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Boring Post Post Mortem, Part II — The California Election Edition (Updated) and Mittmentum, No More

February 8, 2008


So it appears that my visions of the California Super Tuesday race tightening up to a near tie are going to remain naught but visions, short of something really dramatic happening in the whole ultra-confusing “double bubble trouble” mishegas in Los Angeles.

In his exhaustive and somewhat exhausting piece, voting maven Brad Friedman states that perhaps hundreds of thousands of decline-to-state voters might have been disenfranchised, and takes pains to mention and indirect Diebold connection through a departed and apparently entirely incompetent election administrator. (What good is a voting debacle if you can’t at least mention Diebold?)

While I’m sure that Los Angeles Decline-to-State voters would lean heavily toward Obama, it doesn’t sound to me as if including the possibly discarded ballots would do much more than add or subtract a few delegates. Taking action is definitely worthwhile both for the sake of the principle of counting all votes and because, in this wacky election season, a few delegates could make the difference. However, it’s also pretty obvious that it won’t likely make the kind of titanic difference it would take to sway perceptions of the California results. [UPDATE: On the other hand, this mishap or malfeasance in New Mexico really could sway that state’s extremely close caucus. H/t doschi at DKos.] Still, in retrospect, it really does appear that the concerns I passed on about this whole issue in previous Boring Posts were sadly justified.

The other source of my vision was the fact that I spent the better part of a couple of days phone banking for the Obama campaign at their Santa Ana headquarters. When you’re in the bubble of a campaign, you can easily get an incorrect impression of what’s really happening. In our case, we were calling pre-screened phone lists that for good strategic reasons skewed heavily Obama and were, we noted, largely in Alameda county — true Obama country in that the area is dominated by Oakland and Berkeley, a sort of demographic wonderland for the quasi-insurgent Obama campaign, especially with both John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich having dropped out.

For those of you who care about this stuff, my impression of the campaign was a good one. It was as grass roots as you might expect, with a pretty good mix of youthful enthusiasm and professionalism, particularly from the longtime staffers, some of whom had just come from having spent more than a year in Iowa and South Carolina. Regular volunteers (including myself, though I was a johnny-come-lately) were at times a bit woolly, but on the whole substantially saner and much more diverse than other activist types I’ve worked with, one mildly annoying, hand-holding “power circle” notwithstanding.

In fact, pretty much every age, gender, and ethnic group was represented to some degree and I was encouraged by the number of Spanish-speaking callers. Still, I was doing this in Santa Ana, one of the most heavily Latino cities in all of California, so the sampling was (as results bear out), far from scientific.

But that bubble effect kicked in again after the polls were supposed to close statewide at 8:00 p.m. It was supposed to be the post campaign election-return watching party, but then word came that the polls in Alameda county had run out of ballots earlier in the night, and were staying open until 9:00, that meant we could still remind stragglers to get to the polling place — many of whom would be assuming that they missed their opportunity to vote. Phone lists were hastily generated and calling started up at about 8:25. By 8:55 most of had quit…but then word came that the polls were staying open there until 9:30 and then 10:00. Something remarkable seemed to be happening.

I’ve actually worked in telemarketing and phone fundraising a large portion of my life, and one hard and fast rule was never, never, never call after 9:00 p.m., but I was making calls until about 9:50 to people who, with one exceptions, had already voted. Perhaps it was Bay Area enthusiasm for Obama, or perhaps, I’m just a good caller, but no one complained as I hastily suggested they tell anyone they knew who might have missed their chance about the late closing. One caller got a guy, we’ll assume a Berkleyite, in mid-meditation. The meditator, we were told, took the call as a sign from the cosmos and ran out to vote.

Of course, even as the news nationwide was pretty encouraging, we all got a dose of reality on the local results. Certainly, as it turned out, Obama was anything but a big winner in our backyard — but then the real goal in California was always to see how far his campaign could narrow the Clinton victory, given Hillary’s once-prohibitive lead in the local polls. Considering her early lead, the effect of voting by mail, and the proportional nature of the Democratic primaries, 42% really wasn’t too horrible.

Now that my state’s race is over, I did have a bit of demographic fun checking out the results at the California Secretary of State’s site. It’s not news that Northern California was more pro-Obama than more heavily Latino Southern Cal.

Still, the countywide results defy too much easy categorization. For example, more upscale liberals are supposed to be trending toward Obama. But in the national capital of both wine and cheese, Napa, Hillary took the day much as she did in the rest of the state. I’m sure it’s possible the support of United Farm Workers in the vineyard laden region might have swayed the race toward Clinton. But in the neighboring wine capital of Sonoma, Barack managed to edge her out by a few percentage points. Does this all boil to the difference between the two counties in the numbers of Hispanics and/or farmworkers? I could tell you if knew more about the population figures of the two places, but I don’t. I do know that, driving through the counties, the demographic differences are far from obvious.

Some of it was relatively easier to stereotype: upscale, vegetarian-rich Marin, Bill O’Reily’s favorite town ofSan Francisco and, of course, Alameda went decisively for Obama. More business-centric and Latino Santa Clara County (aka Sillicon Valley), went fairly heavily for Hillary. She also nailed the cozy confines of Contra Costa County, just east of Alameda county, which I might have guessed would have leaned slightly Obamaish if I had had to make a bet.

On the other hand, neighboring Yolo and Sacramento counties went narrowly for Obama. Yolo is a little surprising when you consider the heavily agricultural nature of the area, less surprising when you remember that it includes the UC Davis campus. As for Sacramento, which also includes its share of agriculture — are the policy wonks in our state capital breaking heavily for Obama now? I could do this all day, but I’ll stop now. Time to focus on the future.


Did I promise to say something about the end of Mitt Romney’s campaign? Oh yeah, it’s in the title of the post.

Well, I’m tired and I’ve got other stuff to write today and besides, what do you say about the emptiest of empty suits? I’ll just repeat what I’ve said so many before, here and elsewhere.

I’m sorry to see Mitt go because he would have been, I think, by far the easiest candidate to beat. He’s a more handsome John Kerry on whatever is the reverse of steroids; his constant re-engineering of his beliefs to meet new constituencies should have made him an easy mark. But also, by the weird chance that he got into office, I’m think Mitt would have been the least dangerous President, his perceived greater conservatism in comparison to John McCain notwithstanding.

I would have preferred the malleable Romney in many ways to Mr. “More Wars, Fewer Jobs” McCain. Intelligence and perhaps some vestigial integrity is a good thing, I guess, but I’ll take the guy who’ll do the least damage.

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