Saturday, February 02, 2008

 

The Lady Moves Up

Andrew Sullivan observes that that Hillary gains in Gallup's daily national tracking poll. That confirms my belief that she "won" the Thursday debate by outdueling Obama on substance -- while also appearing, ahem, "likeable -- enough."

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Open Thread

Nice set of threads you're sharing.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

 

Super Tuesday Cheat Sheets

Josh Marshall's TPM Election Central folks have put together a good overview of the of the primary and caucus contest for each state participating in Super Tuesday.

Here are the Democrats (22 states -- American Samoa and Democrats Abroads also select delegates, but they aren't included).

And here are the Republicans (21 states).

The polls are relatively up-to-date -- within a week, except for Utah (Jan. 10), but that one is kinda in the bag for Romney.

The Real Clear Politcs list of latest polls is also helpful.

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Rudy's Achievement

One for the record books:

The failed campaign of Rudolph W. Giuliani can claim one distinction: the worst bang for the buck of any delegate winner in presidential politics history.

The former New York mayor, who dropped his Republican bid for the presidency this week, disclosed Thursday in a filing with the Federal Election Commission that he raised $58.5 million and spent $48.8 million in 2007.

With his donors' money, Giuliani captured a single national delegate, in Nevada. At that rate, it would have taken close to $60 billion in spending to capture the 1,191 delegates needed to win the nomination.
Or, as the Comic Book Guy might put it, worst...campaign...EVER. (Far worse than, as Josh Marshall helpfully points out, long-time record holder John Connally.)

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Ann Meets Shark, Jumps...

The most shocking endorsement yet.

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On the GOP Side...

...the New York Post endorses. This one's slightly less of a surprise (hint: The paper endorsed him once before.)

UPDATE: Link fixed (thanks Karol and Bill).

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Barack & Hill Go Hollywood

There may not be an Academy Awards this year (because of the writers strike), but at least the Kodak Center in L.A. was put to good use: With the requisite Hollywood royalty in the audience (hardly the type of spectacle that identifies Democrats as the Party of the People), the last two remaining Democratic presidential contenders squared off.

In a quick overview, it is quite obvious that Barack Obama is a better speaker, while Hillary Clinton is a better debater. He had an outstanding opening statement -- generous to both the departed Edwards and to his once-and-future friendship with Hillary -- and reflective of the historic nature of his and Hillary's candidacies. Hillary's own opening statement was fine -- she mentioned Edwards as well -- but it was far more prosaic.

However, as the debate continued, it is very clear that Clinton is the master of policy minutiae. That likely turns some people off. Indeed, one could say that it might even be a bad idea to have a president that well versed in all the intricate details of policy. As a couple of people (including Carl Bernstein after the debate) noted, Hillary sounded more like the Secretary of HHS than a president when she was describing the differences between hers and Obama's health plans.

Still, this is her strongest asset. The best way to demonstrate that she is more than just Bill Clinton's wife -- and trading on his name (a point alluded to near the end of the debate) -- is to show that she has a genuine mastery of the details. Given the near-universal criticism of the Bush administration from a competence standpoint, having a presidential candidate demonstrate that they are well-versed in policy isn't necessarily a bad thing. Furthermore, using her '94 health-care debacle as a "lesson learned" trope gives Hillary Clinton the opportunity to show a humility that is clearly absent in her abject refusal to call her Iraq war vote a "mistake."

Of course, that is her vulnerability and Obama's strength. He turned her clear skill on policy detail -- and the "experience" that suggested -- right back on her when it came to the Iraq vote. He contrasted her "experience" with his "judgment" that he was able to figure out that the Iraq war authorization was a bad idea even when he was still a state senator. Obama rightly knows that he is clearly on the right side of this issue as far as it goes for nearly all Democrats, many independents and a healthy minority of Republicans.

This issue is further a weakness for Hillary Clinton because just as she is a commanding figure on the stage, looking strong and confident, while talking health-care, her body language betrays her -- she looks defensive when trying to explain her war vote.

However, she still stuck to her guns -- so to speak -- and continued to refuse to call her vote a "mistake." This has to be more than just simple "stubbornness" on Clinton's part. I believe that she believes the political fallout is far greater for a woman admitting to a mistake on an issue of war and national security than it is for a man. John Edwards could admit that the Iraq War vote was a "mistake," and it could be accepted (for all the good it did him in the primaries). But, Clinton can't. It's not just the simple act of "admitting a mistake." It touches upon definite negative stereotypes of women, that Hillary is trying to navigate around. The "emotional moment" she pulled in New Hampshire took her right up to the line -- she notably did NOT actually cry. She moistened up, but no actual tear came down her face. If it had, she would have been toast.

Similarly, an admission of mistake opens the door to snide comments such as "women are indecisive" or "it's a woman's prerogative to change her mind." A president can, conceptually, admit a mistake -- but a commander-in-chief (as Hillary referred to herself) has to be self-assured. For Hillary, letting the "m"-word escape -- in this particular area national security and war -- would be the true mistake.

That said, both did wiell throughout the debate. In contrast to the South Carolina event, civility and politeness were the order of the day. That helped both candidates: Obama didn't fall into the "Rick Lazio" trap and look like he was bullying the woman on the stage. At the same time, she didn't appear harsh or too histrionic (i.e. bitchy).

In response to a viewer-generated question on why it wouldn't be better to elect a president who could run the country like a business, both got off a couple of good lines at Romney's (and Bush's expense): "We've had someone who ran as a CEO/MBA president -- and look what we got," said Hillary. (She also threw in a broader, philosophical response on why the country wasn't a "business" that sounded about right).

Obama's line though was more pointed and witty. Noting how much the former Massachusetts governor has personally spent on his own campaign, Obama said, "Gov. Romney hasn't gotten much return on his investtment, so I would happily match my management style over the last year with his." Good thinking on his feet. Obama was also the first person to start throwing zingers at John McCain -- inverting the attack-Hillary-because-she's-going-to-be-the-Democratic-nominee style from previous GOP debates.

Some might not like Hillary's response to the "dynasty" question ("It took a Clinton to clean up after a Bush before and it might take another Clinton to clean up after this Bush." However, what else can she say? It might be risky, but she could use a variation of what she said when running for her Senate re-election in 2006: Refusing to say that she would serve out her term (i.e., not run for president), Clinton would say, "Voters can take that fact into account when they get into the voting booth." It carries a bit more risk this time, but Hillary can say, "I'm running for president. I have my own skills. If you are uncomfortable with who I am because my husband was president -- and two Bushes preceeded us -- well that is one more factor as you make your choice. I can't change who I am."

But would Hillary ever have the guts to say that?

Hillary, in my view, won New Hampshire
with her performance (and Obama's rare slip in decorum) in the ABC debate the weekend before. If she stems the apparent Obama wave that has been building since South Carolina -- and wins the lion's share of the delegates on Super Tuesday -- it will be because of this Hollywood debate. I think both candidates did well, but there was more pressure on Clinton to balance the likeability and knowledgability quotient.

I think she pulled it off.

UPDATE: Debate transcript here.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

 

The Post...

...endorses for the New York presidential primary.

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Be careful how you vote!

My dad emailed me this joke:
While walking down the street one day a US Senator is tragically hit by a truck and dies.

His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

"Welcome to heaven," says St. Peter. "Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you."

"No problem, just let me in," says the man.

"Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity."

"Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven," says the Senator.

"I'm sorry, but we have our rules."

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him.

Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people.

They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne.

Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go.

Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises...

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens in heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him.

"Now it's time to visit heaven."

So, 24 hours pass with the senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

"Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity."

The senator reflects for a minute, then he answers: "Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell."

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.

Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage.

He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.

The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder. "I don't understand," stammers the senator. "Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?"

The devil looks at him, smiles and says, "Yesterday we were campaigning. Today you voted."

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Bye, Bye, John

MSNBC reports John Edwards will drop out today. So, this sets up Super Tuesday as a two-person race on the Democratic side and a 2.5-person race on the GOP side (McCain/Romney plus Huckabee having a regional impact).

The question now comes whether Obama gets Edwards' "change" vote or, frankly, whether Hillary Clinton benefits (especially in Southern contests) from Edwards' white (especially white male) vote.

Finally, the Big Four left are all "first" candidates of some sort or another: Hillary Clinton would be the first woman president; Obama would be the first African-American; Romney the first Mormon -- and McCain would be the oldest person elected to his first term.

Some ceiling is going to be broken this year.

UPDATE: Giuliani and Edwards both gone within 12 hours? Geez, talk about a late Christmas present for RAGGED THOTS!

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

 

Bye, Bye, Rudy

CNN, Fox and AP call Florida for John McCain.

With his third-place showing in Florida this evening, Rudy Giuliani's campaign is officially toast.

Time's Mark Halperin reports Giuliani will endorse McCain as early as Wednesday -- if true, a huge boost for McCain going into Super Tuesday.

UPDATE: Further confirmation on Rudy's plans here and here. The post-mortems begin.

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Pigskin Pick'em Playoffs - The Super Bowl

I was going to do a long post, completely overanalyzing the Super Bowl. Fortunately, the New York Giants have saved me the trouble by shooting off their mouths. For example (the following quotes are from the New York Post's website):

As he pulled his car up to the Giants Stadium tunnel to unload his bags, [Plaxico] Burress was asked...a direct question: Are you ready to make history? "You better believe it," the towering Giants receiver said.

And then, as he entered the stadium and turned left toward the Giants locker room, Burress was asked for his prediction. Burress never hesitated, flatly stating "23-17."

He didn't identify the winning team. He didn't have to.


Or even better:
Next came Michael Strahan...The same question: Are you ready to make history? "Yes sir," said Strahan, who for 15 years has chased the dream of winning the Super Bowl.

"History will be ours."

How about a quote from Giants chairman Steve Tisch, when asked to predict a winner? (quote from Northjersey.com)
"I'm not going to give you the score...We'll have more points than they do. That's my score."

All analysis of this game is moot. The Patriots will win, and it might even get ugly.

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Obama's Big Mistake

OK, here's an anecdote that underscores the "lack of love" Hillary Rodham Clinton faces within her own party: Two weeks ago while performing stand-up, I casually asked the comedy club's heavily Democratic audience how many there were for Hillary. Only one hand went up. I then asked for Obama supporters -- about nine or ten hands went up. This in a New York venue. The response was such a surprise that it briefly threw off my timing.
That moment came to mind as I watched the big 'Camelot' endorsement yesterday.
The stagecraft certainly looked nice: At some point, CNN, Fox and MSNBC all went live with the Kennedy clan -- or at least three significant members of them -- endorsing Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

Ted Kennedy gave one of his better speeches -- not up there with his 1980 tour de force ("the cause goes on, the hope endures and the dream will never die"), but Obama gave homage to that when he accepted the symbolic passing of the Kennedy torch. Kennedy looked better than he has in some time -- his face wasn't as bloated

After first being taken in by the theatrics of the moment, it suddenly hit me: Hillary Rodham Clinton must be loving this.

Consider: What was the big mistake the media jumped on Hillary for during her post-Iowa speech? The appearance of all of those Clinton administration officials and hangers-on, right? It made Hillary look like the candidate of the past -- not of the future.

So, didn't anyone in the Obama camp ponder the logical incongruity of their candidate saying, "[This race] is about the past and the future." as he's blessed by THE dynastic family of the Democratic Party of the last 50 years? Suddenly, the claim that Bill and Hillary are using the power of their former White House connections to beat up on this newbie doesn't ring so true when King Kennedy and several of the royal children are lining up with the insurgent. Consider these headlines as listed on DRUDGE earlier today:


Sharpton to Bill Clinton: 'Shut Up'...

Nader rails on Clinton family...

KENNEDYS: FIRED UP...

SPEECH: Backing Obama for President...'Through Barack, I believe we will move beyond
the politics of fear and personal destruction and unite our country with the politics ofcommon purpose'

Earlier there was John Kerry complaining about Bill Clinton and Tom Daschle complaining about Bill Clinton...yada yada yada.

So the insurgent is also endorsed by the most recent Democratic presidential nominee (Kerry) AND the former Senate Democratic Majority Leader (Daschle)?.

Now that might sounds like an "establishment pile-on" to the average person. But, it's actually even worse: These endorsements crowd out the less, known, but arguably politically more helpful-in-the-long run endorsements by such red-state politicians like Kathleen Sibelius of Kansas. Instead, the message getting out is that the Northern liberal establishment is coming out strong for Barack Obama -- the guy who calls himself the "change" candidate. Heck, Teddy Kennedy fought tooth and nail against Bill Clinton's welfare reform -- calling it "legislative child abuse."

What does the "change candidate" think about that?

Kennedy, Kerry and Daschle also carry another "L"-word -- Loser. Kennedy lost what was arguably the most bitter Democratic presidential primary until the current one -- his 1980 challenge of incumbent President Jimmy Carter. Kerry lost to Bush in 2004 and Daschle, the Democratic minority leader lost his seat to John Thune, also in 2004. Say what you will about Bill Clinton, but there's one "experience" he brings to the Democratic Party that is grudgingly respected -- he will do what he has to win, without apologizing. Whining over unfair tactics is only another tactic in itself for the Clintons.

So, two days after Obama became the "black candidate" by winning South Carolina with an overwhelming proportion of the black vote (and Bill Clinton belittles the impact of the win by comparing it with Jesse Jackson's '80s victories), Obama allows himself to become the "liberal candidate" by getting the blessing of the quintessential Senate liberal.
And being on the wrong side of Al Sharpton? Oh, bring it on, please!

Worse, just when Obama is forcing the media to consider the freak show that the Clintons can sometimes unleash on the body politic, out come the Kennedys. Caroline has managed to carry the Kennedy legacy with dignity and grace, but Teddy and Patrick are walking (driving?) symbols of a freak show of a different brand. They are quite literally punchlines to late-night talk shows (which are, conveniently, now returned from their strike-impacted absences). Who will be the first to come up with the Kennedy-DUI/Obama-Driving-While-Black joke?

In short, if I'm the Clinton camp, I've gotta be quite happy with these developments. There's lots of real "love" for Barack Obama in the Democratic Party. For, Hillary, not so much. However, she's playing long-term strategy, not short-term tactics.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

 

Open Thread

Busy weekend, busy days, so please feel free to have your says!

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