I don't post many photos here, but this one...it's the 3/4 mile line of people in Eau Claire, Wisc., today waiting to get in to hear Barack Obama. The temperature was 15F. There's more photos and an account of the event here. According to the local newspaper, 3500 got in, with an overflow crowd nearby that Obama, as usual, said hello to before the event. (You can click on the photo to see it bigger.)
C-SPAN cablecast the speeches at the Wisconsin Democratic dinner Saturday, both Hillary and Obama and everyone in between. Before I started watching I saw a thread at Kos about it (which is how I knew it was on.) Someone had heard the announcer say that Obama would be campaigning in Hawaii. That would be a big change in his schedule, but several others confirmed they heard it, too.
Of course, it's possible that the announcer got it wrong--Obama is apparently scheduled for a conference call with supporters in Hawaii, not a visit. But then someone mentioned that big snowstorms are due tomorrow in Wisconsin, so people may not be getting out to campaign events. So maybe Obama was taking that opportunity for a surprise visit to Hawaii.
If Obama's event is snowed out, so would Hillary's likely be--and she's already cancelled her Monday event(s) in Eau Claire, where thousands lined up in 15 degree weather to hear Obama today. So while Hillary freezes in her only full day of campaigning in Wisconsin, Obama basks in the sunshine of the state where he was raised. It's quite an image, even if it doesn't actually happen.
As for the speeches, I caught some of Hillary's. She was focused and energetic, though her voice was a bit raw. She also wore a shade of blue that nearly matched her backdrop, so from the back of the room she must have looked like a head floating above the lecturn. Obama gave his stump speech--I am amazed at how he continues to put feeling into it--with a couple of expanded sections, and a direct response to the latest Clintonian mantra--Hillary's in "the solution business." He referred to his 20 years in public life creating and advocating solutions, but emphasized that great solutions are useless unless they are enacted. (A variation on a now standard line: "Washington is where good ideas go to die.") Then he riffed on the idea that speeches and words aren't important. " I have a dream--just words? The only thing we have to fear is fear itself--just words?" He said the ability to inspire and explain is key to getting public support, which is the key to getting things done.
And as usual a dark suit, a white shirt--both of which stood out against the background-- and a good looking blue tie, which picked up the color behind him just enough. Among the many things about Obama I like in personal terms (he's left-handed and a night owl--two sure signs of superior intelligence), I like his taste in ties. I always hated Kerry's damn pink ties.
The only other news I picked up this evening is another big newspaper endorsement for Obama, from the Houston Chronicle. : Obama is both the epitome of the American Dream and well-positioned to reach out to an international community alienated by recent U.S. go-it-alone policies. The passion and excitement that Obama has brought to the race can only stimulate more citizens to participate in the electoral process. The Chronicle urges Texas Democrats to cast what could be decisive ballots for his presidential nomination. "
A San Antonio newspaper story confirmswhat I heard a Texas Latino pol say on TV last primary night--that the young Latino vote is going for Obama, the older to Clinton, but there are a lot of young Latino voters.
And while Clintonians jockeyed to keep their Florida and Michigan phony delegates in play, and their claim on super-delegates to settle things, the Gallup poll showed Obama with his first "statistically significant lead" in their daily tracking poll, 49% to 42%.
I'm feeling a little better about it, because I finally found two pertinent stories: one that says that although Hillaryites have 4 TV ads going in Wisconsin, the Obama campaign is outspending them 4-1 in the major media markets of Milwaukee and Madison to put their ads actually on the air.
The Obama ad campaign started earlier as well. Though the TMP reporter suggests that since Hillary's ads and Obama's come-backs are still hammering Hillary's hitting Obama for not debating her in Wisconsin may be getting some traction.
But the most telling news to me is that Hillary, who is in Wisconsin for the first time today (while Obama has been there since Tuesday), is leaving the state a day before she'd originally planned. So she'll have one event in the state on Monday. This suggests that she's given up already.
Also, Wisconsin's biggest newspaper has just endorsed Obama. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote:
Our recommendation in Wisconsin's primary on Tuesday for the Democratic nomination is Barack Obama. That's our recommendation because change and experience are crucial to moving this country forward after what will be eight years of an administration careening from mistake to catastrophe to disaster and back again. The Illinois senator is best-equipped to deliver that change, and his relatively shorter time in Washington is more asset than handicap.
In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial Board on Wednesday, the first-term senator proved himself adept at detail and vision.
But I'm still bothered by the dearth of information about Wisconsin. I don't like the idea that everyone is assuming an Obama victory, or that the media has bought into the Clinton script that the next meaningful contests are Ohio and Texas.
If Barack Obama wins Wisconsin by 10 or 15 points, and does so with support across demographics as he did in Virginia (older, white working class, women), then the race for the Democratic nomination is essentially over.
But it is by no means a sure thing. In fact, this coming Tuesday is making me really nervous. The CW supposes that Hillary coming into Wisconsin only this weekend is a sign she's written the state off, partly because she doesn't have the money to spare. But she's running ads in the state, including two negative ads--the first of this campaign. If you're running a negative campaign, showing up close to election day makes sense: you sow doubts and clinch the sale in person, before the person you're attacking can respond.
What little polling that's been announced agrees that the race is close, with Obama ahead by four or five points. His victories this past Tuesday were so huge that only a five point win in Wisconsin might be interpreted as a Hillary comeback.
On the other hand, a solid Obama win that looks a lot like Virginia and Maryland in terms of demographics will make those results all the more powerful, and will suggest that Clinton really is not going to do well enough in Ohio to change the dynamic of the Obama march to the nomination.
Yet there is the real possibility that Clinton could win Wisconsin, and embarass Obama in the place of his birth--Hawaii, which votes the same day, and where she has established party support that generally delivers the vote. The headlines alone would change the narrative.
Fortunately, the Obama campaign seems not to be buying into the media narrative of Clinton being finished. Obama has been in the state all week. Although he and Michelle have also gone to Ohio, he doesn't seem to be taking anything for granted. (Though he scheduled campaign stops on Sunday instead of taking the day off as planned, tells me that they're worried about a Hillary surprise, too.) His campaign answered Hillary's first negative ad within 24 hours. She came back with another, although I haven't seen any information on how big an ad buy her campaign made, or where the ads were showing.
The silver lining of her attack would be, should Obama win big, that it doesn't work, and in my view, it's given Obama the opportunity to parry her attacks--and he's doing so with more fluidity and calm sense than anyone I can think of. That has to bode well for the general election campaign--and super-delegates will notice that.
Hillary and Obama will both speak at a big Dem dinner in Wisconsin tomorrow evening. Now that they are both in the state, maybe we'll get some more reporting out of it. And some newer and hopefully better polls should come out over the weekend. Clearly Obama has all the momentum now--even in super-delegates, he's picked up 13 of those who've gone public since Super Tuesday, while Hillary has lost a net of 3. But all that momentum will slow or stop if he doesn't win Wisconsin convincingly. And if he does, it will continue and grow to unstoppable proportions.
So I'm nervous. But not so much that a little information coming out of Wisconsin wouldn't cure.
Another super-delegate, this time from New Jersey, has switched from Clinton to Obama: Christine "Roz" Samuels, former Secretary-Treasurer of the Newark Teachers' Union, Local 481, and former Commissioner of the Essex County Board of Elections. According to this report by Beverly Davis:
A turn-off for Samuels was the "stuff that the Clintons did down in South Carolina." It didn't make her feel good about handing Hillary Clinton another vote. "I didn't like what I saw down in South Carolina and how the Clintons were running their campaign."
"Obama is a good role model and he's turning out the votes, not only in Montclair but throughout Essex County. Most of my family and friends are voting for Obama. That's the biggest reason I've switched over to Obama is because of the kids. They're our future and Obama gets them excited and involved," she said.
Also dumping Hillary (but not yet embracing Barack) is Pittsburgh super-delegate Sophie Masloff. Man, I haven't heard that name in years--Sophie was the unlikely but beloved Mayor of Pittsburgh awhile back. She's 90 years old now, and probably still living in that senior apartment building in Squirrel Hill, which was my neighborhood when I lived in Pittsburgh in the late 80s and early to mid 90s. As much of a character and a grandmotherly figure as she was even then, she was also an astute politician. Apparently she still is.
And all this was happening while Barack Obama was at home spending Valentine's Day with his family. Michelle Obama has said that he hasn't missed a special day, even a parent-teacher conference, since the beginning of the campaign.
A couple of Valentines are in the works for Barack Obama, giving the love big time. From the NY Times: The Service Employees International Union, widely seen as the nation’s most politically potent union, is likely to endorse Senate Barack Obama on Thursday evening, a top union official said...Also today, the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents 1.1 million workers in the United States, announced this afternoon that its board had endorsed Mr. Obama."
The SEIU and UFCW will be of special help in Texas among Latino workers.
Obama also got the love from Lincoln Chafee, longtime Republican Senator from Rhode Island who lost his bid for reelection over his opposition to the Iraq war. He announced he's at least temporarily changing his registration to Democrat in order to vote for Barack Obama in the R.I. primary.
Speaking of defections, two of Hillary's principal black supporters and super-delegates have declared now for Obama. According to the NY Times: Representative John Lewis, an elder statesman from the civil rights era and one of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s most prominent black supporters, said Thursday night that he planned to cast his vote as a superdelegate for Senator Barack Obama in hopes of preventing a fight at the Democratic convention." An earlier AP report says Rep. David Scott, also of Georgia, said he was switching to Obama to better reflect the will of his constituents.
And word is that legendary Texas progressive populist Jim Hightower is getting set to campaign for Obama.
Any nervousness about Ohio has to be tempered by the news that Obama's best campaign team is already operating in the state, led by the guy who organized the Iowa caucus. The Clinton campaign also has a top operative there, and much of the political establishment as well as a lead in the polls--though that's been cut in half already. Obama's ground operation is getting in place, with 50 events scheduled across the state in the next week, while the Clintonians have two.
I've learned to pay attention to the accounts of local activists on Kos--they don't always indicate victory but they measure enthusiasm and effort. One account in Texas said that the number of people showing up for an organizing event got the response from the Obama field people that it was the biggest group anywhere for such an event. Similar accounts are coming in from Ohio--enthusiasm does translate into effort. So that even three weeks out, it now looks possible that Obama could actually win Texas and come close in Ohio.
Obama gets a Valentine from leftish feminist and excellent writer Barbara Ehrenreich in a column entitled Unstoppable Obama which begins:
When did you begin to think that Obama might be unstoppable? Was it when your grown feminist daughter started weeping inconsolably over his defeat in New Hampshire? Or was it when he triumphed in Virginia, a state still littered with Confederate monuments and memorabilia? For me, it was on Tuesday night when two Republican Virginians in a row called C-SPAN radio to report that they'd just voted for Ron Paul, but, in the general election, would vote for... Obama.
Ehrenreich, like Hightower, has to like the economic proposals Obama made yesterday, which are widely reviewed as populist and aimed at blue collar Americans, although there are proposals on credit card company transparency and bankruptcy that should appeal strongly to middle class professionals as well.
She's also the first I've seen to use the phrase I wrote for the Kerry campaign:
We, perhaps white people especially, look to him for atonement and redemption. All of us, of whatever race, want a fresh start. That's what "change" means right now: Get us out of here!
The media narrative today was that Obama's delegate lead cannot be overcome--and this was before an Obama campaign spokesperson said so. Can I believe this? I'm too math challenged to dispute the figurers, and they seem to agree: it will take huge wins in Texas, Ohio and PA for Hillary to come close to catching up in numbers.
Why isn't that comforting? Because of the thing I do feel a little more comfortable about commenting on, which is the mediageist, and every year it gets more and more like the hysteria of crowds. It's so loud that I can't hear if what they're saying makes sense. And so I know two things. First, the narrative can change on a dime, because that's how stories go. The rise has to be followed by the fall or people stop paying attention. (Sure enough, Huffington Post Wednesday night is headlining Hillary's cry of defiance in Texas, and the possibility that John Edwards may endorse her.) While three weeks seems like an eternity with all this gabble going on, the media needs drama to keep viewership/readership alive. So I suspect Texas and Ohio are going to count, and if Clinton pulls out wins of more than a few points in both, then the narrative becomes completely different. And that we're even talking about Texas and Ohio now, before Wisconsin and Hawaii next week, etc., is advantage Clinton. At least until next Tuesday night, if Obama wins Wisconsin in anything like the fashion he won Virginia and Maryland.
So is there much to worry about? In addition to the Texan politicians I referenced yesterday, other commentators/analysts have pointed out the same facts as Carolyn Lockhead does most concisely in the San Francisco Chronicle blog:
But Texas is a weird hybrid of primary and caucus; Obama has obliterated Clinton in caucuses, which rely on ground organization and voter enthusiasm. Clinton is also banking on Texas's large Latino population. But unlike California, which is only 6 percent black, Texas has a large African American population that votes in much larger numbers than Latinos. Because delegates are distributed based on past turnout, heavily African American districts have more delegates than Latino districts. That gives Obama a much stronger edge in Texas than has been widely believed.
However, an Obama supporter, Al G. at the Field warns that Clinton is hitting all the right cultural notes in her appeal to Latino voters, and that Obama needs to spend time in those communities. The opinion that Hillary made a perhaps fatal mistake by going to Texas last night instead of to Wisconsin--I think it was E.J. Dionne on Keith who said that--may turn out to be wrong if getting a head start on personal campaigning in Texas becomes key to Hillary's primary numbers there.
Still, it seems less likely that Clinton can win big in Texas, if at all. Nobody is talking very specifically about Ohio yet. And the Obama campaign is getting more praise for its strategy and operations, as from the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign manager who endorsed Obama today (you heard it here last night.) Another below the radar endorsement that could become important was by Anibal Acevedo, the Governor of Puerto Rico. Thought to be Hillary country, Puerto Rico has 63 delegates and a winner take all primary in June: the last contest before the Dem convention in August. If Hillary hits a few home runs in March and April, it could become important.
But as for the vaunted super-delegate problem, it seems to have receded in a tide of "they'll follow the pledged delegates" or at least hold off committing until the convention. A few have endorsed since Super Tuesday--I think someone said it was 9-2 in favor of Obama. And there's this observation that (at last!) has the ring of truth to me, from "unaligned" Democratic strategist Jim Duffy:
I would make the assumption that the ... superdelegates she has now are the Clintons' loyal base. A superdelegate who is uncommitted today is clearly going to wait and see how this plays out. She's at her zenith now," Duffy said. "Whatever political capital or IOUs that exist, she's already collected."
The story also says that her super-delegates aren't necessarily all that firm--the tenor of the story is that the Clintons are more feared than loved. Which also means however that if she ever again looks like she could pull this out, they'll go back to being sheep.
As for John Edwards, he'd be an idiot to endorse Hillary now. If he wasn't "torn," if he really believed strongly in her candidacy, then it might be worth the likelihood that he's coming out late backing a loser. He's a natural for a place in an Obama administration (his wife Elizabeth--everybody's favorite Edwards--is said to be for Obama), so he'd probably be deep sixing that option. Hillary has probably promised him something, though. (Al G. found this quote buried in an AP dispatch--that when Bill Richardson refused to endorse Hillary, Bill Clinton exclaimed, "What? Isn't two cabinet posts enough?", referring to his past appointments presumably.)
Well, back from the ozone layer, Obama gave a speech today going into detail about his economic program, but placing policy proposals within a sound context. It's responsive and creative in its mixture of big programs and fairly simple and cheap ones that can make a big differences. (He mentions John Edwards in the speech, by the way. If Edwards remains neutral or endorses Hillary, I'll bet he still will give Edwards credit. Do you really think Hillary would?)
And speaking of the world of today, that unspeakable FISA bill re-authorizing Bushites spying on anyone ,with immunity for the telecom companies that do it, passed the Senate with John McCain's aye. Barack Obama was there to vote no. Hillary Clinton, who was reputedly in the DC area (though I think her campaign is saying she was in or on her way to Texas), didn't vote at all. The appearance of being tough on terrorists as well as presumably the power of telecom lobbyists were, one might suspect, powerful influences. Because the chance of that not coming up at the next debate is quite slim, don't you think?
In his last campaign speeches before the Virginia vote, Bill Clinton made a veiled reference to the Obama campaign as smoke and mirrors. In fact the Potomac Primaries look like a forest fire. Virginia was supposed to be Hillary's best hope: Obama won it 64% to 35%. It looks like he'll win the closed Democratic primary in Maryland with over 60%, and he won DC by an astounding 75% to 24%.
Two media narratives emerged: that Obama had won key demographics that Clinton counts on in contests ahead: older, blue collar, Catholic, Latino. He again split the white vote (as in CA). He's piling up even greater majorities in his strength areas: African Americans, young voters, more affluent Democrats, plus Independents and Republicans. Although black voters constitute about 30% in Virginia, that was enough to win him the majority of women, although Hillary's last bastion remains white women. Perhaps most ominously for Texas, Ohio and PA, he won strongly among white men.
The second narrative, quantified by Chuck Todd at NBC, is that Obama's lead in delegates won in primaries and caucuses may be insurrmountable. Hillary must get 60% of the vote in Texas and Ohio and Pennsylvania. Howard Fineman of NBC reported that if Hillary is down by more than 100 delegates when the primaries are over, she's finished. Struggling for super-delegates at that point would make the nomination not worth having. Right now, most delegate counts (including or excluding estimates of super-delegates) have Obama ahead, and he's ahead in total popular votes. At this point, not even counting Florida and Michigan would be able to save Hillary.
Put them together you have: Obama the frontrunner. Obama is the buzz.
Meanwhile the Clinton campaign shakeup continued. Her deputy campaign manager, who was close to her fired campaign manager, has resigned. Later it became known that two key members of the Hillary internet effort have been "reassigned." And as a possible precursor already to the flight of Clinton super-delegates, Bill Clinton's campaign manager in 1992 is expected to endorse Obama, and help him out both in Ohio and among super-delegates.
Obama's victory speech was in Madison, Wisconsin, before 18,000 enthusiasts a week before that state's primary. It was his stump speech with significant additions. Some were stylistic: he was using his own life more as an example of points he made. Some were political: he began focusing on John McCain, and began referring to the "Bush-McCain" Republicans. He hit harder on the war in Iraq, and he emphasized economic issues.
Although Wisconsin seems hospitable to the Hillary appeal, it mirrors Virginia in so many ways--especially in being an open primary--that there's some but not a lot of prospects for her there, especially since she's already concentrating on Texas, two weeks later.
Speaking of Texas, a couple of Texan politicians were interviewed, and both seemed to feel that Obama's chances there are better than advertised. He's appealing to the younger Latinos, where there are a lot of them, and because of the intracacies of the Texas system, Obama's appeal to black voters is given greater weight. One guy also said that white Texas men disdain Hillary. She's campaigning this week along the border in heavily Latino areas. They thought concentrating her efforts there was a risky strategy.
Ohio may be a different landscape in three weeks, but right now Hillary is substantially ahead in the polls, and is reportedly about to be endorsed by space hero and former Senator from Ohio John Glenn. You have to figure that Ohio is where John Edwards can help, if he endorses Obama and campaigns for him there. But with a large black population and support by key mayors in big cities, plus a large student population, Obama is not going to get blown out in any event.
As for the impact of the day and the night, it's impossible to measure yet. I frankly feel a little stunned myself. Donna Brazile referred to the Obama campaign as a "metaphysical force" in this campaign. I don't really know what she meant exactly, but she's probably right.
I'm sitting here trying to figure out how the Virginia and DC results could be better for Obama. 100% of the vote? While the exact dimensions of his victories will await final vote counts, exit polls reflect those last SUSA surveys--he's winning across virtually every demographic--including women, older voters, working class voters and Latinos, all previous Hillary voters. Black voters make up about 30% of the voters in Virginia, so even his astounding 90% of that vote can't account for this. Obama won just under half of the white vote, according to exit polls. Obama is also getting substantial support from independents and Republicans.
The networks called the race for him instantly as they did in DC. The polls in Maryland are remaining open for another hour and a half, ostensibly because of ice storms, but probably because the Maryland political establishment, which is backing Hillary, hope that the voters they hope are coming back home from their federal jobs in Washington will get to the polls, so to at least increase her vote total and give her more delegates. Turnout everywhere is major, even with this bad weather.
Actually the networks are paying more attention to the Republican races, still too close to call in VA more than an hour after polls closed, because the dominant voters are conservative Evangelicals. Not only is this a dramatic repudiation of McCain (even if he pulls out a narrow victory) but it also indicates where Republicans might go in the general if Obama is the candidate. The turnout for the Dem primary is running 2 to 1 over the GOPers, which can indicate a lot of things, but it does suggest that non-ultra conservatives are either staying home or voting for Obama.
Although Hillary reputedly won much of her margin in CA with Latino votes and she generally has won that demographic in past contests, Obama has been making progress, as he did with other demographics. There may well be further evidence of that in the results tonight, because in SurveyUSA's polling, Obama was winning in the Latino category (although the sample was small) in Virginia and Maryland.
However, Latinos are a big segment in Texas, and a shoe may have just dropped that will affect that vote. Over the weekend, the Clinton campaign replaced Patti Solis Doyle, daughter of a Mexican immigrant, as campaign manager. At first it was officially positioned as an amiable transition, even a resignation because she is a mother with young children in a long campaign. But more recently, there have been stories--which have the look of being "leaks" from the campaign--that she was fired for screwing up, specifically for not telling Hillary how bad the campaign finances were.
Today El Diario in La Prensa, New York's leading Spanish language daily, referred to Patti Solis as a fall guy, and the "last hired, first fired" propensity familiar to blacks and Hispanics. It said: Clinton’s chances of winning the nomination may rise or fall on the Latino turn-out in the upcoming Texas primary. What effect Solis Doyle’s resignation will have on Hispanic voters remains to be seen. But it cannot help.
There is no specific charge made, but it can be read between the lines. Or at least some may read it that way. If there's another shoe to drop, or if this becomes a word of mouth charge, it could hurt.
And with a political mind like Bill Clinton around, you have to figure that the campaign considered this possible fallout. So taking the risk must have seen better than trying to ride it out. That's not a good sign for the Clinton campaign in general. (Hat Tip to the Field for both the El Diario story and the demographics from SurveyUSA.)
Momentum is a scary thing: it is powerful but it can turn. Still, the more it builds and the longer it goes on, the harder it is to stop.
Tuesday's USA TODAY will show results of the first national Gallup Poll to show Obama ahead of Hillary. It's 47% to 44%--just 3%, within the 5% margin of error. But the poll was conducted before Obama's weekend sweep of contests. And the poll is the third national poll this week to show Obama besting McCain (50%-46%), but it shows McCain over Clinton by one point.
One thing that momentum does is makes room for negative stories about the candidate who doesn't have it at the moment. It's not quite a week after Clinton got some significant states on Super Tuesday, but Obama's string of victories--and the margin of victory(including an error fixed Monday that now means Obama won every county in Washington state)--is having a major impact, after he came out of Super Tuesday with more delegates and states. So Clinton's problems are bigger news, and bad impressions are moving forward.
The New York Times story quoted in the post below is one example. Another is the slowly building questions about the Clintons' finances--a chilling flashback, at best. This piece reviews what's known and ends with this ominous suggestion concerning the mixing of Billary's money (after it was revealed that her $5 million loan to her campaign came not from her own account but their joint funds) : "In other words, money from Yucaipa and the interests it deals with - running the gamut from public employee pension funds to supermarket chains to the Dubai Investment Group - is directly benefiting Hillary Clinton, an incumbent politician charged with voting on issues crucially important to the profits of Yucaipa, its clients, partners and investors."
All this when Obama, who releases his tax returns as a matter of course, has gently asked Clinton to release hers, but she says she's not ready.
While the candidate without momentum becomes an easier target, what the critics say can also be instructive. On Sunday Frank Rich went after how the Clintons are conducting this campaign with charges of cynicism and racism (also quoted in a previous post.) This Paul Jenkins piece catalogues some of the more outrageous spin coming out of Hillary's mouth and the Clinton campaign. For example:
The spinning absurdity reached a paroxysm (at least so far) as Super Tuesday results started pouring in. Georgia, which Obama won by 36%, was irrelevant, the Clinton operation told us, because she hadn't campaigned there and Obama had a "consistently [...] wide poll lead" in the state. Left unsaid was the fact that both Clintons were in Georgia days before the primary and that Clinton was well ahead in the state just weeks before the February 5 contest. It seemed like it couldn't get any worse, but then her campaign claimed that Clinton's Oklahoma win (the first of the evening for her) was important because it was the only state so far where both candidates had "competed fiercely." Oklahoma, as it happened, was the one state in which Obama had not campaigned (he was last there in March 2007, it seems), and one in which polling had showed he was consistently behind by 20 or 30%.
If Hillary was winning, these might just be quoted, instead of collected for disdain. But part of the point is that they do exist. Contrast this with what critics can possibly say about the Obama campaign. They can't accuse it of cynical manipulation or egregious distortions. Every campaign engages in some degree of spin, but the Obama campaign has been remarkably forthright and accurate, as reporters admit. Maybe this tells you something.
Not in the department of counting chickens before they're hatched, but in a cautionary mode, a fairly devastating piece in the New York Times to be published Tuesday morning:
“She has to win both Ohio and Texas comfortably, or she’s out,” said one superdelegate who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton, and who spoke on condition of anonymity to share a candid assessment. “The campaign is starting to come to terms with that.” Campaign advisers, also speaking privately in order to speak plainly, confirmed this view.
Several Clinton superdelegates, whose votes could help decide the nomination, said Monday that they were wavering in the face of Mr. Obama’s momentum after victories in Washington State, Nebraska, Louisiana and Maine last weekend.
In the Potomac Primary states, polls have Obama so far ahead that it's making me queasy. It's been dangerous to him in some past contests because, I believe, some Obama voters stayed home figuring he would win easily, and Hillary got sympathy votes for being behind. For me, assuming he wins, Obama's margins tomorrow vs. the poll spread will tell me whether we're past this kind of reaction.
In the meantime, I've just looked at a couple of Washington Post.com videos about Obama appearances in Virginia and Maryland today that couldn't have been more on message if the Obama campaign had made them. The College Park Maryland appearance intercut interviews with a black woman and a black man--both past 30 or 40-- talking about change. She said she hadn't expected change to happen in her lifetime, until now. He said, "this is not a campaign for the presidency, this is a movement for the future of America."
Even the reporter for Hotline, who gave a crowd estimate of 18,000 at College Park, got the fever.
For this Tuesday, the Baltimore Sun endorsed Obama today: Barack Obama... offers a more compelling vision for the country that he would lead. He wants to forge a new reality in Washington where consensus replaces confrontation. And he has shown a remarkable ability to enroll a diverse array of Americans in his cause, convincing a new generation that it too has a stake in Washington.That's why The Sun strongly endorses Mr. Obama as the Democratic nominee for president.
For the biggies in March, the El Paso Times endorsed Obama today: Of the two viable Democratic presidential candidates, Obama represents a fresh future rather than an inevitable harking back to the past -- what was a divisive and contentious past for many."
Last Thursday, the Dallas Morning News endorsed Obama: Mr. Obama is our choice because of his consistently solid judgment, poise under pressure and ability to campaign effectively without resorting to the divisive politics of the past.
This looked to some outside observers as a likely win for Hillary. It's in her Northeastern sphere of influence, Maine often replicates the New Hampshire winner, and it reputedly has a lot of typical Hillary voters: lower income, white, older. She was endorsed by the governor. Four polls showed she was ahead. And some felt this was a must-win as well.
But Barack Obama won the Maine caucuses today. Final results aren't in yet but it looks like the approximately 60-40 margin is holding, so not only is it a win, it's a landslide. One more BIG win for the weekend. (Props to this guy, a Mainer who predicted the victory and spread at Kos.) Turnout was reportedly heavy, despite snow storms.
So Hillary lost in her Northeastern stronghold, making it more likely that she'll go through the rest of this month without a victory, and that Obama will be storming into Ohio and Texas with a month's worth of momentum. If the next polls in those states show a big jump for Obama, the super-delegates who agree that Obama is the more electable candidate with the better chance of expanding the party and bringing in more downticket Democrats, may not wait until March 4 to start moving into his column, despite the stories today that Hillary's party establishment support is holding.
Also today, Hillary fired her campaign manager--usually not a great sign this deep into the campaign. But insiders told the press this "transition" was in the works for a long time. The Clinton camp made a big deal yesterday out of announcing they'd raised $10 million since Super Tuesday--a substantial sum-- but rumors of money troubles persist. Interestingly, the Obama campaign stopped announcing (or posting) their online fundraising total last week--when they had nearly $8 million pledged. I'm curious why, and what they do next.
News today also that John Edwards had a "secret" meeting with Hillary, ostensibly to discuss endorsement, and will have a no longer secret one with Obama tomorrow. Many of his upper level supporters have joined Obama. It's not clear what his endorsement would mean, except in terms of perceived momentum, but it might free up some more campaign talent. I'd be very surprised if he endorsed Hillary. Nobody knows what's being discussed in these meetings. Does he want to run for vice president again?
If the Obama momentum continues through March 4, then Maine may be remembered as the defining moment. Hillary has held off that momentum twice before when it seemed about to sink her candidacy, but can she do it in March and April? It seems less likely, but the Clintons have been at this for a long time. Besides which, the Obama campaign can't count its primaries before they're hatched. On to the Chesapeake.
Frank Rich's NY Times column today is very tough on the Clintons. He lays out the case for how, once the black vote started to turn towards Obama, the Clintons simply turned away from them, began using racial politics in courting white and especially Hispanic voters. This included, according to Rich, a bigoted lie.
Rich began the column by describing a televised event that few people paid any attention to but which he watched--the Hillary "national town hall" on the Hallmark channel that she promoted at the end of the last debate. He observed how carefully scripted it was, that it included few African Americans--and none among those asking the questions. Later in the column (with my emphasis):
"But the wholesale substitution of Hispanics for blacks on the Hallmark show is tainted by a creepy racial back story. Last month a Hispanic pollster employed by the Clinton campaign pitted the two groups against each other by telling The New Yorker that Hispanic voters have “not shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates.” Mrs. Clinton then seconded the motion by telling Tim Russert in a debate that her pollster was “making a historical statement.”
It wasn’t an accurate statement, historical or otherwise. It was a lie, and a bigoted lie at that, given that it branded Hispanics, a group as heterogeneous as any other, as monolithic racists. As the columnist Gregory Rodriguez pointed out in The Los Angeles Times, all three black members of Congress in that city won in heavily Latino districts; black mayors as various as David Dinkins in New York in the 1980s and Ron Kirk in Dallas in the 1990s received more than 70 percent of the Hispanic vote. The real point of the Clinton campaign’s decision to sow misinformation and racial division, Mr. Rodriguez concluded, was to “undermine one of Obama’s central selling points, that he can build bridges and unite Americans of all types.”"
Knowing even before Super Tuesday that the remaining contests aren't likely to yield a majority for either candidate, the Clintons (Rich writes) cynically reversed her previous position on the primaries in Michigan and Florida, and will try to change the rules after the game was played in order to secure those delegates. The furor over that possibility is already building within the party--and I certainly find it an even more outrageous injustice than the super-delegate system. Dem chair Howard Dean is trying to forestall a party-rending battle over this. But, Rich concludes:
But does anyone seriously believe that Howard Dean can deter a Clinton combine so ruthless that it risked shredding three decades of mutual affection with black America to win a primary?
I have to say I've come to the same conclusion. That's why I'm afraid the campaigns in Ohio and Texas may get very, very ugly. Especially behind the scenes.