Friday, August 15, 2008

VP Friday

Today's mini-boomlet: Tim Kaine, who cancelled a town hall event Sunday night, while the Obama campaign scheduled an event in Richmond, VA for Thursday. Mini-mini for Wesley Clark, who appeared on CNN (but his son suggests he hasn't been vetted.) Armbinder mentions a focus group test in VA that didn't come out too good for Kaine, whatever that's worth.

My favorite is from the Swampland blog of Time, mostly because it contains a name I hadn't heard before, and somebody I know, an old college acquaintance, former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta. Based mostly on announced speaking gigs at the Dem Convention for Biden, Bayh, Sebelius, Janet Napolitano, Claire McCaskill, those remaining in the running are: Kaine, Dodd, Clark, Bloomberg (the Mayor of NYC I presume), Reed (who I thought took himself out of consideration), John Kerry, Sam Nunn, Chet Edwards (Pelosi's fave) and...John Podesta.

The convention speaker list means nothing, of course, and would be a fine way to deflect attention from the actual nominee. The only tea leaves I read in the convention is the roll call vote for Hillary Clinton--that pretty much tells you that she's getting that moment, but not another one, like the v.p. nod.

(Offically, the Obama campaign told the NY Times: “We reserve the right to change the schedule when we want and you shouldn’t make any assumptions,” she said. “Any person speaking on any given night could speak again as vice president.”)

Al G. at the Field discusses all this, and favors Kaine or Dodd. . Al puts more stock in the elimination potential of the speaker list than I do, but I tend to agree with him: out of this group of choices, Dodd or Kaine seem the best. Dodd for the "experience"/foreign policy and for championing civil liberties, and the white hair. Obama-Dodd is a good sounding, good looking ticket. The only thing the GOPers can bring up about Dodd that I know about is this question of an improper loan. Dodd has that New England thing going for him, the Kennedy thing, which can help with older voters.

Kaine is the "change" candidate, Catholic, speaks Spanish, VA Gov with midwestern accent, reinforces the Obama brand. I'm not sure he's an effective speaker, but he's good in interviews. He also can counter the Obama isn't American bullshit in an unusual way: their grandparents come from the same small town in Kansas.

The choice will tell us to some extent how worried the Obama campaign is about the "experience" mantra.

Al notes that two speaking slots haven't been announced: the person who places Obama's name in nomination, and the VP's. I'd expect the VP introducer won't be announced until the VP choice is, but unless Obama wants to go the traditional route and have his fellow Illinois Senator (Dick Durbin) nominate him, a really great choice would be Al Gore.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Barocky II---It's Great!

More VP

More microanalysis of announced speakers at the Dem Convention has put some doubt in the Biden boomlet today. However, a report somewhere suggested the Obama camp is looking favorably on the "experienced" option, so suddenly Tom Daschle is in the running.

On the "change" side, there's this tea-leaf reading saying it's Gov. Kaine.

But here's how the two arguments seem to be breaking down, with an additional wrinkle (according to...well, me.) The "go for experience" camp is providing names with lots of Washington baggage, but also people known mostly for experience in foreign affairs and national security. The "go for change" argument is for someone outside dysfunctional Washington, looking towards the future of the party, proven ability to work with Repubs and Independents and--here's the wrinkle--a governor with accomplishments on economic/energy issues.

That last wrinkle is not to be ignored. Because Obama's campaign has already moved its emphasis from Iraq and foreign affairs to energy/economics (as with the first Olympics ad) and economics/energy as part of that (second ad.) This is where Obama is strongest, and clearly it will be how he wins. He has to pin a bad economy on Bush and McBush, and add healthcare to the argument along with energy. From now to the election.

So what does Obama do--does he pick an "experience" foreign policy/national security old white guy VP to mollify those with doubts, so he is free to make the economics case himself? Or does he pick a "change" young or female governor who can make both the change politics and the economic/energy/health care case?

Obama is likely to announce his choice, they say, on Monday or Tuesday. Then and probably only then will we know. But I think the argument for the "change" VP candidate is strong, and Tim Kaine and Kathleen Sibelius are strong possibilities. Sibelius has the extra advantage of being from the (mid)west, where Dem gains are going to be made this year and for the forseeable future, and she has a compelling record, especially in getting GOPers on her side. Kaine is smart, articulate, much more compelling in action than in still photos, and though he is gov of an eastern/southern state, with a mixed record, it is Virginia, where Obama has a good chance to win (probably even without Kaine on the ticket, though.)

I am sympathetic to the "experience" option, and if there was a candidate identified that was convincing, I'd be happier. My instinct says not to get a Senator, and those are the only names mentioned. Bayh would be the worst choice of those mentioned a lot, and I think it would be a mistake.

Meanwhile, don't miss the Baracky II viral video above.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


VP Buzz

Today's Dem VP buzz is about Joe Biden, a perennial favorite at MSNBC, at least. But the one part of the buzz today that sounded like it could have substance is that Biden isn't saying anything. Biden not saying anything! Something is afoot!

The pluses with Biden are name recognition, an exciting personality, foreign policy experience, white hair. Obama-Biden is a good sounding ticket.

The minuses are potentially significant, though. Depending on the vetting, Biden's past associations with lobbyists, particularly for banks etc. (he's from Delaware, after all, the big bank HQ tax haven) could substantially undercut one of the Obama campaign's best arguments against McCain--Mc's lobbyist connections. Biden is old politics, Washington, and that also undercuts the new politics of Obama.

Another minus: the Senate. Even though Del has a dem gov, so the seat won't be lost in the short term, it's less certain long term. And besides, Biden's seniority and leadership in the Senate would be missed. The Dems are going to lose Obama and Leiberman. Depending on electoral outcomes, that can shave the majority President Obama will need.

Biden is East Coast as well as Washington. My instincts still tell me that Obama is looking to the Midwest or West, and he's better off with a Governor. But I'm of course not privvy to the vetting, or to internal polls which might indicate whether the experience and foreign policy arguments for McCain are significant problems. Even so, how much can a VP help? Cheney probably helped Shrub, but with people who wanted to vote for Shrub and were reassured by what appeared to be a rep of the GOPer foreign policy establishment. Is there a significant bloc of voters with similiar feelings about Obama? Clinton voters perhaps? Again, I can't gauge the reality of that.

Meanwhile, Huffpost has several posts about progressive pushback on the Evan Bayh boomlet, especially on his support for the Iraq War. Again, I say it ain't gonna happen.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

President Bush at the Olympics, apparently in
his own mirror universe. Or is that a distress
signal? Posted by Picasa
Georgia Out of His Mind

The warfare in Georgia is a fast-moving story at the moment, but one part of it struck me immediately: President Bush condemning Russia for invading a sovereign country.

As well he should, but is anyone in Russia doing anything but laugh? Or anywhere else for that matter. Bush invaded a sovereign country, and has occupied it for years, and one of the motives--as apparently in Georgia--was oil. But with him as President, America's outrage is pathetic.

I heard someone on Charlie Rose say that this needs to bring western allies together. But do those allies trust Bush, after all the bullying he did over Iraq? With the support, if I remember correctly, of his pal Putin and Russia?

It may well be a dangerous moment, made more dangerous by this lame duck loser who did his best to screw America's future. We're only beginning to pay.
Celebrity McCain

How Lucky We Are (with updates)

Among the reasons I have increasing confidence in Barack Obama is that he seems to be lucky. FDR was lucky. Until the obvious moment he wasn't, JFK was lucky. Obama is very intelligent, in all kinds of ways: on policy, on vision, on strategy, and he's acute about himself--he's got more of an introspective side than most pols. He's a good manager with a very good eye for talent, and his team continues to perform very well. But he's also been lucky, which may be yet another way of saying, this is our moment, this is our time.

But at least a couple of events during the last few days have shown how lucky the Democrats are that he's their nominee. What if it had been John Edwards, and all this sordid news broke just as the convention was about to start? What if it had been Hillary Clinton, who could not run her own campaign, let alone the country?

That's the conclusion of Joshua Green in his article in the Atlantic about what went wrong with the Clinton campaign: " Above all, this irony emerges: Clinton ran on the basis of managerial competence—on her capacity, as she liked to put it, to “do the job from Day One.” In fact, she never behaved like a chief executive, and her own staff proved to be her Achilles’ heel. What is clear from the internal documents is that Clinton’s loss derived not from any specific decision she made but rather from the preponderance of the many she did not make. Her hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency."

Green's article is informed by hundreds of emails and memos donated by still bitter Clinton staffers. You might notice that other still-bitter Clinton acolytes are still trying to force Obama into ceding his campaign to her, if not abdicating before it's too late. Which suggests that it's not just her non-management style, but her judgment of people she depends on. And sure enough, one of her faves, Howard the Wolf's Son, the wolfman of press relations, put out his spin on the Edwards awfulness, by asserting that if this had been revealed last year, before the Iowa caucus, Hillary would have gotten enough Edwards' votes to win, and hence would have won the nomination. Nobody is actually buying this, because the numbers don't support it, but that's the quality of advice Clinton got. (Even Chuck Schumer gives lousy advice.) And also where the loyalties of these folks still lie (other than to themselves.)

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign is following the same kind of strategy that won them the nomination: organizing and targeting messages at the local and state levels, looking to win electoral votes. This piece at Five Thirty Eight is about part of that strategy. Update: And this great idea: give cell phones to the people standing in line for Obama's acceptance speech, with lists of voters they can call! It's brilliant!

As for the broader strokes, maybe all Obama needs is a tie. He's got the more uplifting ad on the Olympics, while McCain's is deadly, mostly because it is one outright lie after another. Even the hot air networks have noted this, but if you're willing to engage in Big Lie politics, you're going to turn some people who aren't paying much attention, and are looking for a reason not to vote for the new/black/young/guy.

But McCain has to win some other blocs of voters besides racists, neocons and the clueless. But he's not doing it. As noted before, he's losing Latinos, Jewish voters, etc. He no longer has a lock on Evangelicals, who are tepid at best about him, and some of whom are voting for Obama--maybe as many as 40%. Update: Obama is actually ahead among Christians by 9 points, according to this poll, and McCain has only a slight lead among Evangelicals.

McCain's not even so popular with military veterans. Meanwhile, he's got to fend off charges about his campaign financing, Big Oil contributions and lobbying.

The next bit of campaign news is likely to be Obama's choice for VP. You may have heard that the Obama campaign is offering to email its supporters immediately once that decision is made. I'll be on that list, so if I'm anywhere near a computer, the news will be here when it breaks.