Thursday, October 26, 2006

Obscure tactics and a big call

US elections 101 is now in session for this pundit, there are so many fascinating side roads to follow, and we chase some down here. But in the end, my conclusions are firming up to the most ridiculous prediction of all, a landslide victory.

Revisiting recent comments on campaign funding reflecting final votes, the grass roots effect, I'm now even more convinced that the proposition is a crock. At least in so far as it can reflect grass roots support when money is flowing across district boundaries.

While on fund raising, being one for fascinating figures, this grabbed my attention:

Candidates, national political parties and outside issue advocacy groups will spend roughly $2.6 billion by the end of 2006. Obviously there is a lot of faith put in the cash.

I'm also toying with some of the other relatively obscure variables in predicting outcomes. Vote fraud isn't all that obscure, and I'm hoping to work something up on that - with a little help from my friends.

The local race aspect is interesting, note Rove's comment: "I think Iraq and the economy play a role in virtually every race. But there are also local considerations in the local contest between two individuals that at the end of the day matters for great deal of the contest."

Now that could well be a cover for the aforementioned vote fraud or it could be an honest reflection, but we are quoting Rove here so it's not easy to tell.

For my part, watching carefully over the past few weeks, the shift from national to local focus began last weekend. I expect the big issues, however they are defined, are out there now.

Despite odd swipes at a lack of Democrat position statements, the big picture is pretty clear, winning districts is all that counts once that message is out.

My attention was drawn, by another Australian commentator, to another pair of campaign tactics which are talked about from time to tile, but not really in the heat of campaigning; the gerrymander and strategic referendums.

Now that second one was new to me, I'm a slow learner it seems. Now I have been informed that "both parties have become expert at using controversial referendum questions to get their vote out and there is a vast array of election questions on the ballot in many battleground states."

But then it seems this effect has been neutralised largely, because each side have become so adept at the it.

The problem is, no one is game enough to stop the game now, so I guess just another aspect of the huge financial waste of campaigns.

The gerrymander is also fairly well entrenched and tend to favour all incumbents. Unless, by some miracle boundary distribution became truly independent of the politicians the gerrymander is here to stay. As long as everyone is playing to the same crooked rules there is a sort of fairness to unfair distribution.

But the gerrymander, it seems has another catch, it seems those who developed the aberration were too clever by half.

The gerrymander might protect incumbents against a swing, up to a certain point. Beyond that critical point, you find a whole lot of seats fall simultaneously.

Now I guess that reflects the generic polling figures, rather than race by race figures. That is it reflects that national shift, or tidal wave effect, that provides the vital nudge locally.

That brings us back the the recent exploration of tight races and the probability of a landslide.

That is a notion I am warming too. Enough of these wishy washy pundits stopping short at a close win, or 50 cents each way as the avid punter would put it, we are putting our money on the nose for a big win for the Democrats.

Just keep it between us for now though. I'm not afraid of making a dill of myself, that is a regular occurrence. But everyone knows the effect of calling a political certainty. The reality is parties need to maintain momentum by pushing the uncertainty. If party polling looks good, too good, you are never going to hear about it. Why would people bother to go and vote for a sure thing? On the other hand they might decide there is room to take a swipe at the race leader, or the political class in general.

So just between you and me - and I don't have a vote - get out there and prove me right!

And don't forget to visit GP Background Stories for more on the elections

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