14 March 2008

See you when the stupidity storm has passed

Today the fifth-largest investment bank in the country went hat-in-hand to a competitor and the Federal Reserve Bank to keep itself afloat.

Had Bear Stearns been unable to find someone to participate in a bailout we could have seen - and in fact may still see - more banks and investment banks go belly up.

A global credit crisis looms.

The stock market is in the tank.

Oil prices are well over $100 a barrel.

Home foreclosures have people living in 21st century Hoovervilles.

We are heading into - and frankly I would say are already in - a recession.

And the dollar is getting weaker by the second.

But the big story today on the blogs and the 24-hour noise networks is Barack Obama's pastor. It's hard to imagine that there's anyone out there who doesn't know what I'm talking about, so I'm not going to explain it here.

You'll notice that my posts on this blog have been fewer in recent weeks, and that is no accident.

I refuse to get involved in the bullshit and slime that passes for news and political discourse in this country, the supposed model of Democracy.

If you check back over the past month of posts on this blog, you will not see anything about the half-baked John McCain/female lobbyist story that sullied, or shall I say further sullied, the reputation of a once-great newspaper - the New York Times.

You won't see anything about the incendiary and bigoted remarks made by the right-wing preachers that have backed McCain in the hopes of bringing the rest of the religious right into the GOP fold for the fall.

You won't see anything about Geraldine Ferraro, or Samantha Power or any references to Hillary Clinton being a monster.

You won't see anything about the 3 AM ad, or Saturday Night Live.

That's because (to quote George Carlin) it's all bullshit and bullshit is bad for you.

As the Democratic race drags on, and the Republicans try to get a head start on the November campaign, the so-called news is getting uglier and more moronic by the day.

And it is getting that way for a reason.

Americans are themselves bigoted, stupid or just plain fearful and the politicians know how to play on that prejudice, ignorance and fear.

If you disagree with me, please explain to me how the Vietnam war hero was painted as the wuss in 2004, while the guy who got a plum appointment to the National Guard (secured by his important daddy) became the tough guy hero.

Politicians know that when they get into the gutter they get votes. And the 24-hour noise networks know that when politicians get into the gutter the networks get viewers.

You can argue that all the noise is really news because it affects how people vote.

Sadly, I'd have a difficult time arguing that point.

But that also proves my point.

Taken as a whole, the American electorate is not sophisticated enough to know when they are being led around by the nose.

With a six-week lull until the next primary, the noise machine will become deafening. The blogosphere and the airwaves - just when you think it impossible - will become trashier and more ridiculous.

This campaign started in earnest about a year ago with about 9 or 10 candidates (some from each party) who could make a good case that they were qualified to do the job they aspired to.

We're now down to three candidates who lose more and more luster each day, as they beat each other over the head and have every word they have ever spoken parsed, pulled out of context and distorted for someone else's political gain.

By the time the slime machine gets done with the remaining trio we will once again come to a November when we voters will ask ourselves if the last two candidates standing are the best we can do. Another hold-your-nose-and-vote election.

But we in the electorate have no one to blame but ourselves.

The politicians and the networks serve up this shit and we gladly eat it up.

If and when this campaign gets back to something worth talking about, I'll be posting again.

For now I will spend my time trying to figure out why it is we just don't seem to be able to do this Democracy thing right.

09 March 2008

Dream Team? Dream on

There has been a lot of talk the past few days coming out of the Clinton camp - indeed out of the mouths of the Clintons themselves - about giving the Democrats their cake and letting them eat it to.

Giving the party faithful a two-fer.

Vote once and get Clinton and Obama - in that order.

Neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton said it should be in that order when they each advocated for a ticket with both of the remaining Democratic candidates on it. But it's clear which way they intend the ticket to be structured.

The motives behind the suggestion are obvious.

The Clintons clearly see great value in having Obama, who has turned out droves of new voters during the primary season, to add excitement and votes to a November effort.

But that is not the immediate motivation.

So what is?

How about the notion of damning with feint praise?

By suggesting they'd love to see the Clinton-Obama ticket, they're telling voters that Obama would make a good president down the road, after he's had a chance to learn under Hillary.

They're also telling voters that they can get a ticket with both Obama and Hillary, if they vote now to make sure Hillary is at the top of the ticket.
After all, they let the voters reason, Obama's still young. He can get in line for his turn next time.

Obama is having none of it.

In the past when the subject has come up, Obama has mostly said it is a question for another day.

Over the weekend he was more emphatic, saying he won't be running for VP.

On Meet the Press today, Obama backer and former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle put it a bit more bluntly.

"It may be the first time in history that the person who is running number two would offer the person running number one the number two position."

The so-called Dream Ticket will never come about.

The most obvious reason is the nastiness of the current campaign and the animosity it is building between the two candidates and their supporters.

Which of the two is going to agree to play second fiddle?

Just based on the audacity she has displayed during this campaign, the sense of entitlement, do you really see Clinton agreeing to be No. 2 to "the novice" ?

If you were Obama, would you accept the vice presidency - a position already in search of a job description - with Bill Clinton hanging around the West Wing with lots of time on his hands?

In the case of either candidate, which would be a more attractive position to hold - a no-show job in the administration or a powerful new role in the Senate?

Both Clinton and Obama - with their strong showing as presidential candidates - can lay legitimate claim to a position of leadership in the Senate.

And then there's one more question to consider.

Do the Democrats really want the first legitimate woman candidate and the first legitimate African-American candidate for the presidency on the ticket together?

Isn't that a huge crap shoot?

Isn't that putting a bit too much faith in a country that has shown itself historically to be racist and sexist?

Will the new voters that such a ticket would bring to the party outnumber the swing voters who may decide that Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton is a little more change than they bargained for?

The Democratic Party is too hungry for a victory to roll those dice and find out.

05 March 2008

McCain gets the nod from W

Ever come across one of those photos that you wish would just go away?

Maybe it's the prom photo where lavender is your dominant color. And you're the guy in the photo, not the girl.

How about a picture you posed for in March which could really come back to bite you in the backside in - say - November?

The GOP presidential nominee, John McCain, had one of those photo ops today - and will likely have many more in the months ahead with the man he hopes to succeed in the White House.

McCain was endorsed today by President Bush, who promised to help McCain in any way he could - including staying away from McCain if the GOP nominee feels that's the best way to go.

But McCain is wedded to Bush's war. He's wedded to Bush's "surge" and he's wedded to Bush's tax cuts.

He will easily be painted by the Democrats as the candidate offering four more years of what we've got now.

By accepting Bush's support today McCain seems to be OK with that.

04 March 2008

War of words is key

Hillary Clinton has characterized Barack Obama's presidential campaign is little more than fancy words.

Obama has argued that, although his campaign is a lot more substantive than that, words do matter.

They're going to matter big-time after the results of today's four primaries are known.

I'm not in the business of prognostication. That's often when trouble starts.

But based on the
latest polls over the past few days, I'm going to stick my neck out and say Hillary Clinton will win Ohio tonight by 5 to 10 points, and probably a lot closer to 10.

polls of the past two days show Texas as a tossup, but new polls released today show Clinton with a mid-single-digit lead.

I'm going to assume this all means the momentum has swung noticeably toward Clinton in the past few days and that she will notch a slim victory in Texas - though I think Obama could win more delegates in the state.

I'm going to say the two will also split the two small states voting today - Rhode Island and Vermont.

Most news organization have Obama leading Clinton by about 100-120 delegates, depending on who's doing the counting - and by about 140-160 pledged delegates.

Despite the fact that she seems poised to win Ohio and the popular vote in Texas, the delegate needle is not likely to move more than about 10 0r 20 in Clinton's favor. Which is hardly a move at all.

It's six long weeks until Pennsylvania, the next mother load of delegates. So the war of words after today's elections will be important.

If she wins the popular vote in both Texas and Ohio, Clinton's argument that she's as viable as Obama will be strengthened greatly.

But Obama can still boast a delegate lead and likely victories in more of the remaining states than Clinton is likely to pull off. With mostly western and southern states among the dozen elections that will remain after tonight, Obama's argument would seem to hold.

But Clinton, ahead by double-digits at the moment, is likely to take the largest single prize- Pennsylvania.

As of today
her national numbers are as good as Obama's.

And she is likely to come out of tonight with a legitimate claim of momentum.

But with virtually no chance of winning the nomination with pledged delegates, Clinton may face a war of words with party leaders - who are growing tired of the length and nastiness of this campaign.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said the other day that the race must end after tonight, with the candidate holding the most pledged delegates being the nominee.

There is no chance of that happening, but it is indicative of a restlessness within the party over the possibility that the two candidates will tear each other down enough to lose in November.

NBC's Tom Brokaw today broke a story saying that about 50 super delegates are poised to come out very soon in Obama's favor.

That's another indication that the patience of party leaders is growing thin.

Depending on who the 50 are, the pressure for Clinton to step aside could be great.

She will need a strong argument to stay in the race.

But if the polls of the past few days are correct she just may be building that argument successfully.

02 March 2008

Heading toward Hillary?

Earlier this week former (Bill) Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers said on CNBC's Hardball that she felt the races coming up on Tuesday in Ohio and Texas were moving toward Hillary Clinton.

I don't remember her exact words, but that was the gist of her comment.

When Chris Matthews jumped down her throat asking her what she based that opinion on, Myers paused for a brief moment and then said "my golden gut."

I have to say as we reach the end of the final weekend of the Ohio/Texas campaign I'm feeling the same way, based on little more than my considerable gut.

Having spent the first 27 years of my life in Cleveland - six of those years covering politics - I think I have a bit of a handle on Ohio's political make-up.

I look at today's (Cleveland) Plain Dealer survey, which shows Clinton ahead of Barack Obama by four points (47%-43%) and I have no cause to doubt the poll is accurate.

You have to look beyond the surface numbers to determine that, indeed, those results appear to be pretty solid.

Clinton leads among women (53-38), people over 50 (54-36) and union households (56-34) - three key components of her coalition. That she leads those groups is not surprising, but the size of her lead among those groups is larger than it has been in many of the recent contests

The same can be said about the white vote, where Clinton holds a commanding 58%-32% lead.

Clinton has a 23-point lead in southeast Ohio, a sparsely populated part of the state which is dirt poor and in the foothills of Appalachia. Clearly Clinton remains appealing to low-income voters, which will be key in a state that has been stung more than most by lost jobs and home repossessions.

Perhaps a larger key for Clinton is her 47%-43% lead in northeast Ohio, which is the most populous part of the state and includes Cleveland, Akron, Canton and Youngstown. These are all cities that have been devastated by the effects of NAFTA, but also the part of the state that has a much larger percentage of African Americans than other regions.

Clinton also leads in northwestern Ohio (53-38), which has Toledo as its largest population center.

Obama's strength is in central part of the state (46-43) and the southwest (52-36).

Central Ohio's population center is Columbus, easily the most progressive city in a not-very-progressive state. It's the home of Ohio State University and the state government. It also has the most highly educated electorate of any region in the state. What's surprising is that Obama's lead here is only three points.

The southwest population center is Cincinnati - home of the iconic Taft family, a leading Republican force in Ohio politics for more than 100 years. The pro-Obama vote here is more likely an anti-Hillary vote.

Only 8% of those polled by the Plain Dealer said it was possible they would change their mind before Tuesday, and they are evenly split among Obama and Clinton supporters. It's unlikely when these votes play out that they will bring about any overall shift in support.

Obama's best hope for an upset lies with two groups - the 9% statewide who say they remain undecided and independents, among whom Obama is favored 53%-33%.

If Obama can turn out independents in huge numbers and he can win the last two news cycles and move the undecideds into his camp, he can win.

Clinton has never trailed in the polls in the Buckeye State, and although Obama has cut her lead sharply over the past couple of weeks, I'm going to say Ohio will be a win for Hillary.

In Texas, the latest polls show Obama ahead, but by only a point or three.

Today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram puts Obama ahead by 1 point.

The other recent Texas polls are equally inconclusive.

Whether it was her complaint of unfair treatment by the media finally getting traction, her performance in the latest debate in Cleveland or her tenacious campaigning, something has happened this week that seems to have stopped the bleeding for the Clinton.

Clearly no unexpected, Wisconsin-like blowout for Obama is in the offing.

The question is whether Clinton can spin one, and possibly two, very narrow wins in Tuesday's big primaries into an argument for her continued candidacy.

I'm going to predict we'll see a lot more of Clinton on the campaign trail in the weeks ahead.

27 February 2008

Led by children?

Does it seem to you that we are a nation of ninth graders? Or at least a nation led by a bunch of ninth graders.

Or maybe I'm not being fair to ninth graders.

While those running for the highest office in the land, and their surrogates, have provided dozens of examples in the past few weeks of "nah-nah-nah-nah nah-nah" politics, all you really have to do is go back 24 hours to have more of it than you can really stomach.

Today the low-brow commentary involved John McCain and Barack Obama, as McCain jumped on a slight misstatement made by Obama on an awkwardly worded hypothetical question by MSNBC's Tim Russert. (Click the link above for the full back-and-forth between McCain and Obama). About the only thing missing here is a "he started it" or a "see you after school dude" comment.

McCain's sarcastic rant against Obama came just 24 hours after the Arizona senator apologized to Obama for comments made by some moron radio host in Cincinnati who was a "warm-up act" at a McCain rally yesterday.

We also had the much-publicized nonsense about Louis Farrakhan's support for Obama and Obama's rejection of that support.

In this case, it's Russert who seemed bent on continuing to ram a question down Obama's throat when he'd already answered it. And of course Hillary Clinton chimed in with her "teacher, teacher, I have a better answer" response.

Which of course followed the whole Obama-in-Somali-dress episode, and the Three Faces of Hillary act which we commented on yesterday.

While criticizing your opponent is what political debate is all about, it seems we are incapable as a society of discussing the issues on an adult level.

One side is always looking to smear the other, or trip up the opponent rather than convincing people that they have the better plan.

The media seems to think its only purpose is to play "gotcha" or to make outrageous comments of their own, like Chelsea Clinton is being "pimped out" because she wants to help her mom win the election or Hillary's entire political career is based on sympathy for her having to endure the Lewinsky affair.

In the days before the 24-hour noise networks any newsperson making either statement would have been shown the door immediately. Now such inappropriateness seems to be cultivated by those networks.

The sad reality is we haven't even made it through February yet. There's still eight months to go and you have to wonder just how ridiculous it will get.

25 February 2008

Silly season indeed

During the most-recent Democratic debate Barack Obama said the political "silly season" was underway with Hillary Clinton's accusation that Obama plagiarized words from another politician's speech even though that politician not only gave Obama his blessing to use the words but encouraged him to do so.

The silly season may have reached it's peek today with wide-spread distribution of the photo of Obama shown above.

It's a legitimate (not doctored) picture of Obama, on a visit it Kenya in 2006, where he donned local ceremonial garb, much like thousands of politicians have done when they visit overseas.

(Think 'W' walking through the garden holding hands with some foreign male head of state because that's what they do over there.)

The picture was unearthed by The Drudge Report, saying it was obtained from members of the Clinton campaign. (somewhat like the Karl Rove campaign tactics Clinton accused Obama of using on Saturday)

The Obama camp called it "divisive" and campaign manager David Plouffe called it "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we've seen from either party in this election."

Clinton's spokesman Howard Wolfson, on a teleconference with reporters today essentially said 'don't look at us.'

"I just want to make it very clear that we were not aware of it, the campaign didn't sanction it and don't know anything about it."

The campaign had earlier issued a statement in which it did not come anywhere close to a denial that the photo may have come from somewhere inside the Clinton camp.


If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed. Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely.

This is nothing more than an obvious and transparent attempt to distract from the serious issues confronting our country today and to attempt to create the very divisions they claim to decry.

We will not be distracted."

But the Clinton campaign is indeed being distracted, or more accurately they are the ones doing the distracting - even if the Obama photo was not their handiwork.

Clinton today made a foreign policy speech in Washington, an area that - at least by her claims of superior experience - should be her strong suit over Obama.

But the silly picture of Obama looking like a member of the Taliban is getting all the attention.

And in her speech on foreign policy, Clinton made a few more incendiary remarks about Obama, contrasting his calls for talks with Iran and Cuba with his assertion that we should make an incursion into Pakistan, which harbors Osama bin Laden, and clean out the al Qaeda and Taliban elements who thrive there on the border with Afghanistan.

"He wavers from seeming to believe that mediation and meetings without preconditions can solve the world's intractable problems, to advocating rash, unilateral military action without cooperation from our allies in the most sensitive region of the world."--Hillary Clinton

The criticism of Obama - legitimate political criticism in most circumstances - becomes nothing more than "more mud thrown today by Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama" on the newscasts, if the speech is covered at all.

Unless you have been spending your recent days contemplating the meaning of life, your navel or the likely affect of Ralph Nader's entry into the presidential race, you are no doubt familiar with - and sick of seeing - Clinton's sarcastic rant yesterday which painted Obama and his followers as modern day Peter Pans, who refuse to grow up and face the realities of the real world.

Or her scolding of Obama Saturday over the campaign leaflets Obama's campaign distributed in Ohio.

All which followed her make-nice moment at the end of Thursday's debate.

The bluster seems to indicate that the "go-negative" wing of the campaign has won the day heading into the crucial Ohio and Texas primaries next Tuesday.

And just where has the strategy taken her?

A USA Today/Gallup poll today shows Obama up by 12 points nationally, though the latest three-day Gallup tracking poll shows Obama with a much smaller margin.

A Public Policy Polling poll shows Clinton's once huge lead in Ohio down to 4 points.

An American Research Group poll shows Obama ahead in Texas and facing a narrowing deficit in Ohio.

The University of Cincinnati's Ohio Poll shows Clinton with a narrowing lead, and so does the latest Quinnipiac Poll, though her lead in that survey is still in double digits.

With so much negativity in the air, tomorrow night's debate at my Alma Mater - Cleveland State University - should be interesting.

22 February 2008

What that ending was really all about

Sometimes it's best to put a few hours between yourself and an event before deciding just what to make of it.

Such is the case with the final 30 seconds or so of last night's Democratic debate. (This clip is a lot longer than 30 seconds, but you can fast-forward it to get to the relevant part).

Immediately following Hillary Clinton's conciliatory comments at the end of the debate, the talking heads were trying to decide what to make of it.

I happened to be watching MSNBC's coverage, where Keith Olberman seemed to be taking the comments not only as a concession speech by Clinton but also a bid to get her name on the short list of VP candidates.

NBC's Chuck Todd thought the moment was clearly an indication that Clinton realizes she might well lose the nomination but also a moment that might help her bid.

Clinton ended the debate on a VERY conciliatory note and for the first time sounded like a candidate who realized she might not win. It must be an odd position for her but the confidence she exuded for just about the entire debate disappeared there at the end. I wonder if showing some vulnerability might actually help her with some undecided voters.

Some pundits pointed to other seemingly conciliatory signs in the debate, most notably Clinton's answer to the question about superdelegates possibly deciding the nomination. She sidestepped the question and simply said, "we'll have a unified Democratic party" in the fall.

Still there were moments of tension between Clinton and Barack Obama, on healthcare and when Clinton tried (for what we can only hope is the last time) to score points on the plagiarism non-issue, saying Obama stood for "change you can Xerox."

Some of the talking heads on TV decided that Clinton's double-edged approach to the debate was indicative of the major split in her campaign - between those who think going big-time negative is her only hope and those who think such an approach will do more harm than good.

There may be something to that, but it certainly seems odd that the candidate would head out on to the stage for the most important debate of her career with two conflicting strategies.

Here's my guess.

The campaign's hope was Clinton could put Obama on the defensive during the debate - over healthcare or "plagairism" or SOMETHING - or, that he would somehow screw up himself.

I think the campaign felt if that didn't happen, then their only shot to salvage anything out of the evening would be for Clinton to get in the last word with something that would get serious play and win her some empathy, if not sympathy.

Clinton's closing comments - which were clearly hatched prior to their delivery on stage - would serve two purposes: tamp down the criticism that the senator seems to have taken a win-at-all-costs posture and give her plenty of airplay for at least a couple of news cycles.

I think the comments hit the pre-determined bullseye.

19 February 2008

Obama continues to roll

Barack Obama posted a larger than expected win in Wisconsin by carving chunks of support from Hillary Clinton's coalition, much as he did in the Potomac primaries.

Let's make this simple by skipping a lot of verbiage and go right to the numbers in the voting groups that Clinton had been carrying until last week's primaries in the mid-Atlantic.

Women: Clinton won this group tonight 50%-48%. Clinton had dominated this voting block until last week in Virginia when Obama won with about 60%. So Clinton regained some ground here.

White women: Clinton won 53%-45% in Wisconsin. The results were nearly identical in Virginia a week ago.

Families with income of $50,000/yr or below: Clinton again lost this once-solid demographic for her 46%-53%.

Education: Among high-school graduates the exit polls showed a dead heat 49%-49% - again an area where Clinton seems to be losing ground in a once-solid voting bloc.

Union membership: Obama topped Clinton in households where at least one family member is in a labor union 51%-47%. Among voters who themselves are in a union, the results were a tie.

Negative campaigning: 26% of those polled said that only Clinton attacked her opponent unfairly, and among that group 91% went for Obama; Just 6% said that Obama was the only candidate to attack his opponent unfairly. 27% said both took cheap shots at the other side.

Age: Obama won all age groups except those voters 65 and over. In Virginia Obama won literally every age group, so Clinton did reclaim some of her base among older Americans.

To summarize: Clinton regained some women, but didn't come anywhere near the levels she had wrung up among in the early primaries. She failed to take back those earning $50,000 or below, and failed to take back her lead among union members and union families. She also was unable to repeat her early performance among voters with only a high school education.

Her less-than-stellar performance in the lower-education, lower-income and unionized-worker groups does not bode well for Clinton as the race moves to Ohio and later to Pennsylvania.


Just two more observations and then we'll call it a night.

For the second time in key points in this campaign (South Carolina being the other), the voters have told the candidates - the Clintons in particular - that they are sick of negative campaigning.

The other point is a thought for Obama.

In breaking with campaign etiquette, Obama began his victory speech in Houston tonight before Clinton finished her non-concession speech in Youngstown.

It's not the first time that Clinton has not officially conceded on election night during this campaign - a breech of etiquette in itself.

But Obama would be wise from here on in to keep to the high road because his decision to upstage Clinton tonight smacked of the arrogance of a candidate who smells the nomination. It was unbecoming of the campaign he has tried to wage so far and he should think twice before doing it again.

Sometime around the time my alarm clock goes off at 4:30 a.m. EST we'll know what happened in Hawaii tonight. If you stay up for that you are more hardcore than I.

18 February 2008

Obama-Bloomberg third-party ticket and other nonsense

I like to stay away from just collecting and parroting news stories on this site.

There are a number of very good collating sites already, and in fact we prominently link to one of the best -
Taegan Goddard's PoliticalWire.

But because there are several things that popped up today that are worth knowing about and commenting on, I've decided to do a little collating - with some commentary - myself.

The most eye-catching is a report today by that sterling journalist Armstrong Williams, who reports that Barack Obama has a Plan B in mind if he should win the support of the voted-in delegates only to lose the Democratic nomination when it's in the hands of the super delegates.

Williams says Obama has talked with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg about teaming up on a third-party ticket (with Obama at the top) if Obama doesn't get the nod from the Democrats.

The ever-principled Mr. Williams quotes "the word on the street" and "sources" to back up his story.

You might remember that
Williams was paid by the White House several years ago to promote President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" program on Williams' syndicated TV show and to urge other black journalists to do the same.

So you might just want to take today's story - and anything else that springs from Williams' keyboard - with about six shakers of salt.


Grasping at strawmen

Now on to today's next bit of ridiculousness.

Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson has accused Barack Obama of plagiarism for using lines from another politician in a speech Obama gave over the weekend.

The Clinton campaign's latest - lame - attempt to find a way to bring down Obama is to argue that because Obama gives a much better speech than does Clinton he must be somehow less able to govern effectively.

The "all-talk-no-action" accusation has been used in the past, against Massachusetts Gov. Duval Patrick in his 2006 race against Republican Kerry Healey, who accused Patrick of being strong on rhetoric and short on specifics.

Patrick, during his campaign, responded with the following lines, which were pretty much exactly the same words Obama used in the same way over the weekend.

“ ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’ — just words? ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’ — just words? ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ Just words? ‘I have a dream’ — just words?”

Patrick's point then -as Obama's is now - is that part of being a good leader is being able to move people to action with your words.

Patrick, in a
New York Times story this morning, said he and Obama had anticipated that Clinton might use the same strategy on Obama that Healey tried on Patrick, and that he - Patrick - has no problem with Obama using his words.

Here's an excerpt from the Times story:

In a telephone interview on Sunday, Mr. Patrick said that he and Mr. Obama first talked about the attacks from their respective rivals last summer, when Mrs. Clinton was raising questions about Mr. Obama’s experience, and that they discussed them again last week.

Both men had anticipated that Mr. Obama’s rhetorical strength would provide a point of criticism. Mr. Patrick said he told Mr. Obama that he should respond to the criticism, and he shared language from his campaign with Mr. Obama’s speechwriters.

Mr. Patrick said he did not believe Mr. Obama should give him credit.

“Who knows who I am? The point is more important than whose argument it is,” said Mr. Patrick, who telephoned The New York Times at the request of the Obama campaign. “It’s a transcendent argument.”

Said Obama : "I was on the stump, and he had suggested that we use these lines. I thought they were good lines. I'm sure I should have (credited Patrick)— didn't this time. I really don't think this is too big of a deal."

Seems to me like it's not plagiarism if the two men discussed using the comments ahead of time.

It seems also that an increasingly panicked Clinton camp is grasping at straws here.

Pooh poohing the super delegate strategy

One of Clinton's staunchest African-American backers, Rep. Charles Rangel of Harlem said the Clinton campaign should not be counting on the super delegates to pull her effort out of the fire.

The Associated Press reports Rangel made the comments at a gathering in Albany last night.

"It's the people [who are] going to govern who selects our next candidate and not superdelegates," Rangel said last night at a dinner for the
New York State Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators conference in Albany. "The people's will is what's going to prevail at the convention and not people who decide what the people's will is," he added.

Meanwhile, another Clinton backer and her fellow senator from New York, Charles Schumer, told Tim Russert yesterday on Meet the Press that he also sees no good coming from a nomination being sealed by the super delegates.

"For the sake of party unity, [Democratic National Committee chairman] Howard Dean and the two candidates will have to get together if neither candidate has 2,025 ... and come up with a strategy. Each candidate will have to buy into that strategy."

A little something more for the Clinton camp to be concerned about today.

17 February 2008

Will Texas be Hillary's Alamo?

There seems to be a general consensus among most politicos that Hillary Clinton must win in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania to keep her candidacy alive.

Ohio, at least according to the polls, doesn't seem to be a big problem for Clinton.

The same is true for Pennsylvania, though that race is two months away and who knows what can happen by then?

Texas, on the other hand, is a lot more problematic.

The Dallas Morning News on Sunday did a long, analytical piece about the Democratic race in the state, interviewing party officials, campaign operatives and political experts.

Based on that analysis and recent polling, it's beginning to look like Clinton may not pull off the kind of win she needs in Texas, and may pick up fewer delegates there than Barack Obama, whether or not she wins the popular vote.

"Hillary needs to maintain her advantage with women voters, which seems to be slipping nationally," said Democratic consultant Glenn Smith in the Dallas Morning News article.

American Research Group's Texas poll, released Friday, indicates Clinton seems to be OK there. She
leads among women 54% to 42%.

Wayne Slater, who wrote the piece for the paper described a winning coalition for Clinton this way:

"The Clinton blueprint suggests getting two-thirds of Hispanics, a majority of women and enough moderate 'yellow dog' Democrats in East Texas to win."

This is where the problems start for Clinton, at least in the last ARG polling.

The poll shows Clinton leading among Latino voters in Texas by a 44% to 42% margin.
In the Democratic races as a whole so far, Clinton has been able to reach the needed two-thirds threshold among Latinos.

But she didn't do nearly as well in the last round of races - the Potomac primaries. In Maryland Clinton got 55% of the Latino vote to Obama's 45%, according to exit polls. In Virginia, Clinton trailed Obama among Latinos 46% to 54%.

The Potomac primaries were held two days after Patti Solis Doyle - the first Hispanic to manage a presidential campaign - resigned as Clinton's campaign manager.

The move has angered some Hispanic leaders, who feel Solis Doyle was being scapegoated for the candidate's current losing streak.

The move clearly is not going to help Clinton in Texas, where the latest ARG poll shows her trailing
overall to Obama 48% to 42%.

(Editor's note: ARG polls tend to run contrary to the overall body of polls. For example, most polls have Clinton leading Obama in Texas by a number in the upper-single digits. And you may have noticed ARG (in the link above) shows Clinton leading Obama in Wisconsin by six points. Most polls have it the other way around. Still, with ARG showing Clinton and Obama virtually tied among Latinos it is hard to imagine ARG is so far off that Clinton could still have the two-to-one margin she needs in that voting block.)

Democratic political consultant Ed Martin told the Dallas Morning News he thinks Hispanic turnout will be heavy, but in proportion with overall turnout.

But he said
"The real vote change could be urban: African-Americans. I think (African-American turnout) is going to be much, much larger."

Having won the African-American vote by an 8-1 margin so far, a bulge in turnout by that constituency in Texas, obviously, would help Obama there.

Whether or not these two factors will be enough for Obama to beat Clinton in the popular vote in Texas, it seems clear they will at least allow him to keep Clinton from the 20-point victory she needs in the state (as well as in Ohio and Pennsylvania) to bring her back to even with Obama in the number of committed (voter-picked) delegates to the convention.

In fact, as the Dallas Morning News points out in its Sunday article, it's is entirely possible that Clinton could win the popular vote in Texas and still lose the delegate tally.

"As it happens, the state Senate districts with the most delegates – Austin, Houston and Dallas – are all seen as prime Obama territory. As a result of that and other quirks in the process, it is possible that even if Mrs. Clinton wins the popular vote on March 4 – and declares victory that evening – Mr. Obama could actually come away with more delegates."

Having said all that, there's still the matter of Wisconsin, and with most polls showing a spread of roughly four or five points, Obama is no lock there and an upset this Tuesday would cast a whole different light on next Tuesday.

12 February 2008

Obama widens coalition in Potomac primaries

Barack Obama made it another clean sweep tonight, this time in the so-called Potomac primaries in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C.

The victories - when the votes are counted - will be by roughly 25 to 30 points in Virginia and Maryland, much the same as Obama's wins in the contests this past weekend. The victory in D.C. will be closer to 50 points.

But to really absorb the magnitude of Obama's wins, you have to look at the exit polls, where you will find that certain voting blocks that have been going for Hillary Clinton in previous contests may be starting to be won over by Obama.

In Virginia, Obama got 50% of the white vote to 49% for Clinton. Some 56% of white men went for Obama.

In the 60-plus age group, Obama won 54% to 46%.

Obama also won among all income groups, and won by 20 to 30 points in the various groups at $50,000 or below - groups (like those mentioned above) that Clinton has won in previous races.

Obama also got 60% of those who maxed out their education with a high school diploma, another group that Clinton has attracted until now.

Some 70% of those who identified themselves as Republicans in Virginia voted for Obama. Among independents, 66% went for Obama.

Obama also won among Catholics 50% to 48%, a first-time win for him in that category as well.

Sparing the details, Obama made similar inroads among the same groups of voters in Maryland , though Clinton won the overall white vote 51% to 46%.

Perhaps the most disconcerting numbers for Clinton are the gains made by Obama among lower-educated and lower-income voters. These groups are going to be key in upcoming races in Wisconsin, Texas and Ohio.

The same is true for the gain in Catholic voters, a key constituency in cities like Cleveland and all of northern Ohio, as well as Milwaukee and other ethnic enclaves in Wisconsin.

The bad news for Clinton is the widening delegate count for Obama, but the worse news for the New York senator is Obama's widening coalition.

On the Republican side, John McCain was the winner in all three races. He's projected by the networks to have won big in Maryland and D.C.

But Mike Huckabee continues be that annoying flea buzzing around his face, getting a little over 40% of the vote in Virginia.

09 February 2008

Huckabee crashes McCain coming-out party

John McCain's first Election Day as the GOP's presumptive nominee was one big flop.

The biggest punch in the stomach for McCain came mid-day out of Kansas, where he found he lost that state's Republican caucuses to Mike Huckabee by a whopping 60%-24%.

The day didn't get much better as it moved into evening.

With 98% of the vote tabulated in Louisiana, McCain trailed Huckabee 44% to 42%.

And out West in Washington State, with nearly 80% of the vote counted it looks as though McCain won't get over the 30% threshold, if he manages to hold on at all.

The numbers I'm looking at as I write this are McCain 26%, Huckabee 24%, Ron Paul 21% and the no-longer-running Mitt Romney 16%.

According to Louisiana exit polls, McCain was unable to come up with the right answer to the big question he faces.

Can he get the party's right wing behind him?

Evangelicals made up 57% of the GOP electorate in the state, with 56% going for Huckabee and 31% for McCain. Among those who described themselves as politically conservative (71% of GOP voters), 50% went for Huckabee and 34% went for McCain.

There was no exit polling in Washington or Kansas, since those states held caucuses.

But with McCain unable to get more than about one in four votes there, and four candidates finishing within about 10 points of each other top-to-bottom, it's clear there's something Republicans in Washington don't like about McCain as well.

And Kansas was a major repudiation of the party's likely nominee.

Most of the GOP's winner-take-all contests have already been completed, so McCain will get a slice of the delegates in nearly all of the races from here on in.

He will get enough delegates to win the nomination.

But with many more nights like this, the Republican nominee will cross the finish line with a bloody nose and a black eye.
A huge sweep for Obama

Barack Obama rolled through today's three-state contest with huge victories in all three.

Obama pulled 68% of the vote in caucuses in Washington and Nebraska.

With nearly 90% of the votes counted in Louisiana it appears that Obama will win there with about 55% of the vote.

So what can read into this?

With the wide margins of victory Obama put up tonight, he will have a clear lead in the committed-delegate count (the ones people actually voted for) and I'm hearing "experts" on TV projecting he'll be within 25 delegates of Clinton when the super delegates are added in.

With Obama holding large leads in the primaries in Virginia, Maryland and DC on Tuesday, Obama could threaten to take the lead in both counts by next Wednesday morning.

Tonight's wins were not surprising, but the margins of victory were, and that should have the Clinton campaign on edge.

Clinton needs to pick up a win in Maine's caucus tomorrow or in Wisconsin or Hawaii on Feb. 19 to put a speed bump in Obama's path before the next big round of primaries on March 3, when Texas and Ohio - right now Clinton states - will predominate.

08 February 2008

Why the Democrats could lose

The current Republican occupant of the White House has had approval ratings in the low 30s for years now.

The GOP's presumptive nominee in the race to replace George Bush is the biggest hawk on the most divisive issue in the country - the Iraq war.

And that likely nominee - John McCain - is despised by a large and vocal pillar of the party's base.

Meanwhile, the Democrats started the nominating process with five or six candidates that most everyone seemed to like. It was like a candidate candy store.

Weeks later there are two candidates still standing and the Dems like them both so much they just can't seem to decide who to choose.

And therein lies the problem.

It is pretty much a mathematical certainty that neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama will have enough committed delegates in their corner to win the nomination when the primaries and caucuses have all come to an end.

Since I've previously mentioned my shortcomings in math, you don't have to take my word for it.
Here's the argument, as made by washingtonpost.com's Paul Kane:

We've done a bad job of explaining this, but it is now basically mathematically impossible for either Clinton or Obama to win the nomination through the regular voting process (meaning the super-delegates decide this one, baby!).

Here's the math. There are 3,253 pledged delegates, those doled out based on actual voting in primaries and caucuses. And you need 2,025 to win the nomination.

To date, about 55% of those 3,253 delegates have been pledged in the voting process -- with Clinton and Obamb roughly splitting them at about 900 delegates a piece.

That means there are now only about 1,400 delegates left up for grabs in the remaining states and territories voting.

So, do the math. If they both have about 900 pledged delegates so far, they need to win more than 1,100 of the remaining 1,400 delegates to win the nomination through actual voting.

Ain't gonna happen, barring a stunning scandal or some new crazy revelation. So, they'll keep fighting this thing out, each accumulating their chunk of delegates, one of them holding a slight edge and bothing finishing the voting process with 1,600 or so delegates.

And then the super delegates decide this thing.

That's the math.

Ah the super delegate thing again.

Face it folks of the Democratic Party. It ain't going away.

So far in the Democratic contests, thousands of new voters have come into the process, excited - presumably - by the chance to vote for potentially the first women or first African American president. Or perhaps because they are just plain excited by two solid candidates.

Whatever the reason, Democrats are excited.

But, as we saw in the days before South Carolina, Democratic voters seem to be strongly attracted to "their" candidate, and when push comes to shove the heat starts to rise and bad blood boils to the surface.

There are people who are staunchly behind Clinton. And there are clearly "Obama" voters.

Before the race got so tense, many Democrats would probably have told you they'd be happy with either.

But now they seem to have taken sides.

And, these new, turned-on and very partial voters are going to have their decision made for them by 800 or so professional politicians.

All those folks - or more accurately half of them - who sent $50 Obama's way, or came to Clinton's rescue when they found out she was lending her own campaign lots of money are going to see that their money went down the drain.

The volunteers who knocked on doors, harassed commuters at the train station or manned phones at the corner campaign office will see that their work was for naught.
How many of those folks do you think will repeat those important tasks in November if "their" candidate is shown the door by the politicos?

And then we have the question of Florida and Michigan.

Like most of us, I have to presume the big-wigs at the Democratic National Committee never imagined the race would last past Tsunami Tuesday, and so stripping the two rogue states of their delegates as punishment for scheduling their primaries too early seemed like a good idea.

Who knew those delegates would be critical?

And now one of the candidates - the only major candidate to keep her name on the ballot in Michigan and the only major candidate to visit Florida during the primary period - is pushing to count those votes.

That puts the party big-wigs in the position of taking sides.

If they stand their ground, they're taking Obama's side.

If they relent and seat the delegates at the convention, they're taking Clinton's side.

Once again, how will that play with the supporters of the candidate who "lost" on that one?
There is some talk of a re-vote, or of holding caucuses in the two states, to make the results more equitable. This isn't a great solution, but it may be better than the alternative.

Most news organizations agree that Clinton is favored by more of the super delegates who have already declared their preference (but are free to change their minds), so that gives her a bit of an upper hand.

Yet most polls conducted over the past several months -
including one released today by Time magazine - have shown Obama doing better in one-on-one match-ups with McCain in November.

So while the party regulars favor Clinton at the moment, they may be doing so at the expense of the candidate the polls say may be a slightly stronger choice for the general election.

Even the results of the GOP primary season have conspired to throw a clinker into the campaign that the Dems "can't possibly lose."

Although he has tried furiously to prove otherwise to conservative GOP voters, McCain is probably the most center-right of the candidates on the Republican side. (Although with Mitt Romney it was pretty difficult to tell where he actually stood on the issues, regardless of what he was saying on the campaign trail).

McCain's work on campaign reform and a reasonable solution to the problem of illegal immigrants are just two examples of his tendency to head to the center ground.

McCain has two choices for November.

He can continue to stay to the right and try to win over and turn out the right wing of his party. If he can excite that group, he improves his chances.
But the evidence of the past few days indicates that he will have a hard sell.

Also, if he stays to the right, he leaves the center and left wide open for one of two Democrats who won't have much trouble filling that space.

McCain's other choice is to veer back toward the center.

If he does, the right flank will stay home in November but he'll pick up some votes in the center, the very same votes he'll be taking away from his opponent.

So which strategy do you think he'll follow?

There has been talk - mostly wistful longing for the old, old days by students of political history - of a compromise candidate (Al Gore?) emerging from the back rooms at the convention.

It seems doubtful the Democrats would take that option, but right now I don 't see an easy way out of the dilemma the party pooh bahs created with the super delegate system.


By the way, if you're a Democrat and wondering who your congressman, governor or other local party pooh bah is supporting - if anyone -
click here.

07 February 2008

McCain and the conservatives

It's all over - except for the shouting, or gnashing of teeth on the far right of the Grand Old Party.

With Mitt Romney's departure from the race today, John McCain will be the GOP candidate in November.

With just under 1,200 delegates still to be chosen in the Republican races ahead, Mike Huckabee would have to get just under 1,000 to get the nomination.

So, barring something that would fall into the "God forbid" category, McCain will carry the GOP flag this fall.

So the big question becomes, can McCain unite the Republican Party?

More specifically, can he win over the ultra-conservative wing of the party?

He tried today - at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

"It is my sincere hope that even if you believe I have occasionally erred in my reasoning as a fellow conservative, you will still allow that I have, in many ways important to all of us, maintained the record of a conservative."--John McCain at CPAC

And just how did that go over with the social conservatives gathered in D.C. James Joyner of Outside the Beltway had this summary of the event:

McCain’s speech was conciliatory, praising Mitt Romney as “a great governor” and Mike Huckabee as a “great man” (or something along those lines). He must have used the word “conservative” 200 times. Nothing of any great substance in the speech for those of us who have been paying attention all these months.

The crowd reception was relatively enthusiastic. If there was a lot of booing, it wasn’t audible on the closed circuit; it might have been in the hall.

But, if you saw the speech on TV, what you saw may not have been the full picture, at least not according to Anne Schroeder Mullins, who's Shenanigans blog is part of the Politico Web site:

We're told from a reliable source on the ground at CPAC: "They stuffed the main room with McCain supporters. But the overflow room booed him heartily, cheered when Romney was mentioned, booed when McCain said he hopes we forgive his absence from CPAC in the past."

Our source was sure to add: "There was forced applause by the supporters, but not the whole room; laughs and scoffs when he mentioned his conservative record."

The overflow room has 100+ people in it, we're told, with minimal (seven-ish) McCain supporters.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press is reporting tonight that influential evangelical Christian leader James Dobson will cast his lot with Mike Huckabee.

Here's a short excerpt from the AP report:

Dobson released a statement Tuesday that criticized McCain for his support of embryonic stem cell research, his opposition to a federal anti-gay marriage amendment and for his temper and use of foul language.

McCain called the appearance at CPAC a "good first step" toward winning over the right wing. Can't wait to see the next step.