Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

There are no turkeys here in South Africa but it's been a lovely Thanksgiving Day nonetheless.

To everyone back home, have a happy Thanksgiving and safe travels this holiday weekend.

Catch you back here in a few days!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Where to Next?

I'm no longer the "18 year old high-school student/political blogger."

As of this morning I'm the "19 year old college-age political blogger."

Something tells me that's not as easy to market...

Despite having put another year behind me some things don't change. First, I'm still fascinated by watching and covering American elections. Second, I still love to write, take photographs, design graphics, and shoot video.

In the late winter of '07 I set out to attend a few campaign events and type up summaries online. By Election Day I had been on the floor of the RNC, shaken hands with the two party nominees, been on television as a political analyst and a game show contestant, and had my blog posts syndicated around on various news sites.

So what do I have up my sleeve now and what am I aiming for looking ahead to the 2012 election? It's a secret for now, but you'll find out soon!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hillary and Mitt

Two names I didn't expect to be paying much attention to in late November, but following Romney's provacative New York Times op-ed today and the (perhaps) looming nomination of Sen. Clinton as Barack Obama's Secretary of State it's hard to ignore them.

Romney came out swinging today by penning a piece for the Times suggesting that the best thing for Detroit (and the American economy in the long run) is to allow the "Big Three"--Ford, GM, and Crysler--to go bankrupt and change the way they do business. As much as I disagreed with and disliked Romney during Campaign '08 it's hard to disagree with the arguement he lays out:

Without that bailout, Detroit will need to drastically restructure itself. With it, the automakers will stay the course — the suicidal course of declining market shares, insurmountable labor and retiree burdens, technology atrophy, product inferiority and never-ending job losses. Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check

Second, management as is must go. New faces should be recruited from unrelated industries — from companies widely respected for excellence in marketing, innovation, creativity and labor relations. Investments must be made for the future.

No more focus on quarterly earnings or the kind of short-term stock appreciation that means quick riches for executives with options. Manage with an eye on cash flow, balance sheets and long-term appreciation. Invest in truly competitive products and innovative technologies — especially fuel-saving designs — that may not arrive for years.

Read the full article HERE.

The article that drew my attention to Hillary Clinton comes from the conservative Weekly Standard. Some Democrats will play off any notion that one of their own being popular among conservatives is a good thing for the party, but Noemie Emery's piece makes me realize just what it was about Hillary during the closing months of the primary fight that I loved so much. Emery writes:

As her previous base was collapsed by Obama, she responded by taking the only route open: She morphed by default into the champion of middle-aged, middle-class, small-town and middle America; of the more conservative, post-Reagan Democrats; and, by her party's standards, the hawks. In no time at all, Hillary Rodham of Wellesley and Yale became the new voice of the Democrats' social conservatives, defending rural voters and small town inhabitants against charges of "bitterness," saying elites had degraded the culture, knocking back shots of Crown Royal in bars.

She didn't just change, she seemed authentic in changing, as if a woman who had gone through multiple makeovers during decades in politics had finally found a persona that fit her. Martha's Vineyard flaked off, revealing the soul of a Midwestern scrapper.

This shift in the Hillary Clinton persona did not go unobserved on the left, which commenced to tear her apart in the same terms of endearment it would later unleash upon Sarah Palin, and had used before on George W. Bush and Joe Lieberman., founded ten years ago by liberal Democrats to defend the Clintons against impeachment proceedings, now assailed her with the savage ferocity they had once reserved for Ken Starr. As a result, perhaps, Hillary later refused to attack Sarah Palin, and treated her, and McCain, with personal courtesy throughout the campaign.

As for the conservatives, many of those who began 2008 willing to do anything to defeat her tended to end it feeling sorry she lost. They began to tell themselves and each other they would sleep better at night if she were the nominee of her party, for reasons having to do with the now-famous three a.m. phone call. She would not, they said, have gone to Berlin and said that the city was saved by the world coming together; she would have known that the Air Force had something to do with it. As thoughts turned later on to possible cabinet picks, the thought of Hugo Chavez and Vladimir Putin staring into the clueless eyes of John Kerry and/or Bill Richardson roused still more anxiety. Better the steely gimlet-eyed stare of a Hillary Clinton.

A fantastic article that any Democrat (Obama supporter or Hillary fan) would do good to read. Check out the whole piece HERE.

Crossing my fingers for Sec. of State Hillary Clinton...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I've slept for fifteen of the last twenty hours and planning to head back to bed soon.

Unfortunately, due to a timely software malfunction, my iPod deleted all of the 4,700 songs I had on it.

A bad headache, a fever, chills, no music to keep me happy.

At least I've got this nice sunset view out the window...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

An Outstanding Summary

Ron Suskind's NYT piece today is well worth a read.

Catch it HERE.


Can't wait to return in December!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Back "Home"

My extended weekend in Cape Town has come to an end and I'm back here in Plettenberg Bay until I begin traveling again the second week of December.

Cape Town was a whirl of activity, and being there I was able to start grasping the magnitude of last week's election. Bars in Cape Town had "America Nights" (cheap drinks for Americans), Obama was the subject of many toasts around town, and it seemed like Americans were popping up everywhere from previously-hidden existences. To confirm the media stories of "global celebrations" to Obama's victory, I can definitively say that Cape Town was celebrating along with everyone else. How refreshing!

I'm going to upload some photos of the South African newspapers that I have been able to snag over the past week. The Obama editorials, cartoons, headlines, and reader letters have been amazing...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Long Weekend

I tried four or five times today to sit down and write a nice post-election blog entry summarizing my feelings now that everything's finished and Obama will be the next president.

As is clear from my lack of such a post, I was unsucessful in cramming so many thoughts and emotions together, so I'm going to use my long weekend trip to Cape Town to collect myself and hopefully I will next week with a fresh perspective on things (and a new ability to blog coherently!).

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The First Family


Whether you hated him or loved him I can imagine millions across the country waking up tomorrow and knowing what "The American Dream" feels like for the very first time. Obama's victory means so much to so many that it's hard to ignore the importance of what has occurred tonight.

John McCain's life and service to America is unparalleled and a McCain victory would undoubtedly have stirred a sense of pride in many Americans too, but this has been Obama's year through and through.

Now the most difficult task begins.

We've just given Obama four years to see what he can do to turns things around. The clock starts in January.

What an election.

(Photo Credit: 2008. Luke N. Vargas. All Rights Reserved)


The first streaks of blue have hit the sky and it's time for me to go to bed.

5:00 AM CAT.

Fingers crossed overnight for Al Franken to pick up Norm Coleman's Senate seat in Minnesota--it should be close.

I'm still feeling a narrow Obama win in Indiana, despite current results that have him trailing slightly.

Check back tomorrow for LOTS more coverage and opinion.


Nothing spells a big Obama victory better than a nice win, as is predicted, in Ohio.

This is it.

Sunrise: 5:22

In under an hour the sun will rise over South Africa.

My money is on having a very good idea of where the night is going when I sign off to bed as the sky starts to brighten up.

Camera is ready.

An Indiana Nailbiter (and other, clearer races)

With 60% in Obama is down by 3%, but full results from Porter and Lake Counties that I identified earlier as having the capability of bumping Obama into the lead have still not arrived.

Expect some movement soon as final numbers arrive in from Indianapolis (pulling strongly for Obama).

Meanwhile on the national map nothing is looking good for McCain as Obama keeps up great numbers in Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio.

Hagan It Is

Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole is G-O-N-E.

North Carolina has a new Democratic Senator in Ms. Kay Hagan.

If things keep up North Carolina may just elect Barack Obama the next President of the United States.

North Carolina can seal the deal in the next 25 minutes.


Obama Can Start Smiling


In no particular order:

- Things are looking terrific for Obama in Pennsylvania. Exit polls show Obama leading McCain 60/40 among women in the state, enough to all but guarantee a crucial Keystone State victory.

- Early votes from Ohio throw Obama pretty far into the lead and exit polls statewide show him holding an 8-10% lead--a figure in line with polls conducted over the past weeks and days.

- Well, that might just be it. McCain admitted yesterday that he needed Pennsylvania to win and, save a miracle for him, it's looking like he's not going to get that. With Obama holding close (and poised to jump ahead) in Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana, McCain is riding in the back seat tonight; if Obama wins ANY one of those three states the election is over.

Simple as that.

(Photo credit: Luke N. Vargas. 2007-2009. All Rights Reserved)

Granite State Slump

New Hampshire Republicans may have lifted John McCain to primary victories in 2000 and 2008, but McCain doesn't look to be getting much help statewide this time around as h currently trails Barack Obama by nearly 20%.


States Within States

Northwest Indiana (Lake & Porter Counties) are more like Chicago suburbs than parts of Indiana, so expect those areas to help chip away at the 4% deficit Obama is facing currently in Indiana. Lake and Porter counties pulled heavily for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in April's Democratic Primary.

Similarly in Virginia, the band stretching from Richmond to Virginia Beach will pull heavily towards Obama and help break away at McCain's current (and very temporary) 13% lead.

States within states...

Georgia Results vs. Georgia Exit Polls

The first wave of numbers have come in from Georgia and are showing McCain up be a sizable margin. Exit polls, however, are predicting a very tight race.

In Georgia, as well as in Indiana and Virginia, exit polls have put Obama in better position than is being seen in official results; McCain is still leading in Indiana after 20% of votes counted.

Was the McCain campaign right in predicting exit polls would lean towards Obama? Time will tell, but it may just be...

Much Too Fast

It's only the very beginning of the night but the results are pouring in faster than I can make sense of them. Here's what I am seeing through the confusion:

- Obama's moving into the lead in Indiana, a position it looks like he'll remain in. Indiana is a quick pickup for Obama that pulls out the support under a potential McCain comeback. Indiana is a Bush state voting for Obama, enough said.

- Virginia's results are also filtering in and exit polls combined with early numbers show another win for Obama. McCain would have needed a Virginia win to sure up electoral votes to make up for lost GOP states such as Indiana. Should McCain fail to pick up Virginia, this thing could be over very soon

- Finally, in Kentucky, Democrat Bruce Lunsford is still holding even with incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell after 13% of the vote count. It looks like McConnell will eventually win the state, but the numbers are troubling signs for the Republicans.

Indiana and Kentucky

Indiana (at 3%) is a 50/50 matchup. No surprise.

Kentucky (at 9%) is a 50/50 matchup as well, with Mitch McConnell currently trailing Bruce Lunsford by 1%. I don't expect Obama to hold near 50% in Kentucky (and I wouldn't be surprised if he dropped a great deal from where he is now), but the existence of McCain/Lunsford voters (albeit in small quantities)--those who go for McCain on the top ticket and vote out an incumbent Republican in the Senate--could signal success for Kay Hagan in North Carolina even if McCain wins the state...


My Races has a wonderful feature up today that allows you to select up to 35 races across the country (from presidential contests to Senate, House, Governor, and Ballot Measure contests) and automatically receive updates on a customizable page! Quite exciting for a junkie like me...

Here are "My (Top) Races":
-Georgia Presidential
-Pennsylvania Presidential
-North Carolina Senate
-Minnesota Senate
-California Prop. 8 (Ban on Gay Marriage)
-Massachusetts Question 1 (Repeal State Income Tax)

Waiting on the 1:00 hour...

Only 12:55 AM

Ready to move out of the midnight hour and begin hearing faint whispers of results from Indiana. Exit polls numbers should start swirling around within minutes.

Seemingly Unimportant

...but perhaps a bit telling.

Tonight I'm wearing my red and blue Iowa State t-shirt that I purchased at the Iowa Caucus this past January. To me the '08 Caucus stood for two things, John McCain at his strongest and a knockout win for Barack Obama.

A big win for Obama tonight would certainly fit into my t-shirt omen, but I wouldn't count out McCain "coming off strong" tonight, whether it be in pockets of electoral strength around the country or in a dignified response to an Obama victory. McCain may not win but he can certainly take a high road out of this election if he choses to.

The Middle of the Night

Fresh (but still pretty groggy) from a two-hour nap I'm back at the computer thinking ahead to 1:00 AM Central African Time when, should the data start flowing relatively quickly, results from Indiana should begin to trickle in. The arrival of exit poll results at midnight is hardly news, and I won't be seeking out any of those numbers.

2:00 AM brings in Indiana, Virginia, and Georgia, three very interesting states whose results can start to paint the picture for what to expect in traditional Republican strongholds. Though I'm hardly predicting an Obama upset in Georgia, if it comes down to less than 4-5% it could indicate the beginning of an Obama blowout.

3:00 AM will usher in results from the all-important states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida--states that McCain has to win.

3:50-4:15 AM Should everything pan out the way I'm seeing it now, the election should be called by most networks during this time. The clouds should be parting on numbers from Ohio and Pennsylvania. If McCains makes it past the results of VA, OH, NC, PA, and FL he'll be way ahead of expectations and we might be in for a close fight, but it is this 25-30 minute window where I can see the breakpoint falling.

Cheers to a long night!

Thank God for Facebook?!

Funny to think that the "Today is Election Day, Get Out and Vote!" banner on will get out more votes than two $500 campaigns... to make a timetable for tonights results...

Here for the Day (and Night)

It's presently 2:54 PM Central African Time. I've been awake for nine hours already, and with the first votes coming in at 6:00 PM EST and Daylight Savings Time now in effect I have another twelve hours to wait before any official results are released.

Thankfully there is no television or radio where I'm staying, so the only access to election results will be through the internet. On top of that I've customized a results page with key races to watch and have cropped the window down to prevent me from sneaking a glimpse of the "analysis" that any of the news networks are going to toss around today.

It's all about the numbers tonight.

So as the day continues make sure to return to the Political Courier for some election day insight all the way from lovely the lovely town of The Crags, South Africa!

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Close

One final day.

John McCain and Barack Obama take the mound for their last pitches to the American people.

"Freedom" from John McCain

"Something" from Barack Obama

In true form Obama continues to hammer down "change," "bringing America together," and "one nation, one people." Obama's ad also features the massive crowd displays that have been such a driving force in promoting his public appeal.

McCain contrasts with Obama in emphasizing his career, experience, and values. Sen. McCain also presents voters with a more specific choice in dealing with the problems our country faces--"don't hope for a stronger America, vote for one."

McCain drives home his role as a politician and presidential candidate while Obama presents himself as a movement. No surprises or strategical changes here.

Watching these final television advertisements it's amazing to see just how far this election has come. Not only do all the pieces come together (McCain's crowd footage was taken during the debut of his running mate, Sarah Palin, when many questioned the presence of cinema cameras a the event) in the final days of the campaign, but the full weight of our country's upcoming decision is beginning to set in.

Should America decide not to elect Obama we will have passed on a promising Democratic leader promising long-overdue change to the way business has been handled in Washington, not to mention the failure of a rare political cult figure to capitalize on the biggest, most expensive marketing campaign and cultural movement in history.

Should America choose not to elect John McCain we will have passed on one of the most potentially-moderate, experienced, distinguished, and honorable Republicans to be presented to voters in the coming decades. No Republican candidate with credentials and merit like McCain seems to be coming down the pipeline anytime soon.

A historic choice and a historic 48 hours await us.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Finally, the Simpler Things in Life

Snapshots of a pre-election weekend in South Africa that feels like anything like a pre-election weekend.