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


Friday, October 24, 2008

Maybe an "O" Would've Been Smarter?

The first hint there was something fishy about Ashley Todd's allegations was the backwards "B" carved into her face. Since when does the Obama campaign use his first initial?

Now that the story has been revealed as a hoax perpetrated by an ill young woman, three things come to mind about the state of our media.

1) Isn't it ironic the most prolific purveyors of propaganda (Drudge and Fox News) were so easily drawn into this hoax? Is it because they are blinded to facts and reality by the way they conduct business on a daily basis?

2) Is Matt Drudge nothing more than the "Little Man Behind the Curtain" from Oz? For over a decade the Internet spinmaster has been viewed as the Freak Show's conservative Master of Ceremonies, the media maven with the uncanny knack to uncover the 'below the fold' stories, elevate and manipulate them to help shape media narratives to Republican advantage. Mark Halperin has written:
"The Drudge Report is really unique in being able to drive stories in the mainstream media. Republican operatives use him…. Drudge has become the ultimate insider in being able to effect the public narrative that is so important in political campaigns.”

Does this signal the end of this Drudge mythology? Is this nothing more than a mirage? I wonder how many of these 'scoops' (complete with blaring red siren, of course) turn out to be hoaxes. Does the Monica scoop forever innoculate him to irresponsible, unsourced irrational reporting? Probably not.

3) How does Fox News escape the trap they set for themselves? Who would've predicted it would be Fox News the first to declare the McCain campaign D.O.A.?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fundamentally Wrong

The Wall Street meltdown has refocused the presidential campaign on the economy. Strategists on both sides of the aisle acknowledge this benefits Democrats up and down the ticket.

Clearly, TeamObama senses the game has returned to their turf and comes out swinging at the tone-deaf McCain, who provided a fundamental assist on the campaign trail.

Maybe this will silence the Democratic Party's anxious Chicken Littles for a few days?

Meanwhile, the McCain team has releaseds an ad (called "Crisis") contradicting their claim that the economy is fundamentally sound. Which is it, Sen. McCain?

Traditionally the more adept party at staying on message, Republicans have been reduced to incoherent stuttering on the issue that matters the most to American voters. Perhaps that's because their failed, laissez-faire, trickle down economic theory doesn't work?

McCain: Ready to Lie

What does it say when Karl Rove thinks you've gone too far?

It's only a matter of time before John McCain's infamous temper explodes and destroys his candidacy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Blame Game Begins with an Assist from Halperin

Last night's AC360 had a group of panelists discussing how Democrats are "flummoxed, off-balance" and "flatfooted" by the Palin pick:

Notice Mark Halperin's closing remarks (around 4:15 in the video clip)and I thought, "here we go. The first rehabilitation effort of Hillary & Bill for the 2012 campaign."


AC: Mark Halperin, you were talking about Hillary...it would be fascinating to know what Hillary Clinton is thinking right now.

MH: Yeah, can I share this with you? I bought this a few weeks ago in Denver. As they say on TV, "can you see this?" It says, "Hillary Clinton, the most formidable and phenomenal women of 2008." That's two weeks ago and it was true. It's not true anymore. Sarah Palin is now more of a phenom and she's very formidable.

I think Hillary Clinton is saying - I don't know this - I think she's saying, the beginning of the "I told you so." She said the reason Obama would be a dangerous nominee is that he would be rattled by the Republicans when they came at him, that he would be inexperienced and that he would be flustered by all of this. And we're seeing it now. I'm not saying he's collapsed but, boy, are they off their game."

Seriously, he's innoculating the Clintons against any charges they may be held responsible for an Obama loss. The media is helping create the quadrennial Democratic circular firing squad already - despite the fact the calendar shows Election Day more than 50 days away - and the Democrat ahead in the Electoral College!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Something to Talk About

The NY Times graphically shows the partisan differences between the convention speakers:

What stands out from this chart is:

Joe Lieberman said NOTHING.

Bill Clinton strayed from the foreign policy message the Obama camp had wanted -- but was rendered a non-issue considering his full-throated endorsement of the Democratic nominee.

Sarah Palin attacked the Dems less often (or perhaps less overtly) than my initial, real-time impression. Does this means her vindictiveness was subtle and snarky? If so, this is a trecherous path for a new candidate (at the risk of being called a sexist, it's especially perilous for a female) to tread.

Moreover, the Republicans simply echoed the call for change. Since anyone with half a brain has known since the 2006 midterms this would be a change election, it seems they're playing a desperate game of catch-up.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Clock is Ticking...

In the wake of the Republican Rapture in St. Paul it might be easy to overlook the potentially fatal weakness still haunting the McCain campaign.

McCain's desperate need to solidify his base going into St. Paul (resulting in the electrifying "roll of the dice" pick of pistol-packing Palin) means he lost his biggest opportunity to address the concerns of moderate voters.

Obama has been speaking to the middle/independent voters for MONTHS - even while the campaign was still battling Hillary in full primary mode. And what was McCain doing on Labor Day? Shoring up his far right base. Nothing that he or his surrogates said in Minnesota was aimed at attracting the middle or addressing the top concerns of the American electorate. It was nothing more than red meat for the Red Staters.

For a candidate who represents a shrinking party, playing to the base is simply not enough to win an election. It's clear McCain remains months behind with only two months ago.

Politics 101 says playing to your base this late in the game is a sure way to lose an election. Of course, as with almost everything else that has happened in this crazy campaign, this may rule may not apply.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Will Working Women Embrace Sarah?

Typically, I choose to watch events like Sarah Palin's convention speech on C-Span, in virtual isolation without the filter of the media's chatter. Last night I was only able to catch partial snippets of Palin's speech live and out in public. This provided the opportunity to gauge the reaction of average citizens.

As the Palin selection has been viewed as a play for women voters, the reactions of the women during the speech were quite interesting, if only anectdotal. Most were saying such "un-PC" things like, "How can she do that to her 17-year-old daughter? Putting her on a national stage like that?" Or, "How can she talk about a special needs child needing more attention and then go out on the road campaigning for the next two months?" The consensus emerged, "No mother I know would make these choices."

This morning, Mika Brzezinski over at MSNBC's Morning Joe is gushing over how Palin spoke to her as a professional woman. She berated Lawrence O'Donnell for saying, "There are lots of middle class families wondering, 'who's taking care of all those kids?'" She was completely offended and described the question as unfair and sexist.

This may indeed be true. However, I think there are LOTS of Americans - male and female - looking at this family and trying to imagine if they would have made the same decisions. Polling this accurately is probably impossible because the questions regarding family are personal and complex.

Despite decades of striving forward, women still bear the brunt of our society's expectations when it comes to parenting. This is why some professional women are going to be offended by questions they believe (perhaps rightly) shouldn't be asked of a female candidate. At the same time, other working women are likely to ask the questions I heard last night.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Game Has Changed

I am coming to the conclusion that the Palin pick was, indeed a game changer. A few things worth watching over the next couple of weeks:

1) The Palin image is still under construction - and the jury may be out for quite some time regarding how she will be ultimately perceived. Despite today's media hyper-speculation I don't think tonight's speech is actually a "make or break" situation. Think about how many moments over the past 18 months that the chattering class made a similar prediction about Obama's situation. Her sixty-day introduction to the American people is going to be a minefield for the McCain campaign. This morning some media are reporting Palin may not be out on the campaign until after Sept 11 - when her son ships off to Iraq. Will she be seen as a reformer? Or a hypocritical opportunist?

2) Will McCain's camp be successful in deflecting criticism of Palin by using the "sexism" card? Campaign surrogate Carly Fiorina was on MSNBC this afternoon using a diabolical argument that went along the lines,

"The Democratic Party stood by while Hillary Clinton was subjected to incredible sexism in the media. The Republican Party is not going to stand by. And I don't believe that millions of American women are going to stand by. Whether they agree with Sarah Palin or not, I think women are highly sensitized now to sexism. And when someone of accomplishment is described more as a show horse than a work horse women recognize that for what it is. It's sexism."

Somehow, the Republicans think they're going to claim the mantle of post-partisan feminists. It's a classic Rovian twist - take one of your opponent's strengths and turn it into a potential point of weakness. In this case, they've been lured by the Angry Hillary Voter, believing they can continue dividing the electorate - and convincing some disaffected group to vote against their own self-interest. It's coupled with their tried and true attacks on the media as biased against conservatives.

3) How does the 'love affair' between McCain and the media end? Typically, relationships built on illusions and deception come crashing to bitter ends, with recriminations all around. The media had been awakening to the real McCain (if he ever was a 'maverick,' he certainly hadn't been acting like one during the primaries) over the summer. I don't think the total surprise of the Palin pick is going to wear well within the tradmed, his core constituency.

Remember those old "I Can't Believe It's Butter!" commercials where the woman cloaked in flowing white bellowed, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!!!" Well, the media is another -(un)natural force and I don't think they like being played for fools or targeted as scapegoats. The media was clearly frustrated by Obama's 3AM text message to supporters announcing the Biden pick (as it took them out of the dialogue). That frustration may have been overwhelmed by the absolute surprise of McCain picking Palin. Already disoriented by their rapidly evolving and now less familiar role in modern politics, these latest developments may have awakened a docile press corps. Both campaigns could be subjected to heightened scrutiny as a result.

4) Where is the storyline about the disunity in the Republican Party? After the breathless media coverage of the barely existent "Hillary-Bill-Barack" schism leading up to Denver, the silence about the Ron Paul shadow convention going on in Minneapolis, the bruised Romney ego after being shunted aside as a VP, and the reopened rift between Dubya and McCain is remarkable.

The fact that the Palin pick plays well within the convention hall (she gets louder applause than McCain does almost universally) means there are far more differences within the Republican party than the media is covering. In fact, her selection by McCain is an admission of his own unpopularity with the base. But, the question lingers, "Are the establishment republicans (fiscal conservatives and national security hawks) happy about this pick?" They're being drowned out on the convention floor (and the spinners are remaining faithful to the RNC talking points) but are these rank-and-file voters energized or disheartened by Palin as the number 2?

5) The Palin pick has electrified the base on social issues and has threatened to subvert BOTH campaigns' main messaging objectives. Obama and the Democrats want to talk issues - economy, Iraq, energy - while the McCain camp wanted to resurrect his moderate maverick image. Everything is being drowned by social issues. Within the St Paul cocoon this may seem smart, but whether this translates into a successful general election campaign is uncertain. The elevation of the divisive social issues may -incite- excite the conservative base but there is a huge risk (for Republicans) that a significant backlash from the middle could overwhelm them.

A week ago, in the wake of Obama's once in a lifetime speech, I thought 'the only thing the Dems are missing this year is a 1992 Pat Buchanan hate speech from the GOP convention.' At the time, it was pure fantasy. Now, after watching the conservative rapture in St. Paul, I wouldn't be surprised if someone unpacks the pitchforks tonight.

It's been said before but it's worth repeating: this is the election year of a lifetime.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Palin' in Comparison

Twelve hours ago, after a Mile High acceptance speech, the chattering classes were awestruck.

This morning, they're simply dumbstruck.

Sarah Palin? Really?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Moving Goalposts Arrive in Denver

I realize now that those shifting goalposts from the primary season may have been much more media-created than I previously understood.

Last night I was impressed by Hillary's speech after having been firmly ensconced in the ABC (Anybody But Clinton) Camp throughout the primaries. This morning, I found myself amazed, enraged and ashamed by how the media is pushing the PUMA-driven "Clintonistas are bitter" storyline so aggressively.

I'm exhausted by the media's relentless handwringing (and schizophrenic) chorus.

First, they told us, "Michelle must define herself and allow voters to become comfortable with her family"
initial reviews: CHECK
"Good job. But where was the red meat?" Is there any rational human (other than those who receive the RNC's daily talking points email) who believes the image of an angry, on-the-attack Mrs. Obama would have endeared her to undecided voters?

Next they turned their obsession to Hillary's Herculean task. "How can Hillary pivot and transfer the support of her 18-million strong army to become part of Barack's Battalion? Will she look genuine? Or will she come off as readying her 2012 bid?"
initial reviews: missions accomplished!
Well, she was good - maybe her best speech ever, in fact. But, wait, come to think of it, you know she forgot to mention whether or not she now feels Obama is ready to receive that 3 AM call. And, look, here's an angry white woman who still seems dissatisfied that the system robbed Hillary. Cleary, she left some work undone.

Where are all the critiques of the Bush/Cheney administration? Why haven't they hung that 24% approval rating around McCain's neck? They're missing their opportunity! Is this Kerry '04 redux? When will the Democrats learn politics is a contact sport? All the time they're saying this, speaker after speaker is on the podium denouncing Bush, McCain and failed Republican policies.

The media opts to air more of themselves bloviating about the real issue before voters: Bill Clinton feels dissed by the upstart and aloof Barack Obama.

So, today we're treated to "What will Bill say? And, what will he look like while he's saying it? Will he look like he's passing a kidney stone? Will he wag his finger? Even more importantly, what will he be thinking when he says it?

Thankfully, we have Dr. Maureen Dowd to help us with that analysis.

Oh, and by the way, Obama speaking in front of 75,000 people - that just reinforces this celebrity thing dontcha think? Politicians should be serious and not really popular. American leaders should be plodding and boring - not inspirational. Maybe if he had spent time in a POW camp, he would understand how unwise it is to make the most important speech of his lifetime in such a public venue.

The inevitable result is an unwinnable situation where Democrats are confronted by an endgame with bogus goalposts, impossible Catch-22s created by morning after psychologists and manufactured drama driven by a minority who are desperate for their fifteen seconds of fame (yes, in the youtube era, Warhol's prediction has been truncated into nothing more than a sound bite).

I've taken to watching the convention on CSPAN, where there is no bloviating media telling me what to think. I'm hoping Barack and Plouffe have made a similar decision.

UPDATE 3:26, 8/26/08: The Boston Globe's editors share my affinity for CSPAN's convention coverage.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

GALLUP: Campaign 2008 Cliff Notes

Gallup's "Quick Read on the Election" provides a presidential campaign overview as we approach the unprecedented "back-to-back" party conventions. After the two week hiatus provided by the IOC, the roller-coaster is about to begin. How do the "experts" see the general election shaping up?

Not surprisingly, the Gallup Gate Keepers reinforce the traditional media's prevailing narrative. Despite the Democrats' "structural" election advantage (Democrats are viewed much more favorably than the GOP and more Americans are identifying as Democrats), Obama is underperforming in national polls. His average lead of three points throughout the summer indicates a third straight close election. While both nominees-in-waiting have solidified their partisan coalitions (despite the coverage some outlets have provided to the PUMAs), neither McCain nor Obama has exhibited either partisan cross-over appeal or the ability to build a significant lead among independent voters necessary to alter this "50/50 Nation" dynamic.

Pattern of candidate support is similar to 2000 and 2004 elections. Obama's strengths: non-white race and ethnic groups, including blacks and Hispanics; 18-29; those with postgraduate educations; women; those with very low incomes; those who have no religious identification/for whom religion is not important/do not attend church; those who are unmarried. McCain's strengths: non-Hispanic whites; 65 and older; those who are married; white Protestants and non-Catholic Christians; whites who attend church frequently/for whom religion is important.

Ever-helpful, the pollsters also raise a couple of red flags for the Obama campaign, reinforcing the nervous hand-wringing among nervous Democrats watching national and state polls tightening.

Current position of the candidates predicts little. In previous two elections, both candidates who lead polls in summer, pre-convention (Bush in 2000, Kerry in 2004), ended up losing the popular vote.

History predicts modest bounces for candidates when they make their vice presidential announcements and after their conventions. This year, all of this will be compressed in a short two-week period in late August/early September. Back-to-back conventions are unprecedented. Voters will have a steady stream of election input. Bounce will likely follow bounce. This could be one of most fascinating times in presidential election history. Standings after conventions will be critical.

Earlier this summer, Gallup reminded political junkies that the July polling leader has lost six of the last nine close presidential elections. History clearly isn't on Obama's side, the chattering class warns. The failure to close the deal (despite leading McCain in national polling since February, which is VERY different from the polling swings witnessed in both 2000 and 2004) means Obama's candidacy could be following Gore and Kerry to electoral defeat. As if on cue, a chorus of "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!" has risen from Chicken Little Democrats who fear yet another defeat in the wake of what was once deemed near-certain victory.

And don't overlook the 2008 convention calendar quirk. The back-to-back conventions – particularly during this era of the 24/7 never-ending news cycle – may negate the Mile High Convention/VP selection bounce many Democratic activists and media talking heads anticipate. The electorate's short attention span and the media's rapid transition from Denver to St. Paul may lessen (or even erase) the Democratic bounce. If this happens, expect the chattering class to start more clucking about Barack's "failure to seal the deal." The fate of his candidacy will come down to the debates. The punditocracy will fretfully ask, "Will Obama lose the election with a "Gore sigh"? And Democratic partisans will sweat it out, fearful of history repeating itself.

But, wait. Not so fast.

Gallup provides Obama a lifeline. And it's one Team Obama has been aware of all along.

Turnout will be a key factor. Obama would benefit from unusual (and unprecedented) enthusiasm among young voters and minority voters. McCain would benefit from a more typical higher turnout among Republicans, highly religious white voters. Results of likely voter modeling this summer so far have been mixed.

Note what they're saying here. It is young voters (who until this past primary season had historically been one of the least engaged voting blocs) who hold the key to an Obama victory. The Democrats' unprecedented investment in field offices, grassroots organizing, voter registration and Election Day GOTV efforts is critical and unpredictable. If the pollsters can't confidently identify which voters will actually show up at the polls, it is difficult to provide accurate polling numbers. If the Democrats are successful in increasing the youth vote (combined with even a slight uptick in minority participation), the polls may be irrelevant – and horrifically inaccurate. This is without considering the underrepresentation of voters under 35, whose reliance on cell phones places them beyond the reach of traditional polling.

At the same time, McCain is forced to rely on an unmotivated (and shrinking) Republican base. Nothing indicates the enthusiasm gap the Democrats have enjoyed (in fundraising, voter id and voter interest) over the past year and a half has closed. On the eve of the Mile High convention, Pew tells us the electorate is much more interested in the Democratic shindig than the Republican pow-wow. Unless the conventions and VP picks dramatically alter the dynamics, Obama's investment in grassroots infrastructure may be the difference-maker this November.

Finally, Gallup's last point moves beyond the horse race and to the issues which may determine how the electorate will decide:

Top voter issues this year skew towards the domestic, in particular economy and energy. Iraq, healthcare, and terrorism remain important. Obama's perceived strengths: domestic issues, compassion, empathy, bringing about change. McCain's perceived strengths: experience, international issues, terrorism, viewed as capable commander in chief. A continuing uptick in consumer confidence and increase in perceived success in Iraq could benefit McCain.

I don't agree with Gallup's conclusion. Following months of an economy mired in a severe stall, it's rather late in the game for an "uptick in consumer confidence" to make a difference in how Americans feel about the general direction of the country. If Team Obama succeeds in tying McCain to the Bush economic policies, it's difficult to see how the Republican can overtake the Democrat on these domestic concerns.

The electorate's feelings about Iraq also seem firmly set. McCain will continue and elevate the fearmongering. The Islamofascist threat, memories of 9-11, a new Cold War with the Russians on the march – every fear card the Republicans have in their ghoulish deck will be played as they hope to divert the public's attention from the pocketbook issues. Foreign policy remains a wild card, but Joe Biden as a VP pick minimizes McCain's advantage, at least at first glance. Essentially, the last eight weeks of the general election campaign is going to come down to whether Americans want change or the status quo.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Political Junkies Anonymous?

The wind-down to the most competitive nominating contest in American history has me transfixed - and a little worried. Does anyone know of a post-primary 12-step program for political junkies? How will I replace my addiction to polls, 24-hour talking heads and my new gay-man crush on Rachel Maddow?

Personally, today the emotion is one of "delayed relief." While I'm delighted the moment has finally arrived, it's a tad bit anticlimactic. Anyone with the ability to do simple mathematics knew the outcome of this contest in late February.

I've been angry at the Clintons at many moments during this campaign, perhaps never moreso than watching Harold Ickes' hypocritical and nasty performance at the RBC meeting on Saturday. However, it has completely evaporated over the past 24 hours, replaced by a surprisingly bittersweet sympathy. I am relieved the Democrats have finally removed the "burden" of Bill and Hillary by rejecting and renouncing her coronation march. My party has proven we are America's small "D" democrats, the true defenders of the Jeffersonian ideal. No single person - or family - is more important than the party, or the country.

As I write this, MSNBC is reporting Hillary is letting it be known she would accept an invite to be the Veep. I hope Barack resists this temptation. I believe he is smart enough to understand the danger of bringing Bill's baggage to the Democratic ticket. My sincere desire is that this last dance between the two candidates to be graceful. Hillary can have a great future in the Democratic party. The Senate will be in desperate need of a powerful Democratic voice.

Now, my nerves are redirected to the general election and a climatic November moment ... anxiously anticipating a Democratic victory. Will Democrats find a way to snatch defeat despite overwhelming macrotrends pointing toward a Democratic sweep?

Maybe I don't need that 12-step program yet, after all.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

With Friends Like These...

Karl Rove's take on the decisive Basketball Primaries (from the RCP Blog):

Fox News's "Fox and Friends"
Karl Rove on Obama's win in North Carolina: "He had a big victory last night. ... On the other hand, he won because of the dynamics of the state. There's a state that has 35 percent African American population, probably closer to 40 percent in terms of those that voted. And his vote among [blue collar], working-class people is terrible. He basically got a quarter and a third in the two states. ... It's a very big problem for him. The industrial Midwest -- from Pennsylvania through Wisconsin -- becomes in play if he's the nominee."

Is it just me, or is Rove sounding a lot like Howard Wolfson and Lanny Davis?

I hope Republicans buy into this analysis and build their general election strategy along the same lines as Hillary's. Obama will shake his head and shrug, "this again? can't they come up with something original?"

On the other hand, Rove did acknowledge the Clinton-Obama extended tussle has been good for Obama (again, from RCP):

On the downside to Clinton staying in the race: "I'm not certain there's a downside if she remains in, and he has a tone that he had last night. ... They continue the dialogue, they continue to dominate, and he gets to be a better candidate. Part of this process is to make yourself a better candidate, and he has become a better candidate than he was at the beginning."

Chuckie Says: Hoosier State in Play???

During last night's coverage of the Indiana squeaker, MSNBC's political bean counter extraordinaire Chuck Todd made a stunning statement (just prior to Barack's victory speech):

"This state could be in play in the fall. You're going to have over a million people turn out in this primary. That's even two hundred thousand people more than they expected in a high turnout election."

Be careful what you wish for, Mr. Limbaugh.

Could you imagine Election night coverage that doesn't start with the network anchors quadrennial pronouncement, "With the polls now closing in the State of Indiana, the XYZ Network calls the Hoosier State's 11 electoral votes for the Republican nominee?"

If that's the case, John McCain should consider forfeiting now.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Monday, May 5, 2008

Is Anyone Welcome Aboard HMS Hillary?

One of TeamHillary's primary themes developed during this interminable nomination battle (alongside the concurrent Magical Moving Goalposts strategy) has been the shrinking number of people who matter.

The campaign's willingness to toss overboard key constituencies from the HMS Hillary is counterintuitive to any campaign whose only remaining argument is based on ELECTABILITY.

Despite arguing she wants every Democrat in all fifty states to have a chance to vote, Senator Clinton continues her march into oblivion by dismissing every voter (or voting bloc) who votes for "her opponent." By the way, does it annoy anyone else out there that Mrs. Clinton can't seem to remember Barack Obama's name unless he happens to be in the room? It has that "nails across the chalkboard" effect on me similar to when Republicans use their juvenile "Democrat Party" label.

TeamHillary's laundry list of Those Who Do Not Matter has grown with each passing contest.

First, she dismissed caucus state voters.

Then, it was African-Americans.

Next, we learned that small-state voters don't count, either.

Activists were next forced to walk the plank from the HMS Hillary when they proved mutinous to the Clinton Party restoration.

Red State Democrats, who began to believe they may actually play a role in a rejuvenated national party, were told they weren't welcome.

College educated, middle and upper income liberals soon joined the ranks of the "to-be-disenfranchised."

Now, after her ridiculous GOP gas tax holiday proposal, economists and policy experts who have universally criticized her for shameless, if not dangerous, political pandering, we can add policy wonks to the list of Those Who Do Not Matter.

How ironic that the renowned policy wonk herself has tossed aside the experts? More ominously, doesn't this seem frighteningly similar to the current Oval Office occupant's behavior vis-a-vis military and foreign policy?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Who is winning this war for oil?

Keith O and Rachel Maddow turned to the topic of Straight Talk Express' derailment over McCain's war for oil comments tonight. As we've come to expect, Rachel proves she is one of the sharpest Talking Heads in Punditland.

Rachel M: The press corps has not been enthusiastic about following up on John McCain gaps. This one seems to me to be such a big one on such a big important issue. And, it's on tape. There's video that it has to be followed up on. So, he's either going to need a new explanation or he's actually going to have to run with it and defend this idea. I think he might actually end up defending it.

Keith O: Well, I mean, this, this raises the point that Bush and Cheney have raised recently. Oil, the price of oil, the idea of Al-Qaeda getting hold of the control of oil as a justification for staying in Iraq. And that bring you this, to McCain. Five years ago anybody who suggested there was the slightest hint of a connection, a rumor, of a hint, of an innuendo of a connection between going into Iraq and the price of gas was considered a lunatic, unpatriotic, terrorist,lefty. How and why did this suddenly change into John McCain's campaign platform?!"

Rachel M: I, I honestly think that the most likely outcome here is that McCain end up defending this, at least at the end. But then, Karl Rove has recently – and I realize he's not in the White House anymore. But, he's still influential for these guys, especially for their talking points. He has recently raised the prospect of $200 a barrel oil if we leave Iraq. So, they are explicitly willing to tie oil and gas prices to what's going on with that conflict and what our troops are doing.

The problem is, though, if you actually make the case to the American people that we are there for oil, well, we've spent a trillion dollars, we've lost four thousand Americans, we've spent five years and now we're paying $4 a gallon? We are not the beneficiaries of the War for Oil. It does not redound to the American consumer.
I think the real Mission Accomplished moment right now, that we can see in Iraq, is when the oil companies getting precleared by the Iraqi government to bid on the Iraq oil fields service contracts ended up on the front page of the business section last month instead of the front page of the international section.

Straight Talking: War for Oil

McSame stumbles into a political minefield. At a forum in Denver, the Republican admitted what many opponents of the Iraq Quagmire have claimed all along:

My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East that will - that will then prevent us - that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.

Chris Matthews was atwitter about this new Straight Talking. He asks his panel, "How does McCain explain this one away? Just when have we gone to war over oil?"

Listen Up, Folks!

Hillary was on Nightline last night discussing Super Delegate Joe Andrew's decision to switch his support from her to Obama. Predictably, she dismissed the impact of his choiced and disagreed with his assessment that the prolonged campaign is now damaging Democrats' chances in November. "Anyone who believes that this is bad for the party, I just don't think is paying attention," she said.

Today, Gallup released a poll showing over 60% of Democrats believe this nomination fight is "doing more harm than good." While three out of four Obama supporters feel this way, a full 43% of Clinton supporters agree.

Let's review.

After telling us activists don't matter, caucus states don't matter, African Americans don't matter, college educated voters don't matter and young voters don't matter, Mrs. Clinton is now lecturing us that a majority of the Democratic Party doesn't matter.

Who's the elitist candidate?

Show Me The Money - Dems Positioned to Pick Up Open Seats

CQ Politics Moneyline has published another Top Ten Q1 fundraising list. They reviewed the House candidates running in open seat contests - typically the most likely seats to switch partisan control and list the top ten, as measured by Cash on Hand (CoH). The Democrats have a decided advantage at this stage of the campaign. Twenty-six Republicans are leaving the House, many choosing early retirement in an election cycle with a decidedly anti-Republican national political climate.

The race to replace Deborah Pryce in central Ohio's 15th district has both parties' nominees appearing on the list of best-funded campaigns. The eight seats are currently held by Republicans. The other (the second district in Colorado centered in Boulder) is a safe Democratic seat where three strong candidates are raising buckets of money for a primary fight that is likely to be among this cycle's most expensive race.

With five Democrats on the list, it's clear the party is positioned to pick up additional seats to pad it's new majority. Of the eight Republican-held seats listed, CQ Politics rates four as NO CLEAR FAVORITE, Democrats favored to pick up one (IL-11), and Republicans slightly favored to hold on in New Jersey and California.

The list:

1) John Adler (D, NJ-03) (James Sexton, R) [CQPolitics rating - Leans Republican] $1,000,000
2) Mary Jo Kilroy (D, OH-15) (Deborah Pryce, R) [NO CLEAR FAVORITE] $944,000
3) Doug Ose (R, CA-04) (John Doolittle, R) [Leans Republican] $845,000
4) Linda Stender (D, NJ-07) (Mike Ferguson, R), [Leans Republican] $845,000
5) Keith Fimian (R, VA-11), (Tom Davis, R), [NO CLEAR FAVORITE] $742,000
6) Erik Paulsen (R, MN-03), (Jim Ramstad, R) [NO CLEAR FAVORITE] $688,000
7) Will Shafroth, (D, CO-02), (Mark Udall, D) [Safe Democrat] $682,000
8) Dan Maffei, (D, NY-25), (James Walsh, R) [NO CLEAR FAVORITE] $676,000
9) Debbie Halvorson (D, IL-11) (Jerry Weller, R) [Democrat Favored] $673,000
10) Steve Stivers (R, OH-15) (Deborah Pryce, R) [NO CLEAR FAVORITE] $600,000

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

AWOL: Democratic leadership

Democrats have a long tradition of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. CQ Politics warns the ongoing Hillary-Barack battle could not only damage hopes of recapturing the White House, but also divide the party deeply enough to negatively affect Democrats down ballot. In fact, it may be providing the Republicans their ONLY hope in 2008:

The party and its presumed presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, are carrying the triple-headed albatross of a protracted war in Iraq, a sinking economy and the most unpopular GOP presidential incumbent in modern history. Two of the three, Iraq and President Bush, were the central elements of the soured political atmosphere that existed in November 2006, when the Democrats overturned Republican majorities on both sides of the Capitol. The economy, still in a long period of growth back then, has now gone into a downturn, if not an outright recession, and economic dissatisfaction almost always redounds against the party that holds the White House.

So the Republicans — pining against the odds for a return to power this fall, and aspiring a bit more realistically to minimize a deeper decline toward powerlessness — are hinging those hopes on letting Democrats be Democrats. Their calculation is that, if the Clinton vs. Obama contest drags on for months more, with each senator working to damage the other in search of an advantage, both will end up bloodied and bruised no matter which one is awarded the nomination. And at that point, Republicans hope, the loser's embittered constituency will do what other disaffected Democratic factions have done so often in the past and simply walk away from politics this fall — taking with them the money, the organizational muscle and, most important, the votes that could make the difference in dozens of close congressional races. (emphasis mine)

Yet, we have Democratic Super Delegates who still think it's wise to remain silent and uncommitted in the presidential race.

By sitting on the sidelines these elected officials are reinforcing the image of Democrats as spineless, poll-driven politicians. If the party is asking the American voter to entrust them with the keys to both the White House and Congress, doesn't it behoove them to show some leadership?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Clinton Triangulating May “Starve the Beast?”

The historically high price of gasoline – and political pressure to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT – has drawn a distinct difference between the Democratic challengers while blurring the difference between Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

This afternoon MSNBC played a couple of dueling sound bites:

Clinton is shown on the campaign trail trumpeting a populist message. "At the heart of my approach is a simple belief. Middle class families are paying too much and oil companies aren't paying their fair share to help us solve the problems at the pump."

Barack responds, "We're arguing over a gimmick to save you half a tank of gas over the course of the entire summer so that everyone in Washington can pat themselves on the back and say that they did something. Well, let me tell you something: This isn't an idea designed to get you through the summer. It's an idea designed to get them to an election." (emphasis mine)

Once again, we've got someone speaking the truth – even though it isn't a political winner in the short-term. His opponent, on the other hand, has chosen one of the golden oldies of presidential politics, "the Populist Pander." In doing so, Hillary has embraced an ill-advised, Republican-inspired proposal and sacrificed bedrock Democratic ideals all for the sake of Hoosier and Tar Heel votes.

Never mind that her plan echoes much of McCain's "gas tax holiday." It may never come to fruition because it requires the unlikely passage of a new tax on oil company windfall profits (try getting that through the 60 seat cloture vote, Hils). Also ignore the fact it represents a complete reversal of the fundamental New Deal philosophy that public works spending jumpstarts a sputtering economy (the plan could put hundreds of thousands of highway workers out of work). None of that is Hillary's cardinal sin.

Well then, what is?

In her analysis of Clinton's proposal, Republican pollster Kellyann Conway provides the answer

"In fact, some her words today sounded exactly like John McCain's gas tax holiday proposal from just a couple of weeks ago. So, I think right now they're playing to two different audiences. Perhaps Senator Clinton is feeling quite bold given all of her new poll numbers and the fact that this has become a tightened race. But I think what is really key in the whole discussion about a tax gas holiday is this: that, instead of just talking about the oil companies, instead of just talking about the price of gas, people will become that much more aware across this country that the federal government benefits tremendously from taxes on gasoline. And that's meant to go to repair our roads and our bridges. And everybody knows that our bridge and road repair are, they are in disrepair. So, I think it's important that we starve the beast – the federal, state and local governments – who rely upon taxes at the pump while people are trying to fill up the tank just to get around to their jobs and schools."

Way, to go, Hills. You've provided the Republican spinmeisters an opportunity to promote neoconservative Grover Norquist's governing philosophy goal to "shrink government to a size you can drown in the bathtub." No wonder the Republicans are so delighted to see your candidacy continue.

Triangulation Triumphant? Is that what a Clinton restoration will mean?

But, thankfully, we have a candidate who refuses to pander. Listen to him, folks:

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal discusses how the Clinton/McCain "holiday" would actually raise prices by increasing demand. It's time we elected politicians who talk honestly about the difficult times ahead.

Maddow to Talking Heads: Start Making Sense

Are you frustrated by the news media's inability to focus on real issues in the presidential campaign? Does their juvenile fascination with the Jeremiah Wright sideshow enrage you?

Well, Rachel Maddow is fed up, too. And, she's got a seat at the pundit's Round Table. Tonight, she was on The Race holding the punditocracy accountable:

"I find it incredible that we're all sitting here going, 'Why won't the Jeremiah Wright controversy go away.' Well, you know what? Today, John McCain unveiled his healthcare plan. We got three different statements, three different policies from the candidates on gas prices. We got the President of the United States making a huge economic speech and speaking to reporters for forty minutes. We've got four marines, or, four US soldiers who were announced to have been killed in Iraq yesterday. What else has to happen in the news to push Jeremiah Wright out of the headlines? We've been doing it for six straight headlines on every politics show in the business!"

Way to go, Rachel!

Monday, April 28, 2008

McCain's Blurry Vision

This isn't about whether or not the septegenarian needs bifocals (although how would we know since he hasn't fully released his medical records?) Rather, we've got some striking news from Gallup.

Only one third (33%) of Americans believe John McCain has a clear plan to solve America's problems. That's a nine point drop since mid-March. Yup, it seems that despite his month-long free pass to define himself to the American voter as the Democrats continue their deathmatch nomination battle, McCain has presented himself and Americans simply aren't impressed.

But, the good news for Democrats (particularly Hillary Clinton) doesn't stop there. Gallup measured eight "character" ratings for the three leading presidential candidates. McCain's image among Americans slipped in seven. While Obama's numbers also softened, it was McCain who experienced the steepest decline. Considering the ongoing Democratic intramural fighting, it is surprising Hillary Clinton saw her image actually increase in response to most questions. There is a huge red flag for her, however. More than 6 out of ten don't view Clinton as trustworthy.

Overall, Obama has a significant lead (4 points or larger) over his rivals on three questions. McCain leads on two while Clinton, despite her improving numbers does not lead both her rivals on any question.

Comparing the two Democratic rivals, Obama holds leads over Clinton on four questions. The most striking is the "trust gap" of 23 points. Clinton has cut into Obama's lead on empathy (cares about people like you) and pride (proud to have as president). She holds on three questions, (has a plan, leadership and management) manifestation of the "experience" mantle she has worked to claim throughout the nomination battle.

In head-to-head matchups, McCain now trails both Democrats on three questions. He trails Obama on two more (values and pride). Clinton's "trust gap" with McCain is even larger (28 points). Conversely, McCain trails Clinton as the problem solver in the race by double digits (15) and is viewed as being unaware of the average American's problems (10 points).

Cares about the needs of people like you.57 (+3)52 (-2)62 (-4)
Is a strong and decisive leader.62 (+1)66 (-3)55 (-1)
Is honest and trustworthy.37 (-7)65 (-2)60 (-3)
Shares your values.46 (+1)47 (+1)51 (NC)
Has a clear plan for solving the country's problems.47 (-2)33 (-9)40 (-1)
Understands the problems Americans face in their daily lives.60 (+2)50 (-5)63 (-4)
Is someone you would be proud to have as president.48 (+1)51 (-4)55 (-2)
Can manage the govt effectively.54 (+3)55 (-5)48 (NC)
MoE = +/- 3%.

Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog...He Was a Good Friend of Mine

Uhm, maybe not?

I'm of the opinion - and it may prove to be naive and foolish - that Rev. Wright's remergence in the public arena this weekend will eventually help Barack Obama's candidacy. I realize I'm swimming against the stream of conventional wisdom this Monday morning. Right now, MSNBC has the tag line: "CAMPAIGN ALERT: Rev. Wright Hurting Obama Campaign and Tamryn Hall opened this hour's coverage describing him as "the thorn in Obama's side."

So, with the media providing the "Wright is Wrong for Obama" refrain, why do I think this PR campaign has an upside?

Let's acknowledge the following:

1) The Wright controversy has been created by selective, inflammatory soundbites. The snapshots are unquestionably damaging to Obama's candidacy. But we are missing both the context of the remarks and the complexity of the man.
2) The controversy isn't going to disappear. If Democrats - or the Obama campaign - believed Rev. Wright was going to fade into the rearview mirror, that's wishful thinking. Rest assured: It ain't going to happen, because the Republicans won't let it. The Right Wing machine is in high gear. We've already been promised "Wright All the Time" in a general election.

If Wright had chosen to retreat into silence, it would have allowed the Republican smear machine to define him. Unlike recent Democratic candidates, Wright, a proud and accomplished man, chose to not back down. He decided to define and explain the African American church and inform the public about a lifetime devoted to social justice and compassion. He is refusing to allow his life story to be reduced to a soundbite.

How did he do? From my perspective, he scored some points during the speech. He did a great job of making the audience laugh, squirm and THINK more than a soundbite could ever do.
In the Q&A, he fumbled a bit, providing a handful of soundbites to the GOP attack ad library, probably causing heartburn for the Obama campaign.

What emerges from this burst of publicity? Wright becomes a more complete figure in the public mind. He forces people to see beyond the media's caricature. In the process, he raised some serious questions about the role of religion, educated others about black liberation theology and challenged us to acknowledge the complexity of race relations in 21st century America.

Additionally, by becoming a headline today, he has diffused the power of his comments in the long run. By the general election, voters are likely to say, "oh, yeah, we've heard all this before." It's similar to the crazy and indefensible comments that regularly come out of the Right Wing preachers' (think Falwell, Hagee & Robertson) mouths. We may be enraged when they claim divine retribution in hurricanes and terrorist attacks, but eventually we consider the source and move on.

Lastly, Wright may have provided Obama the additional cover he needed to distance himself from his erstwhile preacher. The reverend has chosen to take more flak, transfering much of the bile and outrage from Obama to himself. While many in the media are declaring these remarks as "Awful for Obama" and predicting collateral damage to his candidacy, they could be dead wrong. Obama is not the "Angry Black Man" Wright's caricature depicts.

Here is an opportunity to reinforce Obama's image as the "post-partisan and post-racial" candidate. He can say - once again - "I understand and feel the reverend's pain, but I do not share his anger."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

MSNBC: Falls for One of the "Oldest Tricks in Politics"

This story has been in the "hourly loop" playing during MSNBC's "The Place for Politics" daytime coverage. There's a new anti-Obama ad (in addition to the abysmal NC State GOP one "denounced" by McCain yesterday) being peddled by the creator of the infamous 1988 Willie Horton ad. I say "peddled" because there has been no "buy."

Oh, but no worries. MSNBC (and I'm sure the other 24-7 cable outlets) have decided to hawk what these fearmongers are shelling out for free.

The ad shows scenes from a desolate urban streetscape with tag lines saying "Tamika McFadden-Harris: Murdered shielding her daughter. Mike Boyd: Beaten with bricks in gang attacks." These are shown on the TeeVee screen as Contessa Brewer dutifully reads from the teleprompter:
A conservative third party group led by infamous ad man Floyd Brown claims Senator Obama is weak on street gangs and will be just as easy with terrorists. Well, here's the catch: Brown does not have a single ad buy in any TV market. Instead of paying for airtime, he just announces this in a press release for outlets like YouTube to pick up."
Contessa introduces the segment's talking heads (Craig Gordon from Newsday and Jonathan Allen from CQPolitics.com) and without even a hint of self-awareness, Contessa pivots to Gordon and asks:

"OK, so, Craig, is this a new way to get your ad covered without buying any time?

Craig (laughing) says, "Uh, it's actually one of the oldest tricks in politics where you, uh, even, even respectable campaigns will do this sometimes. Where they will announce an ad. They'll show the reporters. They'll be very vague about how much money they're going to spend putting it on the air. We all write about it. You put it on your TV networks and they've - voila! they've got their ad out there.

So, it's actually kind of an old trick that folks use sometime. Obviously, it's a pretty controversial topic for an ad. And we're talking about it here today so he's probably accomplished what he hoped to accomplish."

Come on, MSNBC. You don't even have to have a long memory to remember when Huckabee pulled this stunt. One of the reasons these "tricks" work is because the media enables and promotes them.

A Blue Wave Building

Much has been made about the surge in democratic registration across the country. As the Pennsylvania primary approached, the MSM reported about the long-time Republican bastions of Montgomery and Bucks Counties outside Philadelphia had flipped - becoming majority Democratic jurisdictions. This Democratic surge has been widely viewed by politicos as one of the positive side-effects of the interminable Democratic nomination fight, as party-building has preceded voting in each successive primary contest.

We've now got news that the trend continues, post-primary, in a critical state. The California Majority Report has reviewed the voter registration trends in California since the Golden State voted on SuperTuesday and Democrats continue to widen the gap between the two parties across the state:

This boost in Democratic registration isn't simply a temporary lift propelled by interest in the February presidential primary. In every Assembly district in the state since the cutoff for registration for the February primary, Democratic registration has risen while Republican registration has declined. Overall, Democratic registration has inched up by .6 percent statewide. Meanwhile GOP numbers continue their free-fall, declining by .4 percent, in the period between January 22nd and April 4th.

OH-18: No Sophomore Slump in Ohio

After the historic mid-term elections, the Republicans claimed they lost many of their seats not because of a bankrupt brand, failed policies or a widespread rejection by voters across the nation. Instead, they said their majority was lost because of a series of individual scandals. The "handful" of scalliwags, the thinking went, lost "safe" GOP districts: DeLay, Foley, Pombo and the litany of Abramoff-tinged congresscritters. They figured these districts would be easily recaptured in 2008, a presidential year when these districts would return to their red roots.

Well, it looks like one of those target districts, Zack Space's 18th District in Ohio, may be firming up for the Democrats. Due Space's strong fundraising and the Republican nominee's lack of resources, CQ Politics has changed it's rating in the race from "Leans Dem" to "Dem Favored." They write:

The typically strong conservative leanings of 18th District voters — President Bush took 57 percent of the vote there when he ran for re-election in 2004 — had Space perched precariously near the top of the GOP’s target list when this election cycle began.
But the Republicans still are struggling to recover from the damage done by the downfall of once-popular Republican Rep. Bob Ney, who dropped his bid for a seventh House term well into the 2006 campaign and then pled guilty to federal corruption charges related to his ties to convicted influencing-peddling lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Furthermore, the Republican nominated in the March 4 primary to challenge Space — Fred Dailey, a former state agriculture director — has a relatively low political profile, and a dangerously low amount of money in his campaign treasury. Updated campaign finance reports that both candidates recently filed with the Federal Election Commission show Dailey had just $36,000 left in his campaign account when April began, compared to the nearly $1 million in cash on hand reported by Space.

So, while Democratic turmoil continues at the presidential level, the downballot races continue to move toward building a stronger majority.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

MS-01: Dem Childers In May Run-Off

While most eyes have been diverted this evening to the Keystone State Presidential Battle, Democrats came within a whisker-thin margin of picking up a deeply red district in the Deep South.

Travis Childers received 49% of the vote in the six candidate race to replace newly-appointed Senator Roger Wicker in MS-01. Coming less than 1,000 votes needed to reach the 5% threshold, Childers will now face a May 13 run-off with second-place finisher Greg Davis to finish out the term. Both will face each other again as the nominees for the same seat in November.

It will be much harder for Childers to turn the seat blue in November when turnoe to put surges nationwide for the presidential contest. But the fact he is a viable candidate in a conservative district provides another example of the Democrats' expanding playing field in the current political atmosphere.

The NRCC, already low on funds, has a tough decision to make. Do they expend their limited resources in defending this vulnerable seat (along with Louisiana 06)? Or do they husband their resources, and risk letting another seat (or two) slip from their control further demoralizing donors and members?

Let's hope the DCCC decides their "all in" in both races.

Who's Got the Teflon Armor?

The juxtaposition of two Gallup polls today provides an interesting snapshot of the American electorate in the midst of one of the most unpredictable presidential contests.

They contain promising news regarding the "macroclimate" for Democrats in the about-to-begin general election campaign but some troubling signals regarding presumptive GOP nominee John McCain's early strength.

The first shows Bush hitting historic lows. He's at 28% approval - the worst rating in the 70-year history of Gallup's presidential polling. Makes me wonder what McCain's strategists are thinking by continuing to embrace a failed presidency. What's the point of "shoring up the base" when they're abandoning their standard-bearer in record numbers? Or, can McCain escape (and perhaps reverse) the downward spiral of the Republican brand?

The second poll also contains good news for Barack Obama. It hints that Obama may indeed be the 21st century's first teflon candidate. Despite the media's pitbull tenacity about the "bitterly clinging" comments, today's poll shows only 26% of voters view Obama as "looking down on them." More (32%) view Hillary Clinton as the elitist in the nomination contest.
But before Democrats get too overconfident, there's another candidate for the Teflon Candidate. Fewer voters (only 22%) view McCain as less out of touch:


Is this more evidence the Democratic infighting is hurting Clinton and Obama while elevating McCain? It's also an early and worrisome signal that McCain may not have the Bush legacy as an albatross around his neck.

It's time for Democrats to end the intramural death match and move on to target McCain.

This is just a start from the DNC:

MoveOn: Videos for Obama...

Proving once again how the Internet has transformed politics, thousands of Americans responded to MoveOn's request to make campaign videos for the Obama campaign.

Campaign 2008 has shown the grassroots can reject the punditocracy's "inside the beltway" conventional wisdom. Let's take the next step and show the high-priced PR and political message shapers how real Americans want to run a campaign.

YOU can vote to select the one you want to have put on the TeeVee by going HERE.

Here is one of my favorites.

E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many, One.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Sunday Muse

Random Green thoughts...for Earth Week 2008.

At BushCo, the EPA's Acronym Stands for Everybody Pollutes Anyway! The National Journal reports the reign of current administrator Stephen Johnson may mark a historic low in the efficacy of the nation's pollution police. For those that remember James Watt and Anne Gorsuch Burford during the Reagan years, that's a pretty low bar to duck under. But is anyone really shocked that a BushCo agency is ignoring scientific advice, promoting incompetent sycophants, rolling back regulations, slashing agency funds and kowtowing to business interests? Anyone?

How Green is Your Governor? California's Governator and governors from 17 other states have signed an agreement urging the next president quickly adopt aggressive limits on greenhouse grasses. Breaking with his party's "head in the sand" environmental policies, Schwarzenegger proclaimed, "Washington is asleep at the wheel, and we can't wait for them." Of the eighteen states, only three (CA, CT and FL) are led by Republican governors.

Big Brother Isn't Watching Big Business: The Treasury Department is asking hedge fund managers to voluntarily police themselves and provide greater transparency. Besides the fact only a handful of the 800 registered fund managers have signed on to the idea, I ask, "Can anyone remember the last time this 'less regulation is better' BushCo approach actually worked? Does anyone (beyond McCain, that is) believe the subprime crisis was due to too much regulation? Or unsafe imports from China occured because of too much government oversight?

BushCo's "Transparency" Becomes a Continental Affliction: BushCo is hosting the leaders of Canada, Mexico in New Orleans to meet with corporate execs of major multinationals (think Chevron, Wal-Mart) to discuss a Security and Prosperity Partnership with our continental neighbors. What are they discussing? In the grand tradition of the Cheney Energy Task Force, we really don't know:

What’s on the table? Not much is public, but we do know that the executive powers of the three countries are hammering out regulatory changes that they claim do not require legislative approval. And given who’s in the room, it’s a safe bet that these changes will favor narrow corporate interests over the public good.

Don't worry. I'm sure the Democratic Congress is all over this. They'll call hearings, discover the American public is getting hosed by corporate greed and declare, "See? We did something? Without us in the majority you would've never known how you were being screwed! At least now you know!"

Straight Economic Talk About John McCain. Bloomberg debunks McCain's claim to fiscal responsibility. Sustained tax cuts and a balanced budget are impossible. At least he can say, "I told you I don't know much about the economy."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Show Me The Money - Q1's Biggest RainMakers

CQ Politics' Moneyline has a list of the top ten gainers in Cash on Hand in the just reported first quarter.

Competitive Challengers (noted on the list with an asterisk): Three Democratic challengers filing their first reports (Raul Martinez, Gerry Connolly and Tom Manion) make the list as does challenger John Adler, who reports over $1 million in his race to win the open seat in NJ-03. The one Republican challenger on the list (Northup) is running to regain the seat she lost in '06, so her fundraising ability isn't a huge surprise.

Fighting Freshmen (in italics): Three Democratic incumbents on the list are running their first reelection campaign, typically when a House member is found most vulnerable. All three are in swing districts in the northeast. By winning these races, Dems can reasonably expect to solidify their dominance in the region. Notably, Murphy's expected opponent in November (Tom Manion) also appears on the list.

Clash of the Titans: Two districts (FL-21 and PA-08) have two candidates in the top ten. In both cases the incumbents maintain a large cash advantage.

1) Raul Martinez*, (D FL-21) $593,000 CoH -- $593,000+
2) Rep. Joe Sestak, (D PA-07) $2.26 million CoH -- $549,000+
3) Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, (R FL-21) $1.45 million CoH -- $547,000+
4) Rep. Patrick J. Murphy, (D PA-08) $1.66 million CoH -- $487,000+
5) Rep. Mark Steven Kirk , (R IL-10) $2.25 million CoH -- $462,000+
6) Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, (D NY-20) $2.47 million CoH -- $433,000+
7) Gerry Connolly*, (D VA-11) $422,000 CoH -- $422,000+
8) Anne M. Northup*, (R KY-03) $428,000 CoH -- $422,000+
9) Tom Manion*, (R PA-08) $417,000 CoH --$417,000+
10) John H. Adler*, (D NJ-03) $1 million CoH -- $416,000+

McSame As It Ever Was

As if you needed any more evidence that a McCain Administration would amount to four more years of failed conservative policy, Progressive Media USA provides more:

A Blue Wave Coming: IL-08

The Rothenberg Political Report is changing the rating in Melissa Bean's race to defend her competitive congressional seat in Illinois-08 from "Leans Dem" to "Dem Favored." Her opponent, Steve Greenberg's campaign manager left the campaign this week to join a lobbying firm. This departure comes in the wake of the filing of dismal fundraising numbers for the Republican challenger:

...Goodman’s exit leaves more questions than answers for Greenberg. The wealthy businessman was expected to throw a scare into Cong. Melissa Bean (D) in Illinois’ 8th District. But he showed only $5,035 in the bank on March 31, and his ability and willingness to self-finance the race is unclear. Greenberg has put in $79,000 of his own money thus far.

Meanwhile, Bean is sitting on $1.3 million in campaign cash and will likely benefit from increased Democratic excitement that likely presidential nominee Barack Obama will generate at the top of the ticket.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gallup: Dems Leading in Battleground States

This is big, especially considering the fretting the punditocracy (and the blogosphere) is doing about how this interminable Democratic nomination battle could be hurting our general election chances. According to Gallup's April polling, both Democrats are winning the purple states (NH, PA, OH, MI, WI, MN, IA, FL, CO, NV, NM and OR) where the margin separating Kerry & Bush in 2004 was less than 6 points. Obama and Clinton both beat McCain in these critical battleground states by a 47-43 margin.

OBAMA More Competitive in Red States: It's in the Red States where Obama outperforms Clinton against McCain. Obama trails McCain by eight points (49-41) in these states while Clinton trails by ten (51-41). Gallup doesn't break out these numbers by state, but it seems Obama may be able to make a state or two competitive and force the Republican candidate to play defense on his home turf more than Clinton.
In Blue States, Obama also outpaces Clinton. Obama beats McCain by thirteen (52-39) while Clinton only leads by nine (50-41). This belies the New York Senators claim that she has demonstrated she can win the "Big Democratic" states that are critical to a Democrat's chances in November. Obama is going to be able to win these more handily than Clinton, if these numbers are to be believed.

Obama's Numbers:

Clinton's Numbers:

The pollsters at Gallup include this analysis:

It's likely that the 2008 election will be fought in the battleground states, just as in prior elections. Gallup's election polling to date suggests that the presidential election could be very close, because neither McCain nor his Democratic rivals have maintained much of a lead in recent weeks.

The analysis of competitive states adds insight into how the candidates are doing beyond the overall vote figures. A candidate must do reasonably well in those states to have a chance at winning. For example, McCain could open up a significant lead in the national vote based on a very strong performance in the red states, but that would not mean he was better positioned to win than if he were not doing as well in the red states but doing better in the more competitive states.

As of now, Obama and Clinton have an advantage over McCain among voters in the competitive states. Given that more states fall into the Republican column than into the Democratic column, the Democratic nominee probably needs to maintain that advantage in order to prevail in enough purple states to gain the electoral vote advantage in November.

Hey, Europe, Can You Spare a G.I.?

With renewed violence in Iraqi cities claiming more lives, it appears our military is scrambling to find 7,000 soldiers to combat a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

Is our military stretched that thin? For quite some time our military leaders have been warning the Bush/Cheney/McCain warhawks that they are simply asking too much from our men and women in uniform. Now, it looks like we're forced beg our allies for reinforcements but:

A majority of America's NATO allies continue to balk at U.S. requests to send thousands more of their troops to Afghanistan. At the same time, the renewed violence in Iraq and the White House decision to suspend further American troop withdrawals from Iraq this summer will make it harder for the Pentagon to send more American forces to Afghanistan next year as President Bush has promised.

"I'm deeply concerned," Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last Thursday. "In this economy of force operation, we do what we can. Requirements exist that we simply cannot fill and won't likely be able to fill until conditions improve in Iraq."

If our country is facing an endless, multiple front war isn't it irresponsible to NOT have a draft? Shouldn't this question at least be asked of the candidates running for president (and Congress)?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Condoned, Coordinated and Choreographed by Condi

"Let me be, let me try to be clear. The United States doesn't and can't condone torture." - Condoleeza Rice

From ABC:

"In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News...

The meetings were chaired by then-National Security Advisor Rice. The discussions about the enhanced interrogation techniques were so detailed, sources said, the interrogations were almost choreographed."

Rice again: "Torture and conspiracy to commit torture are crimes under US Law wherever they may occur in the world."

This is what she's condoned, coordinated and choreographed.

Visit CondiMustGo to sign the petition.

Blue Jersey: Another Pickup Opportunity?

Another day, another ratings change (toward the Dems) by the political prognosticators over at CQ Politics. New Jersey's Fifth District is now listed as "Republican Favored" (a shift from "SAFE Republican) due to Democratic candidate Dan Shulman's impressive fundraising totals.

The campaign of Democratic rabbi and psychologist Dennis Shulman for New Jersey’s 5th District is beginning to gain steam, capturing local and national support as well as attention as he seeks to become the first blind member of Congress in generations.

In his bid to unseat three-term Republican Rep. Scott Garrett , Shulman reported more than $300,000 raised through March 31, including donations from Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer ’s political action committee, Washington state Rep. Brian Baird ’s campaign committee, and members of the psychology and religious communities. Shulman also invested $52,000 in personal funds into his campaign. He reported $246,000 remaining after expenses.

UPDATE: CQ also changed the rating in a Connecticut "swing" district (CT-02). Freshman Dem Joe Courtney's race has moved from Leans Dem to Dem Favored. The GOP's retreat from New England continues unchallenged.

I Got Another HillGram from Ann Today

Early in this presidential campaign I signed up for email updates from each of the Democratic presidential campaigns, (and even a couple of the Republicans) because I was curious as to how each would utilize the Internet as a communication tool. From the beginning, I've been impressed by Obama, as I was with Edwards. Hillary, however, has been a different story.

For some reason, the Clinton campaign thinks I'm a female. For months now, I've been receiving regular emails from senior advisor Ann Lewis under the "Women for Hillary" banner. Not sure how or why the campaign performed this gender reassignment, but it has provided an interesting insight into how TeamHillary has used her gender to cling to the one constituency - white women - that has stuck by her throughout this campaign season. At times, Ann's emails have been amusing. Others, the reliance on identity politics has been frustrating.

Today's email was irritating. It relies on one of the tried and true strategies needed for identity politics to succeed - claiming victimhood and bonding around the shared injustice as a group. TeamHillary takes a very real issue - the wage gap between men and women - and embraces it has her cause. Quite ironic when she and Bill are sitting on a pile of 109 million greenbacks.

I'm annoyed when Ann urges me to let all the women I know what's at stake in this election, implying Hillary is the only candidate concerned about addressing the wage gap. Do they seriously think I (and the women I know) will buy their argument that a Clinton restoration is the only hope for women?

From Ann:

Dear Friend,

Today, we are launching the “Make Change Count” campaign to highlight the wage gap that persists for women across the country. This year, Equal Pay Day -- the day on which women's wages catch up to men's wages for the prior year -- falls on April 22.

Check out YOUR wage gap by using our calculator at: ww.hillaryclinton.com/women!
Although it has been more than 40 years since the Equal Pay Act became law,
full-time working women make just 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. And
it's even worse for women of color.

Tell your friends about the Wage Gap calculator and Hillary's work by sending them an email – sample text here!

Hillary has long been a champion for equal pay for women. Her legislation, the Paycheck Fairness Act, would help close the wage gap for women across the country, ultimately putting more money in the pockets of America's families.

Hillary has also worked in the Senate not only to ensure women earn the same amount as men for equal work but also to expand the earned income tax credit,
provide health care for children, raise the minimum wage, and stand up for
female-owned small businesses.
Write a letter to the editor about Hillary's commitment to closing the wage gap – sample text here!
As president, Hillary would bring to the White House a long record of fighting for women and children -- and she will lead a government dedicated to improving the lives for all our families.
Please share this important tool with the women you know and let them know what is at stake in this election.


Is TeamHillary really this tone-deaf?

The campaign still doesn't understand the dynamics of the American Electorate, Version 2008. After years of being "sliced and diced" into competing interest groups (thanks Mark Penn & Karl Rove), people want to come together to solve our common problems. The voters are responding to a positive message that strives to remind us there is more that unites us than divides us.

Despite this, Hillary continues campaigning from her outdated playbook.

Monday, April 14, 2008

What Would YOU Do With Three TRILLION Dollars?

Brave New Films has a new game to play. Just in time for tax day, Robert Greenwald observes, "George B in Washington started an illegal war that resulted in 151,000 dead Iraqi civilians...Donald R in Arlington, VA, destabilized an entire region and displaced four million innocent people. What will you do with three trillion dollars. Go to http://www.threetrillion.org/ and spend, spend, spend "

Sunday, April 13, 2008

When Bitter Becomes Sweet

This guy is brilliant. Obama's actually laughing at Hillary Clinton's "bitter" attacks.

The image of Hillary spending her Sunday afternoons out in duckblind has to be one of the silliest American political images since Dukakis driving that tank.

The Sunday Muse

Random thoughts on a Sunday morning in April...

An Inconvenient Truth: The Mother Jones has an expose on former Secret Service agents spying on Greenpeace and other environmental groups - including perusing donor lists, financial records and staff Social Security numbers. Another example of the Bush/Cheney anti-green and pro-oil agenda? Nope. This was going on during Bill Clinton's presidency.

Green Citizen of the Year Award: Royal Dutch Shell tells the EU - take your planet and shove it.

Deliver Us From Evil: When President Bush starts a sentence with, "Well, we started to connect the dots in order to protect the American people..." you just know the result can't be good.

Show Us the Money: The Center for Reponsive Politics reports a record-breaking year for K Street lobbying.

The (Greek) Gods Must Be Crazy: Nathan Gonzalez over at the Rothenberg Political Report ponders how political campaigns will compete with (and be shaped by) the Beijing Olympics in a 24/7 news environment this August.

Will She Stand By Her Man? One of the signature accomplishments of the Clinton presidency - NAFTA - is widely blamed for job losses in midwestern Rust Belt cities. This sentiment caused Hillary Clinton to distance herself from her earlier support as the Democratic nomination battle wound it's way through Wisconsin, Ohio and now Pennsylvania. Friday's New York Times observes the economic downturn could cause voters to re-examine 1996's welfare reform creating another awkward situation for candidate Clinton.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Pat & Hillary, Sitting in A Tree, KAY, EYE, ESS, ESS, EYE, AND GEE

I'm spewing my no foam, low fat latte across the computer screen this morning.

Pundits are swarming like hungry sharks, accusing Barack of elitist condescension toward small town America. I'm watching conservative populist Pat Buchanan on MSNBC trumpeting the same -crap- talking points Hillary Clinton is using in her newly revised stump speech. Does anyone in Hillaryland see ANYTHING WRONG WITH A DEMOCRATIC POLITICIAN cozying up to Pitchfork Pat, for chrissakes???

Small town America has suffered for decades with few answers coming from our leaders in Washington. The Free Trade agreements pushed by the Clinton and Bush Administrations (Hillary may hear "Ka-Ching," but small-town Americans hear Perot's infamous "sucking sound") have accelerated the Heartland's economic decline.

As The Boss sings, "these jobs are going, boys and they ain't coming back..."

This latest media feeding frenzy over our presidential contest is diminishing BOTH Democratic candidates and threatens to result in a fratricidal outcome. The "chum" this weekend (full quote included, bolded section is the sound-bite focused on by Clinton, McCain and the "media"):

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Senator Obama's use of the word "bitter" may have been a miscue. But for Clinton to seize upon a word and divert attention from the real debate about lost jobs, economic dislocation and healthcare only aids McCain's general election chances.

It's clear Clinton and McCain don't understand the realities of 2008: When over 80% of respondents say they believe this country is "ON THE WRONG TRACK" most Americans are bitter about what has happened to this country.

And, I've got news for you: it's not just about lost jobs.

It's about shredding the Constitution. It's about warrantless wiretaps and granting the telecoms retroactive immunity. It's about an ill-advised war with no end in sight. It's about $4.00/gallon gasoline when oil companies make record profits. It's rampant foreclosures and a bailout of Wall Street while Main Street continues to suffer.

This is why Americans - in small towns and big cities - are angry.

I shudder to think what may happen to this nation if you take away the one thing we have left:


Baracky vs. Apollo Clinton

The democratic nomination battle in a three-minute short, bobbleheads and all:

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Incredible, Shrinking Ex-President

In the closing months of his presidency, the subject of Bill Clinton's "Legacy" and the paramount concern he supposedly placed on how history would regard him was a common media talking point.

He had survived a scathing partisan battle and left the White House with a higher approval rating than he had at the start of his second term. Despite an all-encompassing impeachment and a few minor mini-scandals (last minute pardons of a wealthy fugitive and the "plundering" of the White House come to mind), the Clinton brand was strong and durable enough to propel his wife to victory in the race for RFK's New York Senate seat and positioned the president as a powerful and influential force on the world stage.

The Clinton Brand isn't what it once was.

At the end of March 2008, a majority of Americans viewed the former president unfavorably. His wife's presidential campaign has brought out the worst in the former president. As her chief surrogate (and attack dog) he has left many wondering, "What happened to the sharpest political mind the Democratic party has seen in a generation?" Was it all an illusion built by a sophisticated political marketing machine?

Today, Ambinder pronounces:

"The debate about his political legacy is effectively over, and no one but a handful of prominent Democrats will argue that his presidency was salutary for the Democratic party."

On David Gregory's new MSNBC Show, the panelists discussed (video below) the fallout from Bill's latest misstep - resurrecting the Tuzla story and blaming the media's unfair treatment for his wife's floundering campaign. But, Chuck Todd disagrees and points the finger right back at Bill:

"Every time you see him. (Don't) forget - elections are never about the past. They're always about the future. And every time you see him, you never think about the future. And I think that's the fundamental sort of message problem that the Clinton campaign has because Obama seems like the future...and Bill Clinton's - just - aura says, "The Past."

- snip -

"That's been the issue that the Clinton campaign hasn't really grasped that well. It's this. How much credibility damage that Bill Clinton did to the Clinton Brand over that long period of time between 1998 and the end of his presidency."

Todd (and Newt's former toady, Tony Blankley) believe Clinton may not have survived if there had been a 24/7 news cycle in 1992. The YouTube Age has rewritten political campaigning. Anything and everything can come back to haunt you. Just ask George Allen.

But, I'm still wondering, "Was he ever the sharp political practioner of the Clintonista iconographers?"