Category Archives: Presidential Election

Inauguration Crowd – Like Ants From Space

Reporter Chris Henry here:

Technology was a big player in yesterday’s inauguration of Barack Obama. Besides television coverage (how 20th Century) Americans could track the event through Facebook, Twitter and of course Web pages galore, including the O-fficial Inauguration site.

Thanks to satellite imagery, we had access to photos taken from space that make the masses of people gathered for the historic occasion look like swarms of ants. My favorite from the BBC (how un-American, sorry), shows the National Mall on Dec. 29, empty, and then on Inauguration Day, adrift in little tiny human beings.

Many Kitsap residents were part of the swarm. Thousands, like Bremerton residents Sam and Cherry Rachal, were unable to get to the spot on the mall for which they had tickets. The Rachals waited in line for three hours only to find the space had been filled hours earlier. Cherry Rachal said her disappointment gave way to excitement and joy at the sheer energy of so much humanity gathered in one spot for one purpose.

So just how many people were there? According to an article in the Los Angeles Times by a reporter at the inauguration, early estimates ranged as high as 2 million. But satellite images suggested there were maybe half that, according to Clark McPhail, a professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Illinois, who has been analyzing crowds on the National Mall since the 1960s.

Whether the Obama Inauguration crowd will top the estimated 1.2 million at Lyndon B. Johnson’s inauguration is yet to be determined. The National Park Service will provide an estimate later this week, the article states.

According to MSNBC, there actually is a method for calculating crowds:

“The method goes back to the late 1960s and a University of California at Berkeley journalism professor named Herbert Jacobs, whose office was in a tower that overlooked the plaza where students frequently gathered to protest the Vietnam War. The plaza was marked with regular grid lines, which allowed Jacobs to see how many grid squares were filled with students and how many students on average packed into each grid.

After gathering data on numerous demonstrations, Jacobs came up with some rules of thumb that still are used today by those serious about crowd estimation. A loose crowd, one where each person is an arm’s length from the body of his or her nearest neighbors, needs 10 square feet per person. A more tightly packed crowd fills 4.5 square feet per person. A truly scary mob of mosh-pit density would get about 2.5 square feet per person.

The trick, then, is to accurately measure the square feet in the total area occupied by the crowd and divide it by the appropriate figure, depending on assessment of crowd density. Thanks to aerial photos or mapping applications like Google Earth, even outdoor areas can be readily measured these days.”

Perhaps those of you who were there can describe the crowd you were in. Was it a “loose” crowd, tightly packed or mosh-pit density?

Photos from the Inauguration – Updated All Day

Robert Boddie, a Bremerton resident, called me from the mall this morning at about 5:30 a.m. I didn’t answer the phone, but I checked the voicemail. He said:

“Just out here enjoying the festivities, healing some of these old wounds, talking to some of these old time people out here and this place is crowded. It’s cold.”

Here are some photos sent from locals of the events. We’ll continue to post more as we get them. Click on each photo to see a larger version.

<em>Patricia Graf-Hoke got this shot from the mall today.</em>
Patricia Graf-Hoke got this shot from the mall today.

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Truth Measured

<em>The St. Petersburg Times will measure Obama's promise keeping on its PolitiFact site.</em>
The St. Petersburg Times will measure Obama's promise keeping on its PolitiFact site.
During the 2008 election the St. Petersburg Times employed a Truth-O-Meter to give a quick look at candidate statements and whether they were true.

As a new president takes office next week, the paper is unveiling the same principle for a new application. The Obameter

Writes Bill Adair:

“PolitiFact is launching an unprecedented journalistic effort to track Obama’s campaign promises and measure the progress of his presidency. Using our new Obameter, we will track each promise — we’ve identified 510 of them — and rate whether it was kept, broken or compromised. Those ratings will be tallied on our Web site, creating an up-to-the-minute report card on the Obama White House.”

There’s a meter for all 510 promises made by Barack Obama in the campaign. Two have already been kept, three are in the works and 505 have seen no action. That’s understandable, since he’s not really president yet. PolitiFact is not expecting 100 percent compliance.

“An important point: When we say a promise is broken, that is not necessarily a negative thing or a failure by Obama. The failure to enact a promise might simply reflect that priorities of the Congress or the American people have changed since he made the promise. Or it could indicate that Obama decided there were higher priorities.”

Word is they’re going to make this into a widget. If so, I’ll see if we can get it added on our site.

Obama and Inslee Have Been Teammates Before

For the record, I don’t think U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, is going to get a cabinet post.


Because too many people have already talked about it. The Seattle P-I’s Joel Connelly speculates on just such a jink and then goes on to jinx anyone with local ties. Writes Connelly:

SECOND ONLY TO the jinx that afflicts athletes and teams gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated is the bad luck that befalls those touted for top Washington, D.C., jobs by Seattle newspapers.

If Inslee truly aspires to such a post, allow me to diminish his chances by pointing out that he and former Senator and now President-elect Barack Obama did lead their chambers on a plan called “Health for Hybrids.” The plan would have had the federal government helping with auto company retirement payments in exchange for the companies investing in hybrid technology. You can read about the effort in this story from Congressional Quarterly.

The unusual proposal linked two of the nation’s biggest policy conundrums – America’s reliance on foreign oil and the surging cost of health care – but never gained enough traction, partly because it suggested Washington knew more about building cars and satisfying consumer demand than the auto industry.

Let me remind the court that after this effort, when the presidential campaigns began, Inslee endorsed Hillary Clinton.

Back in the Great Political Unknown

This photo by AP Photographer Elaine Thompson was taken at a time when the only sure bet in the presidential race was that Republican John McCain had his party’s nomination wrapped up. We, a group of Seattle-area reporters, traveled with the presumptive nominee on a smaller, local version of the Straight Talk Express from Boeing Field to a hotel downtown. It was in February, a day before the Washington caucuses.

The candidate was vigorous, confident and pleasant, except for when he’d had enough of the photography. He told Thompson that there does come a point when there have been enough shots taken. McCain later in the campaign made that same case about other shots taken, especially those at his running mate, but there wasn’t a whisper of that drama here.

That evening he told a group of a few hundred that the challenge ahead was big, but he thought he might even be able to win Washington on his path to the presidency. Now, those of us writing history’s first draft and the academics working on the second can dissect what happened between this rainy night in February and the day that was historic even to the likes of Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

One of my college professors was the first to call it to my attention that we often view the history we inherited as inevitable. It takes a picture, such as this one, to poke holes in those things we take as given. Michael Dukakis, George McGovern and Thomas Dewey all had shots at something they ultimately didn’t get. But at times before the final judgment, they had their own reasons to be optimistic. No verdict had come in.

Presidential Campaigns Were Hacked by Foreigners

Newsweek is reporting that both presidential campaigns’ computer systems were hacked by an unknown foreign entity.

Officials at the FBI and the White House told the Obama campaign that they believed a foreign entity or organization sought to gather information on the evolution of both camps’ policy positions—information that might be useful in negotiations with a future administration. The Feds assured the Obama team that it had not been hacked by its political opponents.

This story is fascinating to me and it’s one that I hope gets more attention in the following weeks. Then again, we shouldn’t be clamoring for facts until we have someone to blame.
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A Democrat on ‘the Real McCain’

Walt Washington, the apparent victor in the Kitsap County Auditor’s race, was among the many who called tonight’s win for Barack Obama “historic.” He didn’t think Obama would win by as much as he did. This election, he said, will be a life-changer for many Americans.

Washington was able to see McCain’s concession scpeech, of which he said, “He was the real McCain. That was the McCain I liked and admired. He was the McCain I thought he always was.”

Election Night Surprises

Believe it or not, I’ve been out of the national loop for the last three hours. I missed both speeches, because I did have the whole covering a few local races thing to attend to. Now that I’ve been able to look bigger, I was surprised by a few things.

That Obama won follows what the polls had been telling us. I can’t find a single state that was projected to go blue that didn’t. As I write this, Indiana, North Carolina, Missouri and Montana are yet to be called. Montana going red would surprise me. It did surprise me that Obama won Ohio, Virginia and Florida. I guessed he might get one. I guessed that he’d win, but I expected the polls to be wrong somewhere.

At first glance it looks like Democrats did better tonight than they did in the August primaries. That is surprising for now, but if you recall Republicans did better with the later ballots. If that holds true this time, too, expected some gaps to close.

That Gregoire is ahead in the state, with so many King County votes yet to count, is amazing. I don’t know the context yet. Apparently some of the networks have already called the race for her. Perhaps the later numbers in other counties will close the gap, but I can’t see Rossi overcoming the numbers. Note that I say “I can’t see” it. I’m acknowledging that there may be something I’m missing. Consider this: Rossi won Kitsap County in 2004. As of tonight, Gregoire’s up by 5 percentage points here.

About 500 votes, all Kitsap County votes, separate Jan Angel and Kim Abel. Pierce County is yet to come in. You wonder, is the Pierce contingent of this district more conservative, or will the Obama coattails get Abel the win?

Not Dead Yet, Where Else to Look

A few days ago I wrote how we could know by 5:15 p.m. who won. We don’t know yet. That’s because no one’s calling Ohio, Virginia, Indiana, and as one that I would add, Florida. I’m adding Florida late, because those numbers might be in before Indiana and Virginia. Before I wrote that if Obama wins Ohio and one of the other two, it’s over. I had Florida, hypothetically going to McCain. If Florida goes to Obama and any of the other states do, it’s over. In that scenario, though, I had McCain taking all leaning states. Obama just picked up Minnesota and Wisconsin. It may not be over, but there are absolutely no surprises yet. It looks like it’s Obama’s night.

I’m checking a ton of sites tonight before I go hang with the Democrats in Silverdale.

Real Clear Politics
Ahem! Kitsap Sun, at least for the local stuff.

A Funny Concession Speech, or Not

Watch this, if you’ve got five minutes, before reading the stuff below it.

When I saw this I thought it was funny, but some of it struck me as concessionary, if that’s the right way to use that term. To some degree it seemed like he was admitting the race was over. I couldn’t figure out why until I watched it again. It happens towards the end, when Palin goes rogue.

If someone impersonating McCain had been in the skit, then it would have been nothing but funny. With McCain being in a skit in which Palin is going off on her own is lending credence to a theory that isn’t helpful to his campaign. The rest of his appearance seemed fine. He was on Weekend Update and talked about going reverse and double Maverick. That was funny.

I could be wrong. I read the comments on the New York Times The Caucus blog and almost everyone gave it credit for being funny, which I do to. There was also a lot of this:

clever and funny. God bless john mcain. but I siill ain’t votin’ for him.

— Edward A Mabin

There was at least one who saw it the way I did:

He should have done this frivolous activity two months back when the lead of Obama was managable.Now it’s only accepting the reality od impending defeat and pretending to laugh it off.

— Arun Mehta

How the Presidential Election Could Be Over by 5:15 p.m. Tuesday

The main objective in the excercise below was to see what it would take to know with a large degree of certainty that Barack Obama or John McCain had won the election by 6 p.m. Polls will close on the East Coast by 5 p.m. To come to a clear conclusion I used the L.A. Times interactive maps below to make the case. For Obama, I took every leaning or toss-up state west of the Eastern Time Zone and gave it to McCain. That includes Florida and Indiana, because portions of those states are in the Central Time Zone. Here’s what you get for Obama under that scenario:

The three states listed as up-for grabs or only leaning for Obama on the East are Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina. If Obama wins Ohio and one of the other states, he wins. If Ohio is not in the mix, it’s not certain.

Now for McCain:

If you do the same thing, go west of first time zone, give Obama all the states considered toss-ups or only leaning, McCain loses by a lot no matter what happens on the East Coast. Remember, we’re dealing with how to be certain before the next round of polls close. So to get to a number he could win at given that scenario, we have to take everything away from Obama on the East, then give back states in the order of the largest projected margin of victory for Obama so far, until we arrive at the number at which Obama would get just under the 269 electoral votes he needs. Under that scenario, Obama gets the district, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut back. Throw in Delaware because of Joe Biden and Obama gets 268. So if McCain wins Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, you’ll know with little reason for uncertainty before the next round of polls closing that he won the nation.

Remember folks, we’re dealing with sure knowledge here, not best chances or probabilities. We’re talking about 5:15, not 6:15. So if Obama wins Ohio and either North Carolina or Virginia, it’s over. If McCain wins all the 11 states listed above, it’s over. Anything less than those two things or a surprise in what was thought to be certainty in one or East Coast two states and we’ll be fixed to the television and the computer for much longer that night. Not like in 2000. Probably not even like 2004.

UPDATED: Obama’s Citizenship Challenged

I just received this from David Ammons from the Secretary of State’s office.

A King County judge has dismissed a case challenging Senator Obama’s “native-born” status and thus his right to be on the ballot in Washington state. A federal judge in Philadelphia dismissed a similar lawsuit Friday night. Jeff Even of the state attorney general’s office represented our office. The state election, already underway, continues, with the Obama-Biden ticket listed as the first ticket among the choices, since Senator Kerry won the state four years ago. Ballot order is spelled out in state law. There are eight tickets on the Washington ballot.

Originally posted 1:40 p.m. on Oct. 22: First I heard of this story was on Jerry Cornfield’s blog over at the (Everett) Herald. A Snohomish County resident wanted Barack Obama disqualified from the Washington ballot for president because Obama hasn’t proven to the plaintiff’s satisfaction that he was born in the United States. Continue reading

Objectively, We Haven’t Been Nice to McCain

That’s what the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism is saying. It isn’t so much that the media loves Obama as much as the affair with McCain is clearly over.

Those who believe the media is leading the cheers for Obama won’t like this one:

One question likely to be posed is whether these findings provide evidence that the news media are pro-Obama. Is there some element in these numbers that reflects a rooting by journalists for Obama and against McCain, unconscious or otherwise? The data do not provide conclusive answers. They do offer a strong suggestion that winning in politics begat winning coverage, thanks in part to the relentless tendency of the press to frame its coverage of national elections as running narratives about the relative position of the candidates in the polls and internal tactical maneuvering to alter those positions. Obama’s coverage was negative in tone when he was dropping in the polls, and became positive when he began to rise, and it was just so for McCain as well. Nor are these numbers different than what we have seen before. Obama’s numbers are similar to what we saw for John Kerry four years ago as he began rising in the polls, and McCain’s numbers are almost identical to what we saw eight years ago for Democrat Al Gore.

Let me go on the record here, for those of you complaining there hasn’t been enough made out of Biden’s “mettle” comment, I probably agree. I’d like to see more digging into that.

Whose Numbers to Trust: Neither

The New York Times offers the most helpful way to determine whose numbers are closer to the truth when it comes to health plans offered by Barack Obama and John McCain. First here’s the problem:

Even the economists behind the forecasts say it makes them uncomfortable to hear candidates assert their numbers as indisputable fact, as if stating Derek Jeter’s batting average. What they are modeling, they emphasize, is ultimately unknowable. And the transformational nature of both candidates’ health care plans means that they can only guess at the future behavior of consumers, employers and insurers.

So here’s your solution:

A number of economists said voters would be wise to simply tune out all of the competing numbers and focus instead on the philosophical underpinnings of the candidates’ plans. Indeed, Dr. Reinhardt offered voters the same instruction he delivers to his students, that economics as practiced in the political arena is often “just ideology marketed in the guise of science.”

Biden: We’re gonna have an international crisis

Bob Meadows referenced in another post Joe Biden’s comment last night at a Seattle fundraiser. He said within six months someone is going to “test the mettle” of Barack Obama. MSNBC reports that when Joe Lieberman said essentially the same thing in July, he was criticized by Obama supporters. He was reported by MSNBC to have said:

“Our enemies will test the new president early,” Lieberman said on “Face the Nation.” “Remember that the truck bombing of the World Trade Center happened in the first year of the Clinton administration. 9/11 happened in the first year of the Bush administration.”

Fox News has a “Democratic strategist and pollster: characterizing Biden’s comments as an uncomfortable truth.”

Democratic strategist and pollster Doug Schoen said Biden’s comments are “probably an uncomfortable truth, certainly not what you want as a Democratic strategist for your vice presidential candidate to say…. “But he probably is going to be tested and he hasn’t had experience and I’d like to think he’ll be up to the task with whatever we face, but politics is about making choices. But the question is given the failures of the Bush administration … do we want to go in that direction or do we want to go in a different direction?” Schoen asked.

Too Sacred to Mock

Reading the comments today after the Biden story, at least two people thought Biden was out of line for his joke about Cheney Stadium. He suggested it be renamed Obama-Biden for the day, that Cheney Stadium would be in an “undisclosed location.”

We had a lot of time before the event, though not necessarily a lot of room to wander. The press entrance went right by a time capsule put in place in 1993. The plaque talks about Ben Cheney, for whom the park is named.

Nonetheless, I thought Biden’s joke was funny. Are those two commenters being oversensitive or looking for a reason to be offended? Or am I insensitive?

There’s a town in Utah called Clinton. If somebody made a joke about being an intern there, should locals get offended, because someone was referring to the wrong Clinton?

Should I have been offended when my friend teased me for my role in the swift-boating of John Kerry?

Are Ben Cheney, the city of Clinton and I owed apologies?

Waiting for Joe

Another Joe post, this one about Joe Biden, the man who would be vice-president. There’s only one of those this time. It’s about 2:10, the music fades, there are giant J-O-E block letters in the stands, which are full. “We want change,” the crowd says. I’ll post more. Norm spoke, got a big hand.

The music comes back, then it fades again so a guy can tell the new people coming they have to go to the, um, uh, right field bleachers.

The stage is on about the pitcher’s mound, facing homeplate. My chair is about 30-feet away from third bases, where a Honey Bucket sits.

Sun is out.

Oh no, they’re doing the wave. Is no place sacred?

2:23 p.m. Wave ended quite a while ago. Earlier, about the time the sun came out, Norm Dicks got a genuinely enthusiastic welcome, certainly better than the one he got at the UW commencement. He led off with a “Darcy” chant. He told the audience Biden helped Warren Magnuson win in 1974. “Today he’s here to make sure Washington elects Barack Obama,” Dicks said.

Dicks then went into a pitch, from home plate you see, for “Christine Gregoire.” (There’s not a Rossi sign to be found. I’m just saying.) Dicks said Gregoire has done a good job for early childhood education, jobs and schools.

The biggest applause came from the news of the morning, that Colin Powell endorsed Obama. He quoted Powell as saying John McCain is weak on the economy. “He’s very observant,” Dicks said. The congressman said he can’t wait to begin working with Obama Biden to restore the health of Puget Sound, Hood Canal and salmon runs. He urged the crowd to keep working.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith did too. “We all have to stay paranoid for the next 16 days,” he said, telling the crowed work every day for the next 16 days like each candidate is behind by two votes.

I used to work for a company that did seminars. We’d always fewer chairs set up than we needed. That way, we could add chairs, giving the appearance of the event being in demand. That said, the organizers here probably set the stage up in the right spot. The only empty seats are behind the big American flag hanging from the roof on the right field side. The bleachers, well behind the stage, are pretty full. I other words, there are more people here than I expected. I’ll see if I can get a crowd size estimate. It’s 2:27 p.m. and we’re still waiting. The candidate is late. That I expected.

Our senators spoke. The governor’s talking now. I think the right-field bleacher crew got to see biden first. 2:51 p.m., Gregoire just intro’d Biden, Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” is playing.

Stop Looking at My Nametag

In the past week a new demographic broke through that perhaps no one could have anticipated, but apparently both candidates were in on it from the beginning.

Today I got an e-mail from John McCain. Here’s part of what he told me.

We know that John McCain is prepared to bring bold solutions to solve our nation’s challenges. He’ll fight for the “Joe the Plumbers,” “Joe the Florists” and “Joe the Carpenters” of America to reduce taxes and allow more men and women to realize the American Dream.

First of all, I thought the American Dream was to own one’s own house. Second, I thought the dream was to get us much stuff as you can using someone else’s money. Then I thought it had something to do with Julia Roberts. I was wrong on all of those.

According to Wikipedia, which is never wrong, the American Dream phrase first surfaced in a book, Epic of America, penned (read: written, maybe typed) by historian and writer James Truslow Adams. Here’s how he described it:

“The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

Notice, no mention of Joe, but McCain and Obama, especially McCain, are “Joe this,” and “Joe that.” You can be a plumber, a carpenter or even a florist and McCain’s got your back, as long a your name is Joe.

If you’re Joe running the rent-to-own business out of a former house? You’re good. If you’re a former college professor now running as a Libertarian for Congress, the candidates are with you, man. If you’re Joe whose career is based on selling furniture foam? It’s all good. If you’re Joe the serial arsonist who dabbles in writing unsigned threatening letters to random librarians? No problem. Do nothing but drink beer? Heck, you’ve got a place of honor. You’re Joe Sixpack.

Obama even chose one as a running mate.

What makes Joe so special? What about Andy the Reporter? Sure, he’s with the MSM, has a weak mustache and is so questionable that even Washington Mutual said “We need to talk.” But he’s got some say on Nov. 4.

So does, by the way, Steve the Reporter. If you just focus on the Joes of the world, you’ll be missing out on some major demographics. And frankly, I’m in the mood to be on the receiving end of some serious political butt-kissing.

As If . . .

. . . anything written about the presidential election now is going to change anyone’s mind. Is anyone here undecided? I searched all over the Web today about post-debate analysis and McCain got high marks for being aggressive and Obama got his for being cool. The one site worth posting here is, which dissected some of the claims made. Even then I ask, does it matter enough to anyone here so much that your mind could be persuaded to change your presidential preference?

What would have to happen between now and election day for you to change your vote?