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.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Quote of the Day

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 279

From Arianna Huffington:

By cynically twisting Obama's comments about small town voters in a way that confirms every right-wing demagogic caricature of her own Party, Hillary Clinton has adopted the frames, lies, stereotypes and destructive clich├ęs long embraced by the likes of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. She has clearly decided that the road to victory runs through scorched earth. The question is, if she succeeds, what kind of Party will she be left to lead? She's burning down the village to save it -- or to prove that she would make the best fire chief. But the village won't be saved; only one house will be left standing. A house with room for just two occupants: Hill and Bill.


I am not, and never have been, 100% sold on Barack Obama. There are things I like about the junior senator from Illinois, and some things that make me scratch my head. And up until the past few weeks, I had felt pretty much the same way about Hillary Clinton. Publishers have sent me Hillary-bashing books in hopes I would write a laudatory review, and I've passed, for the simple reason that I refuse to be party to the ongoing poisoning of what now passes for political discourse in the United States. I felt assurance that whichever candidate, Clinton or Obama, emerged as the Democratic nominee in Denver, they would be obvious improvements over President Bush. They would make things better. Things would be different.

Which makes this latest twist from Senator Clinton all the more infuriating. If anyone had told me a year ago that Hillary Clinton would provide the basis for a headline like today's "McCain Echoes Clinton's Attacks" in the Washington Post, I wouldn't have believed it. I'm having a hard time believing it even as I type this. I realize Clinton is perhaps insurmountably behind Obama in both pledged delegates and popular votes won this year, but these latest attacks go beyond desperate, sending her deep into blind flailing. The fact that Senator Clinton has herself so often been the object of similar attacks from Republicans makes it all the more incomprehensible, to me, at least, that she should now not only employ those same tactics against a fellow Democrat, but make common cause with the Republican she hopes to face in the general election in November.

There is not, and never has been, any doubt about Hillary Clinton's instinct for the jugular. Her toughness as a candidate is widely recognized, a source of admiration for her supporters and opponents alike, and indispensable for a woman making a serious run for the White House. But if Hillary Clinton truly aspires to lead America, as opposed to merely being elected president, she must, if she still can, show herself to be more than a skilled player of political bloodsport. And she must do so now, or risk ceding all political ground save the gutter to clearer heads and other voices.

Friday, April 11, 2008

DFA Nightschool Returns April 23

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 283

Campaign junkies, rejoice! This note from Democracy for America hit my inbox today:

Night School returns!

DFA Night School is an on-line training and live conference call that you can do from your own home. You'll get trained by the best in the field on the topic of the night. And best of all, it's free.

Join us as we kick off the 2008 semester with Writing a Field Plan on Wednesday April 23 starting at 8:30pm Eastern.

Our special guest trainer will be Helen Strain, from the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood. Helen will provide expert advice and answer your questions as we outline how to write a campaign blueprint for victory: The Field Plan.

RSVP now: www.dfalink.com/fieldplan

Would you like to know exactly how many votes it's going to take to win in November? Where and when to deploy your limited volunteer and financial resources so that they have the greatest impact? Night School gets you ready to run winning grassroots campaigns.

This year we're adding some new features while keeping the simplicity that makes Night School accessible to everyone. Now you will be able to choose if you want to call into a free conference call or listen to Night School streaming live from your computer through Blog Talk Radio.

Simply RSVP and you'll be sent the website and phone number to listen to the show. But more importantly, you'll be ready to join DFA members nationwide as Night School returns on April 23.

Get the skills to win.

RSVP now: www.dfalink.com/fieldplan

Thank you for everything you do,

-Matt

Matt Blizek
Training Director

P.S. Want to catch up on previous Night School topics? Check out one of our earlier semesters on DVD:

https://contribute.democracyforamerica.com/nightschool

Every DVD you purchase helps keep Night School free for everyone!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Six Months at a Time

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 285

Courtesy of MoveOn:



'Nuff said.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Clinton Taps Evan Bayh for First Indiana Ad

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 286

Hillary Clinton has launched her first TV ad in Indiana. Titled "Steel," the 30-second spot features Hoosier favorite son and U.S. Senator Evan Bayh speaking directly to the camera about Clinton's leadership qualities.

Indiana, which holds its primary on May 6, has been seeing Obama on the airwaves since the debut of the Illinois senator's "For Decades" ad on March 28. Both ads stress economic and trade fairness themes, with Obama's ad carrying the extra message urging Indiana voters to register before the state's April 7 deadline.

Here's the script for Clinton's new ad:

BAYH: "America faces challenging times. We need a leader who'll fight for good jobs, change trade deals like NAFTA, cut taxes for middle-class families. Someone who's ready to be commander in chief from day one. That leader? Hillary Clinton.

"I've known Hillary for twenty years. She's got a spine of steel. She'll fight for our jobs, our troops, and the America we love. Strong. Seasoned. She'll always stand up for us."

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


And here's the video:



Anyone looking for a quick shift in message following Mark Penn's departure as Clinton's chief campaign strategist won't see it in this ad. The spot continues the "strength and experience" theme, long a favorite of Penn's, even as other senior campaign officials have urged greater emphasis on Hillary Clinton's human side.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Gallup: Obama Leads Clinton by 9% Nationally

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 287

According to the Gallup organization, Barack Obama has opened a "statistically significant" lead of nine percentage points over Hillary Clinton in the latest nation-wide survey of voter preference in the Democratic presidential race.

Obama drew support from 52% of respondents, compared to 43% for Clinton. Obama's 52% ties his high-water mark for the year against Clinton.

Also of interest, the poll indicated that both Clinton and Obama poll at 45% against presumptive Republican nominee John McCain; McCain polls at 45% against Obama, putting the two in a dead tie, while the Arizona Senator leads Clinton by a slight 47% - 45% margin.

The poll of 1,240 voters was taken April 4-6, and has a margin of error of ±3 percentage points. Full results from Gallup can be found here.

After Mark Penn

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 287

Mark Penn, the pollster who has directed strategy for Hillary Clinton since she entered the presidential race last year, has left his post at the top of Clinton's campaign.

Penn "stepped down" - and seldom has a euphemism been more apropos - under pressure yesterday after work he had been doing in support of a trade agreement between the U.S. and Columbia became the object of media attention. It is worth noting that the Columbia deal is not the first time Penn has attracted attention for playing perhaps too many angles at once: the PR and lobbying firm of which Penn is chief executive, even while he has directed strategy for the Clinton campaign, has also represented Countrywide Financial, of sub-prime mortgage fame, as well as Blackwater Worldwide, the security contractor whose actions in Iraq have sparked considerable controversy. Hillary Clinton, of course, has spoken repeatedly on the campaign trail of her opposition to further trade deals and has been vocal in her criticism of financial firms like Countrywide. Taken together, it's been a whole lot of chainsaws for Mark Penn to juggle at the same time.

Penn is said to be widely disliked throughout the Clinton campaign, but had remained afloat heretofore due to his close relationship with both Hillary and Bill Clinton. But Penn's run as chief strategist finally ended when both Clintons reportedly reacted with fury to the news that, in addition to his firm representing Columbia on the trade deal, Penn personally met with Columbian officials about the pact March 31.

I can't help that recall that Austan Goolsbee, Barack Obama's senior economic policy adviser, was excoriated by the Clinton campaign last month - with Mark Penn leading the charge - for supposedly double-talking the Obama campaign's position on trade deals vis-a-vis Canada. The controversy generated over that incident was seen by many as tripping up Barack Obama in Ohio, and, to a lesser extent, Texas.

With just two weeks to go before a must-win primary in Pennsylvania, news that Hillary Clinton's top campaign official was working to secure a trade deal when all such pacts are viewed with suspicion, if not outright hostility, by the white working class voters Clinton has been frantically courting for the past six weeks, the timing of this development could hardly have been worse for the Clinton campaign. Added to last week's news that Barack Obama had out-fundraised Hillary Clinton by two-to-one in March, the Penn story further undermines the "we've got momentum!" story line the Clinton campaign has been working hard to sell since March 4th's primaries in Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont.

But for all that, there's a silver lining in for the Clinton campaign in the Mark Penn story. Whatever his flaws of temperament and judgment, Mark Penn is a world-class pollster and political mind, and he will remain with the Clinton campaign as a pollster and adviser. Don't forget that Mark Penn authored the "Children" ad, famous for the 3:00 A.M. phone call gimmick, that many credit with greatly helping Clinton in Texas. The Clinton campaign retains access to Penn's skills, but, with Penn no longer calling the shots, may find itself freed from the considerable baggage Penn carried with him both inside the campaign and with the media. And that may be not only the the best of both worlds, but, in hindsight, the role that Penn may have been best suited for from the beginning.

It is a bitter pill for Mark Penn to swallow at the moment, but in the long run it may be just what the doctor ordered for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Friday, April 4, 2008

No Pizza for Old Men

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 290

Someone recently brought to my attention the story of James Spiers III. Spiers is a pizza delivery man here in Des Moines who, while making a delivery run last week, fought off a would-be robber by pulling his own handgun, only to lose his job for violating the pizza company's policy against drivers carrying firearms.

I've scribbled some thoughts on this over at Pajamas Media. Did the pizza company go too far? Head over to PJM and add your flame to the fire. The comment section is open!

[Update: 12:30 PM April 4]

95 comments so far over at PJM. Here is what I have learned so far:
guns = safety
killing = courage

More to come, no doubt!

[Update: 9:00 PM April 4]

131 comments on Pajamas Media now, far too many to even begin attempting to answer.

I am closing the comment section for this post, but I invite you to continue the discussion over at PJM.

My thanks to those who have read and commented on today's article. Whether you agree or disagree with what I have written, I commend to you these words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who died 40 years ago today, himself the victim of gun violence:

"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."

 
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