Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Some Tiers Must Fall

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 572

I’ve been watching, with interest, the fanfare greeting the news that New Mexico Governor and Presidential candidate Bill Richardson has gotten a bump in the polls of late.

This started a couple of weeks ago with the release of a CNN-WMUR TV poll that showed Bill Richardson had climbed to 10% in New Hampshire, and in so doing moved even with John Edwards there. Governor Richardson’s numbers began to rise after a widely-praised ad campaign built around a “Presidential job interview” theme. Then, earlier this week, Richardson’s campaign announced that its own internal polling now shows their candidate at 13% in Iowa, which, if you disregard the 4.4% margin of error, would put him ahead of Barack Obama here. Finally today, announced that it has added Richardson to its “Top Democrats” ranking, based on its findings that Richardson alone among the candidates is experiencing a substantial upturn in his numbers in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Richardson’s campaign, of course, has eagerly seized on these developments, today alone sending out not one, but two emails drawing attention to their candidate’s numbers and going so far as to proclaim “Richardson Officially Breaks into Top Teir.”

Let me hasten to say that I don’t question the legitimacy of these latest polls or the use made of them by the Richardson campaign; indeed, I would do the same. What I do question, though, is when and how in the course of this historically dynamic campaign there came to be a top tier of candidates to begin with.

For example, if I were writing on this topic a year ago, any discussion of top tier candidates would have included Tom Vilsack, who, as outgoing Governor of Iowa would at that time have been presumed to exert disproportionate influence upon the campaign in his home state, in very much the same way as Tom Harkin in 1992. Following the accepted wisdom of the time, I would undoubtedly also have written about John Kerry’s generally anticipated second run for the White House, and the impact on the race of his name recognition and 3 million-plus member email subscription list. Vilsack, of course, withdrew his candidacy back on February 23, and Kerry opted not to get into the 2008 race all.

This brings us to today’s “top tier” of Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama, and, so as not to quibble, now Bill Richardson. Each candidate has taken a different road to arrive in the “top tier,” but they all, Richardson excepted, since he only today “officially” arrived among them, have three things in common: good poll numbers, good fund raising numbers, and lots and lots of free media. None of these things, of course, measures the actual strength of anyone’s ground game here or in New Hampshire (has anyone else noticed that Dodd just opened 8 new field offices in Iowa?), ignores the outcome of the South Carolina and New Hampshire debates (as I’m sure Joe Biden’s people would hasten to point out), and provides absolutely no guidance as to future trends.

Which is to say that handicapping the candidates into ordinal tiers at this stage in the campaign is meaningless. It is all trying to call the result of a horse race before the track has even opened. If the outcome of presidential campaigns were determined by Vegas odds makers or media pundits, then graduate students in political science today would be laboring over theses on the history of Thomas Dewey’s presidency and the legacy of Lyndon Johnson’s 1968 landslide reelection.

I’m not trying to deny Bill Richardson, or anyone else, their day in the sun. I’m merely pointing out how fast the weather can change.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

2008: How Desperate are Republicans?

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 573

The big question right now among Republicans is how to remove Vice President Cheney from office. Or so says Sally Quinn in an op-ed piece in today's Washington Post, shockingly titled, "A GOP Plan to Oust Cheney."

Are things really that bad among Republicans? You bet they are. The GOP is still reeling from its epic defeat in last year's elections, and lives in daily dread of next year's contest for the White House. It isn't hard to understand why.

Just take a look at the candidates fielded by each party. For the Democrats: Joe Biden, a Senator with awesome policy chops; Hillary Clinton, already a political legend whose star is in all probability still rising; Chris Dodd, who is rapidly becoming a one-man idea factory in this campaign; John Edwards, with proven populist appeal; Barack Obama, the ultimate political rock star; and Bill Richardson, with as impressive a resume as any person who has ever sought the Oval Office. For the Republicans: a crop of anonymous pols so generic and colorless that one of their own number coined the definitive collective moniker of dismissal for them all: Rudy McRomney.

But back to Sally Quinn. Surveying the beleaguered state of the current administration, Quinn recalls an anecdote concerning a previous Republican disaster in office, Richard Nixon, who, as an aside, is starting to look pretty good in comparison to George W. Bush. In Quinn's story, Barry Goldwater is wrestling with the dilemma of whether it is actually time to deliver the news to Nixon that the angry villagers are in full pitchfork mode and it is time to go. According to Quinn, a similar moment may be at hand for Dick Cheney, with John Warner as the messenger.

But that's not the really desperate part. No, the really desperate part of this story is that Quinn goes on to postulate that Cheney is replaced as Vice President by - wait for it - Fred Thompson, whose rise to power heals the party at a stroke, reverses the country's historically low estimation of the GOP, and allows Thompson to ride his white charger roughshod over all challengers to win the Presidency with ease.

And it appears that some in the GOP are seriously considering the scenario Quinn discusses in her article. But that's not the story. The story is that current circumstances and future prospects are so bad for Republicans (or should that be Republicants?) that they resort to this sort of utter fantasy for comfort.

As the sloganeers of the gun lobby might put it, Dick Cheney will give up his office only when they pry it from his cold, dead hands. That Republicans dream otherwise shows the true extent of their desperation.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Obama Goes on the Air: Two TV Ads in Iowa

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 574

Barack Obama is putting up his first ads in Iowa this week. One, called "Carry," is a 30-second spot focusing on Obama's work in the Illinois State Senate, and features clips of Republicans and Democrats extolling Obama's bipartisanship. The other, called "Choices," is a 60-second spot recounting Obama's experience as a community organizer in Chicago. Here's a link to the video.


Saturday, June 23, 2007


Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 576

I realize, of course, that the end of the second quarter fund raising period is at hand, and, to judge by the email piling up in my inbox, every campaign is out there leaving no stone unturned to come up with every last penny they can before the end of the month.

All the same, some appeals just leave me shaking my head, and none more than today's missive from John Edwards' campaign, with the subject line, "Obscene Money Game or Policies that Matter?":

"With 7 days left until the end of the quarter, we are closing in on $7 million and everyone is doing their part. Small change for big change is working.

But while thousands of people are building up this campaign, the Washington establishment is trying to write us out of the race. And their reason? They say it's MONEY - they don't think we are raising an obscene enough amount. But the truth is, they don't want people to hear what John Edwards is saying, because it will mean the end of big money's stranglehold over our government.

Our plan calls for raising $9 million this quarter and if we do - no matter what the chatter boxes say - we will be ahead of pace to have the resources we need to compete and win in the early primary states. That's when the Edwards campaign will have our day in the sun, but we need your help to get there.

We have 7 days to reach $9 million and every dollar counts. Please give what you can.

If you're ready for big change on the issues that matter, your time is now.

End this war. Take on poverty. Build one America. Work for economic justice. Stand up for truly universal health care. Take action on global warming.

The policies are real. And John Edwards is the candidate who is leading on every issue.

But only you can make it happen.

Please do what you can today to help take the next bold step for real change.

Because in a time when millions have lost faith in Washington, we are building faith in each other. What you do today matters. This campaign we are building together matters.

And your time is now.

Help us reach $9 million in 7 days.

Thank you,

-Joe Trippi
Saturday, June 23, 2007"

Where in this message is anything said about campaign finance reform, or doing anything to lessen the role of money in American politics and government? The entire point of the note is to try to downplay the importance of money in the Edwards campaign on the one hand, and then ask for more money on the other. This is infuriating in its cynicism, and more than a little embarrassing in its transparency.

Do people actually fall for this? Maybe so. But this note is emblematic of a problem I've seen in John Edwards for a long time: the desire to have it both ways. For the war when it was popular, against the war when it wasn't. Man of the people, $400 haircuts. Carbon neutral campaign, behemoth mansion. And now: we don't care about money, but please send us more of it.

Perhaps not much to my own credit, I try to look past these things, and try to see in John Edwards what I hear about from his supporters. I must confess that this becomes a little harder to do each time I get an email like this.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

There Goes Rhymin' Simon: Paul Simon to Join Chris Dodd on Iowa Bus Tour

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 578

Well, this will perk things up on the road! From the inbox:

"Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Paul Simon will join presidential candidate Chris Dodd and his family for part of Dodd’s 'River to River' bus tour of Iowa during the week of the Fourth of July. Simon will campaign with Dodd on July 6th and 7th, appearing with him on those days’ tour stops and adding informal performances to Dodd’s events.

'I am thrilled that Paul will be joining Jackie, our daughters, and me in Iowa,” said Senator Dodd. “Paul is a long-time friend and one of the most important voices in American music, and he has been tireless in his service to the greater good of people throughout our country and the world.

'His music and his commitment to bettering our world reflect the leadership and optimism that my campaign is all about.'

Simon will join the Dodd family at stops in Mason City, Fort Dodge, Sioux City, Carroll, and Council Bluffs."

And every stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one-man band...


Obama Publishes Budget Earmark Requests

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 578

In a move aimed at burnishing his good government credentials, Senator Barack Obama today made public his budget earmark requests for the FY2008 appropriations bill.

The requests for funding - often referred to in the media as "pork barrel" projects - consist of 113 separate items totalling more than $300 million dollars. The dollar amounts of the individual earmark requests range from modest to multi-million and run the gamut from education and health care to infrastructure improvements and defense-related R&D. In disclosing his earmark requests, an Obama spokesman issued a challenge to the other presidential candidates to follow suit.

Obama also released his tax returns earlier this year. Chris Dodd has also made his returns public.

Looking at the list, there's nothing that seems too outlandish here, so putting this out there is likely to entail little risk for Obama, and it positions him to put pressure on other candidates to match him on transparency and accountability. This is the kind of day-to-day tactical move that is a hallmark of solid campaign work.

For those who are interested, here's the shopping list. Full details can be found on Obama's Senate website:

- Adler Planetarium, to support replacement of its projector and related equipment, $3,000,000
- AIDSCARE, Inc., for general operating support, $750,000
- AIDSCARE, Inc., for completion of the North Lawndale Campus, $2,000,000
- Aledo, IL, to support its replacement of two aging water towers, $750,000
- American Red Cross of Illinois, for emergency preparedness, $5,000,000
- American Theater Company, for the construction of a new facility in Logan Square, $200,000
- Army Corps of Engineers in the Chicago District of Illinois, to support permanent construction of the Asian Carp Barrier, $7,500,000
- Army Corps of Engineers in the Chicago District of Illinois, to support Operations and Maintenance of the permanent Asian Carp Barrier, $1,000,000
- Army Corps of Engineers in the City of Rock Island, to support construction of Sunset Marina Harbor Entrance Improvements, $500,000
- Army Corps of Engineers in Illinois, to support project UMR-IWW System Navigation Study, IL, IA, MN, MO, & WI, $24,000,000
- Aurora University, to the Center for Latino Leadership and Education, $400,000
- Benedictine University in Lisle, for the First Responder Program – An Education Initiative for Public Safety Officers and Iraqi and Afghanistan Veterans, $1,750,000
- Carpentersville, IL, for the Carpentersville Community Response Team, $500,000
- Carthage, IL, to develop the Illinois 336 Corridor Carthage Exchange, $1,350,000
- Center for Advanced Design, Research, and Exploration (CADRE) at the University of Illinois at Chicago, for development of rapid wound healing therapies, $4,800,000
- Center for Advanced Design, Research, and Exploration (CADRE) at the University of Illinois at Chicago, to develop a hand-held device used in combat, $2,000,000
- Channahon, IL, for road upgrades, $12,000,000
- Chicago Children's Advocacy Center, for Facility Improvements, Renovations, and Expansion of the Chicago Children's Advocacy Center for child abuse support services, $500,000
- Chicago Children's Museum, for the construction of a new Chicago Children's Museum facility, $1,000,000
- Chicago Children's Museum, for its Community Health and Wellness Initiatives, $300,000
- Chicago Park District, for the development of DuSable Park, $3,000,000
- Chicago Public Schools, for their Chicago Reading Initiative: Supported Literacy Programs, $4,000,000
- Chicago State University, for research into unmanned aerial systems, $5,000,000
- Chicago State University, to develop a sustainable and portable power system for military operation, $5,000,000
- Chicago State University, to the HIV/ AIDS Policy and Research Institute, $1,000,000
- Children's Memorial Hospital, for the construction of Children's Memorial Hospital Intensive - Care Unit Facilities, $3,000,000
- Columbia College Department of Dance/Movement Therapy and Counseling in Chicago, for its A.I.M. Program in partnership with the Jesse Brown Veterans Administration Medical Center, $3,000,000
- Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago (ESMC), for its therapeutic School and Center for Autism Research, $1,500,000
- Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities in Springfield, for its Training Health Professionals program, $500,000
- Field Museum, for roof repair and rainwater diversion, $4,900,000
- Field Museum, to support the expansion of the Halls of the Americas, $1,000,000
- Franklin Park, IL, for construction of the Grand Avenue Underpass in Chicago, IL to ease congestion and increase traffic safety, $3,000,000
- Galesburg, IL, to support construction of a new water treatment facility at the Oquawka, Illinois facility along the Mississippi River, $1,500,000
- Governors State University, for the Center of Excellence in Health Professions Education, $1,000,000
- Illinois Central College, for its Central Illinois Collaborative Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Initiative, $3,000,000
- Illinois Institute of Technology, for research into impact-resistant materials, $1,500,000
- Illinois Institute of Technology, to support its Integrated Advance Energy Systems Research Initiative, $750,000
- Illinois Primary Health Care Association (IPHCA), for the Electronic Health Record Project IPHCA, $2,000,000
- Illinois State University, for the Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline Programs and Partnerships, $300,000
- Illinois State University, for the Great Lakes Teacher and Preparation Leadership Preparation Consortium, $500,000
- Illinois State University, to improve manufacturing competitiveness with further development of the Integrated Manufacturing Laboratory (IML), $500,000
- Johnsburg, IL, to support construction of additional sewer lines, $2,000,000
- Lake County, for its Integrated Criminal Justice Information System, $1,000,000
- Lee County Highway Department in Amboy, Illinois, for road upgrades, $300,000
- Lewis and Clark Community College, for its mobile health clinic to provide healthcare services to rural areas, $350,000
- Lewis University Airport in Romeoville, for the extension of its primary runway, $3,420,000
- Long Creek, IL, to support construction of new water towers to increase its water capacity, $660,000
- Loretto Hospital, for the Launa Thompson Women's Health Pavilion, $550,000
Loyola University Chicago, to the Center for School District Leadership for distance learning, $1,000,000
- Manteno, IL, to connect existing and proposed parks in Kankakee County as part of the Manteno Greenways Trail System, $860,475
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center in Rock Island, for the renovation and expansion of the Center, $1,000,0000
- McHenry County, for its Sheriff's Office law enforcement communication system, $1,000,000
- McHenry County, to widen Miller Road, $500,000
- McHenry County, for Flexible and Sustainable Training Solutions Initiative, $600,000
- Memorial Hospital, for necessary equipment upgrades for vascular disease diagnostics and screenings, $1,800,000
- Memorial Medical Center, for Advanced Flatplate Cardiac Catherization/Electrophysiology Laboratory, $1,000,000
- Metra, to expand and improve service, $65,000,000
- MetroLiNK Transit in Rock Island, to build a new state-of-the-art MetroLiNK Maintenance Facility, $5,000,000
- Millikin University School of Nursing, for the expansion and upgrade of their nursing program, $500,000
- Mobile C.A.R.E. Foundation in Chicago, for the acquisition and operation of Asthma Vans, $300,000
- Moline, IL, to address congestion in the I-74 Corridor, $8,000,000
- Morrison, IL, for construction of a railroad overpass, $3,812,000
- Mount Carroll, IL, to support reconstruction of its water distribution system, $2,000,000
- Mujeres Latinas en Accion, for the Parent Support Program and Women in Transition Program, $295,000
- National Center for Family Literacy, for its Family Literacy for All Expansion, $250,000
- National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for its cybersecurity initiative, $7,500,000
- National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for its Technology Research, Education and Commercialization Center (TRECC), $5,000,000
- National Myoclonus Center, for the expansion of the National Myoclonus Center, $400,000
- Normal, IL, for the construction of a multimodal transportation center, $10,000,000
- Northeastern Illinois Sewer Consortium, for sanitary and storm sewer system upgrades, $500,000
- Oakwood, IL, to replace its water distribution system, $836,000
- Ogle County Highway Department, for the Southwest Rochelle Truck Loop, $150,000
- Olympia Fields, IL, to make safety upgrades and improvements of the 203rd Street and Crawford Avenue, $1,000,000
- Oregon, IL, for Route 251 & Steward Road Intersection Improvements, $125,000
- Orland Park, IL, to expand U.S. 45, $450,000
- PACE Suburban Bus, to replace the radio system in all of its 672 fixed route buses, $2,500,000
- Patterson, IL, to support replacement of its "Drake Road" water main, $138,000
- Peoria, IL, to support its construction of its combined sewer overflow replacement, $500,000
Poder Learning Center, for workforce training program, $200,000
- Regional Climate Center, for the Midwestern Regional Climate Center (MRCC)/Illinois State Water Survey, $6,000,000
- Riverside Healthcare, for a Computerized Physician Order Entry system for Kankakee, IL, $2,000,000
- Rochelle, IL, for phase two of the Jack Dame Road/Union Pacific Railroad Overpass, $1,000,000
- Rock Island Arsenal, to repair the roof on Building 299 for additional manufacturing space, $6,200,000
- Rock Island Arsenal, to support a more robust capability to rapidly produce up-armor vehicle kits, $10,500,000
- Rock Island Arsenal, to renovate and expand Rock Island Arsenal's combined Fire and Police Station facility, $3,500,000
- Rock Island Arsenal, to support the development and enhancement of flexible lightweight metal technology, $1,350,000
- Rockford College, to enhance classrooms, $490,000
- Saint Xavier University, for nursing skills lab equipment, $500,000
- Saint Xavier University, for the expansion of an early childhood professional development center, $900,000
- Shawneetown, IL, to support updates and replacement of its water distribution system, $550,000
- Shedd Aquarium, for its At-Risk Youth Mentoring Initiative, $600,000
- Spark College, for real-time writers and captioning training project, $750,000
- Southern Illinois University, for the National Corn to Ethanol Research Center, $2,000,000
- Southern Illinois University, for the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, $1,025,000
- Southern Illinois University, for the School of Medicine Simmons Cooper Cancer Institute, $2,200,000
- Southern Illinois University, Purdue University, and University of Kentucky, for coal research, $5,000,000
- Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), for the National Education, Science, and Critical Skills Capacity Building Initiative, $2,000,000
- University of Illinois, College of Agriculture Consumer and Environmental Sciences, for the Center for Advanced Bioenergy Research, $1,000,000
- University of Illinois, College of Agriculture Consumer and Environmental Sciences, for the Illinois-Missouri Biotechnology Alliance, $3,000,000
- University of Illinois, College of Agriculture Consumer and Environmental Sciences, for the Illinois Program for Integrated Sustainable Agriculture, $2,500,000
- University of Illinois, College of Agriculture Consumer and Environmental Sciences, for the Soybean Disease Biotechnology Center , $2,000,000
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Engineering, for Nanomedical Technologies, $3,000,000
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, to encourage further education in technical domains that can be cleared by the Defense Security Service, $2,000,000
- University of Illinois, for the Urban Teaching and Leadership Center, $1,000,000
- West Frankfort, IL, to support replacement of its Big Ditch Pumping Station, $550,000
- Wetlands Initiative of Illinois, to support its Illinois River Nutrient Farm Pilot Project, $11,810,000
- Women's Sports Foundation, for its GoGirlGo! Chicago Initiative, $1,000,000
- Center for Civic Education, for its National Council for Economic Education, $33,000,000
- National Writing Project, $30,000,000
- Reach Out and Read, Inc, $10,000,000
- YMCA of the USA, for pioneering for healthy communities, $5,000,000


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Live Video Chat: Chris Dodd on National Service - 5 P.M. (EDT) 6/20/07

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 579

Chris Dodd will be doing a live video chat this afternoon about his "Answering the Call" national service initiative. From the inbox:

Join us today at 5 P.M. Eastern (4 P.M. CDT) as Senator Dodd talks about "Answering a New Call" -- his national service plan -- and participates in a live Q & A with you and supporters across the country.

Senator Dodd will talk about the need for national service at this time in our history and the effect his experience in the Peace Corps had on him. He will lay out his vision for an American Community that is bound by common purpose and service to one another and their nation in speeches in Nashua, NH on Saturday and Des Moines, IA on Tuesday, but will preview parts of his plan for you today.

Then, the discussion is on you.

Submit your questions about national service at the link below and you'll get the answers during the live Q & A.

Want to ask about Senator Dodd's time in the Peace Corps?

Want to discuss the importance of national service?

What are your ideas to increase citizen participation?

The floor is open for your questions and suggestions.

We look forward to participating in a real-time give and take this afternoon.

Hopefully we'll see you there,
Tim Tagaris
Chris Dodd for President

I remember Chris Dodd talking about his time as a member of the Peace Corps during his foreign policy address in Des Moines back in April, especially his reason for volunteering in the first place: "Because an American President asked me to." It will be interesting to hear about how that experience has shaped his thinking on national service.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Dangerous Moment for Barack Obama

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 580

One of the hallmark characteristics of the political blogosphere is the impulse to seize upon a story, issue or incident perceived to have been un-reported, under-reported or mis-reported by the "mainstream media" and then call the journalistic world to account for the oversight. Given the state of traditional print and electronic media and the inherent conflict of interest posed by the relationship between news organizations and their corporate parents and sponsors, this is quite often justified, and sometimes even effective in advancing the public interest.

What sometimes gets overlooked, however, is how the blogosphere can pass up stories of significant political interest simply because the mainstream media got there first. A case in point on the Democratic side here in Iowa: the recent controversy surrounding the Obama campaign's release of a memo criticizing ties between Hillary Clinton and India.

[If you've been on a fishing trip or otherwise out of touch with events the past day or two, you may want to click here to brief yourself about this before reading on.]

This isn't the first dust-up between the two presumed front-runners for the Democratic nomination for president. There was the widely-seen "1984" attack ad created by a media consultant with connections to the Obama campaign, and the spat about David Geffen and Hollywood money before that.

Both of those incidents were glancing blows for Obama, as they, at worst, involved him indirectly. This latest incident, however, occurred under official campaign cover, and goes directly back to the campaign's opposition research staff, and, ultimately, Barack Obama himself. Greatly to his credit, Senator Obama has acknowledged as much, and apologized for the memo and its negative connotations toward Americans originally from India or of Indian descent:

"'It was a screw-up on the part of our research team. It wasn't anything I had seen or my senior staff had seen...I thought it was stupid and caustic and not only didn't reflect my view of the complicated issue of outsourcing ... it also didn't reflect the fact that I have longstanding support and friendships within the Indian-American community.

'I take responsibility for it, as does our campaign. And we quickly apologized and are communicating that in various circles around the country.'"

There is, at this point, no reason to believe this was anything other than the mistake Obama says it was. Campaigns, staff and candidates all make mistakes, and mistakes, if quickly acknowledged and responsibly addressed, tend to rapidly fade from public attention, partly because voters understand that this could happen to anybody.

But it may prove to be different for Barack Obama in this campaign.

Stirring rhetoric about high public purpose is chiefly what Barack Obama is known for in the public mind. There's no need to re-run quotes from Senator Obama about his desire to raise the level of public discourse in the United States and turn away from the rancor and bitterness that has characterized politics in this country for far too long; the most cursory browse of Obama's campaign website drives home the overriding theme that he is a candidate above the cut and thrust the public has come, for better or worse, to expect from its politics and its leaders. Nor, in my view, is there anything about the way Obama has handled this particular incident that would credibly call his sincerity about that into question.

The problem for Barack Obama arises when that message runs up against the realities of what it takes to prevail in a long and brutal electoral process and end up in the White House. The idealism that attracts supporters to Obama's campaign can stand only so many slips of the kind we've seen this week before doubts start taking root.

As I've had occasion to comment before about Barack Obama, after attending one of his rallies:
"If you believe that the key to success for Obama rests in continuing to show up in front of throngs of curious voters and adulatory supporters, to keep building name recognition and reinforce his image as a dynamic and eloquent campaigner, then he did very well. If you believe that Obama needs to supplement his established image by demonstrating greater passion for solutions and for the prospect of becoming President in order to implement those solutions, he did less well. And if you believe that evidence of potential Presidential leadership ability based on past or current performance is what’s needed to ultimately elevate Barack Obama from political celebrity into the realm of electoral inevitability, then the candidate still has a long road ahead of him.

In other words, the higher your expectations for this event, the less satisfying the result is likely to have been. This is no condemnation of Barack Obama or his campaign. If anything, it is confirmation that a first-time candidate for president with less than three years tenure in national office might benefit from taking his initial steps in smaller gatherings, with less media and public attention, to hone his pitch, and frankly, allow himself the freedom to make mistakes in settings that won’t be instantly televised and webcast around the world.

There’s no denying that a campaign trying to build momentum in counterweight to the aura of inevitability that the Clinton campaign is working hard to create might find taking a small step out of the limelight for a period of time to be painful. But all candidates make mistakes, all campaigns need to establish their rhythm, and Barack Obama is no exception. The smart thing would be to recognize this, understand that we’re still nearly a year out from the caucus, and leverage this small window of opportunity to tune up the campaign and the candidate in preparation for the rigors to come."

Unfortunately for Barack Obama, the time when he might have been able to tune up his campaign out of the full glare of media scrutiny has passed. From here on through the end of the campaign, every misstep becomes a test of whether the idealism Obama espouses can co-exist alongside the sometimes ugly realities of presidential politics. The way in which that plays out will prove decisive in determining the success or failure of the Obama campaign.


What Do Air Canada and Hillary Clinton Have in Common?

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 581

Hillary Clinton's campaign announced today that it has selected "You and I" by Celine Dion as its official campaign theme song. Turns out Air Canada used the same song for an ad campaign back in 2004.

We'll see if it flies.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

Mike Gravel Has Nothing to Say

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 583

And no, I am not editorializing. Look at this.

"I have nothing to say, and I am saying it." ~ John Cage


Friday, June 15, 2007

Dodd Adds Iowa Offices, Staff

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 584

From the inbox:

The Dodd for President campaign today announced the statewide leadership team that will head up Chris Dodd’s Iowa Caucus field campaign at the Des Moines headquarters and in regional offices throughout the state.

“This is a strong, energetic team that is taking Chris Dodd’s Iowa campaign to the next level,” said Iowa State Director Marc Beltrame.

“With their leadership in every part of the state, we can reach out to Iowa caucus-goers right in their communities and continue building a truly statewide organization from the grassroots up.”

The Dodd campaign’s Iowa field operation is overseen by Iowa Field Director Ben Rohrbaugh. Rohrbaugh came to the Dodd campaign following a successful run as the Field Director for Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle. He has previously served on Congresswoman Melissa Bean’s re-election campaign, the Christine Jennings recount in Florida, and the John Kerry campaign in Michigan.

David Joseph serves as the campaign’s Iowa Director of Voter Contact. Joseph most recently served as the DCCC’s Indiana Director of Finance and Voter Contact for the successful campaigns of Congressmen Joe Donnelly, Brad Ellsworth, and Baron Hill. He previously served on John Kerry’s campaign in Michigan and Dick Gephardt’s Iowa Caucus bid.

Regional Field Directors will be establishing campaign offices throughout the state and coordinating local campaign and volunteer activities in their respective regions.

Northwest Iowa Regional Field Director:Mario Piscatella. Piscatella most recently served as Senior Advisor and Strategic Director for Pete Ashdown's U.S. Senate campaign in Utah.

Southwest Iowa Regional Field Director: Greg Neil. Neil has previously served as a Field Organizer for Indiana Congressman Baron Hill and Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle.

North Central Iowa Regional Field Director: John Yaggi. Yaggi has served on the campaigns of Kentucky gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lunsford, Indiana Congressman Baron Hill, and Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle.

Polk County Regional Field Director: Justin Lindsay. Lindsay has previously directed field and coordinated field programs in Michigan, as well as working on the John Kerry campaign in Michigan and the Christine Jennings recount effort in Florida.

Waterloo-Mason City Regional Field Director: Rich Wilkins. Wilkins has previously served on several state and federal campaigns in Pennsylvania, as well as John Kerry’s presidential campaign in that state.

Cedar Rapids-Iowa City Regional Field Director: Ben Young. Young previously worked for Arkansas Congressman Marion Berry, as well as on the campaigns of Indiana Congressman Baron Hill and Arkansas Congressional candidate Jan Judy.

Northeast Iowa Regional Field Director: Kevin McTigue. McTigue previously served as a field coordinator for Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell’s re-election, Field Director for Virginia Delegate Vivian Watts, and Michigan Volunteer Coordinator for John Kerry.

Southeast Iowa Regional Field Director: Chris Bowen. Bowen, a native of Burlington, Iowa, most recently served as a Regional Field Director for the Iowa Democratic Party’s 2006 coordinated campaign. He previously worked for Iowa Governor Chet Culver’s primary campaign and for the New Jersey Democratic Party.

Lots of Michigan and Kerry connections in this crew.

This is a pretty ambitious move, and appears to indicate that Dodd is going for broke before he...well...goes broke. He's likely to again show poorly when the current fundraising quarter ends June 30, and if he doesn't get something going here in Iowa between now and Labor Day, it's over. Here's wishing him luck. Dodd's got some good policy ideas on carbon emissions and civil liberties that should remain in the debate as we move toward the caucuses.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Town Hall Envy

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 585

It no doubt sounded good at the beginning: "We'll move our state's primary up closer to January, and we'll have the same influence in picking a nominee as Iowa and New Hampshire. Candidates will spend time here, meet voters here, and will have to pay attention to our issues, just like they do in Iowa and New Hampshire. Yeah, that's the ticket!"

However, with the bandwagon creaking under the load of so many states moving their primaries ever earlier in the calendar, the flaws in this line of thinking are making themselves increasingly plain. The unintended consequence of all this year's political leapfrogging is that as more states move up their primaries the traditional campaign dynamics that were originally meant to be overthrown are becoming only more entrenched.

The definitive case in point: California. According to an article in today's Los Angeles Times, rather than producing a string of meet and greet town hall-style events, or resulting in candidates spending oodles more time out west, the change in California's primary date has turned out to reinforce the importance of media, rather than personal appearances by candidates at town halls or even large rallies, in reaching voters. Campaigning via television and radio has increased, not decreased. And the main thing that candidates are looking for in the Golden State? It isn't face time with voters - it's campaign cash to spend other financing their ground games in (surprise!) Iowa and New Hampshire.

The Washington Post sums it up rather well:

"Most political observers believe that the newly frontloaded campaign schedule will primarily benefit front-runners who are able to collect the huge sums of cash needed to finance massive television ad campaigns spanning the three weeks between the Iowa caucuses and the large cluster of primaries on Feb. 5. There will also be pressure on candidates to operate costly and exhausting bi-coastal campaigns, to try to simultaneously drive up their numbers in the Northeast and Midwest and in the far West and Southwest.

"The counter-argument to the idea that the new calendar has created a de facto national primary is that with so many expensive states crowded into late January and early February the only possible way for a candidate to reach potential voters is through the blitz of media coverage that traditionally follows a win or stronger than expected showing in Iowa or New Hampshire."

Much has been written about the flaws of having Iowa and New Hampshire exert the influence they do on who becomes president, and many of the arguments for changing the primary system to lessen the influence of these two states have merit. But, as we're beginning to see, changing the political landscape will take more than states acting separately to promote their own clout - and this includes Iowa and New Hampshire - at the expense of others. What is required is a rational, fair, and cooperative approach that balances the competing interests of individual states with the common interests of all. A compromise, in other words. This is politics, after all.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

[UPDATED] Bill Richardson Back in Des Moines June 22

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 586

New Mexico governor and Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson will be returning to Des Moines next Friday, June 22. The headline event for Richardson's Iowa swing will be the grand opening of his Iowa campaign HQ at 601 SW 9th Street, Suite K, Des Moines (South of MLK on SW 9th, North of the Racoon River Bridge, across from Taco Bell and the BP gas station - I'd give latitude and longitude, but the iPol GPS satellite system is down at the moment). Richardson will be on hand to personally launch the new HQ, and will be meeting and greeting from 5:00 - 6:30 PM.

The event is free and open to the public, and light refreshments will be served. I'll be there, of course; maybe I can finally get an answer to the "If you were a tree..." question.

In addition to the festivities at the Des Moines HQ, Richardson's campaign is also simulcasting the event to its field offices around the state. Here's the contact info:

Southeast Regional Field Office
2302 ½ E. 11th St. #3
Davenport, IA 52803
(563) 324-0523

East Regional Field Office
Cypress Plaza
4350 16th Ave. SW
Cedar Rapids, IA 52404
(319) 390-3277

Northeast Regional Field Office
919 W. 4th St.
Waterloo, IA 50702
(319) 234-9966

West Regional Field Office
1760 N. 16th St., Suite 103
Council Bluffs, IA 51501
(712) 352-0890

UPDATE: Richardson will also be doing a "Cookies and Conversation" event on June 22 at Drake University at 11:30 a.m. in Aliber Hall, to be followed by a media availability at 12:15. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. To reserve a spot, call (515) 271 -3747 or email your name and number of seats required to


Candidate Open Thread: Hillary Clinton

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 586

Something new here on the site: open threads, posts where you do the talking. The idea is that you leave a comment on the topic of the day, trade views with others, and generally engage in healthy debate on line.

The only hard and fast rule: play nice. Trolls won't be tolerated.

Today's topic: Hillary Clinton. No shortage of opinions about her bouncing around the blogosphere, so have at it!


Monday, June 11, 2007

"Close Guantanamo. Not Tomorrow, But This Afternoon."

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 589

Wow. Read these words of a prominent public figure regarding the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba:

"'If it was up to me, I would close Guantanamo. Not tomorrow, but this afternoon. I'd close it. And I would not let any of those people go. I would simply move them to the United States and put them into our federal legal system. The concern was, well then they'll have access to lawyers, then they'll have access to writs of habeas corpus. So what? Let them. Isn't that what our system is all about?

'I would also do it because every morning, I pick up a paper and some authoritarian figure, some person somewhere, is using Guantanamo to hide their own misdeeds. And so essentially, we have shaken the belief that the world had in America's justice system by keeping a place like Guantanamo open and creating things like the military commission.

'We don't need it, and it's causing us far more damage than any good we get for it.'"

The bleeding heart defeatist liberal who spoke these words: none other than Colin Powell, appearing yesterday on Meet the Press. Yes, that Colin Powell. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Former Secretary of State under George W. Bush. Yep. Him.

This argument is so over.


Friday, June 8, 2007

Dodd Cancels This Weekend's Iowa Campaign Swing

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 592

Just got word that Chris Dodd has "an unexpected and severe case of the stomach flu" and won't be making his previously announced visit to Iowa this weekend. The following planned events have been cancelled:

Saturday, June 9

10:30AM Waterloo Community Kitchen Table
Location: Steamboat Gardens Family Restaurant
1740 Falls Avenue

12:00 Noon Kitchen Table with the Knitting Ladies of Waverly
Location: Home of Wendy Kepford
322 2nd Avenue

3:00PM Mason City Town Hall
Location: Chicago Dog Pizza
687 Taft Street
Mason City

6:30PM Sioux City Democrats Truman Club Meeting

Sunday, June 10

10:00AM Cathedral of the Epiphany Street Fair
Location: Cathedral of the Epiphany
1011 Douglas Street
Sioux City

12:30PM Sioux City Town Hall
Location: Morningside College
Elwood and Grace Olsen Student Center Yockey Student Room
3609 Peters Ave.
Sioux City


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Romney Campaign Chair Rips Iowa GOP Rank and File

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 593

Today's Washington Post ran a great article on the movers and shakers at senior levels in campaigns on both the Democratic and Republican sides in Iowa. Reading through the article, I came across one quote that made me actually gasp, from Mitt Romney's Iowa Campaign Chairman, Des Moines attorney Doug Gross:

"As Romney's Gross sees it, it is best to go after party regulars. 'What you're getting into here is a college student-council race. You have to get the big sororities and fraternities to show up for you,' says the genial 52-year-old, whose 20th-story office looks across at the state Capitol's gold dome. 'The rest of the people won't even know what's going on.'"

Maybe Gross is right, and ordinary Iowa Republican voters are ignorant of what's going on in their own state party. I am not a Republican, obviously, and can't speak for anyone on that side, but if somebody from a Democratic campaign made this statement about me as an ordinary voter, I would be more than a little irate about being written off as too stupid to bother with. I might even vow to back anyone but that campaign's candidate, just to get my point across.


Monday, June 4, 2007

Moderators in Moderation

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 596

Nothing earthshattering in last night's debate, but the Dodd campaign sent along their tally of who spoke for how long, which I find interesting:

- Senator Biden: 7:58, 10 questions
- Senator Clinton: 14:26, 15 questions
- Senator Dodd: 8:28, 9 questions
- Senator Edwards: 11:42, 13 questions
- Senator Gravel: 5:37, 10 questions
- Congressman Kucinich: 9:02, 9 questions
- Senator Obama: 16:00, 16 questions
- Governor Richardson: 10:48, 11 questions
- Wolf Blitzer: 13:24

Judging from these numbers, it seems clear that CNN's focus in last night's debate was on Clinton and Obama...and Wolf Blitzer. Not that Wolf didn't do an okay job as moderator, I guess, but when he gets as much mic time as two of the actual candidates (Dodd and Gravel) combined, something is out of whack.


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