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[From left to right: Mel Reynolds, Jesse Jackson, Jr., and Gus Savage]

Last Friday, State Sen. Donne Trotter formally withdrew from the Second Congressional District special election to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr. The announcement came three weeks after he was arrested at O'Hare for trying to pass through security with a concealed gun. At the time of his arrest, Trotter was considered the front-runner to win the special election. Of course, the special election had only come about because the avalanching shenanigans of Jesse Jackson, Jr. forced his resignation.

The incidents involving Trotter and Jackson are just the latest examples that show how the constituents of the second congressional district are cursed. Because there's no other way to explain the misfortune that has plagued the district's constituents over the last 30 years.

It wasn't always this way, though. For the first 150 years or so of the district's existence, it hosted a colorful collection of Congressmen.

James Woodworth, who held the seat from 1855 to 1857, also served several terms as Chicago mayor, was a founding trustee of both the "old" University of Chicago and the Chicago Astronomical Society, and helped make Chicago an economic center by guiding the Midwest's railways and water traffic through the city.

From 1903 to 1922, the congressman of the 2nd district was James Robert Mann, author of the Mann Act of 1910 (aka the White Slave Traffic Act) which prohibited the interstate transportation of women for prostitution.

Abner Mikva served as the district's representative from 1969 until 1973. In 1979, then-President Jimmy Carter nominated him to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals where he served until 1994 when he retired to serve as White House counsel for then-President Bill Clinton.

And from 1853 to 1855, just before Woodworth, there was John Wentworth whose two-year stint as the second district's rep was part of a long political career that culminated in his service as Chicago's mayor. Wentworth also served in Congress as a representative of Illinoi's first and fourth districts and during his Congressional tenure, he was offered a deal by Wisconsin that would have extended that state's border to the southern tip of Lake Michigan. His reward had he allowed the Badger state to expand? A seat in the U.S. Senate. Wentworth said no.

So, then, it's easy to understand why I can't help but view the district as anything but cursed. How else to explain that the last three representatives have been, in succession, a virulent racist, a statutory rapist, and a scandal-laden charlatan? How else to explain the ascension of Gus Savage, who held the seat from 1981 until 1993? Somehow, Savage held on to his seat for 12 years despite numerous challengers, racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric, and accusations of verbally and physical sexual harassment of a Peace Corp. volunteer during a press junket tour of Ethiopia in 1989. He also had a habit of using homophobic slurs towards reporters whose questions he didn't like.

Finally ousting Savage in 1992 was an upstart reformer named Mel Reynolds. A graduate of the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, an MPA from Harvard, and a Rhodes Scholar, hopes were high for Reynolds. Instead, in August 1994, less than 2 years after his election, he was indicted on a host of charges stemming from a sexual relationship he carried on with a 16-year-old campaign volunteer. In 1995, Reynolds was forced to resign his seat.

Winning the seat after Reynolds' exit was a charismatic up-and-comer, Jesse Jackson, Jr., son of the famed Rev. Jesse Jackson. For years, Jackson served without controversy, happy to build a reputation that helped him escape his father's shadow. Then, in 2008, he was connected to the pay-for-play scandal that ensnared then-governor Rod Blagojevich. Jackson allegedly offered up fundraising to Blago in exchange for appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama after he won the 2008 Presidential election.

In early June of this year, Jesse Jackson, Jr. made his last public appearance before disappearing into the ether. In the interim, he's been in and out of the Mayo Clinic for treatment of bipolar disorder, become the target of a federal investigation into misuse of campaign funds, and, jus weeks after winning re-election in November, resigned his seat in disgrace.

The curse's source remains unknown, the misery of the second district voters still intact as they prepare for yet another special election. Even Reynolds has risen from the political graveyard to run for his old seat, a specter of the past that continues to haunt the district. This, even after Savage, despite his morally repugnant behavior, managed to keep his seat for 12 years, never receiving less than 82 percent of the vote in a general election until 1990, the year after he was accused of sexual harassment, when he received "only" 78 percent of the vote.

Those dark cosmic forces maintained their veil over the electorate in November 1994 when Reynolds, just months after his statutory rape indictment, Reynolds, unopposed from any major party challenger, received 98 percent of the vote over several independent candidates in his re-election bid.

The curse's iron grip held fast when in November when Jackson, sight unseen, was never seriously challenged on his way to a startling victory in which he garnered 63 percent of the vote.

And so this curse of mysterious origins remains unabated, its cause still a mind-bending unknown, holding hostage the tortured souls of our state's Second Congressional District. No amount of voodoo seems to have reversed the cloud of calamity that has swallowed the area whole, keeping fraudulent abusers of power in place. There seems to be no magic remedy that can save them from this string of awful leaders who somehow, some way, manage to maintain their terrible cycle of darkness and dismay.

Even the once-mighty Cook County Democratic Party has been stymied, endorsing no one for the upcoming special election primary, handing over its faith to the fates and hoping for the best. And, that's all the district's voters can do: hope and pray that somehow this evil spell is broken, that, somehow, salvation will arrive and free the them from the malicious cycle that's held them captive for so long.

More election trends

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If you're just catching up after the election - and who could blame you for taking a break? - we've been swarmed with maps as to how the election broke down. There was the electoral map, the margin of victory, and even the makeup of red state voters and blue state voters. Now we have the above chart, via the Associated Press, which helps break down the demographics of the voters: men vs women, by race, and by age. It's an interesting set of data that underscores why Romney lost (alienating women and growing minorities).


Matt Rourke/AP Photo

The campaign trail is a long, tough slog over the course of many months. There's a lot of flying back and forth between Washington, D.C., where Joe Biden serves as Vice President, and every swing state in the union. And over those trips, like anyone on a road trip, the VP built up a hefty list of food consumed. To his credit, he still looks as slim as ever. But thanks to press pool reports, there's great opportunity to keep track of these sorts of thing. Which is what the Washington Examiner did by compiling a list of foods that Biden consumed on the trail, a list that showed the VP has a weakness for ice cream.

June 26, Dubuque, Iowa: Three quarts of ice cream and several dozen cookies at Hy-Vee grocery (note: Biden did not eat all of this himself)

June 26, Manchester, Iowa: Strawberry ice cream on a sugar cone at Widner Drug and Gift Shop

Aug. 14, Stuart, Va.: Hot dog and Coke at The Coffee Break Cafe

Aug. 14, Floyd, Va.: Vanilla milkshake at Floyd Country Store

Here's to four more years of milkshakes and trucker lap sits for Biden.

Nate Silver's mic drop

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Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight (Randy Stewart / Wikipedia)

The below images are electoral forecast maps, the first one posted this past weekend by Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight and, following that, posted by Unskewed Polls on October 28, 2012. Unskewed is, essentially, a conservative-bias imitator (and a pale one, at that) of Silver's blog.



Unskewed Polls


Bit of a difference, no? Unskewed's Dean Chambers gained notoriety for not only criticizing Silver a few days before he posted the above forecast, but for stooping to homophobia to do so.

Nate Silver is a man of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice that sounds almost exactly like the "Mr. New Castrati" voice used by Rush Limbaugh on his program. In fact, Silver could easily be the poster child for the New Castrati in both image and sound.

But here we are, the day after the presidential election and, according to the most recent returns, Silver not only correctly predicted the 50%-48% popular vote split for Obama, but correctly picked all 51 Electoral College votes (all 50 states plus Washington, D.C.), including the ultra-close Florida vote. So, yeah, he's good at what he does. And he's $2,000 richer - or at least the Red Cross is - after a bet with political loudmouth pundit Joe Scarborough over who would be right about the election (a bet that caused much hand-wringing only because people have to worry about something). Chambers, meanwhile, picked Romney to take 51% of the popular vote and 275 Electoral College votes. The only discrepancy in Silver's predictions are his total Electoral votes projections which don't match his "chances of winning a state" math, but something that relates to the way Silver weighs different polls and those outcomes are weighed differently.

In the harsh light of a new day, even Chambers is having to admit: Silver was right, I was wrong. And he's not alone. Politico posted a list of which polls were most accurate in projecting the outcome and oft-cited polls like Rasmussen and Gallup were at the bottom while PPP was at the top.

But none were perfect like Silver was. It's unfair to call this Silver's Redemption because the backlash that hit Silver in the final days weeks so wrong-headed and born out of a conservative distaste that he had Obama in the lead. If anything, it was a victory lap for someone who understands the math and models necessary to make accurate prediction. In the last two presidential elections, Silver has accurately predicted 101 out of 102 Electoral votes (99 states and D.C. twice) and twice nailed the popular vote split. His work speaks for itself and the vitriol directed towards him is simply the voice of denial from the right, the same right that wouldn't hesitate to back him if he had correctly picked a Romney win (and one has to assume that, while not based in homophobia, dems would have similarly dismissed Silver's numbers the way they dismissed Chambers).

Silver has earned our respect and earned the right to gloat. But it's best that he didn't; towards the end of the campaign, Silver did let his cool demeanor slip just a bit in defending himself against criticism. Instead, in a tweet that went out shortly after multiple media outlets had called the election for Obama, Silver simply posted a tongue-in-cheek tweet (posted below), perhaps the best mic-drop moment he could have hoped for and one he deserved.

APTOPIX Duckworth 2012.jpg
Tammy Duckworth celebrates with husband Bryan Bowlsbey after defeating Rep. Joe Walsh in Elk Grove Village on Tuesday in the 8th Congressional District. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

In the waning days of the campaign, Freedom Works dumped more than $1 million into the 8th congressional race to stave off a challenge to Joe Walsh from Democrat Tammy Duckworth.

In all, the SuperPAC plowed nearly $3 million into the campaign.

Ultimately, it didn't pay off. Duckworth beat Walsh by 10 percentage points.

Elsewhere, Freedomworks has a "low batting average," according to, which ranked it the sixth top-spending super PAC this election by plowing $19 million into campaigns.

(AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

If it was a 'war on women' - guess who won the battle?

"Binders full of women," got out to vote on Tuesday and 55 percent of them went for President Obama.

New Hampshire made history on Tuesday by electing an all-female delegation.

Wisconsin made history on Tuesday by electing Tammy Baldwin, the first openly-gay female to the U.S. Senate.

Todd Akin, the U.S. Senate candidate in Missouri and Richard Mourdock, the Indiana Senate candidate, both made explosive comments about rape and abortion during the campaign.

Both were defeated on Tuesday.

Closer to home, Tea Party bomb-thrower Joe Walsh who insisted that there was no instance when an abortion was necessary to save the life of a woman lost by 10 percentage points.

Presidential Campaign Surro.jpgWalsh had proudly told Sandra Fluke to "go get a job" instead of asking the government to pay for women's contraception.

It was Fluke's testimony before congress earlier this year that launched the narrative of the Republicans so-called 'war on women.' After Fluke testified, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh called her a "slut."

Democrats turned that around at their convention this summer, inviting Fluke to talk. "Sluts vote," was among the most popular buttons sold in Charlotte, N.C.

The Electoral College breakdown map, courtesy of C-SPAN.
Click to embiggen

By Neil Steinberg

If you thought Tuesday you were voting for the presidential candidate of your choice, think again. Due to a historic quirk in the creation of the United States -- some old operating code, as it were -- American voters do not chose the president directly, but rather select electors to the Electoral College who do the actual selecting of the president.

It's a cumbersome system. Each state has the same number of electors as it has representatives in Congress --the House of Representatives and Senate combined. Illinois, for example, has 20 - down one after the last census. They can't be the elected officials themselves, however. In 48 of the states, whoever wins the popular vote also wins all the electors -- only Nebraska and Maine have a proportional system where electoral votes are divided up between the winner and loser.

The system is a relic of an age when travel was difficult and counting ballots even more problematic than it is today. The Founding Fathers wanted to make sure that numerous regional contenders didn't divide the nation.

Thus whoever wins 270 of the 538 available electoral votes will be inaugurated president on Jan. 20, 2013. But every four years there is talk of scrapping the Electoral College system, though it does have its defenders. Here are the main arguments, pro and con.

Reasons to get rid of it

  1. 1. A discrepancy between the number of voters and the number of electoral votes creates the possibility of losing the popular vote while winning the Electoral College. Three presidents have been elected on electoral votes while failing to win a majority of voters -- Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, and George W. Bush in 2000 -- an outcome that undermines the faith Americans have in the legitimacy of the executive branch of government.
  2. 2. The Electoral College is inherently undemocratic, skewing significance toward smaller, more sparsely populated states. Delaware, with 900,000 residents, has three electoral votes, while Texas, with more than 25 million residents, has 34, which means from an electoral point of view, a vote in Delaware is more than twice as significant -- representing 1/300,000th of an electoral vote -- than a vote in Texas, representing 1/750,000 of an electoral vote.
  3. 3. By focusing on assembling 270 electoral votes, candidates ignore "safe" states such as Illinois, where there is no point in fighting for more votes once a majority is reached, since all the electoral votes are already assured. Thus the majority of states, nearly certain to fall one way or another, tend to get ignored in favor of a handful of "swing" states.
  4. 4. Even if the Electoral College works perfectly, it still introduces unnecessary delay into the system. Give the likelihood of immediate electronic voting in the foreseeable future, having to wait for some mysterious conclave to put its seal of approval on the will of the American people is unnecessary, not only wasting time, but wasting the money required to run the system.
  5. 5. There is the remote but real possibility of fraudulent electors -- members of the Electoral College who refuse to vote the way the results require that they vote. This has happened, and while it has never affected the outcome of a race, it could, and there is no reason to allow the possibility that one individual could perversely negate the will of hundreds of thousands of voters.

Reasons to keep it

  1. 1. America is change averse and would rather cling to an arcane system than switch to a new one, which might have flaws of its own. If we can't get rid of the penny, we can't scrap the Electoral College so why try? To do so, would involve a change in the constitution -- Article II, Section I lays out the details of the Electoral College -- and whatever benefit isn't worth the trouble of doing that.
  2. 2. Without the Electoral College, candidates would be encouraged to treat the country as a whole, and campaign through the national media, or in urban centers where the most people are concentrated. They would never spend time in a place like Ohio, where an evenly divided population means its electoral votes are up for grabs.
  3. 3. The Electoral College can soften the sting of tight races, which we often see. Thus a candidate who only wins by a tiny percentage of the popular vote can still have a considerable victory in the Electoral College, leading to a greater impression of consensus, which is good for subsequent governing.
  4. 4. The Electoral College helps direct power toward the states -- without it, authority would be even more centralized than it already is.
  5. 5. If the Electoral College wasn't scrapped after the debacle of the 2000 elections -- which saw one of those fraudulent electors -- it's never going to be.

Obama 2008-3.jpeg
Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. strikes the "Heisman" pose while holding Earl Campbell's Heisman trophy, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2008. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

There's something about presidential candidates and football, the throw of the pigskin - often on the tarmac to a jet to another campaign stop - that seems like a prerequisite to earning a trip to the Oval Office. It is the most popular sport in America, after all, so enjoy this gallery of candidates and footballs.

View Presidential candidate stops for November 3, 2012 in a larger map

Mitt Romney has rallies in

  • Portsmouth, New Hampshire

  • Dubuque, Iowa

  • Colorado Springs

  • Englewood, Colorado

Paul Ryan campaigns in

  • Ohio

  • Pennsylvania

  • Virginia

President Barack Obama

  • Prince William County, Virginia

  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin

  • Dubuque, Iowa

  • Mentor, Ohio

Vice President Joe Biden

  • Arvada, Colorado.

  • Pueblo, Colorado

  • travels to Cleveland, Ohio, where he will remain overnight.