Sorry. Dumb (and hardly original) headline. Could not help myself.
There is evidence of narrowing from Gallup’s tracking. See pollster.com.
Fruits & Votes is the Web-log of Matthew S. Shugart ("MSS"), Professor of Political Science, University of California, Davis.
Perspectives on electoral systems, constitutional design, and policy around the world, based primarily on my research interests.
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31 January 2008
Sorry. Dumb (and hardly original) headline. Could not help myself.
There is evidence of narrowing from Gallup’s tracking. See pollster.com.
Update: Finally, information on the actual magnitudes of the districts! The LA Times has posted a PDF with a useful map.
Of course, the greater seat (delegate) payoff to small vote swings in small and odd-magnitude districts is old hat to us comparative electoral systems analysts…
The cumulative votes cast in Republican nominating contests so far, now that Florida’s primary is complete:
On delegates, if we trust CNN’s count of those allocated in the states that have had contests thus far, the addition of Florida’s delegates gives McCain half (88), Romney 48, Huckabee 25, Thompson 8, Paul 6, Giuliani 1.
So John McCain can now be called the front-runner, having now narrowly passed Romney in votes, and far surpassed him in delegates. In the delegate count, McCain was really helped by the change in the rules after the RNC cut the state’s delegate total in half for holding the primary “too early.” Of the originally allocated 114, just 36 were to have been allocated to the statewide plurality winner and 75 would have gone to the winners of congressional districts. With the statewide result having been relatively close (36.0 – 31.0), and with McCain having been somewhat stronger in the south of the state than elsewhere, Romney would have won some delegates (though presumably not more than 20-25 of the 114).
In any event, now that Rudy Giuliani is out, Huckabee seeming to be fading, and Romney coming up short, McCain is looking close to unstoppable. Even on 1/3 of the votes cast so far!
Obviously it will be important how Giuliani’s voters go; the candidate himself has endorsed McCain, but the Florida exit poll showed his supporters about evenly split between McCain and Romney “If the candidate you voted for today had not been on the ballot.”1 That was, of course, before the endorsement. But if McCain were to get even just half of Giuliani’s votes in the several upcoming states where he has been polling about what he got in Florida (14.7%), it would probably push McCain over 40%, given that he is already leading in most of the ‘Super Tuesday’ states (or so it appears). Breaking 40% (finally!),2 combined with the party’s use of mostly winner-take-all allocation,3 just about seals it for the man whose campaign seemed on life support just a few months ago.
30 January 2008
The new ad for the
Speaking of brilliance, it isn’t news that all the campaigns are about change, but hearing them to Bowie is a new twist…
Via the BBC:
(I am not sure why that is a “criticism,” but whatever.)
More from the BBC piece:
What a crazy idea: Engage the voters in a democracy. Clearly Mr Burden is a dangerous radical.1
Back to BBC:
The idea of a debate on the electoral system has been broached. Wherever it goes from here, even that much is good news.5
Propagation: Seeds & scions (6)
27 January 2008
Does anyone else find the following as amazing as I do?
Votes cast in 2008 presidential primary, as a share of 2004 presidential general election votes for the party:
In November, 2004, John Kerry won 661,699 votes. In last Saturday’s Democratic primary, 532,468 voters took part. For Bush and the Republican primary, the numbers are 937,974 and 418,073.
Yes, the total votes cast in the two 2008 primaries were barely more than Bush’s votes in 2004. These are just primaries, after all. Still, Democrats turned out 56.0% of those who voted in a primary in a state in which Bush beat Kerry, 58.1-40.7.1
Additionally, as pointed out a PolySigh, Obama himself got about 11,000 more votes than McCain and Huckabee combined.
No, I don’t think a Democrat can win South Carolina in the fall. But these numbers are still amazing.
(Some updates below)
The two parties that jointly rule in the current German federal government competed against each other in two state assembly elections Sunday, Hesse and Lower Saxony.
In Hesse, the Christian Democratic party of the federal Chancellor (PM), Angela Merkel, suffered a major blow, dropping from 49% in 2003 to 36.5% today, according to exit polls. The other federal co-governing party, the Social Democrats, won 37%. (Yes, another super-close election!) The race for third place, between two parties that would each be the preferred partner of one of the main parties, is also close. It appears the Free Democrats are on around 9% and the Greens around 8%. Whether either potential coalition has garnered a majority of seats will depend, in part, on whether the Left party clears the 5% threshold. If it does, the state might end of up with a grand coalition mirroring the federal one. If it does not, the wasted votes could put one of blocs over the 50% mark in the state assembly.
The Christian Democrats in Hesse campaigned on tough-on-crime and anti-immigrant themes. The Social Democrats, according to a report I saw Friday on DW-TV (via Link TV), focused on the national minimum wage. I emphasize “national” because it is telling about how nationalized German politics is, despite the federal system, that a state election campaign would evidently turn on a national policy matter. (Crime and immigration, on the other hand, could be seen as partly national and partly local.)
Meanwhile, in Lower Saxony, the Christian Democrats also did rather poorly, compared to 2003: 43%, down from 48%. But, along with their current partner, the Free Democrats, they will retain control of the government. The Social Democrats likewise did poorly in Lower Saxony: 30% (previously 33%), which DW calls the party’s second worst showing in state elections in recent years.
The Left also is on the cusp of the threshold in Lower Saxony. In either state, it would be a first: The Left party did not exist in 2003; as the (small s, small d) social-democratic faction had not yet broken off from the right-drifting Social Democratic Party and joined up with the Party of Democratic Socialism. The latter was competitive mainly in the eastern states it formerly ruled.
Federal elections are not due until September, 2009, but these state elections will be much interpreted for whatever clues they may hold for national politics.
Majority: 56, hence possible:
(The latter is unlikely, though some chance of a Left-supported minority government.)
Note: I changed the title, as whether the result in Hesse is a setback to Merkel herself is very much debatable. The CDU leader in Hesse is considered a rival to Merkel. One suspects she is not too sad, really. On the other hand, the big gains by both the SPD and the Left can’t cheer her up too much.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (4)
25 January 2008
Italy’s prime minister, Romani Prodi, was ousted by a vote of no confidence in the Senate yesterday. It was a day of high political drama, precipitated by the defection from his center-left coalition of a critical partner earlier in the week, and marked by one senator being spat upon, and then collapsing, after announcing he was staying with the government rather than his party, and with champaign being sprayed around the opposition benches.1
The (mostly ceremonial) president now must consult with the leaders of the various parties and determine whether a government can be reconstructed out of the current parliament, or whether to dissolve parliament and call for early elections. Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, smelling blood, wants quick elections. But it is not his decision.
Prodi has a solid majority in the Chamber of Deputies, and retains its confidence. However, Italy is one of the very rare cases of a parliamentary system in which the cabinet must maintain confidence in two chambers.
Knowing little more than what I have summarized so far, and the details of the current electoral system (which I will get to), I would expect a caretaker government to be formed to pass a new electoral system before new elections. One of the issues that has divided the coalition is precisely the electoral system. However, now that the threat of a new election looms,a divided coalition may not want to go to elections under the current rules. The president (who again, is mostly ceremonial) is known to prefer that an electoral reform be completed before new elections. On the other hand, of course, the electoral reforms being talked about would reduce the representation of smaller parties, of which there are many in parliament currently, especially in Prodi’s alliance.2
Under the system that was adopted just in time for the last elections (April, 2006) by Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition, the electoral rules are strongly majoritarian. Of course, the media always blame proportional representation for Italy’s short-duration governments.3 However, few systems are actually more majoritarian than what Italy currently has: Any pre-electoral bloc of parties that can obtain a plurality of votes over any other party or bloc is guaranteed at least 55% of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Only then does the proportional element come in, as this majority bloc of seats is divided proportionally among the parties in the alliance that won the vote plurality. (And the remaining seats are similarly divided among the rest of the blocs and their component parties.) The Senate allocation formula is essentially the same, but allocation is carried out on a regional basis, rather than nationally. The regional element in the second chamber, as well as the presence of some lifetime senators, is what results in Prodi’s majority being narrower in the senate than in the chamber (158 seats won out of 301 in 2006, compared to 156 for the opposition).
The current system was put in place by Berlusconi and his allies in the expectation that it would be impossible for the center-left to unite, and thus the right could win a large majority of parliament even if its aggregate support declined from the previous election. It almost worked, as the election was razor-thin in the votes (49.7% to 49.5%). But with virtually all parties having combined into one of two big blocs, and with the center-left being just ahead in votes, it was the center-left and Prodi that came out ahead.
Before this week, Prodi had already survived one crisis in the Senate, when he resigned in response to losing a vote on NATO troop deployments (and which was not, in fact, a confidence vote). He was able to come back from that bit of brinkmanship stronger than he had been before it.4 This time seems quite different.
A proportional representation system–an actual PR system–could make Italy much more governable than the impostor the country currently has, especially if it had a 3-5% threshold.5 To the extent that small parties in the governing coalition have been a problem under the current system–and they certainly have been–it is worth noting that these parties are boosted by the current electoral system’s non-proportional provisions. For instance, the second largest party in Prodi’s alliance, the Communist Refoundation, won only 5.7% of the votes in the 2006 election. Yet it has 6.5% of the seats in parliament. Every other party in the alliance has less than 3% of the votes, yet each is over-represented. Collectively, the seven parties other than the largest (L’Ulivo) and Refoundation, have 10.6% of the votes, yet 12.9% of the seats.6 The party that left the coalition this week, the Popolari-UDEUR, won only 1.4% of the vote (both houses) and has 10 seats in the Chamber and only 3 in the Senate. Given the narrower margin in the Senate, that was a pivotal share. Under a PR system, especially with a modest threshold, these small parties would have to combine with others or be out of parliament. Then there is the likely fact that a PR system would mean some parties would leave their current bloc and be available to support either major party and its allies in government. That would be an asset, not a flaw, of a new PR system in Italy.
Will the center-left parties have to contest an election under the current system, which would almost certainly then play out the way Berlusconi had intended the 2006 election to play out? Or can they agree on a different system being passed by a temporary government, thereby delaying the election and perhaps snatching victory from the jaws of this week’s big defeat?
Propagation: Seeds & scions (8)
23 January 2008
I did not even know it, but apparently I have been a Pigovian since my first year of eligibility to vote in presidential elections. It was 1980, and I backed John Anderson.1 The main plank in his campaign platform that I still remember 28 years later was a 50c/gallon gas tax. This was at a time when the nominal cost of a gallon of gasoline had just passed 50 cents (though the price in 2007 dollars was about $2.00).
Last October, in the WSJ, Greg Mankiw gave the case for a large (but gradual) increase in the gas tax, which he reprinted at his blog under the title, The Pigovian Manifesto.
John Anderson got 7% of the vote in the general election in 1980, and as far as I know no candidate who advocated a large increase in the gas tax has beaten that percentage since. As Mankiw concludes with:
Indeed. Count me in as a self-declared (and, in spirit, adult-lifelong) member of the Pigou Club, along with Mankiw, Al Gore, Alan Greenspan, Paul Volcker, Paul Krugman, Andrew Sullivan, Greg Easterbrook, Joe Stiglitz, Gary Becker, Nouriel Roubini, Arthur Laffer, and an evidently growing list of economists, pundits, and other social commentators. Are political scientists/orchardists welcome to the club?
Propagation: Seeds & scions (2)
Interesting commentary from Patrick Lawrence, originally from the Sunday Independent in South Africa: Zuma can challenge Mbkei, if he wants to.
A motion of no confidence by allies of newly elected ANC head Jacob Zuma against the now lame-duck administration of President Thabo Mbeki is apparently being considered…
The author analyzes the political considerations–the intra-ANC ones are about all that count here–and suggests:
The current dual leadership is indeed anomalous for what is in fact a parliamentary system. However, one might think that if it was clear that the Zuma forces could muster the votes, Mbeki would be prevailed upon to resign rather than to face the spectacle of losing a vote of no confidence in a parliament in which his party has almost three fourths of the seats.
Well, I just realized that Tuesday was the last day to register to vote or to change one’s party affiliation in advance of California’s presidential primary. So, it’s Democrat–my current registration, more or less by default1–for me. I had considered re-registering Green, and may still do so, but it won’t be in time for the presidential primary. I had also considered re-registering Decline to State, but that would only have broadened my options to include the American Independent (in addition to Democrat), and there is noting at all “broad” about the American Independent party.2
I rather like the idea of being a dues paying member of one party3 while being legally able to participate in the nominating primary of another–I suppose that is a very American form of political party participation!
Besides, I have only a weak preference among the Green pre-candidates, and have mixed feelings about whether the party–yes, my party–should even run a presidential candidate.4 But if I vote for President in November, that vote will almost certainly be for the Green Party nominee,5 whoever it is–a party, not a personal vote. So, why bother to vote in a primary when you are almost indifferent as to whom it nominates (or even if it nominates anyone)?
Anyway, for those who will be voting in the Green presidential primary, be sure to listen to the recent pre-candidates’ debate. And also be informed that the most recognizable name in US Green politics is on your ballot, but at least as of now, is not an announced pre-candidate.6
Regarding the Green debate, I mostly agree with the review by Wes of California Greening.
So, I still have about two weeks to pick a pre-candidate from our–I mean, their–wonderful field.7
Propagation: Seeds & scions (6)
22 January 2008
This is almost eerie. Today I stumbled upon a blog called Orchards Forever, while looking into web sites with reference to Tu Bishvat. (There was nothing there on our New Year for Trees, but that’s neither here nor there. Besides the blog is identified as pagan.)
In addition to a list of favorite apple varieties, the blog has a statement about its author, Peg, that is headed, “My Core.” The archives are headed by “Harvests Past.”
But it gets even closer to home, or rather to the finca. Posts are indicated as “planted by Peg” and those who leave comments are “Johnny Appleseeds.”
And there is a link to a Virtual Orchard (a separate site that I also did not previously know.) Linked blogs are referred to as “Blog Branches.”
Seems like my kind of (virtual) fruitfulness!
Propagation: Seeds & scions (1)
On the fifteenth of Shevat,
When the spring comes,
An angel descends, ledger in hand.
And enters each bud, each twig, each tree
And all our garden flowers.
Well, as that full moon tonight reminds us, the 15th of Shevat (Tu Bishvat) is here, but not much is in bloom yet. Tu Bishvat, as the New Year for Trees, was set during the early rabbinic period of Judaism, mainly to determine the taxation on the produce of the trees of the Land of Israel. (For a rundown of other modern and more spiritual and environmental interpretations that are a bit more meaningful to us than taxation of fruit, as well as its significance in the State of Israel, see the links at My Jewish Learning.)
Why set this date on the lunar calendar as the point at which to divide years for purposes of assessments on fruit trees? Probably because it is around this time that the sap is surging in the trees and they are beginning to “wake up” from their winter slumber. More specifically, it is traditionally said to be the time of year when the almond trees begin to blossom in the Land of Israel.2 Almonds always are among the earliest blooming deciduous fruits,3 and thus are indeed a good harbinger of the days soon to come when all our garden flowers.
Granted, Ladera Frutal is a long way from Israel, but it is at almost precisely the same latitude as Jerusalem, and with a similar “Mediterranean” climate. But this little ‘Garden Prince’ almond tree, planted just under a year ago, seems unaware that winter is here, let alone that it is about time to wake up from winter.
And it was indeed pretty wintry today, by local standards, with light rain showers and a high of only about 56.
Tu Bishavt is early this year, relative to the solar cycles that presumably have more to do with when the trees begin to bloom than do the ancient rabbis’ choice of a tithing date. And, with the first day on the Jewish calendar that marks the arrival of spring being too early this year, so would the festival of the height of spring–Pesach–were it not for the fact that the rabbis anticipated this problem and decreed the occasional leap year. We will have two months of Adar this year, lengthening the gap between Tu Bishvat and Pesach.4 That is, this is a leap year on the Jewish calendar just as it is on the Gregorian solar calendar.
The leap year will mean that next year Tu Bishvat will come a more sensible seven weeks after the winter solstice, rather than barely over four, as this year. Seven week after–that is, approaching mid February–we can expect lots of trees in bloom here. Maybe even the ‘Garden Prince.’
Also recommended: An excellent post by Yair.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (4)
21 January 2008
The Independent reports:
The article goes on to say about Mr Straw’s preference that it “is known he favours the additional vote system.” I assume that is supposed to mean what is generally known as the alternative vote (i.e., ranked-choice ballots, sequential-elimination majority, or ‘IRV’). Not nearly as good (for the LibDems, or for representative parliaments) as PR, but indeed “a fairer system.” The article also mentions the Jenkins “AV+” proposal as a possibility (weak MMP with very small compensation regions, and AV in the nominal tier.
Thanks to Malcom Clark at Make My Vote Count for the tip, and, like Malcolm, I will not be holding my breath waiting for something to happen.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (3)
Philip Klinkner (who has been posting terrific commentary on the primaries) has some scenarios today at PolySigh for the likely outcome of the California Democratic presidential primary. It does not look good for Obama. Unless The Candidate of (not from) Hope makes sudden inroads into greater white and Latino support that he has not shown elsewhere, or greatly exceeds his high-end polling (in South Carolina) of the African-American vote, he looks likely to be defeated by a wide margin here.
Philip notes that Obama’s one hope in the state may be a big turnout of independents, who are allowed to request a Democratic ballot on primary day.1
Without a win in California, Iowa’s result will be a mere historical footnote.2 I can’t see how Obama can possibly get the nomination without a very strong majority3 in California. Does anyone see a scenario that I am missing, or take issue with Philip’s scenarios? Or seriously expect a huge surge of independents for Obama in this state? I don’t see it.
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F&V time: This blog's date function is so set as to start a new day at approximately local sunset. (Why, if we have "day" and "night," should a new "day" start in the middle of the night?)
FRUITS: Support your local, organic growers; and, plant vines and fig trees and pomegranates for the generations to come...
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