28 February 2007


Comes from John McCain in a pre-taping of tonight's David Letterman show.

McCain said the formal announcement will come in April

Last night I did a post on the ABC/Washington Post poll showing Barack Obama making major headway against Hillary Clinton among African Americans.

Just before turning in for the night, I came across this CNN.com headline:

"Obama Getting Cool Reception From Black America"

A direct contradiction to the story I had just written.

Since it was late I decided to live with my Wash. Post posting and do something on the discrepancy today, which is what I set out to do a few minutes ago.

But, on closer review, I noticed the CNN story in question - though posted last night - is based on a survey done Dec. 5 through Dec. 7.

On Dec. 7, the NFL's regular season was still going, I had not yet even put up my Christmas tree and I was still hopeful that this would finally be the year when I would be able to leave my snow shovel in the garage all winter long.

What on earth possessed CNN to write a story on Feb. 27 based an a survey that was nearly three months old? Your guess is as good as mine.



Before we leave the subject of polling (finally) for today, I just thought I'd point out a somewhat loaded poll being run by The Nation on its Web site.

It's no secret that Hillary Clinton is not well loved by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, so The Nation's poll is more fun than in any way useful.

Here's the can't-win question and answers Hillary faces in that poll.

What's Hillary Clinton's greatest weakness as a presidential candidate?

  • Her refusal to apologize for her vote to authorize the Iraq invasion
  • Her association with the anti-progressive Democratic Leadership Council
  • Her rigid, poll-driven political style
  • Her tendency to stomp all over her critics
  • The baggage Hill and Bill carry from their sojourn in the White House
  • She has no significant negatives: This woman is going to win.

You can vote here if you like. And by the way, when DID you stop beating your wife?


While there have been no dearth of nationwide polls on the '08 elections, individual state polls have been somewhat harder to come by.

Since that's how a nominee is chosen, state by state, it would seem we should take a look any chance we get.

We get two such opportunities today, as Strategic Vision released polls on both Georgia and Wisconsin.

In Georgia, there's positive news for both the second and third fiddles in the Democratic race. Clinton leads in the poll at 28%, but Barack Obama is just three points behind at 25%. John Edwards, who has been turning in weak third- and fourth-place performances in most recent national polls, finishes third in this Georgia poll, with a somewhat stronger 18%.

In Wisconsin, Clinton has a wider lead over Obama, 36% to 21%, but again Edwards manages a respectable third-place finish at 17%. In some recent polls Edwards had been finishing in the single digits.

Throw in the Strategic Vision Iowa poll we told you about last week, with Edwards in the lead at 24% and Obama and Clinton tied for second at 18%, and things look a little closer state-by-state then they do in recent national polls. The next Iowa poll to come out will be particularly noteworthy because the now-departed Tom Vilsack got 14% in his home state in last week's poll.

Among Republicans, Guiliani is tops in Georgia at 28%, with John McCain at 21%, Newt Gingrich at 15% and Mitt Romney at 8%, Giuliani also takes Wisconsin (26%), while favorite son Tommy Tomson finishes second there at 22%. McCain is third at 15% and Gingrich and Romney are in single digits.

There's one other statewide poll out today, in Pennsylvania. But this one pits the top Democrats against the Republican frontrunners. The Philadelphia Daily News/Keystone poll shows the two top Republicans defeating the two top Democrats in one-on-one pairings in Pennsylvania - a swing state.

  • Giuliani 53%, Clinton 37%
  • Giuliaini 53%, Obama 32%
  • McCain 45%, Clinton 41%
  • McCain 43%, Obama 37%

27 February 2007

Obama Gains Among African-Americans
(updating throughout to include Washington Post/ABC poll)

Another day, two more polls

Today it's the Diageo/Hotline and ABC News/Washington Post polls, and they bring more bad news for John Edwards and John McCain.

As we mentioned yesterday, February has not been kind to Edwards and he ends the month with the tailspin continuing.

Earlier this month we chronicled McCain's poll woes, as Rudy Giuliani opens a gap in the GOP race. Things look even worse for McCain in today's polls.

The Diageo/Hotline polls puts Edwards in third among Democrats, at a shockingly low 6%, while McCain falls to 12% on the GOP side, also well below his already-slipping numbers earlier in the month.

Hillary Clinton (32%) and Barack Obama (20%) lead the Democrats. Giuliani is ahead on the GOP side at 17%.

In the ABC/Washington Post poll, Edwards is fourth, at 12 %, behind Clinton (36%), Obama (24%) and Al Gore (14%).

McCain takes a major tumble on the GOP side in the ABC/Washington Post poll.

Giuliani leads the Arizona senator 44% to 21%, with Newt Gingrich third at 15%. Mitt Romney, who many still see as a strong candidate despite poor polling numbers that only seem to get worse, came in at 4%.

So, in one month's time, Giuliani's lead over McCain lurched to 23 points from 7 in January.

There's one other major shift to note in the ABC/Washington Post poll.

Obama cut Clinton's lead in half since January, from 24 points to 12, mostly on the strength of surging support from African Americans.

"Clinton's and Obama's support among white voters changed little since December, but the changes among black Democrats were dramatic. In December and January Post-ABC News polls, Clinton led Obama among African Americans by 60 percent to 20 percent. In the new poll, Obama held a narrow advantage among blacks, 44 percent to 33 percent. The shift came despite four in five blacks having a favorable impression of the New York senator." --Washington Post

The numbers, if you look at the more specific breakdowns, also show that most Americans say they have little trouble with the idea of a black or woman president, but have stiffer opposition to someone in their 70s (McCain), someone who was divorced twice (Giuliani) and a Mormon (Romney).

David Yepsen's political commentary in today's Des Moines Register is not up to its usual standards.

Yepsen argues that Tom Vilsack's early departure from the presidential race spells doom for other candidates who are governors or ex-governors, too stridently anti-war or low on cash.
I'll give him one out of three.

Vilsack's war stance has nothing to do with his campaign being unable to catch on. It was not that far off from John Edwards' position on the war and Edwards is still very alive.

As for being a predictor of doom for governors, I can't buy that either. Yepsen argues that Americans don't seem to be looking for someone with honed domestic policy skills this time around, putting the governors at a disadvantage. Frankly, I just don't think Vilsack had the makings of a lightning-in-a-bottle candidate and neither do the other governors or ex-governors in the race on either side, with the possible exception of Bill Richardson who has shown some positive movement this month and may be able to ride superior qualifications into the heart of the primary season (imagine that!).

I couldn't agree more with Yepsen's third point. Due to the early start of the campaign, and a front-loaded primary schedule it does seem that candidates with little money will be out before they have a chance to build momentum. Or to use Yepsen's words:

"I used to say Iowa culled the field of candidates and that there were only three tickets for presidential candidates out of here to New Hampshire - first class, coach and standby. Now there may be only three tickets into Iowa - Gulfstream, Citation and Cessna."

Time for the once-monthly tally of our readers' presidential preferencees.

For March, due to the size of the field, we've decided to divide things up by party. You can vote for a candidate in one or both parties, and you can vote once a day every day if you like.

Here are the February results:

Al Gore 23%
John Edwards 19%
Barack Obama 16%
Hillary Clinton 13%
Bill Richardson 8%
Rudy Giuliani 7%
John McCain 5%
Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Dennis Kucinich 3%
Newt Gingrich 1%
Mike Huckabee and Sam Brownback 0%

Last night we did a story about Al Gore's energy usage at his home in Nashville. The story was based on information diseminated by a right-wing policy group which claimed Gore used about 20 times more energy than the average home owner to power his residence. The Tennessee Center for Policy Research said it got its numbers from the local utility, Nashville Electric Service.

In a response to our request, NES issued the following statement on Gore's electric bill.

"Nashville Electric Service provided to the Tennessean - in the form of a public records request - electric bill histories on Al Gore and two other customers. By state law, NES must provide this information. We also provided the information that Mr. Gore purchases a large amount of Green Power Switch (renewable energy) each month. NES did not supply the usage calculations."

So to review, The Tennessee Center for Policy Research got a bottom line DOLLAR figure for Gore's energy usage, calculated the kilowatt hour usage based on the company's rates but then failed to take into account that some, much, or all of that usage could have been the renewable energy that NES mentions in its statement. Not only did the right-wing policy group not take into account the purchase of renewable energy when calculating Gore's usage, it also failed to MENTION IT in its editorial.

So, the group was not being completey honest in criticizing Gore for promoting conservation while using more than his share of energy. Not even close to completely honest.

Another case of the right-wing slime machine in action?

26 February 2007


Al Gore's global warming movie "An Inconvenient Truth" won an Oscar last night. Tonight some of Gore's political fans hope it spurs him to run for the presidency in '08.

But a right-wing policy group in Tennessee thinks it has found another kind of inconvenient truth for Gore to deal with.

In an op-ed piece today at Chattanoogan.com, the Tennesse Center for Policy Research acuses Gore of using more electricity each month to power his Nashville mansion than the average household uses in a year, while at the same time imploring Americans to conserve.

"The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy. In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh -- more than 20 times the national average. Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh -- guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of his energy consumption, Gore's average monthly electric bill topped $1,359. -- Drew Johnson, Tennessee Center for Policy Research as quoted by Chattanoogan.com

In the piece quotes Johnson claims to get his statistics on Gore's use from utility company Nashville Electric Service. We have attempted to contact the utility via e-mail, but since our inquiry came after hours we haven't heard back yet to confirm the source of the information.

The Tennesse Center for Policy Research calls itself "an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan research organization committed to achieving a freer, more prosperous Tennessee through free market policy solutions."

The "free market solutions" phrase would indicate it might be a conservative think tank with an motive to take on Gore. Checking the group's "about us" page you find a rather conservative agenda.
  • Generate economic growth through reduced tax and regulatory burdens on individuals and businesses

  • Create unmatched educational opportunity by empowering parents, students and teachers with choices and opportunities

  • Advance healthcare solutions that restore dignity and encourage personal responsibility

  • Identify opportunities to reduce cost and increase efficiency in all levels of government

  • Reflect the Founding Fathers’ vision of a free society grounded in property rights and individual liberty based in personal responsibility
With that buzz-word-laden description of its goals it's hard to imagine the group is "nonpartisan" and is not grinding a political axe here. But, then again, they seem to have the goods on Gore in this case.


I like to whine about February being the longest month, even though it has the fewest days. But that has mostly to do with the weather and the dearth of sports I'm interested in.

This year February has been a downer for John Edwards due to poll results, not thermometer readings.

Three key events seem to be behind Edwards' noticeable slump in the polls.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton officially announced their presidential aspirations early this month. Neither announcement was a surprise, but candidates with a real shot tend to get a nice bounce from their announcement, much like the bounce a candidate will get after their party's nominating convention. Or the one most presidents get for at least a week or two after their State of the Union address. The current president being a notable exception.

The third event was Edwards' own doing - his announcement of plans for universal health care. Everybody wants it until the minor detail of paying for it is raised. Showing political courage, Edwards announced his plan on February 4, and with it warned voters that it would mean an increase in taxes to pay for it.

Since then, except in Iowa, Edwards' has found himself playing third fiddle in the polls, often registering in the low teens while Clinton polls near 40 and Obama about 20 in the typical poll.

It's impossible to say just how much the new-tax pledge has hurt Edwards, but it's clear that it, and the hoopla surrounding the annnouncements of Clinton and Obama, have taken a toll.

There are two new polls out today showing Edwards' February slide continuing.

A weekly Rasmussen poll has Edwards at 13%. While his numbers have remained reasonably steady this month in this poll, the space between he and Clinton (37%) and Obama (26%) has become wider. As an example, two weeks ago Edwards trailed the frontrunning Clinton by 15 points in the Rasmussen poll, but is now down by 24 points.

In today's Zogby poll, Clinton picked up 4 points from last month and is at 33%, while Obama made large strides in the past month and is nipping at Hillary's heels at 25%. Edwards lags at 12%.

A Cook Political Report poll last week put Edwards at 16%, some 26 points behind Clinton, though only four behind Obama.

Meanwhile, a WNBC/Marist Poll from one week ago today put Edwards at just 11%, tied for third with Oscar winner Al Gore and 26 points behind Clinton, the poll's leader.

In other February polls, by Quinnipiac, Siena and USA Today, Edwards finished fourth behind Clinton, Obama and Gore. That includes a 6% showing in the Quinnipiac poll. You can see these three polls here.

While all that is bad news for Edwards, perhaps the scariest poll for the North Carolinian was released over the weekend by Elon College. It's a poll of five southeastern states - Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. Edwards finished a distant third in four of the five states, and second in his home state, 19 points behind Clinton. Not only does Edwards finish third in the other four states in his home region, he puts up dismal numbers - like 4% in Virginia and 6% in South Carolina and Georgia. Click here for poll data.


While February has been a bit of a downer for Edwards, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is seeing some positive movement in his numbers.

Prior to this month Richardson was polling at 1% in most national polls. Early in February, in the polls by Siena, Marist and Quinnipiac, Richardson put up his first crooked number (as the baseball announcers like to say) at 2%. But as the month progressed, Richardson has boosted those numbers to the mid-single-digits -- posting at 4% in the Rasmussen and USA Today polls and 5% in the Cook poll and today's Zogby poll.

Those numbers and two bucks will get you a ride on a New York City subway, but at least Richardson is showing some positive momentum and has put a little daylight betweeen himself and the rest of the second tier.

25 February 2007

It was a reasonably quiet weekend on the presidential campaign front.

The New York Times tells us the religious right is still casting about for a candidate they can support. Newsweek reports they've found the perfect candidate, except for the fact that he's from the wrong family, at least for this moment in time.

Texas' Republican governor Rick Perry, and his Democratic counterpart from Pennsylvania, Ed Rendell, profess to have no interest in being No. 2 on their parties' tickets.

There's some talk that Al Gore is staying out of the race for now, but that he could get in very late because he has made enough money over the past eight years to finance his own way through the slew of early primaries.

And, while this has nothing to do with presidential politics, it's just too ironic not to mention. Al Sharpton and the the late Sen. Strom Thurmond apparently have some rather unpleasant family ties going back a ways.

One other story that caught my attention this weekend.
If history is any guide, it offers good news for Rudy Giuliani and some not-so-welcome news for Hillary Clinton.

Based on Gallup polling over the last thirty years, the Associated Press reports, there is a very clear trend regarding early presidential frontrunners.

Based on recent history, Hillary Clinton should not be picking out an oval carpet just yet.

Edmund Muskie in 1972, George Wallace in 1976, Ted Kennedy in 1980, Gary Hart in 1988, Mario Cuomo in 1992 and Joe Lieberman in 2004 were early frontrunners among Democrats. None won the nomination. -AP

(Hard to fathom that just four years ago Joe Lieberman was leading the Democratic polling).

The news is much better for Republican Rudy Giuliani:

Republicans have picked the early frontrunner in seven of the past 10 elections, according to Gallup polling. In the other three elections, Republican incumbents cruised to e-election. -AP
Whether historical trends hold up this time around is anyone's guess. But the Washington Post found one set of candidates who don't seem to be keeping up with recent history.

Since Jimmy Carter in 1976, every president except Bush I has gone either straight from the governor's mansion to the White House, or (Ronald Reagan) had been a governor in his most-recent stint in public office before becoming president.

This year, as the Post points out, governors in both parties are having trouble getting their footing.

Three polls came out over the weekend. None of them earth shaking.

A Cook Political Report/RT Strategies poll confirms a recent trend which shows some slippage for Republican John McCain. The Cook poll shows Rudy Giuliani opening up a nine point lead over McCain, that's up from just 2 points a month ago. When first- and second-choice votes are tallied, Giuliani leads 55 points to 42. The poll shows Newt Gingrich ahead of Mitt Romney both as a first choice and when first- and second-choice votes are counted.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton (42%) leads Barack Obama (20%) and John Edwards (16%). Obama and Edwards come somewhat closer to Clinton when first- and second-choice votes are combined.

The Pew Research Center put out a national poll over the weekend as well. The chief finding -- not a lot of folks are up for this early campaign stuff.

Some 84% of Republicans say they haven't zeroed in on a particular candidate yet, compared with 71% of Democrats. The numbers do indicate, according to the pollster, that Democrats are more into the race at this point then Republicans

"Democrats are further along than Republicans in thinking about possible presidential candidates. First, a larger percentage of the Democrats than Republicans are paying attention to the campaign (31% vs 20%). Notably, 38% of liberal Democrats say they have given the campaign a lot of thought, compared with just 24% of conservative Republicans. And while nearly half of Democrats (46%) volunteered a presidential candidate they might support, only 29% of Republicans named a candidate for whom they might vote."

Based on their knowledge of the candidates at this point, Democrats say many in the field have at least some appeal. In fact seven of the ten candidates named in the poll stand at least some chance of getting votes from 40% or more of those polled.
Among Republicans, five of 10 candidates have similarly broad appeal.

This poll slices and dices numbers in a zillion different ways and you can click on it here if you're really into numbers and you have all day. I will say in the personal traits area, the Democrats seem to have smaller hurdles to clear.
Only 4% of respondents said they are less likely to vote for a candidate because they are black (Obama) while 11% said they are less likely to vote for someone because they are female (Clinton) and 14% said they are less likely to vote for someone who is Hispanic (Richardson). On the other hand, 30% said they are less likely to vote for a Morman (Romney), 39% said they are less likely to vote for someone who has had an extra-marital affair (Giuliani) and a whopping 48% said the are less likely to vote for someone who is in their 70s (McCain). Obama could be in some trouble here too, as 45% said they are less likely to vote for someone who has used illegal drugs in the past and 18% say they are less likely to vote for someone who smokes cigarettes.
There was one other poll of note over the weekend.
Because California is moving its primary up to super-duper Tuesday (Feb 5) it's importance in the nominating process has been greatly enhanced.
According to a Datamar Poll, Clinton is ahead in California at 34%, Obama is second at 24% and John Edwards is at 16%.
On final trend of note in all three polls. Bill Richardson has pulled out of the 1%-2% range and into the mid to upper single digits. Richardson is the only Democrat other than the Dems' big-three showing any upward movement in recent weeks.

23 February 2007


GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney seems to have enjoyed the dust-up the other day between Democratic frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

"It's great, isn't it?" Romney said to peals of laughter from crowd of employees at a solar-related equipment plant on the newly declared candidate's first visit to the leadoff presidential primary state. "I love to see it when it happens on the other side." The former Massachusetts governor described his leading Republican rivals, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, as "friends" and "national heroes," before adding, "I respect them. I'm sure we'll disagree on issues from time to time, but I doubt you'll see the rancor that apparently may exist elsewhere." -Romney In New Hampshire as quoted by AP.

Somehow, as the delegate counts start to mount 11 months from now (if Romney makes it that far) you get the feeling those comments just may come back to haunt the former Massachusetts governor.

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack was the first to officially get in and is now the first to get out.

The former Iowa governor's long-shot bid for the Democratic presidential momination reportedly will come to an end later this morning in Iowa.

Vilsack's anticipated departure is not an earth-moving development since he was polling at about 1% nationwide and fourth in his home state.

But, since Iowa is the first to sound off in '08, a decision by Vilsack to back one of the other candidates could be big news. We'll have to wait on that until the announcement is made.

The Des Moines Register broke the story of a likely decision from Vilsack in this morning's paper. The Register reported it was likely a dearth of donations, not the poopout at the polls that drove Vilsack out so quickly.

Campaign finance reform anyone?

22 February 2007


We are nearly a year away from the first primaries of 2008 and already the slime machine is working overtime.

An early start is key to the slime game - the practice of shaping a negative image of an opposing candidate before they've had an opportunity to define themselves to voters.

Dan Hazen, the executive editor of AlterNet wrote a lenghty piece today, defining step-by-step how the slime machine works. (Below is a quote but take a few minutes to click the link above and read the entire commentary).

"Sliming" is the rabid, rapid, media barrage of persistently repeated lies and innuendo mastered by the right-wing media machine, which aims to tar candidates with negative associations before their campaigns get rolling. Or alternatively, to bruise them enough so that they will suffer under the burden of damaged goods as they try to gain footing. The conservative roots usually puts out a speculative story through Fox News or Matt Drudge (of the Drudge Report), a powerful mouthpiece for the Bush White House. Then the right-wing echo reverberates as the lies make their way to talk radio and the right-wing blogosphere. Eventually, it gets picked up and carried by the mainstream media, with few understanding where the story originated."

Barack Obama has been the first to spend serious time in the slime machine - drawing gobs of attention from the machine's largest cog - Fox News. (Check out this video highlight reel of the Fox slimers working overtime to discredit Obama).

Fox is owned Australian Rupert Murdoch, who also owns the New York Post. The Post has always been a rag, of course, but under Murdoch the paper has become more of a political Saturday night special than an information source.

This morning, the paper had a field day with yesterday's first major dust-up of the presidential political season, between Obama and Hillary Clinton.

It was clearly stupid for the two camps to become involved in an intramural battle, particularly this early. But the Post's description of the dispute over comments made by Obama backer David Geffen about the Clintons was more than a little over the top.

The paper said the two sides traded "furious insults" and that the race for the Democratic nomination "erupted in astonishing bitterness."

Astonishing bitterness? Overstating a bit are we? Why not sully two birds with one slimey shot?
And then there's this bit of cerebral political discourse.
I came home to an e-mail from James Carville, urging me to give money to help stop something called the StopHillaryPac. He said the people involved with the PAC are calling The Swift Boat Veterans For Truth the "real heroes" of the 2004 election and that people just like them were out to get Hillary.
I checked the site. And Carville is right.
"Those Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were the real heroes of the 2004 election. We at the StopHillaryPAC want to do the same thing to Hillary: take her record- ever since she became a radical, America-hating lawyer at Yale Law School in the 1970's all the way through her years in Arkansas and the White House and now as a Senator - and use it against her. We cannot make the mistake all other Republicans have made in the past when running against the Clintons: refusing to attack them and their out-of-touch-with-mainstream-America record. "
Are they kidding? The Clintons have gone scott-free all these years? The absurdity of the statement is mind boggling.
My hope in writing this blog is to add positively to the discourse as the '08 election approaches.
As a citizen I'm outraged at the way politics is done - how the PACs and the lobbyists control the message.
As someone who makes his living as a journalist, I'm outraged at the three main cable newsotainment networks and what they pass off as news and poltical discussion. And you can throw in the broadcast networks as well.
Fox is in business for one reason. To spread the word of the right-wing fringe. If I can contribute in any way to the understanding of that truth, than this blog will have served a purpose.
Additional info: Don't Believe the Right-Wing Media; Uncle Sam Wants You!
  • Biden, Clinton Shine in Nevada Forum
  • Edwards Still Ahead in Iowa; Rudy Widens Lead
  • More Flip-floppery from McCain
  • McCain, Giuliani Raise Ire of Fiscal Conservatives

Some notes of importance to take a quick look at this morning.

Eight Democrats hoping to be president gathered in Nevada yesterday for a candidate's forum. Not a lot has been written on this, but PolitcalWire's Dan Conley manged to take in the whole affair and pronounced Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton the winners and John Edwards and Tom Vilsack the losers.
Read why here.

John Edwards continues to lead Iowa, at least according to the latest Strategic Vision poll. Edwards is polling at 24%, while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are tied for second at 18%. Favorite son Tom Vilsack is at 14%. One month ago, Edwards led at 25%, with Obama second at 17%, Vilsack third at 16% and Clinton fourth at 15%. So Hillary has picked up three points there in month, one each from the other three leaders.

Among the Republicans, Rudy Giuliani tops John McCain 29% to 22%, while Newt Gingrich polled at 11% and Mitt Romney at 9%. A month ago Giulian led McCain by only 4 points.

Speaking of McCain - more flip-floppery from the one-time GOP frontrunner. This time on ethynol, as reported by the Krusty Konservative via PoliticalWire.

While McCain and others have recently spent a great deal of their time courting the religious right, The Washington Times reports fiscal conservatives are upset with both he and Giuliani for not signing a no-new-taxes pledge.

21 February 2007


With all but one of the Democratic presidential candidates (Barack Obama) in Nevada for a 3 1/2 hour gabfest, and Obama and Hillary having their first official fight of the campaign season, this seems like the ideal time to ignore both and take a snapshot of where the Republicans stand about a year out from super-duper Tuesday.

Some themes appear to be forming from the haze surrounding the myriad of candidates.

Except for one minor initiative to soften his abortion stance a bit, Rudy Giuliani, who has taken a notable lead in most recent polls, has shown little stomach for cow-towing to the religious right.

In fact, Giuliani appears to be eschewing any such effort and attempting to appeal to the growing ranks of the party who would just as soon tell the preachers to take a hike and get back to "real" Republican values, like marketplace economics and lower federal budget deficits.

McCain, on the other hand, seems to have lost his footing lately, in his attempt to court the religious right. McCain called for Roe v. Wade to be overturned a few days ago on a campaign trip. A seeming flip-flop from his prior positions on Roe v. Wade if not on abortion itself.

(San Francisco Chronicle on August 19, 1999:

"I'd love to see a point where it (Roe v. Wade) is irrelevant, and could be repealed because abortion is no longer necessary. But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to {undergo} illegal and dangerous operations.)

If McCain can nail down the trust of the religious right, he could wipe out the rest of the social-conservative field - which is pretty much everyone except Giuliani.

But for now, it appears McCain has not sealed the deal and is in a dogfight with Mitt Romney for the blessing of the Christian right. He appears to be winning that fight due to Romney's own flip-floppery on gay rights and abortion.

Others in the race - Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee to name two - have held socially conservative views for a lot longer than McCain and Romney, but they are creating virtually no excitement.

On the war, the GOP top three all agree. They support President Bush's troop escalation and, in the case of McCain, think it might have been better if the escalation were larger and had come earlier.

This may seem to fly in the face of public sentiment, but a recent poll by Republican pollster Moore Information shows why Giuliani, McCain and Romney are bucking the majority.

According to The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, the poll shows so-called "strong" Republicans still stoutly support Bush's adventure in Iraq. So the GOP trio is doing it's best to woo this group - defined as those who always or nearly always vote Republican.

A slew of polls last week veered significantly in Giuliani's direction and the trend in the last few days has been much the same. The former New York mayor seems to be methodically, if unspectacularly, establishing himself as the front-runner - mostly at the expense of McCain.

A Marist poll released Monday night put Giuliani ahead of McCain 28% to 21%. In December Giuliani led McCain in this poll by just 1 point.

The latest weekly Rasmussen Reports poll puts Giuliani ahead of McCain 33% to 19%. That's little changed from last week, but just a month ago Giuliani's lead was 8 points, not 14.

Perhaps most striking are the results of the latest Quinnipiac poll - released yesterday. Giuliani leads McCain by more than 2 to 1 , 40% to 18%.

McCain's woes seem a little more pronounced when you consider a few recent local straw polls as well.

For instance, in Maricopa County, a straw poll of Republican precinct leaders last month was won by California Rep. Duncan Hunter. Romney came in second and McCain was well back in third. Maricopa County is the most-populous county in McCain's home state of Arizona.

In the reddest recesses of southwest Ohio, the Northwest Hamilton County (Cincinnati-area) Republican Club tabbed Rudy Giuliani as their current No. 1 choice for president last weekend. Romney and Newt Gingrich finished in a tie for second, with about half as many votes as Giuliani. McCain finished a distant fourth.

The recent polls mean one of two things. Either Giuliani's 9/11 stature is trumping what the religious right would see as his shortcomings, or most of the crowd is splitting the support of the bible thumpers while Giuliani has free reign with the rest of the party.

I'm going to suggest it's the latter.

If McCain or Romney emerge as the clear choice of the preachers and their flock, a one-on-one battle could be shaping up for the soul of the GOP.

If not, Newt Gingrich continues to poll a resonably strong third or fourth in the polls and the religious right may just turn to him as their saviour - politically speaking of course.

More Info:

Tribal Warfare;Mitt Romney's symbolic appeals to conservative Republicans. The New Republic

Giuliani To Run For President Of 9/11; The Onion

18 February 2007


Three little words.

That is all it would have taken for Hillary Clinton to have traversed her first major bump in the campaign trail.

Those three little words -I was wrong- have long stood between Clinton and the left wing of her party. She continues to take a beating from the Daily Kos and other liberal blogs. She's used to that by now.

But Clinton is facing anger on the campaign trail as well over her refusal to repudiate her vote to authorize President Bush to go to war in Iraq. And the depthts of that anger has apparently come as a surprise to both the candidate and some on her staff.

The New York Times reports today Clinton herself late last year ended debate among her advisors about whether or not to admit making a mistake with her vote.
The paper says many Clinton staffers, on both sides of the issue, consider that decision to be perhaps her most important of the campaign.

Clinton, the paper reports, felt that an apology or repudiation would look disingenuous. (Not unlike her call a few years ago for a ban on flag burning).

So now, at every campaign stop comes at least one call from the crowd for the Senator to say she blew it in 2002. And this issue becomes a larger hurdle every day.

Clinton's pat response has been the "if-I-knew-then-what-I-know-now" defense. But it isn't playing well. And do you know why? Because it sounds disingenuous.

And for every day she refuses to say those three little words Clinton is coming off to many in her party's base as if she he uttering three different words.

Go to hell!

(photo credit: Associated Press)

17 February 2007


The Senate came to work on Saturday and, in the end, voted not to work weekends after all.

Although 56 Senators voted to bring debate about President Bush's troop escalation to the floor, 34 others voted not to allow debate - four short of the 60 that would have made the issue fillibuster proof.

You'll note that 56+34 adds up to only 90. One Democrat, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, is recovering from brain surgery. Nine Republicans chose to sit out the vote, saying they support the war so their vote would not affect the anticipated outcome. (Or perhaps they didn't want a nasty old vote to defend down the road a bit. )

In any case, the vote to bring debate about the troop surge to the floor fared better among those Senators who are running for president.

Five voted in favor - Democrats Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd and Republican Chuck Hagel. Republican Sam Brownback voted against bringing the measure to the floor and John McCain stayed on the campaign trail and was not in Washington to vote. He called the vote "meaningless."

McCain warned there are no good options if the surge fails.

Democrat Chris Dodd of Connecticut voted to bring the issue to the floor, but earlier this week didn't profess much enthusiasm for it.

"We have a sense of the Senate (resolution) on asparagus. They don't mean a whole lot." - Sen. Chris Dodd as quoted by the Associated Press

Dodd last month authored a bill requiring Bush to get explicit congressional approval for a troop surge. It died in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Hillary Clinton said the vote was important because it got Republicans to go on record against the troop surge (seven of them anyway) "in order to have them as possibly the core of Republicans who will stand with us to cap troops or cut funding."

Clinton on Friday outlined plans to get the U.S. out of Iraq, calling for a cap of troops stength at Jan. 1, 2007 levels, cutting off funding to the Iraqi government until it rids government security forces of factional militias and a fair distribution of Iraqi oil revenues. Clinton also calls for Bush to begin a phased redeployment of troops to begin within 90 days or face a recission of Congress' approval for the use of force. Clinton's plan would also require certification from the Secretary of Defense that any troops being sent to Iraq are properly equipped and trained before they go.

Sen. Joe Biden on Thursday proposed a plan of his own, which called for the partitioning or Iraq into three areas - one each to be controlled by the Shia, the Sunnis and the Kurds. The plan also calls for fair distribution of Iraq's oil revenues. In addition, Biden said the U.S. should begin diplomatic efforts to persuade neighboring countries to support Iraq and create a U.N. group to hold neighboring countries to their commitments. Biden's plan also calls on the military draw up a blueprint for completion of U.S. troop withdrawal by the end of next year.

John Edwards, no longer in the Senate but very much in the thick of the Democratic race, proposed Friday that troops be cut to 100,000 immediately by capping the funding for troops at that level. He also proposed that all troops be out of Iraq in the next 12 to 18 months.

"Nearly a month ago, I called on Congress to block the President's escalation of war. Unfortunately, while Congress has been debating Iraq, President Bush has been surging troops into Iraq. The escalation is underway, so blocking it is no longer enough - now we have to take the next step and cap funding to mandate a withdrawal" Edwards said in a press release from his campaign.


It's been a good week for Rudy Giuliani.

He received a rousing welcome in California one week ago today.

He announced twice that he's running for president, once on Larry King and once on Sean Hannitty's TV show. And he still gets to officially announce sometime soon, commanding more press coverage.

And a slew of polls came out this week, nearly all showing Giuliani ahead of John McCain, who right now is considered the frontrunner by most professional pundits.

The argument goes that Giuliani is living off his 9/11 performance and that once Republicans in the reddest of states find out he's been married three times, is pro-abortion, pro-gun-control and pro-gay-rights his support will dissolve.

In the National Journal's latest bi-weekly rankings of Republican presidential candidates (they do the Dems in the intervening weeks) Giuliani is third, behind Mitt Romney who is a distant third in many polls and barely registers in others.

The National Journal's rankings are based on a number of factors, poll performance being only one, and the editors there -like many of the traditional punditry sources- just don't think he's likely to survive the vetting process of the Republican Party.

It's almost a year away from the start of the primary season, but the polls to this point -especially those released this week- indicate lots of Republicans may be willing to look the other way on Giuliani's social positions and personal flaws if they think he'd be a winner in '08.

Take the FOX News poll for instance. In a one-on-one race against McCain (which granted isn't likely to occur in the real world), Giuliani comes out on top 56% to 31% among Republicans and 50% to 27% among independent voters. Just two months earlier, Giuliani was ahead of McCain by just two points among GOP voters and DOWN by 6 points among independents.

There appears to be one bit of negative news for Giuliani in the Fox poll. Among all voters polled, 36% said "under no condition" would they vote for Giuliani. But, that number is at 40% for McCain. And, among Republicans only 17% said they would not vote for Giulani under any condition, while McCain's numbers among Republicans is at 25% - one in four. Among indepedendents Giulani polls at 30% in this negative category, while McCain is at 42%.

A USA Today/Gallup Poll this week also shows Giuliani surging against McCain. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, Giuliani is ahead of McCain 40% to 31%, while Mitt Romney -who most pundits predict will outlast Giuliani- is at 5%. Just one month ago McCain was AHEAD of Giuliani in this poll (27% to 24%). That's a swing of 12 points in just one month.

As in the Fox Poll, the personal negative for Giuliani is outweighed by that of McCain. While 30% of those polled said they would rule out voting for someone who married three times (a question obviously pertaining to Giuliani), 42% of those polled ruled out voting for someone who is 72 years old (McCain is the only one who fits that description this time around).

Not too surprisingly, Giuliani cleaned up in a Quinnipiac University poll of New Yorkers this week. He also won two of the four stawide polls released this week by American Research Group -Alabama and Oklahoma- while finishing second to McCain in the Arizona senator's home state and third to Mitt Romney and McCain in Utah, where Romney's Mormon background gave him a huge boost.

Giuliani is tops in the GOP Bloggers February straw poll, a constituency that is becoming increasingly important and one that kicked McCain to the curb long ago.

The Wall Street Journal also ran an op-ed piece urging social conservatives to keep an open mind about Giuliani.
And he certainly can't be hurt by the following comments made this week by the man most conservative Republicans wish would run - Newt Gingrich.

"He is much stronger than anyone could have predicted six months ago," said former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich from Georgia. "New York is four times safer than it used to be. It's one of the greatest achievements of government capability in the 20th century. And Rudy just has to go out and say, 'This is who I am. If you think the world's dangerous, and you need a tough guy … that's me.' " - Newt Gingrich on Rudy Giuliani

Abortion may be the deal-breaker for many on the far right, but Giuliani has recently been softening-up his pro-abortion stance.

The key will be just how much looking-the-other way social conservatives are willing to do. Last week in California they seemed to be in the mood to overlook Rudy's warts.

"I'm a Christian, and his (Giuliani's) views on a lot of social issues are to the left of mine," said Larry Stirling, a retired state superior court judge from San Diego. "But if you have to make a trade-off, I'll make the trade-off for Giuliani. He's been through a trial by fire. He's got gravitas. The first thing a president has to do is protect us. The rest is a secondary consideration." - GOP voter Larry Stirling as quoted by the Washington Post

15 February 2007


What do Duncan Hunter and Howard Dean have in common?

The most obvious answer is "absolutely nothing."

And that answer is mostly correct. But the truth is they may have one bit of commonality.

Howard Dean's 2004 campaign got most of its starch from the liberal netroots - left-wing bloggers and their readers- desperate to find an anti-war candidate to back.

This year it's the Reagan Republicans, or the "true conservatives," who are casting about for someone to get behind.

Hunter may just be their man.

The obscure California congressman is a Vietnam vet, a foreign policy hawk, a budget hawk, strongly anti-abortion and anti-gay rights, and -for good measure- he's big on the idea of a fence on our southern border to keep out illegal immigrants.

He parts company with most conservatives on trade, but there is a school of thought that says his aversion to NAFTA-like agreements may help him win back some Reagan Democrats in large industrial states like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

And Hunter's getting noticed in the right-wing blogosphere, where he's putting up a strong showing in a February straw poll being conducted on sites like The Right Wing News and several others.

The results, which are being aggregated and updated by GOPBloggers.org, show Hunter was named as the first choice by about 16% of those responding to the poll. That's good for third place behind Newt Gingrich (32%), who has not said much about running at this point, and Rudy Giuliani (21%). Mitt Romney is fourth at 10%.

Hunter's "acceptability" numbers are even stronger. In addition to asking readers to pick their first choice, the poll also takes a reading of which candidates would be acceptable and which would not.

In this category, Hunter finishes a solid second behind Gingrich, with Giuliani and Mitt Romeny pretty much tied at third. The rankings are determined by subtracting the candidates' "unacceptable" votes from their "acceptable" votes.

Other second-tier "true conservatives," Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee, barely register in the blogger poll.

Despite his strong showing in the poll, Hunter is barely a blip in most scientific polls. But his chief goal right now is to get his name out there and the blogosphere is one way to get that done.

John McCain, trying desperately to become the "true conservative" with his hawkish war stance and newfound fondness for right-wing religious zealots, is the first-choice of just 2% of respondents to the right-wing-blogger poll and his "acceptable" rating is a negative 52.

McCain, in fact, is not well liked in the right-wing blogosphere. His reputation there is so shaky his staff recently held what one blogger described as a "couples therapy" session with bloggers to improve the campaign's standing with them.

So it's Hunter right now creating the online buzz among conservatives. But there's no way to tell if he'll be able to repeat Dean's lightining-in-a-bottle success.

It's also possible he could end up more like another fiercly dogmatic, little-known congressman who has some zing on the Internet - Ohio's Dennis Kucinich.

For more info:Duncan Hunter's Long-Shot Conservative Bid by George Will
Beltway Traffic Jam

13 February 2007


The odds are fairly decent that the 2008 presidential race will produce a winner that is the first something.

The first woman to hold the office, perhaps. Or the first African-American. Could we see the first Hispanic-American take the oath.

Or maybe the first Mormon?

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney officially announced his intentions to seek the GOP nomination today. Romney, as you may know, is a Mormon and that is causing consternation among some - particularly those on the religious right whom Romney needs as he stakes out a position among the conservative wing.

The kickoff itself was not without religious controversy, as Romney - who grew up in Michigan where his dad was governor - chose the Henry Ford Museum as the backdrop for his announcement. The move did not sit to well with some Jewish groups who were upset by Romney's decision to honor Ford, a staunch anti-Semite.

USA Today ran a front page story today about Romney and how his religion may affect his bid. The story, in addition to dispelling some myths about Mormonism and outlining what Mormons DO believe in, contains a poll which measures voters' attitudes on race, sex and religion as they pertain to the presidency. While only 5% of those polled said they would not vote for an African-American nominated by their party, and 11% felt that way about a woman, some 24% said would not vote for a Mormon candidate nominated by their party if they were otherwise well-qualified.

Twenty-four percent is a big piece of the electorate to be off-limits to any one candidate. Other recent polls show similar numbers, and back in December an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed that a startling 53% said they would have "some reservations" or be "very uncomfortable" about voting for a Mormon for president.

The American Family News Network, which describes itself as a national Christian news service based in Tupelo, Missississippi earlier this month did a "flash" online poll on its Web site One News Now to assess its readers' opinions about Romney, his religion and the presidency. The question: Should Mitt Romney's Mormon beliefs concern Christian voters? About 20% said "absolutely," they should, while 30% said "possibly" and 49% said "not at all."

So, from that one unscientific poll, it would appear Romney's "Mormon problem" as some on the right have referred to it, is no larger among evangelicals than among the rest of Americans.

Nonetheless, some of Romney's supporters have urged him to meet with evangelical leaders, much as John F. Kennedy did in 1960, to dispell concerns, held then with Kennedy and now with Romney, that the presidential candidate will be doing his church's bidding if he wins the White House. Of course in 1960, 25% of the country was Catholic, so Kennedy's faith was not as much a mystery as is Romney's.

While certainly a concern for many, Romney's Mormon heritage may be much less of concern than his perceived flip-floppery - for the religious right and other voters who don't like candidates who twist with the political winds.

We have written exhaustively (here, here and here) in the past about Romney's "evolved" positions on gay marriage and abortion, and it is his past views on these issues that may be creating his biggest problems with social conservatives.

Religious conservatives interviewed for an article published today by the Washington Post seemed to back up that notion.

GOP Bloggers, another conservative Web site that is decidedly more political than religious in content, is in the midst of its February presidential straw poll, and Romney has taken a decided southward turn since January. Giluiani leads the poll at 35%, followed by Newt Gingrich at 25% and Mitt Romney at 15%. In the same poll in January, Romney was out in front at 28%, with Gingrich at 24% and Giuliani at 21%.

Romney is slumping in the scientific polls recently as well, often not getting into the double digits, and nearly always well behind John McCain and Giuliani. Today's USA Today poll has the former Massachusetts governor at just 5%, behind Giuliani (40%), McCain (24%) and Newt Gingrich (9%).

Despite the low numbers, the money is there for Romney, and he's gotten his share of big-name endorsements and staff.

Still, with all of the negatives, one wonders just how far down the road Romney will get.

For more info: Is Romney too Good to be True? - Politico
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