"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you”


Monday, December 31, 2007

As I See It: The Democratic Nomination

Democrats are blessed this New Year.

We have a field of presidential candidates unmatched in American history. The Iowa caucuses loom less than 72 hours away and - for the most part - we are debating our candidates' strengths. Who is the most electable? Who has the most valuable experience? Who can unite a nation and enact change?

It may have at times seemed dirty and nasty (and may get moreso in the weeks preceding Tsunami Tuesday) but all one has to do is look at what's happening on the other side to realize the Democratic campaign is about a positive vision for America's future. The Republicans? Not so much.

How does one choose from this qualified and diverse candidate roster? To me, it comes down to this central question:

Do I want a "uniter" who will moderate to the middle (Obama) or do I want a "fighter" who will have the determination to implement truly progressive liberal reforms (Edwards) to be the Democratic Party's nominee?

"Turning the page" on the past two decades' partisan warfare is well and good, as long as the nation is led into it's next progressive chapter, united in purpose to restore the American Dream.

I have less faith in Obama's ability to move to the nation in the progressive direction and that is why I believe Edwards would be our strongest standard-bearer.

Rothenberg: Edwards More of a Divider Than Dubya (Say What?)

Political commentator Stuart Rothenberg calls John Edwards a "divider" by declaring: "his (Edwards') approach to problems is likely to frighten many voters, including most middle class Americans and virtually all Republicans."

Is this a last-minute effort by the Inside the Beltway punditocracy to derail Edwards' electability argument? David Sirota seems to think so. In a post over at DailyKos Sirota writes the rise of populist candidates in both the Democratic and Republican primaries is causing full-scale panic in the exclusive salons of the DC Chattering Classes.

Rothenberg makes an astonishing prediction (emphasis mine)

But let’s be very clear: Given the North Carolina Democrat’s rhetoric and agenda, an Edwards Presidency would likely rip the nation apart – even further apart than Bush has torn it.

On Capitol Hill, Edwards’s “us versus them” rhetoric and legislative agenda would almost certainly make an already bitter mood even worse. He would in the blink of an eye unify the GOP and open up divisions in his own party’s ranks. Congressional Republicans would circle the wagons in an effort to stop Edwards’s agenda.

The punditocracy is failing to connect the dots. The populist message is appealing to voters across the political spectrum. How else can one explain libertarian Ron Paul's wild fundraising success, Huckabee (and Edwards) populist-fueled Iowa surges and the flailing campaigns of the deep-pocketed establishment candidates? Rothenberg failes to acknowledge that an Edwards Administration, if it materializes, will likely be sworn in with a stronger progressive Congressional majority in Jan 2009. The election's mandate could be stronger than any seen since the 1980s.

There is a growing discontent and deep unease afflicting America's middle and working classes. Health care, education, and the economy - Democrats' bread and butter issues - are rising to the top of voter concerns. The candidates addressing these issues most directly are the ones gaining traction as the first votes approach. This doesn't mean the populist insurgencies will eventually win the nominations, but it does illustrate the two divergent worldviews of the Inside The Beltway Bubble and the rest of America.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Delegate Dash Is On

before the first votes are cast in America's Heartland, Hillary is ahead in SuperDelegates - proving the Democratic establishment has gathered in the Clinton Corner.

According to ABC's survey the totals are:

Clinton 158
Obama 89
Edwards 26
Richardson 20
Dodd 15
Biden 8
Kucinich 1
Gravel 0

Since these delegates are free to change their minds, it will be interesting to see if the voting in Iowa and New Hampshire alters these totals.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Nine Out of Ten American Voters Surveyed Agree:

It's rare during this time of increased partisanship to find the American electorate agreeing on anything, but this morning a new presidential preference poll from USA Today/Gallup reveals a surprising consensus among American voters. Granted, the headlines from the poll are likely to be about a modest bounce in support for Hillary Clinton and a shift among Democratic voters towards nominating the "most electable" general election candidate.

But buried deeper in the poll is an intriguing number: Nine out of ten voters today say it makes a real difference to them who is elected president. This represents a huge swing (of more than 30 points) compared to polling data from previous election cycles:

A. Does it make a real difference to you who is elected president, or not?

DATEYesNo No opinion
2007 Dec 14-1690100
2000 Mar 10-1260355
2000 Jan 7-1054379
1996 May 9-1257403
1992 Oct 23-2576222
1992 Sep 11-1566304
1992 Apr 20-2253434
1992 Feb 28-Mar 153425
1992 Jan 6-9603010

Only in the closing weeks of the 1992 general election campaign did more than 2/3 of voters share the sentiment. Perhaps this number is a confirmation of the view 2008 may be truly be a "change election."

I can offer up three possible explanations for this change:

1) It is an indictment of the Bush administration's failed policies which have adversely affected the daily lives of American families. Even the most casual voter understands the stakes in the 2008 presidential election.

2) It is a reflection of the increased partisanship that has become a fixture in American politics over the past fifteen years. As we've gone to our separate corners and divided ourselves further apart on the ideological spectrum, the stark differences in governing philosophies have increased the importance of who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

3) The Global War on Terror is more than a bumper sticker slogan. Perhaps 9/11 did change everything. Since the USA Today poll doesn't include data for the 2004 cycle, perhaps this shift happened during the last cycle. If this is the case, I'm afraid we may end up with a President Rudy.

Any other explanations?

TeamHillary on the Hawkeye Tightwire

A powerful force is at work when the liberal and conservative punditocracy opinion talking heads extol similar viewpoints simultaneously. An emerging consensus of the rarely aligned voices from the Left (EJ Dionne) and the Right (D. Brooks) provides additional narrative to the "TeamHillary is in Free-fall" and "The Clinton Coronation March Has Ended" storylines.

Brooks writes this morning about the underlying strength of the Obama candidacy - an "astonishingly" consistent, inner-driven man with a unique approach to modern American politics. He observes:

"Many of the best presidents in U.S. history had their character forged before they entered politics and carried to it a degree of self-possession and tranquillity that was impervious to the Sturm und Drang of White House life.

Obama is an inner-directed man in a profession filled with insecure outer-directed ones. He was forged by the process of discovering his own identity from the scattered facts of his childhood, a process that is described in finely observed detail in “Dreams From My Father.” Once he completed that process, he has been astonishingly constant."


"...Obama does not ratchet up hostilities; he restrains them. He does not lash out at perceived enemies, but is aloof from them. In the course of this struggle to discover who he is, Obama clearly learned from the strain of pessimistic optimism that stretches back from Martin Luther King Jr. to Abraham Lincoln. This is a worldview that detests anger as a motivating force, that distrusts easy dichotomies between the parties of good and evil, believing instead that the crucial dichotomy runs between the good and bad within each individual."

Brooks argues Obama's post-partisan approach, his inner confidence and his powers of observation make him a powerful alternative to Clinton for Democratic primary voters.

In the WaPo, EJ Dionne concludes Hillary's downturn is due to multiple miscalculations: she doesn't grasp the "vision thing," is guilty of overlooking Iowa toward a general election campaign and her failure to understand Obama's appeal.

"Yet Clinton's difficulties owe to deeper flaws in her strategy. These include an early ambivalence about competing in Iowa; the failure to link her arguments about experience to more inspirational themes; and an underestimation of Obama, bred by his sluggish performance during the summer. She thus emphasized positions -- in favor of a tough Iran policy, for example -- potentially more helpful in a general election campaign than with a Democratic electorate."

According to Dionne, TeamHillary is frustrated by perceived unfair media coverage. They are unhappy Clinton is primarily blamed for the campaign's negative tone and Obama's policy proposals receive minimal media attention while his idealistic rhetoric receives glowing reviews.

TeamHillary's challenging balancing act: continue raising questions about Obama as a general election candidate without being viewed as attacking. Thus far, they've been somewhat unsuccessful and the task becomes more difficult now, the week before Christmas.

Who will benefit from the changed Democratic dynamic? I won't be surprised by a John Edwards Iowa victory.

Friday, December 14, 2007

TGIF Random Thoughts 12.14.07

No Worries @ TeamHillary: Chief Pollster and Senior Clinton aide Mark Penn's take on the state of the Dem nomination contest surveys the "plethora" of early state polls and declares:
"...poll reader beware. No question that this is a fully engaged race and the polls in Iowa are competitive and tight. Iowa is a state where Hillary started behind and has been improving steadily. But the polls in the other states show meaningful leads as we head into the home stretch, and Hillary maintains a national base in Feb 5th states that is strong and unmatched. And that's what the polls show."

Penn also describes the race as a roller-coaster ride. Strap yourselves in, boys and girls, it's going to be a bumpy ride!

Where were the Fireworks? On the GOP side, the presidential candidates participated in the Univision-sponsored Spanish language debate. Considering the emotional and nasty rhetoric flying between the candidates over illegal immigration in recent months the relative civility in this setting (one all candidates except McCain originally tried to avoid) is puzzling. With polls showing Hispanics opposing harsh immigration policies, it appears unlikely the GOP will be able to make inroads into the Democratic dominance in this rapidly growing voting bloc.

Does Tony Soprano Know? New Jersey inched closer to ending death penalty. With the federal government actively pursuing torture, uhm, I mean "enhanced interrogation techniques" this is certainly a case of one step forward, two steps back.

GOP Treading Water: National Republicans breathed a sigh of relief this weeks when they successfully defended two open congressional seats (VA-01 & OH-05). Both seats have strong conservative tendencies and would never be in play during normal political times. The DCCC made an aggressive push for the Ohio seat, forcing the cash-depleted NRCC to pour unprecedented resources into the special election. If this is a harbinger for 2008 contests, the GOP may find itself relegated to a "semi-permanent minority" party in the House again.

How is This News? Outside groups to play big role in 2008 presidential campaign.

This has to be one of my favorite headlines of campaign '08. I don't think we'll be seeing a "Huckleberry Girl" video anytime soon.

The GOP's Great Schism

The likelihood of a Romney GOP nomination are growing slimmer by the day.

Huckabee's evangelical base is heading into a battle with the old-line blue blood Wall Street wing of the party. Three weeks before the primary voting begins, the financial conservatives' support is divided between Romney & Giuliani, with Rudy picking up the neocon warhawks. Because the war on terra remains a much more potent issue on the Republican side, Giuliani is likely to carry the Wall Street banner against Huckabee for control of the GOP.

In many ways, although Huckabee scares the bejeebers out of me in the general because of his Uncle Ronnie-like amicability, a Huckabee nomination would mean very bad things for the GOP, which would likely divide. It would signify a further retreat into a theocratic, regional (Southern) party, alienating the financial conservatives, libertarians and independents in the 2008 general election and, quite possibly, in subsequent election cycles.

A Huckabee nomination may also entice Mike Bloomberg to launch a third party candidacy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

TeamHillary: Sharpening the Knives

Earlier this year, TeamHillary was being admired for the disciplined focus and the strict messaging coming from the former first lady's campaign. It was more reminiscent of the GOP Bush/Rove campaign (and first term White House) team than the sometimes chaotic rivalries we remember from Bill Clinton's team. But the recent downturn in early state polls resulted in poorly advised and amateurish attacks on chief rival Barack Obama, revealing a sense of panic inside the campaign.

Democratic dischord - Clinton-style - is resurgent.

Further confirmation of disarray comes with the stories of top-level infighting and backstabbing among senior aides. Chief target: pollster Mark Penn. Newsday reports:

"There are two people who have come up with this strategy -- one Hillary Clinton and one Mark Penn," said a top Clinton ally, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Mark wanted to run her, basically, for re-election, and we are seeing what happened."

Said another Clinton camper: "The heat's on Mark. ... He's got a lot of enemies."

It's never a good sign when a campaign starts springing anonymous leaks. The revelation of a Bill vs. Hillary staff schism within the campaign is perhaps the most ominous threat to a Clinton restoration. This is one of the obstacles/struggles Al Gore encountered during the 2000 campaign. More from the Newsday article:

For months, tension has been building between the "Hillary" and "Bill" parts of the team, say several people familiar with the situation. Bill Clinton -- along with former White House hands -- have counseled her to adopt a far more aggressive approach with Obama.

Penn, sources say, has counseled moderation, believing an attack would elevate her already-high negatives and drive her too far to the left to win a general election.

If it really is Bill behind the recent aggressive attacks, I find myself in rare agreement with Penn. I think the "win at all costs" approach hurts Hillary's campaign more than Obama's. While I disliked the "coronation march" we were witnessing throughout most of 2007, I think it was the one which made the most sense, politically.

Now, with less than three weeks before the Iowa voting, the campaign is off-message and attacking recklessly, aides are playing the blame game (although anonymously thus far) and Bill is taking center stage.

None of this is good news for Hillary's nomination chances.

Chris Matthews: Joe's Got the Mo

Got an interesting email from the Biden campaign today highlighting Chris Matthew's on-air comments about the Delaware Senator:

Even more evidence that the buzz surrounding our campaign is getting around. This week, Chris Matthews of MSNBC placed our campaign in the top three... "On the Democratic side - I say, and this may surprise you, that Joe Biden is now the third best bet for the nomination. I'm hearing a lot of buzz about him from people who pay attention."

It seems strange to have Biden - the acknowledged Democratic foreign policy dean to be "surging" at the precise moment when Iraq and Iran seem to be fading in importance. Others have been explaining both the Obama and Huckabee upswings in the context of the declining overseas dangers (as perceived by the electorate).

I'm curious to know who these "people who pay attention" are. But, to be honest, "paying attention" doesn't necessarily equate to "knowledge and wisdom" among the modern day political talking class.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Change, Change, Change...Are the Voters a Chain of Fools?

There he goes again: Bill Clinton is traversing Iowa making the argument Hillary is the true change agent in the Democratic nomination battle. The premise of the former first lady and establishment favorite as a force for change in 2008? What kind of fools does he take the Iowa electorate to be?

According to the WaPo blog The Trail, he uses the 1993 healthcare reform debacle to illustrate Hillary's liberal credentials, arguing her vision was broader and more historic than LBJ's Great Society.

Where to begin with this self-serving revisionism? Maybe I should point out the Clinton healthcare reform went down in a legislative defeat, failing to reverse the climb in uninsured Americans or slow down soaring healthcare costs. Seems to me LBJ was successful in at least creating the anti-poverty programs and implementing real civil rights reforms that unquestionably changed the daily lives of millions.

Or perhaps I should remind Clinton he presided over rolling back some key programs of LBJ's Great Society programs and once famously declared the "era of big government is over."

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Sunday Muse

Three Items for the FUBAR File:

  1. American influence in the world continues its freefall thanks to BushCo foreign policy.
  2. Anyone else thinking it might be time to apply the "Three Strikes Law" to Democrats and their dismal failure to stand up to Bush/Cheney on an Iraq timeline?
  3. Today's WaPo is reporting senior Congressional Dems (including Pelosi) were briefed on CIA interrogation techniques back in 2002 and no one raised any concerns about waterboarding, making this week's call for an investigation into the disappearance of the interrogation videotapes somewhat disengenuous.
The Nomination Horse Race Updates:

In Search of The 'New Girls' Network: The Wall Street Journal reports on Clinton's difficulty winning over successful, professional women.

No Longer a Dark Horse: I'll say it again: Huckabee's surge in Iowa (where evangelical voters are proving once again they will participate in politics as one cohesive voting bloc) is bad news for Democrats in the November general election.

A Primary Contest: If any additional evidence was necessary to show the Democratic nomination contest has morphed from a coronation march into a true battle, there's news of a dramatic shift in South Carolina (where Obama is now in a statistical tie with Clinton).

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What Do We Do With Bill?

It must have been one of the fundamental questions TeamHillary pondered while formulating its 2008 presidential campaign strategy.

Clearly, Clinton Nineties Nostalgia would be a central part of Hillary's candidacy. The strategists were banking on human nature. Most of us choose to remember positive memories over painful experiences and TeamHillary's strategy would be to focus on the best aspects of the Clinton years. They were counting on the electorate's fond memories of the economic boom, soaring stock market and the "hiatus from history" that marked the decade between the end of the Cold War and the arrival of foreign terrorists on America's shores. They also understood the political battles of the decade (re: the L'affair Lewinsky) seemed frivolous in retrospect to today's life and death questions.

Politicos of all ideological persuasions acknowledged former President Clinton as one of his generation's foremost political strategists. Having Bill as her senior adviser would be an unrivaled campaign weapon, as long as the private scandals remained part of the past and he did not outshine his candidate spouse. Overall, Bill had to be viewed as one of the campaign's most powerful assets.

However, they probably didn't foresee the inexplicable evaporation of Bill's political Midas touch. In recent weeks, Bill has become a liability whenever he garners media attention. Whether he's accusing her Democratic rivals of "piling on" and "swift-boating" Hillary or he's revising his Iraq war position, he seems to have found a knack to knock the campaign off-stride.

I start to wonder, what happened to his vaunted political wisdom? Or is that simply another example of the selective amnesia inherent to a campaign built on nostalgia?

The question for TeamHillary, one month prior to the Iowa caucuses remains:

"What do we do with Bill?"

America's Credibility & The NeoCon Cowboys

Oh, Canada! A Canadian judge rules the United States should not be considered a safe haven for refugees. Now we can add our neighbor to the Great White North to the roster of nations (The Coalition of the No Longer Gullible?) who view America as troublemakers and a source of global instability.

The "shoot fast and furious, torture thoroughly and aggressively" Neocon mentality continues to diminish America's international stature.

Despite the growing international consensus, our Commander-in-Chief continues the sabre-rattling over Iranian nukular intentions despite the just-revealed NIE showing Tehran suspended its weapons program four years ago. From yesterday's press conference:

Q The clarification is, are you saying that this NIE will not lead to a change in U.S. policy toward Iran, or shift in focus?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm saying that I believed before the NIE that Iran was dangerous, and I believe after the NIE that Iran is dangerous. And I believe now is the time for the world to do the hard work necessary to convince the Iranians there is a better way forward.

-- snip --

So our policy remains the same. I see a danger. And many in the world see the same danger. This report is not a "okay, everybody needs to relax and quit" report.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was on Hardball last night:

"If this weren't so deadly earnest. This isn't about curiosity. It's about credibility. This administration has damaged us to a degree that no other administration has in American history."
The Bush/Cheney NeoCon cabal loses credibility (if there was any remaining) and America's international influence is diminished. How will this play out in the presidential campaign? The two frontrunners, Hillary and Rudy, both already showing signs of weakness in recent polls are likely to be weakened further.

The news strikes the very foundation of Rudy's candidacy - terrorists are everywhere - or are they? Hillary's experience argument takes a hit as the electorate will once again question the wisdom of her Iran vote. How much experience does she need before she gets foreign policy correct?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Does Sitting on the Fence = Leadership?

Over the weekend, news reports quoted Sen. Clinton as readying up attacks questioning her Democratic rivals' character. It looks like Democratic Courage, a liberal activist group, is preempting the First Lady. They're launching what is being described as the first negative campaign of the Democratic nomination contest.

I'm not sure I even see this as "negative," as it compliments Hillary's visionary policy proposal and only criticizes her for quickly backing down when Rudy denounces the idea as "socialism." It poses a fair question: What will Hillary stand for as president?

Democratic Courage is trying to get this onto the airwaves in Iowa. If you have some xtra change in the tip jar, consider giving them a hand at their ActBlue page.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Strap Yourselves in, Boys & Girls. It's going to be a bumpy ride...

The mad sprint to the Iowa caucuses (and the tendency of Iowa Dems to change their minds and dramatically change the dynamics of the Democratic nominating process) has begun. With 30 days of campaigning left (minus one or two days around Christmas, of course - Jesus wouldn't like anyone crassly campaigning on his birthday!) and a summer that saw Hillary make gains which would have provided her the coronation she has been planning for decades, it now looks like the three-way we've long anticipated is coming to fruition.

According to the WaPo: Sen. Clinton has decided if they're going to pile on, she's going to fight back: Losing Ground in Iowa, Clinton Assails Obama.

Despite all the efforts of the Clinton machine, it looks like we've got a real (if brief) race on our hands. Might as well forget about the "politics of hope" because this looks like its going to be more "politics as usual."

Clinton has hammered Obama recently over his health-care proposal, arguing that he is misleading voters because it omits millions of people and would not lower costs. But Sunday, in a dramatic shift, she made it clear that her goal is to challenge Obama not just on policy but also on one of his strongest selling points: his reputation for honesty.

"There's a big difference between our courage and our convictions, what we believe and what we're willing to fight for," Clinton told reporters here. She said voters in Iowa will have a choice "between someone who talks the talk, and somebody who's walked the walk."

Asked directly whether she intended to raise questions about Obama's character, she replied: "It's beginning to look a lot like that."

To assure your safety and full enjoyment of our democratic process, please keep you arms and legs inside the roller-coaster at all times. Whatever you do, don't close your eyes!

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Money Game - Paul Leading the GOP

Insurgent Libertarian Ron Paul appears poised to win the Q4 money race according to a story over at Politico today:

In the first two months of the quarter that began Oct. 1, Paul already has raised more than $9.75 million, putting him easily within range to best the amount rival Mitt Romney received from donors during the entire third quarter.

The influx of funds is Internet-driven. The Paul campaign has set a one day goal of $2.5 million today, which would be a follow-up to the record-breaking day Paul had earlier this month. Despite this surge, the DC punditocracy predicts this is a case of too little, too late and won't affect the dynamics of the GOP nominating contest.

“It’s highly improbable that he will get into the first tier. But he’s colorful,” says David Gergen, a former White House adviser.

I'm not sure why the ITB talking class and GOP strategists are summarilly dismissing the Paul boomlet. He is clearly striking a chord with a sector of the electorate that the remaining GOP candidates aren't. Is it his anti-war position? Or is it the fiscal argument? If I were a Republican strategist, I'd be trying to figure out how to tap into these voters for their support.

TGIF Random Thoughts

The Manchester Union-Leader poses the question: Can Huckabee play in New Hampshire? Will his evangelical background be an obstacle as he tries to win over Granite State voters? They report an ARG poll due out today will show the former Arkansas governor breaking into double digits for the first time.

"Hey, Rudy, Don't Bring Your Love to Town" - get a room in the Hamptons.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one noticing the fact that the war in Iraq was almost an afterthought during the GOP YouTube debate the other night. Two big topics from the Democratic tussles - a looming crisis with Iran and healthcare reform - didn't even get mentioned. Talk about parallel universes and an ideological divide.

Does the cancellation of the Dec 10th Democratic debate due to the WGA strike work to Hillary's benefit? It was to be the last group gathering before the Iowa caucuses and with the holidays underway (and an expected hiatus from negative politicking) does it mean the voter sentiment will remain static? Or is the Iowa electorate as fluid as South Carolina, where 49% of Dem voters remain undecided according to a Clemson University poll?

Can the Baptist Minister Win in '08?

In the aftermath of the YouTube mashup in Florida the other night, I got to thinking about which GOP candidate might pose the biggest challenge to a Democrat winning back the White House 11 months from now. In a general election, I rate these GOPers as the most worrisome (as in, they have the better chance of winning):

1) Huckabee
2) McCain
3) Romney
4) Giuliani
5) Thompson

Huckabee is a genial ("Reaganesque") guy. He has a sense of humor. He seems reasonable on fiscal policy (anyone who raises the ire of the Club for Growth gang scores some points for bravery in the GOP, IMO), he joined McCain in challenging the rightwing orthodoxy on immigration by rebuking Mitt with "We are a better country than to punish children for what their parents did."

There is no doubt in my mind his folksy manner puts many people at ease. My dad (no evangelical at all) said this past weekend, "I can picture voting for that Huckleberry guy." Of course, as he gets better known, that may change.

McCain came across at the YouTube confab as the one who hasn't gone off his rocker on immigration - which I think makes him competitive in a general. If the news out of Iraq continues to be one of lessening violence and (somehow) they begin to make progress on political reconciliation, he could increase his general election chances. His problem, as it has been for months, is actually winning the nomination with a base who has become increasingly rabid in their devotion to right wing causes.

Romney - if he can frame the general election about managerial competence, he could be the "change" agent in 2008. That's a HUGE "if" of course. He can actually make the argument that he is the one capable of cleaning up the mess left by Dubya just like he did in the SLC Olympics. He can also say he knows how to be a pragmatic governing executive. After all, he did manage a librul state like Massachusetts. He is certainly no ideologue like Bush. (Although my dad does say, "He didn't leave the Bay State in a mess because he wasn't here long enough.") Not sure how accurate that statement is.

If Romney succeeds in avoiding the ideological issues in a general election, I can see him becoming palatable to general election moderate voters. His biggest liability in my opinion is that he comes across as an elitist intellectual, a la Gore and Kerry. But, Shrub's daddy won overcoming a similar flaw. Sometimes the country wants a leader who doesn't have the "vision thing."

Giuliani - I think that as people see him more, he becomes a truly frightening and delusional figure. This means he could win the nomination and I think the Democrats will have a field day with this one. If the GOP makes the mistake of choosing Rudy because he's electable, I think the general becomes MUCH easier. There are FAR too many skeletons in Rudy's closet. The one thing is that if the contest is between Rudy and Hillary, I believe there will be a third party candidate - whether it's Bloomberg, Ron Paul or someone like Al Gore, I'm not sure.

Thompson - although he did show a few brief moments of awareness during the YouTube gathering, I think his candidacy has been dead for quite some time. There is no fire here - and I can actually picture him midway through a first term deciding, "Nevermind. This isn't as fun as Law & Order." Really. I can.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Demystifing Paulomania

Inside the Beltway talking heads who are wringing their hands and pondering the nearly fanatic appeal generated by libertarian Ron Paul need look no further than Rep. Paul himself:

"We all went to Washington to change Washington and Washington changed us. I don't think that applies to me. Washington did not change me."

~YouTube Debate 11/28/07

The vast majority of Americans nod their heads in agreement while the punditocracy continues to scratch theirs.

Immigration: The "Get Tough" Approach Too Simple

The first half hour of the Republican YouTube debate was dedicated to immigration, with each of the candidates seeming to "out-Tancredo Tancredo" by staking hard-line anti-immigration positions.

Sanctuary cities? Bad!
Guest worker programs? Worse!
Immigrant children going to college? Even worse!

The conservative audience cheers them on!

When McCain discusses comprehensive immigration reform, the crowd hisses its disappointment. Immigration, the wedge issue of 2008, continues to gain steam within the GOP nomination contest, despite it's failure to secure GOP victories in congressional races in 2006 and in Virginia state legislative contests in 2007. Despite the electoral evidence, Republican campaigns are following the Tancredo Talking Points fearful of a base frothing at anything resembling AMNESTY.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side the well-documented stumbling and mumbling by the presidential frontrunners on the driver's licenses for illegals question reveals the issue's potency to divide progressives as well.

The power of the wedge issue is revealed: articulating a complex and thoughtful approach to difficult issues is once again trumped by simplistic, emotional (and typically unworkable) answers designed to appeal to voter's fears.

America can do better.

McCain: We Are Failures

Sen. John McCain - once the frontrunner for the GOP nomination - provided the rationale any American voter needs to understand why the Democrats should be handed the keys to the White House in 2009:

"We said we'd enforce the borders. The American people didn't believe us. They don't believe us because of our failure in Katrina, our failure in Iraq, our failures in reigning in corruption and out-of-control spending."
YouTube Debate, November 28, 2007

Thank you for making the Democratic general election rationale for us, Sen. McCain

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Huckabee Surging to the Top In Iowa

Rasmussen Reports shows Mike Huckabee in first place in Iowa opinion polls for the first time today, just in time for the citizen-driven YouTube GOP debate from St. Petersburg, FL. Huckabee and insurgent libertarian Ron Paul are the only two candidates showing forward motion while all the others are losing support.

Huckabee: 28 (+12)
Romney: 25 (-4)
Giuliani: 12 (-3)
Thompson: 11 (-3)
Paul: 5 (+1)
McCain: 4 (-2)
Tancredo: 4 (nc)
Hunter: 1 (-1)

Will the former Arkansas governor find himself the target of Mitt, Rudy and Grandpa Fred as a result?

Or will the GOP candidates find themselves flummoxed and confused by actual questions from real citizens regarding health care, education and the economy?

I was wondering what the odds were that someone out there decided to pose a question to Mitt from a snowman or a polar bear? And, it turns out the NY Times is reporting in the affirmative. Will CNN include the question? And will Mittster's reply be, "I reject the premise of the question because the questioner is a muppet?"

Random Thoughts 11.28.07

Presidential Liabilities: What is Bill Clinton thinking? How smart is it for the former POTUS to be tacking to the left of his presidential candidate spouse at this point?

Endorsement Mania: I'm a firm believer that endorsements are a bunch of hooey --- most of the time. I mean, the idea that trumpeting the support of the local alderman, the city dogcatcher or even the A-List Hollywood celebrity reeks of a condescension to the average voter. The assumption is: "Mr & Mrs Smith, you don't have the time (or the intellect) to determine who would make the better president, so because Angelina Jolie says she's voting for me, you should support me too!" Nevermind Angelina's concerns may be far different from Mary and Joe Shmoe.

The frenetic race to collect the most endorsements has always seemed a tad bit overdone. Having sad that, the upcoming Oprah for Obama campaign swing through the early states is the exception. Oprah has proven over and over again how her "Seal of Approval" carries tremendous weight. While recommending a book or other product is very different from backing a political candidate, her millions of supporters are certainly going to give Obama a serious look simply because she's telling them to. I think it makes him an even more competitive general election candidate.

As a response, the Hillary campaign rolls out their endorsement of the day...Barbra Streisand.


Sorry, Babs, selling millions of recordings isn't the same as having millions of voters invite you into your living room each afternoon. Oprah wins this one hands down.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Oh, Trent, How Shall We Replace Thee?

Sen. Trent Lott's surprising retirement announcement has the gay blogosphere wondering if he's the next GOP Senator to have the closet door blown wide open. Or, is it along the lines of "Show Me the Money!" as the denizens at DailyKos speculate? I tend to agree with the K Street storyline, but do believe there is a possibility Lott may join Sen. Widestance and Rev. Haggard in the GOP Hall of Self-Hating Homophobes. No evidence, just a hunch.

Regardless of his motivation, Sen. "Segregation was a Good Thing" Lott's sudden decision has caused turmoil in Mississippi, a reliably Red State at the presidential level. Will former RNC Chair (and current MS governor) be forced to schedule a special election prior to next November's presidential polling to determine Lott's successor? The state Democratic Party is vowing to fight for a separate date, upholding state election law. A special election's smaller turnout would increase Dems' chances of stealing the seat from the GOP.

Can one of the Mississippi Senate seats (Sen. Thad Cochran is up for re-election in 08) be claimed by a resurgent Democratic Party in the heart of Dixie?

The Republican's grim Senate 2008 prospects got a whole lot dimmer on Monday.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Granite State Sets the Date

At long last, NH SecState has announced the date of the first in the nation primary - January 8, 2008.

As we sit down to enjoy turkey, the presidential campaigns can give thanks the nominating calendar is finally coming into focus.

Iowa - Saturday, Jan 5
New Hampshire - Tuesday, Jan 8
Michigan - Tuesday, Jan 15
Nevada - Saturday, Jan 19
South Carolina - Tuesday, Jan 29
Florida - Tuesday, Jan 29

Tsunami Tuesday: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah

This Ain't His First Time at the Rodeo, Fellas

If there are any guarantees in Democratic Party politics, there is this: a failed presidential campaign gives way to frenzied finger-pointing. Desperate to deflect blame for the defeat, each of the major players points to someone else's blunder to explain away the loss.

The 2004 Kerry-Edwards loss gets rehashed once again in Wednesday's NY Times. "For Edwards, A Relationship That Never Quite Fit" is part of "The Long Run," an ongoing series about the lives and careers of the 2008 presidential contenders. Describing the ill-fated partnership as one that ended in "recrimination and regret," the article rarely rises much above the level of insider gossip, but it does pose a question about the narrative du jour: Who is the experienced candidate in the Democratic race?

Sadly, the article becomes another MSM forum for senior aides to criticize and rehash the candidate stumbles and the internal strategic discord that plagued the 2004 general election campaign and contributed to the loss. In the latest chapter of post-defeat Democratic infighting, both camps continue blaming each other:

Kerry aides complain that Mr. Edwards never stopped running for president — a Democratic Party official recalled some aides wearing “Edwards for President” pins at a fund-raiser long after they were working for the Kerry-Edwards ticket. Kerry supporters say Mr. Edwards refused to play the traditional vice-presidential role of attack dog even going up against a purebred, Dick Cheney. And Mr. Kerry had barely conceded the race, they say, before Mr. Edwards was aiming for 2008 and embarking on what one campaign aide called the “it wasn’t my fault tour” around his home state to distance himself from the loss.

For his part, aides said, Mr. Edwards felt frustrated by Mr. Kerry’s public agonizing over the war in Iraq and a campaign that seemed to change consultants and message constantly. To Mr. Edwards, Mr. Kerry seemed unable to get out of his own way. He ignored Mr. Edwards’s warning not to go windsurfing, one aide recalled, which led to the infamous “whichever way the wind blows” advertisement mocking Mr. Kerry’s statements on the war. And in the end, Mr. Edwards concluded that Mr. Kerry lacked fight for not filing a legal challenge to the election results.

This finger pointing does little to elevate the current Democratic debate. We all know the 2004 Democratic ticket (a marriage of convenience that resulted in a pair of mismatched, ambitious candidates) made many mistakes. It was flat-footed and slow in responding to the GOP smear machine. A similar effort in 2008 could doom our chances of winning back the White House.

Edwards, the one 2008 candidate who has personally experienced the klieg lights of a presidential campaign, understands this and is applying the lessons learned in his current run:

“There’s no question John Edwards is different now than he was in 2004,” said Peter Scher, whom Mr. Kerry recruited to run Mr. Edwards’s vice-presidential campaign. “There’s a great deal more confidence in his own instincts and his own judgment. You see much less reliance on consultants and pollsters and media advisers, and more of a willingness to say what he believes and let the chips fall where they may.”

Kerry loyalists, meanwhile, seethe as they watch his new aggressiveness. Stephanie Cutter, who was Mr. Kerry’s communications director, said, “A lot of what I’m seeing now, I wish I’d seen in 2004.”

Instead of seething, I'm delighted Edwards is running as the experienced candidate in this nomination battle. I'm proud to see a leading Democrat relying less and less on the advise of consultants and pollsters. After all, it is the Inside the Beltway consultants who have been the masterminds behind too many Democratic defeats. If we're going to point fingers, it should be at them.

To win in 2008, let's nominate the experienced, self-confident candidate running on his own instincts and his own judgment: John Edwards.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Primary Madness

The AP is reporting the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled a January 15, 2008 primary date can move forward. The mid-January date will mean Michigan leapfrogs over the Nevada caucuses as well as the South Carolina and Florida primaries. The Michigan Dems risk losing all of its delegates to the Denver Convention next summer, although they are contemplating holding a separate caucus at a later date to avoid the DNC-imposed punishment for breaking the scheduling rules.

We have 43 days until the Iowa caucuses - and we're still awaiting word from NH SecState John Gardner as to when he will schedule his state's first in the nation primary.

One wonders how the presidential campaigns are contemplating such a fluid (and chaotic) nominating calendar. The longest campaign in American history is going to be a mad winter dash across country - and then we're going to have two presumptive nominees campaigning for ten long months before the November vote.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Proud to be a Progressive

The Center for American Progress has produced a series of internet ads that frame the progressive movement as the "Pro-American" ideology in modern American politics. After decades of Republican spin-meisters successfully wrapping themselves in the symbols of Americana - progressives are working to reclaim the legacy of their icons and accomplishments.

Move-On is conducting a poll (and fundraising campaign) to determine which ad is most powerful. Here are my two favorites:

I just love the name tags - "Pro" and "Con" powerfully reinforces the underlying message of the campaign.

I like this one because it's visually powerful:

Go to MoveOn and vote for your favorite.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

RIP: The Spin Room, 2007

An interesting article over at The New Republic provides a glimpse into the rapidly evolving world of presidential campaigning in the Internet Age: the Death of the Post Debate Spin Room.

The advent of social networking sites, the pervasive liveblogging major political events on political websites and the 24-7 news cycle's insatiable appetite has ripped message control from the campaigns. The reality is - the Internet removes the need for the middle-men, the spinmeisters and the professional punditry to tell the audience (the VOTERS) who 'won the debate' or 'scored more political points.' The campaigns who continue to rely on the outdated practice of "spinning" the political reporters are behind the eightball. Through the power of the Internet the audience has arrived at it's own consensus as the debate occured.

TNR's delineates the different approaches taken by two high profile strategists (Joe Trippi from Edwards and Mark Penn from Hillary). Which one looks like the 21st century campaign? Which one seems to be playing by last century's political handbook? I'll let others decide.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Senate Horse Race 12 Months Out

Roll Call has a series of Senate poll numbers out today (via) Swing State:

One year and one day before Election Day 2008, it looks like the Dems have three GOP-held seats in the "Pick-Up" Column (CO, NH, and VA), two as pure toss-ups (MN and NM) with two (OR and ME) looking like the GOP may be able to hold.

Colorado [OPEN - Allard(R)]
Mark Udall (D): 48
Bob Schaeffer (R): 41
Undecided: 11

New Hampshire (R- Sununu)
Jay Buckey (D): 36
John Sununu (R-inc): 49
Undecided: 16

Jeanne Shaheen (D): 53
John Sununu (R-inc): 42
Undecided: 5

Virginia [OPEN - Warner (R)]
Mark Warner (D): 52
George Allen (R): 42
Undecided: 6

Mark Warner (D): 57
Jim Gilmore (R): 35
Undecided: 8

The field of candidates in New Mexico is far from set. The Draft (Tom) Udall effort appears to be gaining steam while Diane Denish has said she isn't running, instead focusing on the 2010 governor's race. Norm Coleman in Minnesota - struggling below the 50% mark against both leading DFL candidates - appears in trouble at this stage. I'd expect the movement in both of these races will be toward the Dems as the election draws nearer.

Minnesota (R- Coleman)
Mike Ciresi (D): 44
Norm Coleman (R-inc): 44
Undecided: 12

Al Franken (D): 45
Norm Coleman (R-inc): 46
Undecided: 9

New Mexico [OPEN- Domenici (R)]
Marty Chavez (D): 48
Steve Pearce (R): 43
Undecided: 9

Diane Denish (D): 47
Steve Pearce (R): 43
Undecided: 10

Bill Richardson (D): 58
Steve Pearce (R): 37
Undecided: 4

Don Wiviott (D): 32
Steve Pearce (R): 49
Undecided: 18

Marty Chavez (D): 48
Heather Wilson (R): 44
Undecided: 8

Diane Denish (D): 49
Heather Wilson (R): 43
Undecided: 9

Bill Richardson (D): 59
Heather Wilson (R): 37
Undecided: 5

Don Wiviott (D): 38
Heather Wilson (R): 47
Undecided: 15

The resilience of moderates Collins and Smith may be put to the test in a presidential year, when both Maine and Oregon are expected to align in the Democratic column. These may be two states where the strength at the top of the ticket could make the difference.

Maine (R- Collins)
Tom Allen (D): 38
Susan Collins (R-inc): 55
Undecided: 8

Oregon (R- Smith)
Jeff Merkley (D): 39
Gordon Smith (R-inc): 48
Undecided: 13

Steve Novick (D): 39
Gordon Smith (R-inc): 45
Undecided: 16

With only two Dem-held seats (Johnson-SD and Landrieu-LA) considered vulnerable at this time, it looks like the Dems are looking at a pick up of 4-6 seats. There are other seats that a strong Democratic effort could put in play - particularly Kentucky (McConnell also below 50% in hypothetical matchups), North Carolina and Texas.

The Spooks Speak: Mukasey Must Answer Torture Questions

Larry C. Johnson over at The Quarter has posted a powerful letter urging the Senate Judiciary Committee to delay voting on Judge Michael Mukasey's nomination until he provides a clear response to whether or not waterboarding constitutes torture. The letter is signed by former military and law enforcement officers, diplomats, and intelligence officials.

From the letter:

We feel this more acutely than most others, for in our careers we have frequently had to navigate the delicate balance between morality and expediency, all the while doing our best to abide by the values the vast majority of Americans hold in common. We therefore believe we have a particular moral obligation to speak out. We can say it no better than four retired judge advocates general (two admirals and two generals) who wrote you over the weekend, saying: “Waterboarding is inhumane, it is torture, and it is illegal.”


It is important to get beyond shadowboxing on this key issue. In our view,condoning Mukasey’s evasiveness would mean ignoring fundamental American values and the Senate’s constitutional prerogative of advice and consent.

At stake in your committee and this nomination are questions of legality,morality, and our country’s values.

These American patriots understand what's at stake.
Do our Senators? DiFi and Chuckie, are you listening?

Just so we're clear:

Voting for Mukasey at this time endorses torture.

America is better than this. America MUST be better - or the terrorists win.

Friday, November 2, 2007

It's the Double-Talk Two Step

Powerful video collage released today by the Edwards campaign. As noted yesterday, this is the narrative Team Hillary cannot have seeping into the public consciousness and becoming the Hillary narrative. If "Double-Talk" becomes the 2008 equivalent of "Flip-Flop" Clinton could be in big trouble. Keep in mind every clip from this montage comes from a single, two-hour debate.

At some point, voters want unequivocal answers from their leaders.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Team Hillary Does Damage Control

The fallout from Hillary Clinton's uncharacteristic stumble during her visit to the Dragons' (of Drexel U) lair on Tuesday night continues, with the media and her Democratic rivals seizing upon a perceived vulnerability: the desire to straddle multiple sides on difficult issues. Whether or not this is a big enough obstacle to derail the Hillary Nomination Locomotive is yet to be seen.

More troubling is the repercussions of this narrative taking hold and becoming the GOP battering ram in a general election battle throughout 2008. Will the "Clintonian straddle" become this cycle's version of the "Kerry flip-flop?" Clinton's ultimate success may rely on just how "sticky" this moniker becomes.

Prior to Tuesday evening, the traditionally fractious Democratic race was too placid and agreeable to feed the American appetite for -gossip- news. All the "action" appeared to be on the Republican side.

The media, whose sense of boredom with the Dem nomination battle was becoming palpable, has eagerly embraced the new dynamic and is delighted to be able to report on an "Obama surge" (if it materializes), a "re-energized Edwards," a suddenly "vulnerable Clinton" - ANY new storyline that helps them fill the ever-more-hungry and insatiable 24-7-365 news cycle. I've always believed the biggest obstacle to any Democratic presidential frontrunner in today's news environment is a bored (or pissed off) media.

ABC News' Teddy Davis and Nancy Flores described the Clinton's straddle "downright excrutiating." Adam Nagourney over at the NY Times reports on Hillary's morning after damage control and how her team views the non-answer at the debate as her biggest mistake of the campaign that holds "long-term potential to undermine her candidacy."

Team Clinton's damage control was swift, but I'm not convinced it was entirely effective. The strategy was clear: divert, defend, and clarify.

The diversion was a big union endorsement. It was smart to roll out the AFSCME news. The government workers could provide a huge lift in the early states. Union leader Gerald McEntee provided the line of defense - clearly happy to be the surrogate rushing to Hillary's side - when he said:

“Six guys against Hillary,” he said. “I’d call that a fair fight. This is one strong woman.”

McEntee was picking up the campaign's talking point that Hillary was being ganged up on by her opponents. The WaPo reports "her advisers argued that the "pileing on" engaged in by an all-male field of opponents will ultimately drive more female voters into her camp."

I believe this is a somewhat risky move. Doesn't this defense undermine one of the tenets of the Clinton rationale? One of the foundations the campaign has built its frontrunning status upon is she has dealt with the right-wing smear campaigns for nearly two decades. She's tough. She knows how to handle attacks. Complaining about a relatively minor intraparty "pile-on" may garner sympathy but it also risks raising the question, "just how tough will she be next summer and fall?" It may help her win the nomination, but may ultimately weaken her in the general election. This victim card should only be used sparingly, and only by surrogates.

Lastly, her efforts at clarifying her position seems to have caused only more confusion. The Times' Nagourney writes:

“Senator Clinton supports governors like Governor Spitzer who believe they need such a measure to deal with the crisis caused by this administration’s failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform,’” her campaign said.
Mrs. Clinton’s aides said her statement was intended to signal that she broadly supported Mr. Spitzer’s goal of awarding driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Mr. Spitzer initially proposed a blanket program of awarding full-fledged driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants; in the face of sharp opposition from the Legislature, he backed off and presented
a two-tier program system of awarding licenses to illegal immigrants.
Mrs. Clinton’s advisers said that she had not studied either plan, and was not specifically endorsing either of them.
Still, the wording of the statement was murkier than what many of her opponents have said in either supporting or opposing Mr. Spitzer’s initiatives.
Among those opposing it were Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut; Senator Barack Obama of Illinois supported it. (emphasis added)

One of the cardinal rules of presidential campaigns is making sure negative stories do not remain in the media spotlight over multiple news cycles. Providing a clear (even if unpopular) position would be the quickest way of achieving this goal. Team Clinton may have believed this is what they were doing, but if the NY Times is still unsure of where she stands on this contentious issue, you better believe her rivals for the nomination will keep pounding away at this theme on the campaign trail.

The charge of "talking out of both sides of your mouth" is easy to level when a candidate has her eye on both the primary and general elections. Sen. Clinton should focus on winning the nomination first. The nominee (whoever it is) will have ten solid months to focus on defeating the Republicans.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Good-bye (Again), Karen...

The news that Karen Hughes, one of Dubya's Texas good ol' boys (except this one's a girl) will be retreating from Washington at the end of the year provides us one of the biggest understatements of the year:

"Hughes told The Associated Press that she plans to quit her job as undersecretary of state and return to Texas, although improving the world's view of the United States is a "long-term challenge" that will outlast her." (emphasis mine)

I wonder why? Perhaps because we invaded a sovereign nation under false pretense? Or because this administration has been beating the drums of war for action against Iran?

Her boss, SecState Condoleezza Rice, accepted her resignation saying she had done a "remarkable job." Of course, that is in BushWorld speak, where accountability is a foreign concept.
Polls show no improvement in the world's view of the U.S. since Hughes took over. A Pew Research Center survey earlier said the unpopular Iraq war is a persistent drag on the U.S. image and has helped push favorable opinion of the United States in Muslim Indonesia, for instance, from 75 percent in 2000 to 30 percent last year.
Hughes' performance drew mixed reviews in the Muslim world. She got credit for hard work and frequent travel but was prone to gaffes such as vastly overstating Saddam Hussein's use of poison gas against his people before he was deposed by a U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

Heckuva job, Karen!

Dems' Smashup in Philly

Philadelphia - a city renowned for its raucous and demanding sports fanatics - showed Hillary Clinton what the Eagles and Phillies have known for decades: Brotherly Love is neither unconditional nor warm and fuzzy. Her Democratic rivals - led by John Edwards, Chris Dodd and Barack Obama - entered the ring at Drexel University and served notice to the Clinton camp that the Democratic nomination battle is not over.

Last night's debate in Philly was the most energetic and combative of the gazillion gatherings the 2008 Democratic contenders have participated in thus far. The media buildup (ignited by the Obama camp) warned us there would be fireworks. With national polls showing Hillary running away with the nomination 65 days before the first votes are cast, there was a sense of urgency from the rival campaigns that this may be the last best chance to find that chink in Clinton's armor.

Judging from media reports this morning, it appears the relentless onslaught from her rivals (except for Gov. Richardson, who would best serve the Democratic Party by shifting his focus to winning the open NM Senate seat) eventually took its toll on the frontrunner. The Politico reported the Obama and Edwards campaigns succeeded in producing the message they wanted from the debate:

"Hillary Clinton does not say what she means or mean what she says."

Did her opponents just link Hillary to the failed 2004 John "The Flip-Flopper" Kerry campaign? If so, they've sowed the seed of doubt, stalling the march of the inevitable - and robbing Hillary of one of her most powerful primary election tools.

ABC's The Note reinforces the message Hillary had a tough night as the national and local media deliver a similar verdict:

Now we've got it straight. Sen. Hillary Clinton is a flip-flopping, record-sealing, war-in-Iran-voting, Social-Security-ducking, politically calculating, lobbyist-loving, polarizing and unelectable Democrat who acts like a Republican -- and a Clinton.

How's that for sibling rivalry?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

MIA: The FEC's Sense of Humor

Is the Stephen Colbert presidential campaign serious? Stephen himself answered the question in an interview with NBC's Tim Russert on Meet the Press:

"I think a lot of people are asking whether -- they say, 'Is this, is this real,' you know?" Colbert said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "And to which I would say to everybody, this is not a dream, OK? You're not going to wake up from this, OK? I'm far realer than Sam Brownback, let me put it that way."

This is not a dream - but it may become a nightmare if the DC bureaucrat election police over at the FEC get involved.

Colbert's nascent run for the White House may be derailed before it gets off the ground. His efforts to place his name on the South Carolina primary ballot (in both the Democratic and GOP contests) may run afoul of campaign financing regulations.

The normally docile FEC is looking warily at Colbert's association with Frito-Lay, the manufacturers of the midnight munchie Doritos and the platform provided by his Comedy Central program may amoung to an illegal corporate sponsorship.

As Colbert makes the obligatory media rounds (the "sit down" last Sunday with Uncle Timmy on MTP), creates online buzz (more than one million Facebook friends), and inches up in Palmetto State polls.

The satirical presidential campaign is garnering attention - apparently causing Comedy Central suits enough concern to consult lawyers. It makes one wonder, whatever happened to America's sense of humor?

Retirement Watch - First Dem Added to GOP-Dominated List

According to The Albany Times-Union, NY House Dem Michael McNulty will announce his retirement next Monday. The 60-year old congressman will be relinquishing his relatively safe Democratic seat (NY-21) after ten terms. The Albany-Schenectady area has been a reliably Democratic district in recent national elections. While the NRCC may be tempted to pour resources into this open seat, Dems will be favored to retain in 2008. No candidates from either party are in the race, but the Times-Union lists the following as potential candidates:

Among the names already circulating on the Democratic side are Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton, son of McNulty’s predecessor; state Sen. Neil Breslin of Bethlehem; M. Tracey Brooks, an aide to Sen. Hillary Clinton who challenged former Assemblyman Pat Casale.
On the Republican side, freshman Schenectady Assemblyman George Amedore’s name has come up.

Two other House Dems (Maine's Tom Allen and Colorado's Mark Udall) are currently the only Dem open seats heading into 2008. Both are vacating their seats in hopes of a "promotion" to the US Senate.

The story is far different for the GOP, where a dozen House members (at last count) have either opted for retirement or been tempted to run for another office. Many of these retirements are occuring in the critical battleground states of the midwest, fueling Democratic hopes of expanding their House majority.

Race Tracker wiki: NY-21

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Top Chef - Partying in South Beach

Didn't blog on last week's episode, where Joey was sent home after he and Hung failed to sell a single freeze-dried prepared dinner - despite the fact the meals were free!

So, this week, we're down the final nine contestants - and the promos have been hinting at a night out on the town in South Beach - an evening interrupted by an elimination challenge.

Quickfire Challenge:

Govind Armstrong from Table Eight in LA is this week's guest judge. The Quickfire includes Coldstone Sweet Cream Ice Cream - make a sauce to mix in with the ice cream. This one sounds fun - and a little less complex than previous challenges.

Hung is making FOAM!! Didn't he watch last season and how Marcel's foam became a joke by the end?

Casey puts Saracha (a Chinese spicy sauce!) for hers - and the judge

The bottom two: Hung (the flavors didn't work), Casey (Saracha didn't work on ice cream)

Favorites - Howie & Dale - with Dale winning immunity! Finally!

Elimination Challenge is delayed - Padma tells the chefs they get a chance to enjoy Miami nightlife. The limo arrives and takes the gang dancing - oh but wait, there's Padma on the red carpet in front of a cluster of catering trucks. The club is Nicki Beach, one of Miami's hottest nightspots. The group will be split into two teams - and they'll be cooking for the late night bar crowd. Dale gets the night off and gets to have dinner with the guest judge at his Miami restaurant.

Team Black - Brian, Tre, Hung and Sara M.
Team Orange - CJ, Howie, Sara N and Casey

The Orange team appears to be disorganized and leaderless. A panic settles in - CJ is trying to calm down the "spastic" energy. Chef Tom stops by to check out the menus and how the teams are proceeding. Surprisingly, he thinks Team Orange may be in better shape as they've developed a late-night menu while Team Black's decision to include a raw bar may be too much in the middle of the night.

When the drunks arrive, the Orange team seems to disintegrate pretty quickly. Sara and Howie seem to be melting down. Meanwhile, the Black Team is running on all cylinders. The drunks in the crowd give mixed reviews.

Judge's Table-

The consensus is Team Black made impressive menu and the crowd enjoyed the service and the accessibility of the food. The winner if Tre's grits with bacon. He wins a copy of the cookbook and a premium card to Nicki Beach nightclubs around the world.

Orange Team gets called in to be told they were the weaker team. Casey & Sara both disliked this challenge and said they were demoralized. Casey talks about her dishes, Howie's cuban sandwiches weren't great, Sara's burgers were underseasoned. Why didn't CJ take a leadership role? Howie calls Sara useless and the "baby of the team." Howie seems to be willing to throw everyone/anyone under the bus to protect himself.

Padma: "Sara, please pack your knives and go."

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Rove to GOP: Don't Blame it on Baghdad

I'm unsure whether this tidbit from the innards of the GOP should be written off as an example of championship caliber White House CYA or a dangerous 'head in the sand' escape from reality with consequences for Democrats efforts to end the war in Iraq. I'm leaning toward the latter. Recently subpoenaed White House political advisor Karl Rove is hard at work behind the scenes explaining to GOP officeholders why the Republicans lost their Congressional majorities in 2006.

It wasn't the Iraq war and the public's rejection of a failed neo-con ideology. No, it was simply a case of a few bad apples.

In the White House worldview, it appears it was the individual corrupt/criminal actions of Duke, Jack, Mark and Tom who are primarily to blame for the Democratic midterm ascendancy. Rove is making the case the election was really about the culture of corruption in DC, according to Robert Novak in a brief piece over at TownHall.
Rove's clear advice to the candidates is to distance themselves from the culture of Washington. Specifically, Republican candidates are urged to make clear they have no connection with disgraced congressmen such as Duke Cunningham and Mark Foley.
In effect, Rove was rebutting the complaint inside the party that George W. Bush is responsible for Republican miseries by invading Iraq.
Corruption undeniably played a role in tipping a handful of seats that would have never been in play if not for the actions of the GOP incumbent (TX-22 and FL-16) but to make the argument the majorities were lost because of Foley and Abramoff is a huge stretch. This analysis ignores the federal response to Katrina, unprecedented budget deficits and the erosion of civil liberties as factors in the GOP's demise. Given the mountain of evidence regarding the party's pervasive failure, it's easy to see this "corruption caused it" viewpoint's attractiveness - it allows each official to relinquish individual responsibility and removes the need to take strong action on a failed war. Therein lies the real danger of this revisionist theory taking hold.

Novak doesn't tell us whether or not the Republican CongressCritters are receptive to this WH revisionism. I would argue the Republican Party's steadfast opposition to establishing any withdrawal timetable means this "corruption caused the 2006 loss" frame may have already seeped into the GOP worldview.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

AK-Sen & At-Large: Rep. "Mink" Young Also FBI Target

It has been no secret over the past couple of months that Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens has been the target of the FBI's bribery investigation. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal added Rep. Don Young's name to the list of GOP officials tied to the influence peddling investigation:

Federal investigators are examining whether Rep. Young or Sen. Stevens accepted bribes, illegal gratuities or unreported gifts from VECO Corp., Alaska's largest oil-field engineering firm, people close to the case said.
It isn't known what VECO allegedly may have received in return. The company has been awarded a series of federal contracts since 2000, including contracts to provide logistics support for arctic research, among other projects.
The two lawmakers are among the highest-ranking members of either party to come under scrutiny in the wave of public-corruption probes that has swept Washington in the past three years. In the past year, two congressmen have been sent to prison, a third has been indicted for bribery, and at least a half-dozen others are under investigation in separate cases.
For a decade, former VECO Chief Executive Bill Allen has held fund-raisers for Mr. Young in Anchorage every August, known as "The Pig Roast," participants said. Public records show contributions to Mr. Young of at least $157,000 from VECO employees and its political-action committee between 1996 and 2006, the last year the event was held.

Perhaps it was the FBI Young was threatening when he warned, "those who bite me will be bitten back" during a debate over earmarks with fellow GOPer Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ). If it weren't for his long history of throwing public tantrums and issuing irrational threats, one might think Young's tirade was the result of increasing pressure from the G-Men.

The legal bills are mounting for both Stevens and Young as the investigations appear to multiplying and expanding with each passing week. The embattled lawmakers are being attacked from all sides. Democrats appear to be readying serious runs at both politicians. The conservative Club for Growth has recently released polls showing Alaskans are fed up with the pork delivered by Stevens & Young. A recent poll of Anchorage voters (it's important to note this was not a statewide sample) revealed 44% had an unfavorable opinion of Stevens. All of this dissatisfaction cannot be seen as good news for the GOP.

Once considered SAFE seats, the Republican corruption means the national party will be investing resources defending their home turf. No one is saying when (or if) indictments against the Republican lawmakers are expected. One thing observers can be relatively confident about is the tenacity of both Stevens & Young means neither are planning on leaving office before their terms end.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Senate 2008: Shattering Sabato's Crystal Ball

Some political observers have updated the 2008 Senate ratings following the Q2 Senate campaign filings, as incumbent fundraising numbers provide an opportunity to gauge the political landscape. What does the 2008 cycle look like with under 500 days to go before the November 2008 election? The general consensus (Cook Political Report, CQPolitics, Rothenberg, WaPo's the Fix) is reflected in the overall forecast by the University of Virginia's Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball.

The Crystal Ball's brutal bottom line is that Republicans will be playing much more defense than Democrats, and so the early betting line favors continued, perhaps enhanced, Democratic control of the Senate.
Great news, right? Only if you're excited by the prospect of another Senate session dominated by GOP obstruction. To prevent this scenario, Democrats will need to overturn the current conventional wisdom (just like in 2006) and shatter Sabato's Crystal Ball.

Despite the GOP's "brutal bottom line," Sabato identifies ONLY SEVEN "probable competitive seats" - five Republican (CO, NH, ME, OR, MN) and two Dem (LA & SD). Even if the Dems win all seven of these contests the 111th Congress' partisan breakdown would be 54D, 44 R, 2 Indies.

If the Democrats win the White House and hold onto our Congressional majorities - the filibuster will be their last tool to defeat progressive legislation, protect their corporate backers, and reverse the disastrous policies of the Bush/Cheney administration. If you don't think this is a serious threat, you haven't been paying attention to how a stubborn and unified minority has stymied Senate action throughout 2007.

Never before have we seen this type of obstruction by a minority party. According to McClatchy, the previous record for number of cloture votes (requiring the 60 vote total to end debate) is 58, which occurred during both the 106th and 107th Congresses. Mitch and his Minority Misfits have already called 42 cloture votes - a pace that would result in 153!

This year Senate Republicans are threatening filibusters to block more legislation than ever before, a pattern that's rooted in — and could increase — the pettiness and dysfunction in Congress.
- snip -
Seven months into the current two-year term, the Senate has held 42 "cloture" votes aimed at shutting off extended debate — filibusters, or sometimes only the threat of one — and moving to up-or-down votes on contested legislation. Under Senate rules that protect a minority's right to debate, these votes require a 60-vote supermajority in the 100-member Senate.

Democrats have trouble mustering 60 votes; they've fallen short 22 times so far this year. That's largely why they haven't been able to deliver on their campaign promises.

Are there additional races where the Dems can win, pushing us over the 60 vote filibuster-proof majority?

Back in early June, I posed this same question and wrote a 3-part series "Building a Filibuster Proof SuperMajority" and created a "Vulnerability Factor Scoring" system to rank the 22 GOP held seats. The VF Score includes Personal Weakness (Cash on Hand, Age, Approval Ratings), Bush Drag (Bush approval ratings,) and Dem Party Strength.

In Part 1 I discussed the macro factors creating a "perfect storm" in which the 2008 elections could make the 2006 midterms look like the "good old days" for the Congressional Republicans. Incredibly, things have only worsened for the GOP in the past six weeks.
  1. Recruiting – The NRSC's recruiting struggles continue. In Louisiana - the GOP's best pick-up opportunity, Karl Rove has been reduced to trying to entice a current Dem to switch parties and run against Mary Landrieu. Conversely, while the DSCC may have encountered recruiting challenges in some states, Democrats are poised to run strong campaigns in red states across the nation.
  2. Fundraising – the financial gap between the party committees is widening. The June DSCC tally was more than double the money the NRSC raised. The Dems now have more than three times what the GOPers have in their campaign warchest. Dem incumbents are stockpiling money, while some GOPers' lackluster numbers are reinforcing retirement rumors.
  3. Party ID -- Dems currently enjoy an unprecedented advantage over the Republicans, Despite low congressional approval numbers being reported by the MSM, Dems are still viewed more favorably by the public, enjoying a 9 point lead over the GOP in recent generic congressional ballot polls.
  4. Voter Enthusiasm - Public interest in the Democratic presidential race is way ahead of the Republicans battle, as TV ratings indicate and the number of Americans donating to Dem candidates.
  5. Public Support Rasmussen Polling reports the public views the Democrats as more capable of dealing with 9 of 10 key issues confronting the nation. Even on the one issue - national security - the Dems don't lead on, it's essentially a statistical tie of 44-45.
  6. Iraq Inaction: The biggest macro factor is Iraq. The longer the GOP Congressmen and Senators keep their heads in the sand as the 2008 election approaches, the number of officeholders who become endangered is only going to increase. I cannot provide a link to empirically validate this statement but I will say this. The other day, pollsters Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen were on Shammity & Colmes. While Sean kept trying to make the claim the voters are going to punish the Democrats in 2008 for being anti-American, anti-war defeatists who promote higher taxes and socialist healthcare both pollsters put the smack down on Sean - basically telling him Iraq TRUMPS everything. The American people have decided the war has been lost and want out ASAP. The crushed look on his face was simply priceless. He persisted with the talking points and was smacked down again. If the GOPers allow the goalposts to be moved from September to November, the political price for the GOP could be enormous.

    The Vulnerability Factor Scoring System (defined in Part II) was designed to determine where Democrats could best invest limited resources - although with the aforementioned money advantage, Dems should be running strong, well-financed campaigns in all 34 races next year. Its also a score that incorporates dynamic variables requiring periodic updating. With the Q2 numbers all reported, it's time to see whether the new information has changed the Senate 2008 roster.

Rank (Prev)StateVF JulyVF June
1 (2)MN1513
2 (1)NH14.513.5
3 (2)OR1313
4 (4)CO1212
5 (7)ME1110
6 (5)NM10.511.5
7 (6)NC1011
8 (8)TN99
9 (9)VA7.57.5
10 (10)KS77
11 (11)AK6.55.5
12 (13)TX5.54.5
13 (11)KY4.55.5
13 (13)SC4.54.5
13 (13)GA4.54.5
16 (16)MS44
16 (18)NE43
16 (16)OK44
19 (19)WY33
19 (NR)WY-23N/A
21 (20)AL2.52.5
22 (21)ID22

A new factor has been introduced into the July VF Score following the Q2 filings - any race in which a challenger has over $200K CoH as of July 1 received an additional "1" in the score. VF Score movement this month is mainly caused by these factors: 1) impressive challenger fundraising caused upward movement (MN, ME, NH and TX -although Mikal Watts' self-financed campaign must be viewed with a grain of salt until he shows he's more than a willingness to open his bank account), 2) strong incumbent fundraising lowered the VF score in some races where the incumbent hit the money trail (NC, KY, NM). 3) Some incumbents (MN, OR) saw their personal approval numbers continue to fall and this increased their VF Score.

Consensus Top Five: MN, NH, CO, ME, OR have serious candidates or crowded primaries. Even though the DSCC has encountered difficulty recruiting their top choices in OR and NH, the Democratic primary fields include strong progressive challengers, even if Shaheen and Merkey don't opt into the races. The money is flowing in these states already. In four of the five (the exception being Oregon) a Democrat has over $500K CoH. Those states - all blue or purple - will have competitive contests and will garner the lion's share of the media and analysts attention.

Races 6-12: It's the second tier where the party's 50 state strategy can prove the most fruitful. If we fail to recruit and back viable challengers in North Carolina, Tennessee, Kansas, Alaska, Texas, Virginia and New Mexico we will miss an unprecedented opportunity to advance a Democratic agenda into the next decade. These races may be long-shots but a variety of factors make them potential pick up opportunities, particularly if the anti-Republican political climate continues.

Retirement Watch - Virginia (Warner) The Virginia race appears to be in a state of suspended animation - with all awaiting John Warner's expected retirement. When - or if - that happens, Virginia will rocket to the top of everyone's Watch List.

Primary on the Horizon - Texas (Cornyn) The Lone Star State may be shaping up to be an unanticipated and fascinating contest. Cornyn's abysmal approval numbers (in the low forties) make him vulnerable. He's going to have to hope Texas' GOP-leaning presidential preference translates into coattails to overcome those numbers. Sensing an opportunity, two Democrats have recently announced plans to challenge Cornyn. Rick Noriega's recent announcement he would run for the seat has enlivened the local and national netroots. Attorney Mikal Watts (TX) has deep pockets and is willing to self-finance - to the tune of over $4 million thus far.

Disenchantment in the Southwest - New Mexico (Domenici) Despite scandal and falling poll numbers, it doesn't look like Pajama Pete will retire, as he's got an August fundraiser scheduled back in NM with Bush headlining. There is a declared Dem - real estate developer Don Wiviott - another self-financer ($400K form his personal accounts) The presence of Gov. Bill Richardson - who could opt to run for the seat if his presidential campaign flounders is viewed by some local political observers as a possible explanation high-profile Dems have not jumped into take on scandal-tinged Domenici.

The Berkowitz/Begich Tag Team - Alaska (Stevens) The stench of corruption in the Alaska DC delegation is an embarassment to the state and to the Republican Party. After decades in office, Stevens' Senate seat and Rep. Don Young's At-Large House seat are suddenly in play. DC Democrats have taken notice and have been pushing hard for former state legislator Ethan Berkowitz and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich to take on the ethically challenged duo. Berkowitz recently returned from meetings with DC Dems and an announcement regarding his plans is expected soon. If there is a Macaca Moment in 2008, the odds of it being provided by Young or Stevens are pretty high.

Desperately Seeking Democrats - North Carolina (Dole), Kansas (Roberts), Tennessee (Alexander) All of these states are difficult for Dems down-ticket in a presidential election year but none of these three incumbents should be viewed as unbeatable. Thus far, the netroots and the DSCC has been frustrated by the unwillingness of a Tar Heel Democrat to step forward and take on Liddy Dole - the most vulnerable of the trio. Kansas appears to be overlooked by analysts and activists. Despite his low approval ratings, Pat Roberts may not get a Democratic challenger for a second cycle in a row! With the state GOP conducting internecine warfare in recent years, the Dems should be able to at least run a credible Senate candidate. If Sebelius and Boyda can win, why can't it happen in the Senate? Alexander also suffers from anemic approval ratings but has also failed to attract a challenger. Tennessee is a state where the presidential race could have huge impact, particularly if either of two former Senators (Gore and/or Thompson) runs and wins their party's nomination.

Can Democrats win the nine (or ten if you discount Lieberman) seats needed to remove the filibuster weapon from the GOP arsenal? Can we shatter Sabato's Crystal Ball predictions, overturn conventional wisdomw (again!) and reshape the political landscape? Only if we identify, recruit and finance candidates now.

Cross-posted at Daily Kos and An Enduring Democratic Majority.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Top Chef - Timing is Everything

Last week, it was Camille who heard Padma utter the dreaded words, "Please pack your knives and go." Who will it be this week? We're down to eleven contestants yet no one has emerged as a clear-cut favorite - despite Tre and Hung's early proclamations about their culinary skills.

Quickfire Challenge:

This week's Guest Judge is chef & owner of the French Bakery Cafe, Maria Franken.
The theme of the quickfire is "timing" - use the frozen pie crust any way you can in 90 minutes.

Hung is doing a chocolate banana pie - but it's not setting. Oh, this is delicious when things don't go well for Hung. His pie is runny. He thinks it "tasted delicious."

Worst - Lia, Dale and Hung. (turns out Hung is the only one who thinks his dish is tasty)
Favorit - Tre, Sara M and Joey - the winner of immunity is Joey! (and he thought he was on the cutting block at the beginning of the day)

Elimination Challenge:

The group will be cooking for the cast and crew of a Telemundo show and cater a latin-flavored lunch menu.

There is plenty of time (3 hours) to prepare today's meal. Everyone seems relaxed. Chef Tom comes in and says - "Change of plans, everyone. You only have 1.5 hours to get this done." Well, that's a nice twist and a sense of panic settles into the kitchen. People are running - Casey says it's dangerous with hot pans and sharp knives. Stress and Howie don't mix. Lia and Casey seem to have made appropriate adjustments. Lia says "this is what happens." Hung is frantic. Chef Tom is concerned about how Hung runs around the kitchen. Howie didn't make the appropriate adjustments.

The set is actually on "Star Island" - where all the fancy people live. And the crowd comes for lunch. The dishes look good. Hung speaks in Spanish, and "they're loving it!" Casey: "It's Hung being Hung."

Howie describes Joey's dish as "delicious." Has Joey hit his stride this week?

The case loves Sara M's chile relleno. Howie's braised pork works as well! They didn't like the polenta or Casey's coffee chicken dish.

Judge's Table:

The favorites are Joey and Howie. Joey talks about how he learned from some of his staff back home as to how he developed this meal. Howie says the timing caused him to worry. The winner of the challenge is Howie. This makes him the first repeat winner of the season. Is he now the favorite?

The worst chefs are sent into the room - Lia, Casey, Hung and Sara N.

Hung has no idea why he's here. Is it because it was it was too classic? Hung is pissed. Chef Tom asks Hung to be careful in kitchen. Casey didn't like her rice, but did like the coffee molasses. Lia thought she was trying to move a little beyond the latin flavor - which is why she served polenta. Sara - what were you thinking calling guacamole as ceviche?

The Judges call Hung arrogant - and want to tell him how "UNPERFECT it was." Sara's dish was more of an appetizer. Lia's was mushy and not balanced. It wasn't good or presentable. Casey's was dry, overcooked and the sauce was like "cough syrup."

The Final Decision: Sara mischaracterized the dish. Hung missed the mark. Casey's dish was cooked improperly. Lia's tastes were bland.

Padma - "Lia, please pack your knives and go."