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

Pericles



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).