Alex Massie

Live-blogging Ohio, Texas and, er, Hamilton...

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The internet is all about niche, right? It's clear to me that there's an as yet unfilled opening for a blog that combines analysis of the latest shenanigans between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton with equally speculative and ill-informed musings on England's tour of New Zealand. We break new ground here, folks, with the world's first (I believe) cricket-politics live-blog... We'll be roaming all over the globe tonight, taking in the results from Ohio and Texas as well as the action from Hamilton as the Black Caps take on the visiting English...

9.14pm: Michael Vaughan makes a hash of the toss. He calls heads and it's tails. Daniel Vettori and his boys will have a bat. Odds on Steve Harmison hitting second slip on the knee with the first ball of the match?

9.28: Harmison can rest easy: Sidebottom bowls the first over, sparing Harmison's embarrassment. "There's a dampish feel to the morning" says Mike Atherton. It is New Zealand you know... And the first ball is a beauty: good line, some movement in to the left-hander, clips Jamie How on the pad. Swing for the splendidly-named Sidebottom...

9.32: The wicket looks a belter, but the Kiwi openers - How and Bell - have a cumulative average of 40...

9.40: Meanwhile, in America, the state of the Democratic race is as follows:

Obama       1390  (198 Supers + 1192 earned delegates)

Clinton        1267  (232 Supers + 1035 earned delegates)

Edwards      26

9.43: Football diversion. Barcelona have dismantled Celtic tonight in as comprehensive a 1-0 drubbing as you will ever see. Great stuff. Now I switch my support to Werder Bremen who play Rangers in the UEFA Cup. Apparently this means I'm a PINO - a Protestant in Name Only.

9.52: Why on earth has Vaughan given Matthew Hoggard a deep midwicket? Meanwhile, New Zealand don't have a single batsman averaging over 40. Stephen Fleming has nearly 7,000 test runs at 39. These are his last three tests before retiring from test cricket.

10.00: Jon Chait spells out the scale of the task facing Hillary Clinton:

With the Clinton campaign now saying they will stay in the race even if they lose delegates in Texas, it's worth putting into perspective just how difficult it would be for them to close Barack Obama's lead in pledged delegates. For Clinton to pull ahead, she will need to win 57% of the remaining pledged delegates. To keep that number from rising even higher, they of course need to win 57% of the delegates on Tuesday, which would mean getting at least 213 delegates to Obama's 161 -- a 52 delegate advantage. If they net anything below 52 delegates, they fall even further behind. This is the key number to keep in mind when watching the election returns.

10.12: Tidy stuff from Sidebottom and Hoggard. Sidebottom, of course, is a reminder that county cricket still has a useful role to play. Bowlers improve by bowling 500 overs a year for year after year after year. Oddly, England don't seem to believe this. Hence catapulting the likes of Liam Plunkett and Sajid Mahmood into the test side before they've actually learned hot to bowl properly. Sidebottom actually has an idea about such old-fashioned concepts as line and length. And he learned that in county cricket.

10.15: Meanwhile Ian Bell gets whacked on the wrist, fielding at short leg. At a distance of 12,000 miles it looks like a broken bone and the end of his tour. But perhaps not. Either way the 11/2 Totesport were offering on him being England's top scorer in the first innings now looks very stingy indeed. He's off to hospital but it looks bad.

10.22: I'm hearing that the early word is that Clinton leads Obama 51-48* in Ohio and Texas. But that doesn't include, I think, the million or so early votes in Texas that were expected to help Obama. (Bad typo initially: had written 50-38.. which would be as amazing as John "give me kingmaking delegates" Edwards winning tonight.)

10.27: Betfair are still offering 2.2 on Hillary winning the primary part of the Texas vote.

10.32: WICKET!  Harmison gets whacked for a couple of boundaries then, amazingly, pitches one up and Bell edges and is caught by Cook at slip for 19. 44/1. Silly shot since the Kiwis were going along nicely enough and didn't look in too much trouble. Reckless batting really.

10.40: A friend asks: "Can someone please tell McCain to stop wearing a sleeveless sweater under his suit jacket?"

10.51: Harmison is complaining about the ball. He'd be better off trying to find a proper line. Nice, fine, flick off his pads from Fleming for another 4. His four overs have gone for 26. Lamentable.

10.58: Texas has to be different of course. The Economist points out that the official results from the Lone Star State may take seven days to arrive:

The popular vote can be tallied relatively quickly, of course—and will probably determine who "won" in Texas as far as popular perception is concerned. But a third of the Lone Star State's delegates will be chosen by caucus, and precincts have seven days to submit those results. No doubt we'll have at least a rough sense of what happened, but in a race this close, Texas' system makes it entirely possible for a candidate who loses the popular vote to win a majority of the state's delegates.

11.06: Mark Halperin posts details of a Fox News exit poll. On the question of who's best placed to beat the GOP nominee:

Ohio — Obama 52, Clinton 44

Texas — Obama 52, Clinton 41

11.11 Monty on to bowl!

11.12: Texans not as stupid as Ohioans! From a CNN exit poll:

"Does trade reduce more jobs than it creates?

Ohio: Yes 81% Texas: Yes 58%"

11.15: Correspondence:

"Well, the sort of people who are answering pollsters at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon are probably unemployed steelworkers whose jobs got shipped off to India..."

Because of  NAFTA of course...

11.23: Harmison has finished his largely undistinguished spell and, ten minutes before lunch, has wandered off the field. He's not injured of course. That being so, England should be forced to field with ten men if Harmison (or any other bowler) wants to go off in such circumstances for a wee rest. That they're not is another small, telling, symbol of the game's sorry decline.

11.31: And that's lunch. A tidy morning's cricket in Hamilton. New Zealand are 87/1. The pitch is placid and set fair for batting. Anything less than 400 is below par I suspect. It's not been scintillating stuff, but the Kiwis will be happy with the way they've done. How is 39* and within sight of a maiden test 50; Stephen Fleming looks in good nick and is 29*. England's bowling, Harmison apart, has been neat but not especially threatening. as they failed to take advantage of early swing. In fact the most significant moment of the morning may be Ian Bell's injury; if he can't bat no then New Zealand have effectively taken two of the 20 wickets they need to win the match.

11.49: Wolf Blitzer, "Ohio a key, key state tonight. No doubt. We're watching it very, very closely..." Brilliant the way CNN always wants us to applaud them for just doin g their sodding job...

12.00: Birkenstocks for Barack. As expected Obama wins Vermont by miles. Exact numbers not yet but this is not a daring projection.

12.10: The Economist goes to Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo:

Even the pig races seemed to bode well for the Republicans today. Next to a trailer advertising “America’s cleanest and fastest swine”, there is a 150-foot track set up for pigs to race around every hour. The first two contests this afternoon were won by Shaquille O’Squeal and Britney Spareribs, respectively. Then came the finale, a race between four veteran porkers. Barack O’Ribs Obama, the fattest pig of the lot, initially refused to leave his cage when the door was opened. Hillary Rod Ham Clinton was also slow off the mark. In contrast Arnold Schwarzenhogger shot ahead and bested Al Boar, who came in second. Once they got moving, Obama edged Clinton by a snout to take third. “I think ol’ Barack and Hillary still have no idea what they’re doin’”, said the swine-meister as the crowd guffawed.

12.13: Good news for England: Bell hasn't broken his wrist. Whew.

12.16: Not such great news for Obama: Hillary even managed to win late deciders in Vermont (albeit by just four points). Not terribly encouraging for his prospects in Texas and Ohio.

12.22: So what do you all think is going to happen for the rest of the night? Bicker away in the comments or email arjdmassie@hotmail.com

12.28: Cheating in Texas? The Obama campaign thinks so. Marc Ambinder with the latest:

“We are disappointed to see the Clinton campaign once again engaging in an effort to diminish the importance of the Texas caucuses and discourage Texans from participating. We have reported several specific incidents of Clinton campaign supporters seeking to circumvent the rules and illegally boost their caucus performance by soliciting signatures on precinct convention sign-in sheets – even before the caucuses have started."

12.31: Meanwhile, in Hamilton there's a lull. Just two runs from the last four overs. From that you will deduce, correctly, that Harmison is not bowling. New Zealand 105/1. Still, tidy stuff from Sidebottom and Panesar.

12.34: Megan is also live-blogging. So is Democracy in America. From Megan:

7:05: Jeffrey Toobin  just said the most vacuous thing I have ever heard about an election, and I include these gems: "You know the great thing about tonight is that it's all about the voters." Was this a surprise appearance, or did he spend all day thinking that up?

12.42: One of cricket's under-appreciated glories is that sometimes it's supposed to be dull. This is a period of quiet accumulation for New Zealand. Time for them to dig in and prepare for a long haul. How is somewhat becalmed on 48* but if he can kick on the Kiwis are well placed to build a proper score. England's attack is no more threatening than Dennis Kucinich right now.

12.44: Christ! WICKET! No sooner do I say that than Fleming tries to thwack a ball from Sidebottom down towards third man and Cook takes a blinder of a catch, flying to his right and taking it one-handed. A peach. I think the ball got a little more bounce than Fleming expected. That's the big wicket: New Zealand's best batsman out for 41. It went fast to Cook and he did supremely well to hold on to it. 108/2. That's what happens, mind you, if you make it tough for the batsmen to pick up cheap runs...

12.51: A maiden test match 50 for How. He's been solid, especially off his legs. But the Kiwis need 100+ from him now.

12.57: Regarding those reports of "irregularities" in Texas, we dip into the correspondence bag again:

Reader A:  What do election lawyers do in odd-numbered years?

Reader B: They spend the money earned in the even years.

12.59: The best thing about watching from Britain? Sky doesn't carry MSNBC, saving one from the ghastliness of Chris Matthews and his great, gaping mouth.

1.00: Obama asking that polls stay open later in Cleveland due to polling stations running out of ballot papers. (Really, how hard is it to have a decent supply of them?)

1.04: New Zealand are crawling along. Nine runs from the last ten overs. Who needs fancy hit and run and smash and grab sexy cricket?

1.09: Hillary's price is lengthening at Betfair. She was 2.2 to win Texas for most of the last hour. She's just drifted out to 3.1. But of course, plenty of people lost money backing John Kerry when exit polls caused his price to shorten in 2004...

1.20: Mike Crowley just wants to stop the madness. He's probably right.

1.22: A valued correspondent suggests you really need this stuff to get through the night.

1.25: WICKET! Paul Collingwood snares Sinclair. He played too early and just blocked the ball back to Collingwood who took the catch off his own bowling. On a pitch such as this there's something to be said for a bowler of Collingwood's type - he's not likely to come on to the bat as well as the quicker bowlers. Sinclair, who always looked scratchy it must be said, has gone for 8 and it's 129/3. England now have slightly the better of it. Another wicket now and it would be a very poor day, so far, for New Zealand.

1.30: Marc Ambinder says the Obama campaign made 1,000,000 calls to voters in Ohio today.

1.38: Why does George W Bush hate John McCain? Why is he going to endorse him? It's not as though Dubya has much credibility with a good number of the conservaties scunnered with McCain. Then again, his endorsement may well be all Iraq all the time.

1.42: Dan Drezner on the idea that party bigwigs might try and tell Hillary to concede (I'd be amazed if she did) if results aren't great for her tonight:

I think the mainstream media has underestimated the number of core Hillary supporters who would be unbelievably pissed by the optics of the Democratic "establishment" -- read, mostly men -- telling Hillary that her time on the stage has ended. Trust me, these people do exist, and they exist in significant numbers.  So my prediction is that any kind of stage-managed effort by the Democratic Party leadership to nudge Hillary Clinton aside will end in disaster. Either Clinton will refuse the overtures, declaring herself to be a "fighter" for the upteenth time -- or she will step aside in such a way that it costs Obama significant slices of the Democratic demographic come November.

 1.44: A Fox lass - Alexis Glick, I believe, is saying that Ohio has lost 250,000 manufacturing jobs since 2000 "because of NAFTA". This is not true. Ms Glick works for Fox Business Channel. Jesus wept.

1.48: Bush and McCain? Correspondence:

"Bush hates McCain because McCain was a speedbump on the road to his coronation. But given how McCain sold his soul to campaign for Bush, it's really the least he could do. I mean really -- it's just good form."

1.50: New Zealand have steadied the ship. How is accelerating. He's 77 now and playing rather well. 153/3. It helps, of course, that the lanky lummox that is Steve Harmison is back in the attack. He's going at more than five runs an over. Pitiful.

1.59: Dave Weigel reports that Ron Paul has seen off his primary challenge in Texas's 14th Congressional District. Dr No will be back in Washington.

2.00: McCain now officially the Republican nominee. Wolf Blitzer, dumb as ever, says "Mike Huckabee will now have to make a major decision..."

2.02: The Economist's mysterious "Mr Black" has more on Chris Matthews:

Chris Matthews recycles  his botched quotation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's aphorism that "In the real dark night of the soul, it is always three o'clock in the morning", presumably hoping to persuade viewers, against all evidence, that he can read.

2.12: It's a hate-fest! Correspondence:

I've hated Wolf Blitzer for about 14 or 15 years. That makes me deeply sad, I know, but nice to see I'm not alone. Dumber than a box of hammers.

2.15: Time for the ceremony that makes cricket the greatest and most civilised of games: tea. New Zealand add 87 for the loss of two wickets in the afternoon. Honours more or less even. How has batted very nicely; solid and composed. He's 90* and deserves a first test century.

2.19: Huckabee concedes! Never trust a man who's lost that much weight.

2.24: Now the Clintons are alleging that Obama's supporters are cheating in Texas. Cue this rather remarkable exchange:

On a Clinton campaign conference call to discuss reports of Obama-inspired voting irregularities in Texas, the second question belonged to Bob Bauer.

"Repeat that?" asked an incredulous -- and bemused -- Howard Wolfson, Clinton's communications director.

Bob Bauer, Barack Obama's chief counsel.

"How is this any different than the series of complaints registered against every caucus that you lose?"

2.30: Huckabee cites the Alamo! Way to go boy!

2.33: Hillary wins Rhode Island. But, according to Fox, so far only with 53% of the vote. Reader JT made this unconventional prediction a couple of days ago:

As Rhode Island goes so goes the nation.

BO does not have to win it, but if he outperforms expectations it will be smoothe sailing.  If Clinton holds on to RI's Catholic working class, burgeoning Hispanic population, and suburban moms she'll have a good night. 

If BO cuts into those margins, and college students turn out heavily, it'll be a good night for him.  I think HRC needs to win 56%+ for a good night.  If BO has 46%+ he's the nominee.

2.39: Ryan Sidebottom has plastered his face with some sort of zinc sunscreen. This is ridiculous. He looks like a bleedin' mime artist. It's New Zealand, for crying out loud. No-one gets sunburnt there. How now on 92*.

2.44: WICKET! Monty strikes! And How is gone, poor fellow, for 92. A classic left-armer's dismissal. Pitched on off-stump and turned and took the outside edge. A pretty good catch for Collingwood at slip, low and to his left. A shame for How: he'd batted sensibly and solidly and deserved a century. Jacob Oram comes in to bat. He averages 39 in tests. 176/4 and another wicket will put England well on top.

2.53: The BBC's Justin Webb hasn't updated his election blog since 11.14pm GMT.  Just sayin'...

2.57: McCain speaking now. Correspondence from an old debating pal:

"McCain can go, in one speech, from soaring rhetoric to looking like an ornery and kooky old man.  He'll need debate coaching."

3.09: Still no returns from Cleveland or Cincinnati. Hillary's current 19 point lead in Ohio seems likely to shrink by quite a lot.  Texas still running pretty much even, but no results yet from Houston.

3.15: WICKET! Damn, missed it thanks to checking out returns from Texas and Ohio. Poor show. I've let you down readers. But Jason Oram is caught by Cook in the gully for 10. another fine catch, diving to his left. This time off the bowling of Matthew Hoggard. New Zealand 192/5. A good, attritional effort from England.

3.19: Betfair odds on Texas now running at more or less evens.

3.32: Drinks in Hamilton. Seems like a good time to pour myself a dram. An Aberlour if you're asking, though frankly a peaty, spine-stiffening Islay malt might be more appropriate given the night that it's in it. Still, we must make do with what we have. New Zealand 214/5 as we enter the last hour of play. Another wicket for England would give them the day's palm by some distance. Still, we all know how often England have let the opposition's tail wag in the past. But, as I say, the black Caps could do with another 200 runs. England have caught well - perhaps because no chances have flown to Kevin Pietersen or Monty Panesar. New ball due in six overs but given that Harmison says he doesn't want it, Hoggard (who's on at the moment) might have to bowl for the rest of the day.

3.38: Mike Crowley reminds us of the extent to which voters have tired of Iraq:

Just one in five Ohio voters called Iraq their "most important issue." (The economy was at 58 percent and health care at 19 percent.) Not what I would have predicted a year ago.  Obama won those voters 53-47.

3.40: Meanwhile, in Hamilton, of course England should take the new ball! No-brainer! One more wicket and the day is utterly yours. Jesus... Hoggard is just bowling gentle off-cutters at the moment. If you don't trust Harmison (and if you don't, why is he in the team?) then let Monty share the new ball and see if it will give him some extra bounce.

3.46: Harmison is just a pie-chucker today.

3.55: Best Texas results - ie, the official ones! - here. Weirdly, Clinton is running neck and neck with Obama in the early voting. But very few returns from Dallas or Houston yet.

3.57: Fox News calls Ohio for Clinton. CNN concurs. Rumours that at least one network thinks she'll take Texas 51-49 in the primary section of the contest.

4.01: Correspondence... a friend who has done some work for Hillary writes:

"Off the mat and back in the game! Rasputin lives again!"

4.06: Oh God, CNN has let that ugly buffoon Lou Dobbs into the studio. He may just be the most hateable man in America.

4.14: Blimey, Brendon McCullum likes to biff the ball doesn't he?

4.17: John Judis sees trouble ahead if Obama does end up winning the nomination (and despite tonight's results it's  still easier to see him getting it than Clinton). Can he win the Reagan Democrats?

Clinton bested Obama among moderate voters by 53 to 46 percent in Ohio, while Obama edged her among liberal voters by 50 to 49 percent. The same pattern occurred in Rhode Island, where Clinton won moderates by 55 to 44 percent and lost liberal voters to Obama by 51 to 48 percent. That's probably not a good sign for Obama, whose strength lay in his appeal to the political center. All in all, the exit polls show that in these elections--in contrast to those in Maryland, Virginia, or Wisconsin--Obama's weakness as a potential candidate in November may be beginning to surface. In so far as Clinton's problems are already apparent, that doesn't bode well for the Democrats, particularly as the nominating struggle continues for another month.

4.20: The media sure is crewy. Mr Black observes:

I should note, incidentally, that I'm at a small party with a gaggle of bloggers, and a New York Times reporter has just shown up to cover us covering the cable networks covering the returns. Which fact I've just covered. If I recall correctly from my skimming of Godel, Escher, Bach and religious viewing of Doctor Who, this will create a strange loop that rends the fabric of the universe asunder.

4.24: Clinton is speaking. The contrast between this speech and the one she gave after Wisconsin is striking. She's energised, bright-eyed, confident and looks as though she really believes she can still win this. She's the Floyd Landis of the campaign: one day she dies in the mountains, the next she takes a shot of something and storms away to victory, seemingly a different person.

4.30: WICKET! England's day for sure. An appalling shot from McCullum who, having breezed to 51 off 55 deliveries, throws his wicket away chasing a very wide ball from Sidebottom and gives Tim Ambrose his first catch in test cricket. Sure, McCullum like to throw the bat, but that was a shockingly irresponsible stroke given that there's just a handful of overs left in the day. Bone-headed batting. Now it's 281/6. McCullum and Taylor - who's reached his 50 - had put on 86 in just 19 overs.  Hoggard is now bowling the last over of the day.

So England's day. If the Kiwis only get to 350 they will have done poorly and England will fancy their chances. England have taken their catches today and Sidebottom and Panesar have bowled well, tying the Black Caps down and reducing their ability to express themselves. Still, they;ve been helped by some ill-disciplined batting. Cook's magnificent catch to dismiss Stephen Fleming was the most significant moment of the day. No-one would have faulted him had he dropped it, but he clung on and got rid of New Zealand's best batsman who had looked in fine nick. At the close it's 282/6 and, absurdly, I've been blogging for seven hours...

4.56: CNN is rather breathlessly "reporting" that there is "escalating hostility" between the Clinton and Obama campaigns. Verily, the world's best news network - and they prove it by having a two-wat between Blitzer and Larry King who, despite appearances to the contrary, is not yet dead... According to Wolf, "Larry's going to be, as he always is, part of the best political team on television." I kid you not...

5.02: Ezra Klein highlights yet more media idiocy:

Meanwhile, Andrea Mitchell suggests that Clinton "came back from the dead in Ohio." She was leading the whole time! WTF!?

5.04: On CNN, Carl Bernstein keeps plugging away on Hillary's still unreleased tax returns... Ha!

5.15: On to Pennsylvania! Mike Crowley has the best/funniest question on this.

5.19: Now a full six hours since Justin Webb updated his blog... Your licence fee at work.

5.30: Fox keeps teasing that they will call Texas. It would be nice if they did, then I could put us all out of this misery and go to bed. With 60% of the primary votes in Hillary has a 60,000 vote lead. But, Houston still seems slow in reporting...

5.33: Hillary, of course, wants to frame this as her version of Bill's triumphant result in New Hampshire in 1992. "This campaign is coming back and so is this country." She's the Comeback Gal!

5.44: Bleg... How does one hide most of this foolishness behind a "Continued beneath the fold" type of thing? On Typepad...

5.46: Fox calls the Texas primary for Clinton. Doesn't mean she actually, like, wins Texas in terms of delegates but it's still her night, however narrowly and no matter how the actual delegate count works out. She gains momentum even if she doesn't make any inroads in the delegate race. This was her Alamo: she's bought herself some time, but it remains to be seen whether that will be enough for her. She wins the headlines but mathematically she may be worse off than she was a fortnight ago: Ohio and Texas were supposed to draw her even or put her ahead in the delegate count. That doesn't look like it is going to happen now. So, a tough night for Obama in the media game but a better night - perhaps! - for him in the delegate tussle.

5.55: So that's that. This has been a ridiculous exercise.  The live-blogging of the cricket and the politics has been equally daft. Many, many thanks, however, to those of you who visited and played along with this farrago of nonsense. Time to go to bed. It's nearly 6am here and so on. England shade it in Hamilton, Hillary (so far) shades it in America. Tonight's winner? John McCain. Tonight's loser? Humanity, people, humanity.

6.00 postscript: Terry Teachout supplies an appropriate sign-off:

"All parties attempt to represent important things that have developed outside themselves as unimportant, and where they fail in this they assail those things all the more bitterly the more admirable they are."

Friedrich Nietzsche, Mixed Opinions and Maxims

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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