Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Do Virginians Like Taxes?

The Virginian-Pilot made this odd claim today on its editorial page. But the claim appears to be backed up by the latest Mason-Dixon poll, the same one that showed Tim Kaine ahead of Jerry Kilgore in the Governor's race for the first time.

Based on the results of the June 14 primary, the tax hike is clearly not in the forefront of most Virginians' minds. Its effects are barely perceptible to anyone who hasn't made a large-ticket purchase or gotten socked with the new real estate titling tax. But we're not prepared to accept the 2 to 1 figure of the Mason Dixon poll, and we're not prepared to say that a majority of Virginians are "okay" with the tax hike after two years of large surpluses.

What we do think is common-sense is this paragraph:

Voters are less interested in hot-button topics such as the death penalty,
gun laws and gay adoption than in more fundamental matters: education, state
spending, transportation and jobs, in that order. The candidates should tailor
their advertising and their themes accordingly.

The hot-button issues that Kilgore has been spending most of his time on are not, by themselves, going to win him this election. Kaine may be smart to steer clear of those issues, such as the gay adoption issue that I've written about here. Those hot-button issues may win a candidate votes of the True Believers, but they won't win over the Great Unwashed, as we in the hack community refer to the huge numbers of perennially undecided voters whose ballots ultimately decide who gets to rule.

Kilgore and Kaine both need to win over the Great Unwashed while, at the same time, playing enough to the True Believers so they don't stay home. Whichever candidate can play that juggling act the best will win the election.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Kaine Ahead?

So Mason-Dixon comes out with a poll, done for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, that now says Kilgore trails Kaine by one point - well within the margin of error for the poll.

How did this happen? Just two weeks ago, several news organizations reported that Kilgore had a huge lead of nearly 10 points over Kaine. A couple things can account for this:

1. It's early. No one is paying attention to this race. It's the middle of summer and people will say anything to get off the phone with someone doing polling. "Yeah, yeah, I support the guy you said first, now let me cook my burgers."

2. Mason-Dixon included the name of Russ Potts, which none of the earlier polls had included (they included instead a category they called "other"). I predicted that including Potts could change the nature of the race, and it has.

3. Different polls include different assumptions. Remember back in 2004 when one poll would come out and say Bush was ahead and one poll said Kerry was ahead? Then on election day, the media were convinced, based on their numbers and exit polling, that Kerry had walked away with it. What happened? Mostly, the voter turnout models used by polling organizations were flat wrong. That skewed the polls toward Kerry.

The Mason-Dixon poll seems to confirm the earlier conventional wisdom that Potts is pulling from Kilgore. I can't explain why this is happening, but if you believe the poll, Potts has close to 10% and "double digits" each in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

It's still too early to call this one, but my gut tells me Kilgore is still the odds-on favorite in conservative Virginia. You can get a poll to say anything you want it to. Combining this poll with the ones we've had to date just proves it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Virginia Blog Post of the Week

Since Mosby and I patrol the other Virginia blogs looking for good information, we decided we'd run an occasional "post of the week" for the post that made us laugh the hardest.

This gem from Addison at Sic Semper Tyrannis, entitled "Scott Howell - Dragon Slayer," had us all in stitches. What made it even funnier is some of the responses, including the one from Waldo Jaquith, who apparently doesn't get the joke.

Next week we'll gore the Republicans. Promise.

HD42: Is Werkheiser Losing Steam?

According to reports filed with SBE, Dave Albo pulled out pretty far ahead of Greg Werkheiser, who had outraised him for the last couple of cycles. The stats ended up something like this:

Cash on Hand:
Werkheiser: $127,000
Albo: $204,000

Raised this Period:
Werkheiser: $34,000
Albo: $62,000

Total Raised:
Werkheiser: $232,000
Albo: $293,000

From this one deficit, Werkheiser may have worn out his fundraising welcome. Summer is usually the time to make your fundraising calls, since the "ground game" doesn't begin in earnest until after Labor Day. We usually expect an incumbent to outraise a challenger, no matter who he or she is.

These new numbers are not encouraging for Werkheiser, who now needs to concentrate more on what Not Larry Sabato calls the "Leaking Brinks Truck" phenomenon. Werkheiser has spent much more cash than Albo, and no one is even paying attention yet. I didn't initially see this problem as a huge deal because any challenger needs to dump a load of cash to prop up his name ID. However, if Werkheiser can't reverse his fundraising slowdown, he's going to end up in the hole by October.

We're still calling this race for Albo, although we expect a big cash drop into Werkheiser's anemic accounts by the DNC or the DPV during the next reporting period. The Dems really want this one and the district may be starting to lean their way, but the GOP is not going to let their young heir-apparent to the House Courts of Justice Committee get beaten. That would be too big a trophy.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Not Larry Sabato Melts Down - Open Thread

Seems that NLS' Virginia 2005 Elections site was almost literally shut down by amateur hackers who decided to make the same post about NLS' identity 137 times in the span of a few minutes. We'd like to condemn this nasty activity, which only harms those of us who want to have honest discussions about the races.

Now you have to be a team member to post anything on NLS' blog. Since I'm not a team member, I can't post anything, and I suspect none of you can either. So for the two of you who read my blog and are temporarily barred from NLS' site, here's an open thread so you have an outlet for your comments. You're even guaranteed that NLS will see them, since he comes over here regularly to make fun of us. :)

We do reserve the right to block any hackers who try to do the same thing to us.

NLS: Don't say we never did nothin' for you!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Rodokanakis and the Wi-Fi Pirates

The Jaded JD pointed me to an article in Bacon's Rebellion by Phil Rodokanakis that deals with the pirating of wireless Internet service. Currently, such pirating is illegal in Virginia. Rodokanakis, typically seeing a shadow behind every tree, thinks Virginia's law is overreaching:
With Wi-Fi networks and hotspots popping up all over the place, computer
users may be unaware that they are logged into someone else’s Wi-Fi network.
Because Wi-Fis operate on radio frequencies and these frequencies are
susceptible to interference, Wi-Fi users may unwittingly lose the connection to
their home networks. In such instances, their wireless connection software could
scan the area for other Wi-Fi networks and automatically connect them to any
other unsecured network. Thus, Wi-Fi owners may—without their knowledge—become Wi-Fi pirates.

This could be true, but it's not likely. When my computer loses its wireless connection, it tells me. Before I connect to an unprotected wireless network, it warns me. For the uninitiated, "hotspots" are those places, usually a Starbucks or a Panera, where they maintain a wireless network that is open for anyone to use. Sometimes you need an access code, sometimes their networks are "wide open" and you do not need a password. The Jaded JD has this analogy, which works fairly well but also has its problems:
There is a colorable argument that the unauthorized use is my fault,
because I could have locked down my wireless network and I failed to do
so. That's like saying because I leased a car and left the doors unlocked
with the keys in the ignition (say, warming my engine on a cold winter day),
it's my fault the car was stolen and guy who stole my car from my driveway isn't
criminally liable for the theft. Nonsense.

The question remains: if you try to log on to an open network at the local Panera that you have every right to be on, what happens if you log onto Not Larry Sabato's private unsecured network down the street by mistake? The Jaded JD points to "intent," which I hope would govern in this hypothetical:

Mr. Rodokanakis conveniently omits the mens rea element of the
statute: "Any person who uses a computer or computer network without
authorityand with the intent to: (1) obtain property or services by false
pretenses; (2) embezzle or commit larceny; or (3) convert the property of
another is guilty of computer fraud." Unwitting and innocent computer
users lack the specific intent to be charged under Va. Code Ann. Sec.
18.2-152.3. In fact, all the computer trespass, theft, invasion,
harassment and fraud provisions (Va. Code Ann. Secs. 18.2-152.4, -152.5, -152.6,
-152.7, and -152.7:1) require intent. And in which chapter are these
provisions codified? Yes, you guessed it, Chapter 5 (Crimes Against

Rodokanakis, a former federal employee who specialized in detecting fraud, ought to know that the guy who was just arrested in Florida on the first-ever charge of wireless pirating had intent - whether a court rules that way or not. He was sitting in a van in front of some poor schmoe's house hunched over a laptop. Is that the way someone acts if he thinks he has permission to use a wireless network? If we start arresting people at the local Starbucks because they unwittingly pirated Not Larry Sabato's wireless network, then we can panic. But that hasn't happened yet and I doubt it will.

The real question issue here is this: why is Phil Rodokanakis writing about this instead of ruminating about the Virginia Club for Growth's stunning victory on June 14?

Why am I writing about it? Good question. I'm bored. I'm waiting for Tim Kaine to yell at his staff again, or for Jerry Kilgore to refuse to debate John Kerry, or for Russ Potts to announce that he is opposed to motherhood and apple pie. Even better, I'm waiting for the Greg Werkheiser release announcing that he's against drunk driving and Dave Albo is for it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Russ Potts and Gay Adoption - UPDATED

I hate to inject Potts' name into the debate again, but Will Vehrs and Virginia Centrist have both posted about Potts' recent support for gay adoption. Frankly, I'm not sure this issue matters all that much to most people. The people on the far right will hate Potts for it, but they already hate him anyway. Potts may get a small pickup from gay and lesbian Virginians who can't stomach Kaine's fence-sitting on the issue. In the end, I don't think this will give Potts a boost one way or the other. The pool of interested people is just too small.

UPDATE: Apparently this issue is getting under the skin of some Democrats. Bob Griendling, a card-carrying member of the "Mother Earth" wing of the Democratic party, is none too happy with Kaine's fence-sitting on gay adoption. Frankly, even I'm mystified by Kaine's stance. Get on one side or the other. At this point, he's making no one happy. He's not going to peel off any of Kilgore's anti-gay-adoption votes by saying he likes the status quo, and Potts has got him fully encircled on the left. This is one issue where middle-of-the-road doesn't win.

If there is any truth to John Behan's reporting of Kaine's minor meltdown over the 4th of July, Kaine needs to go off on his policy staff too. Kilgore and Potts are both running circles around him on the policy front.

Albo Says Underage Drinking is Bad

One of the Werkheiser people sent this to me, and it did strike me as illogical. Here is a man whose law practice consists largely of defending two-bit criminals and drunk drivers, and he's telling us the evils of underage drinking?

I know this issue is not as simple as the Werkheiser people have framed it, and I don't believe the Werkheiser drumbeat that Albo gets tough legislation passed on drunk drivers so that he can get retainers from more of them ("I wrote the laws, I can get you out of this.") However, Albo has made a choice with the focus of his law practice, and this issue will continue to dog him.

More Swift Boats?

The Virginian-Pilot is reporting that a group that styles itself the "Center for Individual Freedom" is running anti-Kaine television and radio ads in the Norfolk market. I haven't heard of any ads in other markets, but I'd be interested to hear if anyone else has. The group is the succesor-in-interest to the "National Smokers Alliance," an interest group that met its demise when it attacked Sen. John McCain and caused Phillip Morris to publicly repudiate its tactics.

Am I the only one who thinks these guys are getting started on this awfully early? Between Behan, Lowell, and myself, we remain the few, the proud, the only three who are paying any attention to this whole debate. Perhaps they want to take to the airwaves before they become just another part of the "noise pollution" that is sure to come in the Fall. However, I'm still not convinced anyone will pay attention or retain the information in the ads until Election Day. It's still a long way away.

A short note to the Center for Individual Freedom: if you run the ads in Northern Virginia, drop the part about the Million Mom March. There are still hordes of soccer moms up in NoVa sporting Million Mom March bumper stickers next to their Jim Dillard stickers. That might work well in Hampton Roads and Richmond, but those crazy Northern Virginians practically invented the word Republicrat.

Monday, July 11, 2005

HD13: Extremist v. Extremist

Not to be outdone by anyone else in his quest for media attention, Del. Bob Marshall is apparently gearing up to make abortion illegal, in the hopes that President Bush will float a conservative nominee to replace outgoing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

A couple weeks ago, Not Larry Sabato, Inc., posted musings on whether the debate over Justice O'Connor's retirement would affect Virginia's 2005 elections. In general, I do not believe that her retirement and the resulting media siege will affect all that many local races, which have their own individual flavors and dynamics to them. But Marshall is making it clear that he wants abortion to affect at least one race - his own.

The problem with Marshall's proposal to resurrect a law that dates to 1847 is that he makes it a whole lot more painful for anyone outside of the hard-line anti-abortion movement to vote for him. Many of Marshall's Green friends are likely to have one foot out the door at this point. I'm still not willing to throw this thing to Roemmelt, but Marshall sure is trying to make it a whole lot more competitive.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Yep, Lowell Went There

Lowell posts a positively trashy line at his Raising Kaine blog today, turning London's tragedy into a political statement:

The bottom line is that, almost four years into the “war on terror,” our leaders have failed us. There is no sign of a light at the end of the tunnel. Unless, of course,
it’s the headlight of an oncoming train. Today, London, tomorrow….who knows?

I'm one of those rare people who still believes that fighting terrorism should be a non-partisan issue. Bill Clinton had several opportunities to nab bin Laden, and so has Bush. There's more than enough blame to go around, but can anyone really say that disposing of Osama bin Laden would have stopped this brutal attack? I think not. Terrorism was around before him, and it will certainly survive him.

Give it a rest for a couple of days, Lowell. Your post is shameless. The people of London need prayers, not preaching.

Chapman Convicted on Dog Charge

The Manassas Journal Messenger is reporting that former 50th district candidate Steve Chapman was convicted yesterday of allowing his dog, Nixon, to run loose. Chapman still has to answer felony election fraud charges in September.

I'm going to go out on a limb and call Chapman irresponsible in caring for his pet. If animal control picked up Nixon on three separate occasions, how many times do you think the poor pooch really got out? Nixon was killed by a car in September 2004, also while on the lam.

For his part, Chapman blames Nixon's outings on his employees. I think Chapman needs to own up to his mistakes. I just hope he's learned that caring for a dog is a pretty huge responsibility.

If you think we had a field day with this one, just wait until September.

Prayers for London

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of London as they mourn the loss suffered in this morning's cowardly terrorist attack.

Preston Bryant Gets Tough

The fight between Del. Preston Bryant and Lynchburg Republican chairman Wendell Walker erupted soon after the primary ended, but the Lynchburg News Advance is just getting around to reporting on it. So are we. :)

For those who weren't on the "inside baseball" track in this race, Walker temporarily stepped down as GOP chair to run Robert Garber's primary campaign against Bryant. Walker's action is not unheard of, but you can see from this story how it can split a party down the middle. Now that the primary is over and Bryant has won decisively, he is making a rare public display of temper by calling for Walker's resignation.

We're confident that Bryant's easy win gives him the ability to pick a fight now and again, but we are still concerned about Bryant's seemingly eroding political base. Bryant's voting record reads a lot like Dick Black's or Bob Marshall's, except on that pesky tax issue. What will he do once his honeymoon with the pro-tax crowd is over and he's left with several festering fights with his philosophical base?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Potts and the Post....a Match Made in Heaven

The Washington Post put itself squarely in the corner of Russ Potts this morning with this editorial about Tim Kaine's transportation package, which managed to be about as lackluster as Jerry Kilgore's. One thing you have to admit: both major party candidates have really handed this issue to Potts. All he has to do is distinguish himself and draw attention to the differences between himself and the other guys.

The Post credits Potts with being the only candidate willing to raise taxes to deal with Virginia's transportation problems. Potts gets Post points for saying he would keep the General Assembly in session until they "produced a long-range financing package." But while the Governor can convene a special session of the General Assembly, he doesn't have the power to keep them in session until they do what he wants. For that, Potts would need help from Sen. John Chichester and his band of merry men in the Senate of Virginia. Chichester, we think, would be only too willing to play ball with Potts on this issue.

So far, Debategate hasn't hurt Kilgore any. Will the Kilgore/Kaine fizzle on transportation give Potts that needed bounce toward the 10% mark? I doubt it, but the Post sure is trying.

HD21-30: The Unopposed Races

All Republicans in this latest installment of the unopposed races:

HD21 - John J. Welch, III (R) - This Virginia Beach chiropractor with the intense Boston accent is a bit nutty, but his constituents like him.

HD22 - Kathy J. Byron (R) - She represents the area around Lynchburg and she makes Pastor John look like a liberal. 'Nuff said.

HD23 - Preston Bryant (R) - His Dem opponent dropped out about three hours after Bryant won his victory against Robert Garber.

HD25 - R. Steven Landes (R) - This is another one the Dems should have gone after. He is the GOP Caucus chairman and a modestly effective legislator.

HD27 - Samuel Nixon (R) - Otherwise known as Del. Rob Bell's twin. Nixon is a policy wonk whose intelligence puts him light-years ahead of everyone else.

HD28 - William J. Howell (R - Speaker) - The Dems couldn't topple this Spotsylvania resident with the smallest law firm in Virginia, but they sure could have made things interesting by challenging him.

HD29 - Beverly J. Sherwood (R) - Chair of the House Militia Committee, she gets the final say-so on guns and such. This is a very safe seat for the GOP.

HD30 - Edward T. Scott (R) - Another Democratless primary survivor. Scott really showed his mettle by wholloping his opponent, Pastor Mark Jarvis

Friday, July 01, 2005

Potts Steals from Kaine

WSLS-TV in Roanoke has conducted an exclusive poll showing gubernatorial hopeful Jerry Kilgore subsatantially ahead of opponent Tim Kaine 49%-39%. This poll is a bit more reliable than previous polls for two reasons:

1. It includes only likely voters, rather than all registered voters.
2. It includes Russ Potts by name.

The poll reports that Kilgore is ahead in all regions of Virginia, with the notable exception of Northern Virginia (naturally). It also gives Potts' numbers as 5%, which is where John Behan and I both believe he will end up in November.

The one concern I have about this poll is that the margin of error is rather high at +/- 4.5%. I prefer to see the margin at +/-3 or lower. Despite the high margin, Kilgore retains a decisive lead.

This shows what many hacks have been saying for a while: Potts seems to be pulling his support from those who can't stomach Kaine. It also shows us that we may have been wrong about the impact of Debategate - so far, Kilgore hasn't taken a beating from it at all.

It's still early, so this whole thing is still academic. But this can't be good news for the Kaine camp.