HUDSON, N.H., 1:15 a.m. — One person who is not hopping on the “change” bandwagon is Rudy Giuliani.
“In four or five days, the word ‘change’ has been in the news more often than I’ve ever heard it used,” the former New York mayor said in a speech here Tuesday. “It’s like in the old days when somebody at the bank asked for change. Keep the change! Or, can you change a dollar bill? Change, change, change, change, change! Everybody’s talking about change!”
The crowd laughed, but Giuliani had a serious point to make.
“It’s got to go beyond change,” he said. “Change for what?”
In a town-hall meeting at a local grange hall, replete with ribbons from the state fair, the former New York City mayor answered exactly that — if he were to be elected president. (more…)
NORMAN, Okla., 5:50 p.m. — Considering what many voters perceive as the often disingenuous, self-interested and intricate nature of modern political campaigns, it is no surprise that game theorists — those who study strategic interactions between agents — have turned to American politics as a field ripe with opportunities for analysis.
Yale’s own Justin Fox, a professor in the Political Science Department, applies microeconomics to his study of the interactions between politicians and voter behavior. In a phone interview with the News on Monday, he illuminated some of the more interesting applications of game theory in the current campaign season.
Fox started by explaining the role of fundraising and interest groups in politicians’ stands on major issues. A typical academic paper may explain how politicians find it in their interest to alter their positions in order to attract more money, he said.
“There may not be any explicit corruption going on, but … the fundraising is distorting how politicians behave,” Fox said.
So, according to game theory, it is demonstrably rational to alter one’s behavior in order to bring in more money. But what role does public opinion play? What about politicians like Mitt Romney, who has been accused of changing his positions to make himself more palatable to the Republican electorate?
“I think people see through it, right? I think that’s why he has trouble getting traction —it’s too obvious,” Fox said. “Giuliani’s sort of doing the same thing, but I think it looks less artificial. I don’t think there’s any good data on whether public opinion is a stronger determinant of a candidate’s position than the ability to raise campaign funds. Candidates are going to face tradeoffs when balancing these two goals.”
WASHINGTON, 8:35 p.m. — A new CNN-WMUR poll released this evening shows Senator Barack Obama with a commanding 10-point lead over Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 among likely Democratic primary voters two days before Granite State voters cast their ballots.
The poll, conducted Saturday and today, suggests Obama may be capitalizing on the momentum from his victory in Thursday’s Iowa caucus, in which he defeated the third-place Clinton by eight points. A similar CNN-WMUR tracking poll released yesterday showed Obama and Clinton knotted at 33 percent a piece, with former Senator John Edwards in third, at 20 percent. Today’s poll places Obama at 39 percent, Clinton at 29 percent and Edwards at 16 percent.
MANCHESTER, N.H., 6:23 p.m. — As if it weren’t obvious already, the New Hampshire primary is going to come down to the wire.
A new poll released minutes ago by CNN and WMUR, a Manchester television station, places Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton LAW’73 in a statistical tie among likely voters in this state, with each garnering 33 percent of the vote.
The poll was conducted Friday and today following Obama’s decisive win Thursday in the Iowa caucus. On the Republican side, the poll found Senator John McCain leading the pack with 33 percent, followed by Mitt Romney at 27 percent, Rudy Giuliani at 14 percent and Mike Huckabee at 11 percent.
NORMAN, Oklahoma, 10:45 a.m. — I didn’t think I would have a reading assignment while on winter break. Then again, I also hadn’t planned on interviewing Ted Marmor.
I wanted the School of Management and political science professor’s opinion on the presidential candidates’ positions on healthcare. Marmor, after all, has testified before Congress on healthcare reform, served on President Jimmy Carter’s Commission on the National Agenda and published reams of articles and books on the subject. If anyone is an expert, he is. But first I had to acquaint myself.
In ‘The Politics of U.S. Health System Reform,’ Marmor traces the history of the impact of politics on healthcare reform, calling it a story of “long-term aspiration and deep frustration.” The main obstacle to reform Marmor emphasizes is the limit of political feasibility: the harsh resistance of Republicans and the lack of commitment of Democrats.
Having earned my phone interview, Marmor and I spoke early on the Friday morning following the Iowa caucus elections. Are any of the three leading Democratic candidates capable of causing the necessary ideological shift in Washington to substantially reform the U.S. health system?
“All three of them — Obama and Edwards even more than Clinton,” Marmor says. “Obama and Edwards have a more powerful rhetorical voice on behalf of those people in trouble in America. [Hillary] is a more manipulative, less appealing moral leader.”
DES MOINES, Iowa, 9:21 p.m. — For a city the size of Des Moines, the presidential field can feel too crowded sometimes. That was the case Thursday night as Fred Thompson supporters accidentally walked into Ron Paul’s after-party, much to the chagrin of Paul’s following. Thompson, the Texas congressman’s backers said, is on the second floor of the Des Moines Marriott.
Downstairs the hors d’oeuvres were better, the press thicker and the crowd older. After some searching amid jackets and gray hair, I found sister and brother Onnalee and Barnes Kelley, 17 and 21, respectively, standing at a table analyzing the results as they came in on CNN.
“[Thompson] was probably not as intense as the Democratic contenders — like Obama, who was really intense and got into all these schools,” Onnalee says. “[Thompson] had support with Republican young people. He could have had more, though.”
But Barnes, a student at Colgate University, said most of his college friends are backing other candidates, like Delaware Senator Joe Biden or former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. And that’s not due to a lack of name ID — Barnes said “everybody” at Colgate knows about Thompson through his role on the hit TV show “Law and Order.”
From here, Barnes thinks Thompson’s best chance to recapture the momentum he originally had when mulling a candidacy in the summer of 2007 lies in a strong showing in the South, especially in the South Carolina GOP primary on Jan. 19. He might be right. After all, no candidate has won the Republican nomination without winning the South Carolina primary since 1980. If Thompson truly is still the “Clear Conservative Choice,” he’ll have to prove it in South Carolina.
NEW HAVEN, Conn., 4:30 PM — The New Hampshire primary is expected to be a close contest next week, but if students at the University of New Hampshire were the only ones voting, it might not be very close at all. Despite an eight-candidate field, Senator Barack Obama did more than just win a plurality of votes at UNH. He won more votes than the other seven candidates put together.
IOWA CITY, Iowa, 1:17 p.m. — “This is how we keep the volunteers in line,” Students for Rudy Giuliani National Co-Chair Jimmy Centers jokes as he fires a foam disk across the room. “Don’t take pictures of this.”
Centers heads up one of a small handful of Republican presidential campaign offices east of Des Moines in the state of Iowa. He’s got a pile of walk lists on his desk that is six inches high, two long rows of identical cell phones for volunteers to use on the job and a bucket of foam shooters reminiscent of something you might pull out of a McDonald’s happy meal.