Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's Official

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 35

In one of those quirky technicalities that seems a whole lot more important since the disputed election of 2000, the Electoral College voted yesterday to officially elect Barack Obama President of the United States.

The country may be forgiven for thinking that it did that job directly back on November 4, but the fact is that voters on that day chose a slate of electors pledged to one candidate or another, and yesterday they cast their votes - the ones that, under Article II, Section 1, Clause 4 of the Constitution, officially matter - for president. I'll spare you the remainder of the civics lesson, but do encourage you to have a look at the National Archives and Records Administration's excellent Electoral College webite.

Anyway, for those keeping score at home, here's how the electoral votes tallied up:

John McCain = 173
Barack Obama = 365

Congress will certify the electoral results as its first order of business when it reconvenes on January 8, 2009. Wait, did I say the results were now official? Not quite yet.

Heavy sigh.

Monday, December 1, 2008

ἀποθεόω (Apotheosis)

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 49

OK, is it just me, or are expectations for Barack Obama's administration veering just a tad into unrealistic territory?

Up next: Obama as Joan of Arc and Albert Einstein.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quote of the Day

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 64

This one, from Tod Lindberg in today's Washington Post, puts a fork into the GOP's post election soufflé that Reaganism, or conservatism, or whatever is the euphemism of the day for "We're not really as dead as Herbert Hoover" is still alive and well and awaiting its inevitable comeback just over the next electoral horizon:

"I can see how supporting a bailout for the financial sector but opposing a bailout for Detroit is more conservative than supporting a bailout for both, but if that's the distinction that makes you a conservative these days, liberals ought to be pretty happy with their prospects."

"Oh, but wait!" you can hear GOP apologists nearly shouting, "Wait! Obama will overreach! And then voters will come thundering back to us! The GOP will rise again!"

Good luck with that as your reason for getting up in the morning, fellas. Enjoy your time in Wasilla. You've earned it.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 77

Election Day is tomorrow. I can hardly believe it. After months and months of a campaign by turns exhilarating, exasperating, inspiring, and finally, exhausting, tomorrow the votes will be cast and the only poll that matters will tell us who will be our next president.

In the predictions department, I'm forecasting an Obama victory in the range of anywhere from 299 electoral votes on the low side to a probable maximum of 360. It is certainly possible for the total to come out even higher, but I would be stunned at a landslide of that magnitude. I suspect I would not be the only one.

I do not expect the balloting tomorrow to mirror the close-run votes of 2000 and 2004. I believe the results will be decisive to the extent that the all-too-predictable voting irregularities in Ohio and Florida will not keep us from knowing the result until later in the week. We will wake up Wednesday morning knowing the winners and losers.

The key battleground states in the presidential race remain Florida, Missouri and Ohio. I know the MSM maintains that Pennsylvania is not yet in the bag for Obama, but they're wrong; Pennsylvania will be called early in the evening, and when it is you can uncork the champaign for Barack.

As to the House and Senate, I'm looking for a Democratic gain of around 30 seats in the House and perhaps 8 in the Senate. That will leave Democrats shy of the vaunted 60 seat "super majority" in the Senate that would make life a lot easier for President Obama, but, looking at the data, it is hard to see how we get more than 58 Democratic senators. We'll just have to dig in and make up the difference in the 2010 midterms.

I also believe that election night is ever so much more fun if one has a scorecard, so I've picked CQ Politics' slate of bellweather races from the list of innumerable alternatives out there:

House races

Conn. 4th: Rep. Christopher Shays (R) vs. Jim Himes (D) — No Clear Favorite
Indiana 3rd: Rep. Mark Souder (R) vs. Michael Montagano (D) — Leans Republican
Ohio 1st: Rep. Steve Chabot (R) vs. Steve Driehaus (D) — No Clear Favorite
Ohio 2nd: Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) vs. Vic Wulsin (D) — Leans Republican
Ohio 15th: Steve Stivers (R) vs. Mary Jo Kilroy (D) — No Clear Favorite
Ohio 16th: Kirk Schuring (R) vs. John Boccieri (D) — Leans Democratic
Wyo. At Large: Cynthia Lummis (R) vs. Gary Trauner (D) — No Clear Favorite

Senate races

Georgia: Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) vs. Jim Martin (D) — Leans Republican
Kentucky: Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) vs. Bruce Lunsford (D) — Leans Republican
Maine: Sen. Susan Collins (R) vs. Rep. Tom Allen (D) — Leans Republican
Oregon: Sen. Gordon H. Smith (R) vs. Jeff Merkley (D) — No Clear Favorite

Outcomes in these races will give us a pretty solid idea of whether the oft-anticipated electoral Perfect Storm of 2008 will materialize.

I'll be spending tomorrow morning working a double shift as a poll watcher here in Des Moines, then drumming my fingers the rest of the afternoon waiting for the first polls to close. Butterflies. I want this one like Christmas morning.

Finally, if you haven't taken advantage of early voting, DON'T FORGET TO VOTE ON TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 4!

(can you hear me now?)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Everything You Need to Know

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 85

If you're scratching your head at the McCain campaign's recent emphasis on Iowa, a state looking increasingly out of reach for the GOP, it turns out you're not alone. To wit, this quote from today's New York Times:

"[Senator McCain's] decision to campaign on Sunday in Iowa, a day after Ms. Palin campaigned there, was questioned even by Republicans who noted polls that showed Mr. Obama pulling away there. But it reflected how few options the campaign really has, as poll after poll suggests that Mr. Obama is solidifying his position."

I encourage you to read the rest of the Times article. It all adds up to desperate times for a desperate John McCain, who, as Michael Dobbs might put it, is reduced to clutching at straws, his campaign closing in front of him like a fist.

By the way, I voted Saturday. It felt good.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Declare Yourself

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 109

This is what I want to say to you:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

GOP Pundits Call "Political B.S." on McCain and Palin

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 138

Tell us something we don't already know:

The audio is a little garbled, so here's a transcript:

Mike Murphy, former McCain advisor: "You know, because I come out of the blue swing state governor work. Engler, Whitman, Thompson, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush. And these guys, this is all like how you want to (inaudible) this race. You know, just run it up. And it's not gonna work."

Peggy Noonan, former Reagan speechwriter: "It's over."

Murphy: "Still, McCain can give a version of the Lieberman speech to do himself some good."

NBC's Chuck Todd: "Don't you think the Palin pick was insulting to Kay Bailey Hutchinson, too (inaudible)."

Noonan: "I saw Kay this morning."

Murphy: "They're all bummed out."

Todd: "I mean, is she really the most qualified woman they could have turned to?"

Noonan: "The most qualified? No. I think they went for this, excuse me, political [B.S.] about narratives and (inaudible) the picture."

Murphy: "I totally agree."

Noonan: "Every time the Republicans do that because that's not where they live and it's not what they're good at and they blow it."

Murphy: "You know what's really the worst thing about it? The greatness of McCain is no cynicism and this is cynical."

Todd: "And as you called it, gimmicky."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin is the New Dan Quayle

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 144

Reports in the media this morning are that John McCain has selected a Right-wing no-name politician to be his running mate: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Two words: push over. Joe Biden will destroy Palin in a debate.

McCain's choice is clearly a dog-whistle move to try to cement his right flank, and does nothing to address McCain's main liability of being in the pocket of oil companies and other corporate interests and out of touch with every day Americans. Further, the selection of someone who has served less than two years in national office to be second in line for the oval office somewhat undercuts, to put it mildly, McCain's arguments about Barack Obama's readiness to lead the country.

So yes, I am happy this morning.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hillary Clinton at the Convention: What's at Stake

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 147

When Hillary Clinton takes the podium this evening to address the Democratic National Convention, she faces not only the assembled delegates, not only an army of media and the scrutiny of the nation and a good part of the world. Tonight, Hillary Clinton faces a choice.

The fact of the matter is that Hillary Clinton, even in defeat, is a formidable presence in the convention hall, in the U.S. Senate, and in the the Democratic party. But even more significant, in the aftermath of her presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton has acquired something she never truly possessed before: her own constituency. The stories and speeches from the campaign trail of women of every age, region, background, and yes, race, investing Hillary with the mantle of their aspirations for the future political, social and economic condition of women made for good copy, yes, but was far more than just hype. It was, in a way we have never had opportunity to witness before, hope: hope for millions, as audacious any dream on offer this cycle.

And therein lays Hillary's choice tonight. Having rallied a constituency to her side, what does she do with it: lead, follow, or even step away entirely?

To lead tonight, Hillary Clinton will need to make clear, as only she can, that the Democratic Party is absolutely, without qualification or caveat, Barack Obama's to command. Hillary Clinton would need to tell her supporters, in so many words, that to support her is to support Obama, and there is no place in her train for those who claim otherwise.

To follow, Hillary would need to do merely the reverse: say that, of course, she supports Barack Obama, because he won and party duty requires her to publicly campaign for him, and then spend the bulk of her address paying tribute to the efforts of those who sought a different outcome.

Finally, Hillary Clinton could make an entirely different choice: to focus not on the campaign just past, but on the future waiting to be won or lost in the outcome of this election. That would entail, of necessity, unqualified support for Barack Obama, but something more, and something greater still: a bona fide vision of what America can become as a result of this historic campaign. In short, she would need to make the speech she planned to make to the convention had she prevailed in the primaries, shorn of "vote for me" and infused, instead, with the promise of what can be if Democrats win up and down the ballot this fall.

Admittedly, such a speech would be a tall order for any politician, and for Hillary Clinton perhaps more than most. But if she were to deliver such an address, she would awaken tomorrow to find herself to be the leader she has always aspired to become.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Joe Says Hi

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 148

From the inbox, attached to a note with the subject "Hello" and the sender line "Joe Biden":

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 149

This is why mankind invented the Sharpie:

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 150

Obama/Biden 2008.

I've been hoping I'd be able to type those words ever since it became clear that Barack Obama would be the Democratic nominee for president. Other words come to mind, as well:

...experience...leadership...political courage...character and integrity, and the strength of ideas...Joe Biden possesses all of these attributes, and then some. Crucially, Joe Biden also has the ability not just to articulate his proposals, but to take the fight to the Republicans and win. Need convincing? Go ask Rudy's campaign how they feel about Biden's renowned "a noun, a verb and 9/11" barb.

The 2008 presidential contest comes at a time of testing for our country, when our values, our character and our leadership are being challenged around the globe. This is a time not for big names, but for big ideas; not for poll-tested slogans, but for time-proven leadership; not for image, but for vision. Above all, this is a time for American renewal, to restore justice and humanity to the use of our power abroad, reason and civility to the conduct of our politics at home, and, most of all, peace and hope to a world that cannot achieve it without a rebirth of American leadership. This is a time for American greatness. This is the time for Joe Biden.

I was quite pleased with those words when I first published them. And I don't half mind the look of them today.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Get to Work

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 166

Hmmmm. Probably not the rallying cry you thought it would be, Senator:

However, if you want to talk about your lack of a plan to address rising unemployment, we would be all ears.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Another "Momentary" Gaffe by McCain

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 182

Barack Obama continues his overseas trip today, while John McCain continues the unending gaffe-fest that is his campaign for president. This paragraph from a story in the NY Times sums things up nicely:

[T]he images of the two presidential candidates offered a sharp contrast. In an interview on “Good Morning America” on ABC, Mr. McCain talked about securing the “Iraq-Pakistan border,” a momentary misstatement of geography. (American forces are pursuing terrorists along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border; Iraq does not border Pakistan.) His aides staged an event where he was seen riding in a golf cart in Maine with the first President George Bush, while Mr. Obama flew over Iraq in a helicopter with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American military commander.

I find it striking that the Times goes so far out of its way to soften the impact of McCain's blunder on the “Iraq-Pakistan border” by referring to it as "a momentary misstatement of geography." The only reason this, or any of the other instances in the long list of McCain's errors in understanding the world he seeks to lead, could be considered "momentary" is that once again some one who knows better (an astoundingly long list which, in this case, would include any seventh grade student with a geography textbook) pointed out to McCain that Iraq and Pakistan do not share a border. McCain's vague and uncertain grasp of the facts of foreign policy - not the nuances, but the straightforward, schoolbook facts - is ongoing, and anything but momentary.

Not that any of this should be allowed to interrupt McCain's golf game, of course. Now watch this drive.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Doctor McCain Puts America on the Couch

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 184

As you've no doubt heard by now, if you're part of the 76% of the population dissatisfied with the direction of the country, John McCain has the solution: jus' cheer up, fer garsh sakes!

If you're one of those sniveling malcontents who don't know how good you've got it at the moment, take a deep breath, lay back, and have a listen to Doc McCain as he diagnoses the country's ills:

Feel better now?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Quote of the Day

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 188

This one comes from Doonesbury cartoonist Gary Trudeau, interviewed in the Washington Post:

WaPo: Any thoughts on this election year, from a satirist's point of view?

Trudeau: It's a beaut, because everyone's paying attention. But remember, the worst president in U.S. history is still in the White House. For Big Satire to ignore George W. Bush during his final year in office would be foolish -- and wildly ungrateful. He's done so much for our profession, and he may yet have another war in him. We still owe him our fullest attention.

Hear, hear!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Not The Way It Was Supposed To Play Out

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 208

Remember the Republicans grand strategy to win back the House and Senate this year? The one that involved tying Democratic candidates nation-wide to a liberal, scary and unelectable Barack Obama? The strategy that bombed in seismic GOP losses in special elections in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi earlier this year?

Well, in case there's anyone who didn't already know this, that strategy is dead. How dead? So dead that Gordon Smith, Republican U.S. Senator from Oregon, is running an ad that touts, among his other qualities, that he has worked closely with and been praised by none other than Barack Obama.

See for yourself:

Taking the audacity of hope to whole new levels...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Obama Launches First General Election Ad

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 213

Barack Obama has gone on the air nationwide today with a 30 second spot titled, "Country I Love." The ad features Obama speaking directly into the camera over a soft folk guitar soundtrack, and begins airing today in 18 states: Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Here's the script:

I'm Barack Obama.

America is a country of strong families and strong values. My life's been blessed by both.

I was raised by a single mom and my grandparents. We didn't have much money, but they taught me values straight from the Kansas heartland where they grew up. Accountability and self-reliance. Love of country. Working hard without making excuses. Treating your neighbor as you'd like to be treated. It's what guided me as I worked my way up - taking jobs and loans to make it through college.

It's what led me to pass up Wall Street jobs and go to Chicago instead, helping neighborhoods devastated when steel plants closed.

That's why I passed laws moving people from welfare to work, cut taxes for working families and extended health care for wounded troops who'd been neglected.

I approved this message because I'll never forget those values, and if I have the honor of taking the oath of office as President, it will be with a deep and abiding faith in the country I love.

And here's the video:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Lift The Off-Shore Drilling Ban" = Political Gimmick

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 214

Yes, gas is over $4.00 a gallon. Yes, it sucks. But oil is a finite, non-renewable commodity which is ever more-rapidly nearing depletion. There is no way we're going to produce our way out of this crisis.

But what if we could? Wouldn't lifting all limits on off-shore drilling (and, what the heck, while we're at it, let's open up AWNR, too!) have an immediate impact on oil supplies, commodities market prices, and the cost of a gallon of gas?

No. Take a deep breath. The answer is no. A statement yesterday from Tom Harkin sums up why:

“Already over 25 percent of our domestic production comes from offshore fields, and the oil companies already have leases to produce on many more sites. In fact, there are currently more than 33 million acres of federal lands on the Outer Continental Shelf under lease, but not producing. Opening more offshore areas wouldn’t get us any new oil in less than 5 years, and then less than a 6-month’s supply. We can’t pretend that opening up more offshore drilling is the answer when you consider that Americans are paying well over $4 per gallon for regular unleaded and using about 20 million barrels of oil per day, over half of which is imported.

That's right: the fact is that oil companies already hold substantial leases to drill off-shore that they're not even using. Even assuming that ramping up off-shore oil production would have an immediate impact on energy prices (and it wouldn't), oil companies already have the ability to do so, without requiring further Federal action.

(BTW, wouldn't you know it takes a senator from Iowa, of all places, to make these points about off-shore drilling?)

Calls for lifting the "ban" on off-shore drilling are a political gimmick. Don't fall for it.

Get a Job

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 214

For anyone who has ever dreamed of running off to join the political circus, Democracy for America has just the ticket: classes for aspiring campaign staffers, with emphasis on how to land a job with a political campaign. Classes begin next Wednesday, June 25; the press release below gives the details.

Have you ever worked on a political campaign?

Ever wanted to but never knew where to start?

It's not as hard as you might think. Next week DFA Night School is teaming up with Democratic GAIN to help you get hired on a campaign this fall.

Getting a Job on a Campaign
Wednesday June 25th - 8:30pm Eastern Daylight Time

Campaigns are gearing up in all 50 states right now, and they need passionate, trained campaign staff. Next Wednesday, June 25, Democratic GAIN President Amy Pritchard will be joining DFA Night School for an hour long training on 'Getting a Job on a Campaign'.

Democratic GAIN is one of the nation's most effective organizations when it comes to connecting campaigns with talented staffers across the country. We'll be sharing research suggestions, tips on touching up your resume and how to build and leverage your professional networks into the perfect campaign job as part of this month's DFA Night School.

Night School is DFA's interactive online training program. Every month Night School brings top campaign experts right to your home at absolutely no cost to you. Just CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR NIGHT SCHOOL. Once you've signed up, you'll be sent the info you need to listen to Night School live either on your home computer or over the telephone. The training will be accompanied by a slideshow you can view online or download and print out ahead of time.

Sign up today and get a job taking back our country this fall.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Obama Campaign Launches Web Site to "Fight The Smears"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 221

They've passed into campaign lore by now: unsubstantiated and untrue rumors that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim, that he does not pledge allegiance to the American flag, and many more, circulated via email blasts and hammered endlessly on right-wing talk radio.

This week, the Obama campaign is launching a web site to specifically address these attacks. The site, titled "Fight the Smears," supplements the "Fact Check" page on the campaign's main website, and lists the rumors and the campaign's response in concise, even spare terms, bullet-point fashion.

I think this is something the Obama campaign simply has to do in the face of the rumor- and fear-mongering attacks launched against the candidate over the last year or so. But I am also convinced that these attacks would be much less potent, and more effectively countered, if Obama were to start an immediate, focused effort to introduce himself in detail to the electorate. As natural as it is to want to pull back a little from the relentless grind of the past 18 months of campaigning, Barack Obama and his campaign need to get out in front of the public with a specific campaign to tell voters, in depth, about the candidate's life story and values. Books, websites and the like will only go so far with this; the overall effort needs to be more focused and aggressive.

As of this moment, and in spite of months of rumor attacks, Barack Obama still retains the ability to define himself to the electorate at large. Every week that goes by without a concerted plan to replace rumors from anonymous emailers and right-wing shills with a factual, full-dimensional portrait of Obama as a flesh-and-blood human being, and not just a political and media icon, means ceding that advantage by continuing to leave the field open for these attacks to resonate. The rumor attacks launched against Obama will lose all effectiveness when suspicion bred of novelty gives way to familiarity with Obama as an individual.

The political environment abhors a vacuum. In order to effectively combat rumors and attacks about Barack Obama, he and his campaign need to dislodge lies with truth. That effort must begin now, in-depth, and, to the greatest extent possible, be conducted by Barack Obama himself, one interview, one living room TV, one voter at a time.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Pros and Cons of HRC 4 VP

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 229

Charles Babington over at AP has drawn up a list of pros and cons Barack Obama might consider when mulling over whether to name Hillary Clinton as his running mate. Babbington's take isn't meant to be heavyweight analysis, but he does make a couple of good points. My favorites, quoting from the article:

Pro: She brings a proven team of fundraisers, planners and volunteers to the ticket.

Con: Why not get two for the price of one? To safeguard her husband's legacy and her own ambition, Hillary Clinton surely must campaign vigorously and wholeheartedly for you, whether she's on the ticket or not. Let her do so while you pick a running mate who brings other strengths.

Pro: She might put Arkansas in play. Bush won the state easily in 2004, but maybe the state's former first lady, whose husband's presidential library is in Little Rock, can put it in your column.

Con: She has dubious taste in music. Throughout Pennsylvania she played the theme from "Rocky," a movie about a white protagonist who beats up a black man before losing to him. And she made a Celine Dion tune her official campaign song. Enough said.

Its His Party Now, Part 1: Obama Bans Lobbiest Money at the DNC

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 229

In a sign that the newly-minted Democratic nominee is moving fast to consolidate control over the party, an Obama spokesman announced today that the DNC will no longer accept campaign cash from PACs or federal lobbyists.

This is an important step for Obama to take, not only because it brings the national party in line with his long-standing campaign position on donations from lobbyists and PACS, but also because it indicates that Obama intends to move quickly to assert control over the party now that he is the nominee-in-waiting. Banning lobbyist money from the DNC also raises the ante against John McCain, who has well-known lobbyists such as Charlie Black running his campaign; all that remains is for Obama to challenge John McCain to ban lobbyist money from the RNC, which, come to think of it, wouldn't be a bad opening salvo for the general election campaign.

Her Last Bow

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 229

From the inbox overnight:

"I wanted you to be one of the first to know: on Saturday, I will hold an event in Washington D.C. to thank everyone who has supported my campaign. Over the course of the last 16 months, I have been privileged and touched to witness the incredible dedication and sacrifice of so many people working for our campaign. Every minute you put into helping us win, every dollar you gave to keep up the fight meant more to me than I can ever possibly tell you.

On Saturday, I will extend my congratulations to Senator Obama and my support for his candidacy. This has been a long and hard-fought campaign, but as I have always said, my differences with Senator Obama are small compared to the differences we have with Senator McCain and the Republicans.

I have said throughout the campaign that I would strongly support Senator Obama if he were the Democratic Party's nominee, and I intend to deliver on that promise.

When I decided to run for president, I knew exactly why I was getting into this race: to work hard every day for the millions of Americans who need a voice in the White House.

I made you -- and everyone who supported me -- a promise: to stand up for our shared values and to never back down. I'm going to keep that promise today, tomorrow, and for the rest of my life.

I will be speaking on Saturday about how together we can rally the party behind Senator Obama. The stakes are too high and the task before us too important to do otherwise.

I know as I continue my lifelong work for a stronger America and a better world, I will turn to you for the support, the strength, and the commitment that you have shown me in the past 16 months. And I will always keep faith with the issues and causes that are important to you.

In the past few days, you have shown that support once again with hundreds of thousands of messages to the campaign, and again, I am touched by your thoughtfulness and kindness.

I can never possibly express my gratitude, so let me say simply, thank you.

Hillary Rodham Clinton"

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Nothing Like It Before, Ever

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 230

There is so much political news coming out of tonight's primaries, both in Iowa and in Montana and South Dakota. And I'll write about that. Tomorrow.

But I cannot end this day without reflecting on the incredible primary season that has now come to an end, and all that I have seen, and heard, and learned. I salute the candidates I met and who ran strong campaigns of conviction and substance. This has been a political season that has seen unprecedented runs for president by a Hispanic, a woman, and an African American.

Nothing like it before, ever. We'll be telling our grandchildren about all this one day. And they'll listen, and perhaps roll their eyes a bit, because in that day they will, happily, take these things for granted. But it is for us tonight, with all that has gone before and all the challenges that yet lay ahead, to take a moment to acknowledge these extraordinary days, this historic moment, and to say God Bless America.

Party Time in IA-03

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 230

Looking for somewhere to let your political hair down after voting in the IA-03 primary tonight? Look no further! The Boswell and Fallon campaigns both will be holding election night parties for their supporters in Des Moines. Details follow.

Boswell Election Night Party
Beginning at 8:30 p.m.
Hotel Fort Des Moines
Wedgewood Room
1000 Walnut Street
Des Moines, IA

Lt. Governor Patty Judge will be on hand as a special guest, and Congressman Boswell will address supporters after the election results are in.

Fallon Election Night Party
Beginning at 9:00 p.m.
Raccoon River Brew Pub (upper level)
200 10th Street
Des Moines, IA

Party on!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Triple Witching Weekend

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 231

The weekend just past will likely go down as a significant two days in this cycle's Democratic presidential nominating process, with three events combining to put their stamp on the color and shape of things as we near the end of the race.

First and foremost, there was the DNC Rules Committee meeting on Saturday. I don't have a verbatim transcript of the proceedings, but here is the gist, based on hand-written notes I made of key portions of the committee's televised deliberations:
"Shut up!"
"No, you shut up!"
"Make me!"
"Maybe I will! Gosh!"

Such elevated discourse aside, the substantive outcome of the meeting was that the delegate total needed to nominate has risen from 2026 to 2118, based on the seating arrangements for the Michigan and Florida delegations agreed to by the committee. The result was that Barack Obama's number of remaining delegates needed to nominate increased to 66, while Hillary Clinton's margin narrowed tantalizingly from "stupendously out of reach" to "outlandishly remote."

Incidentally, the committee vote on Michigan, by far the more contentious issue on the table, was 19-8; thirteen members of the committee had already publicly pledged support for Hillary Clinton, and, as the vote shows, they failed to keep their own block in line to vote for their proposal to deny any delegates to Barack Obama. Further proof, if any is needed, that, bravado aside, the fact that the nomination has slipped through Clinton's fingers is starting to register even on some of her most committed (and influential) supporters.

A maxim attributed to Otto von Bismarck maintains that there are two things you never want to allow people to see being made: laws and sausages. I think the Rules Committee meeting makes a powerful case for adding a third item to that list.

The second major event was Puerto Rico's primary, which Hillary Clinton won big. How big? So big that Barack Obama started the day needing 66 delegates to secure the nomination and ended it needing just 47. This result caused Hillary Clinton to proclaim, in an email to supporters, "Today in Puerto Rico, the voters spoke with a powerful voice to say that this race is not over yet."

Not over yet. But soon. As in, probably later this week. And no, this isn't the pundocracy speaking: it's Clinton's National Co-Chair (and former Iowa governor) Tom Vilsack, who told the Associated Press yesterday, "It does appear to be pretty clear that Senator Obama is going to be the nominee. After Tuesday's contests, she needs to acknowledge that he's going to be the nominee and quickly get behind him."

Last, but by no means least, Saturday marked the end of the second quarter fundraising period for the campaigns. Neither Clinton nor Obama have released their fundraising totals for this latest period quite yet, but those numbers will drive the outcome of this final stage of the race perhaps more forcefully than either the Rules Committee or the Puerto Rico primary. But we'll have to stay tuned for that.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ready For Her Close Up, Or You Write the Caption

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 236

Some photos are too priceless to pass up. A case in point: this photo taken yesterday by AP photographer Elise Amendola.

Worth quite a bit more than a thousand words.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ed Fallon Versus The Empty Podium

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 237

Tonight at 7:00 at the State Historical Center in Des Moines, the Progressive Coalition of Central of Central Iowa (PCCI) and Central Iowa Operation Democracy (CIOD) are conducting a "Candidate Forum" Q&A for the IA-03 Democratic primary. Both six-term incumbent Congressman Leonard Boswell and challenger Ed Fallon, the former state legislator, have been invited. As of this writing, only Ed Fallon has committed to appear; Congressman Boswell has declined the invitation. However, according to the Forum's sponsors, the show will go on nonetheless, with Fallon on stage opposite an empty podium.

Debates in primary elections, at least at the congressional district level, are quite frequently commonplace. The topics are usually local, the arguments often familiar, the terms of reference reliably predicable: incumbents argue for a continuation of their tenure, and challengers argue that it is time for a change, with both making their case largely on the basis that one of them has been in Washington for awhile.

Incumbents, of course, dislike primary challenges from within their own party, viewing them as distractions from the real job of winning their biennial general election campaigns, and so feel little inclination to indulge in debating primary challengers. There is a certain amount of legitimate political wisdom to this. Allowing a challenger who is usually less than a household name to share the stage with an incumbent can automatically bestow a legitimacy and stature upon the challenger that they would otherwise be hard pressed to achieve on their own, so incumbents are often understandably reluctant to bequeath such a gift to their rivals. Most election cycles, it's a no-brainer.

But there are also times when, facing scandal or otherwise unpopular in their districts, incumbents are obliged to engage their primary challengers, or risk, even in victory, the prospect of greater vulnerability going into the general election campaign. The question in the Iowa 3rd this year is whether Leonard Boswell, perceived by many in the Democratic base as too closely aligned with President Bush on a number of issues, is therefore sufficiently compromised as to require him to confront Ed Fallon's candidacy, or whether the institutional advantages of incumbency will allow him to waive Fallon off and cruise to a seventh term in a district that has already been tagged as Safe Democratic.

Clearly, Leonard Boswell believes anti-incumbency to be a malady strictly confined to Republicans, with no contagion beyond the watershed 2006 midterm elections that saw Democratic majorities returned to both houses of Congress for the first time in twelve years. He may be right, at least with regard to the general political environment of 2008. Ed Fallon, on the other hand, sees Boswell's record on Iraq and other national security matters as an issue he can use against the congressman. Given that Democratic primary election results are mainly driven by the party's activist base, for whom Iraq remains the hottest of buttons, he may be right.

And so tonight's event at the Historical Society presents a view of the entire primary campaign in microcosm: an incumbent who sees no need to engage his challenger, and the challenger left with no one to debate but an empty podium, confronting thin air.

A week from today we'll know the result of the IA-03 primary, and whether Boswell or Fallon correctly judged the mood of the district. But it is often said, particularly with regard to politics and government, that history is made by those who show up.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

McCain and the New GI Bill

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 242

The U.S. Senate is currently debating legislation that would enhance veterans' educational benefits. Commonly referred to as the "New GI Bill," the legislation, authored by Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, would pay for books and tuition at a four-year public university for anyone who has served at least three years in uniform since September 11, 2001. The bill passed the Housed by a huge margin earlier this month, and currently has 58 co-sponsors in the Senate, including 11 Republicans. You might think that, as one of the higher-profile veterans in the Senate, John McCain would be among those supporting this legislation. You would be wrong.

McCain opposes this bill, as does - surprise! - President Bush, who is threatening a veto. Their argument: the bill is too generous to veterans, and provides an incentive for those currently in uniform to leave the military at the end of their current enlistment in order to cash in.

To oppose the bill for those reasons is not only ludicrous, but deeply insulting to those serving our country in uniform. Do McCain and Bush really think that service men and woman, who have volunteered during wartime to wear the uniform, are re-enlisting only because they have nowhere better to go? The suggestion that those who daily risk their lives for this country and endure grave hardship for themselves and their families in the course of their multiple deployments overseas could possibly be so feckless that they would walk away from the military en masse solely to cash in on the educational benefits of one piece of legislation, that their dedication would be overthrown by the promise of a little more money for college, is the deepest affront toward our military men and women that could be conceived. In my book, anyone who puts his or her life on the line to serve our country deserves every benefit we can bestow, and far more than we currently offer. Nothing we can offer them is adequate when compared to the risks and sacrifices they shoulder, and the notion that we're being too generous in sending them through college after sending them into combat is patently absurd.

Speaking from the floor of the Senate today, Barack Obama took aim at Senator McCain over his opposition to this bill:

"I respect Senator John McCain's service to our country. He is one of those heroes of which I speak. But I can't understand why he would line up behind the president in opposition to this GI bill. I can't believe why he believes it is too generous to our veterans. I could not disagree with him and the president more on this issue. There are many issues that lend themselves to partisan posturing, but giving our veterans the chance to go to college should not be one of them."

(video of Obama's remarks can be found here.)

Senator McCain was quick to issue an angry reply to Obama's remarks. But McCain's rejoinder didn't come from the Senate floor: it came via press release from California, where John McCain is too busy raising campaign cash to even be bothered to return to the Senate to participate in the debate over this bill and have the courtesy, to say no more, of going on the record as voting against it. Such is the judgment and conduct of the man who is telling America that he can be trusted to do a better job than Barack Obama as Commander in Chief of the armed forces.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Kentucky and Oregon: Virtual Spin Room

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 243

The morning after the Kentucky and Oregon primaries, here's what the candidates want you to think:

Hillary Clinton

Once again tonight, you and I stood together and showed America what we're made of.

Every time we win another state, we prove something about ourselves and about our country. And did we ever prove something tonight in Kentucky.

We showed America that the voters know what the "experts" will never understand -- that in our great democracy, elections are about more than candidates running, pundits commenting, or ads blaring.

They're about every one of us having his or her say about the path we choose as a nation. The people of Kentucky have declared that this race isn't over yet, and I'm listening to them -- and to you.

Your unshakeable commitment to that principle and your willingness to keep forging ahead inspire me every day. Let's keep supporting one another in these crucial days ahead.

All the best,

Barack Obama

The polls are closed in Kentucky and votes are being counted in Oregon, and it's clear that tonight we have reached a major milestone on this journey.

We have won an absolute majority of all the delegates chosen by the people in this Democratic primary process.

From the beginning, this journey wasn't about me or the other candidates. It was about a simple choice -- will we continue down the same road with the same leadership that has failed us for so long, or will we take a different path?

Too many of us have been disappointed by politics and politicians more times than you can count. We've seen promises broken and good ideas drowned in a sea of influence, point-scoring, and petty bickering that has consumed Washington.

Yet, in spite of all the doubt and disappointment -- or perhaps because of it -- people have stood for change.

Unfortunately, our opponents in the other party continue to embrace yesterday's policies and they will continue to employ yesterday's tactics -- they will try to change the subject, and they will play on fears and divisions to distract us from what matters to you and your future.

But those tactics will not work in this election.

They won't work because you won't let them.

Not this time. Not this year.

We still have work to do to in the remaining states, where we will compete for every delegate available.

But tonight, I want to thank you for everything you have done to take us this far -- farther than anyone predicted, expected, or even believed possible.

And I want to remind you that you will make all the difference in the epic challenge ahead.

Thank you,

Barack Obama

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Leonard Boswell's Change of Heart on Iraq

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 244

Leonard Boswell had a sit-down with reporters and editors at the Des Moines Register last week. Not surprisingly, the topic of Iraq and the war came up, and here's what the Register reported as Boswell's thoughts on the matter:

The Des Moines Democrat, who is facing a challenge in the June primary, said in a meeting with Des Moines Register editors and reporters that he met with President Bush and Bush's war council in 2005.

During that meeting, which included other lawmakers, Vice President Dick Cheney, and then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Boswell said, he for the first time believed the administration had no plan for withdrawal.

"It's been that way ever since. That's when I started saying this is not right. This is wrong. This is doubly wrong," Boswell said. "So, I rethought the whole situation and I think it's time for us to come out of there."

Boswell, of course, voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq, so his change of heart is a good thing. But questions remain, and to my mind one of the main points left unaddressed by the congressman is why it took him 33 months to reverse course on a war that had clearly been a disaster almost from the first days of Shock and Awe.

Further thoughts on this at Huffington Post.

Iowa Democratic Chairman Brennan to Endorse Obama

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 244

The Iowa Democratic Party has issued a press release announcing that state party chairman Scott Brennan will endorse Barack Obama for president later today.

The timing of the announcement, scheduled for 10:00 AM at party headquarters in Des Moines, makes sense, particularly for Brennan. With Obama's rally in the East Village tonight, an endorsement this morning guarantees Brennan a spot on the rostrum and probably an intro slot before Obama takes the stage. If CNN and MSNBC don't cut away for a few more commercials while Brennan is speaking, it could turn out well for him.

Add one more super delegate in Obama's column.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Iowa Legislative Recap

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 248

A tip 'o the hat to the crew over at Progressive States Network, who have been keeping track of bills that pass, and don't, in state legislatures around the country. They've put together a terrific summary and analysis of the achievements and disappointments of the Iowa legislature this session.

PSN's recap looks at bills concerning Iowa's health care, education, clean energy, worker's rights, home foreclosures, veteran's affairs, students and voter protection.

Check it out here. Required and essential reading for Iowans!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

John McCain's Iraq 2013 Fantasy Land

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 249

John McCain gave a speech today describing the policy he would pursue as president towards our military involvement in Iraq.

The speech, at least as it regards Iraq, is nothing short of fantasy. Of the commentary out on the web following the speech, none hits the mark nearly as well as the analysis published on the Huffington Post by none other than my original presidential candidate of choice, Joe Biden.

I found the following excerpt to be particularly on target:

John McCain revealed today that he has no plan -- none -- to get us out of the mess the president has created. Senator McCain said that it is important for presidential candidates to "define their objectives and what they plan to achieve not with vague language but with clarity." But especially when it comes to Iraq and Afghanistan, the picture he painted today of where he hopes to be by 2013 is totally divorced from reality and there is zero clarity about how he would get there. It's beyond being vague: John McCain is totally silent about how he would realize his rosy vision for 2013.

It's like saying by 2013, every American will be a millionaire and there will be peace on earth. Wishing will not make it so. The last things Americans need now are empty promises. They need, and our security demands, a concrete plan of action that brings the war in Iraq to an end without leaving chaos behind.

The entire piece can be read here.

It's good to see Joe Biden is starting to reengage in the broader political debate as we near the close of the primary calendar. His experience from years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as his devastating instinct for the Republicans' political jugular, make Biden a uniquely powerful voice in the upcoming campaign against John McCain.

Since dropping his own presidential campaign in January, Biden has remained publicly uncommitted in the nomination fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but I think that all Democrats, regardless whom they support for the nomination, can be glad that we've got Joe Biden on our side.

Talking to Iran: Bush Administration's Divided Voice

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 249

Addressing Israel's national legislative body, the Knesset, today, President Bush spoke these words:

"Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along.

"We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is - the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

Rhetorically, of course, this is known as a straw man argument, in which the speaker posits an opinion held by unnamed persons, and then uses that as an occasion to discredit the argument and cast aspersion upon anyone who might disagree with them. Logically, the straw man argument is categorized as fallacious.

President Bush is an old hand at this practice, so his use of the straw man fallacy comes as no surprise. What ought to cause some astonishment, however, is that the president should engage in this tactic just one day after his own Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, had this to say about Iran, one of the nations the president includes in his "Axis of Evil":

"We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage . . . and then sit down and talk with them. If there is going to be a discussion, then they need something, too. We can't go to a discussion and be completely the demander, with them not feeling that they need anything from us."

Setting aside, for the moment, the central question of whether Bush or Gates is espousing the better policy approach to Iran, let me ask this: is it too much to expect, even from this administration, that the president and his principal adviser on national defense to be on the same page about how to address a critical international challenge?

It is small wonder, in the circumstances, that other nations - both friendly and unfriendly - regard the prospect of diplomacy with this administration with uncertainty, and have lost confidence in the United States as a negotiating partner. Whether by design, or, as is far more likely, by inattention and incompetence, this administration shows, time and again with this as but the latest example, that it cannot be relied upon to speak with a unified voice to the international community. Let me emphasize: this is not an example of the president being contradicted by an opposition member of the House or Senate, but rather the president and his secretary of defense contradicting one another in statements made on successive days.

This appalling spectacle is yet another sad reflection upon the United States, and a further indication, as if one were needed, of the scale of the task looming before the next president of extricating the country from the mire into which George W. Bush and his administration has driven us.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The GOP's Nightmare in Mississippi

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 250

As if warning sirens weren't already blaring at every level in the Republican party this year, last night's Democratic victory in a special election in Mississippi's first congressional district has sent the GOP into full-fledged Tsunami disaster mode.

I've been combing through a thesaurus this morning, searching for a single word that might do justice to the scale and impact of this defeat for the GOP. I'm coming up with some contenders, so far, but nothing that quite nails it:


After special elections earlier this year that saw Republicans go down to defeat in long-held districts in Illinois and Louisiana, last night's loss by Republican Greg Davis to Democrat Travis Childers was everything the GOP feared. The MS-01 is reckoned to favor Republicans by 10 points more than the country as a whole; that is, if a Republican would garner 60 percent of the vote nationally (and, yes, you can bet that is a big, fat hypothetical this year), then s/he would likely garner 70% in the MS-01. The seat had been in the Republican column since 1995. George W. Bush took the district with 62% of the vote in 2004. By every definition, the MS-01 should have been a safe Republican seat, this year, or any other.


Notwithstanding, Democrat Childers beat Republican Davis by an eight point margin, 54% to 46%. This in spite of the fact that both the state and national Republican party poured everything they had into this race: Vice President Cheney emerged from his undisclosed location to campaign for Davis the day before the vote; Republican governor and former RNC Chairman Haley Barbour stumped for Davis; so did conservative darling and former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee; the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee John McCain recorded robocall messages for Davis, as did President Bush himself.


Not even an ad campaign seeking to identify Democrat Childers as Barack Obama in disguise - the supposed Republican trump card for the fall campaign - had an impact. Indeed, there is speculation that the ads may have spurred African-American Democrats to a larger than normal turnout.


The result is that the balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives has further shifted in the favor of the Democratic party, which now holds 236 seats to the Republicans' 199. Of those 199 GOP seats, 25 will be open due to retirement of Republican incumbents, as opposed to just 7 open Democratic seats. And the Democrats' Congressional campaign organization has plenty of money to spend on House races in the fall, with more than $44 million cash on hand as of this past March 31. Their GOP counterparts, on the other hand, have about $7 million in the bank.


Republicans aren't even trying to spin this one:

"'Some people in the conference, to some extent, have been complacent to waking up to how badly the brand was damaged in 2006,' Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), a leader of a conservative coalition, said in a recent interview." (Washington Post)

"'The results in Miss.-01 should serve as a wake-up call to Republican candidates nationwide,' said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. 'As I’ve said before, this is a change election, and if we want Americans to vote for us, we have to convince them that we can fix Washington.'" (National Journal)

Republicans can fix Washington? With John "100 Years in Iraq Would be Fine with Me" McCain carrying the GOP standard in November? Good luck with that pitch, Congressman Boehner.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Footnote Primaries Begin

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 251

West Virginia votes today in the first of what may reasonably be called the Footnote Primaries of the Democratic nomination process.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that the voters of West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Montana, South Dakota and Puerto Rico don't matter, or that the outcomes in these primaries will not be important; far from it. But the importance of these primaries now lies not in their potential to determine the party's nominee - that question was (finally) settled in Barack Obama's favor last week by North Carolina and Indiana - but rather in shaping the end of the campaign and taking a big role in determining the conditions under which the Democratic Party begins its general election campaign. And the impact of these primaries could be crucial in whether the party and its nominee comes out of the gate against John McCain and the GOP roaring, or whimpering.

West Virginia, for its part, is expected to go overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton over presumptive nominee Barack Obama today. Not much suspense there, but the question is how the two candidates will spin the result. For example, if Clinton gains a 25 point victory and in her remarks tonight proclaims it as another victory of the little guy against the elitists, and does the same again after Kentucky next Tuesday, where she is also favored to win, and if Obama uses expected victories in Oregon and South Dakota to continue blasting Clinton for representing what he calls the Old Politics of Washington, then the Democratic Party is likely in for a miserable summer.

On the other hand, these final six contests can function as the opening of a strong general election campaign. No matter what the outcomes in the individual primaries, if the candidates opt for civility in their rhetoric and salute a Democratic electorate engaged as rarely before, then the process of unifying the party begins in earnest, and woe betide John McCain's Freeride Express.

It all comes down to whether the candidates are able to keep their eye on the ball over the next three weeks, something they have not always been very good at doing.

So these final six contests, while footnotes in determining the answer to the ultimate question of who will be the Democratic nominee, can still punch above their weight in raising, or lowering, the hurdles the nominee must jump to bring the party together under their banner. Call them footnotes in large print.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Prelude to the End of the Game

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 257

Last night's primary results from North Carolina and Indiana provide one of the campaign's more resonant moments. Hillary Clinton's whisker-thin win in Indiana, coupled with Barack Obama's decisive win in North Carolina, looks as if it may have the potential to recast the Democratic race to a degree not seen since the first contests in January. And, yes, if I could make that statement any more qualified, I would.

The problem with making unqualified, sweeping statements is, of course, that the race itself has tended so little toward the definitive. Even so, some factors are beginning to jell that portend the shape of the campaign at its final conclusion.

There's the math, to begin with. According to AP, Barack Obama took 94 delegates last night, compared with Hillary Clinton's 75, which leaves him about 185 delegates short of the 2,025 needed to nominate (the delegate score now is Obama 1,840 - Clinton 1,688). There are six contest remaining, with a total of 217 pledged delegates up for grabs. The Obama campaign circulated a memo earlier today claiming that Clinton would need to win 65% of the remaining pledged delegates in order to draw even with Obama; thanks to the proportional award rules of the Democratic party, such overwhelming victories would only be likely in the event that Obama's name disappeared from the ballot altogether.

And then there are the remaining uncommitted super delegates, about 270 of them. One of the most damaging aspects of last night's results for Hillary Clinton is the weakening of her case to this audience. Consider that in the run up to the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, Clinton had the wind at her back coming out of Pennsylvania, and Obama had been enduring the most miserable four weeks of his political career. And the result? Obama crushed Clinton in North Carolina, where her campaign, and her husband the former president, had been working frantically to engineer an upset victory, and Clinton came out the winner in Indiana by a mere 18,440 votes out of 1,265,028 total votes cast. That is a margin of 1.4%, and that was the good news for Clinton last night. Given the the favorable political environment for Clinton, a question being asked today is if Hillary couldn't land a body blow on Obama in these circumstances, when could she be expected to do so? That doesn't lend itself to the electability argument Clinton has been pressing on the super delegates.

Finally, there's the money, or, in Clinton's case, the lack of it. It emerged earlier today that Clinton has made loans of a further $6.4 million to her campaign, on top of the $5 million she had already loaned back in January. Following last night's results, and in light of the fact that many of her biggest donors have already contributed the maximum possible amount toward the primary campaign, where will the money come from to fund Hillary Clinton's campaign?

To sum up: in order to turn things around and deny Barack Obama the nomination, Hillary Clinton needs primary votes that aren't there, super delegates that aren't being persuaded by her electoral performance, money that can't be found and time which has all but run out.

But, this campaign being what it is, those factors are unlikely spell the immediate conclusion one might think. Lurking in the calendar is a May 31 meeting of the Democratic Party rules committee, where the issue of what to do about leapfrogging Michigan and Florida will be, to put it mildly, debated. And then there's the party's Credentialing Committee meeting later in the summer. And then there's the convention in August.

It ain't over 'til it's over. And over. And over...

Friday, May 2, 2008

Polls: Clinton Erases Obama's National Lead

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 262

Two polls released today show Hillary Clinton has made progress over the last month in narrowing rival Barack Obama's lead in national preference polls.

The polls show Obama leading Clinton by very narrow margins nationally, with results well within the margins of error. In one poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center, Obama leads Clinton 47% - 45%, while in the other, conducted by CNN - Opinion Research Corp., Obama leads Clinton 46% - 45%. These numbers are in line with Real Clear Politics' national averages, showing Obama currently leading Clinton by about 1.6%.

The numbers in these polls do not come as a surprise after what has been a bruising month for the Obama campaign, following a significant loss to Clinton in the Pennsylvania primary and renewed media attention on the Jeremiah Wright non-story. If anything, these numbers re-emphasize the importance of next Tuesday's voting in Indiana and North Carolina in either altering or reinforcing the current narrative of the campaign for both Clinton and Obama.

A Gallup poll taken early last month showed Obama with a 9% lead over Clinton nationally.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Bush-McCain Challenge

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 264

From today's inbox:

With the Obama-Clinton primary still underway, John McCain has largely gotten a free ride in the media. He's coming to Des Moines on Thursday [May 1, 2008 - ed.], hoping to get lots of fluff media coverage. Well, we're not going to let that happen.

MoveOn members in your area will be putting on a fun event called The Bush-McCain Challenge to make sure local voters and the media know that a McCain presidency would equal Bush's third term. We'll have a carnival-style table where people can answer questions and win prizes if they can tell the difference between Bush and McCain's stances on issues. Media will be invited to come.

It will be fun, and the more the merrier. Event details are here:

WHAT: The Bush-McCain Challenge
WHERE: 501 Grand Avenue, across from the Convention Complex, Des Moines, IA, 50310
WHEN: Thursday, May 1 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

We'll supply the questions and decorations. We need your help to ask the questions at the table, or to hand out flyers to people walking by—promoting the challenge. Local media will be invited and national media who fly around with McCain will receive photos and local news clips of the event to incorporate into their reporting. We'll also put the best clips from these events around the nation on YouTube.

We saw the impact of regular people fighting back locally during President Bush's Social Security privatization tour. In town after town, we and coalition partners matched or beat Bush's media coverage by planning events surrounding his local visit that showed why he was wrong.

The Bush-McCain Challenge will be a lot of fun. Together, we'll make sure voters realize that electing McCain would, in effect, be voting for Bush's third term.

We hope you can join us for this event. Thanks for all you do.

–Adam G., Lenore, Anna, Noah, Ilyse and the MoveOn.org Political Action Team
Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

[hyperlinks expurgated]

Monday, April 28, 2008

CQ Politics Rates IA-03 'Safe Democrat'

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 265

While the primary campaign between incumbent Congressman Leonard Boswell and challenger Ed Fallon goes on, Democrats in Iowa's Third Congressional District (IA-03, as they say in the trade) have something they can feel good about, regardless of which candidate they support: the IA-03's seat in Congress is most unlikely to fall into the Republican column come November.

This analysis comes from CQ Politics, the campaign-geek (as opposed to governing-geek) branch of the non-partisan Congressional Quarterly news organization. CQ points out that even though Congressman Boswell won his 2006 re-election bid against Republican State Senator Jeff Lamberti by a 5% margin, making his one of the slimmer victories in an election that saw not one defeat of an incumbent Democratic member of Congress, the district isn't being seriously targeted by the GOP this time around.

Along with Boswell's massive financial advantage - the Congressman ended March with a better than 41-to-1 cash-on-hand edge over Fallon - the district's non-competitive political environment versus the GOP gives the incumbent even less incentive to debate or otherwise directly engage his primary challenger in the run-up to the June 3 election.

I've got my own opinion on the Boswell-Fallon race, but that's the subject of another post (or twelve). In the meantime, though, barring some unforeseen political seismic event, the IA-03 looks to remain Blue into the next Congress.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Chris Dodd on the Nomination Fight: "Bring this to a Close Within the Next Month"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 269

Ran across this interesting interview with Chris Dodd (apologies for the commercial at the beginning):

That Was The Week That Was

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 269

A few quick glances askance going into the weekend.

Hillary Clinton's win in Pennsylvania on Tuesday is still being hotly debated: does this mark the beginning of the end for Barack Obama, or is it, despite the 10-point margin of victory for Hillary Clinton, her last hurrah on the way to the political wilderness? Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, among others, takes the former view, while Madison Powers of Congressional Quarterly sees Clinton limping out of the Keystone State "broke, bitter, and diminished in national stature."

Meanwhile, a new poll from Indiana, which is shaping up as the next battleground and goes to the polls on May 6, comes up a virtual tie with Obama at 48% and Clinton at 47%. AP notes, "A similar poll conducted March 31-April 2 found 49 percent support for Clinton, with Obama's support at 46 percent. The new poll asked which candidate had run the more negative campaign, with 48 percent saying Clinton, 23 percent Obama and 21 percent equal."

John McCain, meanwhile, continues coasting on the FreeRide Express. McCain's wink-and-nod plea to the North Carolina GOP not to run an anti-Obama ad is the presumptive nominee's latest "maverick" moment: he gets to promote himself as an above-the-fray statesman while at the same time raising the profile of the ad that he ostensibly opposes and that the NC GOP runs anyway. I'm beginning to wonder whether McCain is actually starting to buy into the damaged Democrats theme that been the flavor of the week in the mainstream media, and thinks as a result that his rise in the poll reflects something other than just seven weeks of nobody running against him. If so, here's a word of advice for Senator McCain: though it is dragging on longer than most expected, the Democratic nomination battle will end in plenty of time for the party to unify around its eventual candidate, and against you. When that happens, you will find yourself at the wrong end of the toughest campaign you've ever imagined. Enjoy the holiday while you may.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Q&A: 10 Questions for a Pennsylvania Voter

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 272

With voters going to the polls today in what is expected to be a record turnout for a Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, I wanted to get a sense of what was on the minds of voters - or at least one voter - in the Keystone State.

Enter Laurenn S., a 30-something professional woman who lives and works in the Center City section of Philadelphia. Laurenn was good enough to take time out of her day to participate in an email interview with me after casting her vote this morning.

iPol: Who are you supporting in the Democratic primary, and why?
Laurenn S.: I am supporting Senator Barack Obama for his vision, his intelligence, and his inspirational qualities. He is my generation’s JFK. Senator Obama sees politics as something good, as a way for the citizens of this country to get involved and make a difference in their own lives. I also feel he can arouse the world populace to think differently about their own communities, to see a future that is filled with peace and security. Some people would say these are big dreams that they are unattainable, Senator Obama knows that it will not be easy, but you have to dream big in order to achieve big. In the words of Martin Luther King, “if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but by all means keep moving.” It is just not about achieving health care for all or getting the gas prices down, it is about how we want to live as a people, how we see ourselves and the world.

iPol: You live in Pennsylvania’s 2nd Congressional District, where nine delegates are at stake, the most of any Congressional District in Pennsylvania. This is what Congressional Quarterly had to say about the PA-02 in a recent article:

“The 2nd is almost certain to go even more heavily for Obama than the neighboring 1st District. It stretches from ‘Center City’ to West Philadelphia, and more than 60 percent of the residents are black. Not only is this likely to be Obama’s best district, but it is by far the most delegate-rich, which should help him offset Clinton wins in districts outside the Philadelphia region. Obama will win at least six of the nine delegates, and he would beat Clinton 7-2 if he exceeds 72.2 percent of the district vote. CQ Politics Prediction: Obama 7 (delegates), Clinton 2 (delegates).”

Given CQ’s description, is there a perceptible Obama vibe in your neighborhood? Do people seem excited and engaged in the campaign? If so, how does that show?
Laurenn S.: There is definitely electricity in the community, people are excited and engaged. Independence Hall and the National Constitution Center were bookends with Senator Obama in the middle giving a speech that encompassed this country’s past and the hope for the future; where we have been and where we can go as a people and as a nation. 35,000 people listened to that speech, people were moved beyond words, tears were flowing and possibility was in the air. Yet it was just not about big speeches, I saw a woman wearing Obama banners and signs as clothing, people dressing their dogs with Obama slogans; it seems even the animals are for Obama! So whether at a big event or just people on the street there is something going on that cannot be explained, granted this is in the Philadelphia area and Clinton is poised to win Pennsylvania, but the vibe that I am feeling bodes well for Obama in November.

iPol: Other than last year’s campaign here in Iowa, the last six weeks in Pennsylvania have been the longest period of sustained campaigning in any state during the Democratic primary. What’s been your reaction to all the media, ads, rallies and general hoopla during this time: has it been exciting and fun for you, or are you heaving a sigh of relief that it is finally coming to an end?
Laurenn S.:
In the beginning it was exciting, who would have thought that Pennsylvania would be playing a huge role in the primaries. After a while however, nothing new was being talked about, by the media or by the candidates themselves. I just started to tune out; it was dragging on too long. I have to say though that today, the excitement and energy returned, when I went into the voting booth I knew it was an historic moment. Whether you are voting for Clinton or Obama, you are contributing to history in a very profound way.

iPol: Did you do any campaign volunteering (phone banks, precinct walking, licking envelopes) in the runup to the election? If so, what was that like for you, and what was the reaction you encountered with other voters you may have spoken with in the course of volunteering?
Laurenn S.:
I did attend a couple meetings, but I did not volunteer as much as I would have liked. What I discovered however when attending these rallies/meetings was the diversity in the group. A majority of the people, young, old, black, white, women, and men, said they never participated in a campaign before, never contributed time or money, but they just felt compelled to get involved. Obama inspires activism, whether going door to door, stuffing envelopes, or just contributing $5.00 dollars.

iPol: What has been the most important issue to you during the Pennsylvania primary campaign, and how has it influenced your choice of whom to support?
Laurenn S.: The most important issue for me is Foreign Policy. Senator Obama seems to have a more balanced approach. His judgment in my estimation is right on. Strong leadership is about not being afraid to talk to your enemies. It does not mean you are giving in or that you are weak. Senator Obama has the confidence and intelligence to know when to compromise and when not to. What is the saying, “keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”

iPol: Overall, what has been the single biggest influence on your vote during the Pennsylvania primary campaign: endorsements, TV ads, speeches, or something else?
Laurenn S.:
I would have to say speeches and how the candidates react to different situations; how they handle a bad week and if they wallow in hypocrisy. I am looking for a different tone, something fresh and new. Speeches are not my only influences, issues are very important, but when the candidates have similar plans, their vision becomes a vital part in my decision making process.

iPol: Speaking of endorsements, a lot has been said about Governor Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton, and about U.S. Senator Bob Casey’s endorsement of Barack Obama. For you and other Pennsylvania Democrats you’ve spoken to, how much influence do these endorsements have on how people actually vote?
Laurenn S.: I don’t really think endorsements matter much. It is interesting to see who is in what camp. Endorsements have more of an entertainment value, but they do not have substantive quality.

iPol: Did you watch last week’s Clinton/Obama debate? If so, what were your impressions?
Laurenn S.: The debate concentrated on trivial issues. I thought it was a waste of time; I wanted to learn more about policy and how that policy would affect me and my future. When the flag pin question was directed to Senator Obama, I said here we go…is this really important. Patriotism has to do with how our leaders treat the citizens of this country, how they support our military on and off the field of battle. I know Senator Obama has to get ready for the attack machine coming his way in the fall, but I do not believe the debate is the right forum for this kind of gutter play.

iPol: What is your opinion about the tone of the campaign in Pennsylvania? Do you think it’s been very positive, too negative, or just about right? Do you think that the tone of the campaign is likely to hurt the chances of the eventual Democratic nominee (whether Clinton or Obama) in the fall campaign against John McCain?
Laurenn S.: I know pollsters and media hounds have to create controversy in order to attract good ratings, but I think this is much to do about nothing. The campaign in Pennsylvania has not been too negative. There have been some things said that make you wince and say “is that really necessary”, but on the whole it has been pretty tame. Obama started out his campaign not wanting to play in the arena of divisiveness, but just because he did not want to, doesn’t mean others were going to follow his lead. Politicians don’t know any better, Obama is trying to say it can be done a different way…unfortunately he has a long way to go in proving this style of campaigning works.

iPol: Open ended question: if there is one thing you would have liked to have seen done differently during the Pennsylvania primary it would be:_____________.
Laurenn S.: To actually have the candidates sit down and discuss one particular topic in depth for 1 ½ hours. It could have been the Iraq war, economic solutions, the global environment, etc. Hopefully this will be done during the general election, so we can get a better sense of what the nominees actually think and feel, instead of the same sound bites over and over.

iPol: Laurenn, thanks so much for taking time to chat with me today.
Laurenn S.: Thank you!

Thank God It's Tuesday

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 272

Today is the date of the oh-so-long-awaited Pennsylvania primary, and the results could be decisive in determining the outcome of the Democratic nomination process.

A few background notes:

  • Pennsylvania is the largest of the 10 remaining Democratic nominating contests this year, with 158 pledged delegates up for grabs; the Keystone State will also send 29 super delegates to August's Democratic National Convention in Denver.
  • The most recent polling average calculated by Real Clear Politics gives Hillary Clinton a 6.1% advantage over Obama among Pennsylvania Democrats. If this holds, will a 6% margin of victory for Clinton be enough to sustain her campaign amid the ongoing calls for her to exit the race? An old adage in politics is that a win is a win is a win, but that may not hold true for Clinton unless her margin of victory significantly exceeds expectations.
  • A recent district-by-district analysis by Congressional Quarterly predicts that Clinton will bring home 53 delegates to Obama's 50, a net gain of only 3 delegates. Definitely something to watch when the returns start coming in.
    [UPDATE: the Washington Post has published this helpful info: "The state has a two-part primary ballot, with voters choosing a presidential candidate and also picking from a slate of local delegates. Essentially, each of the state's 19 congressional districts runs a separate contest for delegates, weighted according to turnout in recent elections. A total of 103 delegates will be awarded according to each district's popular vote, while the remaining 84 will be distributed according to the statewide popular vote, or as unpledged superdelegates."]
  • From the standpoint of immediate practicality, perhaps more important for the shape of the race than popular vote totals and delegate hauls will be how Pennsylvania's results influence campaign fundraising, particularly for Hillary Clinton. FEC reports released a few days ago show Clinton's campaign $10.3 million in debt with just $9.3 million cash on hand at the beginning of April. Barack Obama, by contrast, began April with $42 million in cash on hand and only $663,000 in debt. If the results in Pennsylvania don't provide the needed encouragement for donors to open their wallets - big time and in a hurry - for Hillary Clinton, that may be the ball game in and of itself, irrespective of other factors.

Pennsylvania as been famously described as Philadelphia on one end, Pittsburgh on the other and Alabama in between. Having lived in Philadelphia for more than five years and volunteering there for John Kerry in 2004, I can vouch for there being some truth in this. Pennsylvania is a sprawling, complex state, and is likely to deliver results to match.

North Carolina Debate Cancelled Amid Party Unity Concerns

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 272

From the North Carolina Democratic Party:

"We regret to inform you that the proposed Democratic Presidential Debate scheduled for April 27 has been cancelled due to time constraints and logistical issues associated with such a large, national event.

You have shown tremendous passion and interest in being a part of history as Democrats are poised this year to elect the first female or African-American President. However, there were also growing concerns about what another debate would do to party unity.

We hope your interest in the North Carolina Democratic Party will not end with the cancellation of the debate.

We will keep your e-mail addresses for a random drawing to attend a special event in the fall featuring the nominee.

Senators Clinton and Obama have offered additional opportunities to be seen and heard across the state in the coming weeks and months.

Both candidates have committed to attending our Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on Friday, May 2 in Raleigh.

Tickets are available by signing up online at www.ncdp.org.

Again, the Party thanks you for your interest in the Democratic Presidential primary. We hope you will continue to be involved in local and state politics.

Your voice, your vote does make a difference."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich Endorses Obama

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 276

While he's not Bruce Springsteen, Robert Reich's endorsement of Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton is still a semi-big deal. Why? Because previous high-profile Obama endorsers like Chris Dodd or Bill Richardson have explained their choice in terms of what they see as Obama's leadership qualities and a host of other intangibles; Reich touches on these, as well, but the heart of his endorsement center on what he views as Obama's superior policy chops. Here's a key excerpt:

"Although Hillary Clinton has offered solid and sensible policy proposals, Obama's strike me as even more so. His plans for reforming Social Security and health care have a better chance of succeeding. His approaches to the housing crisis and the failures of our financial markets are sounder than hers. His ideas for improving our public schools and confronting the problems of poverty and inequality are more coherent and compelling. He has put forward the more enlightened foreign policy and the more thoughtful plan for controlling global warming."

One of the more consistent threads running through the commentary on this cycle's Democratic nominating process has been that whether you love her or hate her, Hillary Clinton's undeniable, unassailable strong suit is her depth and breadth of knowledge on policy matters. Reich directly challenges that perception.

Of course, most voters would struggle to identify who Robert Reich is, so this endorsement is unlikely to resonate in the voting booths of Pennsylvania and the other remaining primary states. To a greater or lessor degree, that's true of endorsements generally. But coming it as it does from not only a long-time Clinton associate, but the Clinton administration official who was arguably the biggest policy geek in the Cabinet, Reich's endorsement is nonetheless likely to carry some weight, notably among uncommitted superdelegates.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Trivial Debate in Philadelphia

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 277

Debates between presidential candidates can be many things: a snoozefest of statistics and wonkisms, a firefight between candidates of diametrically opposed views, and even, on rare occasion, freakishly relevant and lucid discussions about things that really matter to people.

And then, there was last night's farce on ABC, which was an on-air tutorial by moderators Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos of how to sidetrack an opportunity for meaningful political discourse just days before a crucial primary into a spectacle of triviality and distraction.

The Los Angeles Times sums it up well:

"...issues received relatively short shrift. Not until 50 minutes in was a policy issue -- Iraq -- asked about by the moderators. More than an hour went by before a question was asked about what Stephanopoulos called 'the No. 1 issue on Americans' minds' -- the economy."

While discussions are afoot about the possibility of a debate in North Carolina, last night's debate in Philadelphia may turn out to be the last chance voters will have to evaluate Clinton and Obama side-by-side. It is a shame that opportunity was squandered by the event's moderators, who were so fixated on warmed over non-stories about both candidates that any possibility of worthwhile discussion was strangled before the first commercial break (of many).

To paraphrase a vintage bumper sticker: I miss Tim Russert. Heck, I even miss Wolf Blitzer.

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