Sen. Grassley on Healthcare

Senator Charles Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, was nice enough to sit down with C-SPAN's Washington Journal show yesterday morning [9/8/09]. Sen. Grassley answered phone calls and questions pertaining to the health care debate. The full length video is presented below, and I would encourage you to watch it in its entirety. I have however excerpted crucial exchanges which I believe to be representative of Sen. Grassley's position as the main antagonist to health care reform.

There are five main points that I would like to highlight from the roughly thirty three minute video. Each point is bolded within the excerpt; I'll respond to these bolded portions following each excerpt. You can also listen to the excerpt by advancing the slider bar in the video above to the corresponding time listed at the beginning of each excerpt. The first excerpt is below:

[TIME: 00:21:24]

HOST: Let's go to Jonathan on the Republican's line, and he's calling from Wilmington, North Carolina. Go ahead Jonathan.

CALLER: Thank you and good morning, and thank God for C-SPAN. Senator Grassley, the first question I would like to ask you is how long you have been a member of Congress?

GRASSLEY (R, IA): This is my fifth term....

CALLER: This is your fifth term; so we're going on 30 years. Is that correct?

GRASSLEY: This is my fifth term....Yes.

CALLER: And six year terms, thats coming up on 30 years. When was the last time you had to decide whether you were going to buy food or health care for your children? Your salary in the Senate is about eight times what the average American makes. And to be honest, you live in a bubble and do not realize what the average American goes through.

GRASSLEY: You asked me when the last time was. It would be from 1961 to 1971 when I was a member of the International Association of Machinists. I was an assembly line worker making furnace registers at Waterloo Register Company, Cedar Falls Iowa; and I spent ten years putting screw holes in furnace registers. During that period of time I had to worry about whether I was going to buy food or other things. And that was two jobs I had at that particular time.

HOST: And did you struggle with health care at that time, with insurance?

GRASSLEY: Well, I suppose I was like 20 year old people and early 30 year old people right now. I was never going to get sick, I never had any need for [health care]. So I think that I was probably, during that period of time, even though my company had a plan for us to join, I think I was seven or eight years of the ten years I spent there before I signed up for the health insurance plan.1 If you're working where they have health insurance and you're 20 to 30 years old and you think you're never going to get sick, maybe that's true, but if you have a chance to have health insurance, you outta take it.2 About four to five million people, of the 50 million people that don't have health insurance, are people that fall into that category of 20 to 30 years old.

Source: CSPAN: Senator Grassley on Congressional Agenda

1. I would argue that Sen. Grassley's health care situation in the 1960s and '70s is financially incomparable. He stated that he earned $15,000 at some juncture between 1961-1971 later in the segment, so I'll use that amount for comparison purposes and assume that it was 1971. Several different metrics reveal that $15,000 in 1971 is worth about 60k in 2003 terms. Health care in 1971 cost $342 per capita and increased to $5,711 in 2003 according to the non profit Kaiser Family Foundation; a respected authority on health care research.

Using the aforementioned data for 1971 and 2003 respectively we can show that the cost of health care as a percentage of Sen. Grassley's income quadrupled between 1971 and 2003. If 2009 data were available, the difference would likely be larger. It is, using 2003 dollars, currently four times more difficult to afford insurance than it was in 1971, using Sen. Grassley's situation.

To illustrate this point graphically, I've plotted national health care expenditures as a function of national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over time. You'll notice that the GDP cost of health care has roughly doubled in the past 40 years:

cost of health care as GDP 1960-2007

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services [*.zip 4KB]

No matter what metric is used, health care is more expensive today than in years past. The increase in health care costs have outpaced the increase in wages during the same time period, thus leaving segments of the population with no alternative. Health care has simply become too expensive for some Americans and I think the general public has acknowledged this issue; Grassley appears to be an exception.

2. This is by far Sen. Grassley's most interesting statement of the entire interview/show. He presents a redundant set of logical tests governing the process of acquiring health care. He concludes that if somebody has access to health care, they should get health care. His initial logic can further be reduced to: if you have the capacity to afford health care, you will have health care; if you can't afford health care, you don't have health care.

I know the situation is more complex than a binary choice scenario, but the fact that Sen. Grassley used if to proceed his statement highlights the need for reform. The ability to obtain health care within one's means should be a fundamental right, there should be no if. An individual's desire for health care treatment should not depend upon their, or anybody else's, financial situation. The right to affordable health care supports our declared right to life.

The second excerpt follows and piggy-backs upon the first:

[TIME: 00:30:10]

HOST: Let's go to Dee on the Democrats line calling from New Jersey. Go ahead Dee.

CALLER Good morning.

GRASSLEY: Good morning.

CALLER: I just have a couple of things and a couple of questions. One is, a minute ago you said that it was 1971 the last time you had to worry about providing food for your family and for paying for health care.

GRASSLEY: Yeah, let me explain why that was that way. Because prior to that time I was making about 15,000 dollars and then being elected to Congress and then making 42,000 at the time; that doubled my income.3

CALLER: Well sir, since that time, health insurance premiums have gone up about 400% for one thing, and the manufacturing base has been decimated since that time. There are fewer manufacturing - I mean the world has changed since then. So, that time, while relevant to you, is not relevant to most Americans who are struggling with those choices today.

Secondly, you continue, and I've seen this in your town hall meetings, you continue to castigate Canada and other countries with single payer health care; well Canada is number six in life expectancy in the world. Japan where I lived for seven years, has single payer health care and is number two in the world. Singapore is number three and they have a system where they have private insurance competing with a public option and it has driven down costs in both directions.

GRASSLEY: Well go to England, where people don't live as long as they do in the United States if they have cancer or go to Canada where you gotta wait three months to have an MRI. So if you have a headache, do you want to wait three months to find out if you have a brain tumor. Or why do so many people come across the lines to have MRIs when they can afford to get it right now. Why do you have to wait in line for a long time to have hip and knee replacement compared to what you have in the United States.4

Government run plan has x number of dollars they're going to spend on health care and when those x number of dollars don't go far enough then they erase you. So when you have a political decision and you only have one choice, the government's choice, and what we're trying to do here for the 50 million people that don't have health insurance is to give them choice by putting them into private insurance plans and that's why we don't want a public option.

Because every expert on the subject says says that tens of millions of people, the lowest figure I've seen is 83 million, the highest figure I've seen is 120, are going to be pushed out of their health care plan into a government run plan. And when you do that, you soon have, everybody else's premiums go up, and pretty soon other people opt out and then pretty soon you have what the Congresswoman from Illinois said to a group that she was talking to who wanted a Canadian style single payer. We have to have a public option first because the American people won't go from what they have now to what they have in Canada so we have to have this interim stop over. But you know what their goal is? Their goal is to have the government run everything. And I don't think the government does a very good job of running the postal service for instance. So should they be running health care?5

Source: CSPAN: Senator Grassley on Congressional Agenda

3. Sen. Grassley has already falsely compared his plight to that of others, now he's providing his excuse; money. Sen. Grassley fails to comprehend the intricacies of his own health care situation. He has been a member of Congress since 1974, at which point he qualified for the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) of 1959; the plan does not provide government run healthcare it simply provides "the widest selection of [private] health plans in the country." Sen. Grassley hasn't had to worry about health care, in the same since as most American's, for the last 35 years because of this program. It also doesn't hurt to make more than 95% of the general population. Either one of these circumstances explains Sen. Grassley's inability to relate to the imperativeness of health care reform.

4. I think the caller makes a good point, although his factual assertions are slightly off base; for example Japan is third in average life expectancy, not second. The caller's main point was that these other countries with nationalized health care actually produce a higher standard of living, at least in terms of life expectancy, than does the US. Sen. Grassley was very dismissive of this argument and eagerly presented counter examples to the caller's claims. Sen. Grassley instantly focused on areas where these systems are inferior to the USA, rather than focusing on their advantages.

I don't want you to tell me what doesn't work, or won't work, I want you to support what does work or could work. Japan, Singapore and Canada are obviously doing something right, as designated by their average life expectancies, it is your job as a Senator to determine what it is in order to better our country.

5. Grassley apparently doesn't know shit about the post office. If the health care plan passes and is as successful as the post office, 82% of American's will support its implementation.

Published on September 8th at 11:56 PM CT :: 1 Comment

Georgia Runoff Fallout

The internet-left seems to be horrifically consumed with the Chambliss victory, but it all seems rather baseless, rooted purely in emotion. Nothing went wrong for the Democrats, they simply did not win. To prove my point I'll refer to the following analogy:

In any given state (with a Senate Election) the incumbent walks to the top of a building holding their opponents' egg. Throughout the campaign the challenger attempts to "protect" their egg by any means. The height of the building is decided by the political environment. Using Georgia as an example, the initial deficit facing a Democratic Challenger is comparatively higher than other Senate races across the country. The demographics in Georgia were not advantageous to Jim Martin at any point.

After the November 4th result, Martin's egg was essentially intact, but showed signs of breakdown; Martin initially lost by about 3 percent. When the runoff was sanctioned, the same egg was used again as Jim Martin was still the candidate. Martin not only had to protect his egg, but he had to do a better job, from a taller building; the Republican's had motivation and, as evidenced by the initial result, more support.

On the second time around, Martin's already weakened egg shattered on the pavement below. Did this Republican victory signal a blatant rejection of Democratic values? No. It is impossible to argue that the Democratic brand was rejected in the Georgia runoff, if it was already rejected on November 4th, nothing changed; remember Obama lost Georgia too. If you look at the polls in the initial Senate election, or the runoff Martin NEVER led.

It is absolutely foolish for anyone to manufacture a Democratic "problem" based upon the runoff result. If this was your message you should have been on it 28 days ago. A Republican led the entire election cycle, and eventually went on to win; there was no upset, but there was some drama. This is what should have happened; there is no Democratic tragedy, there is nothing to learn.

Published on December 3rd at 2:41 PM CT :: 0 Comments

MN-Sen: Audit Regression

The following analysis uses data provided by Prof. Jeffrey B. Lewis of UCLA who coauthored Residual Votes in the 2008 Minnesota Senate Race. My analysis is entirely independent and not in anyway shape or form associated with the aforementioned individuals or institutions. The data contains an exhaustive compilation of the revised Post Election Audit Review published by the Office of the Secretary of State in Minnesota.

I parsed the data and created the graphs shown below. The three graphs immediately following this paragraph depict the number of votes gained or lost with respect to the total votes recorded for each precinct included in the audit. The dots represent the change between the machine counted votes and hand recorded votes surveyed in the audit. A dot located at (443, 2) represents a gain of 2 votes by the given candidate in a precinct with 443 total votes. Each approximation line uses a least-squares nonlinear regression for arbitrary fit functions as provided by Mathcad's genfit() function:

MN Senate Precinct Audit Regression

You'll notice that the graphs range from 0 to 2,645 votes; this is because the largest precinct surveyed in the audit contained just 2,645 votes.

The following functions correspond to the resulting regression's interpolation. The input x represents the number of votes in a given precinct. Although it appears as though the first two terms cancel, the truncated three decimal numbers are in actuality much more precise:

MN Senate Precinct Audit Regression

The following graph illustrates the best fit regression functions, developed above, extrapolated out to include the vote totals of all 4,130 precincts statewide. As of right now (12:55 AM CT 11/20) the Otstego precinct of Wright County currently leads the state in total votes with 6,621.

MN Senate Precinct Audit Regression

I plan on rehashing this analysis with the current results of the recount within the immediate future. Today Franken gained 43 votes as a result of today's recount over the certified returns published on November 18th:

                       Nov. 18       Recount    Change
       Coleman (R)     195,708       195,638     -70
       Franken (D)     180,950       180,923     -27

                       Franken Net Gain:          43

Franken made up much of his ground in St. Louis County, as I have previously suggested, by gaining 40 votes and losing 16. St. Louis County has recounted just 77 of 232 precincts (33.18%) and has contributed to a 23 vote decrease in Coleman's lead. Overal, Franken gained votes in 50 precincts, and lost votes in 79 while Coleman gained votes in 40 precincts and lost in 92.

While today's result appears to be good news for Team Franken, the result of a Ramsey County lawsuit may be even better. The Franken Campaign sued the St. Paul county for the names of voters whose absentee ballots had been rejected. The presiding judge issued this statement: "With each passing hour, the Franken campaign is irreparably harmed in its efforts to ensure that each valid vote is properly counted." Franken's attorneys said the ruling strengthens their case in other counties and with the canvassing board over the ongoing issue of "wrongfully" invalidated absentee ballots.

Published on November 19th at 11:23 PM CT :: 0 Comments

MN-Senate: Precinct Audit Analysis

On Friday November 14th, the Post Election Audit Review was carried out in 53 (1.297%) precincts across the state. The audit recounted 54,036 (1.872%) Senate votes statewide and included voter intent into some determinations.

Throughout the entire process 106 votes were corrected and Franken accumulated 2 additional votes. The table below depicts the results of this audit for each precinct in which it was conducted. The error rate measures the number of corrections relative to the total number of votes in each precinct. Votes for Dean Barkley and other Senate candidates were included in the math, but are not depicted due to space limitations.

County Precinct Total Changes Franken Net Gain Coleman Franken Total Error %
Anoka Coon Rapids W3 P-2 2 -2 874 811 2026 0.10%
Anoka Lino Lakes P-4 1 0 1177 548 2019 0.05%
Becker Detorit Lakes W3 P-1 1 1 770 475 1414 0.07%
Benton Minden TWP P2 0 0 2 2 4 0.00%
Benton Sauk Rapids P-3 1 0 749 502 1564 0.06%
Benton Sauk Rapids P-4 1 1 503 417 1154 0.09%
Brown Cottonwood TWP 1 1 200 149 478 0.21%
Carver Chaska W4 3 1 1426 790 2645 0.11%
Chippewa Clara City 1 0 304 232 683 0.15%
Chippewa Montevideo P-1 1 -1 432 519 1202 0.08%
Cottonwood Windom W-1 P-2 1 -1 320 281 707 0.14%
Dakota South St. Paul P4 W2 1 1 516 802 1608 0.06%
Fairbault Blue Earth W-2 1 1 314 212 636 0.16%
Hennepin Bloomington W1 P15 1 -1 606 546 1349 0.07%
Hennepin Maple Grove P-18 2 2 1074 438 1723 0.12%
Hennepin Minneapolis W7 P9 3 -1 304 876 1327 0.23%
Hennepin Minneapolis W9 P4 1 1 111 654 848 0.12%
Hennepin Plymouth W4 P22 2 -1 835 487 1517 0.13%
Hennepin Plymouth W4 P25 2 2 785 759 1853 0.11%
Itasca Greenway TWP P-3 1 -2 112 218 382 0.26%
Kanabec Ann Lake TWP 1 0 87 98 232 0.43%
Koochiching Scarlett Precinct 1 -1 31 28 65 1.54%
Lac Qui Parle Maxwell TWP 1 -1 39 36 93 1.08%
Lake of the Woods 5-A Unorg 1 1 157 114 324 0.31%
Marshall McCrea TWP 1 -1 87 37 146 0.68%
Mille Lacs South Harbor TWP 1 0 202 182 455 0.22%
Morrison Little Falls TWP 1 -1 483 296 936 0.11%
Otter Tail Dunn TWP 1 1 351 212 631 0.16%
Pipestone Jasper 2 0 100 109 234 0.85%
Polk Fosston City 1 1 363 276 733 0.14%
Ramsey Roseville P-2 4 -2 924 1110 2399 0.17%
Ramsey St. Paul W3 P5 2 -2 782 1060 2129 0.09%
Ramsey St. Paul W3 P13 1 1 447 1341 2023 0.05%
Ramsey St. Paul W6 P5 3 3 226 678 1055 0.28%
Redwood Redwood Falls W3 0 0 358 310 860 0.00%
Renville Franklin 1 -1 81 100 243 0.41%
Rock Beaver Creek TWP 2 -2 130 66 210 0.95%
St. Louis Babbit 28 -2 299 471 905 3.09%
St. Louis Eveleth P6 11 5 61 214 310 3.55%
Scott Prior Lake P5 2 1 1110 488 1824 0.11%
Scott Savage P-2 1 1 1031 870 2332 0.04%
Sherburne Clear Lake TWP 1 1 555 297 1079 0.09%
Sherburne Elk River W2 P2B 1 -2 961 464 1746 0.06%
Stearns Fair Haven TWP 2 0 354 236 830 0.24%
Steele Merton TWP 1 0 87 53 222 0.45%
Stevens Swan Lake TWP 2 2 95 36 149 1.34%
Swift Swenoda TWP 0 0 25 25 72 0.00%
Traverse Wheaton P2 1 1 151 165 403 0.25%
Waseca New Richland City 1 0 221 222 573 0.17%
Washington Cottage Grove P3 1 -2 651 790 1774 0.06%
Washington Cottage Grove P5 1 1 644 644 1539 0.06%
Winona Lewiston 1 -1 345 340 829 0.12%
Wright Buffalo P1 1 -1 744 509 1542 0.06%
Total   106 2 23596 21595 54036 Avg: 0.37%

Based upon the random sample, Norm Coleman won 33 (62.26%) precincts, while Franken won the other 20. This ratio slightly exaggerates support for Norm Coleman; using the complete sample of 4,130 precincts, Coleman wins just 60.46% of all statewide precincts. If the result from the audit sample is extrapolated out into the remaining precincts, where Franken accrues 2 votes for every 53 precincts, the Democratic challenger should pick up 156 votes through the recount process. If an adjusted ratio is used, which reflects the statewide precinct ratio, Franken gains approximately 5 votes in addition to the aforementioned 156.

Another item to consider is the high error rate in St. Louis County. St. Louis County is the largest county in Minnesota, and is located in the upper right portion of the state:

Minnesota Election Results By County

Using the information presented in the above image (click on the image for a more thorough explanation) St. Louis County may hold the key to a Franken comeback. Noting the results of the Audit, where Franken accrued 3 votes in just five (three are not depicted in the table because there was no change) precincts from St. Louis County, Franken could gain 120 votes if the aforementioned trend continues in all 232 precincts of St. Louis County.

Published on November 16th at 4:58 PM CT :: 1 Comment

Minnesota Senate: Recount Preview

The Minnesota Senate recount hasn't started, but the already fierce campaign continues to escalate. No amount of complaining will win this election, but both sides seem content to try. Each campaign is spewing propaganda, but the vast majority of media coverage seems to involve Republican talking points, rather than facts. This is an obvious problem; as a result the actual information takes a backseat to spin and deception. Using the current results, as provided by the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office, the reasoning behind the right-wing's focus can be extracted:

Minnesota Election Results By County

There's a lot of information in the image above that may not be directly apparent; I will do my best to explain its meaning; if you don't care about the peculiarities of each maps' coloration, skip to the ellipses.

Franken vs Coleman (0%, 1, 3)

The upper left most map of Minnesota depicts the percent margin of victory in each county using the unofficial results of the Minnesota Senate election. All totals pertaining to unlisted candidates are included in our analysis. The color purple represents counties decided by less than 3% of the final margin, decrementing by 1 percent for each change in color. The darkest purple represents a voting margin of 1% or less, the middle purple between 1% and 2% and the lightest purple between 2-3%. The blue and red then represent counties that were decisively won by either Al Franken or Norm Coleman, respectively. The red and blue counties follow a 3% scale. The lightest blue (or red) represents a 3-6% margin, followed by 6-9% as the color grows darker, then finally a 9%+ margin of victory for the darkest blue (or red).

Obama vs McCain (0%, 1, 3)

Instead of depicting the unofficial Senate Results, the upper right most map shows the result of the Presidential Election between Barack Obama and John McCain; the color scales are identical to those used in the first Senate map.

Franken vs Obama (12%, .166, 1.5)

The lower left most map differs from the previous two, but conveys a combination of their data. Based on the current statewide result, Al Franken received 12.07903% less votes than Obama. For the proposes of this graph that number was rounded to 12% and used as a baseline. If Al Franken performed better than that 12% difference in a given county, the county is designated as blue; if Obama did better, the county was colored orange. The purple represents counties where the adjusted margin, after the 12% is applied, lies within .5%. The darkest purple shows counties decided by .166% or less, the middle purple .333% or less, and the lightest purple .5% or less. The blue and orange counties follow a 1.5% scale. The lightest blue (or orange) represents a 1.5-3% adjusted margin, then a 3-4.5% margin for the next darkest color. followed by the darkest blue (or orange) representing a 7%+ adjusted margin of victory for the associated candidate.

Residual Votes (0%, 200, 2000)

The final map, the lower rightmost, reveals the most interesting conclusion of the currently unofficial result. This map illustrates the difference between the number of total ballots cast and the number cast in the Senate Election; this difference is commonly referred to as the residual vote. The counties are colored with respect to the first map, but the degree of coloration corresponds to the number of residual votes in a given county. The lightest color depicts a county with fewer than 200 residual votes, followed by the middle color with 200-2,000 residual votes, and finally the darkest color representing a county with more than 2,000 residual votes.


The right-wing (, Amanda Carpenter,, seems content to perpetuate misinformation of the residual vote variety. Contrary to their belief, the relationship between Franken's outcome and Obama's outcome has absolutely nothing to do with the current, and likely spread of residual votes. Are they simply refusing to accept the empirical facts or are they already starting to play the blame game?

The raw data, our results, depict a very plausible comeback by Al Franken during the recount. Drawing from our Residual Votes map, there were 34,703 votes cast on a presidential ballot that were not cast in the Senate race. Of those 34,703 residual votes, 17,839 (51.04%) of them occurred in counties that Franken won, a margin of 975. If just 21.13% of the statewide residual votes are classified as either undervotes or overvotes Al Franken should statistically pull ahead during the recount.

If you want a higher degree of residual vote accuracy, perhaps the county and precinct level results should be taken into consideration. Using county level data, Franken needs slightly less than 40% of the 34,703 previously identified residual votes and just 13.2% of that total using precinct data. All modes of interpretation clearly point to a likely surge by Franken during the recount process due to these residual votes; a fact the right seems content to ignore.

If you don't trust my analysis, perhaps you should argue with Dartmouth College or MIT instead.

Update: The obvious discrepancy in my initial result revolved around the exclusion of Presidential residual votes. The MN SOS website happens to provide a count for the total number of ballots cast in each county which allows us to find the number of Presidential residual votes through a simple subtraction. The Presidential residual vote was then added to the Senate residual vote to arrive at the total number of residual votes cast in the Minnesota election. I've updated the numbers within the the article to reflect this change. The inclusion of this new information increased the number of effective residual votes needed, for a Franken victory, by roughly 10%; definitely good news for Norm Coleman's reelection effort.

Published on November 15th at 12:58 AM CT :: 0 Comments

Alaska is...Interesting

With the Alaska Senate race still in full swing, a few pieces of information bear consideration. The Democratic challenger, Mark Begich of Anchorage currently holds a 1,022 vote lead over the convicted felon and Republican, Ted Stevens. The percent margin is exceptionally close, just .35%, a slim enough margin to qualify for a state funded recount under Alaska Statutes § 15.20.450:

If the recount includes an office for which candidates received a tie vote, or the difference between the number of votes cast was 20 or less or was less than .5 percent of the total number of votes cast for the two candidates for the contested office...the application need not include a deposit, and the state shall bear the cost of the recount.

The recount is not automatically triggered, as is the case in Minnesota, but rather must be requested under Alaska Statutes § 15.20.430:

A defeated candidate or 10 qualified voters who believe there has been a mistake made by an election official or by the counting board in counting the votes in an election, may file an application within five days after the completion of the state review to the director for a recount of the votes from any particular precinct or any house district and for any particular office, proposition, or question.

As the Alaska count currently stands, a state funded recount is a realistic outcome.

In preparation for the recounts, in both Minnesota and possibly Alaska, I sought to collect geographic information from each state that would allow for the creation of county and precinct level maps. Minnesota went off without a hitch (more on that later) but I ran into some issues with Alaska.

There appears to be an attempt by the Alaskan Government to provide the mapping data I sought, albeit a very sorry attempt. The page appears to provide a plethora of maps and resources, but any effort to actually obtain said files, results in a 505 error. I could always shell over the $150 required to purchase this data from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, but I don't have the urge. Why does Alaska need to charge for this government funded information, haven't the taxpayers already paid?

Apparently a viable link to an image of Russia remains of paramount importance, while essentially every other link, to the actual data, fails. Unbelievable.

Russia From an Alaskan's Perspective

Source: Alaska Department of Natural Resources

To be fair, this image exists in a specific surveying format; the equal area model. That said, there is absolutely no reason why the page could not have been more logically oriented. But ignoring this issue; why is a bizarre image of Russia available on a government sponsored server, while data directly pertaining to the state, and country for which that government seeks to represent, unavailable?

It all makes sense now.

Published on November 14th at 11:52 PM CT :: 0 Comments

MN-Sen: Undervote Redux

In my previous article on undervotes, which you should probably read before continuing, I looked at the undervote totals in the 87 counties of Minnesota. While counties provide a fair level of resolution, the precinct data could provide an additional level of detail. This time around I used the precinct data, from the MN Secretary of State's Office, for both the Senate and Presidential elections. The resulting calculation was performed identically to the method described in the aforementioned article, just with additional data.

The precinct calculation yielded 17,831 undervotes in precincts won by Obama, while the county result ranged roughly 500 votes higher at 18,328. This deviation initially appears worrisome, for Franken, but the final tally shows a staggering drop off in the number of undervotes necessary for a Franken victory. An undervote total of just 3,280 votes, evenly distributed across each precinct and inline with the current trend, delivers Franken the votes necessary to overcome his 206 vote deficit. These 3,280 votes represent just 13.2% of all potential undervotes, as identified in the preceding article.

Given this result, I have no idea if 13.2% exists in the realm of likelihood, but its better news, for Franken, than our previously determined 40% threshold. Tomorrow (or the next day) I plan on exploring the historical correlation between overvotes, undervotes, and the Presidential to Senate ratio; I'll report back with my findings.

Published on November 11st at 3:27 AM CT :: 0 Comments

MN-Sen: Undervotes Favor Franken

With each passing day, Norm Coleman's lead, currently 206, slips further into obscurity as the final canvassing concludes. No amount of crying, here, here and here, by Norm Coleman will change the fact that the final canvassing total often differs from the election night tally; as evidenced in a document released by the Franken campaign. If you want further evidence, a quick glance to our previous post, illustrates a perceived inequality with relation to the expected trend and the actual result.

	       4:21 AM       Proj       Actual      Diff.
   Franken      80,600      92,990      88,620     -4,370
   Barkley      20,550      23,415      22,652      -914
   Coleman      55,840      63,650      61,513     -2,137

Drawing from the table, Coleman may continue to bleed votes as these four northern counties continue to finalize their vote tally in preparation for the automatic recount. But even if Franken cannot close the 206 vote advantage Norm Coleman currently holds, Franken may be able to make up ground in the undervotes. Undervotes occur when the ballot reading optical scanner fails to record a vote in a given race, in this case the Senate race.

Using data provided by the Minnesota Secretary of State for the presidential and senate elections, I tabulated a massive grid with data from each of Minnesota's 87 counties.

I took this data and calculated the discrepancy between Presidential votes and Senate votes, it turned out to be 24,830; in other words, 24,830 people cast a vote for President, but did not cast a machine defined vote in the Senatorial election. This number represents a maximum number of undervotes that could possibly exist (technically it could be more, but its statistically improbable); in reality it is likely fewer. There are three scenario's that could result in a vote being marked as an undervote by the optical scanner; perhaps the person legitimately did not vote for a Senate candidate, there may have been a random malfunction or perhaps the voter failed to adequately mark their Minnesota ballot as depicted below:

Undervote Examples

The three above instances clearly demonstrate the intent to vote, but would still none the less be classified as undervotes. It is these instances which could very well allow Franken to surpass Coleman upon the conclusion of these undervotes in the impending recount.

Using the previously collated data table, I concluded that there is a maximum of 18,328 undervotes present in counties won by Obama, but this isn't news, the Associated Press beat me to it, but I still have more to offer. This tilt towards Obama translates into a rather large lead for Franken in counties that have a high number of undervotes. If a uniform distribution of undervotes exists in each of Minnesota's 87 counties and the current trend holds in each county, Franken could pull ahead if just slightly less than 40% of the potential undervotes are infact undervotes. Franken will likely win the recount if the trends hold and there are 9,848 undervotes evenly distributed across the state.

Published on November 10th at 7:12 PM CT :: 5 Comments

Franken Will Likely Prevail

Al Franken stands to gain 4580 votes if the remaining precincts follow their trend. This is essentially a death sentence for Coleman as he only leads by 2568. The table below includes all uncounted counties and the probable vote allocation based on the current percent of precincts reporting and the current results.

St. Louis	Est.		Cass		Est.
Al	59050	70298		Norm	7407	8051
Norm	34812	41443		Al	5699	6195
Dean	12920	16326		Dean	2380	2587
% Rprt	0.84			% Rprt	0.92	
Pine		Est.		Itasca		Est.
Al	5824	5943		Norm	7977	8397
Norm	5644	5759		Al	10027	10555
Dean	2471	2521		Dean	2779	2925
% Rprt	0.98			% Rprt	0.95	
	Total	Current	Est.	Chng		
	Norm	55840	63650	7810		
	Al	80600	92990	12390		
	Dean	20550	23415	2865		
	% Rprt			4580		
	Current Votes
	Franken:	1203315
	Coleman:	1205883

Data taken from CNN at 4:21 AM CT.

Published on November 5th at 2:55 AM CT :: 1 Comment

Final MN Senate Debate: Live Analysis

You can listen to the debate at MPR.

7:02 CT: There will be no rules, but candidates should keep their answers concise. The candidates were then wheeled out in alphabetical order: Dean Barkley, Norm Coleman and Al Franken.

7:03 CT: Coleman starts first, the lawsuits will take the stage. Coleman stated that he has not received any gifts from family friends or allies. "The plaintiff to the lawsuit said that their was not basis for this claim." I highly doubt that if they took the time file a lawsuit.

7:04 CT:Norm was then asked if Al Franken has any connection to the lawsuit; Coleman did not answer the question but detoured to talk about how "Al Franken is targeting [Norm's] family."

7:05 CT: "Mr. Franken, do you have any connection to the lawsuit?" Franken responded, "None," and then paused for a moment. "The lawsuit is not about Norm Coleman's wife it's about Norm Coleman's sugar daddy. Norm Coleman cannot blame this on me; this is Norm Coleman's problem." Franken would not go so far to say that Coleman is corrupt, but called it a serious allegation.

7:08 CT: Barkley has had no part in this debate so far.

7:09 CT: Coleman: "There is a line to be drawn." The ad Norm Coleman continues to referrer to, the one where Al Franken attacks his wife follows. Nothing in the ad directly attacks his wife.

7:10 CT: Franken responded by stating that the lawsuit "is not about Norm Coleman's wife, this is about money."

7:13 CT: Now onto Dean Barkley, "now you know one of the reasons I'm running. This is probably the most negative campaign in Minnesota history...I may end up getting sued too."

7:14 CT: What will be the biggest issue to face America in the next six years? Dean went first and stated that he wants to turn America around and put it on a new direction. He also wants to clean up Washington; "Lets take the direct bribery out of politics."

7:16 CT: Norm Coleman next: "If you play to the partisan divide you accomplish nothing."

7:17 CT: Franken then stated that he wants to fix the economic situation; "Washington has not been working for Minnesota families." Franken then went on to list several issues that he believes he can fix.

7:18 CT: Question from a women in the audience. She asked each of the candidates to name one program they support that could be set aside while the nation gets its financial situation in order.

7:20 CT: Franken gets to respond first, "every item on my agenda has a return on my investment...that's what Clinton did."

7:21 CT: Barkley then got his typical line of "I've been working on the issues since 1992 when I first said it was broke...We need a four year spending cap to stop the bleeding; how are we going to pay for these things Al." Barkley then went on to question the massive military spending that contributes to our nations 11 trillion deficit.

7:22 CT: Coleman then stated the standard Kerry line: "You can't support something if you voted against it." The moderator then essentially said that's not the question, please answer it. "I would give up my raise," the crowd started booing and then he again got side tracked after briefly mentioning a spending freeze."

7:24 CT: Another question from the audience; the college question. How will you make it more affordable?

7:25 CT: Coleman essentially stated that he will continue his work with Pell grants. He was also sure to point out that his IRA has taken a hit and that he has two kids in college.

7:26 CT: Franken discussed his intention to give a $5,000 tax credit for kids seeking higher education. Franken then told a story about a student from Mankato State University who has to donate his plasma to pay for his education and he will still graduate with debt. He then went on to mention Obama.

7:28 CT: Onto Barkley, "If you want a guy who can make empty promises, I'm not your guy." He later went on to say that he will not pander, but will focus on the issues.

7:30 CT: Barkley gets to ask a question to Al Franken: "I know you support Obama, but can you name a position McCain supports that you also support."

7:31 CT: "I agree with Sarah Palin and John McCain...on their counter terrorism stance. You don't kill everybody. You make friends and then your friends tell you who to kill."

7:32 CT: Norm Coleman then asked Franken to "name three things Franken has done for Minnesota."

7:33 CT: Franken started but Coleman didn't like the fact that Al was actually answering the question. It got testy for a moment. "Franken went on to say that he worked with chemical dependency" patients. Franken then cited his participation in Operation Helmet, a joint venture with a Republican from Texas with the intention of providing additional helmets for the troops overseas. The third activity he cited was his numerous charitable events.

7:36 CT: Franken then asked Coleman "how many years should a politician have to debate until they can be a lobbyist."

7:37 CT: Coleman responded by saying "what would that accomplish" in reference to a lifetime ban.

7:38 CT: Franken responded by answering Norm's question; Franken roughly stated that Senators vote on certain bills because they believe it will benefit them later down the road.

7:39 CT: Barkley finally got another question. Would you cut off funding for the war? Barkley said "Yes," Coleman said "No" and then gave a story about mothers in his office, and then Franken said "No." Barkley stated that the question was not a direct question about "the Iraq war, but rather a hypothetical immoral war."

7:42 CT: Another question from the crowd; it sounded like a young boy. How would you help push alternative energy?

7:43 CT: Coleman went first and stated his support for the 2005 energy bill citing the fact that "85 senators voted for this bill and Franken said he would not."

7:44 CT: Barkley next; "I will not support tax breaks for Oil Companies." Barkley then cited the difference between the passive income stipulation included in the 2005 energy bill "that only benefits the wealthy."

7:45 CT: Franken gets the last word on the energy issue. "Norm Coleman basically said that if people agree blah blah blah [sic]." Then went onto say that if people actually agreed this election wouldn't look so bad for the Republicans.

7:46 CT: Another question from South Minneapolis. Is health care a privilege, right or responsibility?

7:47 CT: Barkley first; "16% of our GDP [Gross Domestic Product] is taken over by health care. That is much higher than other European countries." Barkley believes that health care should be a right and the ultimate solution is a single payer plan, although he has other solutions that are less drastic..

7:49 CT: Al then agreed with Barkley on the "right" to health care. Al stated that "I support Barack Obama's health care plan. If you like your health care now you can keep it, if you don't have health care it will be less expensive."

7:50 CT: Coleman followed citing "Franken's support for a single payer plan during his primary run with Cirisii...Under that plan you take the healthy kids and make them unhealthy because they aren't allowed to take Liptor and Prilosec." These are not drugs, kids are taking, or need to be taking under any plan.

7:51 CT: Yes and no question time. Is Medicare better than no Medicare?

7:52 CT: Coleman: "Yes", Barkley: "Yes', and Franken "Sort of."

7:53 CT: Raise taxes? Barkley: "No", Franken "No", Coleman "No."

7:54 CT: Is our current plan for children's health care adequate? Barkley "Yes", Coleman "Yes", Franken "we can fix it."

7:54 CT: Franken wants to do a quad-partisan bill with Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman.

7:54 CT: Approve a Supreme Court Justice who differs with your view on abortion.

7:54 CT: Barkley: "I would never ask that question". Coleman: would ask "if they're qualified." Franken: responded that he would not press the issue because "privacy emanates from the constitution."

7:55 CT: End Iraq war?

7:55 CT: Barkley "Yes", Franken "Yes". Coleman "Yes because we're not gonna be in Iraq in six years because gen. Petreaus has achieved such great success."

7:56 CT: Final statements, Franken first.

7:57 CT: "Elections are a time to hold our politicians responsible. If you believe George Bush was right 90% of the time I'm not your guy." Franken then did his "I ask for your vote" bit. Ending with his desire to end the war.

7:57 CT: Now Norm: "These are the most challenging times in my 37 years of public service. The question is not who do you blame, but rather who will fix it...We can bridge the partisan divide."

7:58 CT: Barkley concludes the night: "There are a lot of people who believe that Al or Norm are their worst nightmare...Do you think that Al and Norm will change the direction of Washington...Send Washington a message by sending Dean Barkley to the Senate."

Published on November 2nd at 7:01 PM CT :: 0 Comments

Norm Coleman on the Ropes

The three way Senate race in Minnesota took another bizarre turn this weekend, leaving all three candidates with a viable shot at becoming Minnesota's next Senator. Before I delve into the details, lets take a look at the current state of the race:

Minnesota Senate Projection Graph

Donate: Al Franken (D), Dean Barkley (I), Norm Coleman (R)

And our Senate to Presidential correlations:

           VFA Projection [10/18]    VFA Projection [11/2]
            Dem    Rep    Dem-Rep    Dem    Rep    Dem-Rep
President  49.98  43.71     6.27    53.61  40.67    12.94
Senate     38.61  40.15    -1.54    40.90  39.32     1.58
Pres-Sen   11.37   3.56     7.81    12.71  -1.35    14.06

Norm Coleman is now polling slightly worse than John McCain, while Franken continues to lag behind the levels established by Obama. If you take the numbers above at face value, Coleman is losing 1.35% of McCain's vote and Barkley appears to be making up the difference between Franken and Obama. If these trends were to continue, Barkley would likely be eliminated but recent events have left the election wide open.

Heading back to last Monday (10/27), Paul McKim, founder and former CEO of Houston-based Deep Marine Technology, filled a lawsuit alleging that an ally funneled $75,000 to the Colemans. Reading directly from the Star Tribune article on the subject, "A Texas businessman has filed a lawsuit alleging that Minnesota multimillionaire Nasser Kazeminy used his Houston marine company to funnel $75,000 to Sen. Norm Coleman last year via a Minneapolis insurance company that employs the senator's wife." The Coleman campaign immediately went to work trying to kill the story, but the DFL may have gotten the best of him:

This suit was later withdrawn, but it didn't end there.

The Coleman campaign responded with a lawsuit of their own; on Thursday October 30th, Norm Coleman filed a defamation lawsuit against Al Franken. The Coleman campaign concluded that "Mr. Franken ha[d] chosen to push the lines of believability far beyond the bounds of the truth." The "truth" Coleman is questioning relates to an ad released by Franken citing Norm Coleman as the "fourth most corrupt senator in Washington." Franken responded by saying this: "Our ads are factual and true, even if Norm Coleman doesn't like being held accountable for his conduct. Every time someone tries to hold Norm Coleman accountable, he runs to court to try to weasel his way out of it. And none of the three prior times he's done this has he been successful, and he won't be this time, either." To be fair the report Franken appears to be citing does not explicitly rank corrupt Senators, but they did place Norm Coleman, along with three other Republican senators in the "Dishonorable Mention" category.

Here's where it gets interesting. The lawsuit filled on Monday by Paul McKim was refiled again Thursday evening, just hours after Coleman's defamation charge. The Coleman campaign responded by calling the suit "false and defamatory...My wife has been devastated by this. She's angry -- and she has a right to be -- and so am I. So Coleman's wife can be angry but Al can't? Seems semi-hypocritical but that's not the most interesting nugget from the quote. The use of "defamatory" was likely intended to cascade into the suit filed against Franken, and it may have worked. If you do a google search for "Coleman Franken Defamatory" the results are roughly split between the two cases, but the issue still lingers.

The Coleman campaign tried to kill the issue again Friday night by saying the premise of the suit was "baseless and [contained] false claims ... being used to influence the outcome of the election.'' Still sensing the urgency Coleman tried to link the funneling charge to Franken; "If my opponents have any shred of decency left in this campaign -- stop attacking my family." Franken's campaign, specifically Colleen Murray released a statement rebutting Coleman's charge; Franken had nothing to do with the lawsuit. In fact the plaintiff justified the timing of the suit by stating that it has "absolutely nothing to do with politics." In any case the Coleman campaign released a new ad overtly linking Franken to the money funneling suit:

If the Coleman campaign is going to make a connection that just blatantly doesn't exist they should at least be consistent. "Yesterday, Coleman's statement segued from the [Star Tribune] receiving a pre-filing 'copy of these false allegations' to Franken 'running vicious, untrue attacks against me' on filing day." I also thought Norm was done with negative ads, but apparently it's not politically convenient anymore.

Al Franken and Norm Coleman clearly have a fight on their hands, but Barkley remains unscathed. Within the entire body of this article Barkley's name was not mentioned. When the last debate occurs later today, Barkley can reside above the fray while Franken and Coleman undoubtedly duke it out. If Barkley strikes the right cord he may very well be able to peel off 5% from each of his opponents and sneak away with a victory. We likely won't know the result of the whole lawsuit situation or the debate until the actual votes are counted.

Published on November 2nd at 2:48 AM CT :: 0 Comments

Senate Coattail Coefficients Continued

Let me start by saying this was a gauntlet. I started by collecting election data for the Presidential Election of 2004 and the Senate Elections of 2004 and 2006. I then parsed the results and created a massive table while incorporating our projections into a 2008 metaset. From here I just did the simple division necessary to compute the Coattail Coefficient.

The table below illustrates the outcome of our study. The "XXX Pres Coefficient" column represents the calculation previously prescribed in our previous article on coattails; if the result of the simple division is greater than 1, the Senate candidate is over performing relative to that party's Presidential nominee. A number below 1 implies the opposite. For Senate races that occurred in 2006 I used the 2004 Presidential result from that state as the comparator. The 2008 data is drawn from our projections, and the 2004 data is provided by the Federal Election Committee.

The furthest column to the right, Winner's Coattail, corresponds to the Coattail Coefficient of the party that won the given Senate Election. The "<" and ">" illustrate whether the eventual winner of the given Senate seat had a larger coefficient than the competition. The "<" is used when the victor did in fact have a larger coefficient, while the ">" implies the opposite. I have bolded all races in which the actual or projected margin ranged between zero and six percent. I encourage you to take a detailed look at the table below, but when you're done don't forget to continue reading.

State           Year    Dem Pres     Rep Pres     Winner's
                       Coefficient  Coefficient   Coattail
Nebraska        2006       1.95        0.55      < 1.95 (D)
North Dakota    2004       1.92        0.50      < 1.92 (D)
Maine           2006       0.38        1.66      < 1.66 (R)
North Carolina  2006       1.58        0.53      < 1.58 (D)
Indiana         2004       1.57        0.62      < 1.57 (D)
Rhode Island    2008       1.55        0.80      < 1.55 (D)
Maine           2008       0.77        1.53      < 1.53 (R)
West Virginia   2008       1.51        0.65      < 1.51 (D)
Arkansas        2008       1.49        0.93      < 1.49 (D)
West Virginia   2006       1.49        0.60      < 1.49 (D)
South Dakota    2008       1.49        0.72      < 1.49 (D)
Indiana         2006       0.00        1.46      < 1.46 (R)
Idaho           2004       0.00        1.45      < 1.45 (R)
New Mexico      2006       1.44        0.59      < 1.44 (D)
Montana         2006       1.41        0.74      < 1.41 (D)
Iowa            2004       0.57        1.41      < 1.41 (R)
Arizona         2004       0.46        1.40      < 1.40 (R)
Hawaii          2004       1.40        0.46      < 1.40 (D)
Wisconsin       2006       1.35        0.60      < 1.35 (D)
New Hampshire   2004       0.67        1.35      < 1.35 (R)
Mississippi-A   2008       0.92        1.29      < 1.29 (R)
Louisiana       2008       1.28        0.77      < 1.28 (D)
West Virginia   2004       1.28        0.79      < 1.28 (D)
Florida         2006       1.28        0.73      < 1.28 (D)
Illinois        2004       1.28        0.61      < 1.28 (D)
Nevada          2004       1.28        0.70      < 1.28 (D)
Montana         2006       1.27        0.82      < 1.27 (D)
Wyoming-A       2008       0.75        1.27      < 1.27 (R)
Delaware        2006       1.26        0.60      < 1.26 (D)
Ohio            2004       0.74        1.26      < 1.26 (R)
Arkansas        2004       1.25        0.81      < 1.25 (D)
Oregon          2004       1.23        0.67      < 1.23 (D)
Connecticut     2004       1.22        0.73      < 1.22 (D)
Wyoming-B       2008       0.82        1.22      < 1.22 (R)
Virginia        2004       1.21        0.80      < 1.21 (D)
Vermont         2004       1.20        0.63      < 1.20 (D)
Virginia        2008       1.19        0.72      < 1.19 (D)
Maryland        2004       1.16        0.79      < 1.16 (D)
Ohio            2006       1.15        0.86      < 1.15 (D)
Pennsylvania    2006       1.15        0.85      < 1.15 (D)
Vermont         2006       1.15        0.83      < 1.15 (D)
Tennessee       2008       0.84        1.14      < 1.14 (R)
Delaware        2008       1.14        0.74      < 1.14 (D)
Minnesota       2006       1.14        0.80      < 1.14 (D)
Hawaii          2006       1.14        0.81      < 1.14 (D)
Alabama         2008       0.90        1.12      < 1.12 (R)
New York        2004       1.12        0.60      < 1.12 (D)
Massachusetts   2006       1.12        0.83      < 1.12 (D)
New Mexico      2008       1.12        0.86      < 1.12 (D)
Kansas          2004       0.75        1.12      < 1.12 (R)
Alaska          2008       1.11        0.86      < 1.11 (D)
Michigan        2006       1.11        0.86      < 1.11 (D)
Iowa            2006       1.11        0.92      < 1.11 (D)
Kansas          2008       0.83        1.10      < 1.10 (R)
Nevada          2006       0.86        1.10      < 1.10 (R)
California      2006       1.09        0.79      < 1.09 (D)
Colorado        2004       1.09        0.90      < 1.09 (D)
Virginia        2006       1.09        0.92      < 1.09 (D)
Pennsylvania    2004       0.82        1.09      < 1.09 (R)
Alabama         2004       0.88        1.08      < 1.08 (R)
Washington      2006       1.08        0.87      < 1.08 (D)
Michigan        2008       1.08        0.84      < 1.08 (D)
Missouri        2006       1.08        0.89      < 1.08 (D)
Mississippi-B   2006       0.88        1.07      < 1.07 (R)
California      2004       1.06        0.85      < 1.06 (D)
New Hampshire   2006       1.06        0.91      < 1.06 (D)
Missouri        2004       0.93        1.05      < 1.05 (R)
South Carolina  2008       0.98        1.04      < 1.04 (R)
New York        2006       1.03        0.67      < 1.03 (D)
Wyoming-A       2006       1.03        1.02      > 1.02 (R)
Massachusetts   2008       1.01        0.58      < 1.01 (D)
Texas           2006       0.94        1.01      < 1.01 (R)
Georgia         2004       0.96        1.00      < 1.00 (R)
New Hampshire   2008       1.00        0.85      < 1.00 (D)
Illinois        2008       0.99        0.98      < 0.99 (D)
Colorado        2008       0.99        0.87      < 0.99 (D)
Mississippi-B   2008       0.97        0.99      < 0.99 (R)
Texas           2008       0.96        0.98      < 0.98 (R)
Minnesota       2008       0.72        0.98      < 0.98 (R)
Arizona         2006       0.98        0.97      > 0.97 (R)
Maryland        2006       0.97        1.03      > 0.97 (D)
Nebraska        2008       0.96        0.97      < 0.97 (R)
Florida         2004       1.03        0.95      > 0.95 (R)
Kentucky        2008       1.06        0.93      > 0.93 (R)
South Carolina  2004       1.08        0.93      > 0.93 (R)
North Carolina  2004       1.08        0.92      > 0.92 (R)
Georgia         2008       0.99        0.92      > 0.92 (R)
Rhode Island    2006       0.90        1.20      > 0.90 (D)
Louisiana       2004       1.12        0.90      > 0.90 (R)
North Carolina  2008       0.90        0.88      < 0.90 (D)
Tennessee       2006       1.13        0.89      > 0.89 (R)
Utah            2006       1.20        0.87      > 0.87 (R)
New Jersey      2008       0.86        1.02      > 0.86 (D)
Kentucky        2004       1.24        0.85      > 0.85 (R)
Oregon          2008       0.84        1.08      > 0.84 (D)
Oklahoma        2008       1.17        0.84      > 0.84 (R)
Idaho           2008       1.20        0.83      > 0.83 (R)
Oklahoma        2004       1.20        0.80      > 0.80 (R)
Alaska          2004       1.28        0.80      > 0.80 (R) 
Connecticut     2006     0.73/0.93     0.22    < 0.73/0.93 (D)

What does this massive compilation of data mean? The result is surprisingly straightforward and allows for a nice generalization. Focusing our attention towards the bottom of the table reveals that the winner, in a competitive race, rarely garnered a coefficient greater than 1. This result appears to be counterintuitive but just wait, it gets stranger; notice the large quantity of ">" signs towards the bottom of the table. Under this interpretation the candidate who can win more votes from the opposite party is the likely victory; its actually better to abandon your own party and run across the aisle. Using this result, a succinct postulate can be formed: if candidate A has a coefficient less than 1 and their opponent, candidate B, has a coefficient greater than 1, candidate A has the historic advantage.

Using the above postulate, what can then be said about the 2008 Senate races?

We'll start from the bottom and work our way up through the bolded races happening this year. Our first stop is Oregon. Oregon seems to be safely in Democratic hands, Smith (R) has a coefficient greater than 1 at 1.08, while his challenger Markley (D), is repping a 0.84. Merkley has also opened up a healthy four to five point lead in recent polling.

Moving on up; North Carolina is our next stop. Hagan (D) is currently leading our projection, but the coefficients in this race favor the incumbent Dole (R).

Georgia's like North Carolina, but the opposite. Martin (D) is trailing in the polls, but he's got the better coefficients.

Kentucky exemplifies our rule and seems to be safely in McConnell's (R) court.

Minnesota features a competitive three way race so I'm not exactly sure how our generalization applies, but here it goes. Franken's (D) coefficient is significantly below 1, in fact its the lowest coefficient in the field, but Coleman (R) is still maintaining a slight lead; in large part due to a very suspect St. Cloud State poll that showed 21% of the Minnesota electorate as undecided. Barkley could still make a run too, its impossible to tell.

Our little conclusion may give hope yet to Musgrove (D), the Democratic challenger in Mississippi-B. Musgrove's coefficient is below both 1 and his competitors coefficient, but recent polling has shown Wicker (R) with a significantly large lead.

The last on the list is Alaska, but after today's news of the Stevens' conviction, Begich (D) seems destined to the Senate.

Using just the conclusion of this report as a predictor, the Democratic Party stands to pickup Oregon, Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi-B and Alaska. By my count that would put the Democratic caucus at the magical 60 Senator, filibuster proof majority.

Published on October 28th at 1:43 AM CT :: 0 Comments

The 4th MN Senate Debate

The full debate can be watched at Here's where the MN Senate race currently stands based on public polling and our projections:

Minnesota Senate Graph

The debate was conducted by Twin Cities Public Television with funding provided by Travelers, Health Partners, Great River Energy, Flint Hill Resources, Education Minnesota, The University of Minnesota and AARP. Now onto the actual debate.

7:01 CT: This will be the last televised debate, although a final debate is scheduled to take place on November 2nd. "We call this a debate, but that's probably too formal a term; there are no time limits, no opening or closing statements."

7:02 CT: The camera panned through the candidates in alphabetical order; Dean Barkley (I), Norm Coleman (R) and Al Franken (D).

Minnesota Senate Candidates

7:03 CT: "That's an easy one;" the first words of the debate by Norm Coleman when asked to state the biggest misrepresentation of his candidacy in opposing ads. Norm cited the ad run by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee stating that Coleman has "voted for tax breaks for big oil." Sen. Coleman supported his vote by stating that 85 other Senators, including Obama, voted for the 2005 Energy Bill because "it contained the first renewable fuel standard."

7:04 CT: Franken was then asked the same question. After talking about a medicare ad he ran, the moderator pushed Al to answer the question. He then called out Norm for running a false ad counter to the medicare ad he had just mentioned. "I am for a prescription drug program and medicare, in which medicare is allowed to be negotiated on medicare part D. That'll bring down the price of drugs for seniors...[Norm's] ad said that I was laying in my ad but I wasn't." Norm Coleman then interjected by saying that "this is a great division."

7:05 CT: Norm followed up by questioning Al Franken's ability to actually vote for the issues he claims to support. Norm's trying to run on the: I didn't like everything in every bill I voted for, but I vote for certain bills because of specific details that are important to Americans. Norm questioned Franken's ability to do the same. Al Franken seems content to accept this conjecture. Norm continues to cite his support for the 2005 Energy Bill despite its big oil tax breaks by citing its inclusion of renewable energy standards. Norm concluded by stating that "you gotta be for something in this business." The problem with this arguement is that Norm Coleman has largely been for the policies established and support by the Republican party during Bush's reign. I don't know if this is a particularly good arguement by Sen. Coleman.

7:07 CT: Dean Barkley then contributed for the first time. He was asked the same question. "I get a badge of honor. The DSCC just put up an ad today, I saw it on TV, claiming that I was in favor of privatization of Social Security...I've been railing against Social Security and trying to fix it since 1992." Dean Barkley then went on to state that the ad implied this result by "hedging" the wording. Al Franken then distanced himself from the ad, as it as the Democratic Party, not his campaign who put the spot together. Al then stated that he would ask the DSCC to take down the ad.

7:08 CT: "Norm Coleman voted to put money from social security into private accounts which would have ment putting social security in the stock would have been a terrible mistake, as we can see now." Al Franken seems to have realized that his strongest line of attack focuses on the weakness of the economy and the inherent superiority of the Democratic Platform on the issue.

7:09 CT: Norm was then asked to respond to the previous assertion by Franken. Norm responded as follows, "I have supported the idea of folks having some ownership [of Social Security]." Norm went on to suggest the creation of a committee to fix Social Security; Barkley interjected by stating that "we get elected to make decisions, not to pass it off to somebody else...our Senate doesn't have the courage to make the fix."

7:11 CT: Norm Coleman then made a baseball reference that made absolutely no sense; "This is kinda like watching Carlos Gomez of the Minnesota Twins, he's kinda fun to watch but if you don't know the fundamentals you can't win the game." Barkley is running against the political mindset, while Coleman is running as a bipartisan member of machine.

7:12 CT: The Social Security question then moved to Franken. "Social Security right now is solvent until 2041." Franken wants to end the "regressive" tax structure of FICA, "this is what Senator Obama is talking about....I'm not gonna raise taxes on anyone."

7:13 CT: Barkley then immediately questioned Al's assertion that Social Security will remain solvent until "thirty-one, forty." Barkley then referenced a question he asked "150 kids" at Cretin-Durham Hall (a respected St. Paul Catholic High School); "Any of you in this room think you are going to get Social Security? Not one of them raised their hand."

7:15 CT: Franken: "If the US treasury bonds aren't good, we're in a whole bunch a trouble."

7:17 CT: Does it make sense to pass another stimulus bill? Barkley went first. Barkley is against a further stimulus package. Onto Franken, his mantra is "Jobs Baby, Jobs." He's also against another stimulus bill. Norm didn't really answer the question, he mainly just talked about why he voted for the first bailout bill. Norm then briefly answered the question, "if [a second potential bailout bill] is another spending package I'm not going to support it."

7:19 CT: Al spent much of his time talking about a "Golden Parachute" clause in the first bailout bill that indirectly allowed executive level employees the ability to receive upto "$59,999,999" in severance if the situation were right. Coleman countered by saying that "[Al] can't just be against things."

7:21 CT: Barkley interjected into the conversation. He first targeted Al Franken for his massive spending projects while citing the fact that "we're eleven trillion dollars in debt." Al Franken did not immediately respond to this attack. Barkley then moved onto Coleman. "Norm, I'm glad you're saying we wanna balance the budget in five years, but where were you for the last six where we accumulated five trillion dollars of debt on your watch." Norm immediately interrupted. I find it very interesting that Coleman responded, but Franken let the accusation pass.

7:22 CT: Coleman responded by citing Barkley's time as "Ventura's right hand guy." Coleman went on to pin the Ventura administration for a budget bill that left the state with a huge budget deficit. Barkley blamed the bill on a deal orchestrated by Roger Moe (D) and Tim Pawlenty (R). Ventura vetoed the bill, but it was overridden in the legislature because of this deal.

7:23 CT: The conversation moved to Franken who stated that "[he is] against deficit spending" and supports balanced budgets.

7:24 CT: "Norm wants to continue the Bush economic policy, understand that...Norm thinks that wealth starts at the top and trickles down." At this point Norm jumped, Al waited patiently, and then continued his attack completely ignoring Norm.

7:26 CT: Barkley conjured the possibility of a filibuster proof majority of 60 Democratic Senators and stated that this mindset is why Washington is broken. "If you only get 59, is nothing gonna happen?"

7:27 CT: Commercial break, two minutes. During the break Twin Cities Public Television promoted a half-hour special spotlighting the three candidates' history.

7:30 CT: The debate resumed with a question directed at Norm Coleman regarding bipartisanship, "The partisan divide is what's tearing America apart."

7:31 CT: Al Franken then brought up the fact that Coleman is also running for chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Franken then cited the statistic that Coleman has voted with Bush "98% of the time."

7:32 CT: Barkley completely called out Coleman and Pawlenty as being "handpicked" by the Bush-Cheney Administration.

7:34 CT: The previous arguement halted as the question moved to Franken. Al recalled his work with a Republican from Texas and his work that helped raise money for "40,000 helmet liners for our troops." Coleman again jumped in, "Would [Franken] work across party lines if somebody disagrees with [him]?" The moderator jumped in and killed the discussion.

7:36 CT: The discussion shifted to the 2nd Amendment. One of the moderators stated that "[Franken's] writings are replete with sort of negative comments about the NRA." Al Franken then asked the moderator to cite one. The moderator said he had seen a list. Franken then again asked him to cite one. The moderator couldn't, Coleman then tried to have his way but got side tracked. Franken then stated that he "supports the 2nd Amendment." Throughout the whole discussion neither Coleman nor Barkley could definitively recall anything Al Franken had written that neglects the 2nd Amendment.

7:39 CT: The moderator then switched the topic to another anti-Franken issue; the are you anti-Catholic question. Franken stated that his wife is Roman Catholic. Sensing that the anti-Catholic story line was being diffused, Coleman brought up a reference to John Kerry and communion. I don't think this arguement will stick because it wasn't presented in a coherent matter.

7:42 CT: Barkley essentially let the circumstances of the anti-Catholic arguement die and the moderator moved on.

7:44 CT: Should the capturing of Osama bin Laden have a higher priority? Franken lead off by saying that the war in Iraq is distracting the USA from the true war on terror. Barkley went next, "Al Qaeda didn't show up in Iraq until we got there." Barkley wants to get out of Iraq in "6 months to a year" but he understands that there may be deviations from that timetable. Finally Coleman countered by saying that Barkley supports a "precipitous withdrawal" and Franken wants to leave Iraq in defeat.

7:46 CT: "If we followed the advice of Dean or Al we would have been in a worse situation [in Iraq]." Norm again sides with a minority position on a major issue. Norm justified his support for permanent bases in Iraq under the premise that our troops are "not in the crossfire." This stance seems somewhat contradictory to his unequivocal support for the war itself.

7:48 CT: Does Franken want permanent bases in Iraq? "No."

7:49 CT: Dean Barkley shifted the conversation to how the US should adjust its spending practices, "why do we need to spend this much money, [on the war] that we don't have."

7:51 CT: Franken wants to end the "cowboy foreign policy" of the current administration. Coleman agreed that there were foreign policy mistakes during the Bush administration and then went on to say that "we shouldn't be the world's police man."

7:52 CT: Franken shifted the dialogue to Norm's position as chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations; "[Norm] did not have one committee meeting on the contracting in Iraq." Norm responded by stating that he had found "$80 billion in wasteful and abuse." Franken responded by blatantly saying that Coleman's statement was not true; Coleman then replied by blaming the Democrat currently chairing that committee.

7:53 CT: Barkley decided against a final twenty second arguement, instead he simply stated that he "rests his case." Franken's final 20-second arguement: "We need to send somebody to Washington who's gonna work for change." Coleman concluded by saying "we need to work together."

Published on October 24th at 9:46 PM CT :: 0 Comments

Obama's Senate Coattails

I wrote an article on Tuesday that discussed the correlation between Obama's performance in Minnesota and that of his Senate counter part, Al Franken. While the article specifically focused on Minnesota, the method could be applied to any state. The table below illustrates, in the "Coefficient" column, how a given Democratic Senate candidate is polling relative to Obama. A result greater than 1 indicates an over performance by the Senate candidate relative to Obama, while a number below 1 implies the opposite. The bolded rows signify Senate races which our projection algorithm defines as Lean or Toss Up:

State (Flip %)     Coefficient  Obama %  Senate %  Incumbent
Rhode Island (0)       1.55      46.56    72.00     Democrat
Arkansas (0)           1.49      36.19    54.10     Democrat
South Dakota (0)       1.49      40.29    60.00     Democrat
West Virginia (0)      1.42      42.83    61.00     Democrat
Montana (0)            1.41      45.35    64.00     Democrat
Louisiana (2.72)       1.28      41.11    52.68     Democrat
Idaho (0)              1.20      24.90    30.00    Republican
Oklahoma (0.3)         1.20      33.34    39.89    Republican
Virginia (100)         1.17      50.12    58.61    Republican
Delaware (0)           1.14      56.07    64.00     Democrat
New Mexico (100)       1.12      50.24    56.21    Republican
Alaska (62.08)         1.11      41.91    46.60    Republican
Mississippi-B (35.72)  1.10      42.89    47.06    Republican
Michigan (0)           1.08      55.16    59.36     Democrat
Iowa (0)               1.07      53.31    57.16     Democrat
Kentucky (13.48)       1.06      42.19    44.80    Republican
Illinois (0)           1.04      59.72    62.00     Democrat
Massachusetts (0)      1.03      58.71    60.38     Democrat
New Hampshire (99.91)  1.02      50.20    51.29    Republican
Colorado (99.76)       0.98      50.95    50.00    Republican
South Carolina (0)     0.98      40.84    39.83    Republican
Nebraska (0)           0.96      36.84    35.50    Republican
Texas (0.19)           0.96      42.56    40.82    Republican
Georgia (34.13)        0.95      45.86    43.44    Republican
New Jersey (0)         0.92      58.71    54.29     Democrat
North Carolina (59.53) 0.92      47.94    43.94    Republican
Alabama (0)            0.90      35.80    32.26    Republican
Tennessee (0)          0.84      41.23    34.62    Republican
Kansas (0)             0.83      42.22    35.05    Republican
Wyoming-B (0)          0.82      36.36    29.90    Republican
Oregon (72.85)         0.78      49.90    38.97    Republican
Maine (0)              0.77      54.45    42.10    Republican
Mississippi-A (0)      0.75      42.89    32.00    Republican
Wyoming-A (0)          0.75      36.36    27.10    Republican
Minnesota (66.9)       0.73      54.38    39.96    Republican

You hopefully noticed that the most highly contested Senate races appear towards the bottom of the table. This finding is absolutely fascinating and requires some sort of explanation, but I'd rather hear your interpretation of the data. I'll post a detailed explanation later this weekend with additional analysis.

Published on October 24th at 5:30 PM CT :: 2 Comments

MN Senate Debate: Live Analysis

Tonight's debate started at 7 PM CT and runs until 8:30 PM at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

7:01 CT: It would appear that the crowd is cheering for the water pitcher, oh wait, no the candidates have just entered the stage.

7:02 CT: Senator Coleman went straight to the water pitcher.

7:04 CT: Two minute opening statements by each of the candidates. Three issues will then be discussed; economy, foreign policy and energy. The candidates will then respond to audience questions. Then two minutes for closing statements.

7:06 CT: Fmr. Senator Barkley to lead off the night. "I know the middle class because I grew up in the middle class...I even drove a Metro Mobility bus to make ends meet." Barkley leads off with an appeal to middle class voters.

7:08 CT: Franken followed Dean Barkley by reiterating his similar middle class roots. It'll be interesting to see if Norm follows the same path. "I'm going to be working for middle class families."

7:10 CT: "The people in Washington who caused this mess will be held accountable and thrown in jail," a very strange statement by a sitting US Senator. Norm later went on to conjure a parable that included FDR.

7:12 CT: "Does either Presidential candidate get to the heart of the [economic] matter, if not why?"

7:14 CT: Barkley goes first. He took the stance that neither Obama nor McCain has an adequate economic plan. Barkley focused on the need to have "pure" economics in which spending fulfills a very specific purpose. Look for Franken to side with Obama's plan. I'm curious to see which way Norm will go.

7:15 CT: Al Franken asked the moderator to repeat the question. "I'm the only one up here you would not have supported the bailout....[McCain] gets it a lot less than Senator Obama." Franken jumped on the Barack Obama Economic Train.

7:17 CT: Coleman just said "Dean's right." Norm better be careful or his lukewarm support may continue to slide over to Barkley. Norm then brought up Al's prior support for a single payer health care plan. Norm did not say McCain or Obama (or any such reference) in his response, therefore he did not answer the question.

7:20 CT: Dean Barkley's stance on getting out of the economic situation, "Our country can do anything it wants to if we have the political will to make it happen."

7:21 CT: Franken just stated that he does not support the concept of "tickle down" economics. He believes that "wealth starts in the middle class."

7:22 CT: Sen. Coleman referenced an energy bill from 2005 that Obama voted for. Coleman stated that "Franken would have voted against it."

7:23 CT: Can we ever win the war on terror. How will we know?

7:26 CT: "We have not won this war on terror because we took the wrong actions. Invading Afghanistan was the right thing to do...Then we made a tragic mistake [by going] to war with Iraq. Senator Coleman thinks going to war with Iraq was a good idea." Franken then went on to cite Paul Wellstone's vote against the war while debunking Coleman's principle of "it must have been a good vote because lots of other people voted for it." Franken later went on to say that "you can never win a war against a tactic."

7:27 CT: The question goes to Norm: "We have to win and failure really isn't an option...If Iran got a nuke...the Saudis would buy [a nuclear weapon]" Norm said this in the last debate and it didn't make sense then. If it was so easy for Saudi Arabia to buy a nuclear weapon, then why can't Iran do it. Norm's arguement for the war on terror is a slippery slope that ends in a giant fallacy.

7:29 CT: Now onto Barkley, "In hindsight I agree with Al, Paul Wellstone was right on his vote...It's time now for [Iraq] to decide their fate...they have to make that decision on their own, and we need to get out and let them make it." Barkley stated that the solution in Afghanistan is "to build schools, not drop bombs."

7:31 CT: Franken's view on the Iraq war, "We have to get out of Iraq, we need to do it responsibly, we need to do it now." Al then wiped out a devastating statistic. If the US Government was not funding Iraq we could have "58,000 additional teachers."

7:33 CT: "Everybody wants to end this war." You are a sitting Senator, Norm Coleman, help end it then. "I will not tell a parent whose son died: your son died for a mistake." Under that logic war is cyclical without end. You are then constantly fighting war to justify a mistake.

7:35 CT: Barkley: "Can we afford to be the world's policeman."

7:37 CT: Norm on alternative energy, "The french aren't braver than we are. About 80% of their energy is Nuclear." Norm says that he is working on the energy problem in a bipartisan way.

7:38 CT: "I've worked in a tripartisan way," Barkley loves this line. Barkley is furious at Congress for not passing the "Use-it-or-lose-it" doctrine.

7:40 CT: "The most important barrel of oil is the one you don't buy." Franken then went on to discuss the significant impact of Geo-Thermal energy on the job market.

7:41 CT: Norm Coleman is trying to like alternative energy breakthrough to the 2005 Energy Bill that he voted for.

7:43 CT: Barkley's rebuttal, "I'll throw out some facts...during [Norm's] years, you've given 20 million dollars in tax breaks to oil companies."

7:44 CT: Franken reference the possibility of a filibuster proof Democratic senate.

7:45 CT: Onto audience questions, many appear to be regarding education.

7:46 CT: First question to Norm: "Education doorway to success." Norm referenced his recent support for the doubling of Pell grants, a piece he believes is critical to financing higher education.

7:49 CT: Barkley called out Norm for not answering the question. "I studied economic development under the Ventura administration." Barkley believes that the internet is of paramount importance to sustaining rural business.

7:50 CT: Franken again asked to have question repeated, but this time it highlighted the fact that neither of the other candidates answered the question. Franken stated that "Pell Grant's [used to] pay for 86% of education now they pay around 40."

7:51 CT: "Smarter kids are going to be key to ending the brain drain [in rural Minnesota]." Norm just stated that the solution is the answer, a nice recurrence relation between cause and affect.

7:52 CT: Barkley just called Norm out on something, but my stream froze. Barkley then countered by pinning the blame (whatever the issue was) on Pawlenty; the crowd applauded.

7:54 CT: Franken wants to give anybody who wants to seek higher education a $5,000 tax credit.

7:55 CT: The moderator got confused. New question, appointing Supreme Court justices.

7:56 CT: Barkley only requires that Supreme Court Justices be "Qualified and follow president."

7:57 CT: On to Franken, "I don't want ideologues...I want a justice who believes that the Constitution is a living breathing [document]." Franken referenced Sandra Day O'Connor as a judge he admired. Franken then countered Barkley's attack on his $5,000 tax credit by saying the "Education pays for itself many times over."

7:58 CT: Coleman again brought up Franken's supposed support for a single payer health plan. This has nothing to do with Justices, he later stated that he can cover justice issue in "a minute."

8:00 CT: Barkley response, "[the economic situation] happened on your watch," in reference to Senator Coleman. "I hope the market does bounce back."

8:02 CT: Franken supports Barack Obama's health care plan. Franken then stated that he doesn't know where Norm Coleman stands on the health care issue. Franken than again referenced his dissatisfaction with "trickle down economics."

8:03 CT: Norm thinks that the answer to health care will lie somewhere in between Obama's plan and McCain's plan. Norm continues to harp on Franken's stance on single payer health care. Norm ended by saying that "there are no Mayo Clinics in Canada."

8:05 CT: New question relating to revising Minnesota mining and forestry.

8:06 CT: Franken stated that "until there is a bottom to the housing crisis, we will not be building new houses." Franken says that supports the forestry and mining industry and claimed that we can help those industries most by improving our general economy.

8:08 CT: Barkley partially blamed the Iron Ranges problems on poor trade agreements. "We need a Senator that will be tough on trade agreements."

8:10 CT: "I provided some stability against dumping...I've been there for timber...It is about jobs." This sequence by Norm Coleman was terrifyingly similar to the now (in)famous statement by Sarah Palin in her interview with Katie Couric.

8:11 CT: New question: Special interests & campaign money.

8:12 CT: "Bribery is illegal everywhere, except Congress," that statement pretty much sums ups Barkley's view of how government works. Barkley is tired of the current form of political campaigns. He then cited some finance numbers that depicted Franken in a bad light, but Norm in a worse light.

8:14 CT: Coleman stated that he's against current public campaign finance laws. Norm doesn't want tax payers paying for negative ads.

8:16 CT: Franken just destroyed Norm's gimmick of ending negative campaign ads, to a chorus of applause. Franken supports public finance because in the end he believes it would save Americans money in the long run by eliminating corporate earmarks that ultimately end up hurting Americans more. "Stand up to the special interest, don't take money from them."

8:18 CT: Barkley's rebuttal to Coleman on the suspension of his negative ads, "I'd love to here an apology for all the negative ads [Sen. Coleman] has done."

8:20 CT: Norm didn't apologize.

8:21 CT: Franken chastised Coleman for who he acts on behalf of. Franken continued by saying that Coleman may act, but he doesn't act on the best interest of Americans. "I'm going to fight for real folks."

8:22 CT: Closing statements.

8:23 CT: Barkley goes first. "Minnesota has an historic opportunity to show Washington who you feel." He referenced the negative campaigning tactics of Presidential politics and the growing negativity in the Senate race. Norm Coleman looks very agitated.

8:24 CT: "Elections are chance to hold your elected official accountable." Franken concludes his remarks with his classic "I ask for your vote" line.

8:26 CT: The night concludes with Coleman. "The better question is: who is best at fixing it." Norm then went on to list numerous bill which he has supported and helped pass. "Government needs to live within its means...Patriots not partisans." Norm then concluded by echoing Franken's line, "I ask for your vote in November."

Thanks to for providing a live stream of the debate.

Published on October 16th at 6:42 PM CT :: 0 Comments

MN Senate Debate: Live Analysis

7:04 CT: They all did their over the top introductions and thank yous to the moderators.

7:08 CT: "We shouldn't be in this situation, but we are," Al Franken

7:13 CT: Here comes an unusual quote from Norm Coleman: "You're not going to generate hope if you're constantly destroying the other side." I thought Barack Obama was all about hope, Norm.

7:15 CT: "We have people who have lost 2 trillion dollars in retirement," Dean Barkley.

7:16 CT: Barkley first ran in 1992 and brought up the fact that Social Security was broke. Barkley says "[he] has been railing against Social Security since" because it is broke.

7:17 CT: "I would bring AARP into the discussion...if we get them to buy in we can fix [Social Security]," -Dean Barkley.

7:18 CT: Franken says that "Norm Coleman wanted to put the Social Security trust fund in the stock market. Can you imagine if we did that." Franken essentially wants to push back the Social Security issue to a later date. Social Security will remain solvent until "2040 something", but "we should not put the money in the stock market."

7:20 CT: Norm Coleman just called Al Franken "Alvin."

7:21 CT: "If we can put the partisan politics aside, we can, we have to get this done. We have to have the political courage to move forward," responds Norm Coleman.

7:22 CT: "I just saw the Texas two step, you side stepped the question," says Dean Barkley in his one minute rebuttal. "The longer we wait the longer the draconian issue [of Social Security] will be."

7:23 CT: Franken jumps on the no new FICO fees bandwagon for anybody making less than 250,00.

7:25 CT: "We can do a lot of fighting," on any issue, but "its the bipartisan way that fixes things. That's what [Norm Coleman] has done."

7:27 CT: "It would be a GRAVE mistake to use military force against Iran, as we did in Iraq. Senator Coleman and I disagree on this." Franken's sole objective seems to be linking Norm to all things Republican. Norm seems to be trying to link himself to both parties, and Dean Barkley is running as the anti-party candidate.

7:28 CT: Apparently Norm thinks that if Iran gets a Nuclear weapon "Egypt will buy one." If it were that easy Iran would already have purchased a Nuclear weapon.

7:30 CT: If 85 Senators vote against a bill that's probably a pretty good indication that it was a bad bill Mr. Coleman.

7:31 CT: "Iran is supporting terrorism," which is why Dean Barkley thinks Iran is of concern. "Make sure nobody can get their hands on the stockpile of Nuclear fuel and weapons. We should talk to Russia as a safeguard."

7:32 CT: Franked responded: "Military action should not be used. Iran has been strengthened because of US involvement in the Iraq war. We need to talk to Iran, using patient diplomacy. We need to end the cowboy foreign policy of the Bush administration."

7:33 CT: Norm replied by stating that "This is a problem for the whole world not just the United States. We cannot take military action off the table, but we also need to use diplomacy...Lets make ourselves energy independent and end our dependency on foreign oil."

7:34 CT: "We cannot allow Iran to get nukes; we need to safeguard the nuclear stockpiles throughout the world, not just Iran," responded Barkley.

7:35 CT: Franken started ragging on Coleman because of a provision in a bill that had something to do with securing our reports after 9/11 that Norm voted for. Norm chimed in and said "Minnesota needs to decide if they want a Maverick or somebody who gets things done. I want to be measured by what I've done. I'm tired of playing gotcha."

7:36 CT: Still on the topic of nuclear sovereignty Barkley stated that "there is a need to discuss the role of the US in the world...We have to much debt and our military budget is too large. We should put our efforts into Afghanistan."

7:37 CT: "I guess maybe I'm just a Maverick," Franken sarcastically retorted.

7:38 CT: In regard to the 6.2% unemployment in Minnesota Norm responded by stating that "the housing is a critical crisis piece, so more effort to bring stability in the housing market [is needed]. We have to decrease our dependence on foreign oil and we should not raise taxes."

7:39 CT: "We could have been [studying stem cells] in the last seven years in Rochester, instead of spending money on Iraq" proclaims Franken.

7:40 CT: One of the Moderator stated that he has is "running a cold."

7:41 CT: Barkley has repeatedly said that he "hopes the 700 billion bailout works." He does not seem confident. "Our economy is consumer driven. Until public confidence turnarounds around our economy will not turnaround."

7:41 CT: Norm Coleman on the economy: "You can't talk about it you have to do it. We passed, in this last bill a wind energy tax break, Franken would have voted against it."

7:44 CT: "The bailout should have passed on its own merit, it did not need [to contain] wind power;" Franken then went on to link himself to Obama.

7:45 CT: Barkley: "I was a key player in the homeland security bill. I didn't spend any money when I was [in the Senate]; Norm, you got me the money."

7:47 CT: "I agree with Barack Obama," Al seems to know the correlation between Obama's support and his own.

7:49 CT: "40% of that debt has occurred under your watch, Norm," Dean Barkley is positioning himself as very fiscally responsible candidate. He's hanging his hat on responsible spending.

7:51 CT: I wonder how many times Norm has said partisan during the debate. It seems he would rather say "[not] partisan" rather than "bipartisan". Coleman then stated that "We are very close to solving the energy issue." How are we close to solving the energy crisis?

7:52 CT: "I support Barack Obama's [health care] program," again Al links himself to Obama.

7:53 CT: "I'm not going to hold [Norm] responsible, but you were there, you didn't stand up.," says Barkley.

7:54 CT: "What a horrible idea to put kids into a government run program [for health care]," Norm replied in response to Franken's supposed position on health care. So are public schools bad for kids because it is a government program?

7:55 CT: "If you believe that hope can conquer fear...I challenge you to come together and make it happen," marked Barack Obama's, err sorry Norm Coleman's final remarks of the televised portion of the debate.

7:57 CT: "I you think President Bush has been right 90% of the time...laughs in the crowd...then I'm not your guy." Franken's final statement ends with his trademark "[list an issue I support]" followed by "then I ask for your vote."

7:58 CT: "I am the only person on this stage that can bring about the change we need," concludes Dean Barkley.

***Televised Debate Ends***
The remaining portion of the debate could be viewed on or one of the CSPANs and features questions from the audience.

7:59 CT: "A good Supreme Court justice will follow precedence, and adhere to the constitution. I would not ask how they would vote on Roe v. Wade," declared Barkley.

8:02 CT: "I take the responsibility of advising and consenting [judges] very seriously," said Norm Coleman in response to the Supreme Court Judge question. "Judges need to interrupt the constitution not legislate from the bench."

8:04 CT: "We may be settling a presidential election. If you wanna talk about bad decisions, Bush v. Gore would kinda be towards the top," Franken clearly defining himself as the leftist candidate.

8:05 CT: "I hope that Barack Obama will be nominating the next supreme court justices," if Al can make a vote for Obama a vote for himself he will likely win.

8:06 CT: Dean Barkley admires Justice Scalia.

8:08 CT: "The judiciary should not be politicized, but we've seen that under the current administration," responds Franken. Al also just made a joke, but I wasn't paying attention, the crowd laughed.

8:10 CT: "My favorite movie is the Godfather...but seriously, maybe John F. Kennedy's Commitment to Courage. It's all about courage. You gotta take tough votes," Norm's stance on leadership.

8:12 CT: Franken took the courage comment and ran with it, "Sometimes it takes courage. I wanna act, that's why I'm running for the Senate. It's about who you are acting on behalf of. I'm acting on behalf of American families."

8:14 CT: "I'll be the common ground. People can come to me to breakdown those barriers." Barkley then told a good story about his experience in the Senate. He moved a table in the cafeteria into the middle to where Democrats and Republicans would eat with him.

8:16 CT: Franken wants a time table (or "time horizon") for the war in Iraq. "In one month the war in Iraq will have gone on longer than World War II...Barack Obama wants a 16 month time table for withdrawal, and I agree with that."

8:18 CT: "I think one of the original goals of why we went into Iraq was to have a regime change, find the WMD's, and install Democracy...Its time for self determination, let Iraq settle their own political battles." Barkley then referenced to the "next president" unlike Franken, which seems to be a good strategic move for the Independent Party candidate.

8:20 CT: "We would have lost if we withdrew when Franken wanted to withdraw. I was in Iraq when Harry Reid said the war was lost, and the troops were very, very angry." How are we going to win the war now, Mr. Coleman?

8:21 CT: "Al Qaeda wasn't in Iraq when the war started. How can [Coleman] still be for the war is beyond me," responded Franken.

8:22 CT: "We were all anti-war activists during Vietnam...What's the similarities between the two wars. When the job is done, and I [think it is], we should bring our troops," proclaimed Barkley.

8:23 CT: "We need to get out as quick as possible without losing what we have gained. I will take Ppetraeus' advice over Harry Reid's." This seems like a huge blunder by Norm. I see a flip-flop ad in the works with a nice quote coming down the pike.

8:24 CT: One more question.

8:27 CT: "All [current Senators] should be ashamed because of the position they put this country in...I hope the bailout package will start working." Barkley again mentions that he hopes the bailout works. There is great uncertainty in a potential Senate candidate regarding the financial crisis; this is the issue of the election.

8:28 CT: "It requires folks who have the ability to work with folks on the other side of the aisle...It takes 60 votes to get something done." Coleman's entire candidacy is based on the premise of "bringing people together."

8:30 CT: "We should not do what McCain did...but rather would Franklin Roosevelt did, renegotiate these bad loans one by one. We need to stop the downward spiral of the housing market," in this statement by Franken he distanced himself from McCain will agreeing with FDR.

8:31 CT: "We should prohibit Senators from taking campaign money from companies who you are regulating in a Senate committee. That would be about 2.5 million for Coleman and about half a million for Franken," Barkley then said he was unassociated with type of money.

8:32 CT: "Lets figure this out working together as Minnesotans," marked Coleman's final comment of the night.

8:34 CT: The final statement of the night saw Franken bring up Coleman's desire to chair the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Franken stated that it would be difficult "to bring Democrats and Republican's to the table when your job is to defeat Democrats," in such a position.

[Update 7/5/2009]: First Debate, from Oct. 5 at U of MN Rochester, Audio:

Published on October 11st at 7:08 PM CT :: 0 Comments

Sen. Stevens Faces Criminal Charges

Senator Ted Stevens (Republican, Alaska), the highest ranking and longest serving current Republican in the US Senate has been indicted of 7 criminal counts by the US Justice Department. Stevens tried unsuccessfully in Alaska's Republican Senate Primary of 1968 before falling short to Elmer E. Rasmuson; who later lost to Mike Gravel (Democrat, Alaska). Stevens came to power in that same year after the death of Alaska's other Senator Bob Bartlett (Democrat, Alaska). In turn Stevens was then appointed by Governor Walter Hickel (Republican, Alaska) to serve out Bertlett's remaining term. Stevens was later reelected in a 1970 Special Election.

At this point it looks as though Sen. Stevens' career will end how it started, with a Senate Election lose. It is a safe bet to assume that the 7 charges will hang over his reelection bid this November. Sen Stevens' seat was already at the top of the Democrat's list for possible takeovers, and these indictments will all but seal a Democratic victory for the challenger, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. The 7 charges stem from a lengthy investigation involving shady buisiness dealings in Stevens' home state of Alaska. The exact details behind the charges will be disclosed in an upcoming press conference.

Update: The press conference has occurred and nothing really happened other than some procedural stuff. Stevens is charged of making false statements in relation to accepting $250,000 from VECO Corp. the largest private employer in Alaska. The person running the press conference was asked several question to which he referred the questioner to read the report in greater detail. Well guess what, the average person wasn't handed a report from the Justice Department so I tried to find my own. I went to the Justice Department website to see if I could get my hands on a PDF, but to no avail; it will be interesting to see how long it takes them to post the report as the whole incident is a giant smudge on the GOP's image. There is also a lot of talk about whether Senator Ted Stevens will resign and the ramifications this event will have on the presidential race. I'll post a direct link to the document if it ever gets published. The Department of Justice has published a press release, but not the actual indictment documents.

Elizabeth Dole is a Senate Parasite

With the 2008 senate elections still in their dormant summer phase I started to experiment with a ratings system. I started with the greenhorns elected for the first time in 2002; there are nine in total with seven Republicans. The basic notation I landed on, which may be too idealistic, is that the performance of a senator actually has an effect on their reelection efforts. Heading over to the Library of Congress the data gathering began, by hand. I started by defining what a good, or for that matter, bad performance entails. I initially started by analyzing each senators voting record, but ultimately decided that this course would result in the introduction of partisanship.

I needed to find a way to concretely rate the senators based on their actions, but not necessarily their beliefs. I settled on this formula: The average number of cosponsors present on a bill that is inducted into law in which a given senator is also a (co)sponsor. The basic rationale behind this formula attempts to gauge the extent to which a given senator individually participates in the law making process. The general hypothesis is that a lower average will indicate a larger contribution, and a higher number will indicate less participation. I tabulated the results for all nine first time senators up for reelection in 2008 along with some other, more prominent names for use as a measuring stick. All data was gathered from the 108th, 109th, and 110th congresses.

Senator State Party Elected Avg # of Sponsors
Ted Kennedy Massachusets Democrat 1962 23.397
John Cornyn Texas Republican 2002 31.138
Chuck Hagel Neberaska Republican 1996 33.302
John E. Sununu New Hampshire Republican 2002 33.688
Larry Craig Idaho Republican 1990 34.852
Saxby Chambliss Georgia Republican 2002 35.172
Frank Lautenberg New Jersey Democrat 2002 37.194
Lamar Alexander Tennessee Republican 2002 38.727
Norm Coleman Minnesota Republican 2002 40.459
Mark Pryor Arkansas Democrat 2002 44.357
Lindsey Graham South Carolina Republican 2002 45.323
Elizabeth Dole North Carolina Republican 2002 49.750

As you can seen from the table Ted Kennedy remains a senate legend. Ted Kennedy scores very low for two reasons; first he is a seven term, second in seniority senator and he solo authors many bills that eventually become law. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Elizabeth Dole, who appears to be useless. On a further analysis of her record, the only bill to become law that she has personally written focuses on the redrawing of coral reef on maps in the Atlantic Ocean. Is that seriously the most important issue right now; the answer's no. Back on track, based on this small sample set it appears that a lower average is in fact superior, but it remains unclear to what extent this holds true and if the average has any correlation to a senator's reelection bid. I should also point out that Frank Lautenberg served as a senator in the 1990s before retiring.

My results cannot be ruled conclusive, although they are interesting. However, the aftermath leads me to believe a more thorough analysis of this application would yield a fascinating outcome, but the data is sparse. There is no way to automate the calculation process. The Library of Congress has a thorough database of legislative data, but it unfortunately is not programmatically available. I may get ambitious in the future and manually start developing an open database from the Library of Congress' site.

Published on July 6th at 9:23 PM CT :: 2 Comments

MN Senator Living in DC Basement

US Senator Norm Coleman (Republican, MN) is up to his hypocritical antics, again. After the entire wing of the Republican Party ridiculed Al Franken (Democrat, MN) for his recent tax troubles, Norm stepped up to the plate and should have silenced his crowd. Norm Coleman's DC residence is a 10 foot by 10 foot room in a friend's basement; but that's only half the story. The other half, Norm hasn't been paying his monthly rent of $600. Let the games begin.

Before I destroy Coleman, I'm going to point out a major oversight by the right wing when it comes to Franken's tax problem. Al Franken made an effort to pay his taxes, he hired an accountant like most everybody else, but the accountant made a major mistake. As a result "Franken paid state income taxes only in the states where he lived -- New York and Minnesota. That meant he overpaid taxes in those two states, but shorted the other 17 states by more than $50,000." [Source: MPR] Al Franken is not a tax expert; he is not running for 'US Tax Expert,' and he made a mistake, but at least Franken made an attempt, Norm can't make that same claim.

To begin the ridicule I'll reference the original article from the National Journal. The very fact that such an article was even published about Norm Coleman predicates a complete failure in even attempting to pay the rent. What's more is that his excuse is just terrible, "I can assure Minnesotans that while partisans will attempt to raise questions about the perception of my paying rent to live in a bedroom of a house of a friend, there is no extraordinary reason for my staying there other than it fit my family's budget." Let me get this straight, Norm Coleman is staying in a basement because of financial reasons; the $169,300 he earns a year as a US Senator just simply isn't enough for him to stay on top of his rent. So either Coleman simply doesn't have the money, or he wasn't responsible enough to just pay the rent. This presents an interesting scenario, take your pick; either he is struggling to make ends meet with an income greater than 96.87% [Source: US Census 2005] of the population or Norm Coleman is an idiot.

At this juncture I'm ready to name both candidates incompetent when it comes to the basic concept of exchanging money for goods or services, but Norm may currently have the slight edge. I would now expect certain right wingers (MN Democrats Exposed) to end their relentless crusade against Franken and his taxes after Norm's latest demonstration of hypocrisy. Now to drop a baseless right wing style quote: Norm Coleman is creating a pattern of not being upfront with voters. Actually Norm Coleman made a mistake, and so did Al Franken. As a result the discussion should shift away from these stupid distractions and move onto their differences on issues that matter. For example Norm continues to support the Iraq War, Franken supports a withdrawl; Coleman is not in favor of a gas tax that would generate additional funding to support infrastructure, while Franken believes extra money should be rasied to ensure our roadways are save after the 35W Bridge collapse. More on the issues in future posts.

Published on June 27th at 11:28 PM CT :: 0 Comments

Senate GOP Sets Filibuster Record

I was watching coverage of the Senate on CSPAN 2 today and stumbled upon what appeared to be yet another Republican filibuster. Senator Jon Kyl (Republican Minority WHIP, Arizona) initially appeared thoughtful and intellectual until Dick Durbin (Democrat, Illinois) objected. At this point Senator Kyl took offense and went into 'Republicans are trying to be bipartisan' mode accusing the Democrats of not working across the table. Dick Durbin succumbed to Senate rules and was granted two minutes to speak until the floor was relinquished back over to the Republicans.

During Senator Durbin's speech, which actually lasted a lot less than the two minutes he was allotted, he countered Senator Kyl's points by referring to a staggering statistic; the Republicans of the US Senate have performed 77 filibusters during the current session. This count breaks the previous record of 58 filibusters previously held by the 1999-2002 Senate terms. Durbin stated, "We are asking to bring it forward for debate. If you have a better idea, put it on the floor and let's vote on it. But for the Republicans to consistently file these filibusters and object to bringing these measures forward to even debate them, and now it is a take it or leave it. The Senator from Arizona has filed, just like the minority leader did yesterday, this political get-well card which says: We will make a unanimous consent request so we are on the record wanting this. Get on the record and vote for bringing it to the floor for debate. Don't be afraid of a debate. Don't be afraid of an amendment. If you have a good idea, put it forward. Let's see if it wins or loses." [Source]

The debate on the current bill, something related to health care and reimbursing doctors for Medicare services, was then pushed under the rug by the next speaker, a Republican from Tennessee. The bottom line is the next time anybody accuses the Democrats of not getting anything done, you can look across the aisle and clearly see why the Senate approval rating is so low.

Published on June 19th at 2:48 PM CT :: 8 Comments

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