Ad Blitz

Assuming, not unreasonably, a turnout of 60%, some 135 million Americans will have cast their vote for president by the time the polls close a week from today.
Technically, they will not have voted for the incumbent, Barack Obama, or his challenger Mitt Romney or whatever obscure third-party candidate may have tickled their fancy. They will have decided for which candidate their state must cast its electoral college  votes on a winner take all basis.
America’s founding fathers adopted this system over direct election as a sort of constitutional affirmative action to protect rural minorities, including slaveholders, from domination by urban majorities. On four occasions, most recently in 2000, a candidate has won a majority of the popular vote but failed to secure a winning combination of states . If the latest opinion polls accurately predict next Tuesday’s outcome, it could happen again this year, with Romney winning the national plebiscite but falling short of the 271 electoral votes needed to take the prize.
This would be an unfortunate start to Obama’s second term. Whatever happens to Romney, his Republican party looks certain to retain control of the House of Representatives and has a good shot of gaining seats in, if not outright control, of the Senate. It normally takes a couple of years for a second term president to start being thought  a lame duck. For Obama, paralysis could set in immediately.

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Preferences Revisited

The case for racial preferences in awarding places at US universities  is no longer couched  in the language of giving a leg up to minorities held back by centuries of discrimination. Today, it is all about letting educators assemble student bodies they believe will best prepare members to compete in a diverse world. That, at any rate,  is how proponents of affirmative action are framing the discussion as the Supreme Court weighs the latest in a long line of challenges to affirmative action’s constitutionality.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the Obama administration’s chief litigator, told the court during oral argument last week: “The core of our interest is in ensuring that the nation’s universities produce graduates who are going to be effective citizens and effective leaders in an increasingly diverse society and effective competitors in diverse global markets.”
Just over half the Fortune 100  chimed in with an amicus brief.  “The only means of obtaining a properly qualified group of employees,”  they argued,  “is through diversity in institutions of higher education which are allowed to recruit and instruct the best qualified minority candidates and create an environment in which all students can meaningfully expand their horizons.”

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Washington has something other than the election on its mind this week. If all goes well, the distraction could last through October, becoming more feverish with each passing day. The Nationals, the city’s baseball team, have a legitimate shot at going all the way for the first time since 1924.
With 98 wins to 64 losses, the Nationals posted the best record in Major League Baseball’s regular season.  Starting with a come from behind 3-2 win over the St Louis Cardinals on Sunday, they appear sufficiently blessed with esprit de corps, leadership and luck to advance deep into the elimination rounds which culminate in the best-of-seven World Series at the end of the month.
Washington’s professional sports teams have been as inspiring as its politicians in recent years, which is to say not very. Fans of the Washington Redskins gridiron football team have endured futility since the early 90s. The local basketball team changed its name from Bullets to Wizards when violent crime was at its height. Before they shot blanks; since they have been utterly unmagical. The superbly talented Capitals ice hockey team raises hopes only to choke, routinely, at playoff time.

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