ten percent nationally can be routinely ignored at this stage, as can any poll referring to the President, for reasons I've gone into here.

This Daily Kos report from Nebraska and this one (Congressional Quarterly) from Michigan speak volumes about how individual campaigns are going to be turned on local candidates and money.


Kadima, Likud not so good

Exit polls average here.

This BBC page listing the Israeli political parties is useful.

The breakthrough has come from the Russian secular party:
Israel Beitenu (Israel is Our Home) has a constituency among the overwhelmingly secular, largely unassimilated and generally hawkish Russian-speaking population.

It used to operate as part of the National Union, but split over the latter's brief role in one of Mr Sharon's coalitions and has decided to contest these elections separately.

Its programme differs from that of the National Union in that it has been prepared since 2005 to consider the transfer of parts of Israel with large Arab populations to the Palestinian Authority in return for Israeli annexation of large parts of the occupied territories.

It has concentrated in the election campaign on consolidating its Russian-speaking constituency.

Current projection:
Kadima 29-31
Labor 19-22
Big mover Israel at Home 12-14
Likud 10-12

Israeli election: live broadcast and forecast

The Jerusalem Post has video broadcasts today of the election.

The main action will start at 8pm local time (6pm GMT or 1pm EST). With Europe having moved to Summer Daylight Saving Time this week, you may need to check an hour earlier.

Forecast: low turnout expected so the best organized political party wins. I therefore expect Kadima to do slightly worse than expected and Likud to do better. Labour is tricky, because the candidate will alienate many traditional middle-class voters, on the other hand a trade-union backed candidate could do well in a low turnout.

If Kadima gets 37 seats, that's a good result.
If Likud gets more than 14, that's a good result.
If Labour gets more than 20, that's a good result.
That leaves 49 for the other parties. The Green Leaf Party, campaigning for cannabis legalisation, could win a seat.


Easy guess for Paris

OK, so it wasn't the greatest bit of political divining ever: all her opponents pulled out so XVIIth arrondissement mayor Françoise de Panafieu will take on Socialist Bernard Delanoë, in 2007 or 2008, depending on whether the election law changes in time.

My guess is she loses.

Israeli election: my background assessment

The Israeli moderates won't rule out killing the Palestinian Prime Minister designate: Hamas's Ismael Haniya.

What would the "extremists" do, let him live?

I get the feeling that the Kadima is moderate is lazy reporting. They've got people from both Labour and Likud therefore they're in the middle. The truth is that Kadima seems to offer a unilateral settlement to the Palestinian question. Palestinians are basically going to be stuck behind a wall which excludes them from territories that they want back and Kadima is simply going to ignore them. This report in Le Figaro gives details.

As far as I can see this is the same policy that was being denounced six months ago by the European press as "extremist".

Here's a report from the Times that seems to back me up. The Palestinians are going to go ape.

The Guardian has a thorough report, by Linda Grant that includes a heartfelt summary of the Kadima programme:
"I don't give a shit what the Palestinians don't want. I don't think anything will ever be acceptable to them and I received that message with the results of the last Palestinian elections [in which Hamas were elected]."
Kadima supporter, former Labour

The opinion polls are meaningless. We're talking the most stupid form of proportional representation ever designed for a country. You basically get half the votes and a quarter of the seats.

Kadima may "win" and end up with half the seats needed to form a majority in the Knesset. See what I mean?

UNICEF takes sides in Mexico's election

I've been waiting for someone to react to this disgraceful attempt by UNICEF to interfere in Mexico's presidential elections on July 2 this year.

Here's the UNICEF slogan:
If your candidate doesn't know how to improve education, elect another candidate. Cast a vote for education!

If UNICEF's model for education was not collectivist, it would still be a disgrace. But the global agency effectively wants all private schools abolished, all children to be forced to attend state run indoctrination centres, and parents to have as little choice as possible (forget about home-schooling).

UNICEF is blatantly pushing a socialist agenda in Mexico, the only plausible aim being to swing voters into backing the more socialist candidates. Who pays for this?


Election news around the world

Uzbeckistan's opposition leader faces jail for his success. The U.S.A. - allegedly - wants democracy in the region. So the U.S. is backing - tyranny. Confusing message, someone?

Thailand's prime minister calls a snap election. He is the target of a concerted street protest campaign to remove him. Luckily for Liverpool Football Club, Thakin Shinawatra didn't get to become the majority shareholder in the club last year.

Sivino Berlusconi thinks sitting next to George W. Bush will make him look good in the Italian elections. Not sure about this for several reasons. There is historically a strong pro-American vote in Italy, so maybe this could appeal to non-political Italians. If there are any.

The U.S. Republicans start to catch up the massive Democrat fundraising efforts of 2005. Later figures confirm this trend.

Ban on professional canvassers collecting signatures for election candidates. Looks like an attempt to do me out of a career! ;-)

South Dakota passes an abortion ban, designed to test the Supreme Court.

Fraud reform in the U.S.A. It's a partisan issue, which means the people solving the problem are the people causing it. Not a pretty sight.

US Democrat comments, rants and intelligent thoughts on the elections this year

This is a monster of a long post from MyDD [Heh, who's talking!] about demographics. The more I read it, the less confident I felt about the Democrats. It seems to me that the dissatisfaction with the President is emotive, but not likely to carry over to his Republican successor.

Hillary Clinton has problems from the left and the right, it seems.

Incoherent with indignation about the South Dakota law outlawing abortion. It's called moving into your enemy's 'killing ground'. I don't advise it.

Eschaton is a really poor Democrat-leaning site for intelligent analysis. The only chance of something good is when they stumble on something like this, and miss the point completely. States (and cities) with massive abortion rates and high taxes (and crime) are not going to see their voting populations grow. Which is why it's smart long-term politics to oppose abortion, high taxes and support vigorous anti-crime measures. (Whether these are the right thing to do is another matter is another point.) Roll the clock forward thirty years and the Democrats as we know them today will no longer exist, unless they change.

At last some sense from MyDD. The governor races. And they twig that winning back California would be "the big prize." You bet it would be. However, if you want an indication of the paucity of Democrat talent: no mention of Florida. Jeb Bush is standing down (restricted by term limits) but the state is not seriously in play.

HELLO! Earth to planet MyDD. You're not going to fight Geroge W. Bush again!

There's nothing like a Democrat blowing off steam to the effect that his own party's candidates are "idiots" to provide the opposition with ammunition.

Kos has some info about evolving media techniques. He reckons the Republicans are ahead of the game. That certainly fits with other analysts like Charlie Cook. However, I think it has more to do with having a less wishful thinking approach to politics. The GOP doesn't assume that churchgoers will vote for them, in the way that Democrats assume that Latinos will vote for them. And they don't publically insult those who act different from their prejudices. If I were a Black American, and I'd studied history and electoral politics, I might not be a Republican, but I sure wouldn't allow a party that boasts a former Ku Klux Klan officer in the U.S. Senate tell me I belong to them.

New Hampshire 2nd Congressional District: if the Democrats can't win here, they won't win back the House of Representatives.

Obsessing about the guy they lost to last time, again.
February forecast from MyDD.

My DD has a revelation: opinion polls overstate Democrat support. They might not be winning the House of Representatives after all this November.