The Southern Neighbours

A Canadians Guide To Election Night Coverage Tuesday November 6, 2012

So here we are on the eve of the 2012 Presidential Election. For those of us absolutely obsessed with the political process down south, it’s been quite a slug. At the end of the day the race is exactly where some people, including myself, felt we would be; with polling numbers pretty tight but a stable advantage to President Barrack Obama (or Bronco Bama for those of you who that just want this to be over).

A Canadians Guide To The 2012 Election

In less than 24 hour Americans and Canadians should finally know who will be in charge of the United States of America for the next four years. But with wall-to-wall coverage planned for tomorrow night by all the major American networks, Canadians are left with no other option than to just enjoy the spectacle. So to build on my post from two weeks ago and to aid you in your viewing pleasure, here’s A Canadian’s Guide to Election Night Coverage.

Keeping Yourself Entertained

Each of the major networks will have have some sort of gimmick planned for the evening. I’m pretty sure that at least one network will have a Hologram incorporated into their coverage (which may or may not involve Tupac). Others will probably have some sort of Social Media Analysis showcasing tweets such as “ROMNEY is THE BEST” or “OH MY OBAMA” and every single network will order their senior political correspondent to stand in front of a touchscreen waving his hands around like a broken marionette. While those gimmicks are all nice and dandy, what can Canadians do to kill time between the actual results information and the bi-partisan talking heads spew at each other… well I’m glad you asked.

First and foremost the New York Times has their 512 Paths To The White House interactive tool up and running.

512 Paths To The White House

This is probably the most useful and informative tool published by the media for the election. It’s a simple visual tool to show the 512 different outcomes of tomorrow night’s results based on simply tying battleground states to each candidate. For the Choose Your Own Adventure generation this is like visual crack. And even better as the results come in you can start narrowing down the options and impressing all of your online friends with your quick wit and astute observations about potential outcomes.

Twitter Political Engagement Tool

Of course, like every major event in pop culture most of us will be glued to our Twitter streams for the ritual of Election Night snark. Sure, you could Twitter search on which Americans are going to threaten to move to Canada if their candidate doesn’t win or you could check out Twitter’s own Political Engagement Map. Or even better swing on by to Foursquare and look at their interactive I VOTED Election day map and swanky ivoted badge.

Interesting Story Lines For Election Night

As mentioned, this election is packed with fascinating little tidbits and story lines. I know you’ve probably heard of the hundreds of the different storylines that will be spun by pundits to make up the fabric of this election, but to me the most interesting story line about tomorrow night will be what happens to the Republican Party (GOP) on November 7th. Regardless of the outcome, the Republican Party is on the verge of existential crisis within the American political world.

Politico has a fascinating article on the potential civil war within the party, whether Romney wins or losses tomorrow night. And yes, this story has been predicted a dozen or so times in the past, but the truth of the matter is that the demographics of America are dramatically changing. Whether it’s the massive increase in the Hispanic population in once solid red states such as New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, Florida or even Texas or the shift of progressive young Americans who are no longer seeing the Republican party as a viable alternative or even disenfranchised suburban women who are constantly offended by the Republican obsession with Rape and Abortion, things are changing and the make-up of the United States will be far different in 2016 and 2020. If there isn’t a massive philosophical shift within the Republican party, this could be one of their last viable chances at the presidency.

So the interesting storyline will to be see the reaction of right leaning pundits when the results come in. If Romney loses, it’ll be interesting to see what the next steps for the party will be. If he wins, it’ll be interesting to see if moderate Romney runs the country or tea party sympathizer Romney takes the reigns.

The other interesting storyline to keep an eye on will be Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina

With how the Electoral College works out, everyone knows that Ohio will probably be the tipping point in the election and most networks won’t call the election until Ohio is officially declared. Unfortunately, for those of us who are impatient and have the attention spans of a nat, the polls in Ohio polls don’t close until 8:30 EST. Which means it’s going to take some time for those numbers to roll in. But on the other hand polls in Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina close on the east coast, so we do have some potential indicators.

If Virginia is called for Obama, the chances of an Obama win are probably high. As I’ve said before, I think Obama has a very strong chance at Virginia, because of the NOVA region, the ground game and the Virgil Goode wild card (which would be amazing if he takes it away for Romney). But in that same breath Virginia isn’t a devastating loss for Obama.

Now if North Carolina is called for Obama early, then this thing is officially over. North Carolina has been considered a long shot for Obama by most of the pundits, but if the early voting flows the way it has for the past few weeks and Obama’s surgical GOTV comes through, then there is a strong chance Obama could sneak out a win. If that happens it’s over for Romney and it’s going to be a long night for the Republicans.

The thing to remember is that Obama doesn’t need North Carolina or Virginia to win, but Romney needs both to have any shot at winning. (it’s why the math is so stacked against Romney today)

On the other hand, if Pennsylvania, which is considered a strong Obama state, somehow goes Romney’s way it’s going to be a very nervous night for team Obama. Now I don’t believe that Pennsylvania is in play, I think this is more of a Hail Mary pass by the Romney team, but as an Albertan you can never be sure with polls.

So those are some tidbits to watch tomorrow.

Final Thoughts

I’ve been watching this election for far too long. So with no hockey and the election over tomorrow I may need to find another vice. If anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears.

Oh yes, predictions… Well if you know me and you know my track record with this site, you know I hate making predictions. BUT if I was to make a statement, I would suggest to going to 512 paths and lock in Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin for Obama and you’ll get my prediction.

… And plus who doesn’t want to look forward to events like this.


Categories: , , The Blogosphere, The D.C. vibe

A Canadians Guide To The 2012 Election Wednesday October 24, 2012

Many Canadians (and many more Americans) woke up to the Monday morning news that The Presidential Election was at a 47% dead heat between President Barrack Obama and Governor Mittens Romney. Many of my fellow Canadians are probably looking at that information and going, what the hell is going on?

A Canadians Guide To The 2012 Election

How could this be? Mitt Romney has to be the worst candidate ever? Why is it so close?

Well, there’s a whole slew of underlying story lines going on, but the one thing to note for my fellow Canadians is that this election was always going to be a tight race – regardless of what polls noted earlier in the month.

So as a Canadian who has been incredibly obsessed with every element of this election for months now, and as an ex-pat who spent the past two and a half years in Washington D.C., I feel it’s my duty to as a Canuck to explain some of the interesting nuances of the 2012 Election.

We’ll call it A Canadian’s Guide to The 2012 Election.

National Polls Aren’t As Important As State Polls… In This Election

The Electoral College

With the election as it is, national polls aren’t as nearly important as state polls. Yes, national polls matter, as they give an overarching sense of the race, but with the race so close the key metric is who wins the Electoral College.

Many Canadians may not know this, but Presidents aren’t chosen on the popular vote, but rather who wins the Electoral College. Basically, the Electoral College is made up of Five Hundred and Thirty Eight seats, with each state allocated a certain number of seats to represent the population base. So for example the state of Montana has 3 seats in the Electoral College, while the more populous California has 55 seats. If you’re looking for a Canadian example, you can kind of see the formula working in how the seats for Members of Parliament are distributed across our nation – where highly populated regions (cities) get more seats than the rural areas. The person who is elected the President of the United States is the person who crosses the 270 Electoral Votes threshold.

If you want to see how this all works look play around with the Huffington Post’s Electoral College map.

So the National Polls do matter, but when a race is this close, what really matters is who wins the Battleground states. Nate Silver, who is a baseball statistician turned political polls guru, has gone in to great length about polls, national polls, and state polls on his blog, so I won’t go into the break down of that. But the key thing to look at is the polls of Battleground States: .(Battleground States are states where there is an even proportion of Democrats and Republicans and the vote can go to either side).

The Battleground states that will determine the election this time around are Wisconsin, Nevada/Iowa, Virginia, possibly North Carolina and more importantly Ohio. (I think Florida is pretty much a shoe-in for Romney) See the funny thing about the Electoral College make up is that Romney cannot win the election without Ohio, but in the same breath Obama has multiple paths to victory without Ohio.

Which in a first look doesn’t make sense, but that right there is the wonderful world of math and American Politics. So in regards to the Electoral College current make-up Obama continues (and has the entire race) a larger Electoral College advantage than Romney, even though the polls tend to give Romney a slight edge in national race.

And if you’re curious, yes there is the strong possibility that either Romney or Obama may win the national vote, but lose the Electoral Count. If you want evidence of this, look no further that Gore vs. Bush Jr. in 2000.

Why National Polls are All Over The Place

Over the past weekend, there was a flurry of national polls. Some showed Obama with a 6 point least, some showed a 1 point advantage, some were tied and some showed a 7 point lead. So in a race this close, why are the polls so all over the place?

Well, there are a couple of issues, the first is the discrepancy between sampling bias by region and the other is the likely vs. registered voter models.

I’ll pick on The Gallup Daily Tracking Poll, which showed Romney with a 7 point advantage, as a way to explain this issue. Nate silver, went into some interesting details about Gallup on his blog, but when you get down to it, Gallup was (and continues to) over-sample the southern states. In fact the southern states tend to represent a third of the poll’s sample size. If you dig through the crosstabs (the breakdown of the sampling), you see that Obama is ahead by 4-5 points in the North, West (with battleground states such as Nevada and Colorado), Mid-West (with battleground states such as Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio), while Romney was ahead by 22 points in the south (which includes states such as Florida and North Carolina, but also includes states such as Texas, Missouri, Georgia, Louisiana, etc.). So anyone with common sense can understand, why this poll seams to be so out of line with the other polls. If one team has a comfortable edge in 3/4 of the survey, but it only represents 66% of the survey results and the other team has a landslide advantage in another quarter of the country, but that represents 33% of the survey, there’s going to be a large gap. Further proving that although national daily tracking polls are interesting, it’s more important to look at the national average of polls and the battleground state trends. When one looks at the national averages, Obama appears to be ahead by about 1-2 points or it’s a statistical tie or Romeny’s leading by a point or two.

The second issue with Gallup is that it’s difference between Likely Voters and Registered Voters showed a huge gap. (For example, As of today the LV was 50-47 for Romney and RV is 48-47 For Obama).

Likely Voters vs. Registered Voters

Unlike Canada, where every citizen is given a voting card by the Government, in the Untied States, citizens need to register to vote with their state government. It’s why you always hear about Voter Registration Drives and Rock The Vote, etc., etc., Basically, because each state is in charge of their own electoral process, and of course there is a massive discrepancy between how each state deals with their specific demographic issues and procedures. In addition, the transient nature of ordinary Americans makes it even more difficult to track voters, unlike in Canada where we have a smaller and less transient population and our big bad socialist government just takes care of the election process for us.

The other thing that’s different in the US over Canada is that when a citizen registers to vote, more likely than not, they will declare which of the two parties they support. So imagine, filling in your Canadian voter registration card and mailing it back, but in doing so declaring whether you’re a Conservative, Liberal, NDP’er, or Green party supporter.

Yeah, it’s a little odd. But it also plays huge into other aspects of the polling system and the strategy of the parties. All of the parties and pollsters are given this information and it has become a fundamental element of the entire process.

This brings me to the next element of all these polls, the Likely Voters vs. Registered Voters. In all of these polls you’ll see RV and LV beside two sets of numbers. Pollsters use the list of Registered Voters to determine who they contact in these polls and then will use a predetermined method for figuring out of the list of Registered Voters, who is more likely to vote. The methods that different pollsters use for this is up for debate, but the concept of splitting respondents into two groups is to better determine, who is actually going to vote on Election day.

Of course, American’s demographics are constantly changing and it maybe more difficult to determine who is likely to vote based on older models. I don’t want to solely pick on Gallup, but it’s become the easiest example to demonstrate how they may have some strong flaws in their Likely Voters models. See Gallup uses 7 questions to determine if you are a Likely Voter or not. If you answer no to more than 3, you’re considered not likely to vote.

So for example, the first three Gallup questions are:

  1. Thought given to election (quite a lot, some)
  2. Know where people in neighborhood go to vote (yes)
  3. Voted in election precinct before (yes)

If you answer no, or not much to all of these you won’t be counted in the Likely Voter model. Now it’s up for debate, but this model would appear to underestimate the percentage of Democratic voters (Younger, College Students, More Transient, Minority, etc.)

So when looking at Likely Voter (LV) information and Registered Voters (RV), the actual turn out will be somewhere in between. With this election, many political experts expect the turn out to be about 2% points closer to the registered voter number, than what the pollsters are estimating the likely voter turn out.

Early Voting & Declaring Your Voter Intentions

Another major difference between the US system and Canadian system is the importance of early voting.

In Canada, early voting is a nicety and a luxury. If you’re away you submit a mail-in ballot or if you think that you won’t have time you’ll go to an early voting station and get it over and done with. Some campaigns have started to push this tactic on to their supporters, but in general most Canadians will vote on election day. But in the US, early voting is a key piece of each parties’ strategy. So much so that the President Obama’s re-election team has spent millions of dollars to encourage early voting and is resting the campaign’s chances on building an insurmountable edge in early voting for Battleground States. (Interesting read by the way)

But why is it so different?

A couple of things. Remember that whole idea of Voting Intentions declaration? Yes? Well, campaigns use that information to estimate their base for a given state. They then either focus their attention on attracting people who declared themselves as independents or they focus on ensuring that their base gets out to vote. They also use that information to encourage voters to go to the polls early or to help spread the word. In Canada we don’t have that sort of knowledge going into an election, well the Conservatives do, but that’s for a different blog post.

So in the Battleground states, early voting is a huge component of the current story. If you’re interested, you can actually watch rough estimates of the voting right now online. A few bloggers and reporters are already tabulating the results based on early voting numbers, mail-in ballots and of course voter declaration. For example, Jon Ralston in Nevada, is tabulating the results of early voting to estimate team Obama’s lead in Nevada. This trend has pretty much ensured that Nevada will be an Obama stranglehold when election day rolls around. While others bloggers/reporters are showing huge leads for the Democrats in Ohio, Iowa and North Carolina.

So early voting trends, while not a big deal in Canada are a huge game changer in the US and are a fascinating thing to watch – more so than the see-saw battle of the polls.

Gary Johnston, Ron Paul, Virgil Goode… Names to Remember?

Gary Johnson 2012

Many Canadians may not realize this, but there are actually more than two parties in the US. Yes, it’s considered a two party system, but there are a handful of other parties involved in the election. The difference being that these other parties just don’t have the wherewithal to compete on a national level like the Democrats and Republicans.

But with that being said, never underestimate the power of a third party disrupting the election. Again, going back to 2000, many people blame Ralph Nader on Gore’s loss, as the third party candidate took a small percentage of voters which could have pushed Gore over the top in states such as New Hampshire or Florida.

Now my gut tells me that we won’t see something like that in this election, but don’t discount it.

You may remember Ron Paul’s legion of fans during the Republican Primaries. He had a massive grassroots campaign that constantly placed him third throughout the Republican primary season – even with the carousel of Newt, Bachmann, Santorum and that guy from Texas. His supporters constitute the Libertarian side of the Republican party and in general feel cheated, by how they were treated during the Republican Convention. There is a chance that many of these same supporters, which are at least 10-13% of the Republican party core base (based on Ron Paul’s voter base), may shift allegiances to former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party in protest. Again, I’m not sure of the shift being that strong, but when votes are down to percentage points for certain states, a 1% shift to a third party candidate can be huge… which brings me to my next point.

Good ol’ Virgil Goode.

Virgil Goode For President

Virgil Goode, is a third party conservative from Virginia. He’s a Congressman from rural Virginia, but is now running for president under the banner of the Constitution party. While he may not be a big name anywhere across the country, he is a pretty popular politician in the mountainous regions of south-west Virginia. And Virginia as we know from before is a highly contested Battleground state. There is a chance that votes towards Virgil may come at the expense of Romney when it’s all said and done in Virginia.

So What’s Next

As I mentioned, for almost a year now I’ve had a feeling that this would be a tight, tight race. The United States is just a polarized as Canada is and this is a hotly contested race.

The irony of looking at the race is that there are so many variables involved, but in the end I have a feeling that things will continue the way the have for months now. Yes, there are other factors that I haven’t even touched upon such as the Gender Gap (Women favour Obama over Romney, while Men favour Romney over Obama) or the underestimated Latino population or even the Voter Fraud/Voter Suppression tactics, but all that leans towards a close race. In general, the polls will fluctuate on a daily basis and everyone will overreact, but take them with a grain of salt and remember it’s better to look at the trendlines.

So as a Canadian enjoy the next 13 or so days and we’ll see what happens next. If you’re really curious as to the state of the race, I’d strongly suggest spending sometime at and learning about the different elements of the race – it really is fascinating. Now, if you really want a prediction, go back to take a ruler and draw a figurative straight-line on of the charts on the right – draw from one end of the screen to the other and you’ll probably get a gist of where the race is heading.

Chances of Obama Winning


Categories: , , The D.C. vibe

#occupyDC Saturday October 15, 2011

Never one to miss a chance to see a good DC protest, my wife and I took the opportunity to check out one of the #occupyDC camps on Monday night. We spent a good two hours with a close friend walking around, listening, observing and getting a first hand feel for the occupy movement in America’s Capital.

I’m just going to assume that everyone has basic understanding of what’s going on and has a general idea how the the occupy wall street movement in New York has spread across the US. I’m sure everyone has already formulated some opinions on what’s going on. But I just wanted to post with some first hand insights and my own two cents.

For those unfamiliar with the movement in DC; there are actually two separate occupy factions in the city. The one we walked around is centered in MacPherson Square on K Street, which is of course right in the heart of the lobbyist row. This group is a far more subdued version of the more active and confrontational group situation in Freedom Plaza. The Freedom Plaza occupy movement has been the one corralling the headlines with daily protests and alignment with other movements. If you’ve heard of arrests in DC at various protests, it’s coming from the Freedom Plaza group rather than the MacPherson group.

As mentioned, our little group spent the evening watching the MacPherson Square General Assembly. We also spent time walking around and listening to the protestors.

Contrary to what the media spin is, it was pretty clear that the occupyKst group was made up of a pretty diverse mixture of people. Of course, there was a handful of anarchists and what I would call professional protestors. You also had a few homeless people hanging around for a bit of free food. But on the most part, of the 200 or so people there that evening, most were made up of disenfranchised youth. And when I use the term youth, I mean educated and working professionals between the 24-33 year old range. Yes, this isn’t just a bunch of squeegee kids. The people hard at work, trying to build some sort of open organizational structure and to help craft a specific message were from a big swatch of very professional minded people. They were all working within the organize and group structure to establish a direction. (By the way, massive kudos to the amazing IT brigade of 5 dedicate nerds live streaming the entire process).

One of the biggest criticisms of the whole occupy movement is that there is no clear message and doesn’t seam to be an end goal. And from watching the Occupy K street General assembly trying to forge a structure and hierarchy, there are some issues. It’s clear that there are some leadership holes in the structure, but for the most part they were really trying to establish a collective direction. Which in the context of the who event is a pretty difficult task given the diversity of the stakeholders.

And while I’ll agree with many pundits, that the most glaring criticism of the protests is that they don’t necessarily have a concrete objective or even an end goal; it is easy to see why people are heading there and becoming involved.

Coming from Calgary and being a professional within the 25-30 year old range, I never felt like I was behind the eightball in career options. I also personally don’t have patience for people who believe that just by getting an education, whether it’s high school or university, they are instantly entitled to a 50k salary, the big house, five cars and the ability to live large.

But at the same time, I honestly never felt like I was ever going to be pinned behind crushing health insurance debt, student loans or a lack of job opportunities – in Calgary at least these issues were never something that crossed my mind. The tables never felt slanted against my ability for upward movement in society. As long as I worked hard and made connections, things will eventually work out.

But in DC, when I chat with my wife’s cohorts, there is an underlying sense that this generation of Americans are not getting that same sort of opportunity. The playing field isn’t even remotely level. Either crippled by the insane costs of health insurance, crushing student debt (3-4 times what the average Canadian takes on), stuck in the cycle of the unpaid intern culture, running two jobs (a professional job during the day and service job at night), or not being able to purchase property. There seams to be a disconnect with the potential for success that was available to previous generations. The question becomes, is the playing field really level anymore or is it stuck in an upward slant. In America, at the current moment, I’m inclined to say that things aren’t remotely level – and that in my opinion is the essence of these movements.

From the time I spent watching and observing the #occupyDC group last week, it’s pretty clear that their biggest challenge is changing the public opinion of their movement. To switch it from what seams like a disorganized bunch of radical left-wing hippies to a focused generational movement against what seams like a hopeless and daunting system. But until these groups are able to specifically channel that idea, they’re going to continue to face an uphill PR battle.

Categories: , , The Humourous, The Past, The Political World, The Southern Neighbours

Ten Years Later Sunday September 11, 2011

Ten years ago, I probably never thought I would write a post like this. At the time when the attacks occurred I was just a naive 21 year old student at the University of Calgary. Like everyone in North America, I watched in horror as the events unfolded. I sat there in awe as the news reports of the attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington rolled in. I worried for my dad flying back from Saudi and I thought for all the poor souls who’s lives were lost earlier that day.

Analysts of the time described this moment as one my generation and generations below us would never forget. They said that it would change the world. It would be a defining moment akin to Kennedy’s assassination and the Cuban missile crisis. As a young adult, who although somewhat knowledgeable of the world was still pretty young and fresh, it was hard not to be somewhat skeptical. I’d seen tanks roll by my old childhood apartment in Kuwait during the Gulf War. My parents had told me of the bombings in Ireland & England during the troubles and my dad had subjected me to hours of documentary footage of World War II. At the time, I was somewhat numb to the concept of war, but I had never really lived through a real all encompassing war. Would this really change things? Would it really destroy our collective innocence?

I was wrong. It changed everything.

Ten years later, I sit in Arlington mere blocks away from the Pentagon Memorial and under the shadows of the flight path – it is impossible to escape some sort of emotion. The streets near our apartment are quiet this morning and there is an eery feeling that occurs when a plane passes overhead heading towards Reagan Airport.

As a Canadian living in DC, it can feel almost voyeuristic to be in this city during this time. I’ll never know the pain of people who lost loved ones or saw the damage first hand. But the events of 9/11 have changed every aspect of our society. Everyone’s lives have been changed. I now have family members who have served in Afghanistan. We’ve met great friends in DC who were deployed overseas. And our work as a couple has been indirectly influenced by the events of that day. Without question there is a different shadow looming over our lives now, one that didn’t exist in the early days of the 2000s. As I look back now those days feel naively innocent in comparison to what life is like now.

So, some ten years later, I will take time today to pay my respects – to think of everyone who have lost their lives on that day and during the years following and to think of how life has changed.

Categories: , ,

One Step Closer To Fulfilling The Starship Troopers Prophecy Tuesday September 6, 2011

No, no, no. I don’t mean the prophecy that Neil Patrick Harris will either acquire super psychic powers or that he will one day run a intergalactic secret police. No, instead I’m making a reference to the epically cheese-ball futuristic football montage at the beginning of this incredibly bad movie.

Erased every morsel of that horrible movie from your memory. Well of course, I have it here for you.

Anywho, back on track. It’s the beginning of College Season down in the good Ol’ US of A and that means that Saturdays will be a living hell for the next five months. But with that comes new jersey reveals and Football jersey designs which are inching one step closer to the god awful Starship trooper unis. Don’t believe me, just have a look at the new uniforms from The University of Maryland, Oregon Ducks and Boise State.

University of Maryland

University of Oregon

Boise State

See… One step closer to metal footballs and JOFA helmets. (That being said all three jerseys are s.i.c.k.)

Categories: , ,

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