Friday, February 29, 2008

New Clinton Ad in Texas: "Children"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 325

Hillary Clinton has a new ad up in Texas. The 30-second spot, titled "Children," uses a telephone ringing in the White House at 3:00 AM to dramatize the importance of the president as commander in chief and make the case that Hillary Clinton should be the person answering the call when crises arise.

Here's the script for the ad:

ANNOUNCER: "It's 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone in the White House and it's ringing. Something's happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call. Whether it's someone who already knows the world's leaders, knows the military -- someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world. It's 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?"

CLINTON: "I'm Hillary Clinton, and I approve this message."

And here's the video:

This is the type of ad that we're more used to seeing during a general election campaign than during primary season. I understand the point that the Clinton campaign is making with this ad, and it clearly aligns with her experience message, but I think this ad skirts very close to crossing the line and playing the fear card with voters. The subtext is "if Hillary loses, the terrorists win."

The problem I have with this is that, to my knowledge, Hillary Clinton has never been at the center of an emerging crisis and has never faced the test posited in this ad. Nor has Barack Obama. Nor, I hasten to ad, has John McCain. There are some aspects of the presidency that no one but presidents have been called upon to face. Voters can certainly infer competence from a whatever experiences a given candidate has undergone, and make judgments on that basis about whom they would prefer to trust in a crisis. But to say, as this ad does, that Hillary Clinton, or anyone who has not been President of the United States, somehow knows what it's like to get that phone call at three in the morning is a bit silly. Despite what this ad suggests, I wouldn't lose sleep over it.

But the little trumpet fanfare at the end, trilling as Hillary rides in to pick up the phone and save the day, is cute. Nice touch, Mandy Grunwald!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chris Dodd Endorses Obama: "He is Ready to be President"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 328

As an anticipated, U.S. Senator and former Democratic presidential candidate Chris Dodd today endorsed Barack Obama's bid to win the Democratic presidential nomination. Dodd issued the following announcement this morning:

We have been through a lot in this past year and your friendship and support have meant so much to me. That is why I wanted to let you know of my decision to endorse a Democratic candidate for President - and that I have decided to support Barack Obama.

We all understand how much is at stake in this election and that it is more important than ever that we put a Democrat in the White House.

And while both of our Party's remaining candidates are extremely talented and would make excellent commanders-in-chief, I am throwing my support to the candidate who I believe will open the most eyes to our shared Democratic vision.

I'm deeply proud to be the first 2008 Democratic presidential candidate to endorse Barack Obama. He is ready to be President. And I am ready to support him - to work with him and for him and help elect him our 44th President.

Put simply, I believe Barack Obama is uniquely qualified to help us face this housing crisis, create good jobs, strengthen America's families in this 21st century global economy, unite the world against terrorism and end the war in Iraq - and perhaps most importantly, call the American people to shared service and sacrifice. In this campaign, he has drawn millions of voters into politics for the first time in their lives and shown us that we are united by so much more than that which divides us.

That is why I believe the time has come for Democrats to come together as a Party and focus on winning the general election. The stakes are too high not to.

The last seven years have been as difficult as any I can remember. More than ever, we need a President who will inspire us to take part in the political process and change our country's path.

Today, when we need it most, we are hearing a new call from Barack Obama. And I hope you, like me, will answer it in the affirmative.

Please get involved in Barack Obama's campaign now:


Chris Dodd

Except as momentary news blips, I've never believed endorsements like this actually carry much weight. A case in point is Obama losing the Massachusetts primary to Hillary Clinton, even after he had been endorsed by the Bay State's political lion, Ted Kennedy.

What this does provide Barack Obama is marginally enhanced status among the party base, who admire Chris Dodd for his longstanding crusade to restore constitutional protections of civil liberties eroded by the Bush administration. During his own presidential campaign, Dodd won the endorsement of the International Association of Fire Fighters, and he may be of influence in swinging that endorsement over to Obama. But the impact on the voters in Texas and Ohio, the big states going to the polls on March 4, will likely be small. What is true of all endorsements is that a candidate would rather have them than not, and Dodd's endorsement of Obama is no exception.

Monday, February 25, 2008

It's All Your Fault

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 329

Last Wednesday at New York City's Hunter College, Senator Hillary Clinton addressed supporters at a fundraiser. Her remarks included this gem:

"It is time to get real – to get real about how we actually win this election and get real about the challenges facing America. It’s time that we moved from good words to good work, from sound bites to sound solutions."

Which to my ear sounds oddly like, well, a sound bite.

I've written up some thoughts about this, which can be found over at Pajamas Media. Suffice it to say here that the most enduring line-not-to-be-crossed remaining in American politics is placing blame on the voters when your campaign isn't going as well as you'd like. Don't go there, Hillary.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Thoughts on the Texas Debate

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 332

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama met in their nineteenth debate last night in Austin, Texas. The face-off occurred against a backdrop of crucial voting looming in Ohio and Texas on March 4, a winning streak for Barack Obama that has swelled to eleven consecutive victories with yesterday's win in the primary voting among Democrats Abroad, and new polls showing continuing momentum for Obama in his quest to become the Democratic presidential nominee. Here are a few thoughts on last night's debate.

Clinton came into the event trailing Obama in both pledged and overall delegate projections. The New York Times has Obama ahead 1,117 to 1,112 for Clinton, the Associated Press gives Obama a 1,178 - 1,024 edge, and RealClear Politics shows Obama ahead 1,363 to 1,271. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Clinton's lead has evaporated to a sliver in Texas and is also down considerably in Ohio, two states that are universally regarded as ones Clinton must win, and win big-time, to remain a viable candidate for the Democratic nomination.

All of which combined to present Clinton with enormous challenges, but also significant opportunities going into last night's debate. The Clinton campaign team feels that their candidate routinely bests Obama in head-to-head appearances, and looked to highlight what they feel are Clinton's superior experience and readiness for the Oval Office against what they contend to be a rhetorically gifted but substantively deficient Barack Obama. All told, last night's debate presented Hillary Clinton with a chance to change the storyline of the campaign and catapult herself back to relevance in her race against Barack Obama.

Barack Obama's objective, on the other hand, was to reinforce the momentum provided by his electoral winning streak of the previous fortnight and to project an image of presidential demeanor and competence to voters in Texas and Ohio, as well as the broader electorate.

Both candidates performed well, overall, presenting their competing policy proposals at length and in detail. Barack Obama succeeded in appearing presidential, above negative discourse, and comfortable with his position as the campaign's frontrunner and likely Democratic standard-bearer against Republican John McCain in November. Indeed, at times, Barack Obama appeared to look past Hillary Clinton and turned his fire squarely against George W. Bush and the GOP, while seeming as unworried about Clinton as he had in previous debates when addressing also-rans Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel.

But Hillary Clinton had her moments, as well, including the evening's most replayed sound bite. Again raising charges first made during the campaign in Wisconsin earlier this week, Clinton alleged that Obama had plagiarized parts of his recent stump speeches, this time adding the mocking jab, "lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox."

That zinger, while it has earned plenty of airtime and discussion in the media overnight and into this morning, also earned a hearty round of immediate booing and jeering for Clinton from the audience in the debate hall itself. Barack Obama, in response, clearly saw Clinton's line as a spitball in the dirt, and calmly let it pass.

But without doubt, the award for the finest moment of the entire debate last night goes to...John Edwards. Seriously. In answering the last question of the debate, asking the candidates to recall difficult moments in their lives and how those experiences shaped them, an emotional Hillary Clinton said:

"Well, I think everybody here knows I've lived through some crises and some challenging moments in my life. And I am grateful for the support and the prayers of countless Americans.

But...with all of the challenges that I've had, they are nothing compared to what I see happening in the lives of Americans every single day.

Whatever happens, we're going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends. I just hope that we'll be able to say the same thing about the American people, and that's what this election should be about."

Which looks like Hillary Clinton hitting a grand slam out of the park, until you recall these lines of John Edwards' from the conclusion of the Des Moines Register debate back on December 13, 2007:

"...remember that in the midst of political hoopla the glorification of politicians and presidential candidates that somewhere in America tonight a child will go to bed hungry, somewhere in America tonight a family will have to go to the emergency room and beg for health care for a sick child, that somewhere in America today a father who's worked for 30 or 40 years to support his family will lose his job, and that that's what's at stake in this election. What's not at stake are any of us. All of us are going to be just fine no matter what happens in this election. But what's at stake is whether America is going to be fine."

Which similarity might best be summarized as heartfelt authenticity you can Xerox.

But in the final analysis, Hillary Clinton lost last night's debate not because she lifted lines from John Edwards, but because nothing she said altered the narrative of the Democratic campaign as it now stands. Clinton came out of the debate as she entered it: a candidate who appears more vulnerable with each passing day, blinking in uncomprehending disbelief at the magnitude of her political reversals and unable to come up with anything to halt her skid.

Next Tuesday's debate in Ohio is Hillary Clinton's last, best chance to turn her campaign around. If she cannot do better there than she did last night in Texas, Hillary Clinton has no realistic hope of surviving as a credible candidate.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

After Hawaii & Wisconsin

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 334

With last night's victories in Wisconsin and Hawaii, Barack Obama has now racked up 10 straight wins over Hillary Clinton since February 5.

The results of yesterday's voting continued and solidified the trend that first came into focus in last week's contests in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia: Barack Obama is winning over large groups of core Democratic voters, many of whom were thought to be safely in Clinton's corner only a fortnight ago. As I posted yesterday, Wisconsin could hardly have been better suited to serve as the launching pad for Hillary Clinton's recovery against Obama's recent string of successes, and yet she lost decisively among many groups she had previously been able to win over. Workers making less than $50,000 per year, those without college degrees, who also form a major block of the electorate in Ohio, went for Obama, as did crossover independent and Republican voters. Even women voters, previously a bulwark of support for Clinton, split nearly evenly between her and Obama.

This is just about as bad as things can be for Hillary Clinton. Her message isn't resonating; her public image isn't improving; her strategies have failed; her staff shakeup hasn't made any difference. And now, with her back to the wall, Hillary Clinton must - simply, absolutely must - score not just wins, but double-digit wins, in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas to get back in to this race. Between now and late April, Hillary Clinton cannot afford a single mistake, misstep, off-note, or stumble. And given the misfiring campaign Clinton has been running so far this year, that is a very, very serious challenge for her.

The immediate focus of the campaign now shifts to tomorrow's debate in Texas, which, if last night's speech by Hillary Clinton provides any indication, will be a thoroughly nasty exercise in trying to raise Obama's negatives. Obama will need to keep his head and stay on message, which, given his uneven performances in past debates, could be a problem for him. On the other hand, if Obama holds up well under Clinton's attacks, he'll have fresh ammunition against charges that he isn't ready to stand up against the Republican attack machine. It should prove an interesting evening, either way.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Preview: Wisconsin and Hawaii

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 335

Democratic voters go to the polls today for nominating contests in Hawaii and Wisconsin. Unlike the previous voting on February 5 and February 12, there is, mercifully, no catchy collective nickname for today's contests, which is not say that someone at CNN ("the best political team on television!") isn't working hard to come up with one.

Hawaii is holding a caucus today, awarding 20 delegates. Wisconsin is holding an open primary, with 74 delegates at stakes. Delegates from both states will be awarded in proportion roughly corresponding to the candidate's popular vote totals.

Hawaii is the state where Barack Obama was born, and is a caucus state to boot, so he can expect today to be, literally and figuratively, something of a day at the beach. And for those at home who might be wondering, weather is not expected to be a factor in determining turnout.

Wisconsin has been shaping up as the more interesting contest of the two. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have spent a fair amount of money on TV advertising in the Badger State, and, despite poor weather over the weekend, have spent some time on the ground there as well. Polling numbers have been tracking in Obama's favor, with most surveys showing him with a lead of between four and five points over Hillary Clinton. Numerically, four or five points is not all that significant, and if the day's returns are in line with those numbers, the Clinton campaign will privately heave a sigh of relief and publicly proclaim the political death of Barack Obama.

For today's voting in Wisconsin is far more important for Hillary Clinton than for Barack Obama. Demographically, Wisconsin looks like a state that Clinton's chief strategist Mark Penn might have created in an electoral Sim game: overwhelmingly Caucasian (who's votes Clinton has won by an 11 percent average in this year's previous contests), heavily blue collar, with some 40% earning less than $50,000 per year and fewer than half possessing college degrees (and Clinton has won these subgroups by a whopping average of 23% so far), and skews slightly older than the nation as a whole. Given those facts, Hillary Clinton should be leading here by double digits. The fact that she is not shows how far her fortunes have fallen since the beginning of this year, and illustrates how badly she needs to do well in Wisconsin.

It isn't just the eight consecutive contests that Clinton has lost to Obama in recent days, but the enormous scale of many of those losses that have led to Clinton's declining prospects. But, ironically, it also provides a bit of cover for Clinton should she lose in Wisconsin: her campaign has been declaring that they expect to lose the state, and will spin anything other than a double-digit loss here as a big win for their side, and a crushing blow to Obama's momentum.

On the other hand, if Obama wins here on anything like the scale of last week's victories in D.C, Maryland and Virginia, it is simply over for Hillary Clinton. Forget Ohio, forget Texas, forget Pennsylvania. And forget Super Delegates. A bad defeat for Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin will likely render Obama's momentum irresistible, and make further argument moot.

For Barack Obama, a decisive victory in Wisconsin hinges on two elements: turnout and crossover voters. Wisconsin holds an open primary, and with the Republican nomination of John McCain no longer in question, Independent and GOP voters may well go where the action is: on the Democratic side. Obama has done better than Clinton among Independents in open primaries so far this year, and Republicans are, to put it mildly, unlikely to cast their votes in large numbers for Clinton. Neither higher voter turnout nor significant crossover votes may materialize for Barack Obama in Wisconsin today, of course, but given the trends in recent elections, he has some reason for optimism.

And that's as far as I'll go today until the votes are counted. Further thoughts after the results.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Connect The Dots

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 338

Glancing at the headlines in today's New York Times, three things caught my eye:

F.B.I. Received Unauthorized E-Mail Access - As government surveillance has increased, violations of federal wiretap law have become a regular if little-noticed occurrence.

Bush Calls Lawmakers 'Irresponsible' - President Bush said Saturday that lawmakers' failure to renew an eavesdropping law will make it more difficult to track terrorists and ''we may lose a vital lead that could prevent an attack on America.''

U.S. Struggles to Tutor Iraqis in Rule of Law

I can't even begin to count the ways that this administration just doesn't get it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Stat of the Day

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 341

This nugget of hard news from the Associated Press today is just too good to pass up:


Sixty-three percent of Democrats say Hillary Rodham Clinton is good looking compared with 17 percent of Republicans, with Democratic women slightly likelier to say so than men. Barack Obama is viewed as good looking by 58 percent of Democrats, 41 percent of Republicans. John McCain is seen as good looking by about a quarter of those from both parties, according to an AP-Yahoo News survey released Feb. 1.

Which gives new meaning to the phrase, "political beauty contest."

Bloodbath on the Chesapeake

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 341

[Updated to include delegate projections from the New York Times]

The story this morning, following yesterday's balloting in D.C., Maryland and Virginia is three more primaries, three more big wins for Barack Obama. Obama obliterated Hillary Clinton yesterday, and for that matter, John McCain as well. How so? Take a look at the popular vote totals in each contest:

District of Columbia
Clinton: 27,326
McCain: 3,929 (and no, that number is not a typo)
Obama: 85,534

That's Obama beating Clinton and McCain combined by 54,279 votes.

Clinton: 273,828
McCain: 157,906
Obama: 439,979

Again, Obama bests the combined Clinton and McCain totals, this time by 8,245 votes.

Clinton: 345,018
McCain: 242,578
Obama: 619,036

Once more, combined totals for Clinton and McCain come up 31,440 short of the number of votes cast for Barack Obama alone.

Overall, Barack Obama tallied 93, 964 more votes yesterday than his principal Democratic rival and the GOP's presumptive nominee combined.

This is an astonishing result, the like of which we have never seen before. The way this plays out in terms of delegates is, as ever, subject to some conjecture. The Associated Press now estimates that Obama leads Clinton by a total of 1,223 to 1,198, while RealClear Politics puts Obama on top with 1,260 delegates to Clinton's 1,221, with the New York Times projecting 1,095 delegates for Obama to Clinton's 982 (pledged delegates only). But it now appears that Barack Obama leads Hillary Clinton in total delegates (super delegates included) for the first time since since the Iowa Caucuses back on January 3.

The implications for the campaign during the remainder of February are clear. Hillary Clinton is down, but by no means out. Having gone zero for seven in the just the last four days, Hillary Clinton needs a game changer, and there are two obvious places to go: go negative on Barack Obama, and retool her message to focus on populist economic themes, ala John Edwards. While these are the obvious choices, there's no guarantee they will be effective, or by any means easy to do. But the question is, what other choices does Clinton have left? Focusing on winning big states alone hasn't worked, and counting on Texas and Ohio to save her on March 4 while she faces the prospect of continuing routs everywhere else until then would be delusional. Clinton has replaced her campaign manager, her deputy campaign manager and parts of her internet team, but absent changes in how Clinton herself chooses to react to her slide since getting trounced in South Carolina, this will amount little more than the proverbial rearranging of deck chairs on the Titanic.

John McCain, while reaping huge delegate totals in every contest thanks to the GOP's winner-take-all rules, continues to struggle to win over the conservative and evangelical base of his party. The hope expressed by the Republican establishment and media last week that their base would stop worrying and learn to love McCain once it became clear that he was going to be the nominee is turning out to look increasingly forlorn. John McCain has a serious problem, and it goes far deeper than the continuing campaign of Mike Huckabee. The things that make McCain an appealing candidate to moderate and independent voters are the very things that inspire loathing for McCain in the GOP base, and reconciling those groups behind his candidacy will take more skill than McCain or anyone in the GOP has shown up to this point. And the Republican hope that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee and do their unifying for them is looking increasingly shaky as well.

For Barack Obama, the main benefit of this string of victories is threefold. First, it will keep his buzz building, which will pay particular dividends in fundraising, as money follows the winner. Second,it blunts Clinton's claims to greater electability, as that argument only makes sense if you're winning, and Clinton isn't. And finally, it is beginning to cause the electorate at large to reevaluate the race, in effect creating space for voters to ask themselves, "OK, so why not Obama?" And that is the new territory that Barack Obama has entered this morning: in the public mind, he has for the first time become a genuinely viable choice for president.

None of which is to say that anything is set in stone with months still to go before the summer's party conventions. But for Hillary Clinton and John McCain, this is a red sky morning.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sweeps Week for Obama?

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 343

If polling data proves accurate, following this past weekend's blow-out victories over Hillary Clinton, today's voting in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia could give Barack Obama a sweep of seven consecutive contests in the space of four days.

Recent polls in today's contests certainly look promising for Obama. ARG has Obama up by 18 points in both Maryland and Virginia, while Survey USA has Obama up by 23 points in Maryland and 22 points in Virginia.

This follows, of course, last weekend's contests, where Obama beat Clinton by 22% in Louisiana, 20% in Maine, 35% in Nebraska and 36% in Washington, for an average 28 point margin of victory. These wins put Clinton and Obama in a virtual tie for pledged delegates. Definitive numbers are elusive, but estimates from the Associated Press give Clinton 1,095 to Obama's 1,070, while the New York Times puts Clinton at 1,043 to 921 over Obama and RealClear Politics gives Obama a 1,004 to 925 advantage over Clinton.

The District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia contests will award 237 delegates on a proportional basis, which, assuming polling data holds up, will break something like 132-105 in favor of Obama, providing the latter with a net gain of 27.

So, despite recent events indicating a cruising Obama and a faltering Clinton, a look at the numbers suggests a protracted contest in store for Democrats.

And that's as far as I'm going to go while the polls are open around the Potomac. I'll be back with some additional thoughts once the votes are counted.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Three Things You Can Say After Super Tuesday (and Three Things You Can't)

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 349

The Day of Days is over. Did it settle anything? Yes. No. Maybe. Some Super Tuesday thoughts below!

Three Things You Can Say

1. Not-So-Super Tuesday: Numerically and geographically, last night was unquestionably the biggest night of party nominating contests this country has ever seen. But what has been billed for months as a political barn-burner for the ages, sure to determine the parties' nominees in one fell swoop, has in actual fact turned out to be more than a bit of a muddle.

This is particularly true on the Democratic side, so much so that neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama even suggested they had carried the day. "I look forward to continuing our campaign and our debate about how to leave this country better off for the next generation," is as far as Clinton would go. Barack Obama was equally circumspect, saying only, "Our time has come. Our movement is real. And change is coming to America."

A survey of the Democratic results shows that such restraint from the candidates is entirely justified. Hillary Clinton won the most votes in the delegate-rich states of California, New York and New Jersey, along with Arkansas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and, Kennedy and Kerry endorsements of Obama notwithstanding, Massachusetts; and lest we forget, Clinton also won the electoral bellwether of American Samoa. Obama, however, won Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, New Mexico, Utah and his native Illinois, for a total of 14 states, scoring six more victories than Clinton. But delegate projections based on these results show the candidates coming to a near draw: Clinton is expected to add 584 delegates to her total, and Obama is expected to pick up 563. Further, both Clinton and Obama can claim advantages based on last night's results. As noted above, Clinton can claim bragging rights in the biggest states, while Obama can claim that he not only won more states, but that his average margin of victory in states that he won was decisively greater than Clinton's; Obama won his 14 states by an average of 26%, while Clinton's 8 victories were by an average of 17%.

So no slam dunks anywhere to be found in the Democratic race. What, then, of the Republicans?

At first glance, the Republican picture doesn't look much clearer than it does for the Democrats. John McCain won 9 states yesterday (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Oklahoma), Mitt Romney won 7 states (Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and Utah), and Mike Huckabee won 5 states (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia). Nor does the average margin of victory for each candidate clarify things much: McCain's wins were by an average of 14%, Romney's were by an average of 29% (although his 84% margin in Mormon-dominated Utah significantly skews that number), and Huckabee's were by 10%.

But, unlike the Democratic contests that allocated delegates proportionally according to results in the popular vote, many of yesterday's GOP contests awarded all of a state's pledged delegates to whomever got the most votes statewide. And that was decisive for John McCain, who not only won more states that his rivals, but also won the states with the largest delegate prizes, including California and New York. Consequently, John McCain comes out of yesterday's voting having won 511 delegates, crushing Mitt Romney, who won 176, and Mike Huckabee, who scored 147 delegates.

So Tuesday was definitely big. But "Super?" Maybe not so much.

2. Clinton & McCain are the Frontrunners: As just noted, no candidate on either side landed a knock-out punch on their rivals yesterday, but on balance it is fair to say that Hillary Clinton and John McCain can now be considered the frontrunners in their respective races. McCain's winner-take-all victory in the states with the most delegates on offer definitely elevates him into the role of the Man to Beat on the Republican side. For Democrats, Hillary Clinton assumes the role of frontrunner largely because her firewalls - Hispanic voters in the Southwest, enduring loyalty to the Clinton brand in California, and party establishment support everywhere - held against Obama's surging momentum.

3. Yeah, But...:
See item 1 below. Anything in the "You Can Say" column today can easily slide into the "You Can't Say" column tomorrow.

Three Things You Can't Say

1. It's Over!: Er, it ain't. Hillary Clinton's victories last night are significant, and she can legitimately claim status as the frontrunner for the first time in this campaign. But next week holds Democratic contests in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, the latter two lopsided with African Americans and affluent white suburbanites that have been very good to Barack Obama so far this cycle. Big Obama victories next week can flip today's prevailing order on its head once again, which could then extend the Democratic race out to the March 4 contests and beyond.

For Republicans, McCain is now the Man to Beat, but that doesn't mean he can't be beaten. See item 2 below.

2. Conservative Voters Have Made Their Peace With McCain: Five states in the conservative homeland of the Deep South were up for grabs last night, and John McCain didn't win one of them. Given his delegate totals at this point, and the lack of a clear path to the nomination for either Romney or Huckabee, McCain could conceivably go on to win the Republican nomination without wrangling conservatives into his corner. Should that happen, and should McCain remain unable to remedy his weakness with the GOP base, his only hope would be that the Democrats do his conservative mobilization for him by nominating Hillary Clinton. Otherwise, he could find himself confronting the GOP nightmare scenario of a general election where Deep South Republicans stay home.

3. Victory in (whatever state) proves (whatever candidate) is more electable: Anyone making this claim on behalf of their chosen candidate, please take a deep breath and remember that these are party nomination contests. As such, the respective outcomes are either all red or all blue. A Democratic candidate will always win a Democratic primary, even in a state that hasn't gone blue in the last 15 elections, and a Republican candidate will likewise always win a Republican primary, even in a state that is so solidly Democratic that red crayons are no longer to be found in shops due to lack of demand.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Super Tuesday Preview: By The Numbers

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 350

The mainstream print and electronic outlets have been running statements for the last 10 days or so to the effect of "Super Tuesday! 24 states hold Democratic and Republican primaries!" The state-by-state picture for tomorrow's voting is a bit more complex than that, so here are some handy facts to help clarify things.

Tomorrow, Democrats hold nominating contests (either primaries or caucuses) in 23 states; there's also one U.S. Territory (American Samoa) which will hold a Democratic caucus. On the GOP side, 21 states are holding nominating contests (either primaries or caucuses), and one other (West Virginia) will hold a state nominating convention.

For Democrats, 1,681 pledged delegates are at stake, roughly 83% of the total 2,025 needed to secure the nomination. For Republicans, there are 1,023 pledged delegates up for grabs out of a total of 1,191, or nearly 86% of the total needed for the GOP nomination. It isn't being called Super Tuesday for nothing.

(Note: total available delegates are 3,618 for Democrats and 2,159 for Republicans. Sanctioned delegates from Florida and Michigan not included.)

As of this writing, delegate totals for the remaining active candidates stand as follows:

Hillary Clinton: 261
Barack Obama: 190

Mike Huckabee: 40
John McCain: 93
Mitt Romney: 77

Details of state nominating contests are as follows. And as tempting as I admit it is, no, there will not be a quiz at the end of this post.

Democrats: Primary, 52 delegates (proportionally allocated)
Republicans: Primary, 45 delegates (winner takes all)

Democrats: Caucus, 13 delegates (proportionally allocated)
Republicans: Caucus, 26 delegates (proportionally allocated)

American Samoa
Democrats: Caucus, 3 delegates (proportionally allocated)

Democrats: Primary, 35 delegates (proportionally allocated)
Republicans: Primary, 31 delegates (proportionally allocated)

Democrats: Primary, 56 delegates (proportionally allocated)
Republicans: Primary, 53 delegates (winner takes all)

Democrats: Primary, 370 delegates (proportionally allocated)
Republicans: Primary, 170 delegates (winner takes all)

Democrats: Caucus, 55 delegates (proportionally allocated)
Republicans: Caucus, 43 delegates (presidential preference non-binding; delegate allocations will be made at county assemblies and district conventions)

Democrats: Primary, 48 delegates (proportionally allocated)
Republicans: Primary, 27 delegates (winner takes all)

Democrats: Primary, 15 delegates (proportionally allocated)
Republicans: Primary, 18 delegates (winner takes all)

Democrats: Primary, 87 delegates (proportionally allocated)
Republicans: Primary, 72 delegates (winner takes all)

Democrats: Caucus, 18 delegates (proportionally allocated)
(GOP holds its primary on May 27, 32 delegates. 26 delegates are proportionally allocated based on primary returns; the remaining 6 delegates are chosen at the state convention June 12-14)

Democrats: Primary, 153 delegates (proportionally allocated)
Republicans: Primary, 57 delegates (proportionally allocated)

Kansas Democratic caucus
Democrats: Caucus, 32 delegates (proportionally allocated)
(GOP holds its caucus on February 9, 36 delegates. Winner takes all.)

Democrats: Primary, 93 delegates (proportionally allocated)
Republicans: Primary, 40 delegates (proportionally allocated)

Democrats: Caucus, 72 delegates (47 awarded proportionally, 23 awarded based on winner of state wide returns)
Republicans: Caucus, 38 delegates (presidential preference non-binding; delegate allocations will be made at county assemblies and district conventions)

Democrats: Primary, 72 delegates (proportionally allocated)
Republicans: Primary, 58 delegates (winner takes all)

Republicans: Caucus, 25 delegates (winner takes all)
(Democratic primary will be on June 3, 16 delegates. 10 delegates awarded proportionally, 6 awarded based on winner of state wide returns)

New Jersey
Democrats: Primary, 107 delegates (proportionally allocated)
Republicans: Primary, 52 delegates (winner takes all)

New Mexico
Democrats: Caucus, 26 delegates (proportionally allocated)
(GOP primary will be June 3, 29 delegates proportionally allocated)

New York
Democrats: Primary, 232 delegates (proportionally allocated)
Republicans: Primary, 101 delegates (winner takes all)

North Dakota
Democrats: Caucus, 13 delegates (proportionally allocated)
Republicans: Caucus, 23 delegates (proportionally allocated)

Democrats: Primary, 38 delegates (proportionally allocated)
Republicans: Primary, 38 delegates (winner takes all)

Democrats: Primary, 68 delegates (proportionally allocated)
Republicans: Primary, 52 delegates (proportionally allocated)

Democrats: Primary, 23 delegates (proportionally allocated)
Republicans: Primary, 36 delegates (winner takes all)

West Virginia
Republicans: Nominating Convention, 18 delegates
(Democrats hold their primary May 13, 28 delegates. 18 delegates awarded proportionally, 10 awarded based on winner of state wide returns)

(sources: National Association of Secretaries of State and Delegate totals from the Washington Post.)

Friday, February 1, 2008

MoveOn Endorses Obama

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 353

What it means in practical terms is anybody's guess. Here's the press release:

For Immediate Release:
Friday, February 1, 2008

MoveOn Endorsement Throws Progressive Weight
Behind Barack Obama

3.2 Million Members Nationwide Mobilize to Get Out the Progressive Vote for Senator Obama

Group Has Over 1.7 Million Members In Super Tuesday States

In a resounding vote today, Political Action's members nationwide voted to endorse Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination for President. The group, with 3.2 million members nationwide and over 1.7 million members in Super Tuesday states, will immediately begin to mobilize on behalf of Senator Obama. The vote favored Senator Obama to Senator Clinton by 70.4% to 29.6%.

Senator Obama accepted the endorsement stating:

"In just a few years, the members of MoveOn have once again demonstrated that real change comes not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up. From their principled opposition to the Iraq war - a war I also opposed from the start - to their strong support for a number of progressive causes, MoveOn shows what Americans can achieve when we come together in a grassroots movement for change. I thank them for their support and look forward to working with their members in the weeks and months ahead."

Eli Pariser,'s Executive Director, issued the following statement on the group's endorsement:

"Our members' endorsement of Senator Obama is a clear call for a new America at this critical moment in history. Seven years of the disastrous policies of the Bush Administration have left the country desperate for change. We need a President who will bring to bear the strong leadership and vision required to end the war in Iraq, provide health care to every American, deal with our climate crisis, and restore America's standing in the world. The enormity of the challenges require someone who knows how to inspire millions to get involved to change the direction of our country, and someone who will be willing to change business as usual in Washington. Senator Barack Obama has proved he can and will be that President.

"With 3.2 million members nationwide and over 1.7 million members in states that vote next Tuesday, we'll be able to immediately jump into action in support of Senator Obama's candidacy. We've learned that the key to achieving change in Washington without compromising core values is having a galvanized electorate to back you up. And Barack Obama has our members 'fired up and ready to go' on that front.

"We congratulate Sens. Clinton, Dodd and Biden, former Senator Edwards, Governor Richardson, Congressman Kucinich and former Senator Gravel on running tremendous campaigns. We thank them for their contributions to the important debate that has gripped our nation and for their ongoing engagement with our members. We're looking forward to working together to bring progressive values to the nation's capitol and to end this disastrous war in Iraq. MoveOn members are committed to putting a Democrat in the White House in 2008 and ushering in a new era of progressive values no matter who wins the nomination."

MoveOn members' comments in the vote reflect the reasons they support Senator Obama:

"Obama's grassroots organizing experience and unifying message combine to show he will work for working people and speak to a broad cross section of the American public. We need this," said Linda Blong of Penngrove, CA.

"There are defining moments in our nation's political history and this is one of them. Barack Obama appeals to the very BEST of the American Spirit," said Estina Baker, Hackensack, NJ

"Barack Obama represents CHANGE in so many levels. He brings HOPE that America can, again, be respected by the rest of the world and that Americans can be proud, again, of our leaders!" Isabelle Mollien, Denver, CO

"Obama has the ability to draw people to him, to energize people who generally don't vote, to create an atmosphere of long-overdue possibility around himself and what he could bring to the office. It is my belief that he can re-establish the lost connection between the American people and their leader, and put our country back on course to be a positive force in the world." Matthew Smith in Columbus, OH

MoveOn's endorsement means a fresh infusion of people-power for Obama in the critical days before Super Tuesday. MoveOn will immediately connect thousands of progressive activists into the Obama GOTV volunteer operation. It will also use the same cutting-edge computer-based phone program that made 7 million GOTV calls for Democrats in 2006 to allow MoveOn members to call other MoveOn members in Feb. 5 states and encourage them to vote for Obama.

Today's endorsement is the first time has endorsed a candidate for President in the Democratic primary. Over the past year, MoveOn surveyed a rotating sample of 30,000 members each week to determine their membership's preference in the Democratic presidential primary. For months, MoveOn members were divided among many candidates -- as many waited to see who would take bold progressive positions on the issues. As the primary race has gained momentum, the polling showed a consensus forming and, with Senator John Edward's withdrawal from the race, members made their decision in favor of Senator Obama. The vote took place from Thursday, January 31st to Friday, February 1st.


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