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OLYMPIA –– In years gone by, when reporters kept pints of whiskey in their bottom desk drawers and editors wielded long pencils sharpened to resemble hypodermic needles, it was common in newsrooms to bet on elections.
Truth be told, it was common in newsrooms to bet on almost anything, from how much snow would fall in a storm to when the jury in a murder case would come back. But elections were often the top source for wagering, better even than football because, unlike sports, the ability to guess who would win elections was rarely tied to one’s knowledge of politics.
Sometimes a new colleague – usually fresh out of Journalism School where they fill would-be reporters’ malleable minds with extraneous things like civic duty and ethics – would recoil in horror at something so crass as betting on elections. My standard reply was that if the public could bet on elections they’d pay far more attention and maybe more would actually cast ballots in hopes of affecting the outcome in their favor. So make your picks, I’d say, and cough up your buck.
The latest advances in online wagering make those old election pools look like a rotary dial phone next to an iPhone 6s. One website, PredictIt, provides opportunities for a person to bet on which Republican will be the next to drop out of the presidential race, whether Vice President Joe Biden will get in, who will get the biggest bump in the polls from Wednesday’s debate, whether Congress’s approval rating will top 15 percent by Friday or even whether sanctuary cities will lose federal funding.
In a sense, the betting odds represent the “conventional wisdom” better than the usual experts who are tapped to provide sage comments on all-day news channels. Biden entering the presidential race was going off at 60-40 late last week. Carly Fiorina was seen as more likely than Donald Trump to win the Iowa caucuses, not so much because she had more support post-debate, but because he had less.
This may sound like it’s coming from the same devious minds turning Fantasy Football into a daily gambling enterprise and buying up tons of television commercials to convince thousands of suckers they could become a millionaire with the right picks. (Before you get too judgmental, let’s acknowledge the state does the exact same thing with the lottery.)
PredictIt, however, was conceived by folks at the University of Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand, as a research project for prediction markets, which are sometimes more accurate than polling in forecasting the outcome of certain events.
Which is an even better excuse for betting on elections than anyone in any newsroom ever came up with. It’s research. Honest.
Republican presidential candidates seemed very sure of their statements on immigration, Planned Parenthood, vaccines and each other during Wednesday night's debate.
Some hold up to the light of day, others don't, according to analysts who mined the debate for facts to check. (That's unlike the rest of us, who watched the debate like something between a football game and a prize fight to determine a winner.)
Here are some analyses of the statements.
Factcheck.org raised questions about claims linking vaccines to autism, Donald Trump's denial about supporting gambling in Florida, and Carly Fiorina's description of the Planned Parenthood tapes.
Politifact.org called Ben Carson's statement about spreading out the number and dosages of vaccines a Pants on Fire claim, it's highest (or lowest) category for untruths. It found some other falsehoods, partial falsehoods, partial truths and truths.
CNN, the network that broadcast the debate, said Carson's statement that studies don't show a link between vaccines and autism was true. It said Chris Christie misstated the timing of his appointment as U.S. attorney in 2001, and was misleading on his opposition to Planned Parenthood funding in New Jersey. Trump was wrong about Scott Walker and the finances of Wisconsin, and Ted Cruz misstated some aspects of the Iran nuclear deal.
FOX News, which broadcast the first debate, dissected the comments on this one as well. They get into some of the same topics as the others, as well as medical marijuana in New Jersey and fences along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Washington Post, includes "memorable quotes" from the debate as well as a range of fact checks.
USA Today provides its fact checks in its standard bullet format.
Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul will stop in Spokane during a Northwest campaign swing next week.
Paul, a Kentucky senator, is holding a "Stand with Rand" rally at the Doubletree Hotel at 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 26. He's got a rally in Seattle that morning and another at North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene at 6:30 p.m.
The announcement of the rallies note his new book, "Taking a Stand" will be for sale and he'll be available to sign them.
Paul's father, former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, campaigned for president in Spokane in 2008 and 2012, drawing supporters to the precinct caucuses and picking up some presidential delegates but ultimately losing to John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.
OLYMPIA — Washington will hold its presidential primary on May 24, despite concerns that date is late in the process and the fact Democrats will ignore the results.
Secretary of State Kim Wyman said Monday she is telling state elections officials to go ahead with preparations for the May primary after being turned down last week in efforts to move the date up to early March, when the nomination of the two parties' presidential candidates is more likely to be in doubt.
"The important point is that the voters of Washington will gt an opportunity to express themselves, to vote on how they feel about who should be their party's nominee for president of the United States," she said in a press release.
Last week Wyman asked the committee with the authority to shift the date to move the primary to March 8. The move required a two-thirds majority, and Democrats on the committee refused, saying they will start their selection process with the precinct caucuses and ignore primary results. Republicans were willing to change the date to March 8 or March 22.
State Republicans have selected about half of their delegates based on primary results in the past, but they, too, are expected to hold caucuses sometime in March, and by May 24 they will be well into that process. The state GOP's executive committee meets Sept. 12 to develop its schedule and rules for the 2016 presidential delegate selection, including whether to award some delegates based on primary results.
The state Republican Party supports the primary but "we prefer an early primary while there are more contenders in the race for both Republicans and Democrats," Steve Beren, the party's director of new media and technology, said in a press release.
For a brief history of the state's presidential primary, click here.
Next year’s presidential primary may be on life support after a meeting last week in which Democrats blocked an effort to move it from late May to sometime in March when there could be more candidates in the race and more interest among the electorate.
Quite a bit was said at the meeting of the Presidential Primary Selection Date Committee about the virtues and popularity of these elections in Washington. Some of it was even true, although to be an annoying stickler for details, some of it was clearly not, such as the contention by two Republican members of the panel that “the people have spoken and they said they want a presidential primary.”
Not exactly. After lawmakers killed various prez primary bills for more than a decade, a 1989 initiative to the Legislature gathered enough signatures that they were faced with either passing it themselves or sending it to the ballot. Clearly able to read the results of surveys that showed it was popular, they passed it. Voters never actually weighed in.
From that point on, the presidential primary has had uneven support from the electorate.
The political parties aren’t required to abandon precinct caucuses, which they’ve used for decades, and select delegates with primary results. Washington voters don’t register by party, so there’s no guarantee that Republicans are voting for the GOP nominee or Democrats picking the Democratic nominee.
Reaction to the first presidential primary in May 1992 was underwhelming at best. Both parties held their caucuses months earlier. The Democrats’ caucus leader in Washington, Paul Tsongas, had dropped out by May and Bill Clinton had the nomination all but sewn up. President George H.W. Bush was running for re-election so the GOP nomination was not in doubt. The one wild-card in the race, Ross Perot, was running as an independent so he wasn’t on the ballot but got some 53,000 write-ins. Washington voters were accustomed to getting a primary ballot with all candidates from all parties on it, and some balked at having to sign a statement that they wished to participate in a particular party’s primary and getting that party’s candidates. Turnout was paltry, about 10 percent.
Four years later, state officials moved the primary to March 26 to be more relevant. Even so, Bob Dole had the GOP nomination in hand by then and Clinton was running unopposed for re-election. To answer previous complaints of voters, the state offered an unaffiliated ballot, with both parties’ candidates on them, along with individual party ballots. Slightly over 20 percent of voters cast ballots, but two-thirds were unaffiliated, which the parties refused to recognize.
In 2000, neither party had an incumbent running and each had a long list of early candidates. But by the Feb. 29 primary, Vice President Al Gore was pulling away from other Democrats. Although the party was sticking with precinct caucuses for delegate selection, the events were close together and rival Bill Bradley came to boost his chances in both venues. But Gore won the primary by a landslide and captured most delegates at the caucuses.
Republicans awarded a handful of delegates from the primary, but only from results of ballots cast by voters willing to say they were Republicans. George W. Bush was starting to edge out John McCain, who campaigned hard in Washington hoping for a public relations victory by collecting the most votes by adding GOP and unaffiliated ballots. McCain led in unaffiliated ballots, but when that total was added to GOP ballots, Bush still had more votes. More unaffiliated ballots were cast than ballots for either party, but the turnout was about 40 percent.
The state canceled its presidential primary in 2004 because Democrats wouldn’t use the results to award delegates and all the Republican delegates were likely to go to Bush. Four years later, both races were wide open in February, when Washington held caucuses on Feb. 9, and a primary ten days later. That year, voters got a single mail-in ballot with all names of both parties’ candidates. But they had to check a box on the envelope saying they considered themselves a member of the party of the candidate for whom they were voting, or the ballot wouldn’t be counted. Despite that “oath”, Democrats again ignored the primary results and stuck with the caucuses; Republicans again split their delegates between the two events.
The winners were the same, but the spreads were significantly different. John McCain barely topped Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul as that trio had about three-quarters of the caucus attendees, but McCain got more than half the primary ballots. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both campaigned hard in Washington before the caucuses, but Obama got about two-thirds of the delegates there. Both stayed away for the primary, where Obama finished only a few percentage points ahead. Still, Democratic ballots outnumbered Republican by about 160,000, and turnout was about 42 percent.
In 2012, with the state still recovering from the recession, Washington again dumped its primary, saving an estimated $10 million. Republicans held their caucuses on the Saturday before Super Tuesday with Mitt Romney topping Ron Paul and Rick Santorum for delegates. Democrats caucused for Obama.
Next year, Republicans plan to hold caucuses on March 5 and Democrats on March 26. Republicans will award half their delegates on primary results, if one is held, but Democrats are under dictates from the national party not just to ignore the primary but to “educate” their voters that it has no bearing on their process.
Washington will not move its presidential primary from late May to early March in an effort to attract candidates, a shift which the state’s top election official said would give voters a louder voice in the selection process. It may quiet those voices, and drop the presidential primary entirely.
A special committee with the power to move the date couldn’t muster the votes to make a switch, at times engaging in a partisan fight over the different rules and processes for selecting presidential delegates set by the major political parties.
Secretary of State Kim Wyman had proposed moving the presidential primary from May 24, the date set by statute, to March 8, so it would be before many of the state primaries and caucuses have been held and both parties' nominees would likely be in doubt. State Republicans, who will select half their delegates based on primary results, supported that move. Democrats, who will select their delegates through the caucus system, did not.
The committee required a two-thirds majority to make the change, and could not muster that super-majority for March 8 or an alternative proposal for March 22, which would be four days before the Democrats' precinct caucuses. State Democratic Chairman Jaxon Ravens said national rules would require party officials to educate their voters that the primary did not matter, and worried about confusion for voters with the two dates. Republicans on the panel supported either shift, with state GOP Chairwoman Susan Hutchison saying caucuses are mired in the past and Democrats seem to have a low regard for the intelligence of their voters.
The panel didn’t vote on whether to scrap the May 24 presidential primary entirely and save the state the $11.5 million expense, which state Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia and a member of the committee, proposed in a bill this year. That decision could be made by the Legislature early next year.
OLYMPIA — Changing the way the state casts its Electoral College votes for president would be fairer to Eastern Washington voters, a
It’s a way Republicans could win the White House through gerrymandered districts without a majority of the popular vote, said the Democratic chairman of the House committee considering the proposal.
Rep. Matt Shea,
To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.
Rick Lloyd of Spokane Valley, center, and other members of Washington's Electoral College sign paperwork to cast the state's electoral votes for Barack Obama.
The Electoral College – which doesn’t have a mascot, a fight song or even a campus – met at noon Monday in state capitals around the nation and awarded votes to Obama or Mitt Romney based on the general election results.
Each state gets one elector for each member of the U.S. House of Representatives and senator, so in Idaho, the four votes were cast for Republican Mitt Romney, even though the former Massachusetts governor has no chance of moving into the White House.
In Washington, where a majority of votes were cast for Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, 12 men and women selected by Democratic activists gathered in the Capitol’s marble-walled Reception Room to do the official work of casting the Evergreen State’s ballots, which mostly involved signing their names to multiple sheets of paper with official writing and seals.
A bit tedious to watch, maybe, but exciting to be part of, electors said. . .
OLYMPIA — The next president of the United States will be elected today.
Barring some real skullduggery so remote it can't be mapped out here, that will be Barack Obama.
What? You thought Obama was re-elected more than a month ago? It was in all the papers, and on all the cable news networks — even Fox News after Karl Rove calmed down?
Not exactly. That was the general election, but the president, as you will recall from junior high civics, is elected by the Electoral College.
The EC, as its closest friends call it, meets today. Not in one place, but in state capitals all over the nation. In Washington, they will meet in the State Reception Room at noon, where they are expected to cast the state's 12 votes for Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
There was a time in the mid 20th Century when, as Washington and Idaho went in presidential elections, so went the country.
But voters in the two states have been imperfect bellwethers of the presidential elections before and since. Spokane County voters have been a little better. They’ve voted for the candidate who eventually won the Electoral College count in 25 of the 30 presidential elections since Washington and Idaho became states.
Kootenai County voters picked 22 out of 30, but have the longer winning streak, voting for the presidential winner in every election from 1916 to 1972.
Usually before a presidential election, Eve Knudtsen said, business "gets weird." As in customers are more hesitant to make big purchases, the owner of Knudtsen Chevrolet observed. "Just anticipation in seeing how things may change after the election," Knudtsen said. "I usually look for some of this to happen in October." But maybe not this year. "I have a sense it's not going to be the case this year," she said, pointing out that Knudtsen Chevrolet is up 40 percent in new car volume this year. "The consumer confidence is there." Some businesses in Kootenai County say that customers and companies alike hold off on big spending decisions before a presidential election. And some local companies are seeing that more this year than others/Alecia Warren, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here. (Coeur d'Alene Press photo: Jerome A. Pollos)
Question: Are you confident, as a consumer, going into the 2012 presidential election?
OLYMPIA — Barack Obama makes jokes about people who question his birth certificate, and his campaign even is selling a coffee mug with the presidential face on one side and a reproduction of the certificate on the other.
Mitt Romney tried to make a joke about birth certificates in Michigan last week. Some people laughed, some people didn't.
But Linda Jordan of Seattle apparently is not joking in court action filed this week in Thurston County Superior Court against the Washington secretary of state, asking the court to keep Obama off the November ballot because, she contends, his birth certificate is forged and he is not a "natural born citizen."
The state Attorney General's office was also serious in its reply today that Jordan's lawsuit is flawed for several reasons, all of which could lead to its dismissal: It doesn't name Obama as a plaintiff; it's a federal issue, involving the U.S. Constitution; the secretary of state doesn't have the authority to check on the eligibility of candidates and toss one off if he or she doesn't measure up.
Beyond that, Deputy Solicitor General Jeff Even says in a court filing, Jordan doesn't provide any proof that Obama isn't a natural born citizen. "She merely claims to have offered evidence of a forged birth certificate — a birth certificate that has never been requested by or submitted to, the secretary of state — and to have offered additional suspicions regarding a social security number."
Hearing tomorrow afternoon before Superior Court Judge Thomas McPhee. Some pertinent documents are "submitted for your approval," as Rod Serling used to say.
GOP presidential nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney has at least one thing in common with President Barack Obama: He's treating the Puget Sound like an ATM machine.
Romney will make a stop somewhere in King County today for a fund-raiser. There are no public events and the Romney campaign has been closed mouthed about where the money even takes place. Even State Chairman Kirby Wilbur said over the weekend he hadn't been told where it would be.
Two days earlier and he could've had a really high-profile venue with a stop in Tacoma on Saturday at the GOP State Convention, fired up his supporters, won over some Ron Paul supporters with a good speech to the 1,500 or so Republicans in attendance. Oh, well.
One of the co-sponsors of today's fund-raiser is U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who was given a new campaign job Monday in advance of the event. She's already the state co-chairwoman of the Romney campaign as well as a Romney delegate to the national convention.
The new job: Campaign liaison to the Republican Conference in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The campaign actually announced the new position for early this morning, way in advance of the fund-raiser, via press release with the expected quotes from Romney and McMorris Rodgers about how each is honored to be working with the other. It can be read in full here, for those who want the "full scoop."
Obama was in Seattle last month, for two campaign fund-raising events and anyone who wanted a glimpse of something other than the motorcade had to buy a ticket. But there was news coverage of both events.
With presidential candidates making their quadrennial stops in the Inland Northwest ahead of the caucuses, Republican voters might be wondering how to pick among the four remaining candidates.
After all, none of the four has very strong connections to the region, or has spent much time in the area when not on the campaign trail. And some haven’t even made so much a pit stop here yet.
Spin Control decided to get some insight from one fairly well-known Republican who served with at least three of the four would-be nominees. Former Rep. George Nethercutt was elected to the House in the historic GOP takeover engineered by Newt Gingrich, and served with Rick Santorum and Ron Paul during his six years there.
So who’s he backing? . . .
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Mitt Romney doesn’t have a campaign stop in the Inland Northwest yet, but one of his sons, Josh, is attending a campaign meet and greet, plus caucus training, at 12:15 Tuesday at Center Place in the Spokane Valley.
How would you feel if you and 99 percent of
OK, you Republicans out there, stop rubbing you hands gleefully at the prospect. What would you say if the state’s voters went 99 percent for McCain, but its electoral votes went for Obama?
Those are far-fetched, but conceivable, scenarios for a future election under a law Gov. Chris Gregoire signed last week.
So is that a good law or a bad law? Depends on who you ask…
Go inside the blog to read more.
A Shaw Island man filed Wednesday for a referendum to block the new law that would change the way Washington allocates its Electoral College votes.
The bill was signed this week by Gov. Chris Gregoire, and mentioned in Spin Control on Tuesday.
David John Anderson filed a request for the referendum with the Secretary of State’s office. He’ll have until July 25 to gather 120,577 valid signatures from Washington voters. If he’s successful, voters will decide in November whether they approve of the measure.
Technically, the law is put on hold until the referendum issue is resolved. But practically speaking, it’s probably on hold for much longer, because it requires states with a majority of Electoral College votes to enact similar legislation.
Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill today that could dramatically change presidential elections in years to come. It could result in Washington voters picking one candidate, but the state’s Electoral College votes going to another.
SB 5569 is part of a national movement to “reform” the Electoral College system by tying it to the popular vote. If enough states sign onto the idea, the state’s will give their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote.
Think of that for a minute.
In 1976, even though Washington voters backed Gerald Ford, Washington’s votes would have gone to Jimmy Carter. In 1988, even though Washington voters backed Michael Dukakis, the electoral votes would have gone to George H.W. Bush. In 2004, even though the state’s voters went for John Kerry, Washington’s electoral votes would have gone to George W. Bush.