Friday, May 23, 2008

Grim and Grimmer (with Updates)

Clinton's assassination comment got a lot of play on cable news; Keith O. spent almost the entire Countdown on it, plus a special comment. I'd rather it didn't get any mention--it isn't something you want in the air--but it's taken on a life of its own. I was surprised but impressed by the number of people--like historian Douglas Brinkley--as well as bloggers, who said that this is a disqualifier, and indeed may have ended not only her presidential bid but unless she begs for forgiveness in very explicit terms, ended her political career.

She said it was an historical comment, but that only makes it more bizarre. Others have pointed out that there are many better examples of the race extended into June and beyond that don't involve a candidate being killed. But what I haven't seen anyone note is that it isn't even accurate in terms of the 1968 Democratic nomination. By winning California, Bobby Kennedy had successfully become the candidate with the most primary wins, and he defeated Sen. Eugene McCarthy. But he wasn't the nominee--not even the presumptive nominee. The whole system was different then. Primaries didn't yet decide the candidate. RFK was still facing a summer of fighting for the nomination against the sitting Vice President, Hubert Humphrey (who by the way, didn't run in the primaries, so Clinton's argument for staying in the race falls apart right there.) The nomination was going to be decided at the convention--just as it had been in 1960, when JFK had won the most primaries, but was facing a lot of opposition.

But back then, campaigns were shorter. They didn't really begin until Labor Day. The nominee wasn't the nominee until the convention said so. It's very different now, and McCain is already leading a Republican Party that will not offer another candidate to oppose him at their convention. The harm that Clinton is doing is obvious from just this week in Florida, when Obama tried to take advantage of McCain's lobbyist problem, but Clinton's big mouth took attention away.

What this probably will end is any speculation that Hillary will be on the ticket. Despite the latest threat from a rabid Hillaryite. (Like the Obama fundraising operation is going to be scared by the in-debt Hillary fundraiser threatening to hold back funds.)

Ambinder rates the vp choices this way:

1. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) -- Obama really likes her; that's very important.
2. The Virginia boys: Kaine and Webb
3. Gov. Ted Strickland (D-OH) -- the Clinton stand in.
4. Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ)
5. Sen. Hillary Clinton -- there's a fine balance between subtle pressure and overt hectoring
Wild card: Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE)

This is the best list I've seen so far, except for 3. and 5. Hillary is out, and I don't have the slightest idea why anybody thinks Obama is going to choose a buffoon like Ted Strickland. I still see him standing behind Hillary nodding as she cries, "Shame on you, Barack Obama!"

UPDATE: The New York Times describes the political firestorm set off by Clinton's RFK remark. In part:

Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, which has refrained from engaging Mrs. Clinton in recent days, said her statement “was unfortunate and has no place in this campaign.”

Privately, aides to Mr. Obama were furious about the remark.

Concerns about Mr. Obama’s safety led the Secret Service to give him protection last May, before it was afforded to any other presidential candidate, although Mrs. Clinton had protection, too, in her capacity as a former first lady. Mr. Obama’s wife, Michelle, voiced concerns about his safety before he was elected to the Senate, and some black voters have even said such fears weighed on their decision of whether to vote for him.

It was against that backdrop that Mrs. Clinton’s mentioning the Kennedy assassination in the same breath as her own political fate struck some as going too far. Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, an uncommitted superdelegate, said through a spokeswoman that the comments were “beyond the pale.”

Update 2: Here's the transcript of Keith's Special Comment. Here's a Kos diary that collects some of the other comment on Hillary's RFK statement, including an excerpt from a piece by Libby Copeland in the Washington Post: "There are taboos in presidential politics, and this is one of the biggest. To raise the specter of a rival's assassination, even unintentionally, is to make a truly terrible thing real. It sounds like one might be waiting for a terrible thing to happen, even if one isn't. It sounds almost like wishful thinking...

The fear of a president or a presidential candidate being shot or assassinated is horrifying precisely because recent history teaches us that it can happen. We don't need anybody to remind us, and we certainly don't need anybody to remind whatever suggestible wackos might be lurking in the shadows.
In the context of Obama, Clinton's words broke a double taboo, because since the beginning of his candidacy, some of Obama's supporters have feared that his race made him more of a target than other presidential hopefuls. Obama was placed under Secret Service
protection early, a full year ago. To be unaware that one's words tap into a monumental fear that exists in a portion of the electorate -- a fear that Obama's race could get him killed -- is an unusual mistake for a serious and highly disciplined presidential candidate.
It's surprising, too, because something very similar just happened last week, when Mike Huckabee
made a joke at an NRA convention about somebody aiming a gun at Obama. He later apologized and called his remarks "offensive." He also could have called them "instructive" for any politician paying attention."

Another diary at Kos points out the fear, especially in the black community, that someone will try to kill Obama, the death threats his campaign receives, and despite Secret Service protect, the courage displayed when Obama campaigns so openly.

Speaking of all this openly may increase the danger, and yet it may also increase vigilance. It did bring into the public dialogue the fears that apparently many people have had, including me. Of course, Clinton introducing this as a reason to stay in the race is abhorrent in the extreme.
The End Games

The week ends for Barack Obama with some big audiences and strong speeches in Florida, a pick-up of six superdelegates on Friday with a report of many more to come, and a slew of new polls that show him getting stronger against McCain in key states.

It ends for Hillary Clinton with a statement that suggests there is something really wrong with her. And for John McCain with another round of dismissing supporters.

Hillary gave as her latest reason for staying in the race that Robert Kennedy was assassinated in June, so--the logic dictates--if Obama is assassinated, then she'll be there to be the Democratic candidate. Such a statement in the week that Ted Kennedy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, and shortly after Mike Huckabee joked about Obama being shot at, is either: politically insidious and pernicious in the extreme in its suggestion, or evidence of a person completely and dangerously out of touch with the darker side of her unconscious.

Rachel Maddow has now written about Clintons end game, which is to continue as a candidate to the convention on the back of the Michigan and Florida situations, which as she points out can be appealed no matter what agreement is achieved or Rules committee decision is made. She suggests that what Obama can do is get the super-delegates to declare in sufficient number to ensure him the nomination even if the two states get 100% of their delegates based on the results of their phony elections.

There's also been noise on Friday about Clinton "supporters" trying to negotiate with Obama supporters to get Obama to offer the v.p. to Clinton, even if she then rejects it, or face "civil war" in the party. This also has the air of desperation.

On the brighter and perhaps more realistic side, Obama got another two Edwards delegates Friday, and super-delegate endorsements that include a Clinton supe who defected, with a statement citing the Michigan-Florida fracus as a reason he had to declare for Obama now in order to begin the general election campaign united. According to Al Giordano of the Field, this delegate--Rep. Dennis Cardoza of CA--is just the first: "The Field has learned that Cardoza is the first of a group of at least 40 Clinton delegates, many of them from California, that through talking among themselves came to a joint decision that all of them would vote for Obama at the convention. They have informed Senator Clinton that it’s time to unite around Obama, and that they will be coming out, one or two at a time, and announcing their switch between now and the convention if Senator Clinton doesn’t do the same." [emphasis is Al's.]

This blockbuster story comes a day after Al G. asserted that Clinton has already asked Obama to name her his v-p, and he refused. So far nobody else has picked up or confirmed these stories, but it must be pointed out that Al G. is not just one of us synthetic bloggers (synthesizing information reported by others) but an active political reporter with sources gained over years of reporting. (Like me, he once worked for the Boston Phoenix.)

Meanwhile, Kos dissects this latest round of polls, and it's pretty much all good for Obama, even in Ohio and Florida. According to the Obama site, he now needs 56 delegates to reach the current magic number for the nomination.

Ted Kennedy asked Obama to give the commencement address Sunday he was scheduled to give. Obama had great crowds in Florida this week, but this video clip from a smaller one is a real gem. "We all have a piece of each other." Watch, listen and enjoy the first weekend of summer.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


One of these days I'm going to resist the temptation to talk to myself about politics here. I used to get frustrated about having no outlet, even a semi-imaginary one, like this blog. Now I'm seeing hours go by better spent in other pursuits. Oh well.

I also know that people are getting really sick of this campaign. So I am really. But Hillary struck fear in many hearts on Wednesday by going to Florida and raising the stakes on her insistence that Florida and Michigan primaries be counted, even saying in an interview that she's willing to take all of this to the convention. Some of her aides speaking anonymously said she doesn't really mean it; another one, on the record, said she does.

That she stepped on Obama's message in his Florida speech (20,000 heard him in Tampa) attacking McCain for his ties to lobbyists--a very important issue to raise at this moment--is enough in itself to annoy the Democratic Party leadership starting to gear up for the general election behind Obama. But she probably raised some other alarms. Either she is talking tough to get a better deal coming out of the Rules Committee on the Michigan and Florida delegates apportioned, or this is a real threat that could seriously wound the party's chances.

She said she would pursue this if the states in question weren't satisfied, and while Michigan seems eager to make a deal, she could be in league with Florida. Michigan has more Obama supporters and support. Florida's Dem leadership has been taunting the party over this for some time, and they may throw in with Clinton on this. It's suicide all around, so it's hard to see whose interest is really served.

Some are suggesting that Obama simply agree to seat all the delegates in the proportions reflecting the outlaw primary results, and he'll still win. But though the Rules Committee likely will defer greatly to Obama and Clinton, what isn't mentioned in this discussion much is that the Committee is set up to deal with party rules, and there are members whose loyalty is to the party. If Michigan and Florida aren't penalized at all, even though they violated the rules and the party (led by Clinton loyalists) voted for sanctions, then the party's authority means nothing.

Clinton's argument likening "counting all the votes" in these contests to the 2000 elections, not to mention Civil Rights and the Magna Carta, is disingenuous in the extreme. These weren't elections, because everyone involved knew they weren't supposed to count. This Floridian notes that even the party called their primary a "straw vote." The sheer meaninglessness of the exercise kept an unknown number of voters home. And in Michigan, of course, Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot. Counting these votes as if this were a real election would be the real injustice, and lots of Democrats know it. So we'll see if the Democratic Party actually has a backbone, because the party and its super-delegates can stop this.

There's another way to look at this, and that's as one of the last ways Clinton has to get attention. Billary made news Wednesday, even though they lost the morning headlines which emphasized Obama passing the majority threshold of delegates by votes. And while Clinton got the attention of Obama supporters and probably of party insiders, it's not clear how much she got elsewhere. Said this Reuter's report: " Attention, whether from button sellers or the national media, is leaving the fading presidential candidacy of Sen. Hillary Clinton behind as the former front-runner faces what most see as impossible odds to win the Democratic nomination...While Obama and McCain spar -- the two clashed this week over whether the United States should talk to leaders of hostile nations -- Clinton's struggle to collect votes in Florida that were cast months ago but invalidated feels like a sideshow."

Attention may be a problem for Clinton after today. There are only three contests left, and the next one (Puerto Rico) is almost 2 weeks away. Though she is favored to win it, little is really known about it, and several Kos posters have suggested it may not be a lock. In any event, it's unlikely to be a blowout. And then Montana and South Dakota are likely Obama victories.

All she's got really is the May 31 Rules Committee meeting to use to make news and stay in the media/public eye. We'll see how successful she can be. But while Hillary talks about the sexism her campaign has suffered, I find it interesting that while most male commentators believe she's going to go gracefully and support the nominee in early June, it's women--led by Rachel Maddow--who are convinced she'll stop at nothing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Day After

Some updates on yesterday's events...People are still trying to nail down the Clinton figures but it appears her campaign took in $22 million in April and by the end of the month was more than $19 million in debt. Obama raised $31 million in April and ended the month with $37.3 million in the bank.

Delegates: according to the Field projection:Oregon: Obama 31, Clinton 21. Kentucky: Obama 14, Clinton 37.

On the race: Billary on Wednesday were bloviating about Florida and Michigan in extreme terms, and the convention fight card got shown. This may emphasize Rachel Madow's contention that Hillary is not going to get out of the race until she is forced out.

Ambinder noted the racist vote in Kentucky, while this bothered CNN commentator David Gergen enough that he called for Clinton to reject racist votes. But Chuck Todd sees Kentucky differently: One other thing to keep in mind regarding Clinton's success in Kentucky and West Virginia, and it has to do with the Clinton brand and the economy. These folks in Appalachia have been hit harder by this economy than folks in other parts of the country. And the last time things were looking up was when a Clinton was in the White House. So while there are a lot of folks wanting to think the worst of some of these voters, let's keep in mind: Appalachia and the Rust Belt, more than any other region of the country, are more likely to vote their pocket book when the economy is in the toilet. And this is where the Clinton brand comes into play.

But Todd also sees Obama's so-called working class white problem as specific: Obama doesn’t have a problem with white working-class voters; he has a problem with white-working class voters in Appalachian states. In Kentucky, just one in five of these folks backed him, but in Oregon nearly half of them did.

Todd goes on to muse on the influence of the calendar on these races, and on the perceptions of what they mean that drive the media political monologue: Like above, a lot has been made of the rather simplistic way to figure out who wins a state primary by examining the demographics. But let's not forget the influence the calendar has had. Imagine if states like California, New Jersey and Alabama stayed in their traditional slot of first Tuesday in June? Imagine if Kentucky and West Virginia hadn't been held on days with so few other primaries -- and so much attention placed on them. The order of these primaries has been as influential as the demographics. Would Clinton have won California, Florida and Michigan by the margins she did had those primaries been held after February 5? Would South Carolina been as influential on the national media's psyche if it had been held on February 5 or afterwards? Obama's being over-examined right now on his so-called white working-class problems. But would we even be focused on this issue if Kentucky and West Virginia weren't so prominent on the calendar?

Something else I've noticed about perception is that the numbers they are based on get locked in at a certain point, even though they may change. The media has not caught up with the tightened numbers in Ohio, Indiana and Nevada, for example. They use exit poll information that may have been revised long before. Right now Obama's margin in Oregon is fixed in the media narrative at 58% to 42%, which it was for a long time. But right now, with 96% of precincts reporting, it's 59% to 41%.

Clinton won Kentucky roughly 65-30. Kos pulled out the SUSA polls there from March till now, and Obama never got more than 30%, and Clinton hovered around 62%. Add to that the exit poll stat showing that 21% of Kentucky voters admitted race was important, and they voted by 81% for Clinton. That's more than the 16% who said gender was important, and they voted by about the same proportion for Clinton. So those hard-working racists won another one for her.

So we got the predictable babble about Obama's white working class problem, even though he was later to do very well with white working class voters in Oregon, where he's winning by 16%. Some commentators also tried to point out that Kentucky is a solid Republican state while Oregon is a swing state leaning Democratic, so there goes Hillary's electability argument. (Her hubbie did win Kentucky, though.) What these primaries have shown is that racism is still a factor among uneducated whites in Appalachia, but fortunately, not many other places.

The AP chimed in with a dose of reality early, calling Hillary's win in Kentucky" a victory with scant political value in a race moving inexorably in Obama's direction." Obama spoke in Des Moines, claiming an absolute majority in elected delegates and calling the nomination "within reach." Otherwise, it was a formidable general election speech, both eloquent and issue-oriented. Here's a transcript. Here's the video.

It took Rachel Madow joining the MSNBC panel late to point out that the latest national Gallup poll shows Obama gaining in nearly all demographic categories, including women and the white working class. Older women are the only ones holding for Hillary.

Howard Fineman also reported on what's likely to happen next, and it all depends on how things go in that meeting on May 31 about Michigan and Florida, which is likely to result in some sort of 50-50. If Hillary's forces play nice and accept the compromise, super-delegates will hold off providing Obama with his absolute majority of all delegates until just after the final primary on June 3, so she has time to get out gracefully. If her campaign won't play ball and threaten to make a fight of the Michigan and Florida situation, those super-delegates will declare sooner. But it's not IF those supes will declare for Obama, it's WHEN.

The campaigns made their obligatory reports on campaign donations from April, but the Hillaryites in particular were playing it coy, so it's not clear what their numbers mean. Maybe later today it'll get clearer, along with some better idea of delegate allocation from these two states. I wouldn't be surprised however if there isn't a major super-delegate announcement too.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

For some it's Tuesday, for some it's History

After that amazing crowd Sunday in Portland, OR--which some now estimate at 80,000, Barack Obama picked up 5 super-delegates Monday, including Senator Robert Byrd. That's history, already--in his much younger days, Byrd was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and an opponent of Civil Rights in the 60s. Monday he endorsed a black man for President of the United States.

In Montana, Obama was adopted into the Crow nation in Montana, the first presidential candidate to be so honored. More history. His speech showed real understanding of American Indian issues and point of view.

Over the weekend, this article came out, analyzing Obama's "problem" with Jewish voters, and concluding that he doesn't really have one. Jewish voters prefer him to McCain by a large margin, in the most recent Gallup poll. Speaking of Gallup, their tracking poll Monday showed Obama with a 16 point lead.

But now we're talking Tuesday. The cable/TV babblers will begin around 6 pm Eastern (when most polls close in Kentucky) and 7 (when they all close.) If the opinion polls are correct, they should project for Hillary pretty quickly. But then the talk will be more like this AP story from Monday--because even with a loss in Kentucky, that state will provide enough delegates to give Obama the number necessary to claim a majority of total pledged delegates available from all the contests this year. (The range of delegates predicted for Obama in Kentucky is 17 t0 19. He needs 14.5 for a majority.)

Hillary will claim victory but she'll be history by then. Obama will speak in Iowa and note the history his campaign has made, and the babblers will ask, dare the super-dels counter the will of the voters? Let me save you some time: No.

It won't be until 11 Eastern that Oregon begins to announce its vote count. It's a closed mail-in primary, so people will have until 8 PM Pacific to drop off their ballots. A lot of ballots have already been sent in, including a record number this past weekend. Those will be ready to count. Though one cable show I saw quoted the outlyer among polls that shows a close race to drum up some drama, most polls show Obama with a significant lead--in fact, one poll suggests that by Monday Obama had already won. So come 11PM Eastern, Oregon should be projected for Obama pretty quickly.

The predictors have Obama winning 29 to 32 delegates in Oregon. So if he wins 30 in Oregon and 17 in Kentucky, Obama ends May 20 about 62 delegates shy of the number needed to nominate.

Though the babble on Tuesday night might be about the hard-working white voters who didn't vote for him in Kentucky, by Wednesday morning the headlines are likely to be about Oregon--and maybe they'll even mention the hard-working white voters who voted for him there.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Obama speaks to 75,000 in Portland, OR Sunday.
According to Jed Report, that's as many votes as
Hillary got in her worst 8 states combined. If you
were in the back of this crowd, you were a half
mile away from the podium. Posted by Picasa