Mockingjay Part 1 Prediction

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM THE BOOK MOCKINGJAY AND, IF IT FOLLOWS THE BOOK, THE MOVIE THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1. IT IS NOT MEANT TO BE READ UNTIL AFTER WATCHING MOCKINGJAY PART 1!!!

December 20 2014 edit: Updated to discuss the accuracy of my prediction.

So in keeping with the recent trend of splitting movies into as many parts as possible and slurping up the resulting box office dollars, the film adaptation of the book Mockingjay is being split in two. As someone who’s read Mockingjay, I can tell you that the book in no way warrants two movies where its prequels The Hunger Games and Catching Fire did not.

But since they’re doing this, I’m going to make a prediction about where they’re going to make the split between Parts 1 and Parts 2. For the record, I obviously have not seen the movie yet, and I have not learned anything about the movie itself; this prediction is based solely on what I know from having read the book. This is a SPOILER for the book (and if I’m right, the movie) so do not read until after you’ve read the book or seen the movie.

After the movie comes out, we can all look at my prediction and see if I’m right. However, for my sake, please don’t spoil me as to whether I’m right! I may not see the movie until after December 1. I will update this post after I’ve seen the movie.

Ready? Scroll down.

SPOILERS AHEAD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The split will occur just after Peeta Mellark has been rescued from the clutches of the Capitol and brought back to District 13. Katniss Everdeen will be brought in to see him, and Peeta will lunge at her and try to kill her as a result of all the brainwashing the Capitol put him through. We’ll get a close-up of Katniss looking shocked, possibly followed by a shot of her crying in emotional agony. And then the screen will cut to black on that cliffhanger (though for me, I know what happens afterwards anyway, and trust me it’s not that dramatic).

December 20 2014 edit: Okay I watched the movie on November 28, and I was close but not quite on the money.  We do get Peeta’s attempt to kill Katniss, but no shocked look because Peeta manages to strangle her unconscious (I can’t remember if that happened in the book).  I thought the movie would just end at the attack so viewers would be confused/excited, but it actually goes on for a little longer to spoil the mystery and explain Peeta’s hijacking.  The movie ends shortly thereafter with Katniss looking at a struggling Peeta.

So my prediction was close in that I figured they would end the movie around Peeta being brought to District 13, but I was wrong about the exact point where they would end it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

END SPOILERS

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2014 General Elections: The Aftermath

Well it’s been two weeks since the horrible November 4 2014 elections, so I figured enough time has passed for me to write about it. What was looking like a fairly good year for Republicans due to Democratic seats coming up in red states ended up being a wave election year for Republicans, with Republicans picking up not only the low-hanging fruit in red states but also grabbing seats in deep blue states like Massachusetts and Maryland, and making nail-biters out of races that no one had even given a second thought about, like Mark Warner’s U.S. Senate seat in Virginia and Louise Slaughter’s U.S. House seat in NY-24 (both survived, narrowly).

Most of my endorsed candidates lost. My two favorite Senate candidates from this cycle, Bruce Braley in Iowa and Rick Weiland in South Dakota, went down to crushing defeats. (No idea if Weiland’s vaunted canvassing in Native American reservations did any good in increasing their turnout.) The few bright spots came from embattled liberal incumbents, like Mike Honda and Rick Nolan, barely hanging on.

The worst part was what happened further downballot, in races for state legislatures and local positions. Republicans continued their work from 2010 and cleaned house there. This is terribly detrimental to Democrats’ long-term future; Republicans have destroyed their benches in several states to the point where Democrats will have difficult fielding good candidates even in winnable races (the upcoming 2016 U.S. Senate race in Ohio is a good example of this).

So why did Democrats lose so bad? The simple reason is turnout. Everyone knew all along that Democrats were running behind in several “close” races and would only close the gap with strong turnout among Democratic-supporting constituencies. Not only did that strong turnout not happen, but what turnout did happen was far weaker than expected, resulting in what were supposed to be close races ending in relative blowouts.

For more about the low turnout – it was just 36.4 percent, the lowest since 1942, when people were too busy fighting a freakin world war to go vote – see here, here, and here.

The bigger point about turnout was that it was depressed among Democratic-supporting constituencies, allowing Republican-supporting constituencies to get a bigger share of the vote. This was most obvious among young voters – voters in my generation – whose share dipped from 19 percent in 2012 to 13 percent in 2014. See here, here, and, for a more colorful take, here.

As many commentators have noted, the result is that the country is splitting into two electorates – a Republican-friendly one that votes in the midterms, and a more comprehensive, and thus Democratic-leaning, one that votes in presidential years. This results in a boom-bust cycle where the country seems to oscillate between Democrats in 2008, Republicans in 2010, Democrats in 2012, and Republicans in 2014. (Democrats won in 2006 because the Republicans were just so bad at that point.) This is a huge problem that Democrats are going to have to figure out how to overcome, because we simply cannot afford this constant one-step-forward-one-step-back kind of politics if we want to move forward as a country.

November 4 2014 General Election

552 PM: I’m going to vote now, but I’m putting this up as a preview of what choices I’m making. This entry is meant to be a description of how I actually ended up voting, which is why it’s written in the past tense. Any changes I make from my plans will be included in an update to this entry.

810 PM: I voted today at 633 PM at First Presbyterian Church in Stillwater, Oklahoma. No changes were made from the decisions written at 552 PM. Here is how I voted.

Governor: The Democratic challenger to Republican Governor Mary Fallin is State Representative Joe Dorman. He’s been running a campaign strongly emphasizing investment in public schools. On his Issues page he’s also been sounding the right notes on helping people in need. There were three specific issues where I wanted to see where he stood: the minimum wage (especially since Fallin signed into law a ban on local minimum wage increases), Medicaid expansion (which Fallin and other Republicans rejected), and fracking.

Dorman was against the minimum wage increase ban. He supports Medicaid expansion. And while he hasn’t come out completely against fracking, as far as I know, he does support requiring the implementation of “safe practices”, whereas Fallin… doesn’t give a shit. So that’s like a 2.5 out of 3.

Besides Dorman, two independents are running. It was rather difficult to find any information on Kimberly Willis, but when I finally got to her website I found a lot of New Agey hokey stuff that focused more on her personal struggles with cancer than on issues affecting Oklahomans. Richard Prawdzienski is a libertarian who gave really trite answers in this interview. The one issue I really agree with him on is opening up ballot access to non-major parties.

I voted for Joe Dorman.

Lieutenant Governor: Democratic candidate Cathy Cummings sounds promising. (Not that this matters, but I’ve been to the restaurant she owns, Vito’s Italian Restaurant. It’s not bad!) I voted for Cathy Cummings.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: I agree with Democrat John Cox’s positons. I voted for John Cox.

Commissioner of Labor: Democrat Mike Workman (what a name to have for a Labor Commissioner candidate) is running a campaign centered around protecting wage earners and reopening the Labor Department office in Tulsa. I voted for Mike Workman.

United States Senator: Republican incumbent Jim Inhofe is a disgrace to this country. Unfortunately, his Democratic opponent Matt Silverstein isn’t too good either. Just looking at his Issues page, it’s clear that he’s bought into the right-wing obsession with deficit reduction and “cutting wasteful spending”. He also uses a lot of right-wing framing about how ineffective and dangerous big government can be, blah blah blah. Just look at this, on energy:

Hard work, entrepreneurialism, and free markets are the pillars of Oklahoma – that is why our energy industry has thrived. It’s not because of government, or any politician, it’s despite government.

Oh, is that so? And was it the free markets that built the roads that oil tanker trucks drive on, and the electricity grids that all those bountiful natural resources are powering? This sort of anti-government framing should not be coming from a Democrat.

More nonsense from our putative Democrat:

The biggest drag on the economy is the budget deficit.

NO. NO. The biggest drag on the economy is that consumer demand is still down, because people have no jobs – there are still 3 people for every 1 job in this country – and wages have stagnated.

Any businessperson knows when you borrow year after year to meet current expenses, rather than investing, you are on the road to bankruptcy.

Any businessperson knows (or should know) that 1. Borrowing is sometimes necessary to make those important investments, 2. Government is not a fucking business, and 3. The reason why businesses aren’t hiring right now isn’t because of the debt; it’s because there’s NO CONSUMER DEMAND.

In his defense, he does make a distinction between “wasteful spending” and “prudent investments”:

Matt understands the difference between wasteful spending and smart investments and that is why he is determined to get our fiscal house in order by attacking waste, making prudent investments and then getting out of the way so the economy can grow.

That’s great Matt, but I have no idea if you and I agree on what qualifies as “wasteful spending”. I mean, that’s the kind of wording Republicans use when they’re trying to justify cutting school lunches for poor kids. So how is Matt going to find this ever-present wasteful spending? Well, he talks about it as Point 3 of his 3-Point Debt Reduction Plan that was so important it had to get its own page on his website:

Create an Office of Debt Reduction and Public Integrity to identify waste, fraud, abuse and duplications in government.

 

We have identified hundreds of billions of dollars in just duplication alone. My focus will always be on balancing the budget, reducing regulations and investing where it makes sense and where we can afford. The General Accountability Office is required to do all they can to identify waste and duplication but the problem is so severe it requires special attention.

Oh my god, you gotta be kidding me. This man, who rails on and on about how government is sooo wasteful and duplicates everything – “hundreds of billions of dollars” worth! – wants to… duplicate a waste-and-duplication-finding part of our government! He just said right there that the “General Accountability Office” (I think he means the Government Accountability Office… good job) is there to find waste and duplication, but because this is such a big problem, we need to have another, duplicate government agency to get rid of duplication. I think if such a duplicate-hunter office was created, the first thing it’d get rid of is itself.

Is this some kind of joke he’s pulling on voters? An exercise in “hey, see if you can catch the stupidity in my positions”? Is he testing us? Cuz this is approaching Inhofe-levels of buffoonery. I was wavering on whether to suck it up and vote for him just to stick it to Inhofe, but at this point Silverstein has disqualified himself.

There are also three independent candidates. Based off his sparse website, Aaron DeLozier is a libertarian or a Tea Partier. Ray Woods is running to promote a constitutional amendment that would wipe out every law in the history of the United States. Joan Farr is a former Kansan Republican (she ran against Sam Brownback in 2010) and based off her website she’s… kinda crazy.

I don’t know, maybe there’s something about a crazy Senator that attracts crazy challengers, because in my opinion, not one of these five candidates for Senate is acceptable for public office, and none of them have earned my vote. I wanted to vote for someone running against Inhofe, but I just can’t – they all suck! I Abstained from voting in this election.

United States Senator (Unexpired Term): I voted for Democrat Connie Johnson, who I endorsed on October 20.

United States Representative District 03: The only opponent to the Republican incumbent is Democrat Frankie Robbins. His website is 100 percent platitudes and don’t offer any positions on the issues. Fortunately, I was able to find his 2008 website (I guess he ran for House that year too) where he at least discusses action on combating climate change and expanding health care coverage. On that basis, I voted for Frankie Robbins.

County Assessor: I’m gonna admit my ignorance as a voter here. I can barely tell you what a county assessor does.   I went along party lines and voted for Democrat H. E. Ted Smith.

Judicial Retention: Judicial races always stump me because I don’t follow judicial rulings beyond high-profile Circuit Court and Supreme Court cases. The big court case that’s happened in Oklahoma in recent years is legalization of same-sex marriage, and none of the judges up for retention were involved in that. I Abstained from all these races.

State Question No. 769: This would allow elected officials to simultaneously hold military positions. I’ve always believed that the fewer restrictions on elected officials, the better, so I voted Yes.

State Question No. 770: This would allow disabled veterans to keep their property tax homestead exemptions on a new home after they’ve sold one the same calendar year. It seems reasonable. The arguments against it center around the loss of tax revenue, but revenue can be made up in other, fairer ways. I voted Yes.

State Question No. 771: This is the same as 770, but it applies to surviving spouses of military servicemembers killed in action. I voted Yes.

NOVEMBER 19 2014 UPDATE: All of the candidates I voted for lost. For the U.S. Senate race that I abstained from, the Republican incumbent James Inhofe won. For the three State Questions, all of them went the way I voted (which in all cases was Yes).

2014 U.S. Senate Elections, November 3 2014

It’s Election Eve 2014, and since my last Senate post on October 10, nothing has materially changed. I am predicting that Republicans will pick up Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alaska, Colorado, and Iowa, for a net gain of 8 seats, which will give them a majority of 53 seats.

However, there is a caveat: the key is turnout, turnout, turnout. And this year, both Democrats and Republicans have upped their ground game, though not necessarily to the same degree. Turnout that gets non-conventional voters to vote will defy the public polls’ likely voter models, and can make a difference in close races in small states. What I’m saying is, while the polls are accurate for the voters the pollsters think will turn out, it won’t be accurate if new (read: Democratic, since Republicans usually have the turnout advantage in midterm elections) voters come out and vote. That could have consequences for a number of races.

But first, the ones that are already basically decided: Montana, West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, and New Hampshire. These are unlikely to hold any surprises on Election Night; the first four will go to the Republicans and the last two to the Democrats. Both of the last two have tightened in recent polling. Surprisingly, despite running a total head-up-his-ass campaign (one of his latest claims is that illegal immigrants are bringing polio, a long-eradicated disease, across the border), Scott Brown has managed to move within striking distance of Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire; Shaheen is leading him only by an average of 48-46. But in both New Hampshire and North Carolina it’s probably too little, too late.

Now, the races that are still uncertain, based on turnout: South Dakota, Alaska, Colorado, and Iowa.

South Dakota: Republican Mike Rounds is still likely to win here, as he’s recently bounced back from a bad October. Democrat Rick Weiland is one of my two favorite non-incumbent Senate candidates running this year (the other being Iowa’s Bruce Braley). He’s running an energetic, retail politics-style campaign that’s taken him to every small town in the state and, even more importantly, a number of Native American reservations. Native American voters could prove to be crucial (as they did in Tim Johnson’s slim victory in 2002) since they tend to not vote in large numbers and are underrepresented in likely voter models. That said, Rounds currently leads Weiland by an average of 44-30.

Alaska: The story is much the same in Alaska. Democrat Mark Begich is running a strong ground game, especially among Native Americans, and the Republicans may not be able to compete. Republican Dan Sullivan is leading him 50-46 in the polls but, again, if Begich can get non-conventional voters like Native Americans out, he may defy the polls.

Colorado: The big X-factor with Colorado is that, for the first time, they’re using an all-mail ballot voting system. That could dramatically increase participation among non-conventional voters – again, rendering the polls inaccurate. Republican Cory Gardner is currently leading Democrat Mark Udall 50-48, so a boost in participation from non-conventional voters voting by mail could allow Udall to close the gap.

Iowa: My other favorite non-incumbent Senate candidate, Democrat Bruce Braley is a decently strong liberal running to replace a liberal icon, Tom Harkin. His batshit insane Republican opponent Joni Ernst holds a 48-46 lead in the polls, and has led in far more recent polls than Braley has. A near-consistent Ernst lead would normally spell doom for Braley, but his side is claiming a superior ground game that’s turning out lots of non-conventional voters. Trouble is, Iowa Republicans have stepped up their ground game too, so this one is going down to the wire. Ernst is likely to win by no more than 2 or 3 points, but Braley has a shot at winning by maybe 0.1 points, following a grueling recount.

So I’m hedging my bets a bit. Republicans are favored to win the four races above, but, at least for Alaska, Colorado, and Iowa, the races are close enough that differences in turnout could produce Democratic victories in defiance of the polling.

The two races in Louisiana and Georgia are almost certainly going to go to a runoff, where the campaign dynamics and turnout could get even more unpredictable. Turnout among Democratic voters could be depressed (though not by much in Louisiana), but the two races are likely to get unlimited media attention, especially if control of the Senate is riding on them. I think the Republicans are still favored to win both runoffs, but my predictions are likely to change once the runoff campaigns get underway.

Georgia: While Republican David Perdue is still favored to win the runoff, Democrat Michelle Nunn could have a good shot, and it’s hard to say that Perdue has the same likelihood of success that, say, Republican Bill Cassidy has in Louisiana. In mid-October, it was revealed that Perdue was a callous job outsourcer during his Corporate America days, and for a few heady weeks Nunn bounced into a small lead in the polls. Then, Perdue retook a narrow 47-43 lead, because… people forgot about the outsourcing? Something something Obama? C’mon, Georgia! This was a guy who bragged about outsourcing and then made up some laughably pathetic bullshit to cover his ass, and he still somehow regained the lead. Honestly, I don’t understand voters sometimes. I swear, you could shove a hot poker up their ass and after the initial screaming they would forget about it as soon as you say a magic sentence containing the words Obama, Obamacare, illegals, ISIS, and Ebola.

The last race of interest is Kansas. Independent Greg Orman (who, by the way, has one of the most annoying voices I’ve ever heard in politics) was riding high a month and a half ago, but after a gazillion Republican attack ads painting him as an Obama clone, he’s now basically tied with Republican Pat Roberts. The HuffPo average has Roberts leading Orman 47-44, but it’s weird because most of the recent polls still show a slight Orman lead, so unless they’re counting a lot of old polls I don’t know how they got that average. In any case, I would say Orman is still the slight favorite.

If he does win, it’s an open question as to who Orman will caucus with. He’s been running a rather parochial campaign, and, in Angus King-esque fashion, he’s said he’s willing to go along with whoever has a clear majority for the good of Kansas, or whatever. I’m currently holding him to his word, which is why in my current prediction I have Orman winning Kansas and then caucusing with the Republicans anyway. On the other hand, Republicans have dragged his name through the mud, and Democrats are likely to retake the Senate majority in 2016 anyway*, so Orman could decide to go with the Democrats instead. On the other other hand, Orman could caucus with Republicans after 2014 and then switch to the Democrats after 2016, and keep switching back and forth with whoever controls the Senate; he seems like he’d be mercurial enough to do that. Plus it would be in keeping with the “fuck the country, Kansas comes first” theme of his campaign.

My current predictions for Orman’s caucusing decision are:

Democrats have 48 seats or less without him: He will caucus with the Republicans.

Democrats have 50 seats or more without him: He will caucus with the Democrats.

Democrats have 49 seats without him: In this case he would be the deciding vote for Senate control, in which case I think he sides with the Democrats, for the aforementioned reasons. This actually represents the most probable scenario for Democrats retaining the majority: win Colorado and Iowa to get to 49 seats, and then get Orman to caucus with them. This would also eliminate the need to win the difficult Louisiana and Georgia runoffs to maintain the majority.

 

 

*Besides the higher turnout that comes with being a Presidential election year, Democrats have a far more favorable map in 2016. They have conceivable pickups in Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, North Carolina, and Georgia. Republican targets are likely to be limited to Nevada and Colorado. If Democrats hold 47 seats going into 2016 as my current prediction has them at, they need to net 4 seats to regain the majority. That means they could lose both Nevada and Colorado and they would still only need to pickup six of the nine targets to get a majority.

Political Endorsements for 2014 Election Cycle

U.S. Senator, New Jersey: Rush Holt (Result: Lost primary)

U.S. Senator, Maine: Shenna Bellows (Result: Won primary, lost general)

U.S. Senator, Hawaii: Brian Schatz (Result: Won primary, won general)

U.S. Senator, South Dakota: Rick Weiland (Result: Won primary, lost general)

U.S. Senator, Iowa: Bruce Braley (Result: Won primary, lost general)

U.S. Senator, Oklahoma (Class 3): Connie Johnson (Result: Won primary, lost general)

Governor, Arkansas: Bill Halter (Result: he dropped out July 29 2013)

Governor, Massachusetts: Don Berwick (Result: Lost primary)

Governor, New York: Zephyr Teachout (Result: Lost primary), Howie Hawkins (lost general)

U.S. Representative, MA-5: Carl Sciortino (Result: Lost primary)

U.S. Representative, PA-13: Daylin Leach (Result: Lost primary)

U.S. Representative, IL-13: George Gollin (Result: Lost primary)

U.S. Representative, PA-6: Manan Trivedi (Result: Won primary, lost general)

U.S. Representative, CA-15: Ellen Corbett (Result: Lost primary)

U.S. Representative, CA-17: Mike Honda (Result: Cleared primary, won general)

U.S. Representative, CA-33: Marianne Williamson (Result: Lost primary)

U.S. Representative, NJ-12: Upendra J. Chivukula (Result: Lost primary)

Mayor, New York City: Bill de Blasio (Result: Won primary, won general)

Mayor, San Diego: David Alvarez (Result: Won primary, lost general)

Proposition 2 (California) (rainy day fund): No (Result: Yes)

Proposition 46 (California) (drug testing doctors): No (Result: No)

U.S. Senate Election Blues

As the 2014 U.S. Senate elections draw nearer, I find myself depressed about the cliff that Democrats seem to be inexorably heading towards. A month and a half ago it seemed like Democrats were set to lose seats, but were still holding on in enough places to keep control. Now that’s changed. But beyond loss of control, two races in particular feature strong liberal Democrats who should win, but probably (and let’s hope I’m wrong) won’t.

Let’s start with South Dakota, where Republican Governor Mike Rounds seemed to have a lock until a big EB-5 immigration visa scandal came to a head earlier this month. Democrats (including myself) got excited and it seemed like Democrat Rick Weiland, a strong progressive who’s run a campaign centered around getting money out of politics, had a chance. But a few weeks and hundreds of thousands of dollars in Democratic Senate Campaign Committee attack ads later, Rounds was back with a comfortable lead, while Weiland has been perpetually stuck in the low 30s in what few polls have been released for this race. Weiland himself lashed back in an… unusual fashion, blaming the DSCC’s negative ad blitz against Rounds for somehow hurting him, the Democrat, rather than the intended Republican target.

This is a rather interesting argument, but I have a hard time buying it. If it were true, why would anyone ever run attack ads anywhere, if the negative tone would just make them look bad? By this logic any attack ad would hurt the side running the ad, not the side the ad is attacking. Now you can argue that some attack ads are better designed than others, but Weiland made no such distinction, and didn’t criticize the specific content of the ad, but just the fact that they were negative. In any case, Rounds is back up to the low 40s in the most recent polls, with Weiland still stuck in the low 30s and independent candidate Larry Pressler in the low 20s.

Iowa‘s race is the other one where I’m wringing my hands. Representative Bruce Braley is, along with Weiland, probably the most liberal non-incumbent Democratic candidate running for the U.S. Senate this year. His Republican opponent, State Senator Joni Ernst, is by comparison a Tea Party nightmare. Let’s count the ways:

  1. She supports privatizing Social Security and Medicare.
  2. She supports massive cuts to social programs for the poor and tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs.
  3. She wants to abolish the federal minimum wage. No, not repeal it – abolish
    it.
  4. She supports getting rid of the Department of Education and the EPA.
  5. She supports a federal personhood amendment that would outlaw abortion and also several birth control methods.
  6. She supports states nullifying federal laws.
  7. She supports states arresting federal officials implementing Obamacare.
  8. She talks about using guns as a way to counter a tyrannical government.
  9. She wants to impeach the “dictator” President Obama.

And yet Ernst is ahead of Braley by an average of 1.9 points, and has led in far more polls. This, even though according to a recent Des Moines Register poll, voters agree with Braley on six issues (albeit narrowly for the minimum wage) and Ernst on only four. The six issues where respondents sided with Braley were on Social Security (61 percent), abortion (56 percent), climate change (55 percent), financial reform (52 percent), marriage equality (50 percent), and the minimum wage (where Braley edged Ernst narrowly 50-48). The four issues where respondents sided with Ernst are taxes (63 percent), Obamacare (55 percent), gun rights (55 percent), and immigration and border security (52 percent).

Even more importantly, more respondents agreed with Braley’s “economic philosophy”:

— More likely voters approve of the Democrats’ general approach (focus tax cuts on the middle class, raise the minimum wage and invest in infrastructure to create new jobs) than the Republicans’ (reduce government spending, cut growth in Medicare and Social Security spending, cut taxes for everyone and create more tax incentives for businesses to invest in new jobs). —

So why is Ernst doing so well? It comes down to – ugh! – personality. Ernst is charming, folksy, and has a downhome appeal. She grew up as a farm girl (castrating pigs, yeck), and she rides a motorcycle, is a veteran, etc. She has charismatic appeal. I watched this Ernst ad featuring adorable pigs and Ernst sounding all regular gal and aw-shucks-I’ve-got-common-sense and I almost fell in love with her. Of course I know the difference between voting for a friend and voting for an elected official, but many Iowans apparently don’t, as the Des Moines Register poll shows Ernst slightly leading Braley in favorability – 47 percent favorable compared to Braley’s 44. This frustrates me to no end.

Braley’s campaign, for its part, seems to be a never-ending comedy of errors. After enjoying a steady lead in the polls and an uncontested primary (while Ernst got beat up in hers), Braley’s campaign was upended by some stupid distractions over dismissing Senator Chuck Grassley as a “farmer” and a dispute concerning his neighbor’s chickens. Somehow these non-issues became more prominent than those six real issues Iowa voters agree with Braley on. And take a look at Braley’s ads, like this one on outsourcing, or this one on Social Security. On the substance, they’re way more direct and clear than Ernst’s platitude-filled ads, but unfortunately, Braley has the charisma of a stalk of Iowa corn.

At this point, Braley’s hopes (much like Weiland’s) rest upon a strong ground game that gets people to vote and thus defy the polls. On this front, though, it’s not looking good for him either, and the Republicans have improved their own ground game. State Democrats are countering that they’re getting more new voters out, and Braley appears to have narrowed the gap with working-class white voters who will decide the election. But, as much as it pains me to say, it’s still Ernst’s race to lose. If Braley does win, it’ll probably only be by some 0.01 percent after a long recount.