Tag Archives: obama

The Audacity of Hope

I don’t usually read books by politicians, especially about current politics. However, being an Obama supporter and volunteer, I thought I should read his book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream.

I had already read Dreams From My Father and loved Obama’s writing style. The Audacity of Hope is also written well. Of course, I liked Dreams From My Father better, but that’s because of its subject of autobiography and identity.

The Audacity of Hope was written when Barack Obama was a US Senator and I started reading it a bit before the election. I finished it around inauguration time. As to why I didn’t read it earlier? I got it early in 2008 but then most of my spare time was consumed by the election campaign. I started the book only when I went to Pakistan for a couple of weeks in October.

In this book, Obama explains his views and his political program. Having followed his career since his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, I was familiar with a lot of his views. But two things still stood out. One is how Obama is actually fairly moderate. The other is Obama’s tendency to give an honest airing to conservative views and even agreeing partly before arguing for his liberal viewpoint on any issue. This quality, the so-called post-partisanship, was evident throughout the book.

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Dreams from My Father

I usually do not read autobiographies. Or books by politicians. But Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance is an exception.

First of all, it’s written by Barack Obama and was written before he got into politics. So it’s refreshingly honest. Secondly, Obama writes well, very well.

Dreams from My Father is basically about the young Obama’s quest for identity. As a child of a Kenyan black man and a Kansan white woman who was raised by his mother and maternal grandparents, he was somewhat of an outsider to both the African American experience and the general White majority.

It is a work of self-reflection and Obama comes across as a thoughtful and honest person.

I read the book on the way to Pakistan (more about that in my next blog post) and during my stay there.

If you want to understand Obama the man and where he comes from, I think this book is essential reading.

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Georgia Election Analysis III

I did some analysis of the Presidential election in the state of Georgia in two installments. Today I’ll look at Fulton county where I live as well as the specific precincts in Alpharetta, Milton and South Atlanta where our team worked as volunteers for the Obama campaign.

Year D R Turnout %Turnout
2000 57.53% 39.68% 264,276 65.06%
2004 59.35% 39.99% 330,791 74.15%
2008 67.07% 32.09% 405,531 73.11%

There was a 15.3% swing towards Obama in Fulton county compared to Kerry in 2004. The turnout, based on the number of registered voters, stayed constant from 2004 to 2008. However, if we use the voting age population estimates (VAP) for Fulton county, we get the following turnout rates:

Year Turnout based on VAP
2000 42.30%
2004 48.00%
2008 52.72%

This shows a bigger turnout in 2008. One reason for the discrepancy between the turnout in the first table and this one is that the Obama campaign focused a lot on voter registration this year and thus got more people registered.

Also, please note that the VAP turnout estimate is probably lower than the real turnout which should be calculated as a proportion of the voting eligible population.

Out of the 3,924,440 votes cast for President in Georgia this year, 2,084,179 (or 53.11%) were cast during advance/early voting or by absentee mail-in. In Fulton county, 184,240 votes (45.42%) were cast early, absentee or provisional out of a total of 405,628 votes cast. This is very unusual for Georgia and Fulton as can be seen in the table below for Fulton county. (This shows the numbers for the 2004 general election for President, the 2006 election for Governor, the 2008 Presidential Primary on Super Tuesday and the 2008 general Presidential election.)

Year Absentee/Early/Provisional votes
2004 Prez 12.68%
2006 Gov 11.76%
2008 Prez Primary 7.65%
2008 Prez 45.42%

In the 2008 general election, the Obama campaign tried to get everyone to vote early. The effect of this can be seen in the early voting numbers in Fulton county where Obama had a 49.5% lead in early voting compared to a 22.9% lead on polling day itself.

The large numbers of early voters have complicated my precinct level analysis. The precinct level data does not include early or absentee votes which are listed separately as one per county. Still let’s see what we can conclude for our precincts.

For the Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaign in October and then the first four days of November, we were based in the South Atlanta precincts, 12E1, 12J and 12T, which are just north of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. These precincts are heavily Democratic (more than 90%) but there are a lot of sporadic voters there. So the main task was to get the vote out.

Election 12E1 12J 12T
Voted %Turnout Voted %Turnout Voted %Turnout
2004 518 49.5% 1024 59.7% 566 62.3%
2006 224 22.1% 473 29.2% 581 35.8%
2008 Primary 280 27.5% 564 34.6% 609 39.1%
2008 747 55.1% 1,360 67.3% 1,232 68.0%

Thus, turnout as a percentage of registered voters increased from 57.4% to 64.3% while actual number of people who voted in these three precincts increased from 2,108 to 3,339, a 58% increase in the number of voters. Compare this 58% increase to a 22.6% increase over the whole of Fulton county and a 19.6% increase over all of Georgia. I am actually pleased at these numbers and I am sure all of our Obama team would be too.

Let’s now look at the precincts in Alpharetta and Milton where we made the most calls, starting in August, for identifying voters, persuading them and then getting them out to vote. The table below shows the Republican advantage over Democrats. For the 2008 Presidential Primary, I added the votes for all the Republican Presidential candidates together and did the same for the Democrats. Let’s take the example of ML01A in the 2008 general election, McCain got 73.5% and Obama got 25.3%, which means a Republican advantage of 73.5-25.3=48.2%.

Precinct 2006 2008 Primary 2008
AP07B +66.0% +33.2% +40.9%
ML01A +64.0% +34.4% +48.2%
ML02A +67.4% +40.8% +62.6%
ML02B +68.0% +45.2% +57.5%
ML03 +66.9% +45.7% +59.5%
ML04 +65.2% +38.5% +56.5%
ML05 +48.9% +14.9% +37.7%
ML06 +29.9% -11.4% +8.2%
ML07 +65.1% +41.8% +52.0%

I couldn’t find the data for the 2004 Presidential election for the Milton (MLxx) precincts but AP07B had a 42.9% Republican advantage in 2004.

Before I opine on those results, let’s look at the turnout (as a percentage of registered voters) in these precincts:

Precinct 2008 Turnout
AP07B 44.6%
ML01A 44.6%
ML02A 55.3%
ML02B 55.3%
ML03 52.5%
ML04 44.7%
ML05 44.2%
ML06 41.9%
ML07 54.2%

We already know that about half of Georgia and Fulton county voters voted early. The early voters are not listed in the last two tables for the Alpharetta/Milton precincts because they are not reported that way by Fulton county. Looking at the election day turnout for Milton, it seems that fewer than half of the voters voted early.

Because we only have the vote breakdown by party for those who voted in person at their polling location on November 4 and a significant number of voters had voted early in 2008, we cannot really say what the margin between McCain and Obama was in Alpharetta and Milton. There is no reason to believe that the early voters had the same partisan distribution as those on election day. In fact, there is reason to believe that the early voters were more likely to be Obama supporters. The Obama campaign had been working hard asking people to vote early. Also, in the whole of Fulton county, Obama had a 49.5% advantage in early voting compared to a 22.9% advantage on polling day. Thus, the very large Republican margin in the Milton precincts in 2008 is most likely not correct. I can say with certainty that McCain won all those precincts except ML06 but probably with a somewhat smaller margin. Even then, Republicans had a huge advantage here in North Fulton. Unfortunately, we don’t have any way of finding out whether our team was able to reduce that Republican advantage or not.

Next: A look at the Senate runoff between Jim Martin and Saxby Chambliss.

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Georgia Election Analysis II

Continuing with my election analysis in Georgia, my data source is the Secretary of State’s website:

Let’s start with a graph showing Obama’s share of the vote in each Georgia county versus Kerry’s share four years ago. Please note that the size of the circles is proportional to the total number of registered voters in that county.

Obama vote vs Kerry vote

Since there was an 11.4% swing towards Obama compared to Kerry, a majority of the counties show a larger percentage for Obama as compared to Kerry. This is especially true of large (in population) counties. Since Georgia has 159 counties, let’s redo the same graph separately for the large, middle and small counties.

In the largest 53 counties (min number of registered voters 17,354 and max 554,682), only the most Republican counties got more Republican compared to 2004.
Largest counties swing

In the middle 53 counties (registered voters ranging from 8,182 to 17,018), the situation was a lot more mixed, but Obama did lose a lot of ground in some.
Swing in middle counties

In the 53 counties with the lowest populations (registered voters ranging from 1,371 to 7,988), Obama did better in some and worse in others. However, these rural counties don’t have many people and probably didn’t matter much at all for the Presidential election.
Swing in least populated counties

Since one major reason for Obama’s better performance was the higher turnout and vote from African Americans, let’s look at the same data, i.e. Obama’s total vote share compared to Kerry’s, but by categorizing counties by how white they are. I am using the percentage of registered white voters in a county as a proxy for the percent population that’s non-Hispanic White in a county.

The whitest third of the counties are at least 77% white. Do note that the scales of this graph are different from the earlier graphs. Obama did worse in the smaller, whiter counties than Kerry and better in the bigger white counties. But he didn’t get more than about 35% of the vote in any of them.
Swing in the whitest counties

The middle third counties by white percentage of the population have about 64% to 77% whites. Obama generally did better than Kerry here. Obama’s share of the vote varied from 27-45% in these counties except for Clarke county (65%) which contains Athens and the University of Georgia.
Swing in the mid-white counties

In the bottom third counties, the white percentage is 18-64% and Obama did very well here.
Swing in least white counties

Let’s look at Obama’s share of the vote in each county plotted against the percentage of whites and blacks in that county.

White percentage vs Obama vote share

Black percentage vs Obama vote share

The red line in both graphs is the least squares fit. As is obvious, Obama’s share of the vote decreases as the percentage of whites increases in a county.

In the previous two graphs, we looked at Obama’s share of the total vote. So we cannot completely tease out the effects of a large African American turnout or the how the white voters voted in each county. Since we can’t have the numbers for Obama’s share of the white vote in each county, we’ll make some simplifying assumptions to guesstimate it:

  1. The African American turnout in each county was the same as the total voter turnout in that county. This is approximately true at the state level, but could be wrong for some counties.
  2. 98% of the African American voters voted for Obama. This is the percentage at the state level.
  3. The number of voters who are not African American or White is small enough (5%) that we can approximate the white vote share by simply excluding the African American vote.

We know this procedure gives us only a guesstimate of the nonblack vote since in one small county (Clay) this results in Obama getting -1.85% of the nonblack vote. In the other 158 counties, Obama’s share of the nonblack vote varies from 4.4% (Randolph county) to 54.6% (Dekalb county).

White population percentage vs Obama share of nonblack vote

Black population percentage vs Obama share of nonblack vote

The red lines in both graphs are LOESS fits.

The first thing apparent in these two graphs is that Obama did particularly well among whites in most of the populous counties as they show up outliers at the top. Among the other counties, there is not a significant pattern, but it does look like Obama’s nonblack vote share is lowest in counties where African American population is in the 20-30% range.

Razib did a similar analysis of racial polarization in Mississippi.

Charles Franklin analyzed the white vote for Obama at the state level. Nate Silver saw that data and noticed that most of the states where Obama performed worse than Kerry among whites were those where Obama did not campaign.

Andrew Gellman, at his must-read blog Red State Blue State Rich State Poor State, looked at Obama’s vote share divided by race in the West, Northeast, South and Midwest. He also showed the estimated nonblack vote by county for all of the US.

Andrew Gellman also looked at the voting preferences of rich and poor voters in both red and blue states in the 2008 election, something which is the topic of his book Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do.

Finally, Michael McDonald estimates the voter turnout from the vote eligible population.

My revised national turnout rate for those eligible to vote is 61.6% or 131.3 million ballots cast for president. This number does not include an approximate 1.4 million under and over votes, for an estimated total 132.7 million total ballots cast. This represents an increase of 1.5 percentage points over the 60.1% turnout rate of 2004, but falls short of the 1968 turnout rate of 62.5%.

His estimate of turnout for Georgia is 61.1%, up from 56.2% in 2004.

Next: An analysis of the precincts in Alpharetta, Milton and Atlanta where our team worked.

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Georgia Election Analysis I

This is the first in a series of posts looking at the Presidential election results in the state of Georgia.

Let’s start with the top line numbers from the last three Presidential elections:

Year Democrat Republican
Votes Percentage Votes Percentage
2000 1,116,230 43.2% 1,419,720 55.0%
2004 1,366,155 41.4% 1,914,256 58.0%
2008 1,844,137 46.9% 2,048,744 52.1%

In 2000, Al Gore lost Georgia by 11.8 points and Kerry lost by 16.6 points. Obama has reduced that to 5.2 points, which is a swing of 11.4 percent from 2004. This swing is greater than the national swing of 9.2%.

Let’s look at the Georgia exit polls from 2000, 2004 and 2008.

During the last 8 years, the composition of the voters has changed a lot. The table below shows the percentage of voters who belonged to a specific race or ethnic group.

Race 2000 2004 2008
White 81% 70% 65%
African American 19% 25% 30%
Hispanic - 4% 3%

That’s quite a change in voter demographics, Compare that to the census estimate of population (in 2006) of 58.9% non-Hispanic whites, 29.9% African Americans and 7.5% Hispanics. This shows that African Americans, probably for the first time in Georgia history, voted in proportion of their population. The credit for that goes to the Obama campaign’s voter registration and Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) efforts.

Turnout this year was a little lower than 2004, mostly because of the high turnout among whites in 2004.

2000 2004 2008
Total 69% 77% 76%
White 71% 80% 78%
African American 63% 72% 75%

Since I am estimating White and African American turnout in 2008 from the exit polls, it might be prone to some error. We’ll know more when all the detailed data is released by the Georgia Secretary of State.

If African American turnout could be higher, Obama might have gotten closer by at most 1 point. However, do remember that in absolute numbers 41% more African Americans voted this year compared to 2004. The increase in the number of white voters was less than 9%.

The next table shows why Obama lost. It tells us what portion of whites and blacks voted for the Democratic Presidential candidate in the last three elections.

Race 2000 2004 2008
White 35% 23% 23%
African American 86% 88% 98%

Obama needed around 27% or more of the white vote. However, he got the same proportion as Kerry.

Looking at voter groups, 37% of all voters (i.e. 57% of white voters) were white evangelicals. Obama got only 10% among them. Since he got 23% among all whites, so Obama got 40% of the white non-evangelical vote. Compare to Kerry who got 16% of white evangelical vote and 30% of white non-evangelical vote. Also, compare nationally where Obama got 43% of the white vote and 24% of white evangelical voters, i.e. Obama got a majority (53%) of non-evangelical white vote nationally.

Young voters nationally flocked to Obama in this election, a lot more than in recent elections. This can be seen in the graphs here.

18-29 30-44
US GA US GA
All 66% 48% 52% 56%
White 54% 20% 41% 32%

2008 election US GA age race

The low number (20%) for 18-29 year old white voters in Georgia surprised me a lot. It shows how difficult it might be for Democrats to win Georgia even in the future.

Nationally, Obama did somewhat better with white voters than Kerry in 2004. However, there were regional variations. In Appalachia and parts of the South, Obama got a smaller percentage of the white vote than Kerry did.

Southern counties that voted more heavily Republican this year than in 2004 tended to be poorer, less educated and whiter, a statistical analysis by The New York Times shows. Mr. Obama won in only 44 counties in the Appalachian belt, a stretch of 410 counties that runs from New York to Mississippi. Many of those counties, rural and isolated, have been less exposed to the diversity, educational achievement and economic progress experienced by more prosperous areas.

The increased turnout in the South’s so-called Black Belt, or old plantation-country counties, was visible in the results, but it generally could not make up for the solid white support for Mr. McCain. Alabama, for example, experienced a heavy black turnout and voted slightly more Democratic than in 2004, but the state over all gave 60 percent of its vote to Mr. McCain. (Arkansas, however, doubled the margin of victory it gave to the Republican over 2004.)

Less than a third of Southern whites voted for Mr. Obama, compared with 43 percent of whites nationally.

Do look at this table and a map of the US showing county-level electoral shifts.

MSNBC First Read gives the details of Obama vote share among whites.

In 13 [states], Obama received less than 35% of the white vote. His three lowest performing states: Alabama (10%), Mississippi (11%), and Louisiana (14%). The other 10: GA (23%), SC (26%), TX (26%), OK (29%), AR (30%), UT (31%), AK (32%), WY (32%), ID (33%), and TN (34%). On the other hand, Obama won the white vote in 18 states and DC: CA, CO, CT, DE, DC, HI, IL, IA, ME, MA, MI, MN. NH. NY. OR, RI, WA, WI and VT. Obama’s lowest percentage of the white vote he received in a state that he won: NC (35%). The highest percentage of the white vote Obama received in a state he lost: MT (45%).

Razib has a few maps showing Obama’s performance among white voters in all the states compared to Kerry’s performance in 2004 as well as to the national average for white voters this year.

Pollster shows that in states with higher than about 20-25% of African American population, Obama performed poorly among white voters.

If you are interested in comparing Democratic or Republican performance over the years in Presidential elections in Georgia, Dave Leip’s Atlas of US Presidential elections has the historical results in a convenient table format.

All things considered, Barack Obama did very well in Georgia. I was always skeptical about the Democrats winning Georgia, except in a national landslide. How well did the Obama campaign bigwigs think they could do in Georgia can be gauged from this anecdote from August 27.

[Obama’s election manager David Plouffe] said that the campaign’s target in Georgia is about 47% of the vote, owing to Ex-Rep. Bob Barr’s ability to siphon votes away from John McCain.

In the end, Bob Barr didn’t do well at all, but Obama got his 47% of the vote. It looks to me like the Obama campaign knew what it was doing. Do you remember the Obama spreadsheet that leaked just after Super Tuesday and was remarkably accurate about the primary results?

There’s a lot more I want to analyze, including county and precinct level data, precincts in which our team worked. So tune in for more analysis and rambling soon.

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Election Day Live Blogging

It’s November 4, Election Day. Why Tuesday? Because it made sense in the 18th and early 19th centuries. It does need to be changed now, however.

7:12am: I am at the Obama campaign Roswell office printing walk packets, volunteer lists and directions etc for our team. I’ll be on my way to South Atlanta as soon as the print job’s finished.

Voting here in Georgia started at 7am.

8:35am: I am at the staging location in South Atlanta. Already at one of the polling places here, the line is more than 2 hours long.

10:39am: The morning rush at the polls has lessened now.

11:51am: Sent out volunteers to go knock on doors to get people out to vote. Also, sent phone lists to volunteers to call.

12:55pm: There are so many people here to volunteer, it’s difficult to even find work for them.

2:07pm: This liveblogging will probably only pick up later tonight when results start coming in. For now, do read my last post about how Georgia is competitive this election.

2:55pm: Intrade has McCain overall win at around 7.3 right now and a Dem win in Georgia at 27.5.

3:21pm: Turnout here in South Atlanta is okay today but add in the early vote numbers and it’s pretty high.

5:01pm: The last shift just went out. Polls close in 2 hours.

Looking at the midday numbers, 25-30% more people had already voted in our precincts than did four years ago.

5:49pm: I am making last minute Get-Out-the-Vote phone calls.

6:28pm: Not sure what to think of the data coming in from the precincts. Did we do good but not as well as needed in this area?

7:00pm: Polls close in Georgia. We are packing up and going home.

8:00pm: Home.

8:13pm: With Pennsylvania being called for Obama, the chances of McCain winning have dropped below 1%.

8:16pm: Godless Hagan defeats Liddy Dole. God has spoken!

8:38pm: NBC has called Georgia for McCain. Looking at the exit polls, African Americans made up 30% of the voters which is equal to their proportion among registered voters and 5% more than their proportion in 2004. However, Obama got only 25% of the white vote.

The Senate race between Chambliss and Martin is closer due to the Libertarian candidate Buckley and might head to a December run-off.

9:25pm: With Ohio projected as an Obama win by NBC and Fox News, I now project Barack Obama as the next President of the United States. Go Obama!

9:47pm: I didn’t blog it but told my fellow volunteers on the Obama campaign that Obama will net around 350 electoral votes and he looks on track for that.

9:59pm: I have been watching CNN since coming home. Now I am switching to Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert special.

11:00pm: Polls close on the West Coast and it’s official. President-elect Barack Obama!

11:32pm: A very nice concession speech by McCain, despite some booing from the crowd.

Nov 5 11:50am: I went to sleep after Obama’s victory speech feeling dazed. I had full confidence from the start that Obama would win but the actual win did affect me a lot. I was a little bummed out last night about Georgia but feel better about it today. More thoughts on Georgia and the neighborhoods our team worked in during this campaign after we have official precinct results.

12:09pm: What’s wrong with Alaska? Did they just re-elect a convicted felon to the Senate?

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Georgia: Battleground

I have been really busy recently and haven’t had time to blog. Volunteering for the Obama campaign has been fun but also kept me busy. We had phonebanking events every day last week with one at our home on Friday. Then on Saturday and Sunday, we went door to door contacting voters in South Atlanta to go out and vote on Tuesday. That’s also what we are doing today.

So how did Georgia become competitive? In 2000, Bush won Georgia 55%-43% and in 2004 increased the margin to 58%-41%. But in 2008, you can see for yourself:

Georgia is now a battleground state. McCain is leading Obama by only 1.7% here according to Pollster which “averages” all polls. Also, the betting market Intrade has Obama winning Georgia at 27.5%.

In addition, in 2004 African Americans were 27.2% of registered voters and contributed 25.4% of the votes. According to the latest voter registration statistics, African Americans are now 29.9% of registered voters.

In early voting since September 22, we have had 2,020,839 voters already cast their votes, which is 61.5% of the total number of votes cast (3,285,140) in 2004. Assuming a turnout of 80% (higher than 77% in 2004), this would mean that 43.9% have already voted. Among these early voters, African Americans comprised 34.9% of the total. We are hoping that African American turnout remains high even on Election Day tomorrow and puts Barack Obama over the top in Georgia.

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Liveblogging Presidential Debate I

For a while there, it looked like this debate might not happen with McCain “suspending” his campaign.

The first question about debates is: Do they matter? According to Mark Blumenthal, there is a great potential for debates to influence public opinion because they are watched by so many people.

Four years ago, according to Nielsen Media Research, 62.5 million Americans watched the first debate between John Kerry and George W. Bush. That fell short of the record 80.6 million that saw Ronald Reagan debate Jimmy Carter in 1980, but it was an enormous audience nonetheless.

Tom Holbrook looked at all Presidential debates from 1988 to 2004 and found that:

Across all thirteen presidential debates the average absolute change in candidate support was 1 percentage point. There are a few notable exceptions, of course. Two that stand out are the second debate in 1992, following which George H.W. Bush lost 2 points, and first debate of 2004, after which George W. Bush lost 2.26 points.

Gallup also looked at debates in 1960 and 1976-2004 and found that debates have little impact.

In two election years, the presidential debates may have had a meaningful impact on the structure of the presidential races; in most others, they probably have not. The debates were less likely to be catalyst events in years when one candidate was a strong front-runner, including 1984, 1988, and 1996. However, in highly competitive election years, any movement in voter preferences can be race altering, and the debates seem to have the potential to produce such movement. The probable examples of this are 1960 and 2000.

I am looking forward to this debate as it is focused on foreign policy and national security, topics that have receded into the background due to economic turmoil but where McCain inexplicably holds a lead despite his crazy war-like ideas.

9:02pm: I just finished calling voters for the Obama campaign with a number of other volunteers. Now I am watching the debate with 15 other people on MSNBC.

9:06pm: First question is about the financial crisis. Obama going first. Worst crisis since Great Depression. Move swiftly and wisely. Oversight. Helping homeowners. Bush policies, supported by McCain, responsible.

McCain starts with Kennedy being in the hospital. McCain not feeling too great about things lately. Republicans and Democrats together. End of the beginning of the crisis.

9:10pm: Lehrer asked about voting on the plan. Both Obama and McCain try to steer discussion away.

9:12pm: Obama brings up McCain’s statement of 10 days ago about economic fundamentals being good.

9:14pm: McCain criticizing Republican spending.

9:16pm: Obama compares scale of earmarks with McCain’s tax proposal cost.

9:21pm: McCain is stuck on earmarks.

9:27pm: Indepence from oil would be good but what is this foreign oil independence Obama’s talking about?

9:29pm: McCain comes back to cutting spending.

9:35pm: Did McCain just oppose foreign aid?

9:38pm: Obama ties McCain to Bush spending. McCain mentions not winning Miss Congeniality for the second time.

9:39pm: Finally, Iraq!

Obama brings back the question of lessons of Iraq to whether we should have gone to war in the first place. Have to use military wisely.

McCain says next President won’t be deciding decision to go to Iraq.

9:44pm: Why is McCain making faces and smirking so much?

9:47pm: Can everyone stop kissing General Petraeus’s ass?

9:50pm: Now on to Afghanistan. Obama argues for more troops. Did Obama just pronounce Taliban correctly? Iraq had no al-Qaeda. Iraq war a strategic mistake. Afghanistan and Pakistan. Got to deal with Pakistan. Safe haven for Taliban and al-Qaeda. Pakistan not doing enough to get rid of them.

9:53pm: McCain says don’t say out loud about attacking Pakistan. Same strategy as Iraq.

9:56pm: Obama mentions McCain’s song about “Bomb, bomb Iran.”

9:57pm: Obama says we coddled Musharraf and alienated Pakistani people. McCain replies that Pakistan was a failed state when Musharraf came to power.

10:00pm: McCain and Obama are trading stories of soldiers killed in action. WTF?

10:03pm: McCain Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is an existential threat to Israel. Mentions Holocaust. Whatever happened to Israel’s nuclear weapons? McCain talks about League of Democracies. Wow, France is a democracy now. Iranian nuclear weapons are threat around the world.

10:06pm: Obama says Iran has gained lots of influence due to Iraq war. Cannot tolerate nuclear Iran. Arms race in Middle East. Cooperation needed from Russia and China for sanctions. Engage in tough diplomacy with Iran.

10:08pm: How does talking to Ahmedinijad legitimize him? Did Reagan never talk to Brezhnev? That sounds wrong.

10:10pm: Obama citing Kissinger approvingly. I feel like ewww but have to admit Kissinger is right on talking to Iran.

10:12pm: Obama mentions McCain not meeting with Spanish Prime Minister. McCain in response tries to joke about the Presidential seal replica from the Obama primary campaign.

10:16pm: Obama says Russia has to withdraw from South Osettia and Abkhazia. Membership action plan for Ukraine and Georgia: Why, Obama, why? Obama doesn’t want cold war posture with Russia.

McCain says Obama is naive. McCain wants to bolster friends and allies. Talks about oil.

10:20pm: McCain has mentioned his trips to a lot of countries today.

10:23pm: Why did Obama have to mention “clean coal”? Arrrgh!

10:26pm: Stupidest question today: Chance of another 9/11 attack on the US? McCain says much less. McCain just came out against torture. Good for him!

10:29pm: Obama comes out against nuclear suitcases? What about nuclear backpacks? The point about nuclear proliferation is good though.

Obama also mentions torture.

10:31pm: McCain goes back to Iraq with a totally wrong but strong ending.

Obama mentions al-Qaeda and challenges with China and both being neglected due to focus on Iraq. Blames Iraq war for autism too! Too scattershot for a strong summing up.

10:34pm: McCain is now talking again, destroying the impression I had of his strong ending.

10:36pm: And finally McCain mentions his POW status.

I would rate it a draw. Obama didn’t land any knockout punches.

12:47am: CBS News poll of undecided voters:

Thirty-nine percent of uncommitted voters who watched the debate tonight thought Barack Obama was the winner. Twenty-four percent thought John McCain won. Thirty-seven percent saw it as a draw.

Forty-six percent of uncommitted voters said their opinion of Obama got better tonight. Thirty-two percent said their opinion of McCain got better.

Sixty-six percent of uncommitted voters think Obama would make the right decisions about the economy. Forty-two percent think McCain would.

Forty-eight percent of these voters think Obama would make the right decisions about Iraq. Fifty-six percent think McCain would.

That sounds good for Obama.

1:23am: CNN’s polling is even better.

You can watch the debate online or read the transcript.

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HOA and Obama Yard Sign

Obama Yard Sign

I have had an Obama yard sign in my front yard since the Democratic convention.

Today I got a letter from my Home Owners Association (HOA) which says:

According to the Covenants, signs are not allowed to be displayed. Please remove the election sign.

So I checked the Covenants and found the following:

No sign of any kind shall be erected by an Owner or Occupant within the Community without the prior written consent of the Architectural Review Committee. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Board and the Declarant shall have the right to erect reasonable and appropriate signs. “For Sale” and “For Rent” signs and security signs consistent with the Community-Wide Standard and any signs required by legal proceedings may be erected upon any Lot.

It looks like they have the right to erect “reasonable and appropriate” signs. I would like a similar right on reciprocal basis since I would guess that a 16” by 26” sign for a major party Presidential candidate during election season is both appropriate and reasonable. But evidently the management company that runs the HOA disagrees.

I am of a mind to send a letter to the Home Owners Association:

I did not know that the Soviet Union was alive and well here in our subdivision. I had heard of its demise some years ago. Anyway, if I am not allowed to display a political sign for the elections, please grant me permission to fly the Hammer and Sickle on the front of my house.

On a more serious note, does anyone know if there are any local (Fulton county), state (Georgia) or Federal laws which the HOA might be going against here? What is the case law like on this issue here?

I had no idea about Home Owner Associations before we bought a house last year. My first interaction with the HOA was earlier this year when we decided to do some work on part of our backyard. We wanted to install a playset and a small vegetable garden as well as grow flowering plants and grass in a part of the backyard which had nothing. This required approval by the Architectural Review Committee of the HOA and I being a law-abiding fellow submitted the application despite protests by Amber about this being our property and hence we being free to do whatever we wanted.

It took the committee 10 days to approve the project. When I talked to the head of the committee, I voiced my disapproval at the length of time they had taken to do so. He pointed out that the Covenants allowed the committee to take as many as 60 days and that the committee members had lives of their own and were doing this only as part-time volunteers. I replied that that was precisely the point, since their time (and mine) was so precious, so project approval should be almost automatic. If they didn’t see any egregious violation at first glance, they should approve it. I don’t think he got what I was trying to say.

To reiterate, what do you know of Georgia law on political signs and HOA covenants? What do you think I should do and why? Should I simply remove the sign? Should I keep it? In that case, what’ll happen and is it worth fighting for?

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Obama Campaign Volunteer

I first got contacted by the Obama campaign some time in Spring 2007 for a donation. I refused, not because I didn’t support Senator Obama but because I thought it was too early for a Presidential campaign.

After the primary campaign was over, I signed up online to volunteer for the campaign and soon received a call to do voter registration with the GA-400 for Obama group. So one Saturday morning, I went to the Roswell Farmer’s Market where the group was meeting. Someone from the group told us the basics of how to register voters, went through the registration form etc and sent us on our way in teams. I was paired with two others to go to Sandy Springs.

We drove to a strip mall and stood in the parking lot in front of Whole Foods, asking everyone if they were registered to vote. The reaction we got varied from person to person. Most people just said they were registered and thanked us. Others just tried to ignore us. Some said they were Republicans or supported McCain. We also ran into some Obama supporters who seemed excited to see our Obama buttons and shirts. A few people were rude as well. One woman told us she had complained to the store management because our Obama paraphernalia was screaming to her or something. So we were asked by the store to move and we went to the next strip mall and registered some voters there. We also handed out a few voter registration forms to people who wanted them for someone else. Overall, it was a decent experience for about 3 hours of work, though we didn’t get too many registrations. That was expected since most people up here in north Fulton are already registered. It’s in downtown and south of the city that there are a large number of unregistered voters.

Georgia is a very red state — Kerry lost 41%-58% to Bush in 2004 — but the Obama campaign is the first Democratic Presidential candidate to compete here since Clinton won here in 1992. There has been a large number of staff and thousands of volunteers plus 40 offices.

So I joined the local neighborhood team here in Milton organized by Alex from the campaign staff. We have had several meetings to decide our course of action, recruit volunteers and have fun.

I have been to two more voter registration events. Once our local team took Marta to Five Points. As I got on the train, someone saw my clipboard and the voter registration forms and asked me for one so she could register. We actually registered quite a few people on the train ride. Then we stood outside the Five Points station and asked everyone if they were registered to vote. Later we tried to register voters in Underground Atlanta, but it was almost deserted there and we didn’t register anyone until the mall security asked us to leave.

On the Friday before Labor day, I was in Atlanta and so I joined a group registering voters in Westside. We registered a few voters, but someone stole a volunteer’s blackberry.

We have also organized several phone bank meetings where we call voters. We have called Democrats to firm up their support. We have called Obama supporters to ask them to volunteer. Also, we have called voters who could be persuaded to support Obama.

Last Saturday, we went door-to-door canvassing in teams of two. We printed out maps and voter lists and knocked on doors. We asked them about their Presidential preference and gave undecided voters some campaign literature about issues they might be interested in. It was a pleasant experience. Most McCain supporters were very nice to us too. Only one person told us not to come campaigning to their house.

While the Obama campaign is moving some staffers out of Georgia and into more competitive states, even more local offices are opening and the volunteer network is still in place and we are still registering voters, making phone calls and going door to door.

Volunteering for the campaign has been an interesting experience. I’ve met a lot of people who are passionate about politics. Also, I have been amazed at the way modern campaigns work in a systematic fashion with a lot of available data. I think Alex related an anecdote about Abraham Lincoln sorting voters into different groups based on their support for him and then targeting voters to move them to the next group which was more supportive, e.g. from supporter of other candidate to undecided or undecided to leaning towards Lincoln, etc. So this systematic approach has a long history, though now we have computers and databases. BTW, if anyone has a reference for this anecdote, please let me know.

Please do donate to the Obama campaign (US citizens and permanent residents only).

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