Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Political Markets

The New York Times has done an interesting article on political markets, such as Intrade, something that I have been interested in for awhile. I wrote the author an email with respect to my own experience with such markets, which are valuable but still far from completely useful:

I share your interest in this, but one thing you fail to mention is the embarassment that many of us experienced on election day in 2004 when Intrade jerked around from one extreme to another. Intrade was worse than useless on that day. Another occasion on which it was similarly useless was during the Allen-Webb Senate election on election night where Intrade seemed to simply jerk back and forth based upon the reported returns--hardly the kind of predictive vehicle one can have faith in.

For what it is worth, my opinion is that Intrade does a good predictive job under a variety of situations but is basically useless once the polls open.

Chesapeake Primaries and Beyond

As we go into today's primaries, more and more is becoming apparent about the most interesting Democratic primary in a generation. Look for Obama to win handily in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, as black voters make up a large percentage of voters in this region.

Hillary Clinton is banking on a comeback in March and April, in the states of Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania, all of which look to be much more sympathetic to her candidacy than the mid-Atlantic region.

Obama has one of the least likely coalitions imaginable, constructed of both the richest and the poorest that the Democratic Party has to offer. Clinton,on the other hand, has a much more traditional coalition based upon feminists, Hispanics, union-members and working class whites, especially Catholics.

Perhaps most diappointing of all for those of us who see American support for Obama as a sign of change is the failure of Catholics to support Obama. Catholics areas such as Boston, Pittsburgh and Chicago have historically been noted for their extreme racism, but one always hopes for attitudes to change. Unfortunately, according to the data we have, they apparently have not. What we don't know is whether this pattern will carry so far as to lead such voters to cross party lines in the fall, for the presumably Catholic, McCain.

While Clinton probably will do better in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania, it is unlikely to be enough of an improvement to give her the delegates she needs for the nomination. These three states all have double the number of African-Americans per capita that California and Massachusetts had, not to mention that Texas has an open primary system likely to favor Obama. Clinton will benefit from the larger number of Catholics and union members in these states, but it probably will not be enough to give her the lead.

At that point, in spite of all the horror scenarios, it is difficult to envision seeing the Democratic Party give Clinton the nod via Super Delegates, because to do so would virtually ensure defeat in the fall general election, as it would alienate the independent and black voters that the party desperately needs to win in November.

For blacks, it could be the catalyst to finally severe their unswerving support for a party that always promises them so much, while delivering so little. I just don't think that Bill and Hillary could get away with what Walter Mondale pulled in 1984, given the open media we have now and the racial implications that were not in play in 1984.

What Hillary would do if she were smart, is to stand down and support Obama in the name of party unity. Were she to do so, she and Bill would immediately reclaim the love and admiration of blacks across the nation. Furthermore, should Obama lose, she would be well positioned to run in four years, when she would be only 64, or to receive a prominent cabinent position should he win. At this point, the Clinton's standing among many Democrats has plunged; such a pro-active out-of-the-box reversal could cement her party power for years to come.