Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama-Biden: The Maiden Voyage

Here's what Chuck Todd and his gang at First Read said about the selection of Joe Biden: As the days got nearer for the pick, it was hard to find a Democrat -- even savvy Clintonites -- who weren't hoping it would be Biden. Only the most strident Hillary supporters appear to be upset this morning. On the GOP side, the sound you heard was disappointed silence. Of everyone on the short list, the candidate many Republicans least wanted to see Obama pick was Biden.

Of the event and the speeches in Springfield, there's wasn't the only praise--all the cable bloviators said it was a success--but here's how Todd summed it up: All in all, if you believe, as I do, that the VP candidates matters most on three days, the first day, debate day and election day, then the Obama campaign has to be ecstatic about today. One goal down, two to go."

Biden contributed at least two memorable lines in his speech: "These times require more than a good soldier. They require a wise leader." ("good soldier" is especially resonant: it compliments McCain's "service," while suggesting he is Bush's "good soldier," following orders.) Also, Biden spoke about ordinary people sitting at their kitchen table, trying to figure out how to make ends meet, while McCain has to "figure out which of his seven kitchen tables to sit at."

As everyone noted, Biden hammered not on foreign policy but on economics, telling his own blue collar story as well as Obama's story. The emphasis was reinforced by every Democrat asked to comment I heard. The energy Biden brought was amazing, and riveting. If he can speak like that across the country, he can bring this message home. It's not that people know this about him--I sure didn't--but that he is able to communicate it.

Of the mass of verbiage about Biden today, I thought this story was the most revealing, especially for the ties between the Biden and Obama campaigns going back to Iowa.

By 12:40 am or so Pacific time, the text messages
and emails started going out (haven't got mine
yet though!) and the official site made the official
announcement. Update: Got my email from Barack
a little later. Says to watch at 2p. Central for their
first joint appearance.Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 22, 2008

It's Joe

Just after midnight Eastern, ABC reported that the Secret Service was converging on Joe Biden's house. Then the floodgates opened. From CNN to the New York Times, everybody had sources that confirmed that Barack Obama had chosen Senator Joe Biden for the Democratic Party VP candidate, and that Biden had accepted.

So now I guess I can turn my Blackberry off. Oh, wait. I don't have one.

Ambinder has a nice summary of some pluses and minuses. So far the pick has met with press approval, though that's fairly typical.

Me, I'm glad it's not Bayh. Or Hillary. I think it's a good reading of where the race is--Biden gives it a jolt of excitement, and neutralizes the experience nervousness on foreign policy, while bringing some economic and blue collar cred. And as I said before, they look good together, Obama-Biden is a good, strong sounding ticket. Obama was lagging among older voters, Clinton voters (pretty much the same folks) and Biden helps reassure them. With a good convention, Obama should get their votes in November.

It will be interesting to hear how Biden gets past his earlier comments on Obama's readiness for the office, etc. and how he portrays himself as outside the lobbyist influence ring, as the credit card company friendly Senator from the bank friendly state of Delaware.

He's Catholic, but strongly pro-choice, sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act. He's from Scranton, PA, and said to be popular in PA, not something I particularly remember. Maybe more in the eastern half.

What does this do to McCain's VP calculations? He can't pick a lightweight who Biden will demolish in debate. Romney is the only one who seems capable of looking like he can handle him, but Romney is such an obvious fake that Biden will chew him to pieces. But I don't see an alternative now. With the likelihood that this pick will unite the Dem base, McCain has to solidify his--and he really has no good choices. Since Obama went older, he has to go visibly younger--not another white hair. Romney isn't ideal--a lot of the base will run away from him. If McCain goes for perfect symmetry, he'll pick Pawlenty, and hope he survives his debate. Otherwise, who is there but Romney?

As for how the Biden news broke, it was the Secret Service--not part of the Obama campaign--that tipped it off, but the eagerness with which "Democratic sources" spilled it immediately afterwards, suggests to me this was part of the game plan. The east coast didn't get it until after midnight, while the West Coast got it in time for the late news, so we don't have to feel slighted by emails arriving at 4 a.m.
VP Wait

The time for the announcement to be made before the evening news is over, and a bit of information reported on CNN--if it's true--suggests why. It was reported that the process of text messaging/emailing millions of people will take several hours, perhaps four. And that the plan is to do it by time zones.

All that points to Saturday morning, so people get it when they wake up. But still, if that's the case, then the whole thing is a bit bogus, since the first text message received by a reporter will put the story on the airwaves, and most people on the announcement list will get it from the media anyway.

Watching CNN for a bit today was instructive, however. I don't know if it's because they employ Clinton whiners Begala and Carville, but their coverage has been of Clinton as much as Obama, and if that continues through the convention, it's not good. Also I didn't see anything about McCain and Housegate, even though there is apparently new information that the McCains own even more houses than previously believed.

The only new info on VP is that Pelosi's choice of Chet Edwards of Texas was vetted, and was on Obama's short list. I have to trust that this particular mistake wasn't made. Also that Hillary was never formally vetted. I've never seen such vindictive sore losers as the Clintons and their cultists. The betting money is still on Biden.

But I've got some real world errands right now. Looks like I get to sleep through the announcement later.

Update: nearly 8 p. Pacific: Multiple news media are reporting that the message will come Saturday morning, maybe 10a. eastern, though it's likely that Pacific zoners will get it later.

Several networks and sites are reporting that Tim Kaine got the call that it's not going to be him. NBC is reporting that Bayh also got that call, but Ambinder for one is being careful not to rule him out yet. As evidence of how frenzied the press is, Politico is carrying a headline saying that the AP says Bayh is out, but the accompanying story doesn't even mention Bayh. It's about Kaine.

The networks are staking out the residences of those they believe are on the short list, and so far the only place with unusual activity ("unusual" as in family members gathering--maybe it's somebody's birthday?) is Joe Biden's house. If it is Biden, at some point he'll be leaving to take a plane to Chicago, but that could be just after the online announcement. It can't be more than a two hour flight. Gates open for the Springfield event at noon Central, so that's a possible scenario.

By the way, if you saw Bill Schneider, CNN's political guru, talking about Obama's choice as either "change" or "experience," you might wonder if he's been reading this blog all week.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Not This House

VP Watch: Final Edition?

While Obama's statement about "independent" still tantalizes with the possibility of someone off the current radar, the buzz is back for Biden. Huffington Post has no fewer than 17 photos of Biden on its VP story page.

But Indiana media are convinced it's Bayh, with fresh rumors of an Indianapolis event on Saturday, as a post-Springfield event.

I think we'll know by the evening news Friday. My latest thoughts on Biden: he's passionate about Darfur, which is needed. And Biden would be fun, a charge of energy. But seemed to me that in his latest statement Obama stressed the candidate helping on the economy, and that's clearly going to be the emphasis of the rest of the campaign. So I wonder what Biden brings to that.

But I did awaken today with two conclusions: 1. I don't get to say who Obama picks, so I'll just have to live with it. and 2. When the "text message" comes (which for me will be an email) I'll probably be asleep.

Oh, and Time Magazine says it has two sources telling them that McCain's VP will be Mitt Romney. Mike Huckabee and the Evangelicals notwithstanding? Maybe it's the new poll showing Obama with a 7 point lead in Michigan, though with a lot of volatility. But Al G feels certain that the focus today on McCain not knowing how many homes he owns will doom Romney, who is also a multiple real estater.
VP Watch: All Bets Off

Obama told reporters that he's made his VP choice, but not when it will be announced. He also reportedly said this, about what his choice will say to voters:

Hopefully, the same thing that my campaign has told the American people about me. That I think through big decisions. I get a lot of input from a lot of people, and that ultimately, I try to surround myself with people who are about getting the job done, and who are not about ego, self-aggrandizement, getting their names in the press, but our focus on what's best for the American people.

I think people will see that I'm not afraid to have folks around me who complement my strengths and who are independent. I'm not a believer in a government of yes-men. I think one of the failures of the early Bush Administration was being surrounded by people who were unwilling to deliver bad news, or who were prone to simply feed the president information that confirmed his own preconceptions.

Possible translations: (a) somebody who is on the record with a different approach than Obama's, which would indicate somebody like Bayh, or a primary opponent, like Biden. (b) all bets are off. It may be somebody not on the media's short list (it was always the media's short list, remember.)

We'll know between now and Saturday morning.

Al G. and friends are reading the tea leaves of Obama's itinerary convention week, when he's touring through the Midwest. Midwestern candidate? Indiana isn't on the tour (no Bayh?) nor is Kansas (no Sebelius?) But several stops related to Tim Kaine's bio. Billings, Montana is the last stop before Denver (Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer?) Or the tour could have nothing to do with the VP nominee...

Fascinating that while yesterday EVERYBODY was talking Joe Biden, today NOBODY is. OOPS! Now on Hardball, Andrea Mitchell and somebody else say it is Biden, and the press continue to stake out Biden's house, where they see his relatives arriving. So SOMEBODYs still say Biden.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Long Run

We pause from our obsession with possible VP candidates to offer a thought about the P candidate. There are lots of ways of looking at the past month or so of the campaign, but here's something that occurred to me: Obama spent lots of time outlining his programs and explaining them to voters, mostly in town hall and small settings. In the past week, he's faced at least two potentially hostile audiences, at a rich Orange County Evangelical church, and the VFW convention. He's lately gone directly at John McCain more than he has, but still within the context of his basic message, as when he told the vets Tuesday: "I will let no one question my love of this country. I love America, so do you, and so does John McCain. When I look out at this audience, I see people of different political views. You are Democrats and Republicans and Independents. But you all served together, and fought together, and bled together under the same proud flag. You did not serve a Red America or a Blue America, you served the United States of America.”

Those lines got applause from the VFW, the membership of which is older and more conservative than veterans in general or other vet organizations, several of which back Obama. A followup story to the Saddleback Church forum that interviewed churchgoers on Sunday indicated that while the overwhelmingly Republican membership was still overwhelmingly for McCain, they liked Obama and his values.

As a newcomer to the national scene, and of course as a black man running for President, Obama has to present himself to voters as authentically as he can, so they will become comfortable with him. Of course a large part of the intent is to sway undecided voters to vote for him in November. But that isn't all.

Even with polls tightening at the moment, Obama remains ahead, and could very well be elected President. And after that, he will have to govern. He will have a Democratic Congress to work with probably, but his plans to transform Washington and to meet the substantial challenges that face him, require a lot of consent of the governed, as well as wide participation.

So even people who did not vote for him, like the VFW folks and Evangelicals, have to like him and respect him well enough to accept him as their President. So he may not have won a lot of votes so far. But I think he's been doing that. It's going to help him govern.

Now we're entering the real campaign, and we're going to see an Obama who engages McCain directly. McCain's campaign was fairly skillful in attacking Obama when he was trying to lay out his policies, and his choice was to step on his own message and thereby cede control of his campaign to McCain, or to let McSlur rail against him. But from now on, Obama will be making the contrast with McBush. And now some people who probably wouldn't have listened to him before, just might. And even if they wind up not voting for him, they may accept him as President more easily than they might have before.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

VP Tuesday

Ambinder nailed it: AP is now reporting that Obama will return to Springfield, IL on Saturday. Ambinder figures he'll introduce his VP there, and the AP suggests that it will at least be one of their first joint appearances.

Rumor mill today so far seems to be favoring Joe Biden, with some ripples for Kathleen Sebelius. Sen. Reed of RI is back on some lists. Chris Dodd remains on some, too.

Will update as needed.

Rumor of the day for McCain is Lieberman. I'm all for it. I can't imagine a choice with more liabilities and no real advantages. Go for it!

Update: Since Ambinder proves he has a good source, I'll pass on his speculation that the announcement will be made either Saturday morning or Thursday morning, with the joint appearance on Saturday. However, Obama is going to be in Virginia all day Wed. Will he announce a non-Kaine VP right after he leaves the state on Thursday morning?

Newsweek's Howard Fineman is on the record betting that it's Biden, and that seems to be the buzz. If it is Biden, then McCain goes for Pawlenty, to match the young/older Dem ticket with the old/younger GOPer ticket. If Obama goes for Kaine, then McCain may well go for Leiberman, to present the experience contrast of two white haired white guys vs. the young black guy and his young white sidekick.

Speaking of white hair, Andrew Sullivan suggests that Biden will reassure seniors--and attract white haired ladies.

Al G. at the Field answers the question I've asked myself today--what do the Dems lose without Biden in the Senate? Apparently the answer is not much. They won't lose the seat, and though Biden is the powerful chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, the next in line is none other than Chris Dodd. That's measure for measure, at least. (And if Dodd decides to remain chair of the Banking Committee instead, next in line after him is John Kerry.)

I can't believe the buzz is about Lieberman being seriously vetted, and that Ridge is no longer in consideration. It seems more likely than McCain is just trying to puff Lieberman up. Still, I know Obama is lucky, but this would be incredible luck.

Monday, August 18, 2008

VP Monday

The New York Times and others are reporting that Obama is close to a decision, while some say he figured it out while he was in Hawaii. We're told not to hold our breaths tonight or tomorrow, but maybe Wednesday. If it is Wednesday, Obama would either be picking Kaine (since he'll be in Virginia that day, which was scheduled while he was in Hawaii ) or he'll not be in Virginia that day. If Wednesday comes and goes and Kaine hasn't been named, seems likely he won't be, ever. One report says Kaine is telling people it ain't gonna be him.

Which leaves Bayh and Biden and maybe Sebelius on the short list everybody seems to have, but nobody is really sure exists. My blahs over Bayh are widely shared, I don't see him for any reason, and Biden, while exciting, is held in some contempt in the progressive blogosphere (Kos has stomped all over him, and Kos admits he's prepared to be disappointed. He's a "change" over "experience" advocate, and he'd be happy with Sebelius, as would I.) At this point, Bill Richardson (still on some lists) is beginning to look better.

There's nothing on Obama's sked for Thursday (Friday is sked for downtime in Chicago, while somebody is saying Friday is a bad day to announce anything--though I believe a few high profile endorsements were announced on a Friday during the primaries, if I remember correctly), Ambinder reports that the Obama advance people have been recalled to Chicago, a sign that a decision is imminent, due to the need for logistical planning for the announcement. He seems to hint that Chris Dodd is still in the running, and out of the blue posts this little tidbit: "Springfield, Illinois wouldn't be a bad place to host a major political announcement."

So to sum it up, if there's no announcement Wednesday, it's probably not going to be Kaine. The announcement may come Thursday or Friday, in Chicago or Springfield (which is where Obama announced his own candidacy.) Or as usual this may all be wrong.

Al G suggests that Obama string this out as long as possible. But the longer it goes on, the more speculation and pressure, the more disappointment by people with a horse in the race, the higher the expectation, and the more media noise about how this is Obama's most important decision. Not to mention my blood pressure.

Someone speculates that the latest boomlets--Bayh, Kaine, Biden--were all trial balloons from the Obama campaign. Other suggest that everything so far has been disinformation, which may mean the choice is going to be a complete surprise. What's interesting about all this, if you can be objective, is that nobody knows enough about the Obama campaign insiders to know what to expect.

Update: The Tues. morning Washington Post says it may not be before Friday, because there is a schedule for Thursday now--a bus tour that begins in Virginia Wednesday and goes into North Carolina Thursday. (Unless of course it's Kaine, and he goes along.) Otherwise, their story rehashes the same names and the conventional opinions.

As for McSame, apparently his campaign has more or less announced that he will announce his choice in Ohio the day after Obama's acceptance speech, which is also McSlur's 72nd birthday.
VP Panic

Yeah, it's getting too close to decision time and I'm in a panic. First about McCain. Tom Ridge is quoted Sunday as saying that even a pro-choice guy (like him) would either become anti-choice like the nominee (McCain) or refuse the VP nomination. That's a bit scary. McCain looked like he went a long way in fixing his Evangelical problem Saturday, and if he thinks he did, he might pick Ridge. And that's probably the most potent pick he could make. It may put PA in play.

I still think he'll try to avoid offending either the GOPer base of anti-choice, pro-war zealots, or Independents who haven't yet figured out that he's no longer their kind of guy (if he ever was) by picking Pawlenty, a guy so unknown that (as someone said somewhere) he sounds mostly like an appetizer at the Olive Garden. And that would be good. He's not likely to pick Romney now, who might help him in a few key states, because Huckabee's vocal disapproval is a signal to the Rabid Right base that they should be upset by that. And McCain cannot afford to alienate Huckabee, who kept getting votes even after McCain was the presumptive.

But it's Obama who is up first, with just ten days before the VP is nominated officially at the convention. A post at Huffington indicates that Kaine is insufficiently pro-choice, which is something I didn't know, and don't even know if it's true, but if Dem women feel that way, he's a bad idea. He might be hard for Hillary to swallow, although if she talks him up, that might help with her voters.

That horseshit article in the NY Times Sunday I quoted is an obvious plant to get Obama to pick an "experience" candidate, and they mention Bayh--which is a sure tipoff that the article is more Clintonite propaganda. So I'm in a panic that he might actually do that. His choice could be announced as soon as tomorrow. I'm actually in fear of my email at the moment. (Although I just checked it.)

Well, I'll get a grip and hope it's Dodd, Biden or a nice surprise.

Two items (at least)of controversy came emerged from the Saddleback night, and both of them are about McCain (and neither of them is his $5 million a year definition of rich.) One is whether he knew the questions in advance, and there is some evidence he wasn't actually in that "cone of silence" at the church until Obama was halfway done. The McCain campaign is getting real indignant on this one, and actually I think the evidence against McCain is weak.

Not so his war story about the guard who made a cross in the dirt to silently signal his Christianity. The story of an imprisoned person being surprised by a guard silently making a cross in the dirt is in Solzhenitsyn's famous 1973 novel, The Gulag Archipelago. There are assertions that McCain is a big Solzhenitsyn fan, and that he did not tell this story until 1999, although he recounted his POW experiences ever since he returned in 1973. It may also be significant that the McCain campaign chose the other charge to get so exercised about.

Update: The cross in the sand story keeps getting more complicated. It may not be in The Gulag Archipelago at all, and one story in there about a guard wearing a cross on a chain while torturing prisoners makes a different point in Solzhenitsyn's book. It may have been attributed to S. by various rightward pols. Anyway, Andrew Sullivan seems about the only one interested in following this, as of Tuesday. He cites this TPM post that seems definitive so far.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

CNN on Overseas Troops Donating to Obama by 6-1--and Why

No VP Saturday

All day and not a new VP rumor? What's wrong with you people! Oh, except that Joe Biden is off to Georgia (the one with Russians and no Atlanta), which (to Al G.) means that he's not in the running anymore, and (to TPM) that his chances are enhanced.

There is news however, about money. McCain previously announced his best month in July: $27 million. (Which according to his answer at the Saddleback Church forum Saturday, is the combined annual income of 5 and a half people.) The Obama campaign announced its July take was $51 million, with 65,000 new donors and a total number of contributors that passed the two million mark in August (McCain has about a quarter of that.) But the even bigger news is that for the first time since 2004, the Democratic National Committee raised more in a month than their Repub counterpart: $27.7 mil to $26 mil.

The race remains very competitive financially for at least the next month, as McCain has to spend his cash before the fed money kicks in. So if Obama can maintain a $50 mil a month pace, he'll have more--possibly a lot more--to spend in the critical months.

Obama and McCain were both interviewed by pastor Rick Warren at the Saddleback Church, before an audience presumably of church members. Some felt they did equally well; others thought McCain did better, by playing to the audience and keeping his answers short and on (right wing) message, and by telling POW stories. In political terms, McCain may well have helped himself with the conservative base, but he stated unequivocally that he's anti-choice, and he defined a rich person as somebody making $5 million. (Obama said a person making $150,000 is doing very well.) Obama also helped himself with the Evangelical audience, especially by doing what some in the blogosphere criticized him for doing--he engaged in a conversation with Rick Warren rather than playing to the audience and giving campaign sound bites. By demonstrating humility and thoughtfulness, and especially by not only relating directly and with respect to Warren, but showing that Warren respects and likes him, he came across immediately as not scary, and by showing rapport with the pastor, the congregation is more likely to take another look at him and what he says about the issues that affect their lives.

I'm still a little amazed that people don't get that Obama is a different kind of candidate, and that's why he's been successful. He's organized and run a campaign that's politically astute but ahead of conventional thinking. He's not a conventional candidate. His thoughtful answers weren't a mistake.

Similarly, there is this horseshit in the New York Times. Without naming who most of these Democrats are, or who they supported (hint: Hillary), they quote their opinion that Obama has to be more specific, and stay away from talking about hope. Sure, turn him into Hillary, who lost. And by the way, when he does talk specifics (as he even did in the Berlin speech which they consider rhetoric, mostly because of the huge crowds), everyone ignores him. His energy plan is specific, but the media was too busy with cheap bullshit and these pols were too busy giving interviews about how he should be more specific.

If in the speech that more people are going to see than any other--his nomination acceptance speech in Denver-- Obama gives a Clintonian laundry list of programs, nobody--not the audience, not the voters, not the media or these pols--are going to be happy. We want to hear hope. We want to hear Yes We Can. We want to hear Change We Can Believe In. That's how Obama built his movement, and when it is fully energized, it will sweep him to victory.

So please, Barack, don't listen to these morons. Let Obama be Obama.