29 December 2007

Peaking at the right time?

One man is urbane, soft-spoken in personal conversation yet impassioned in front of a crowd. He is African-American - his father having been born in Kenya - and would likely come up slightly left-of-center on the U.S. political continuum.

The other man is a country-boy preacher from Arkansas who has ridden a winning persona and conservative social values to a 10-year stint in the Arkansas governor’s mansion and, now, into the driver’s seat in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

While quite different in background and ideology, Sen. Barack Obama, a Democrat, and Republican Mike Huckabee have one thing in common – they have each played an impressive game of catch-up in the race for their parties’ presidential nod.

They are also poised to pounce with primaries upon us.

Obama remains roughly 20 percentage points behind Sen. Hillary Clinton nationally. However, primaries are not national and the Illinois senator has made steady gains in the early-voting states, putting himself in position to win the important battle for early momentum.

In Iowa – the first state that will weigh in with its caucus on Jan. 3 – Clinton held a small but steady lead in October over both Obama and John Edwards. By mid-December, both challengers had caught up to Clinton. The latest poll, a Los Angeles Times-Bloomberg poll released on Dec. 28, shows the three in a statistical dead heat.

The same poll shows Obama - down by 19 points in September - has taken a small lead over Clinton in New Hampshire, 32 percent to 30 percent. New Hampshire holds the first primary on Jan. 8.

While Obama pretty much walks the Democratic Party line on most issues – he is pro-abortion, against the Bush tax cuts and for some form universal health care – he has distinguished himself on foreign policy. He boasts of his opposition to the war in Iraq from the beginning and has pledged to bring all U.S combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months, leaving behind only those guarding the U.S. embassy or involved in counterterrorism.

“If Al Qaeda in Iraq is reforming bases there, we should have the capacity to strike them,” Obama said recently in an hour-long interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But that would be it.”

On the stump, Obama has been critical of Clinton’s Iraq strategy, which calls for a redeployment of troops to guard Iraq’s borders and limit Iran’s influence on Iraq.

At the Jefferson-Jackson Democratic fundraising dinner in Des Moines in November, Obama told the crowd he’s “sick and tired of Democrats thinking that the only way to look tough on national security is by talking, acting and voting like George Bush Republicans.” Pundits have interpreted the comment as a swipe at Clinton and the Democratic Congress, which has failed in several attempts to tie troop withdrawal to funding for Iraq.

Obama has also said he would not hesitate to go into Pakistan to find the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden and, unlike Clinton, is in favor of opening a dialogue with Iran about its nuclear plans.

Obama has not made much use of the race card but has seen his support among black voters rise in some key races. The Jan. 26 primary in South Carolina is the first in which the black vote will have a major impact. A Rasmussen poll taken in early December showed Obama with a 51-percent to 27-percent lead among black voters in the state. Just a month earlier a Rasmussen poll showed the two candidates dead even among black voters. An ABC News-Washington Post poll in mid-December showed Clinton still carried a 12-point lead over Obama among blacks nationwide.

Unlike Obama’s steady rise, Mike Huckabee’s has been meteoric. In Iowa, he has stormed ahead of all comers, putting as much as eight points between himself and Mitt Romney in a mid-December CNN poll. About a month earlier, Huckabee had trailed Romney by 16 points in a Zogby Iowa poll. Hucakbee is well behind a resurgent John McCain and Romney in New Hampshire, but is even with Romney in Michigan - a state where Romeny’s father George was a popular governor in the 1960s. Huckabee has a solid lead in South Carolina, which votes Jan. 26.

Huckabee’s red-meat issues are those most dear to the evangelical Christian branch of the GOP. He is in favor of a constitutional amendment banning abortion, as well as one banning gay marriage.

“My faith is my life. It defines me,” Huckabee tells supporters in a recorded message on his campaign Web site. “I see no separation of my faith from my personal and professional lives.”

It’s that kind of stubborn devotion to faith that has made Huckabee the darling of many on the religious right, but has given others reason for concern. The former Baptist preacher has come under criticism for the unusually large number of clemencies he granted as governor of Arkansas, with critics attributing the actions to Huckabee’s ties to other preachers.

The former Arkansas governor has also been on the hot seat for a comment in a recent New York Times Magazine article in which he questioned whether Mormons believe Jesus Christ and Satan are brothers. Huckabee apologized publicly to Romney, a Mormon, saying: “I don’t think his being a Mormon or not being a Mormon has a thing to do about being president. I don’t think anybody ought to vote for or against anybody because of their faith.”

Fiscal conservatives are suspicious of Huckbee because of his expansion of health insurance for the children of Arkansas’ working poor and his support for a fuel-tax boost to pay for road repairs in the state.

Though the first votes will be cast in just a few days, both Obama and Huckabee could face last-minute challenges from unexpected twists.

If voters turn their focus to world events with the recent assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, Obama could lose some support. The same late-December Los Angeles Times-Bloomberg poll that showed Obama gaining in the early voting states also shows that Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire consider Clinton far more qualified than Obama on national security issues.

As for Huckabee, in addition to possible damage from stepped up scrutiny in recent weeks, an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll done in the final week of December shows his rising numbers may not be solid.

Four in 10 Iowa Republicans polled say they know too little about the candidate to offer an impression of him. The same number of GOP voters said they have changed their support at least once in the past month. Nearly two-thirds said they may change their minds again in Iowa, a state Huckabee is counting on to get him to South Carolina and then on to Tsunami Tuesday in the first week of February.

All polls referenced in this post, except thos linked directly to it, can be found at Real Clear Politics.

27 December 2007


When it comes to coverage of both the Democratic and Republican presidential races, FOX News is the fairest of the big networks. At least that is what one study has turned up.

Before I go any further, I must provide a bit of background here.

I work for News Corp.- the owner of FOX News.

I didn't work for News Corp. until about two weeks ago, when the fairly large newspaper company I work for was taken over by News Corp. Our flagship publication is the Wall Street Journal. You may have heard of it.

Like most of the journalists at Dow Jones, I was, and still am, a bit skeptical about this new ownership. After all, News Corp. publishes The New York Post and The Sun (London's raciest tabloid). It also, of course, broadcasts the FOX News Channel, itself the subject of some ridicule for its "fair and balanced" claims.

So you can imagine my surprise to read the results of a study by the Center For Media And Public Affairs, which shows FOX News has been the most balanced of the national TV outlets in recent coverage of the presidential campaign.

The study of the main nightly broadcasts of ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX showed that FOX's news stories about the Democrats were 51% favorable and 49% unfavorable. The numbers are reversed for the Republicans, and split 50-50 when the two are taken together.

Among the traditional broadcast networks, the coverage of the Democrats was 47% positive and 53% negative, while the coverage of the GOP candidates was 40% positive and 60% negative.

The press release for the study (which I have linked above) does not break out each broadcast network individually and the center's Web site says only that full results will be posted soon.

The study also showed, based on analysis of 481 election news stories from Oct. 1 to Dec. 15, that Bill Clinton's frequent assertions that the media are hardest on his wife may be correct. The numbers bear that out, at least among the Democrats.

Of the stories about Hillary Clinton, 42% were deemed positive by those completing the study, while 58% were negative. Coverage of her closest competitor, Barack Obama, was 61% positive and 39% negative.

John McCain had the least positive coverage of all candidates at 33%. Mike Huckabee fared best among the GOP at an even 50-50.

The results seemed to validate another of Bill Clinton's complaints as well - that the media is focused on the horse race and not the substance of the candidates' positions.

Campaign strategy and tactics far outweighed other aspects of coverage with all the candidates.

The Center For Media And Public Affairs is an academic endeavor at George Mason University, so presumably there is no ideology involved in the study. It is interesting, however, that the headline on the study press release reads: "Obama, Huckabee Fare Best; FOX Is Most Balanced (not a typo)"

21 December 2007


It's been nearly nine months since PrezPolitics went on a somewhat involuntary hiatus.

With too much going on I had to give up the blog or publish it at a quality level below my satisfaction.

So shut 'er down we did.

But things have calmed a bit and it's time to take another shot.

A lot has happened - obviously - since the last time we posted back in April.

Back then Hillary Clinton had a comfortable lead in all the polls and an air of invincibility. Today she finds herself in a dead heat with Barack Obama in polling in Iowa, the state that will weigh in first in the race with its caucus on Jan. 3. John Edwards is very much a factor in Iowa as well and could be poised to surprise.

Things have also tightened in New Hampshire, the second state slated to render a verdict on the presidential hopefuls with its primary on Jan. 8.

The Clinton campaign has been on the defensive for weeks now, with the first tests of the political season on the horizon.

Some things don't seem to change however. Dennis Kucinich is still polling in the single digits, as he spreads his left-wing gospel to a small group of fiercely loyal supporters.

For whatever reason, Bill Richardson's campaign never took off like I thought it might. Richardson has been a cabinet member, a congressman, a diplomat and a governor. He has a sensible, middle-of-the-road message. He is of Hispanic heritage, a factor you might think would help as that sector of the electorate continues to grow. But his poll numbers are not much better now than they were in the spring and he stands precious little chance of being around for Tsunami Tuesday at the beginning of February.

The same can be said for two veteran Democratic senators in the race, Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Joe Biden of Delaware. The two of them, along with Richardson, appear to be running for vice-president in reality.

On the Republican side, Ron Paul didn't even register on the political radar when we went on hiatus in April. Today, while still in the single digits in the polls, the Texas congressman is drawing crowds and raising record amounts of cash from small donors. He is the only anti-war Republican and he is riding that and his populist, libertarian appeal to heights no one expected of him.

When we last posted there was one Republican in the race named Thompson. Tommy. Now the Thompson in the race is Fred, the actor-turned-senator-turned-TV star-turned presidential candidate. Back in April he was playing it coy, waiting for the draft-Thompson movement to swell to the proper size before getting into the race. Today, after a quick burst as he entered the in September, he is looking like a tired, also-ran. How quickly they come and go.

Nearly every candidate on the GOP side has seen his fortunes rise or fall since the spring.

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas preacher-turned-governor, was polling at about 2 percent back then. He was mostly known as the candidate who once weighed over 300 pounds. Now, with strong poll numbers in Iowa and North Carolina, Huckabee is seen by many as the man to beat in the Republican race.

Rudy Giuliani has ridden his 9/11 fame throughout most of the year, but his appeal seems to be wearing thin at just the wrong time. He's invisible in Iowa and nearly so in New Hampsahire. His strategy was to write-off those small, early-voting states and go for the gold in the larger, more moderate states on Tsunami Tuesday. But recent national polls have shown Giuliani slipping and he is no longer seen as a clear front-runner.

John McCain, looking scorched around the edges back in April, is no longer toast. He's made a bit of a comeback in national polls and is looking strong in New Hampshire, the state that made him a very temporary front-runner back in 2000. A good showing there could keep him viable for the big payday on Feb. 5.

Mitt Romney seems to be the only GOP candidate whose fortunes haven't changed all that much since April. He's still in the mid-teens in national polls but putting up strong numbers in the early-voting states. His strategy of winning early and riding the momentum still seems to be intact.

So, that pretty much brings us up to date. Rather than report the tit-for-tat and play-by-play of each day on the trail, we hope to report and comment on the bigger events in the campaign.

Come back and watch it with us won't you?

09 April 2007


Well, we're back from San Francisco and getting slowly back into the day-to-day.

Financing was the biggest story on the campaign trail while we were gone.

Of course Hillary Clinton led the pack, or would that be PAC?

But there is some good news for those of us who abhor the current campaign financing system.

Barack Obama was nearly toe-to-toe with Clinton, and he did it with 100,000, mostly small, donations. John Edwards finished somewhat behind Obama and Clinton on the Democratic side, but he too raised an impressive $14 million or so in the quarter, and most came from donations from the Average Joe.

Also surprising, the top Democrats raised more than one-and-one-half as much as the top Republicans. And John McCain's totals were dwarfed by contributions to the Mitt Romney campaign, which topped even Rudy Giuliani's totals.

The blog Uncle Sam Wants You has a great rundown of the totals and what they say about the campaign so far.


In keeping with their strong fundraising performance, the two third-place candidates - Edwards for the Democrats and Romney for the GOP - are showing strength in recent polls as well.

Take a recent Zoby Poll of New Hampshire, released last Wednesday.

In that poll Romney surged to a first-place tie with John McCain at 25%, while Rudy Giuliani came in third at 19%. One month earlier Romney had been at 13% in Zogby's New Hampshire poll.

Edwards made a similarly impressive jump in the latest Zogby New Hampshire poll, bounding 10 percentage points from a month ago to 23%. That was good enough for a second place tie with Barack Obama and puts Edwards only 6 points behind Clinton in the early-primary state. Couple this result with Edwards' neck-and-neck showing with Clinton in various recent Iowa polls and he could pull off two big wins right at the get-go.

A recent Diageo Hotline Poll showed Edwards' favorability rating jumped to 54% at the end of March from 38% at the end of February.


One other key polling note. On the GOP side of things, Rudy Giuliani has taken a one point lead (essentially a tie) over John McCain in South Carolina in the latest Fox News poll. McCain has recruited and campaigned heavily in South Carolina and the results (Giuliani 26%, McCain 25%, Romney 14%) provide further evidence that McCain's campaign is on the rocks.

One other note of interest, for me at least. New York has voted to move up it's primary to Feb. 5. So, for the first time since I cast my very first presidential primary vote for Mo Udall in the Ohio primary in 1976, my primary vote may count for something.

These are certainly not all the key developments in the race while we were away, just the ones that caught my eye.

30 March 2007


We're on vacation!!

Heading off to San Francisco. Won't be anywhere near a computer until the Monday after Easter.

For those of you who check in every day, thanks for that!; and we hope you'll be checking in again when we get back.

26 March 2007


As we said in our earlier post, John Edwards and Fred Thompson are the stars of today's presidential polls.

But there's a curious wrinkle at the top of recent the GOP polls that has been little noticed but is quite newsworthy. (Or as newsworthy as any poll can be a year out).

John McCain is regaining some ground on Rudy Giuliani.

In particular, McCain is doing well in the races that matter, the individual state races.

American Research Group has put out seven state polls this month. In five of the seven (Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Arkansas), McCain leads Giuliani. The two are tied at 29% in Iowa and Giuliani is ahead in Texas.

(McCain and Giuliani are top-two in all of these polls except in Arkansas, where home-stater Mike Huckabee has a big lead.)

Throw in a victory for Giuliani in his home state of New York, in a Siena Poll released today, and McCain still wins the lion's share of states in this recent spate of polling.

The American Research Group's most-recent national poll, released March 8, shows Giuliani leading McCain by just four points, 34% to 30%. In today's USA Today Gallup poll, Giuliani's lead over McCain is down to 9 points. Just three weeks ago he had a 22 point lead.

We'll check on the weekly Rasmussen Reports Republican Poll tomorrow to see if it further supports the notion that McCain is experiencing a rebound.

Perhaps McCain's "Straight Talk Express" is really a magic bus (apologies to The Who and their fans).

Democrat John Edwards and Republican Fred Thompson make the biggest splash in presidential polls released today.

Edwards jumped five points in the latest USA Today/Gallup poll and six points in the weekly Rasmussen Reports Democratic poll, both released today.

Edwards is still fourth among Democrats in the USA Today/Gallup poll, but he is up to 14% from 9% three weeks ago. He trails Hillary Clinton (35%), Barack Obama (22%) and Al Gore (17%).

The poll was conducted Friday to Sunday, just after Edwards' wife Elizabeth announced that she had had a recurrence of cancer.

Given the fact that two out of three of those polled back Edwards' decision to stay in the race (though nearly 40% think he'll eventually have to pull out), the temptation is to consider this a sympathy jump or a reflection of admiration of the Edwardses for their courage.

However, today's Rasmussen Reports poll shows Edwards with a six point jump from the prior week, and the Rasmussen poll was conducted from Monday through Thursday of last week. That means the poll was nearly complete when the Edwardses went public with the cancer news.

It's Obama who took a bit of hit in this poll, dropping five points from last week, and putting him right where he was two weeks ago.

The latest poll shows Clinton in the lead at 37%, Obama at 25% and Edwards at 17%. One week ago Clinton was at 35%, Obama 30% and Edwards 11%


Actor-turned-senator-turned actor Fred Thompson, who plays District Attorney Arthur Branch on NBC's Law and Order, has not said he's running yet, and in fact he is only in the being-urged-by-freinds-to-do-so stage. But Thompson's been showing up big-time in his first round of polls.

In today's USA Today/Gallup poll he debuts at 12%. That's third behind Rudy Giuliani (31%) and John McCain (22%). Newt Gingrich is fourth at 8%

The Thompson Factor seems to be hurting Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Giuliani dropped to 31% from 44% three weeks ago, while Romney dropped to just 3%, from 8% in the previous USA Today/Gallup poll.

We'll find out tomorrow where Thompson places in the weekly Rasmussen Reports Republican poll, but Rasmussen paired him late last week against the top two Democrats in the race, with mixed results.

In a poll released Friday, Thompson essentially tied Clinton in a one-on-one matchup, scoring 43% to Clinton's 44%. Obama topped Thompson one-on-one, 49% to 37%.

In four individual state polls released last week by American Research Group, Thompson is in the low double digits in three of the states (Texas, Iowa and New Hampshire) and finished at 5% in Arkansas, a poll which saw the state's former Gov. Mike Huckabee get a 40% score.

These are somewhat startling numbers for someone who has not announced and just a couple of weeks ago started making noise about giving it a go. They seem to indicate that GOP voters are still wide open to anyone they think they can rally behind.

24 March 2007


It's been a couple of days now since John and Elizabeth Edwards announced the recurrence of Elizabeth's cancer and I've waited a while to express an opinion on their decision to continue the presidential campaign so I could do so with a mind clear of the emotion of Thursday's press conference.

A story in today's New York Times sums up the wide-ranging public reaction to the Edwardses decision to continue the quest for the White House.
In the article the couple are praised for their graciousness, toughness and commitment to their goals. Others say the Edwardses are showing themselves to be slaves to ambition or unrealistic about the challenges that lie ahead.

The article also examines the effects these attitudes may have on John Edwards' chances of winning the Democratic nomination.

The bottom line, it seems to me, is this; The Edwardses are grownups who have been through the ringer before, with the death of their son in a car crash, and the initial diagnosis of Elizabeth's breast cancer coming in the waning days of a vice- presidential race that ended in bitter defeat.

So let's assume the Edwardses can decide for themselves what's best for them, and that their decision to continue was made because they both feel it is how they want to deal with their latest challenge.
It's not for the rest of us to decide what they should or should not do. Or what their decision says about them as people or what's in their heart.
But we, as voters, do have a decision to make that is rightly ours.
I have to say I like Edwards the candidate very much and from his public persona he seems like the type of person we could use as a leader. To be honest, he's in my top three of the 20 or so people running at this early stage.

But as a voter I have to consider the consequences of putting a man in the White House who might have to face the suffering and eventual death of his wife while trying to tend to the business of the nation at a very precarious time in history. In addition, he would be doing so while tending to the emotional needs of two still-young children who would be grieving as well.

There is plenty of time between now and the primaries. In the interim, the Edwardses may find that the task is too tall. Or they may prove to themselves and the rest of us that they are clearly up to the battle.
For now, I'm still very open to being convinced.

23 March 2007


The critics of her 2002 vote on Iraq continue to greet Hillary Clinton at every campaign stop and that continues to gnaw at Clinton's husband.

Former President Bill Clinton is befuddled and somewhat frosted his wife is being villified by the anti-war left for her vote to authorize President Bush to use force in Iraq while two other polticians are being feted by the left-wing blogosphere as anti-war champions.

Clinton, in a conference call with donors last night, reiterated a complaint he made in a more private setting earlier this week, that Clinton's current stance on the war isn't much different than that of Barack Obama.

As quoted in The Hill today, Clinton said:

"I don't have a problem with anything Barack Obama [has] said on this," but "to characterize Hillary and Obama's positions on the war as polar opposites is ludicrous."This dichotomy that's been set up to allow him to become the raging hero of the anti-war crowd on the Internet is just factually inaccurate." --Bill Clinton as quoted in The Hill

To be fair, Obama, in his public statements since 2002, has been steadfast in his opposition to the war. But his voting record in the Senate has been a little less radically anti-war.

This week the Illinois senator introduced a measure to begin troop withdrawals in May, with complete withdrawal set for next March. But he voted against a pullout in 2006. In explaining his change of position, Obama, quoted in The Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald, said things have changed since 2006.

"Obama (said) the 2006 bill came on the heels of popular elections in Iraq that created a new government and that he wanted to send that government a message of U.S. support. 'The Iraqi government has not used that time (since the 2006 legislation was defeated) to try to bring the parties together, but has used it to dig in to their sectarian agendas,' Obama said." -The Portsmouth Herald

Clinton, meanwhile, has in recent weeks said she'd bring the troops home in 2009 if they're not home before she would be in the White House, but also said some troops would remain in Iraq if she is in charge.

Bill Clinton also wondered aloud in last night's conference call why Republican Chuck Hagel, another possible presidential candidate, is being hailed as a hero of the anti-war left, when his justification for his vote in favor of war in 2002 is the same as Hillary Clinton's. To make his point, Clinton recalled a recent article featuring Hagel in GQ magazine.

GQ: Do you wish you’d voted differently in October of 2002, when Congress had a chance to authorize or not authorize the invasion?

Hagel: Have you read that resolution?

GQ: I have.

Hagel: It’s not quite the way it's been framed by a lot of people, as a resolution to go to war. That's not quite what the resolution said.
GQ: It said, “to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq.”

Hagel: In the event that all other options failed. So it’s not as simple as “I voted for the war.” That wasn’t the resolution.

So, in his point about Hagal, former president Clinton may be on slightly firmer ground. The left's embrace of the ultra-conservative Hagel based on his anti-war stance is a bit like the right winger saying to Rudy Giulani's three marriages are fine with them and he can lock up their guns if he wants to as long as he can win an election and keep them damned terrorists from "fighting us over here."


Democracy For America today released results of a poll of its members and the results spotlight Clinton's trouble with the left.

  • Barack Obama 28.1%
  • John Edwards 24.6%
  • Other 12.4%
  • Dennis Kucinich 10.3%
  • Hillary Clinton 8.7%
  • Bill Richardson 7.6%
  • Undecided 4.9%
  • Joseph Biden 1.9%
  • Christopher Dodd 0.5%
  • Mike Gravel 0.3%

Note that Clinton, who leads most of the statewide polls and all of the national polls conducted by the professional pollsters, comes in behind "other" and Dennis Kucinich in the DFA poll.

On the other hand, Clinton got good news today from one of the few states where she's not ahead in most polls - Iowa, which has belonged to John Edwards so far.

Former Democratic presidential candidate and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack is expected to announce on Monday that he is backing Clinton, which should be a major jolt for her campaing in the state because of the local knowledge and goodwill he and his backers can bring to the Clinton campaign effort there.

22 March 2007


I'm not sure this is even worth mentioning, because very little was said.

But since we've been waiting for several days now for any of the Republican candidates to weigh in on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the prosecutor firings I guess we should pass this along.

Giuliani, the only former U.S. attorney in the presidential race, said today we shouldn't presume anything about Gonzales' actions in the matter until he goes to Capitol Hill to say what happened.

"I think that’s what these inquiries are going to be about, right? To determine that,, he said," at a news conference in Chevy Chase, Md. "And I think we should have an open mind about it, and not, you know, not come out of it - come at it with a kind of partisan spirit, whether you're a Democrat wanting to find something wrong or whether you're a Republican wanting to justify. The Attorney General's going to have to explain, and I’m more than willing to listen to his explanation.” --Rudy Giuliani as quoted by New York Times blog The Caucus.

That's 79 words for Giuliani to say pretty much nothing, which, I'm going to presume, is not a world record for a politican.

Giuliani made his comments while in Maryland to receive the endorsement of the state's former governor, Bob Ehrlich.

For once I have to say I agree with Newt Gingrich.

The political process in this country is broken and it needs fixing.

"It is very clear that our current political system is utterly and totally incapable of serious conversation.

To support his assertion. Gingrich points to the Clinton 1984 ad that lit up You Tube in recent days as an example of political discourse gone wrong.

I've steared clear of posting about the ad until now because everyone else has beaten it to death and because I'm hoping to avoid talking about these online ads unless they either say something rather than smear someone, or they become so big I can't ignore them.

Anyway, back to Gingrich.

He says the ad is "utterly, totally destructive of the process of thought," and "there is not a single thing in that commercial that enables America to solve a problem."

Gingrich calls the ad and others like it "The Entertainment Tonight version of governing a great country and it's really very dangerous"

The former House Speaker challenged all of the current candidates for president to pledge - should they win the nominatiuon of their party - to commit to a 90-minute "dialogue" with their opponent once a week, every week, from Labor Day '08 through the general election two months later.

Gingrich proposed there be no moderator "no Mickey Mouse questions" and "no gimmicks" just discussion about the future of the country.

Gingrich's call for a return to real poltical debate comes shortly after call by fellow Republican John McCain to keep personal lives out of the campaign.

While I strongly agree with both Gingrich and McCain, I must say I wonder about motivation.

Gingrich hasn't declared his candidacy yet, but he is seen more and more likely to do so as the ultra-conservative wing of the GOP continues to wander in the dark looking for someone to support.

Gingrich, who's picture was only recently replaced by that of Karl Rove in the dictionary under the listing "dirty politics," was among the most divisive figures of the political wars of the 1990s.

Now that he may run, he's seeking a truce. And one wonders whether it is because his personal life has been less than exemplary.

Whatever the motive, I'm all for the plan. But I don't think we'll see a return to the Lincoln-Douglas days any time soon.

For additional reading:

"2008 Campaign Will Test Privacy of Candidates’ Personal Lives" - Steven Thomma, McClatchey Newspapers

"Obama Vows Not To Raise Rival Candidates' Personal Issues" - CNN Political Ticker

"Don't be Cruel; Divining the New Moral Code" -- New York Times

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth confirmed today that Elizabeth has had a recurrence of cancer, but both said the campaign will continue.

Elizabeth Edwards said the breast cancer, which she made public just after Edwards lost his VP bid in 2004, has re-emerged in a different form. Tests this week have determined that she has cancer in the bone of one of her ribs.

Candidate Edwards said despite the diagnosis, "the campaign goes on. The campaign goes on strongly." He said there will be no change in plans.

The couple said the decision to continue was made only after word from their doctor that the disease and subsequent treatment should not be something that should be debilitating enough to keep either of them of the campaign trail.

John Edwards said he decided to continue the campaign only after he was assured that would be the case and said he will be where his wife needs during her new bout with cancer.

"Any time any place that I need to be with Elizabeth I will be there," Edwards said during a press conference held by he and his wife in Chapel Hill, N.C.

"We are very optimistic about this (the diagnosis)...the key is to keep your head up, keep moving and be strong," he said.

Elizabeth Edwards said she has no intention of allowing the recurrence of cancer to slow her down.

"I expect to do next week all of the things I did last week," she said. I'm as ready for this as any person can be."

The Edwards said they plan to do much of the campaign travel together.

20 March 2007


The Clinton and Obama campaigns have butted heads three times in recent weeks, twice resulting in some rather nasty confrontations.

In the first two instances Clinton's camp was trying to protect something Obama was threatening to take away. In the third - last night at Harvard University - the Clinton team was trying to mitigate Obama's advantage on what may be the key issue of the campaign.

The first confrontation came weeks ago. The Clintons were frosted when Hollywood producer David Geffen - a long-time Bill Clinton supporter until a tiff a few years back - put his support ($$) behind Obama and held a lavish fundraiser for him in La - La land. The Clinton reaction was an attempt to put the Hollywood set on notice that further defections would not be tolerated.

Then came the march on Selma. It was supposed to be a Barack Obama moment, comemorating the famous 1960's civil rights march. In this case the prize - African American support - was even bigger than the campaign dollars thrown around in Tinseltown. Once Clinton got wind of Obama's plans to appear, she hurriedly booked her own place on the Selma program and reserved a spot for her husband, the former president, as well. It was an effort to keep to a minimum the damage Obama could do to Clinton's strong support among black voters.

Which brings us to the latest confrontation, over Iraq.

Clinton would clearly love a clean, consistent record opposing the war in Iraq. But, short of that, she wouldn't mind muddying-up Obama's record a little.

The effort started last week when Bill Clinton, at a fund-raising dinner in New York, seemed to be questioning whether Obama has been consistent in his opposition to the war.

The New York Post's (in)famous Page Six gossip column reported on a conversation New York radio personality Curtis Sliwa said he had that evening with the former president about what Clinton felt was a free pass being given to Obama by the New York Times.

Clinton focused on the fact that three years ago - shortly after Barack Obama burst onto the world stage with his speech at the Democratic National Convention where John Kerry was nominated- Obama was asked how he would have voted on the Iraq war if he'd been in Congress at that time. "And Obama said, 'Im not sure,' " Sliwa recalled (Clinton saying). "Clinton said the Times has a duty to report on Obama's initial ambivalence." -- Curtis Sliwa quoted by the New York Post

The Obama camp struck back the next day, saying his opposition to the war has been unwavering.

Which brings us to last night in Cambridge, Mass., where a shouting match between senior advisors from the two campaigns startled students, faculty members and reporters attending a forum at Harvard.

Here's a bit of the back-and-forth between Clinton's senior strategist Mark Penn and Obama advisor David Axelrod as reported by the New York Times blog The Caucus:

PENN:"Hey, people can say, 'I wasn't in the Senate, here is what I would have done,' or 'Hey, I left the Senate, let me tell you what I would have done now.' Senator Clinton has taken responsibility for her vote."

AXELROD: "I agree with you that the future is what's important. I did not sit here and comment on Senator Clinton's decision in 2002. You found it necessary to draw Senator Obama into the discussion. This goes back to the discussion we had before: Are we going to spend 10 months savaging each other? Or are we going to try to lift this country up?"

The Obama camp - perhaps coincidentally - today released a video time line of sorts, backing the senator's claims that his opposition to the war has been steadfast.

But the Boston Globe reported today there is some evidence that Obama's positioning on the war has been a bit nuanced over the years.

"Campaigning for the Illinois Senate seat in 2003 and 2004, Obama scolded Bush for invading Iraq and vowed he would 'unequivocally' vote against an additional $87 billion to pay for it. Yet since taking office in January 2005, he has voted for four separate war appropriations, totaling more than $300 billion.

Last June, Obama voted no to Senator John F. Kerry's proposal to remove most combat troops from Iraq by July 2007, warning that an 'arbitrary deadline' could 'compound' the Bush administration's mistake. And last week, he voted for a Republican-sponsored resolution that stated the Senate would not cut off funding for troops in Iraq." -Boston Globe
Whatever your take on all this, Obama has been gaining steadily in the polls. The latest example is yesterday's Rasmussen Reports poll which shows the Illinois senator just five points behind Clinton, 35% to 30%. A week ago in the same poll he was behind by 12. Clinton lost three points while Obama gained 4.

19 March 2007


Once again, it's hard to see where John McCain is going with this one.

McCain has turned down an invitation to speak to the Club for Growth, a group of fiscal conservative heavyweights who also control lots of Republican campaign dollars.

McCain is skipping the group's annual conference at the end of the month and also slammed the organization, saying it may be responsible for the GOP's minority status in the Senate,

In a clip on Pat Robertson's CBNnews.com McCain said the Club for Growth's opposition in all liklihood cost former liberal Republican Lincoln Chafee his seat in the Senate, throwing control of the body over to the Democrats.

So last month McCain blew off the social conservatives at the CPAC conference and this month it's the fiscal conservatives at the Club for Growth. Curious moves for the candidate seen as the GOP establishment favorite who still has some work to do on his relations with the far-right.

However, I will say this. We're finally hearing some straight talk from the Straight Talk Express.

17 March 2007


"So what if it's risky? It's the right thing to do."

What did he say?

"So what if it's risky? It's the right thing to do."

That's what I thought he said.

But how can this be?
Isn't Bill Richardson a presidential candidate?
Doesn't it make sense for him to take the politically safest stance on any and all issues.

For once, I'm happy to say, that's not the way this politician made his decision.

Earlier this week Richardson, New Mexico's governor and a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, talked with enthusiasm about his expected signing into law a bill that permits the use of marijuana for medicinal (pain-killing) purposes.

Richardson did so even though he knows his decision might work against him in his bid for the presidency.

"This is for medicinal purpose, for ... people that are suffering. My God, let's be reasonable," Richardson told the Associated Press.

Richardson has little to gain politically by signing the bill, and probably - quite honestly - not that much to lose in the Demcratic primary contests. But his decision could came back to bite him should he ever find himself as the Democratic candidate in the general election.

But Richardson put politics aside to do what he thought was right.
A rare occurrence in politics and, for that reason, worth a mention.

I still am baffled as to why this guy is not getting more attention from Democrats.
He offers experience as a governor, a member of Congress and an ambassador and global trouble-shooter.
He could help his party make gains with the fast-growing Hispanic population and in an area of the country - the West - where the Democrats need to improve their lot if they are going to pick up the electoral votes they need to take back the White House.

He's not pretty. He's not especially eloquent. He doesn't have boatloads of money and notoriety. But he may just have the attributes the Democrats need and he deserves the chance to prove it.

In an effort to kick-start his sputtering presidential campaign, John McCain revved up the old Straight Talk Express this week - resurrecting the name of the campaign bus which became synonomous with his free-wheeling style in the 2000 GOP primary campaign.

This time around though, the road has been a little bumpy for McCain and something seems to be missing.

A couple of recent campaign anecdotes illustrate this point.

On Friday, McCain used the term "tar baby" when trying to express the thought that the federal government should not get involved in matters of child custody because it risks creating problems rather than solving them.

Without getting into the whole literary derivation of the term, McCain probably could have used the term "can of worms" instead, and avoided the other - racially tinged - meaning of the "tar baby" phrase.

Then there was this little tongue-slip by the senator at another stop in Iowa this week.

``The reason Republicans lost the war -- sorry, the last election -- was because of spending,'' he said.

While both missteps were small matters, they seem to be indicative of a candidate who - after being seen as the GOP's 2008 frontrunner for years now - is on edge, playing it safe and just hoping to get through the campaign without any major gaffes.

An incident on the campaign bus yesterday is probably a still-better example of a candidate - unlike the 2000 McCain - who is too beholden to handlers and strategists. Too afraid to say the wrong thing as he tries to be all things to all Republicans, particularly those of the religious-fanatic variety.

As reported on the New York Times political blog The Caucus, McCain was literally tongue-tied when asked a question about the distribtion of U.S. taxpayer-purchased condoms to help stop the spread of AIDS in Africa.

What followed was a long series of awkward pauses, glances up to the ceiling and the image of one of Mr. McCain's aides, standing off to the back, urgently motioning his press secretary to come to Mr. McCain's side.

The upshot was that Mr. McCain said he did not know this subject well, did not know his position on it, and relied on the advice of Senator Tom Coburn, a physician and Republican from Oklahoma.--The Caucus (emphasis mine)

While McCain fired up the Straight Talk Express to try to recreate the spark his candidacy had last time around, it looks like just another gimmick by the "establishment candidate" this time. Just another image-guy's idea to bring some life back to a stagnant campaign.

The problem facing McCain is not new. John Kerry was "handled" to death. The 2000 model of Al Gore suffered the same fate. And, to a great degree, Hillary Clinton is facing the same problem - as she continues to suffer from the perception that she is too stiff and too contrived.

McCain seems to be trying to play prevent defense in an effort to hold on to a lead he has already surrendered to Rudy Giuliani.

The resurrection of the Straight Talk Express indicates McCain realizes he's no longer winning the race. Now if he could just shed his self-imposed shackles and hit us with some actual straight talk, he might be able to turn his bus around.

14 March 2007


The prosecutor-firing furor, which hit a crescendo yesterday, remains on center stage today - where it belongs.

So not much else got noticed yesterday.

One thing that went ignored was an announcment by the John Edwards campaign that it is going carbon neutral.

Edwards is the only active candidate to take his campaign in that direction, although Tom Vilsack had announced a similar plan before he dropped from the race a few weeks ago.

What exactly is the Edwards campaign doing to meet its claim of being carbon neutral?

  • Using timers and motion detectors to control lights and shut down office equipment when not in use and turning off computers, televisions, and lights when not in use.

  • Online monitoring and management of heating and air conditioning to conserve energy.

  • Buying 100% post-consumer recycled paper and other recycled paper products.

  • Recycling paper, plastic, glass, cardboard, and other products.

  • Encouraging staff to adopt energy efficient practices in their office and homes. (About a quarter of John Edwards for President headquarters employees walk to work, according to a campaign press release).

  • After conserving energy, the campaign will purchase carbon offsets to make it carbon neutral
Edwards' has been in the lead on a few issues lately.

He was the first to pull out of the now-canceled Nevada debate which was to have been carried by FOX News, which is notoriously unfriendly toward Democrats.

Edwards was also the first of the 2008 presidential candidates to call for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign over the DA controversey.

And, he is the only candidate talking about poverty.
Edwards was the first Democrat to formally announce his candidacy, but his numbers had been slipping in the weeks following the official entry of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton into the race, as the media focused almost exclusively on that duo.

Edwards is still firmly in third place in the polls, but after slipping to the low teens - and even single digits in some case - three recent polls show him in back in the mid-teen range. He's at 16% in the latest New Hampshire and Nevada polls, and 15% in this weeks Rasmussen Reports poll.

Edwards' gains are likely the result of the post-announcement hoopla wearing off - at least a little - for Obama and Clinton.

Whether Edwards can boost himself close to even with one or both is something to watch over the next several weeks.

13 March 2007


(Updated Wednesday morning to include Clinton's call for resignation)

There's no shortage of places to turn if you want an update on the latest in the district attorney firing scandal.

The latest news today is that the White House was deeply involved in the affair and that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the firings were mishandled but not unjustified.

But, given the focus of this blog we'll look only at the reaction of the 2008 presidential candidates.

Democrat John Edwards was the first candidate to call on Gonzales to resign his post.

"Today's news is only the latest and most disturbing sign of the politicization of justice under President Bush. From the abuse of investigative authority under the Patriot Act to the unconstitutional imprisonment of the Guantanamo Bay detainees and illegal torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Bagram Air Force Base, this president has consistently shown contempt for the rule of law.

"Attorney General Alberto Gonzales betrayed his public trust by playing politics when his job is to enforce and uphold the law. By violating that trust, he's done a great disservice to his office. If White House officials ordered this purge, he should have refused them. If they insisted, he should have resigned in protest. Attorney General Gonzales should certainly resign now."

Hillary Clinton joined Edwards in calling for Gonzales' resignation on ABC's Good Morning America this morning.

"The buck should stop somewhere," Clinton said in an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" which was broadcast Wednesday morning. She added that Bush "needs to be very forthcoming -- what did he say, what did he know, what did he do?" and that high-level White House adviser Karl Rove also "owes the Congress and the country an explanation" for his role in the affair.

Barack Obama aimed his criticism at both Gonzales and the White House.

"I opposed Mr. Gonzalez's nomination, in part, because he had shown in his role as White House Counsel a penchant for subverting justice to serve the President's political goals, and I feared that in an Attorney General. Sadly, the latest revelations underscore my concern. Americans deserve to know who in the White House is pulling the strings at the Department of Justice, and why. Anyone involved should appear under oath and answer these questions."

We've not come across any comments from any of the GOP candidates. It would be especially enlightening to know what Rudy Giuliani, the GOP frontrunner and a former DA himself, thinks about the firings.

As for my own thoughts, I have to say I just can't stomach the "mistakes were made" nonsense any longer.

Gonzales says he accepts the responsibility for the mess, but what does that mean? So far it means one of his underlings has been shown the door.

Justice Department officials told lawmakers under oath that the firing scheme was hatched and executed entirely by the Justice Department. Today we learned of the White House's involvement.

Which led to my favorite comment of the day by Gonzales:

"Obviously I am concerned about the fact that information - incomplete information - was communicated or may have been communicated to the Congress."

Incomplete information? Or outright lies?

12 March 2007


Last week was a mixed bag for Rudy Giuliani, the frontrunner in the GOP presidential race.

He started the week riding the high of recent polls that showed him putting more and more daylight between himself and John McCain. He was the cover boy on several national magazines and, in the case of Newsweek, was pretty much the entire magazine.

But as the week unfolded Giuliani's good ink began to run a little.

About midweek, the rightosphere - at least the ones who don't think Giuliani is far-right enough to be the right nominee for the GOP - began circulating on You Tube a collection of old clips of Giuliani saying all the wrong things.

For good measure they threw in this oldie (from 1989) about abortion funding for poor women. (That would be the first president Bush he's talking about in the clip).

On the Bill Maher show Friday night, the left-wing talk host and his panel discussed Giuliani's chances in the GOP race despite his problems with social conservatives. And, Maher just happened to have a few pictures of Giuliani in drag to emphasize the point.

Earlier Friday, a national firefighters' union, in a letter that actually was never sent but made it into the press anyway, blasted Giuliani for showing a “disgraceful lack of respect" for firefighters killed on 9/11. The International Association of Firefighters charged, in a letter that never actually made it to union members, that Giuliani sharply cut the number of firefighters allowed to search at Ground Zero when the remains of more than 200 firefighters had yet to be found.

Later in the day a number of reporters received an e-mail from a group called "Firefighters for Rudy." The e-mail contained a letter from a firefighter praising Giuliani, saying the former New York City mayor has been "a steadfast and unrelenting supporter of firefighters and first responders."
In a piece on Talking Points Memo over the weekend, Greg Sargent found that the executive director of Firefighters for Rudy is a Giuliani campaign aide and that the phone number for the group rings in the Giuliani press office.

Still, the Giuliani camp begins the new week on a high note. A new poll shows him well out in from of McCain in Nevada, which is among the earliest states to weigh in. Giuliani is ahead of all Democratic opponents in that poll as well.

In addition, Giuliani today picked up his first endorsement in the Senate, from southern conservative David Vitter of Louisianna who says he's willing to overlook his differences with Giuliani on certain issues because he doesn't think Giuliani will push a liberal social agenda as president.

09 March 2007


Suppose you were considering a presidential candidate who was long on experience on the state, national and international level. Seemed like someone who thinks like you do. Somebody you might even be happy to vote for.

And then you read this about them:

"(So and so's) 2008 presidential campaign has been burdened by unusually public discussion about his behavior with women. (A female public official with a similarly high post in the government) was quoted in (a local newspaper) saying she avoids standing or sitting near (the above candidate) because of his physical manner, which she said was not improper but was 'annoying.' '(He) pinches my neck. He touches my hip, my thigh, sort of the side of my leg.'"

And then you read this:

"The willingness of (this candidate) and top aides to speak directly about speculation over his relations with women is itself an indication of how much the issue may be shaping public perceptions of his presidential prospects."

All of a sudden you are not at all sure about voting for this guy. The obvious impression - another womanizer.

Now suppose you read another story about the same candidate that started out like this:

" (So and so) likes to touch people. He hugs, pokes, jabs and tickles. If he sees a man with a bald pate, he rubs it. Looking to start a conversation, he might lean forward and head-butt someone --male or female. Bored on an airplane flight? He'll lick his finger and smudge an aide's glasses. (So and So) says he's just joking and teasing to ease tension and boredom. (The aforementioned female co-worker) says she finds the practice irritating. She said she tries to avoid sitting or standing next to (him) at public events. She said (his) personality is 'one of charisma, joking, joshing,' but also used some other words to describe his hands-on approach. 'I think it's irritating and annoying.' (she) said in a recent interview. 'I try not to put myself in that situation, trying not to stand or sit next to him.' Others who work with (him) say it doesn't bother them. "

Having read that you can see where the guy might be a little insufferable to be around all day. But a womanizer?

The first two passages were from a recent article on the political Web site Politico. The third was lifted from a story last December in the Albuquerque Journal which formed the basis for the Politico article. Both articles were about New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson - a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The thrust of Politico's story is that "speculation over his relations with women" is keeping Richardson out of the top tier of candidates, despite being "an exceptionally well-credentialed politician."

Politico has been around for only a couple of months, but it is staffed by seasoned journalists. So I'm not at all ready to allege any sort of deliberate bias. In fact the reporter in this case, Ben Smith, did make all the traditional journalistic attempts to "balance" the story.

But, the way the story is presented, the lasting impression it leaves is; Bill Richardson - letch.

And yesterday it gave the rightosphere ammunition to do some Richardson bashing. ("He's such a perv even his own lieutenant governor stays as far away as possible.")

Politico is already on the radar screen of
MediaMatters.org, which charges that twice before Politico has published misleading stories that have sent the right-wing spin machine into overdrive.

From what I read yesterday, that count is now at three.