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McCain Memo: Race Isn't Over
Jindal 2012?
Where Are They Today?
New McCain, Obama TV Ads
Poll: CO Initiative To End Affirmative Action Hiring
Vets For Freedom: 'Stop the Smears'
The Morning Report
Dow Up ... 900?
State Polls: CO, GA, NV, OH
NBC/Mason-Dixon Polls: NH, MT, NC
Daley Expects 1 Million At Obama Bash
Obama Camp Responds
McCain Ad: 'Tiny'
A Journal of Politics and the Arts
McCain Camp Hits Obama For Raising Taxes
McCain, Obama Call For Stevens' Resignation
Pew: Obama +15
McCain Jumps on Biden Gaffe
Analyzing the 'Bradley Effect'
Obama Ad: 'Steel In His Spine'
Veepstakes! (The 20/20 Hindsight Edition)
About That Crisis
Politico: Reid Seeking to Oust Byrd
Where Are They Today?
The Morning Report
McCain Ad: 'Compare'
Senator Ted Stevens Guilty
VA Polls: Obama +8, +11
Reuters/Zogby: 8 State Polls
MS Senate Race: Dirty
Where Are They Today?
The Morning Report
McCain's Hometown Support
100,000 at Obama Rally?
Off Message?
More McCain 'Meet' Clips
McCain On 'Meet'
More State Polls: MO & IL
SNL Zings Biden & Murtha
NBC/Mason-Dixon: GA, IA, MO
New Polls In First In The Nation States
Tough Year For Arizona GOP?
McCain's Miserable Map
Obama Ad: 'New Subject'
Star-Tribune Endorses Coleman
Where Are They Today?
McCain vs. Matthews
RNC Ad: 'Storm'
A Look at the Senate
Fighting It Out in Iowa
Obama Camp Sees Its Path To Victory
Tension In The McCain Campaign
Obama Ad: 'Defining Moment'
Where Are They Today?
National Tracking Polls
It Was a Hoax
Fred Makes His Case
Wassup? Change
Bellwethers No More?
Politico/Insider Advantage Polls: OH, FL
Ridge: Race Would Be Different With Me
McCain Ad: 'Ladies and Gentlemen'
Where Are They Today?
The Morning Report
The Daily 2008
Edwards on Global Warming
Rudy's Chances
New Hampshire Poll
Clinton, Kaplan and the Establishment
The Daily 2008
Edwards vs. Shrum
McCain to be in Iraq During Club for Growth Event
Vitter & Rudy: Wound Too Tight?
Vitter Good for Rudy, Toomey Bad for McCain
The Daily 2008
Election 2008
Hagel's Road Less Traveled
'08 Nevada Poll
Ready, Aim.......Hit Giuliani
The Brownback Interview
Revisiting Fred Thompson
Obama's Audacity
The Daily 2008
Guess Who'll Be on FNS?
Thompson's Test
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Blogger in Chief
The Cliche Machine
The Daily 2008
Meet the Mayor
Hillary in Selma - Take II
The Daily 2008
Is Hillary Steaming on the Titanic?
The Daily 2008
Photo of the Day
Rasmussen on '08 Dems
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A Tale of Two Speeches
Obama on Iran
CPAC: Romney Hits One Out
McCain Pulls Out the SC Straw
The Hagel Boomlet
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McCain's Rough Week
Who Won the Geffen Dustup?
Will Newt Get The Geffen Treatment?
New '08 NJ Poll
New Time Poll
Song Choices
Pre-War Obama
Giuliani Out Front, Obama Gaining on Hillary
South Carolina Shootout Continues
Obama on Iraq in '02
'08 News and More
The Hillary Haters
The Tin Ear Endorsement
Good News From Iran
The Romney Interview
Edwards' Missing MoJo
The Full McCain
A Taste of the Slugfest
National '08 QPoll
McCain on Abortion
Blair to Announce British Troop Withdrawal
Mitt Defends Again
Mitt TV
Hillary's Tone Deaf Pivot
'08 Hopefuls Turn Up Heat On War
What John McCain Needs
More on Marist
Marist '08 Poll
CT '08 Poll
Sullivan's Rewrite
Giuliani vs. McCain
He's No Hillary
Romney's Explanation
Rudy on Abortion
Running the Republican Numbers on Rudy
The Worst Apology In History
Rudy's Slow Roll
Defending Hillary
More '08 Polls
Franken Is In
New York Loves Hillary in '08
Sounds Familiar
Obama: Ready or Not?
Hillary, The War and Her Vote
Hillary's Lead Down to Only 5 Pts?
Obama: Lincoln in 1860 or Dean in 2004?
Edwards Gets Tough
Was Giuliani a Bum on 9/10/01?
Who Will Be the GOP Supply-Side Candidate?
The Heads Blog 2008
Pennsylvania '08 Poll
Florida '08 Poll
More New Hampshire #'s
Hillary's "I Want to Take Those Profits" Problem
That Was Fast
Giuliani Is In and Becomes the Immediate Favorite
Giuliani on Hannity & Colmes (Video)
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October 2008

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October 29, 2008

McCain Memo: Race Isn't Over

In an internal campaign memo, McCain lead pollster Bill McInturff made the case that the race is tighter than most think, Wall Street Journal's Holmes reports. He stated that "the campaign is functionally tied across the battleground states" and that "all signs say we are headed to an election that may easily be too close to call by next Tuesday."

Read the full memo after the jump.

Continue reading "McCain Memo: Race Isn't Over" »

Jindal 2012?

Ross Douthat and Chris Orr debate the question.

From Orr:

Now, yes, four years is a longer time in politics than it used to be. But I still don't see these toxins leaching out that quickly, particularly from a GOP that will, in all likelihood, continue trying to raise subliminal doubts about Obama's Americanness. Add to this the blunt fact that the GOP probably can't afford to lose racist white voters, especially in the South (you think a Jindal - Obama race wouldn't invite a conservative, white, third-party candidacy?), and I think Jindal's chance of being the nominee in 2012 is, despite his obvious talents, pretty close to nil. The GOP isn't going to be looking for its own Obama; it's going to be looking for an anti-Obama.

To which Douthat responds:

If anything, I think the way the McCain campaign has finished up - and the way the media has covered it - works to Jindal's advantage in 2012: Conservatives are going to be extremely eager to prove that they only hate Obama because he's a radical, not because they're racist, and what better way to demonstrate that than to nominate a dark-skinned conservative with a funny-sounding name? Indeed, much of the current affection for Jindal among movement conservatives - and especially in talk-radio land - can be traced to precisely such a yearning for a conservative Obama: A multicultural prince who channels Ronald Reagan, and whose nomination would at least reduce the taint of racism that clings to the American Right.

I agree with Douthat on this one and think Orr is letting his own Republican stereotypes cloud his analysis here. As Douthat notes, Jindal has already overcome his "otherness" by getting elected in Louisiana. Furthermore, playing the "otherness" card against a President Obama won't exactly bring the same rewards as playing it against a first-term senator. It all depends on where the country is then of course, but the GOP will rely on the liberal card with some degree of "Had enough?" due to the Democratic Congress.

Where Are They Today?

A quick look at where the candidates and their running mates are campaigning today with links to those states' RCP Avgs:

* McCain is in Florida;

* Obama is in North Carolina, then Florida;

* Palin is in Ohio;

* Biden is in Florida.

New McCain, Obama TV Ads

McCain's new TV ad hits Obama on his lack of experience. "Behind the fancy speeches, grand promises and TV special, lies the truth," the announcer states. "The fact is Barack Obama's not ready yet." The ad will air on national broadcast channels, according to the campaign.

"TV Special":

Along with Obama's 30-minute ad that will air tonight on network TV, his campaign released a new 30-second ad this morning that hits McCain on his selection of a running mate. There is no talking in the ad -- only quotes from McCain appear on the screen with a background tune. The ad will begin airing in key states tomorrow, according to the campaign.

"His Choice":

Poll: CO Initiative To End Affirmative Action Hiring

A Rocky Mountain News poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, found 53% in favor of Amendment 46, a ballot initiative in Colorado that "effectively ends government-sponsored affirmative action programs that use race or gender."

According to the poll, which surveyed 500 registered voters from Oct. 21-23 with a margin of error of 4.38%, the initiative is supported by a 53%-40% margin, with 7% undecided. The pollster said the relatively low support for the initiative is not a good sign for supporters heading into the election. The poll also found higher than expected support from minority and women voters, "an indication that there is a low level of awareness that it actually ends race- and gender-based affirmative action."

Vets For Freedom: 'Stop the Smears'

Hitting John Murtha:

The Morning Report

In the Headlines

"With Time Running Short, Campaigns Engage in a Noisy Air War" (Jim Rutenberg, New York Times) - The campaigns of Senators Barack Obama and John McCain are making their last-ditch advertising pitches in a loud, televised shouting match over health care and taxes, terrorism and presidential readiness, trying to sway the few remaining undecided voters or to push wavering supporters to the polls on Tuesday.

"McCain campaign accuses L.A. Times of 'suppressing' Obama video" (Los Angeles Times) - John McCain's presidential campaign Tuesday accused the Los Angeles Times of "intentionally suppressing" a videotape it obtained of a 2003 banquet where then-state Sen. Barack Obama spoke of his friendship with Rashid Khalidi, a leading Palestinian scholar and activist.

"Poll: McCain has cut into Obama's edge on jobs, economy" (Steven Thomma, McClatchy) - "Joe the Plumber" may be paying off for John McCain. The Arizona senator scored sharp gains on the pivotal issue of jobs and the economy in the past week, helping him gain a bit on front-runner Barack Obama and narrow the presidential race as it heads into the final week, according to an Ipsos/McClatchy Poll released Tuesday.

"Dems get ready to rule" (Michael Sandler, The Hill) - A landslide victory next Tuesday would give Barack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape government policy dramatically. By controlling the White House and expanding their Senate majority, Democrats would remove the most reliable weapons used by the GOP to block their agenda: the filibuster and the veto.

On the Morning Shows

CBS Early Show - Dan Bartlett, Bush's ex-communications director on Obama's infomercial tonight: "He has this tendency to get presumptuous as if he's already won. I think it can have a negative ad in some of these states. I do think there's a little bit of risk."

From Late Night

Letterman:

(Greg Bobrinskoy contributed to the Morning Report.)

October 28, 2008

Dow Up ... 900?

Just near 900, which is its second biggest day ever.

State Polls: CO, GA, NV, OH

New state polls in four states:

Colorado - Politico/InsiderAdvantage (Oct. 26, 636 LV)
Obama 52
McCain 45

Obama leads by 6.8 points in the RCP Average for Colorado

Georgia - InsiderAdvantage/PollPosition (Oct. 27, 637 LV)
McCain 48 (+1 vs. last poll, Oct. 23)
Obama 47 (-1)

McCain leads by 5.2 points in the RCP Average for Georgia

Nevada - Suffolk (Oct. 26, 600 LV)
Obama 50 (+5 vs. last poll, Sept. 17-21)
McCain 40 (-6)

Obama leads by 4.8 points in the RCP Average for Nevada

Ohio - SurveyUSA (Oct. 26-27, 648 LV)
Obama 49 (-1 vs. last poll, Oct. 12-13)
McCain 45 (nc)

Obama leads by 6.0 points in the RCP Average for Ohio

NBC/Mason-Dixon Polls: NH, MT, NC

From NBC/Mason-Dixon's new polls taken Oct. 23-25 in New Hampshire (Obama +11), Montana (McCain +4) and North Carolina (tie):

New Hampshire (625 LV)
Obama 50
McCain 39

Obama leads by 8.4 points for the RCP Average in New Hampshire

Montana (625 LV)
McCain 48
Obama 44

McCain leads by 3.4 points in the RCP Average for Montana

North Carolina (800 LV)
Obama 47
McCain 47

Obama leads by 1.5 points in the RCP Average for North Carolina

Daley Expects 1 Million At Obama Bash

From CBS2:

Mayor Daley predicted Tuesday that more than a million people would descend on Grant Park for Barack Obama's election night "celebration" and said the city has no plans to screen people entering the park.

The mayor said "everybody's talking about" the Obama celebration.

"It's gonna be surprising. There's gonna be a lot of people who will want to come down and celebrate...We hope it's a million or more. It would be wonderful."

Unless ... well, let's just say an election still needs to be held. On the logistics, since Grant Park hosts some of the biggest festivals in the country, the area should be able to handle the expected sea of people.

Obama Camp Responds

Following the McCain campaign's jumping on an interview Joe Biden gave in which he seemed to lower the cap at which people would see a tax increase in an Obama administration, Biden spokesman David Wade responds:

"We have a big choice in this election between tax relief for the middle class or more of the same Bush tax giveaways for Exxon Mobil and the most wealthy corporations. As Senator Obama and Senator Biden have always said, under their plan no family making less than $250,000 will see their taxes increase one cent. And if your family makes less than $200,000 - as 95 percent of workers and their families do - you'll get a tax cut."

"Maybe the McCain campaign keeps lying about Obama's tax plan because with seven days left in this election," Wade continued, "Voters are rejecting McCain's plan to give billions more in tax giveaways to big corporations and the wealthiest Americans - but nothing to more than 100 million middle-class families."

Short version: Biden flubbed it.

McCain Ad: 'Tiny'

Hitting Obama on foreign policy:

The ad will air in Florida.

UPDATE: This ad is a re-release. It first aired in late August.

A Journal of Politics and the Arts

Who over at TNR thought this was a good idea?

McCain Camp Hits Obama For Raising Taxes

On a conference call with reporters today, the McCain campaign continued to attack the Obama campaign for what it perceives as confusion over at what salarly-level Sen. Obama would raise taxes.

Explaining that over the weekend the Obama campaign released an ad putting the cap at $200,000, followed yesterday by Joe Biden seemingly lowering it to $150,000 yesterday, McCain senior adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin said that the "bottom line is that the Obama-Biden ticket wants to raise taxes."

The Obama campaign has clarified that those making under $200,000 would see a tax cut while those making under $250,000 would not see a tax increase.

Also on the call was former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp, who said he didn't know "an economist around the globe, and I don't know of an economic theory, left, right or center, that allows for a tax increase during a recession."

"It is a disgrace to call for America to be competitive in the global economy and turnaround and tax corporations in Virginia or Michigan," said Kemp. "This is not a battle over tax cuts; it is a battle over how to keep this economy from going further into a recession and to get restoration of the American dream."

McCain, Obama Call For Stevens' Resignation

Issued from the campaign on behalf of Senator McCain:

"Yesterday, Senator Ted Stevens was found guilty of corruption. It is a sign of the health of our democracy that the people continue to hold their representatives to account for improper or illegal conduct, but this verdict is also a sign of the corruption and insider-dealing that has become so pervasive in our nation's capital.

"It is clear that Senator Stevens has broken his trust with the people and that he should now step down. I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will be spurred by these events to redouble their efforts to end this kind of corruption once and for all."

UPDATE: Obama does too:

"Yesterday's ruling wasn't just a verdict on Senator Stevens - but on the broken politics that has infected Washington for decades. It's time to put an end to the corruption and influence-peddling, restore openness and accountability, and finally put government back in the hands of the people it serves. Senator Stevens should step down.

"But Stevens' resignation won't solve anything on its own. It's clear that if we're going to put the economy back on track and provide relief to working Americans, we're going to have to change the way that Washington works. That's why I'm running for president."

Pew: Obama +15

While the national tracking polls have shown some tightening, Pew Research is out with a new poll showing Barack Obama maintaining a big lead over John McCain:

Obama 53 (nc vs. last poll Oct 16-19)
McCain 38 (-1)

Obama's lead in the RCP National Average is back up to 7.2%

McCain Jumps on Biden Gaffe

At a rally in Hershey, Pa., McCain jumped on a statement from Joe Biden that those who makes less $150,000 would get a tax cut. Problem is, the Obama campaign has put the threshold at $250,000.

Today, McCain said:

Senator Obama has made a lot of promises. First he said people making less than 250,000 dollars would benefit from his plan, then this weekend he announced in an ad that if you're a family making less than 200,000 dollars you'll benefit -- but yesterday, right here in Pennsylvania, Senator Biden said tax relief should only go to "middle class people -- people making under 150,000 dollars a year." You getting an idea of what's on their mind. A little sneak peek. It's interesting how their definition of rich has a way of creeping down. At this rate, it won't be long before Senator Obama is right back to his vote that Americans making just 42,000 dollars a year should get a tax increase. We can't let that happen. We won't let that happen.

Fox News is reporting that the Obama campaign argues that there is no change, that those making under $250,000 would not see a tax increase and those making under $200,000 would get a tax cut.

Analyzing the 'Bradley Effect'

In looking at the "Bradly Effect" and whether we'll see it this year, Jim Geraghty points to this study by two UC-Irving researchers, ""Ashamed Not to Vote for an African-American; Ashamed to Vote for a Woman: An Analysis of the Bradley Effect from 1982-2006."

Perhaps my colleague Jay Cost could take us through all the mathematics, but, skipping ahead, here is the authors' conclusion:

Those who claim that the Bradley Effect is an artifact of the past are partially correct. ... Our findings suggest that black candidates are truly susceptible to problems with pre-election polling.

Most pre-election polls predicted Barack Obama to win in the 2008 New Hampshire Democratic Presidential Primary. On election night, Hillary Clinton surprised everyone and defeated Obama. This was déjà vu for many political commentators and some began to argue that the Bradley Effect had reappeared. While several political
pundits called this the Bradley Effect, our study provides new insight into this case. Perhaps it was not that the polling was not only overestimating Obama's support, but also underestimating Clinton's. This seems to be consistent with the findings from this election. One of the major findings in this paper seems to be that female candidates are the victims of the Hillary Effect. White women candidates like Hillary Clinton tend to do worse in pre-election polls than in actual elections.

Obama Ad: 'Steel In His Spine'

Pushing back at McCain's attack on Biden:

(ht: Ben Smith)

Veepstakes! (The 20/20 Hindsight Edition)

There has already been a lot of ink spilled about John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin for Vice President - much of it critical. Nevertheless, some are already framing a likely McCain loss next week through the "what if he had picked someone else" prism, which is silly - not to mention premature - but makes for good fodder.

Among those who've started the second guessing early are Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Steve Kornacki, and, most prominently, Adam Nagourney in yesterday's New York Times.

The first two pieces - and to a lesser extent Nagourney's - single out Mitt Romney as having been the wiser choice for McCain. Hutchinson wrote:

Romney could have made a credible case that as a businessman and a true fiscal conservative who did business the right way, and that's not through banking, stock and brokerage conniving, speculation, wheeling dealing, and fraud. He could have helped ease the fears and the banking and big businesses of even more shocks, meltdowns, and instability. Since much of investor panic even terror is more psychology and perception of more economic doom, this would have been a major GOP and voter selling point.

To the contrary, the Obama campaign was licking its chops at the prospect of Romney on the ticket and would have slammed him as ultra-rich and out of touch (remember the preemptive line about the ticket with 13 houses?). They would have had a field day in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio lobbing accusations that Romney slashed jobs while at Bain Capital. And while Romney may have provided some marginal benefit to McCain in Michigan, it seems clear now that the financial crisis tsunami that shifted the entire electoral map over the last few weeks put Michigan beyond McCain's reach regardless of who was on the ticket.

Interestingly, one name that is missing from these preemptive "what if" discussions about McCain's vice presidential selection is Mike Huckabee. He clearly would have energized the evangelical base as much or more than Palin.

More to the point, Huckabee had been fully vetted by the primary process, is exceedingly likable, and is arguably every bit as eloquent on behalf of conservative principles as Obama is on behalf of liberal ones. There's no question Huckabee's down home economic populism would have played extraordinarily well throughout the financial crisis with working class voters in battleground states.

There's also little question that the media would have portrayed Huckabee as a Bible thumping zealot, or that Huckabee would have ignited the same sort of elite vs. everyman rift in the Republican party that Palin has.

On the other hand, I'm not all convinced, even in hindsight, that a pro-choice pick like Lieberman or Ridge would have McCain in a better spot right now. If anything, I'd be inclined to think the opposite. Tim Pawlenty is a fresh young face with a nice life story, but it's hard to see the base falling as fast or as hard with him as they did with Palin - or would have with Huckabee.

We can argue these things round and round - which is part of the fun. But in the end we'll never know with any degree of certainty that another pick would have made the extra difference for McCain - assuming he doesn't shock the world and win in an upset seven days from now, of course.

About That Crisis

Joe Biden's recent comment about a "generated crisis" to test Barack Obama's mettle brings to mind a counterintuitive thought I've been nursing for a while. If, God forbid, there is a terrorist attack on the United States during the next four years, could it be the case that the hot headed and erratic John McCain would be the more measured in his response and that the preternaturally calm and cool Mr. Obama might be pressured into reacting rashly and imprudently?

Fair or not, as he takes control of managing two wars in a post-9/11 world, Obama will carry with him to the White House the generic public perception of Democrats being soft on national security. Should a national security crisis arise, especially at or near the beginning of his administration, Obama would be under immense, almost unimaginable pressure to respond - and respond forcefully.

McCain would face pressure, too, but one could argue that because he has such strong bona fides on national security and more public trust to handle an international crisis, McCain would have greater latitude and flexibility in crafting a response.

Put another way, if there is an attack on America Obama might be pressured into proving his "toughness," which is something McCain wouldn't necessarily have to do.

Agree or disagree? Email me.

Politico: Reid Seeking to Oust Byrd

The scoop from the Politico's John Bresnahan:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is quietly preparing to ease 90-year-old Sen. Robert C. Byrd from his perch as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Democratic insiders tell Politico.

Reid has not yet discussed his plans with Byrd. But in a recent closed-door meeting with his advisers in Las Vegas and a private conversation with Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Reid has laid out a scenario that would have Inouye -- the committee's second-ranking Democrat -- taking over Byrd's chairmanship by the time the 111th Congress convenes in January.

Where Are They Today?

A quick look at where the candidates and their running mates are today with links to those states' RCP Avgs:

* McCain and Palin will campaign together in Pennsylvania, with McCain later traveling to North Carolina;

* Obama is also in PA, then later Virginia;

* Biden is in Florida today.

The Morning Report

In the Headlines

"Obama stresses unity, change" (Mike Dorning, Chicago Tribune) - In a speech promoted as his closing argument, Democrat Barack Obama came to a struggling industrial town in northern Ohio to join criticism of the Republican Party's record on bread-and-butter issues with the soaring themes of hope, unity and common purpose that have propelled Obama's political rise since he debuted on the national stage.

"McCain tackles Obama on plan to 'spread the wealth'" (Maeve Reston and Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times) - Addressing a boisterous crowd in eastern Pennsylvania, John McCain said Monday that Barack Obama wanted to be "Redistributionist in Chief," putting a new twist on his warning that the Democrat intends to "spread the wealth around," as he told Joe the Plumber.

"Obama ads overwhelm TV presence of McCain" (Fredreka Schouten, USA Today) - Democrat Barack Obama, who is on track to spend a record $230 million on television advertising, will punctuate his broadcast strategy Wednesday with prime-time commercials on CBS, NBC and Fox.

"McCain needs to win left-leaning Florida" (Jonathan Martin, The Politico) - Florida and its 27 electoral votes are essential to John McCain's hopes of winning the presidency -- but with a week until the election even some Republicans in the state say it is tilting toward Barack Obama.

On the Morning Shows

Early Show - Ed Rendell on race influencing voters: "I don't think it'll be a factor, I think the economy has trumped it."

Tom Ridge: "If you take a look at Pennsylvania, they don't' drive their cars in the far left lane. Obama is farther to the left than some in his own party. The job is to create wealth, not to share it or redistribute it."

Fox and Friends - Rudy Giuliani: "I was with small business people, I wish I could explain how they feel about Obama. Look at his voting record. 90 or 100 times he's voted to raise taxes or not cut taxes. It's Barack Obama who used the words 'spread the wealth'. Joe the Plumber got him to say that, no one put those words in his mouth."

From Late Night

Leno:

(Greg Bobrinskoy contributed to the Morning Report.)

McCain Ad: 'Compare'

A new McCain TV ad gives a simple argument to voters, asking which candidate they'd rather have. "Your choice," the announcer states, "for higher taxes [a picture of Obama on the screen] ... for workin' Joes [picture of McCain]." The ad is set to air "in key states," according to the campaign.

"Compare":

October 27, 2008

Senator Ted Stevens Guilty

On all seven counts of lying on his financial disclosure forms.

Stevens may have lost this race anyway, but it's now probably safe to say Mark Begich will be going to Washington as Alaska's new Senator.

UPDATE: From McClatchy:

Stevens, who was indicted in late July, sought an early trial date, gambling that he'd face voters as an innocent man. Even without the conviction, though, in order to re-elect Stevens, voters would have to overlook four weeks of testimony that exposed some of the senator's innermost financial and personal secrets.

The guilty verdict will complicate not only his re-election bid but also the remainder of his term in the Senate. His colleagues have the option _ never exercised _ of voting to expel him before his term ends in January. Four U.S. senators have been convicted of crimes, historians note, but not one has received a presidential pardon.

UPDATE II: Chris Cillizza reports:

The Alaska Democratic Party immediately called for Stevens' resignation. "Senator Stevens' felony convictions are very serious and he should immediately resign from the United States Senate," said Patti Higgins, the chairwoman of the Alaska Democratic Party. "He knew what he was doing was wrong, but he did it anyway and lied to Alaskans about it. Alaskans deserve better from their public officials."

VA Polls: Obama +8, +11

Two new Virginia polls show Obama with a significant lead in the Old Dominion.

Washington Post (Oct. 22-25, 784 LV, MoE +/- 3.5%)
Obama 52
McCain 44

VCU (Oct. 20-22, 817 LV, MoE +/- 4.0%)
Obama 51
McCain 40

Sarah Palin is making three campaign stops in Virginia today, as the McCain campaign attempts to salvage Virginia's 13 electoral votes. Obama now leads by 7.7 points in the RCP Average for Virginia

Reuters/Zogby: 8 State Polls

New Reuters/Zogby polls taken from Oct. 23-26 in eight states that voted for Pres. Bush in 2004 shows Obama up in Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia. McCain leads in Indiana and West Virginia, while the two are tied in Florida. In the RCP Averages, Obama leads in seven of the eight states, with McCain leading in just West Virginia.

Florida
Obama 47, McCain 47

Obama leads by 1.9 points in the RCP Average for Florida

Indiana
McCain 50, Obama 44

Obama leads by 0.3 of a point in the RCP Average for Indiana

Missouri
Obama 48, McCain 46

Obama leads by 1.0 point in the RCP Average for Missouri

Nevada
Obama 48, McCain 44

Obama leads by 3.5 points in the RCP Average for Nevada

North Carolina
Obama 50, McCain 46

Obama leads by 1.5 points in the RCP Average for North Carolina

Ohio
Obama 50, McCain 45

Obama leads by 6.0 points in the RCP Average for Ohio

Virginia
Obama 52, McCain 45

Obama leads by 7.7 points in the RCP Average for Virginia

West Virginia
McCain 50, Obama 40

McCain leads by 8.0 points in the RCP Average for West Virginia

MS Senate Race: Dirty

In the competitive special election race in Mississippi to fill Republican Trent Lott's Senate seat for the next four years, appointed Sen. Roger Wicker (R) and former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) -- roommates while in the state Senate -- have engaged in what the Clarion Ledger calls "one of the most spirited and, unfortunately, dirty campaigns in some time."

This editorial from the Ledger ultimately endorses Musgrove, but makes sure to point out how muddy the campaign has gotten:

Interim-Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican, faces former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove for that coveted position and it has created one of the most spirited and, unfortunately, dirty campaigns in some time.

Due to the tsunami of attack ads by the national parties and outside interests, it's difficult to see past the mud and find out who voters should choose in this important post.

Honestly, can anyone put credibility in the cartoonish ads showing Musgrove's campaign getting cash from a person made up to look like a cow? Or that Wicker would vote himself a raise nine times? Both are exaggerations that say nothing of substance. (Musgrove was governor during the beef plant debacle; Wicker didn't vote against raises that were set automatically.)

While the ballot will not show party identification since it is a special election, it's doubtful many voters can miss it. It is very partisan.

From a Ledger cartoon today:

MS Senate toon.jpg

Where Are They Today?

A quick look at where the candidates and their running mates are campaigning today with links to those states' RCP Avgs:

* McCain will be in Ohio and Pennsylvania;

* as will Obama;

* Palin will be in Virginia;

* Biden will be in North Carolina.

The Morning Report

In the Headlines

"End of Battle Centers on Turf Bush Carried" (Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny, New York Times) - Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama are heading into the final week of the presidential campaign planning to spend nearly all their time in states that President Bush won last time, testimony to the increasingly dire position of Mr. McCain and his party as Election Day approaches.

"Defiant John McCain pledges no sleep till victory over Barack Obama" (James Meek, New York Daily News) - John McCain promised a fight to the end of the presidential campaign yesterday despite gloomy polls, Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama and reported backbiting among campaign aides. "We're going to win it, and it's going to be tight, and we're going to be up late [on Election Night]," McCain said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"Rally pulls record-setting crowd" (Kirk Mitchell, Denver Post) - Close to 150,000 Coloradans in two cities stood in hours-long lines to listen to the Democratic presidential candidate nine days before the Nov. 4 general election.

"Economy Casts Shadow Over Local Ballot Measures" (Dionne Searcey and Easha Anand, Wall Street Journal) - State ballot initiatives can't do much to address the Wall Street financial crisis, but its continuing economic fallout is bound to affect how angry voters decide scores of local issues on Election Day.

On the Morning Shows

Early Show - Mitt Romney on Sarah Palin: "Of course anyone is going to make some mistakes. I think she's fired up the base and is drawing up volunteers. Some of the polls show us a very tight race, that gives us a lot of encouragement. You want someone who has been tested and proven."

Gov Tim Kaine on Obama's chances in Virginia: "We've got a very good chance. Since we haven't done it since 1964 we've got to consider ourselves the underdog. I haven't seen a poll where we've been behind since early October."

(Greg Bobrinskoy contributed to the Morning Report.)

October 26, 2008

McCain's Hometown Support

The Arizona Republic picks its native son:

Nobody in the country knows the Republican presidential candidate better than we do. And no one is better placed to judge whether he would serve honorably and admirably as president of the United States.

We are confident he will. The Arizona Republic proudly recommends John McCain for president.

...

Considering what we do know of his record, it is hard to envision Obama tamping down even the wildest leftist aspirations of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

100,000 at Obama Rally?

CBS News says 100,000 greeted Obama at a rally in Denver today:

Barack Obama drew a crowd of 100,000, according to police estimates, in his third visit to Colorado since the Democratic Convention. Speaking at Civic Center Park in downtown Denver, Obama appeared to be stunned by the sea of supporters.

"Goodness gracious! Who are those folks way at the top of the capitol over there? Unbelievable!" he said to cheers.

Ben Smith notes, however, this Denver Post dispatch:

Denver police estimated the crowd at more than 100,000. Civic Center park holds 34,000, and there were several thousand more in the streets surrounding the park and on the steps of the state Capitol.

Here's video:

Sure looks like a lot people.

Off Message?

It's probably not the best thing for the campaign that Sarah Palin had to respond to the wardrobe-gate in Tampa today:

"This whole thing with the wardrobe, you know I have tried to just ignore it because it is so ridiculous, but I am glad now that Elisabeth brought it up, cause it gives me an opportunity without the filter of the media to get to tell you the whole clothes thing," she said.

"Those clothes, they are not my property. Just like the lighting and the staging and everything else that the RNC purchased, I'm not taking them with me. I am back to wearing my own clothes from my favorite consignment shop in Anchorage, Alaska. You'd think -- not that I would even have to address the issue because, as Elisabeth is suggesting, the double standard here it's -- gosh, we don't even want to waste our time."

Palin, however, forged on.

"I am glad, though, that she brought up accessories also. Let me tell you a little bit about a couple of accessories, didn't think that we would be talking about it, but my earrings -- I see a Native Americans for Palin poster," she said. "These are beaded earrings from Todd's mom who is a Yupik Eskimo up in Alaska, Native American, Native Alaskan.

Here's video:

More McCain 'Meet' Clips

McCain On 'Meet'

John McCain, appearing on "Meet the Press" this morning, on the state of the race:

"We're doing fine. We have closed in the last week. We continue to close this next week, you're going to be up very, very late on election night. We are very competitive in many of the battleground states."


More State Polls: MO & IL

Research 2000 polls in Illinois and Missouri for the St. Louis Dispatch, taken October 20-23 among 800 likely voters:


Missouri

Obama 48 (+2 vs. last poll in September 22-24)
McCain 47 (nc)

Obama leads by 1.0% in the RCP Average for Missouri.

Illinois
Obama 59 (+3 vs. last poll September 15-18)
McCain 35 (-1)

Obama leads by 23.4% in the RCP Average for Illinois.

SNL Zings Biden & Murtha

Everyone is fair game this year:

NBC/Mason-Dixon: GA, IA, MO

New state polls this morning from NBC News/Mason-Dixon in Georgia, Iowa, and Missouri. All polls were conducted October 22-23 among likely voters:

Georgia
McCain 49
Obama 43

Iowa
Obama 51
McCain 40

Missouri
McCain 46
Obama 45

New Polls In First In The Nation States

New polls in Iowa and New Hampshire show identical numbers: Obama leading 54%-39% over McCain.

Iowa - Quad-City Times/Research2000 (Oct. 19-22, 600 LV)
Obama 54 (+1 vs. last poll, Sept. 15-17)
McCain 39 (nc)

Obama leads by 12.2 points in the RCP Average for Iowa

New Hampshire - Boston Globe/UNH (Oct. 18-22, 725 LV)
Obama 54 (+9 vs. last poll, Sept. 14-21)
McCain 39 (-8)

Obama leads by 9.3 points in the RCP Average for New Hampshire

Tough Year For Arizona GOP?

Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl admitted in an interview last week that John McCain's chances of winning the presidency are not good. From the Arizona Daily Star:

During a visit to the Arizona Daily Star last week for an editorial board meeting, Kyl resurrected an old quote from Arizona Democrat Mo Udall, who ran for president in 1976 and famously quipped that Arizona is the only state in the union where a mother can't tell her son that he can grow up to be president.

"Unfortunately, I think John McCain might be added to that long list of Arizonans who ran for president but were never elected," Kyl said, listing Republican Barry Goldwater, Udall and Democrat Bruce Babbitt. "Maybe, we'll be able to say Arizona's the only state where your child can't grow up to be president. Let's hope that doesn't happen," the Republican added.

"If it's not John McCain, it'll be another Arizonan someday," said Kyl.

A McCain loss might not be the only setback on Election Day for the Arizona Republican Party. Many believe Republicans could lose two U.S. House seats to Democrats (they'll almost certainly lose one), giving the Dems a majority in the delegation. The delegation is currently split with four Democrats and four Republicans. From the New York Times:

Few doubt that Mr. McCain will win Arizona's 10 electoral votes. But less clear is whether he will have the coattails to rescue his party from Democratic advances in the state.

Democrats -- and privately, some leading Republicans -- say they believe that the Democrats can pick up one and possibly two Congressional seats now held by Republicans. That would give them a majority of Arizona's Congressional delegation -- now with eight members -- for the first time since 1966.

McCain's Miserable Map

To appreciate the dominant position Obama currently holds in the Electoral College, consider the following map. I've taken the 2004 Electoral College results, and colored "gray" all the red states that are in play this year.

obamamap1.gif

Obama has locked up every Kerry state from 2004, which gives him a starting point of 252 Electoral votes.

So of the 12 states currently in play which total 129 electoral votes, Obama needs to pick up only an additional 18 electoral votes to get to 270. He can do that by winning Ohio, Florida, or any combination of the other states. Even more to the point: Obama leads in the polls in 10 out of 12 of these states, Montana and North Dakota being the only exceptions.

Obama's leads in the RCP Averages in these ten states rank as follows: Iowa +12.2, New Mexico +8.4, Virginia +7.0, Colorado +6.5, Ohio +6.1, Nevada +3.3, Missouri +2.7, Florida +2.2, North Carolina +1.0, and Indiana +0.5.

As has been noted, McCain's most likely route to 270 is an inside straight that wins every one of these states but Iowa and New Mexico for a 274-264 win:

mccainmap1.gif

McCain's chances of flipping one of the Kerry states from 2004 to offset his red state losses this year are exceedingly slim. McCain has abandoned Michigan and pulled back from the Upper Midwest, leaving Pennsylvania as the only option. (McCain and Palin have spent time in New Hampshire, though they would also need to win two out of the three states of IA, CO, and NM to have the Granite State's 4 EV's make a difference getting to 270). Thus a second, but even more unlikely, scenario for McCain to get to 270 looks like this:

mccainmap2.gif

The McCain campaign's hope - and that's basically what they are down to at this point: hope - is that the national polls close from the current 7.7% lead for Obama down to into the 3-5% range over the next week and that the corresponding move in these traditionally red states put them back into McCain's column.

Obama Ad: 'New Subject'

Star-Tribune Endorses Coleman

Turning quickly to one of the most closely-watched Senate races, today the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has endorsed Sen. Norm Coleman over his challenger comedian Al Franken:

Count this newspaper among the Minnesota voices that long for a lessening of partisan polarization and a return to constructive problem-solving in Washington. If demonization of the partisan opposition continues to be the political coin of this realm, effectiveness of American democracy will be diminished.

Independent judgment, exercised on behalf of the best interests of the country and state, is what we hope to see from our U.S. senators. With that hope in mind, this newspaper recommends the reelection of Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.

Curiously, the Star-Tribune never mentions Franken by name.

In any case, if endorsements matter, this one is noteworthy since the Star-Tribune isn't exactly a GOP house organ. Currently, Franken holds a 2.6-point lead over Coleman in the RCP Avg.

Where Are They Today?

A quick look at where the candidates and their running mates are campaigning today with links to those states' RCP Avgs:

* Obama is in Denver, Colorado;

* McCain, on "Meet the Press" today, will be in Iowa later, then Ohio;

* Palin in in Florida, then North Carolina;

* Biden has no public events.

October 25, 2008

McCain vs. Matthews

McCain blogger Michael Goldfarb has a quibble with Chris Matthews:

Earlier this week Chris Matthews exhibited such a stunning combination of bias and ignorance that we feel compelled to set the record straight.

Matthews mocked Governor Palin for telling a third grader that the Vice President is 'in charge of the U.S. Senate so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes.' Matthews said 'either she's right about the role of the vice presidency or I'm wrong.' Fortunately for the American people, Chris Matthews is wrong. Though it escaped comment at MSNBC, Joe Biden recently made a comment to the New Yorker promising to play a similar leadership role in the Senate. Biden told the magazine, 'I would see one of my jobs as essentially being the president of the Senate, in the sense of actually not presiding as much as interacting, continuing to interact, talking to Harry Reid every day, or talking to Nancy Pelosi.'

You can watch what Matthews said here. Critics of Palin will find something to attack in nearly everything she says, but Goldfarb does make a good point about holding the candidates to the same standard. Can you imagine the media ruckus that would have followed had Palin said "a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S" as Biden did a few days ago?

RNC Ad: 'Storm'

A new one from the RNC:

(ht: Ben Smith)

A Look at the Senate

That Democrats will pick up several seats in the Senate to add to their majority is not really in doubt. What is in doubt is whether they can grab enough seats to push them into that all-valuable 60-seat territory. As the AP's David Espo writes today, despite the favorable Democratic environment out there, that's still going to be a tall order:

Democrats are overwhelmingly favored to pick up seats in Virginia, New Mexico and Colorado where Republicans are retiring.

Additionally, GOP Sens. John Sununu of New Hampshire, Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Gordon Smith of Oregon are in jeopardy. So, too, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, whose fate may rest on the outcome of his corruption trial, now in the hands of a jury in a courthouse a few blocks from the Capitol.

Even if they win all four of those races -- a tall order -- Democrats would be two seats shy of 60 and looking South to get them.

Taking a look at those Southern seats Democrats have their eyes on:

* Georgia: The RCP Avg gives incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss a 2.2-point lead over challenger Jim Martin.

* North Carolina: The RCP Avg gives challenger Kay Hagan a 2-point lead over incubment Republican Elizabeth Dole.

* Mississippi: The RCP Avg gives incumbent Republican Roger Wicker a 2.7-point lead over challenger Ronnie Musgrove.

Taking at least one of these seats is certainly doable for Democrats, particularly in North Carolina, where an Obama victory will almost certainly have coattails. But getting two will the real trick.

Fighting It Out in Iowa

Sarah Palin is campaigning in Sioux City today, while John McCain will follow her tonight in Waterloo, reports CBS News' Scott Conroy:

The Democrats are maintaining a solid lead in the latest Iowa polls, and the state's dynamics would seem to suit the Democrats. Iowa was the state that catapulted Obama to the front of the Democratic pack after his victory in the state's caucuses in January, and John McCain finished a distant fourth in the Republican field.

Still, the Republicans have to compete in states with less than ideal conditions, and one GOP operative with strong Iowa ties recently told CBS News that internal polling numbers show that the state could be a lot closer than the polls indicate.

Well, the RCP Average of those polls gives Obama an 11.4-point lead in a state that went for Bush in 2004 at the moment, which might make some wonder why the McCain campaign would spend one of its precious few weekends left battling it out instead of going to some states a bit tighter in the polls. But, hey, they must know something we don't, right?

Obama Camp Sees Its Path To Victory

On a conference call with reporters yesterday, Obama field director Jon Carson, along with campaign manager David Plouffe, laid out the path to victory. "We really feel that in a number of these states, the election is going to come down to our ground organization," Carson said. "We have around 1.5 million active volunteers around the country."

"The most important barometer for us is our voter contact," Carson said. "We measure how many people we actually have a conversation with. We average about 400,000 contacts a day. This weekend alone we will hit over 1.2 million contacts."

Plouffe said the campaing feels "very strongly about" Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado and Virginia, four states that voted for Pres. Bush in 2004. On Florida, Nevada and Ohio, Plouffe said they "assume all three will end up being competitive and close."

"There are an enormous number of states where we feel we have an opportunity to flip them," Plouffe said. "Even in states like Georgia and North Dakota."

On the call, Carson also offered early voting numbers in key states, and later distributed them in a memo to reporters. Read the memo after the jump.

Continue reading "Obama Camp Sees Its Path To Victory" »

Tension In The McCain Campaign

Today's must-read is Politico's look at Sarah Palin and the increasing tension with her handlers.

Four Republicans close to Palin said she has decided increasingly to disregard the advice of the former Bush aides tasked to handle her, creating occasionally tense situations as she travels the country with them. Those Palin supporters, inside the campaign and out, said Palin blames her handlers for a botched rollout and a tarnished public image -- even as others in McCain's camp blame the pick of the relatively inexperienced Alaska governor, and her public performance, for McCain's decline.

"She's lost confidence in most of the people on the plane," said a senior Republican who speaks to Palin, referring to her campaign jet. He said Palin had begun to "go rogue" in some of her public pronouncements and decisions.

Obama Ad: 'Defining Moment'

Obama has released a 2-minute TV ad that changes the question Democrats have been asking this election year. "At this defining moment in our history," Obama says in the ad, "the question is not, 'are you better off than you were four years ago?' We all know the answer to that. The real question is will our country be better off four years from now?"

"Defining Moment":

Where Are They Today?

Following the candidates as they traverse the country, with links to those states' RCP Avgs:

* Obama is in Reno, Nevada, this morning, then New Mexico;

* McCain is in New Mexico;

* Biden is in Virginia;

* Palin is in Iowa this morning, then Indiana.

October 24, 2008

National Tracking Polls

This is where the national daily tracking polls stand as of today:

Rasmussen: Obama 52 (nc), McCain 45 (nc)
Hotline/FD: Obama 50 (+2), McCain 43 (nc)
GWU/Battleground: Obama 49 (nc), McCain 46 (+1)
Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby: Obama 51 (-1), McCain 41 (+1)
IBD/TIPP: Obama 46 (+1), McCain 42 (-2)
ABC News/Wash. Post: Obama 53 (-1), McCain 44 (+1)
Gallup (Expanded LV model*): Obama 51 (nc), McCain 44 (-1)
Gallup (Traditional LV model*): Obama 50 (nc), McCain 45 (-1)
(change since yesterday)

*Gallup's "Traditional" and "Expanded" Likely Voter models are weighted at 50%, so that the survey only counts once in the RCP National Average.

Overall, Obama leads by 7.6 points in the RCP National Average

It Was a Hoax

Ashley Todd, the woman who told police she had been mugged by a black man who scratched the letter "B" into her face after seeing a McCain bumper sticker on her car, has now admitted she made the whole thing up, according to this report from KDKA.

What a disgrace.

This hardly ranks as one of the great racial hate crimes hoaxes of all time - Tawana Brawley, Susan Smith, and the Duke Lacrosse case were all far more egregious and damaging to the country's race relations - but it still is just a dirty and utterly irresponsible act that defies logic and deserves condemnation.

Fred Makes His Case

Fred Thompson has released this new ad on behalf of the RNC for McCain:

A longer, 12-minute version can be found here.

Wassup? Change

The guys from the famous Budweiser spots reprise their roles for Election 2008:

Bellwethers No More?

Missouri is widely referred to as the premier bellwether state in presidential politics, having voted for the winning candidate in 25 out of 26 elections from 1904 to 2004. But Missouri isn't the only state with a remarkable record of voting with the majority of the country. Tennessee voted for the eventual winner in all but two elections between 1912 and 2004 -- its only aberrations coming in 1960 when it voted for Richard Nixon and 1924 when it chose John Davis over Calvin Coolidge.

While recent polling shows Missouri in play for both candidates this year, it's already clear which direction Tennessee is leaning -- away from Barack Obama, whom national polling indicates is favored to be the next president.

"The state seems poised to lose its status as a bellwether state this year," says Mark E. Byrnes, a political scientist at Middle Tennessee State University. "Barack Obama trails in Tennessee and few observers give him much chance of winning here. In general, the state appears to be trending more Republican, in part because of rapid population growth in white-collar suburban communities."

Franklin D. Roosevelt and other Democrats consistently won Tennessee in the first half of the 20th century. But after 1952 the only Democrats the state has supported for president have been those from south of the Mason-Dixon line. "The Democratic presidential candidates who have carried Tennessee in recent decades have been Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Southern moderates," Mr. Byrnes points out. "Candidates who appear too liberal, like Obama -- or even native son Al Gore in 2000 -- have difficulty here."

Should both Missouri and Tennessee end up voting for the loser in 2008, it may be just another sign that a dramatic realignment of U.S. politics is underway.

Politico/Insider Advantage Polls: OH, FL

New Politico/Insider Advantage polls show a dead heat in Florida and Obama up by 10 points in Ohio.

Florida (Oct. 22, 562 LV)
Obama 48
McCain 47

Obama leads by 2.2 points in the RCP Average for Florida

Ohio (Oct. 22, 408 LV)
Obama 52
McCain 42

Obama leads by 6.6 points in the RCP Average for Ohio

Ridge: Race Would Be Different With Me

Although he defended McCain's choice of Palin as a running mate, former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge said his hometown state is vital to McCain's chances of winning and that things would be different were he on the ticket, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. McCain currently trails by 10.7 points in the RCP Average there, though Ridge said he's "not buying" that there is a double-digit margin. From the Tribune-Review article:

"I think the dynamics would be different in Pennsylvania," Ridge said when asked if he should have been chosen to run as vice president over Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. "I think we'd be foolish not to admit it publicly."

Ridge, the campaign's national co-chairman, said McCain "had several good choices and I was one of them."

He nonetheless defended the Palin selection, calling it a "typical, bold McCain-like choice."

Asked if Palin has hurt the Republican ticket, Ridge said that perception might exist because "she's been hammered by the pundits."

A great piece by Politico's Charles Mahtesian illustrates McCain's need to carry the Keystone State if he is to win the presidency.

McCain Ad: 'Ladies and Gentlemen'

A new ad running in "key states," according to the McCain campaign, hitting Joe Biden for his remarks the other day:

Where Are They Today?

A look at where the candidates and their running mates are campaigning today with links to those states' RCP Avgs.

* McCain is in Colorado;

* Biden is in West Virginia this morning, then Virginia this evening;

* Palin is in Missouri;

* Hillary Clinton is in Colorado;

* Obama's in Hawaii, not campaigning as he visits his sick grandmother.

The Morning Report

In the Headlines

"McCain kicks off 'Joe the Plumber' Tour" (Lisa Lerer, The Politico) - John McCain stopped at a series of small businesses along central Florida's I-4 corridor on Thursday, hoping to win-over economically-anxious voters with a bus tour through one of the Sunshine State's most buffeted and hotly contested regions.

"Obama, McCain Tax Plans Dominate War of Words" (Christi Parsons, Chicago Tribune) - Democrat Barack Obama on Thursday accused his Republican rival of putting corporations ahead of workers by offering tax cuts even to companies that move jobs overseas. John McCain accused Obama of endangering American jobs with a tax plan that the Republican candidate says would hinder economic expansion with its disregard for small business owners.

"Polls Show Tightening Race in Florida" (Elizabeth Holmes, Wall Street Journal) - Amid an increasingly dark electoral map, John McCain has found a bright spot in Florida, where polls show him catching up to Barack Obama.

"Obama's fundraising drops as McCain's cash dwindles" (Jim Kuhnhenn, AP) - Barack Obama and John McCain enter the final days of the presidential campaign amid dwindling reserves, with Obama hindered by a sudden drop in fundraising and McCain restrained by spending limits.

On the Morning Shows

Fox and Friends -- Joe Lieberman, on whether he agrees with McCain's tax proposals: "I do right now, because of the recession. ... I'm totally with McCain on this: Joe the Plumber is obviously not a rich guy. He's a hard-working, middle-guy, who like most middle-class people, wants to be rich."

On the polls and where the race is headed: "[Voters] look at the two candidates and say, wow, Obama's smart and well-spoken, but no resume, no record of accomplishment, no record of working across party lines to get things done, which is what we need in the next president, which is why it's going to move back to McCain."

March 15, 2007

The Daily 2008

The leading Democratic presidential candidates and Republican senators John McCain and Sam Brownback attended yesterday's meeting of the International Association of Fire Fighters. The forum was mostly uneventful as candidates lavished praise on firefighters and criticized their treatment by the government: from health care and labor issues to a lack emergency equipment. Of course the biggest story was Rudy Giuliani's absence after the union attacked his decision to reduce the number of firefighters doing recovery operations shortly after 9/11. The union endorsed John Kerry in '04 and Republicans "stand little chance of winning the union's endorsement" because of their opposition to labor initiatives.

Giuliani had his own meeting though: a 1,000-person fundraiser in Manhattan where he cast himself as a can-do candidate and said he's "impatient and singled-minded" about his goals. Meanwhile, a Quinnipac poll surveyed New Yorkers, 46 percent of whom said Mayor Bloomberg would make a better president than Giuliani.

Out in California, the state GOP is struggling with a proposal to open its presidential primary to independent voters, who would probably favor Giuliani or McCain. Michael Shear at the Washington Post writes that McCain is trying to recapture the maverick spirit of his '00 campaign now that he trails Giuliani.

On the Democratic side, the Des Moines Register has a long follow-up to a report earlier this week that quoted Sen. Barack Obama as saying "nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people" in a discussion of the Middle East, a remark that's now drawing fire from some Jewish Democrats. Obama is also under scrutiny for whether he believes homosexuality is "immoral" after dodging three consecutive questions about the issue yesterday.

For the second time this week Bob Shrum's revelations have struck another Democrat. Shrum writes in his new book that Clinton lobbied to be Kerry's vice presidential pick but was denied because of her high negative ratings in polls.

Find the rest of today's election news at RCP's Politics and Elections page.

March 14, 2007

Edwards on Global Warming

This video is just more proof John Edwards is running hard to capture the heart and soul of the netroots. After explaining his reason for boycotting the FOX News debate in Nevada he actually says that potential global warming in the next 75 years "will make world war look like heaven."




Maybe he should spend some time watching the History Channel and old WWII clips to see what a real world war would look like, and that was with weapons over 60 years old. God forbid we have world war over the next 75 years with nuclear weapons and the state of armaments today. I can’'t predict the future, but I’'d be willing to bet that the weather over the next 75 years will not be as bad as a real world war.

This type of stuff, eerily like:

If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve will get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.

is one of the reasons John Edwards' favorable/unfavorable ratings are so bad for a guy who hasn't been on the national stage for that long. In the most recent Hotline/FD poll he had a +12% (39/27) favorable/unfavorable spread and in the ABC/WP it was down to single digits at +7% (46/39). These type of favorability numbers only complicate his uphill road to the nomination.

Rudy's Chances

An interesting pro-Giuliani email:

It seems clear that the conservative punditry and - most especially - conservative religious leaders are panicked over the probability of the Republican Party will nominate Rudy Giuliani as its Presidential candidate for 2008. The conventional wisdom is that primary voters don't know just how liberal Rudy is and when they find out, they'll flee to another candidate. Between now and February of next year, religious conservative leaders will do everything they can to destroy Rudy's candidacy.

The problem is there appears to be a disconnect between the conservative punditry and religious leaders and the Republican primary voters expressing in polls their approval of Rudy as their likely candidate. How can this be?
No part of the electorate follows politics more closely than primary voters. The fact is they already know about Rudy's past liberal positions. But they also know Rudy is a born leader, agrees with them on most issues and is probably the only Republican candidate who can handily beat Mrs. Bill Clinton or Mr. Obama. Republicans - conservatives & moderates - want to win. More than that, they want to keep the Clintons and the Obamas out of the White House.

And when Republican primary voters look at all the other candidates, what viable alternatives do they actually have?

• McCain: War hero who's contemptuous of conservatives, who seems to have a screw loose and could self-combust at any moment
• Romney: Plastic, seemingly computer-generated, opportunistic flip-flopper - and let's not kid ourselves, the Mormon thing is going to be a problem for some
• Gingrich: Great guy, smart as a whip, been married 3 times, had affair during Clinton impeachment thing, so much baggage - has higher negatives in polling than Hillary
• and the flavor of the day - Fred Thompson: Boring, lack-luster career in the senate, not really qualified, flash in the pan and won't finish in the top 3

None of the other candidates are on the radar and, as such, worth mentioning.
If Rudy wins the nomination, will Dr. James Dobson et al run a 3rd party candidate in the general election? If so, they'll commit political suicide.

New Hampshire Poll

New polls numbers out of New Hampshire today has Hillary Clinton with a 7 point lead over Barack Obama, 32% to 25%. That's much larger than a Suffolk poll two weeks ago which had Clinton at only a 2 point advantage (28-26), but the sample size was about half (212 likely voters) of the new poll (401 likely voters).

In the RCP Average for the New Hampshire primary, Clinton's lead over Obama is 4.3 points with a long 10 months to go until the primary on Jan 22.

Obama is heading to New Hampshire this Friday to campaign. Asked about the new trend of states moving their primary dates up to Feb. 5, Obama said, "If anything, all the eyes in the nation are going to be fastened on New Hampshire and the kind of retail politics that is called for in New Hampshire becomes that much more important because this is where most of the country is going to get a sense of who the candidates are."

Clinton, Kaplan and the Establishment

There's a mini-uproar brewing over the new CBS "Evening News" executive producer Rick Kaplan and his friendship with the Clintons.

Interestingly, the CBS News blog, Public Eye, is giving the issue some attention. Of course, blogger Brian Montopoli concludes that "Kaplan is capable of covering the Clintons fairly." Whether that's true, it's understandable that the right side of the blogosphere is howling about the perceived bias of a news executive who slept in the Clinton White House twice.

Otherwise, what we're reminded of in this story is just how ingrained Hillary Clinton is with the media and political powerbrokers. Does Barack Obama have any network news executive friends? He might, but those are the kinds of relationships one gets having lived and worked in the elite power circles of Washington and New York for the last 15 years. Being the Establishment Candidate comes with some fringe benefits.

Unfortunately for Clinton, the increasingly powerful left-wing base loathes the establishment. Straw polls aren't much good for anything other than gauging the mood of the activists, so it's worth noting that a recent straw poll conducted by the left-wing site MyDD came up with these results:

Candidate 1st Choice
Obama 36%
Edwards 33%
Richardson 10%
Clinton 5%
Kucinich 2%

Also remember how masterfully John Edwards stoked the left-wing's hatred of Fox News by being the first to drop out of the Nevada debate. That's the kind of thing the base loves and it's the kind of thing Clinton just can't do without ticking off some of her powerful friends - friends like Fox News' Rupert Murdoch, who, let's recall, held a fund-raiser for her last year.

The Daily 2008

California's new Feb. 5 primary date has given the state's politicians new clout as they become important proxies for presidential campaigns. One especially close relationship is between Rudy Giuliani and Bill Simon, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2003 and is now Giuliani's policy director and salesman to the right. New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer doesn't want his state to be left out of the spotlight and said he would like to move the primary date to Feb. 5 as well.

In Washington today, Giuliani will not attend a presidential forum hosted by the International Association of Fire Fighters as they and other first-responder groups criticize Giuliani's record from emergency preparedness to 9/11 search-and-rescue operations. As RCP was first to report yesterday: Sen. John McCain will not attend the Club for Growth meeting this month because of a prior committment in Iraq.

Speaking of Iraq, Bob Shrum's new book says John Edwards was "skeptical" about voting to authorize the use of force in Iraq in 2002. According to Shrum, Edwards voted for the war after being told by advisers he didn't have the credibility to vote against it and that he had to vote for it to be taken seriously on national security during his 2004 campaign. "It wasn't a political calculation. It was a mistake," Edwards said yesterday after claiming he had "no idea" what Shrum was talking about. Tomorrow Edwards is slated to deliver a "major policy address" on poverty in New Hampshire.

Elsewhere, Ben Smith at the Politico reports that a Democratic AIPAC member has asked Sen. Barack Obama to clarify his claim that "nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that he was open to the idea of loosening restrictions on direct aid to the Palestinians.

As Obama plays defense, Sen. Hillary Clinton is playing offense. This morning Clinton called on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign during a "Good Morning America" interview. Yesterday Clinton reprised the "vast right-wing conspiracy" line that she originally used to describe efforts against her husband during the Lewinsky scandal. Clinton said it was "proven" in a New Hampshire court that the conspiracy exists after two Republicans pleaded guilty to charges concerning a 2002 case of Election Day phone jamming.

The rest of today's election news can be found at RCP's Politics and Elections page.

March 13, 2007

Edwards vs. Shrum

An interesting story today from the AP about a forthcoming book by Democratic strategist Bob Shrum.

Democratic strategist Bob Shrum writes in his memoir to be published in June that he regrets advising Edwards to give President Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq. He said if Edwards had followed his instincts instead of the advice of political professionals, he would have been a stronger presidential candidate in 2004.

Which is all very nice of Shrum to say no doubt. Problem is, Shrum's account is bad for business.

Edwards spokesman David Ginsberg disputes the suggestion that Edwards was making a political calculation with the 2002 vote that he has called the most important of his career.

Throughout the 2004 campaign, Edwards and John Kerry could never successfully spin their Iraq war votes. Which is why both Edwards and Kerry - who isn't even running - ended up saying after the election simply that they made a mistake. This calmed the antiwar activists, even if it elided over some inconvenient statements Kerry and Edwards had made back in 2002 about the threat Iraq posed to the United States.

So it's understandable for Edwards' spokesman David Ginsberg to say this in response to Shrum's version of events:

John Edwards cast his vote based on the advice of national security advisers and the intelligence he was given, not political advisers," Ginsberg said. "He got political advice on both sides of the argument, and made his own decision based on what he thought was right, not political calculation.

While this argument lessens the charge that the administration lied, it does serve to cast Edwards as a responsible politician, one who makes decisions based on what he knows and is prepared to admit mistakes.

But what of Shrum's version?

Shrum writes that Edwards, then a North Carolina senator, called his foreign policy and political advisers together in his Washington living room in the fall of 2002 to get their advice. Edwards was "skeptical, even exercised" about the idea of voting yes and his wife Elizabeth was forcefully against it, according to Shrum, who later signed on to John Kerry's presidential campaign.

But Shrum said the consensus among the advisers was that Edwards, just four years in office, did not have the credibility to vote against the resolution and had to support it to be taken seriously on national security. Shrum said Edwards' facial expressions showed he did not like where he was being pushed to go.

But go there he did, and, unfortunately for Edwards, Shrum's account makes him look as if he was swayed for political reasons.

McCain to be in Iraq During Club for Growth Event

The McCain campaign informs RCP that Senator McCain will be overseas in a "war theater" at the time of the Club for Growth conference at the end of this month. This has been a long-standing trip and thus a conflict with the March 31st and April 1st speaking slots for McCain at the event.

This helps explain what on the surface looked like a bizarre political move by the McCain campaign to just "skip" the anti-tax, supply-side group's winter conference. The contrast of McCain's rivals being in Palm Beach while Senator McCain is with the troops in Iraq should mitigate the political fallout from his absence.

However, the speed with which his opponents on the Internet jumped on his absence coupled with Club for Growth President Pat Toomey's less than enthusiastic column in today's Wall Street Journal only highlight McCain's troubles with large blocs of the conservative electorate.

Vitter & Rudy: Wound Too Tight?

Quin Hillyer has an interesting tidbit on what may have contributed to David Vitter's decision to back Giuliani, and also a word of caution to all of the Rudy booster's in the GOP.

The Vitter endorsement probably will help Giuliani some, it's true, but in one sense it is a case of like attracting like. Just as stories are becoming rampant about how obnoxiously and outrageously the mayor was known to berate reporters (not that I am a big defender of the media in general, but we're talking flying way off the handle here), he gets an endorsement from another politician prone to totally freakazoid behavior of the same sort. I once wrote a rather positive notes package about Vitter, only to have him call me up and go absolutely bonkers on me for nearly 10 solid minutes --we're talking large decibel level here -- because the notes mentioned that he already had blanketed the state legislative district for which he was running with high quality glossy flyers handed out door to door.

The problem? Vitter was furious that I had used the word "glossy," because he said I was trying to imply that he was a slick politician without substance. Never mind that nothing else in the notes package hinted at that, nor that anybody had publicly suggested such a thing during the race that was just beginning, not that I even believed that myself. And of course never mind that "glossy" is, obviously a precisely accurate description of a type of photo paper, which is of course the way the word was used. I mean, the Vitter eruption came totally out of left field. But people who know him know that he's wound about five times more tightly than an old Titleist balata golf ball.

That same characteristic in both Giuliani and in McCain make them easy targets for Hillary's henchmen to exploit in a general election campaign with a media biased in Hillary's favor. It is a very, very good reason why conservatives should not leap on board too soon for the mayor, even though he does have much to recommend him. This does not mean that conservatives should write him off, not at all, but only that there is no need for any early commitments.

Vitter Good for Rudy, Toomey Bad for McCain

Forgetting Giuliani's not insignificant lead in the polls (ahead by 17.2% in the RCP Average), two news events yesterday further illustrate what the Giuliani campaign is doing right and how the McCain camping is struggling.

Endorsements by your average governor or senator are usually not that big a deal, especially from a state that does not have a significant role in the nominating process, but Louisiana Sen. David Vitter's endorsement of Giuliani is a big positive for the Giuliani campaign, because it sends a message that Rudy is acceptable to social conservatives. If a social conservative from a southern state like David Vitter can get behind the former mayor of New York, it takes some of the punch out of the anti-Giuliani analysis that he will be found unacceptable to Republican primary voters.

Contrast this positive development for the Giuliani campaign with the news from the Club for Growth that Senator McCain is declining an offer to speak at their winter conference in a couple of weeks.


The Club for Growth is happy to announce a star-studded array of guest speakers for its 2007 Annual Winter Conference in Palm Beach, Florida., to be held March 29 - April 1, 2007. Joining the Club for Growth for its policy forums are declared or potential presidential candidates former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney; former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; Kansas Senator Sam Brownback; and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Arizona Senator John McCain was invited to attend, but declined.

Skipping the CPAC event could be tactically justified; however, the unexplained Club for Growth snub just doesn't make a lot of sense politically. At the beginning of February when Giuliani threw his hat into the ring and became the favorite I suggested:

The McCain campaign is going to have to a find non-social-issues path to taking down Giuliani and they can't commit the same mistake they made in 2000 by going after independents and Democrats before capturing the nomination. McCain has to find a way to energize Republicans behind his candidacy. Strategically, McCain would be well advised to position himself as the pro-growth, supply-side conservative in the Republican field.

There is not a clear pro-growth, anti-tax candidate in the GOP field today, which is an opportunity for all of the Republican candidates. The reality is McCain does need to be proactive in finding ways to get Republicans enthusiastic about his campaign. Steadfastness on the war will not be enough to deliver Senator McCain the nomination, especially when his main competition is Giuliani. By itself skipping the Club for Growth event is no big deal, but on the back of his absence at other recent conservative gatherings he is doing himself no favors among the conservative activists he is going to need over the course of 2007 to put himself in the position to win the votes in January and February 2008.

The Daily 2008

Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee of The New York Times tell us what we already knew about the GOP field, just with newer information: the party is restless. A new NYT/CBS News poll reports that 40 percent of Republicans think Democrats will win next year, 58 percent want a candidate who's "flexible" on withdrawing from Iraq, but most don't know enough about the leading candidates to make a choice.

In other news on the GOP, Sen. Chuck Hagel's deferred decision about a presidential run may be based on his hope that voters will become tired by the current field and embrace a fresher, more anti-war candidate come fall. But as former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey put it: "On the other hand, it's very difficult to run for president unless you're running for president."

Conservative Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) was made Rudy Giuliani's regional Southern chair and said the mayor isn't running to "advance any liberal social agenda." Yesterday, Giuliani told reporters he was cool to the idea of President Bush immediately pardoning Scooter Libby. "I know more about pardons than anybody needs to know about them," Giuliani said of his time running the pardon office in the Justice Department.

Mitt Romney will be on Giuliani's turf next week in New York where he'll try to raise money from big-name donors who Giuliani hasn't totally locked up. Out west Romney received the backing of a former Nevada governor at the same time the state's GOP faces an internal pushback to the early primary date it set last week.

Not to be forgotten, Democrats are trying to outfox each other. Al Sharpton asked why Sen. Barack Obama, who is against the Iraq war, supported Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary, even though Lieberman is the "biggest supporter of the war," according to Sharpton.

Should Obama or another Democratic make things close at the Democratic convention next year, Sen. Hillary Clinton will turn to "superdelegates" to make her the nominee. These "superdelegates" are mostly Congress members, governors and national committee members who act like free agents at the conventions, unlike delegates selected in the primaries and caucuses.

The Hill reports that Clinton has created a network of Democratic lobbyists and insiders three times the size of Obama's base of Beltway support. Obama has declined contributions from lobbyists for his presidential campaign and even money lobbyists may raise on behalf of others

Find the rest of today's news at our Politics and Elections page.

Election 2008

I was on Hugh Hewitt's national radio program last evening discussing the 2008 campaign. The audio stream lost the section where I suggested the country was tired of the sixteen years of bitterness with the Clinton and Bush presidencies, all of which was working in Obama's favor in his battle for the Democratic nomination. Most of the discussion was on Hagel, Obama and Thompson.

Carol Platt Liebau was filling in for Hugh, who is in New York promoting his new book, "A Mormon in the White House."

March 12, 2007

Hagel's Road Less Traveled

When Frost found himself at the crossroads, he took the road less traveled. And that, he said, made all the difference. When Sen. Chuck Hagel finds himself at the crossroads, he calls a press conference.

"America stands at an historic crossroads in its history. It is against this backdrop that I find myself at my own crossroads on my political future. Burdened by two wars, faced with dangerous new threats and global uncertainty, beset by serious long-term domestic problems and divided by raw political partisanship-America now reaches for a national consensus of purpose."

Wait for it; wait for it...

"I am here today to announce that my family and I will make a decision on my political future later this year."

One doesn't have to follow Frost's advice and take the road less traveled, but, man, if you're going to call a press conference, make a decision.

'08 Nevada Poll

Research 2000 poll in Nevada:

Republicans
Giuliani 38
McCain 18
Gingrich 13
Romney 4

Democrats
Clinton 32
Obama 20
Gore 11
Edwards 11
Richardson 2
Clark 2

Head-to-Head Matchups
Giuliani 46 - Clinton 38
Giuliani 44 - Obama 42

Ready, Aim.......Hit Giuliani

The first of what will be many death blows aimed at the Giuliani candidacy hit Drudge today in the form of a video clip of then NYC mayoral candidate Rudy Giuliani in 1989 running on the Republican-Liberal line against David Dinkins.

There must be public funding for abortions, for poor women. We can not deny any woman the right to make her own decision about abortion because she lacks resources. I have also stated that I disagree with President Bush's veto of public funding for abortion.

Rudy is now at 38% in the latest RCP Average, which will most likely be his peak as more candidates get in the race and more clips like this continue to be unearthed. If Fred Thompson gets in the race, he would likely vault to a strong third very quickly.

Let's be clear: Video clips like this are totally expected and just part of the long string of baggage the Giuliani campaign is going to have to manage if they hope to capture the Republican nomination. It is exactly clips like these (and the three marriages, and the Bernie Kerik sludge) that make many analysts discount Giuliani's chances.

It will be very important to monitor the reaction to this video and how the Giuliani campaign manages damage control. We will learn quite a bit about just how strong of a favorite Rudy really is today (and I do think he is the favorite) or whether the Giuliani doubters are correct and he is simply not nominatable.

The Brownback Interview

I sat down with Senator Brownback in his office last Wednesday. You can read the full transcript of the interview below the jump, but let me offer a few quick observations about why Brownback is such an intriguing candidate.

Obviously, he's a hero to cultural conservatives, but Brownback is also taking the lead in the Senate on comprehensive immigration reform and he's the only Republican in the current field who came out against the President's surge in Iraq (though Chuck Hagel might be getting into the race today),

Another interesting piece of Brownback's profile that is sometimes overlooked: he grew up on a farm and was elected the youngest Secretary of Agriculture in Kansas history. When it comes to retail politics with Republicans in Iowa, he's basically one of them. How well can Rudy stand on a farm or in a local town hall meeting and talk "ag" issues? What about McCain? And how much will it even matter?

While there are questions about how well Rudy's brash New York City style will play in Iowa, I don't think there's any doubt that Sam Brownback is going to wear very well as a candidate in Iowa over the course of a long, twenty month campaign.

Can Brownback win Iowa? If the top tier candidates fall away or flame out and he's left standing as a solid alternative, sure it's possible. That would probably still leave him as a long shot to win the nomination, though it would certainly enhance his chances of getting a VP nod, especially if Rudy goes on to win and is looking for balance.

Just as a point of historical reference: since 1984 the Republican winner of the Iowa caucus has gone on to win the party's nomination five out of six times. The only exception was in 1988, when Bob Dole won Iowa with 37% of the vote, Pat Robertson finished second with 25%, and the eventual nominee, George Herbert Walker Bush, placed third with 19%. Obviously, Bob Dole was from Kansas. Guess who took Dole's seat in the Senate? Sam Brownback.

Read the full transcript of my interview with Senator Brownback below the jump...

Revisiting Fred Thompson

My sense is that if you are conservative and were watching Fox News Sunday yesterday, you liked what you saw in former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson. My sense is also that if you are a Republican presidential candidate, you didn't.

Host Chris Wallace went down the litany of questions and Thompson hit all the right notes from a conservative voter's perspective: Pro-life; Scalia-like judges; against gay marriage; opposes gun control; would pardon Libby; and supports the President's surge in Iraq.

Thompson's record in the Senate from 1995 through 2002 sustained his answers: His lifetime American Conservative Union rating is 86 (out of 100) and his lifetime Americans for Democratic Action (the liberal quotient) rating is a measly 5. Add in his presence in front of the camera as well as his folksy way of speaking, and it's no wonder conservatives are pressing him to get into the race.

There were a few stumbling blocks, however. On immigration, Thompson had to splice some comments he's made which make it sound as if he agrees with his friend Sen. John McCain. The very fact that he felt he needed to address that issue means Thompson well understands that the McCain position doesn't play well with the conservative base. Wallace also asked, though didn't press, Thompson about his previous support for campaign-finance reform - another McCain albatross.

But there are two questions Wallace didn't ask. First, he didn't ask Thompson about tort reform. In 1995, the GOP-led House passed a tough medical liability bill that included tort reform as part of the Contract With America. Things were all ready to go in the Senate under Majority Leader Bob Dole, when freshman - and former trial lawyer - Thompson introduced his own medical liability reform bill, sans tort reform. The bill passed and in conference committee the House's tort reform package got completely extirpated. Conservatives were outraged and many blamed Thompson.

Second, Wallace introduced his guest by asking, "Is Fred Thompson the next Ronald Reagan?" What he didn't bring up is that this isn't the first time conservatives have expected big things from Thompson nor the first time he's been compared to Reagan.

In a 1999 National Review article by Jay Nordlinger, for instance, we're reminded that Thompson's Senate career failed to live up to the hype. Who recalls that in 1994, before Thompson was even sworn in, Dole tapped Thompson to give the rebuttal to an economic address by Bill Clinton? The day after his five-minute retort the New York Times ran a headline "A Star is Born." The New Republic followed with an article called "Reagan Redux." Nordlinger wrote, "The mentioning class began to mention him as a possible vice-presidential nominee in 1996, and certainly as a contender for the top prize in 2000."

But life in the Senate got in the way. In addition to the tort reform mess, Nordlinger says, Republicans were also upset that Thompson, as chairman of Governmental Affairs Committee, wasn't as eager as they were to go after the White House during investigations into campaign-finance reform abuses. "On top of all that, they think he seems joyless, arrogant, and hostile to the political p's and q's that ordinarily make for success in Washington," Nordlinger wrote. Ouch.

Perhaps enough years have passed and perhaps Thompson was never suited to life in the Senate - not a bad quality, to be sure. After all, there's a reason senators rarely make it to the White House. But with Thompson-mania sure to increase following his Wallace interview, these are issues Thompson is going to have to address.

Obama's Audacity

I'm not sure this is even news, but I found it interesting. On March 2 the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story about Craig Robinson. Robinson is the head coach of the Brown University men's basketball team, and he also happens to be Barack Obama's brother in law. Obama married Robinson's younger sister, Michelle, in 1992.

(Some quick disclosure: Craig Robinson is a fellow Princeton grad (eight years my senior) and we've met a couple of times over the years through mutual friends - though I promise you he wouldn't know me from Adam. Michelle is also a Princeton grad, Class of 1985, whom I've never met)

With that out of the way, the Inquirer story begins with the following hook:

In the early 1990s, when his sister brought her new boyfriend home for the first time, Craig Robinson was understandably wary.

Now read how the article ends:

As for his brother-in-law, Robinson still shakes his head when he remembers that initial meeting. "We were talking about a variety of things and he said, 'I'm thinking about running for president one day,' " Robinson said.

"I said, 'President? President of what?' "

Again, in a generic sense, news that Obama is ambitious is very much "man bites dog." The guy was the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, etc.

On the other hand, I can't recall seeing anything like this about Obama in print before. Robinson is talking about meeting him sometime in the early 1990's, probably during the latter half of 1991 when he returned to Chicago after graduating from Harvard Law and began work as a civil rights attorney (as stated above Barack and Michelle were married in 1992).

So, if Robinson's recollection is accurate, more than five years before Barack Obama first ran for elected office he was thinking and talking somewhat openly about running for President. Even though it sounded like a deluded fantasy to Robinson at the time, it provides a revealing glimpse into Obama's ambition. The fact that he would say such a thing to his girlfriend's older brother on their first meeting is another conversation altogether but it also speaks to a remarkably high level of confidence, ambition and, yes, audacity).

Part of Obama's appeal is that he appears refreshingly unambitious relative to his competition. Unlike Hillary, who seems to have spent every minute of the last ten years calculating each move with respect to its impact on her presidential ambitions, and unlike John Edwards, who has been running for President non-stop for the last five years, Obama has cultivated an image of being "the right man at the right moment." He's gone out of his way to make self deprecating remarks about his hyper popularity, and when discussing his thoughts about running for President he said more than once that "This is an office you can't run for just on the basis of ambition."

That's absolutely true. Personally, I think Obama made the right choice in running this year, even if it is a bit audacious. Still, it's a bit shocking to learn via his brother-in-law that Obama's audacious move seems to have been on his mind and in the works for a lot longer than most people thought.

The Daily 2008

USA Today surveys the presidential field and finds candidates who reflect "broad trends in American life that also have affected the nation's schools, workplaces and neighborhoods" and has detailed polling data showing how comfortable different voting segments are with a particular type of candidate.

Sen. Hillary Clinton has used her unique position as the only female candidate to appeal to women, but Democratic female support isn't locked up -- a split personified by dueling abortion rights endorsements between Clinton and John Edwards. Both candidates and their fellow Democrats are hiring consultants from Nevada and building organizations there.

In Iowa, Sen. Barack Obama said Palestinians are suffering and if "we could get some movement among Palestinian leadership" he'd like to see some loosening of restrictions on direct aid to Palestinians. Obama's wife will play a major role in her husband's campaign, both as advisor and booster. Mrs. Obama recently hired a chief of staff and changed her work status to part time.

Today, Sen. Chuck Hagel will make a major announcement at the University of Nebraska, though it's still unclear if he'll announce for president after staying in his Omaha townhouse this weekend. In other GOP news, Sen. John McCain said "out of control" spending was the reason Republicans lost Congress last year. Rudy Giuliani continues his foray into the presidential arena by canceling all of his future paid speeches. So far neither McCain or Giuliani has been scheduled to attend the South Carolina GOP's version of Super Tuesday: three GOP county conventions on April 21. Sen. Sam Brownback sat down with Tom for an extensive interview, which you can find here.

Get the rest of today's news at our Politics and Elections page.

March 09, 2007

Guess Who'll Be on FNS?

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You know Wallace is going to ask the question, but will he get an answer?

Thompson's Test

Rumors of Republican Fred Thompson joining the race for President have been circulating for the past couple of weeks, and today The Hill reports a bit more detail. It seems Howard Baker has been making phone calls to Republican power brokers gaging support for a potential Thompson bid.

I've thought for some time that with Jeb Bush forced to the sidelines for obvious reasons, Fred Thompson is the only Republican in the country with the stature, name recognition, the ability to raise money, and the conservative bona fides who could step in and fill the current void that exists in the field. The questions is whether that void is big enough to make Thompson a top-tier contender and give him a legitimate shot at winning the nomination.

The Special Report roundtable tackled the issue of a Thompson run last Friday, coming to a unanimous conclusiuon:

ANGLE: All right, we don't have much time left. There was some talk today that Fred Thompson might get into the race. Fred Thompson, who's now on Law and Order, but a senator and a jovial fellow who's known around town is also involved in the Scooter Libby defense fund. What are the prospects of that?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, we've had an actor in a White House, but he also was a two-term governor of the largest state in the union and quite an accomplished political thinker. In getting a guy right out of a television show -- it's not going to happen, especially in wartime.

KONDRACKE: I completely agree with that. And Fred Thompson, you know, was the chairman of the government operations committee in the Senate and basically did nothing while he was there. I mean, he doesn't have much of a record.

BARNES: There's a space for more candidates, I suppose, always, but I agree with Charles, it's -- I mean Ronald Reagan, you know, was governor, he didn't just jump from Death Valley Days right to a presidential campaign.

KRAUTHAMMER: I'd say he's finished.

(LAUGHTER)

Personally, I'm not so sure. Thompson may have a shot for two reasons. First, experience is generally overrated. Two of the top-tier candidates on the Democratic side (Obama & Edwards) currently have eight years in the Senate between them - the same as Thompson. Second, persona matters a tremendous amount in modern politics and there are very few people who project more of an aura of strength and seriousness than Fred Thompson. It's hard to envision him standing on a stage debating Obama, Clinton, or Edwards and coming away looking like a lightweight.

I think the biggest challenge for Thompson is meeting the desire requirement. Is this something he really wants, and is really ready to put forth the effort it will take to keep up the grueling schedule of a presidential bid over the next twenty months? However popular Thompson may be with the party faithful, his entry into the race would be light years away from a coronation. He'd have to fight hard for it, especially against his good pal John McCain.

I suspect that's the main reason why Thompson won't run, even though I'd like to see him in the race. I'd also like to see Al Gore jump in on the Democratic side, though I doubt he will. At this point, it's already a complete circus, so the more the merrier.

The Daily 2008

Today's newspapers have some good news for Sen. Hillary Clinton and bad news for rival Sen. Barack Obama for a change, while its being reported two Republican frontrunners have come under attack from their own.

Clinton pledged a GI bill of rights to ensure better health care for soldiers and more assistance for their families in a speech at the Center for American Progress yesterday. She also echoed FDR in calling for all Americans to be involved in the war, but "did not respond directly" to an audience question if her comments meant "we should win this war." Dana Milbank was there to satirize her, clichés and all.

A new poll from Alabama reports Clinton's lead over Obama expanded eight points since last month and their joint appearance in Selma last weekend. Meanwhile, questions still linger about Obama's stock dealings with companies backed by some of his top donors. Obama's money issues don't stop there: Lynn Sweet writes that his campaign has been secretive about recent fundraising events.

The most surprising attacks today come for Rudy Giuliani from the nation's largest firefighters union, which criticizehis decision to limit Ground Zero searches after 9/11. After the union's letter to officials was revealed, Giuliani backed out of a forum they're sponsoring next week. At the same time his opponents say it's Giuliani's turn to be subject opposition research and attacks. Mitt Romney is also being targeted by some of his own: two Massachusetts-based GOP consultants are planning national TV and radio ads against Romney.

The GOP field may expand next week when Sen. Chuck Hagel is expected to announce a presidential run at the same forum Giuliani backed out of. Discovering Hagel's intentions has been tough for reporters who say he keeps his plans and counsel closely guarded. Journalists haven't had the same problem with Fred Thompson, who's reaching out to GOP power brokers to explore an '08 run. Meanwhile, potential GOP vice-president candidate, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is expected to sign a bill that would outlaw most abortion procedures in his state.

You can find the rest of today's news at our Politics and Elections page.

Blogger in Chief

Governor Mike Huckabee is blogging. Here's a clip from one of his most recent posts:

There will be an unprecedented number of people running for President. Many will boast of raising bigger money. We will focus on raising bigger ideas.

Some will proudly display their celebrity endorsements. We will focus on sincere and ordinary citizens who are willing to endure a long road ahead.

Already, some of those seeking the office have changed their positions on major issues more often than a baby changes sleeping positions in a crib. I will not waver from being the same, consistent conservative, pro-life, pro-family advocate who believes that government shouldn't rob its citizens with excessive taxes, unnecessary regulation, frivolous litigation, and the resulting job migration from our shores to China, Mexico, or India.

I'll have to more to say about Governor Huckabee in the near future. I'll be joining him on the campaign trail next week in New Hampshire.

The Cliche Machine

Dana Milbank is not impressed with Hillary Clinton's rhetoric.

March 08, 2007

The Daily 2008

Primaries lead today's news again after the California legislature passed a bill to move the state's primary up to Feb. 5, 2008, and now awaits "what should be a swift signature" by Gov. Schwarzenegger. Next door in Nevada, the state GOP approved a Feb. 7 caucus date -- three weeks after Democrats will caucus there and two days after about a dozen states including CA vote.

Next Monday, Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel says he will announce whether he plans to run for president. Should he run, Hagel would stand out in GOP field as the only outright opponent of the Iraq war. Some are suggesting that John McCain's "steadfast support" for the Iraq war is one of a few reasons he's being forced to play catch-up to Rudy Giuliani, who leads McCain by more than 20 points in a new WSJ/NBC News poll. The New York Times reportsthat Giuilani faces a "less obvious hurdle" to the nomination than his liberal social positions: "whether he is too much of a New Yorker for the rest of the country." In South Carolina, it's questionable whether the once-powerful Christian Coalition can play the role it once did in Republican politics now that it's faced with a changing political landscape, debt and fractured leadership.

On the Democratic side, Gov. Bill Richardson is burdened by quotes from his lieutenant governor, Diane Denish, who says she avoids being close to Richardson. The governor, she also mentioned, "pinches my neck. He touches my hip, my thigh, sort of the side of my leg." Richardson denies the allegations, but questions remain on whether his personal conduct can withstand scrutiny. Meanwhile, John Edwards said he will not attend an August debate in NV because it is being co-sponsored by Fox News.

Find the rest of today's news at our Politics and Elections page.

March 07, 2007

Meet the Mayor

Austin Bay on Giuliani.

Hillary in Selma - Take II

Thanks to Drudge, Hillary Clinton received a good heap of derision Monday for the phony Southern accent she put on over the weekend in Selma. But my recollection from watching her speech is that she wasn't faking an accent but doing a very awkward and poor reading, in character, of a passage written by someone else. (UPDATE: I see Greg Sargent has the video and transcript of the relevant portion of Hillary's speech. She was reading a freedom hymn by James Cleveland called "I Don't Feel No Ways Tired").

So, yes, Hillary is awkward and oftentimes inauthentic, but she got a bum rap this week. In fact, there were cheers in the audience during her rendition. Incidentally, I haven't seen any remarks about Barack Obama's performance in Selma, where he slipped quite noticeably into the style and cadence of a Southern black preacher, which is very different from how he speaks on an everyday basis. He obviously got away it while Hillary was taken to task.

All of that is really an aside from the main point, however, which is about the art of pandering. All politicians pander, and some are much better at it than others. Obama is particularly good at pandering, in part because he's skilled enough to not look obvious while doing it, but also because he does a very deft job of mixing in some uncomfortable truths (albeit with a very soft edge) to different groups while in the process of telling them things they want to hear. He did it on Sunday in Selma when he transitioned into a Bill Cosby-esque riff on personal responsibility.

Hillary, on the other hand, is a terrible panderer. To her credit, she's resisted pandering to the antiwar base over her Iraq vote so far, but when Hillary decides to go for the pander, she's blatant, ham-handed, and over the top about it - especially when it comes to African-Americans.

Selma provided another perfect example. Here's a clip of Hillary telling her African-American audience on Sunday that their right to vote in America in 2007 is "under siege:"

Like the plantation remark she made on MLK Day in 2006, this is needlessly dramatic as well as a gross distortion of the truth.

Voting rights is an issue in the black community, and it's something that Obama has addressed (see here and here). But I think it's very telling that on Sunday, at such a historic and widely covered event, Obama made his points with the black community in a forward looking way by saying things like African-Americans have come 90% of the way in the fight for equality but still have 10% left to go, and that "we should never deny that it's gotten better. But we shouldn't forget that better is not good enough."

In other words, Obama tried to inspire as opposed to prey on fear. He didn't go for the cheap, easy, and over the top. Hillary, on the other hand, simply couldn't help herself.

The Daily 2008

The presidential race has garnered considerable interest from the public 20 months before election day, according a new USA Today poll released today. About 20 percent of respondents said they have a "good idea" about who they'll support in '08 and 55 percent said they've at least thought about the candidates. The same poll shows that Sen. Hillary Clinton lost four points in her match-up with Sen. Barack Obama from last month and Rudy Giuliani expanded his lead over Sen. John McCain by four points. Of all the candidates, Giuliani has the highest favorability rating, with Obama second.

According to the New York Times today, in 2005 Obama bought "$50,000 worth of stock in two speculative companies whose major investors included some of his biggest political donors." Obama's campaign said his broker bought the stocks without consulting him and once Obama learned of the stocks, he sold them.

While Obama has made significant inroads with Clinton's bases of black and Jewish voters, her campaign is courting female voters with a special Web site, online ads and high-profile female backers. In the Senate, Clinton herself is pushing a bill that seeks to reduce the wage gap between men and women. Meanwhile, John Edwards is stitching up a different constituency: a hundred Iowa Democrats who formerly backed Tom Vilsack and now say they support Edwards.

There are some interesting developments in the GOP field, especially in California where Sen. John McCain is mounting a "stealth effort" to change Republican presidential nominating rules to allow independents to vote. This comes on the heels of a "barely noticed move" by CA Republicans that has made their primary "winner-take-all by congressional district" instead of the whole state -- a move seen as favoring Mitt Romney. In Florida, Romney has released a Spanish-language ad aimed at Cuban-Americans. Meanwhile, Sen. Chuck Hagel's decision to attend two cattle calls this month fuels speculation of an '08 run.

For news on all of the candidates and early states, check our Politics and Elections page.

March 06, 2007

Is Hillary Steaming on the Titanic?

Part of the dynamic that Senator Clinton always had working in her favor was the ability of her husband to deliver the black vote, en masse, for her if she ran into minor bumps along the way in Iowa, New Hampshire and even Nevada. This was always a critical element in why she was such an overwhelming favorite to capture the Democratic nomination. The Obama phenomenon has made this analysis inoperable.

Against candidates like John Edwards, Mark Warner, Evan Bayh, Bill Richardson, or even Al Gore, former President Bill Clinton would have been in a position to deliver Hillary the black vote. And when Senator Obama originally threw his hat in the ring there was a question of just how much of the black vote he would be able to get against Hillary. Six weeks ago I was of the opinion that she had a decent chance of winning the black vote, but today, in the aftermath of the David Geffen affair, which helped whack ten points off her lead, and then this weekend's head-to-head down in Selma, on the current trajectory there is no way Hillary Clinton will beat out Barack Obama for the black vote.

And what has to have the Hillary camp scared stiff is the possibility that not only will Obama win the black vote, but that he might win it overwhelmingly. Last night on Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Fred Barnes suggested that Obama would win 80% of the black vote. Today I would agree that 70 - 80 percent is a very real possibility.

If you watch Obama's speech from this weekend he sends a clear message that he is not going to let any campaign try and make the case that he is "not black enough." As the first of the second generation of black candidates to run for president -- as opposed to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who had no chance of winning the White House -- not only does Barack Obama have a very real chance of being the next president, but at the current rate he may well be the front-runner by summer.

He has closed Hillary's recent 20-point plus lead to only 10.2% in the latest RCP Average; he trails Rudy Giuliani by only 3.5 points and actually leads John McCain by 1.4% in today's RCP Average.

Obama's ability to take away the black vote, en masse, from the Clinton campaign may turn out to be the iceberg that sinks the H.M.S. Hillary.

The Daily 2008

At least 19 states with half the nation's population have "moved or are considering moving their primaries" to Feb. 5, 2008 creating a de facto national primary. Not to be outdone, New Hampshire is prepared to defend its first-in-the-nation primary from another state by moving up its date.

In the early state of Nevada, Sen. Hillary Clinton hired four more staffers making her campaign the largest in the state. Clinton made national news today by reiterating her opposition to the "Don't ask, don't tell" military service policy for gays that she originally opposed during her first Senate run. The policy was enacted by the Pentagon under President Clinton in 1993.

Clinton and opponent Sen. Barack Obama will gear up to fight for Jewish support with dueling receptions during next week's AIPAC conference in Washington. In New York, Obama received donations from rappers and Wall St. executives, and also raised money in Boston where some compared him to JFK. Down in South Carolina, Sen. Chris Dodd got some good news by winning a 100-person straw poll against Clinton and Obama.

Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani is tackling questions about his family life after his son was interviewed yesterday about their strained relationship. Giuliani also stepped up his campaign by selling his investment bank to eliminate potential conflicts of interests. Giuliani declined an invitation to speak to the GOP club in NY where he launched his political career, allowing Sen. John McCain to take top billing there come May. The strategist for their mutual opponent, Mitt Romney, said people are right to ask questions about Romney's faith, because very little is known about it.

Newsweek asked Mike Huckabee what he makes of his prominent Republican challengers who've moved right on social issues. Huckabee: "Some are having a late adult moment to come to a position I've held since I've been a teenager. Voters will have to determine if they're seeing the politics of conviction or convenience."

You can find the rest of today's '08 news at our Politics and Elections page.

March 05, 2007

Photo of the Day

Actually, it's from yesterday - but precious nonetheless:

obama-clinton.jpg

(Credit: Robert Sullivan, AFP)

Rasmussen on '08 Dems

Scott Rasmussen is out with new numbers on the Democratic primary. The skinny: Hillary down 3 points but still leading at 34%, Obama steady at 26%, Edwards up 2 points to 15%. As a results, her overall lead in the RCP Average dropped slightly to 10.2%.

The Daily 2008

The biggest news this weekend was the join appearance of Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at the "Bloody Sunday" commemoration in Selma, AL. The NY Times said the visit "became a proxy battle for black support" between Clinton and Obama whose candidacy represents a threat to Clinton's traditional base of black support. The Montgomery Advertiser covered every angle in their package, including Bill Clinton's induction to the Voting Rights Museum.

Donald Lambro of the Washington Times writes that Clinton's spat with Obama over David Geffen's remarks haseroded her supportamong Democrats and especially independents. In a related story, Stephen Braun and Dan Morain of the Los Angeles Times report the Clinton-Geffen dustup was merely latest episode in a rocky relationship between the mogul and the former First Couple.

Meanwhile, Josh Gerstein of the New York Sun reports on John Edwards's efforts to go after Barack Obama's popularity among young voters. Edwards' has been on a tour of college campuses pushing for wage increases among university employees, most recently in Berkely where he "sounded the civil rights theme" heard in Selma. In an interview at Beliefnet.com, Edwards talked about what his faith means to him privately and politically.

On the GOP side, the debate about Rudy Giluiani's electability continues to be "the question in Republican presidential politics at the moment," Republican consultant Whit Ayres told Dan Balz of the Washington Post.

Elswhere, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that Mitt Romney raised a hefty $3 million in Utah during the last quarter.

In other notes on 2008, Lee Bandy of The State reports that despite - or perhaps because of - the massive amount of attention already being lavished on South Carolina at this early stage, voters are tuning out the campaign for now. In the Las Vegas Sun, Michael Mishak takes a look the reasons this is being called a "race on steroids" - still with 20 months to go until the first ballot is cast.

Finally, in other '08 election news, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports on the DCCC's effort to recruit challengers to Nevada Rep. John Porter (R-03). Meanwhile, ex-GOP candidates are "calling for major changes at the NRCC," which they depict as a "rogue attack-ad shop" that went too far in accusations against Democrats during the midterms that often hurt their own candidacies.

You can find all of this and the rest at our Politics and Elections page.

A Tale of Two Speeches

If you watched the dueling speeches yesterday between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in Selma, Alabama, it's clear why Hillary Clinton is in such a precarious position despite being atop the field for the Democratic nomination.

It's not really news to say that Clinton is no match for Obama rhetorically, but seeing them speak back to back yesterday gave a real sense of just how vastly inferior Clinton is to Obama as a candidate. He exuded warmth and inspiration, she seemed innately incapable of either. The difference between the two was quite clear: Obama preached to his audience, Clinton screeched at hers.

Worse for Clinton than the aesthetic comparison, perhaps, was the tactical result from yesterday. Obama did a masterful job of using the event to take on the notion that he's not "black enough." Here he is tying his experience as a black man - - in fact his very existence - back to the Civil Rights revolution that started in Selma:

Whatever goodwill Clinton might have generated among African-Americans for showing up at the event was swamped by Obama's ability to "lay a claim" to Selma, which he did with the kind of charisma and effectiveness that will only further consolidate his support within the black community.

As Bill Kristol pointed out yesterday on FNS, Obama now trails Clinton by less (10.6%) than McCain trails Giuliani (16.4%). In other words, we've already reached the point where Clinton's "inevitability" is being called into question. It's an especially dangerous place for her because that aura is a big asset to her candidacy, and once it's gone she can never get it back.

March 02, 2007

Obama on Iran

Barack Obama before an AIPAC gathering in Chicago today:

"A consequence of the administration's failed strategy in Iraq has been to strengthen Iran's strategic position, and place Israel and other nations friendly to the United States in greater peril."

Assume for the sake of argument that's true. Here's the thing: we are where we are in Iraq. Isn't Obama's proposal to withdraw all US combat forces out of Iraq by a date certain (March 2008) going to further enhance Iran's strategic position in the region thereby putting our allies even more at risk? It's hard to see how it won't.

Hasn't Obama just illustrated, albeit inadvertently, one of the most important reasons for making sure we stay and complete the mission in Iraq?

CPAC: Romney Hits One Out

Almost everything now being written about the 2008 race should be prefaced with "It's still early but..." With that in mind, Mitt Romney, who's had a tough couple of weeks fending off flip-flopping charges, apparently just dazzled the CPAC crowd, according to some conservative folks in attendance.

Over at the Corner, Kate O'Beirne said Romney's attacks on McCain-Feingold and the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill were "big crowd pleasers." (Hmmm, what do those two bills have in common?) Also, she notes, "In stringing together some of the events he faced upon taking office -- the Massachusetts court ordering gay marriage, the scientific community's support for creating embryos for research, and the blackballing of Catholic Charities over gay adoption -- he offered a potentially plausible sequence that prompted second thoughts on social issues."

At RedState.com, Erick Erickson sums it up: "Giuliani had leadership. Romney had conservatism." He adds, "Mitt Romney was pitch perfect and willing to talk social issues -- something totally missing from Giuliani's speech. And people noticed. I have to say that it was a tremendous speech. I actually could not listen to all of Rudy's, but Mitt's was great." Oh, and there's a trend emerging at CPAC. As Erickson notes, "He spoke negatively about McCain-Feingold and McCain-Kennedy."

RedState has Romney's full speech here.

For a less partisan perspective, Jonathan Martin of ThePolitico.com writes, "Mitt's team got what they wanted: a tougher, more focused, more forward-leaning speech that was just that, a speech. Gone were the rambling anecdotes and asides (no Olympics and no Challenger) and left was a more concise message." And, yes, Martin makes sure to tell his readers that Romney "took two direct shots at John McCain" over campaign finance reform and immigration.

Two conclusions to draw from this. First, Romney did what he had to do to. And second, McCain took it on the chin.

McCain Pulls Out the SC Straw

According to Jonathan Martin, it looks like McCain eked out a two vote victory over Giuliani in the South Carolina straw poll.

The Hagel Boomlet

It's officially a boomlet:

Margaret Carlson of Bloomberg: "Long-Shot Hagel May Be Republicans' Best Bet"

Brett Arends of the Boston Herald: "Hagel's the Only Real Right Stuff"

And here is a link to video of the man himself, discussing the possibility of jumping into the 2008 race. Here's an interesting exchange with the interviewer:

Q: Would you give any consideration to running as an Independent?

HAGEL: Well, if I seek the Presidency, I would seek it as a Republican. Where all this is going to go and how it ends up next year, whether that's possible for an Independent to be elected President, maybe. Maybe it would be. But, right now, I'd be focused on seeking the Republican nomination.

This follows on the heels of Hagel's interview with Kathy Keily in USA Today on Monday in which she reported he was "talking up Unity '08" as an "intriguing enterprise."

Very coy. If many Republicans don't like Hagel now, how would they feel about a 2008 race that included him as an Independent?

The Daily 2008

National Journal released its '06 vote ratings, showing each party just how orthodox their presidential candidates are. Sen. Barack Obama is the most liberal Democrat running, followed by Sens. Chris Dodd, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. For Republicans, Sen. Chuck Hagel voted more conservatively than Sens. Sam Brownback and John McCain.

In South Carolina, McCain and Brownback finished third and forth in yesterday's Republican straw poll, behind winner Rudy Giuliani and second-place finisher Rep. Duncan Hunter. Mitt Romney finished fifth. Romney and Giuilani will speak at today's CPAC conference in Washington, where conservatives attack the GOP as "big-government, free-spending coddlers of illegal immigrants." Romney tried to associate Giuliani with those positions during a New Hampshire interview by calling him "pro-gay marriage and antigun."

At today's AIPAC meeting in Chicago, Obama seeks to "convince skeptical Jewish voters that he is as reliable a supporter of Israel as any of the better-known" Democratic candidates. On Sunday, Obama and Clinton will attend the a commemoration of "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, AL. The event is receiving even more attention now that Bill Clinton will join his wife and bring his "star power and popularity among African Americans" to the weekend that had been "shaping up as a showcase" for Obama's candidacy. This competition between Obama and Clinton entered into the SC Legislative Black Caucus' decision over who will keynote their spring gala.

Though the biggest news about Obama and African-Americans today is not political, but ancestoral. A "first draft" genealogical report says Obama's forebears of his white mother owned slaves in 1850s Kansas.

Notably absent from the news lately has been John Edwards, which Democratic insiders speculate is being coy to hide the strength of his fundraising. Edwards showed a little leg today with the announcement that he raised $1 million online since December -- the same amount Clinton raised in a week. Obama and McCain are trading proposals to stay in the public financing system if both men win their parties' nominations.

Staying out of the Democratic fray is Tom Vilsack, who said he hasn't decided whether to endorse one of the Democrats running for president or whether he'll challenge Sen. Chuck Grassley in 2010.

Check our Politics and Elections page for these articles and more every morning.

McCain's Rough Week

It's hard to imagine how the week could get much worse for John McCain. Wednesday night's announcement on Letterman, coupled as it was with news the following morning that McCain had rejected an invitation to attend CPAC, brought back all the anger conservatives generally feel toward McCain. He's not one of them. He's chummy with the media.

That was followed yesterday by an apology for saying US soldiers' lives had been 'wasted' in Iraq. And that was followed by Rick Santorum's "anyone but McCain" broadside, which was itself followed a somewhat brutal elaboration by Santorum last evening in an interview with Hugh Hewitt:

On taxes, John was never a vote that we could count on to reduce taxes, and I just fundamentally believe that that's what Republicans are all about, and he was one of the few, less than a handful, that repeatedly voted against reducing taxes and keeping tax rates down. He's, on an issue that I think is essential for a republic, which is campaign finance and the freedom of speech, I think he's done great damage to our republic in the way campaigns are run and financed. And it's this misguided notion that government should control speech, and that we should limit speech as a way of improving the discourse in this country, and I think it's wrongheaded, and I think it's dangerous, and he has been the outright leader. I think he's wrong on immigration. He's been the leader on that issue, too, which he's been wrong on the issue of the environment and our energy security. And I think it's...talking what he's talking about with the issue of accepting at face value and beyond the issue of what we need to do to control emissions, and having government controls of those emissions and not do it through technology, but do it through imposed government solutions, I think, is certainly from my state, Pennsylvania, devastating to a manufacturing state, and devastating to our economy, and I think will make us more energy dependent, and as a result, will decrease our security in this country. And I can go on with other issues, but those are pretty major issues in my book.

And I just don't think he's been there, and on the social issues that I care a lot about, look, I've been out there for twelve years leading in the United States Senate. I challenge you to find John McCain standing up one time when I was on the floor of the Senate fighting for the lives of the unborn, or fighting for the defense of marriage, standing up there and fighting with me. He just hasn't been there.

As if that weren't bad enough, McCain appears to be pushing full steam ahead on two issues that really infuriate conservatives (see Santorum's comments), campaign finance and comprehensive immigration reform. On the latter, McCain looks to be adding insult to injury by freezing other Republicans out of the process - including moderates like Arlen Specter - and crafting the bill in closed-door sessions with Senator Ted Kennedy.

Topping it all off, three major 2008 polls were released in the last four days (FOX News, Time, and ABC/WaPo) which showed McCain's support slipping by 3%, 6%, and 6%, respectively, while Giuliani surged in all three polls.

All in all, a disastrous week. It's going to be a marathon campaign with plenty of ups and downs, ebbs and flows. But unlike the other candidates, this is not McCain's first rodeo. Normally, experience in a Presidential race is considered an asset, and that may still prove to be the case with McCain.

The flip side, however, is that while other candidates like Giuliani and Romney are getting their first and second looks from voters, McCain has already gotten plenty of looks from Republicans, and they remain underwhelmed - to put it politely. So McCain's slippage in the polls has got to be concerning to his campaign. McCain can't just bank on Rudy coming back to earth when the honeymoon is over, he needs to start running a primary campaign that will appeal to Republican voters. He'd better start doing it soon.

March 01, 2007

Who Won the Geffen Dustup?

In the punditry that followed the Obama-Hillary spat over David Geffen's comments to Maureen Dowd, there was considerable disagreement over which side had gained the upper hand in the first real intramural scuffle of the campaign. However, at least according to the poll numbers, Senator Obama looks to have emerged as the clear winner.

Before the dustup, Senator Clinton had leads over Senator Obama ranging from 15 points to 33 points in five polls that make up the RCP Average. On the day the column ran, the polls gave her an average lead of 38.5% to 18.0%. But in three national polls taken since the Geffen incident -- including polls by ABC News/Washington Post, Zogby and Time magazine -- Hillary's lead plummeted to 8-12 points. Today's RCP Average shows her with 35.5% support among Democrats versus 24.8% for Mr. Obama, cutting her lead down by a sizable 10 points in eight days.

In the short term at least, the evidence appears incontrovertible that the Geffen broadside, coupled with the Clinton campaign's handling of the issue, has given the young Obama campaign even more momentum. The pro-Clinton spin that Hillary wins this round because it dragged Mr. Obama down in the mud with her and tarnished his image of being above the political fray is just silly.

To the contrary, the Obama campaign's immediate and forceful response to Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson's demand for an apology has sent a loud message to Democrats that Mr. Obama, despite his youth and inexperience, will not be pushed around and steamrolled by the Clinton juggernaut. That message, along with Mrs. Clinton's deteriorating poll numbers, has started seriously to undermine the notion that Hillary's nomination is inevitable.

Mr. Obama not only won the "Geffen" round. If the polling holds up and the incident proves the catalyst to pull him to within single digits of Hillary Clinton at this very early date in the campaign, the contretemps may turn out to have been a key turning point in the entire campaign.

Will Newt Get The Geffen Treatment?

Okay, calling Hillary Clinton "a nasty woman" is a bit more of a direct attack than saying that she and her husband lie "with such ease, it's troubling."

Other than that, Newt's comments were not at all dissimilar from what David Geffen said to Maureen Dowd a couple of weeks back. When asked whether Obama could stand up to "Clinon Inc.", Geffen responded, " ''I hope so, because that machine is going to be very unpleasant and unattractive and effective.''

Newt called the Clintons "endlessly ruthless" and said, "They're too relentless, they're too well-organized, they have too big a machine and they'll just grind you down."

As you know, Geffen was praised by some on the left for "speaking truth to power," as the saying goes, and giving voice to the concerns of many Democrats. Any chance Newt will get the same treatment? I know, stupid question.

New '08 NJ Poll

New Quinnipiac numbers out of New Jersey:

Democrats
Clinton 41 (+11 versus Jan 25 poll)
Obama 19 (+3)
Gore 10 (-1)
Edwards 5 (-3)
Undecided 15 (-2)

Republicans
Giuliani 58 (+19 versus Jan 25 poll)
McCain 15 (-6)
Gingrich 5 (-6)
Romney 2 (-3)
Undecided 10 (-3)

Head to Head Match Ups
Giuliani 50 - Clinton 41
Giuliani 50 - Obama 39

McCain 45 - Clinton 45
McCain 41 - Obama 45

Favorable/Unfavorable Ratings
Giuliani 66/20 (+46)
Obama 42/11 (+31)
McCain 48/24 (+24)
Clinton 47/43 (+4)

New Time Poll

Time is out with a new poll which mirrors the trend of the WaPo poll released this week. On the Dem side that trend, in a nut shell, is this: Hillary down a bit but still leading, Obama rising, Edwards flat, and Gore with a bit of a pre-Oscar publicity bump:

Democrats
Clinton 36 (-4 from Jan poll)
Obama 24 (+3)
Gore 13 (+4)
Edwards 11 (n/c)

Overall, Hillary's lead in the RCP Average is now down to just over double digits (10.7%) - a noticeable drop in the last couple of weeks.

On the Republican side, Rudy Giuliani, after gaining 10 points in the Washington Post post to extend his lead over McCain to 23 points, picks up an astonishing 24 points in the new Time survey. Add in McCain's drop this time and you have a ridiculous 31-point net swing in the Time poll over the last four weeks:

Republicans
Giuliani 50 (+24)
McCain 33 (-7)
Gingrich 12 (-2)
Romney 7 (+2)

The cumulative effect of these polls has Giuliani busting out to an 18.7% lead in the RCP Average.

February 28, 2007

Song Choices

Since Jon Chait started the ball rolling giving advice to the Obama campaign about song choices, let me quickly toss in my two cents.

Stomping around outside in the frigid weather before Obama's announcement in Springfield a couple of weeks ago I wasn't paying much attention to the "pre-game" music coming out over the loud speakers, but one song did catch my ear. So here's my advice to the Obama folks: for obvious reasons, you might want to rethink letting the DJ spin Brewer & Shipley's "One Toke Over the Line" at future campaign rallies.

Pre-War Obama

If you have not watched the video of Barack Obama in 2002 discussing Iraq and the war vote, you should. Obama's warnings in regard to the difficulties the U.S. might face post-invasion appear remarkably prescient and while he was certainly not alone in raising these type of concerns, and in many ways these were the obvious post-invasion worries, the ease and comfort with which he discuses the relevant issues conveys to me a level of understanding and wisdom that is quite impressive. For a Democratic primary voter this video and his stance pre-war, juxtaposed against Hillary Clinton's dissembling and triangulating on Iraq, is just one more reason to make the switch from Clinton to Obama.

I delved in to some of Hillary's favorability problems earlier today, but the bottom line is Senator Clinton is increasingly losing her iron-grip on the Democratic nomination and this video is only going to make the situation worse for her campaign.

Update: The latest Keystone poll showing her trailing John McCain by 4 points and Rudy Giuliani by an incredible 16 points in Pennsylvania (a state both Kerry and Gore carried) is just more fuel for the anti-Hillary fire.

Giuliani Out Front, Obama Gaining on Hillary

Both ABC News/Washington Post and Diageo/Hotline released major polls on the 2008 campaign yesterday. On balance the numbers were positive for Barack Obama and Rudy Giuliani and mixed -- at best -- for Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

The favorable/unfavorable ratings of Giuliani versus Clinton in these two polls are striking. Rudy sports spreads of +36% in the ABC/WP (64/28) and +33% in Hotline (58/25) compared to Hillary's barely positive spreads of +1% in ABC/WP (49/48) and +3% in Hotline (49/46). The Giuliani/Clinton differential is over 30 points in Rudy's favor.

Giuliani's favorability ratings will only go lower as the campaign progresses and if he does win the Republican nomination, by Election Day there is no chance he will have favorable/unfavorable spreads over 30 points. However, the bigger unknown is where will Hillary Clinton's favorable/unfavorable rating head over the course of the campaign. Usually candidates' favorability ratings deteriorate as a campaign intensifies, which, given where Sen. Clinton stands today, does not bode well for her in both the primaries and the general election. The question is will the fact that she has been such a public and polarizing figure for over 15 years mute the historical tendency for candidates' unfavorable ratings to climb. In other words, does the public know all of Hillary's negatives?

To the degree Sen. Clinton remains the favorite and the likely Democratic nominee there is a floor for how low her favorability rating may fall. But if the shield of inevitability surrounding her continues to crack and Obama (or John Edwards or Al Gore) becomes a real alternative, then Democrats may begin to turn on Clinton. This of course would have serious implications on her ability to hold on to the nomination, but would also negatively affect her general election prospects.

As a point of reference the Final RCP Favorable/Unfavorable Averages going into the '04 election for President Bush and John Kerry were +7.4% for Bush and +1.2% for Kerry -- a differential of 6.2% for Bush. Today's Giuliani/Clinton differential is over 30 points in Rudy's favor. Clinton can potentially close that gap to single digits, if she is able to keep her favorability ratings even. But if her numbers go negative and stay negative, she could be digging herself (and Democrats) an insurmountable hole against a candidate like Giuliani, who today has plus 30% favorability ratings. Giuliani's ratings will fall, but if he is the Republican nominee they will almost assuredly be positive in the spring of 2008.

Democrats are certainly aware of Clinton's vulnerability in this regard, which makes Obama's strong favorability ratings of +23% in the ABC/WP (53/30) and +31% in Hotline (50/19) all the more attractive to Democrats looking for a general election winner. On the back of the Geffen imbroglio (which unquestionably hurt Hillary) the last thing the Clinton machine wants is a consensus to form that Obama would fare better in the general election. Zogby's head-to-head polls also out this week which show Hillary trailing Giuliani and McCain by 7 and 8 points, while Obama leads both by 6 and 4, don't help in this regard.

McCain who is increasingly becoming the odd-man-out has some relatively good news in that his favorability remains quite strong -- +17% in ABC/WP (52/35) and +22% in Hotline (58/26), which bodes well for his general election prospects. However, his horserace numbers in the Republican field have to be troubling to his campaign as Giuliani beats him by 23 points and with Newt Gingrich out of the race by a whopping 30 points (53/23) in the ABC/WP poll. With sustained numbers like that, the general election is going to be irrelevant for McCain.

All the momentum continues to ride with Giuliani and Obama, while the long-time front-runners of McCain and Clinton flounder. McCain lost his front-runner status several weeks ago; we'll see about Hillary's over the next few months.

South Carolina Shootout Continues

If you thought the Clinton-Obama duel was hot, take a look at the McCain-Romney shootout in South Carolina.

The Politico's Jonathan Martin reveals how and where the battle lines are being drawn in the state GOP. The warring camps are led by their own generals: Richard Quinn, who is reprising his '00 role with Sen. John McCain and ex-George W. Bush consultant Warren Tompkins who now backs Mitt Romney. "Campaign allegiances aside, there is an unknown factor that complicates the 2000 redux storyline: Rudy Giuliani," Martin writes. But Giuliani has no organization and a McCain supporter said, "If Giuliani hadn't shoved it into higher gear, Romney may be out of single digits right now."

Tomorrow, Spartanburg, SC will hold its straw poll and even this small event is exhibiting the big fighting. The county's GOP chair is accused of "stacking the deck" for Romney and holding meetings in locations that aren't handicap-friendly. Still, all the candidates have worked feverishly to do well in the poll and create buzz even though the real primary is 11 months away. When it finally comes, McCain may utilize his new counsel who just resigned as SC's elections chief to join the campaign.

Meanwhile Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign is dealing with problems of its own creation after "inadvertently" omitting from her Senate ethics forms a family charity that's allowed Clinton and her husband to write off millions. Clinton's team is also trying to undo "days of harsh coverage" from two San Francisco-area Chinese-language newspapers that were not admitted to a fundraiser last week.

This weekend Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama will head to Selma, AL to commemorate 1965's Bloody Sunday civil rights march. Before Obama's trip, NPR asked him pointed questions about his experiences as a black presidential candidate, including if he talks the same way to black and white audiences, if he feels he has to prove himself to black leaders and if he has to dominate the black vote to win.

Soon enough all of these candidates will be talking about the immigration plans McCain and Sen. Ted Kennedy are taking up again in Washington today.

What else is flying through the political universe? Check our Politics and Elections page.

Obama on Iraq in '02

File this clip under "more trouble for Hillary Clinton." It's Illinois State Senator Barack Obama on a local public affairs television show in late November 2002 giving a pretty clear explanation of why he would have voted against the Iraq war authorization:

A quick aside on Obama's political skill. If you go to his web site, on the page titled "Plan to End the Iraq War" you'll find the text of remarks he gave at an antiwar rally in Chicago in October 2002. As you might expect, the tone of his remarks at the antiwar rally were fairly strident (he called members of the administration "armchair, weekend warriors" and singled out Karl Rove as a "political hack") and well suited to the crowd at the time and to the current base of the party. But a month later he was on television in the clip you just watched, speaking in thoughtful, measured tones about the war and how he would have voted. It's a testament to his political skill, his mastery of the medium of television, and why he's such a threat to Hillary.

February 27, 2007

'08 News and More

Presidential candidates were mostly outside of the early primary states today, but they and their campaigns still made news - not all of it good.

The Boston Globe obtained a document explaining "Romney will define himself in part by focusing on and highlighting enemies and adversaries, such common political targets as 'jihadism,' the 'Washington establishment,' and taxes, but also Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, 'European-style socialism,' and, specifically, France." The campaign also anticipates a challenge on this front from Newt Gingrich, even though the former speaker and conservative icon has not yet announced his candidacy.

Elsewhere on the trail, Rep. Duncan Hunter's PAC may have broken campaign finance laws by using its money to advertise for him in New Hampshire. Down in South Carolina, Sen. Sam Brownback is calling on as many Republicans as he can before an upcoming straw poll.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side Illinois Sen. Barack Obama continued his tour of the Ohio River Valley yesterday by rallying 2,000 supporters in Cleveland. At home, Obama manages a complicated relationship with Chicago politicians, including Mayor Richard Daley, who faces reelection today. Sen. Hillary Clinton, not to be outshone by Al Gore's climate change popularity, called on the government to spend $50 billion on energy independence.

Outside of the presidential race, RNC Chair Sen. Mel Martinez said he's trying to build a consensus of Republicans around immigration reform, including his proposed "earned citizenship" plan that would require English proficiency, citizenship tests and fines or back taxes. The proposal is supported by the Bush administration and most Democrats.

In Washington, President Bush and governors traded pleas on their health care plans while five Western states did an end-run around Congress and the administration and signed an agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

You can find those stories and more at RCP's Politics and Elections page.

February 26, 2007

The Hillary Haters

Ironic, don't you think, that the most influential paper in nation happens to be located in Hillary Clinton's home state and most of the columnists on the op-ed page seem hate her guts. Today Bob Herbert joins in the fun, bashing the Clintons for raising an objection with Barack Obama over his supporter David Geffen's attack on the former First Couple:

If Bill and Hillary Clinton were the stars of a reality TV show, it would be a weekly series called "The Connivers." The Clintons, the most powerful of power couples, are always scheming at something, and they're good at it. [snip]

When Senator Obama talks about bringing a new kind of politics to the national scene, he's talking about something that would differ radically from the relentlessly vicious, sleazy, mendacious politics that have plagued the country throughout the Bush-Clinton years. Whether he can pull that off is an open question. But there's no doubt the Clintons want to stop him from succeeding.

The line of the Hillary haters (or Obama supporters, if you prefer) goes something like this: what Geffen said was more or less true, therefore it's not really an attack. Herbert writes this morning, "In all the uproar over Mr. Geffen's comments, hardly anyone has said they were wildly off the mark."

Yesterday Maureen Dowd went with something similar on Meet the Press:

I think that David Geffen gave voice to what a lot of Democratic donors and supporters had been secretly worried about, and, in fact, it's reflected in Hillary's own talking points for her supporters, which is the fact that she's polarizing, that she's calculating, that she's overscripted, and that her relationship with Bill could still cause problems. And, you know, he was bold enough to say that, and that sort of broke the dam of nervousness over that.

Two points. Obviously, there's a partisan double standard at play: if a Republican had said the same things about the Clintons as Geffen, we wouldn't be having a nuanced discussion about whether it was an "attack" or whether the person was merely "giving voice" to concerns held by a lot of Democrats. In fact, I don't recall any of that taking place when William Safire called Clinton a "congenital liar" way back when.

The second, and more important point is that Obama defenders have now established a sort of baseline which will serve as a helpful guideline: anything goes, even personal attacks, so long as it's true. So Bob Herbert won't be upset if a major Clinton supporter comes out in the press and starts talking about the fact that Obama did "a little blow" in his younger years, or that his wife sits on the board of a company whose biggest customer is Wal-Mart and paid it's CEO a ridiculous $26.2 million last year, or that the Obamas appear to be unbelievably savvy when it comes to buying real estate (though I can't believe the Clintons or their surrogates would want to go there).

Of course we all know that if a major Clinton donor came out and said any of these things, in all likelihood Bob Herbert (being the intellectually honest fellow he is) would be at the front of the line decrying it as a vicious, sleazy, and mendacious attack and calling in on the Clintons to disassociate themselves from the remarks - even though every bit of it is true.

The Tin Ear Endorsement

Good grief. Note to John McCain's campaign: if you're looking to mend fences and try to become the choice of conservative Republican primary voters, it's best not to go around trumpeting news of an endorsement by Senator John Warner of Virginia - especially after Warner just finished spearheading an effort in the Senate to rebuke the President and undermine his Iraq policy.

The endorsement game is really a bizarre phenomenon. I suppose, in the aggregate, endorsements offer a campaign the "aura of inevitability," but there's little evidence that individual endorsements (or newspaper endorsements, for that matter) really help, and I think this is an instance where an endorsement actually does more harm than good.

Good News From Iran

Apropos Mitt Romney's comments on Iran, the Associated Press reports some encouraging news:

TEHRAN, Iran - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faced a new round of sharp criticism at home Monday after he said Iran's nuclear program is an unstoppable train without brakes. Reformers and conservatives said such tough talk only inflames the West as it considers further sanctions. The criticism came even as new signs have arisen that Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is growing discontented with Ahmadinejad, whom he is believed to have supported in 2005 presidential elections.

The Romney Interview

I sat down with Governor Romney at this headquarters in Boston on Friday. I asked to record the interview and Governor Romney agreed without hesitation, and as I turn the recorder on Romney is in the middle of commenting on the fact that his every utterance these days is captured on tape in one way or another:

ROMNEY: You've got to be really careful about what you say and do anywhere you are. I actually had a dream about being in parking garage and having somebody in front of me taking too long to get their change and honking the horn and then yelling back, and getting out and yelling at each other and then seeing it on YouTube the next day. So I said 'OK', I've got to really be careful, you know, in my personal life.

RCP: So how's the campaign going for you so far? Is it what you expected?

ROMNEY: It's gotten going a lot faster than I would have expected. I saw George Stephanopoulos last week, he said he was hired on as the first Clinton campaign employee in what would be the equivalent of October of this year. And we have many tens of employees at this point. And even this early the response in states that really are early in the process: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, the response is really quite surprising. Large numbers of people, lots of questions, enthusiastic reaction.

RCP: What's the question you get asked most?

ROMNEY: From Republican crowds most often the question relates to immigration, then education and healthcare. Interestingly, very rarely is there a question about foreign policy, Iraq, Iran. I typically have to insert those into my opening remarks to get the audience to draw out on that at all.

I think it's in part because Republican audiences don't want to talk about it. It hasn't gone well. It feels like the team is losing and people don't want to hear about it.

RCP: Speaking of, yesterday there were reports you issued some mild criticism of the Bush administration policy in Iraq, saying it wasn't going as well as many had liked. John McCain said recently he thought Secretary Rumsfeld would go down as one of the worst Defense Secretaries in history. Dick Cheney responded by saying he thought Rumsfeld had been a great Secretary of Defense and that he'd done a super job. What do you think? What's your impression of the job Rumsfeld did?

ROMNEY: I really don't think pointing fingers at individuals is a productive exercise at this point. Clearly the president would agree the buck stops with him. He's responsible for the management of our affairs, and I would not suggest we go and try and find individuals within various departments to assume the blame.

In my view, and I've said this many times before, we did an excellent job knocking down Saddam Hussein's government, but we did less than a superb job in managing the post major-conflict period. And I think we were underprepared for it, under planned, under staffed, and under managed. And because of our shortcomings in those areas we've contributed to the difficult position in which we find ourselves. But we are where we are.

And if you, like me, have done a lot of reading about the process that led up to the conflict and the preparations for the post-major conflict period, you too will recognize that, if these accounts are accurate, we've made a lot of errors in terms of preparation. And whether you've read the Looming Tower, or The Assassin's Gate, or Cobra II, or Paul Bremer's book or Gen. Zinni's book, they come to that set of conclusions even though they come from very different viewpoints.

RCP: And do you believe it's still fixable at this point?

ROMNEY: Yes. I think there is a reasonable course - or, let me restate that, there's a reasonable probability that there is a path to securing the nation and establishing stability for a central government. I don't say that's a path with high confidence of being successful, but there's still a reasonable probability that path can be pursued. And that's why I think the president is right to add to the military mission the responsibility for securing Baghdad and the population of Baghdad.

I think that should have been done a lot earlier and should have been part of the initial plan. But, be that as it may, it's now being added to the mission. And when you add a mission to our military that means you need to add troop strength to carry it out. We'll see how well that plan is working. It will probably play out over a matter of five to six months, or more. But it's months, not years.

I presume that the Defense Department and the President have worked out with al-Maliki's government what the milestones are and what the timetable is for determining if we're being successful in this new effort. And we'll be able to judge, are we accomplishing what we hope to accomplish? Those don't have to be made public, although I think it'd be helpful if in some cases they were, so the public could understand and have credibility behind the accomplishments, if there are accomplishments. I think it's much broader, for instance, than just saying, "are there fewer attacks?" It's much more devoted to determining are the Iraqi military and police forces able to take the lead at some stage here in providing for the security for their people.

RCP: And, as you said, it'll play out over course of five or six months. That's what most experts have said. But what happens if it's not successful, or not as successful as we'd hoped? What then?

ROMNEY: If you establish milestones, and you determine that we're not making progress against those milestones, then you know the strategy isn't working and you have to turn to Plan B or C. I'm not going to forecast what Plan B or C might be. Clearly there are people who say we should just turn and walk out. There are others who say we should divide the country in various - three, four, five or more parts.

There are additional risks associated with those courses that would suggest we don't want to take those options unless there is no other option available. And the additional risks you're familiar with. If you divide the country in parts Iran may try and seize the Iraqi portion - excuse me the Shia portion of Iraq. Al-Qaeda could play a dominating role in the Sunni portion. The Kurdish population could destabilize the Kurds in Turkey and could create conflict across the border. You could have a regional conflict develop. And for all of those additional reasons and risks, you wouldn't want to pursue that course unless there were no other option available.

RCP: On a related subject: Iran. You made some comment yesterday about Iran. If Iran hasn't acquired nuclear weapons by January 2009 when President Romney takes office, would they acquire them under a Romney administration?

ROMNEY: I think it's unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. Unacceptable to our interests and to the interest of the civilized world. For that reason I think we should exert every source of our world pressure to keep Iran from pursuing that course. And, of course, the military option must be left on the table

In my view, at this stage, we should be doing as the Bush administration has begun, which is tightening economic sanctions, as well as tightening diplomatic isolation, we should be communicating to the Iranian people the downsides of becoming a nuclear power, we should be engaging the moderate Muslim states in the neighborhood to help put pressure as well on Iran and to help us by taking pressure off of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Finally, in my view, we should be putting together a much broader comprehensive strategy to defeat radical jihad in the world of Islam.

RCP: So, just to phrase it a different way, it's your view that the national security risk to the United States of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon outweighs -

ROMNEY: Is extreme...

RCP: and outweighs any sort of adverse effect or fallout that might come from attacking them either with airstrikes and/or some sort of ground force.

ROMNEY: You know I won't describe precisely what action should be taken or how it would be taken, but clearly the consequences of a nuclear Iraq - excuse me, a nuclear Iran - for the world and for America are so severe that military options have to remain on the table. Those options I have not discussed in great depth with the US military, so I'm not going to describe what particular path would be considered, but I can say that given the fact that we would never want to pursue a military option unless we had pursued every other reasonable option, I want to make sure we are aggressively pursuing those other options. And those other options relate to tightening economic sanctions so that Ahmadinejad is increasingly unpopular in his own country, so that religious leaders like Khamenei, as well as the public at large, are dissatisfied with him and ultimately sweep him from power, or cause him to withdraw his nuclear ambition. And that's why it's so important for us -

RCP: Do you think that's probable?

ROMNEY: Yeah, I think that - in fact the Bush administration's restrictions on credit and banking are already having an impact. Ahmadinejad did fall behind in the most recent elections. Our intelligence in Iran is somewhat limited, as it is throughout the Middle East, but there is indication among some observers that Ahmadinejad is on a bit of thin ice and that if we were to continue to exert extensive pressure on his economy and the diplomatic reception that he and his fellow Iranians receive around the world that that could have the desired effect of either causing him to retreat to a certain degree or to be replaced by a leader that had more moderate views.

RCP: Switching gears to a lighter subject, for our readers to get a better sense of who you are as a person, tell me something about yourself that only people who know you well know.

ROMNEY: I love practical jokes and humor. That there's frankly no joke that I don't think is funny. I love practical jokes, but I don't like being scared. My sons will tell you that when they have jumped out of the tree when I'm coming from work in the middle of the night and said "boo" to me, that there is swift and severe retribution.

I have five boys in the family, and it's constant competition, sport, humor, and practical jokes. For instance, when we gathered for my big - was it the announcement day, no I guess it was the big fund raising thing, we were going to have a January national call day - all my sons came back to gather for that. We were there at the dinner table and someone said, "hey, should we go have a 440 race at the high school?" Sure enough, we all went upstairs and found our respective jogging shorts, put on tennis shoes or running shoes, went over to the high school and had a 440 competition at the track.

RCP: Who won?

ROMNEY: I came in last. I was thinking I could beat my son Ben but, boy, even though he's in medical school and has gotta be out of shape, he still beat me, darn it!

RCP: One last question, and forgive me if you've already been asked and answered this question because I haven't seen it. Being that we celebrated President's Day this week, and I see John Adams by David McCullough here on the table... who is your favorite President?

ROMNEY: Ah, it's too hard to pick a favorite President. It really is. It's like picking your favorite from a box of chocolates - I love all of them. There are, of course, the famous and great presidents that everybody knows and says "ah, Lincoln, Washington." How could anyone not choose Lincoln and Washington, and they're so obviously so far above the standard of Presidents in our land or any land, that of course they have to be at the top of the list.

But I love John Adams. His book is on my desk there. The first time I read that book by David McCullough when I got to the last page I literally had tears in my eyes because I felt like I was losing a family friend.

I love Teddy Roosevelt. I read everything I can get my hands on about Teddy Roosevelt. Anybody who says "Bully" is a friend of mine. And his enthusiasm, his energy, his can-do attitude was just extraordinary.

From a more modern standpoint, you've gotta love Ronald Reagan. I respected him for his optimism, his humor, the glint in his eye throughout his career. But I find that as I get older and older, he gets smarter and smarter as well.

RCP: Any Democrats at the top of list?

ROMNEY: Truman was a man I see as having real character and the courage of his convictions. And FDR at a great time of need was a communicator that made a real difference for America. Clearly, there are a number of his policies that I vehemently disagree with. But I think as you look at American presidents, more important than their policy was their character, and those who brought something to the American spirit are one who we remember with affection and admiration for generations.

I frankly don't know whether Teddy Roosevelt's policies would be accepted by the Republican party today, but Teddy Roosevelt was as Republican as any Republican I know.

February 23, 2007

Edwards' Missing MoJo

edwards.gif When John Edwards announced his intention to run for president last year, he was immediately considered a top tier candidate in the Democratic field: He had already demonstrated considerable political skill and an ability to raise money in his strong 2004 showing. He also was seen as benefiting from an even more front-loaded primary schedule in 2008 that should work in his favor.

But for someone as smooth as Mr. Edwards, the first few months of his campaign have been anything but. While his two main rivals have been sucking up media oxygen with dueling announcements and maiden tours to early primary states, Mr. Edwards has managed to make only a few headlines -- none of them good.

First, he took flack from his base for giving a hawkish, saber-rattling speech on Iran, telling an Israeli audience that "all options" were on the table and that "under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons." Shortly thereafter, news broke that Mr. Edwards, whose central campaign theme is closing the economic gap between the "two Americas," is living in a newly constructed 28,000 square-foot estate outside Chapel Hill, N.C., worth an estimated $6 million.

The biggest embarrassment came two weeks ago when Mr. Edwards hired two left-wing feminist bloggers to run his campaign web site, only to have their history of writing vulgar and inflammatory posts revealed. After receiving extreme pressure from his left-wing base, Mr. Edwards at first kept the women but tried to distance himself from their remarks. Both resigned less than a week later.

The latest snag for the Edwards campaign is a story in Variety that quotes him as telling a Hollywood fundraising group that Israel bombing Iran's nuclear facilities is the "greatest threat to short-term world peace." Yesterday Mr. Edwards' campaign denied he made the remark, but Variety is standing by its reporting.

As you'd expect, the net results of Mr. Edwards' missteps is that he's losing ground in the polls. Nationally, he remains mired in third place, ten points behind Barack Obama and close to 30 points behind Hillary Clinton. More concerning, however, is that he appears to be slipping in Iowa, one of his strongholds and a place where he must finish well if he wants to have a shot at winning the nomination.

Two recent polls tell the tale: A new survey by Strategic Vision shows Mr. Edwards' lead has slipped to six points, down four points from the previous month. A Zogby poll released last week is even worse: The 11-point lead he held in January has completely evaporated.

With the Democratic hopefuls attending their first "candidate forum" yesterday in Nevada, the race is only beginning, and there'll be plenty of time for Mr. Edwards to recover his mojo. But even at this early date, Democrats are searching the field looking for a winner. Mr. Edwards' bumbles have raised doubts about his political skills in a year when Democrats believe the presidency is theirs for the losing.

February 21, 2007

The Full McCain

Earlier today I posted the YouTube of McCain speaking about abortion that had been selectively edited and distributed (it appears)by an operative of a rival campaign. So, to be fair, here is the full, unedited clip of McCain's statement:

A Taste of the Slugfest

My, my, how quickly it starts. Last week I wrote about the perils of Barack Obama going negative:

As anyone not living in a cave surely knows, Obama launched his campaign for president last weekend by deriding the "smallness of our politics" and promising to change the tone of political discourse in America. But with Hillary Clinton leading Obama by an average of nearly 20 points in the six major polls taken so far this year, will Obama be able to close the gap over the coming year without playing hardball? And how can he attack Clinton without looking small himself and undermining the core rationale for his candidacy?

And now we have David Geffen, with a gleeful assist from Maureen Dowd, slicing and dicing the Clintons in the New York Times, just days after Obama once again denounced "slash and burn politics."

The Clinton camp jumped on the contradiction, as they will every time anyone associated with Obama's campaign says anything remotely negative about them.

I'm sure the left is willing to give Obama a pass, but you can see the inherent problem this poses for his candidacy. Obama's senior strategist, David Axelrod, has said that a positive campaign is "he only kind of campaign that he [Obama] really can run" and that they won't be engaging in a strategy to tear other people down. Given that Obama has made changing "smallness of our politics" the clarion call of his candidacy, he's almost obliged to have to denounce Geffen or else look like a hypocrite.

Obama's attacks, and those of his surrogates, have to stay focused on issues. I've been having a back and forth with a left-leaning reader on what those attacks might look like. Here is what he wrote:

I'm waiting for a version of this devastating remark from Obama to Hillary if it comes down to a one on one debate between them down the homestretch. It would come in response to her touting her supposed trump card over him: her "experience."
Senator, I think you're an able colleague, and an important leader of our Party. But let's recall that your "experience" hasn't helped you when you needed it most: In dealing with the most important domestic issue of our time, and the most important foreign policy issue of our time. When in President's Clinton's White House, you headed the administration's botched effort to bring all Americans national health insurance--that set back that project for 15 years. And, when faced with the fateful decision as to whether to give President Bush the authority to go to war against Iraq, you voted to do so. Senators can make those kinds of mistakes every so often, but I don't think the American people can afford to risk putting you and your "experience" in the Oval Office.

Nobody else in either party can do it. Edwards can't because he voted yes on the war, too. Richardson can't because he was part of the Clinton administration. Rudy and McCain can't because they presumably supported the war from the start. Only Obama could deliver this death blow to the Clinton campaign. Game, set, match--but does Mr. Nice guy have the guts to do it?

And here is my reply:

Yes, and i'm waiting to see how Hillary attacks Obama when he starts threatening her. It will have to be very well calibrated so as not to offend, but will also have to be a devastating indictment of his inexperience. I think I've hit on how it might happen: Bill Clinton will come out and say something to the effect that Barack Obama would make a very able cabinet secretary in a future administration. Maybe he'll say VP.

But Bubba is the one who will have to bring Obama down with a velvet hammer. He's got the skill to do it, and responding to the attack also poses a dilemma for Obama: does he really want to get in a pissing match with Bill Clinton? I don't think so.

It's going to be fascinating to watch this drama between Clinton and Obama continue to play out. And we haven't even gotten started talking about how vicious and dramatic the fight on the other side is going to be.

National '08 QPoll

Quinnipiac is out with a new national poll on '08:

Democrats
Clinton 38
Obama 23
Gore 11
Edwards 6
Undecided 13

(Updated RCP Average on Dem Nomination here)

Republicans
Giuliani 40
McCain 18
Gingrich 10
Romney 7
Undecided 15

(Updated RCP Average on GOP nomination here)

Head to Head Match Ups
Giuliani 48 - Clinton 43
Giuliani 47 - Obama 40
Giuliani 48 - Edwards 40

McCain 46 - Clinton 44
McCain 43 - Obama 43
McCain 43 - Edwards 42

Romney 37 - Clinton 49
Romney 29 - Obama 49
Romney 32 - Edwards 48

(Updated RCP Averages on Head to Head Match Ups here)

McCain on Abortion

Now it's McCain's turn to face a Youtube clip of himself talking about abortion:

This doesn't seem very damning to me, especially given that, as The Hotline reports, this clip omits a couple of very important sentences at the beginning where McCain says, "I believe this issue of the repeal of Roe v. Wade is important. I favor the ultimate repeal of Roe v. Wade." That seems fairly consistent with what he said the other day.

Of course, McCain's political problem on abortion, in so far as he has one, stems from his 1999 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle in which he stated quite explicitly:

"But certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America to [undergo] illegal and dangerous operations."

But this is old news. I though McCain put the issue to bed for the most part during the 2000 campaign and it seems he's been consistent ever since, so I don't know how opponents are going to get much mileage out of it this time around.

February 20, 2007

Blair to Announce British Troop Withdrawal

The Daily Telegraph reports:

Tony Blair is preparing to announce a major reduction in British troops in Iraq as a result of a successful operation to improve security in the southern city of Basra.

Downing Street indicated tonight that Mr Blair could make his promised statement this week on Britain's future strategy in Iraq, He will be in the Commons tomorrow for his weekly Prime Minister's questions session

Reports circulating in Whitehall tonight suggested that Britain's 7,000 contingent in Iraq could be cut to around 4,000 by the early summer.

More from the BBC:

BBC political correspondent James Landale said: "We have been expecting an announcement for some time on this."

He said by Christmas a total of 3,000 troops were expected to have returned to the UK from Iraq.

However, he said reports that all troops will have returned home by the end of 2008 was "not a fair representation of what is true at the moment".

Our correspondent said senior Whitehall sources told him that the pullout was "slightly slower" than they had expected and "if conditions worsen this process could still slow up".

So according to the news reports this is a long-planned announcement that is also coming as a result of the improved security situation in Basra. But is that really what it is? Perhaps more importantly, how will this news be framed by the media and used by Congressional Democrats to try and influence the Iraq war debate here at home?

Mitt Defends Again

Wow. The Hotline came across more video of Mitt Romney laying out his "pro-choice" views, this time in his 2002 gubernatorial debate with Democrat Shannon O'Brien:

In many ways this is more devastating for Romney than the clip of him debating Kennedy in 1994. It's certainly not the kind of news and video his campaign wanted to see breaking on the day they're promoting his first ad campaign (see below).

Mitt TV

Here is Mitt Romney's first ad that will begin airing in Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire and South Carolina starting tomorrow:

Hillary's Tone Deaf Pivot

hillary.gif Judging by the photos and the media coverage, it looks as if Hillary's first trip to South Carolina as a Presidential candidate was a success. Aaron Gould Sheinin of The State reports on the scene at Allen University, the historically black college where Hillary held one of her town hall events:

She was greeted like a star, regardless. People were lined up for more than a block down Pine Street in near-freezing temperatures to get a seat in the John Hurst Adams Gymnatorium. Organizers estimated more than 3,200 people were on hand, many of them in an overflow room.

Sheinin reports that Hillary fielded eight questions on Iraq from the crowd. She slammed Bush for being "reckless," reiterated her position on beginning the redeployment of troops out of Iraq in 90 days, and hung tough on the apologizing for her vote. But, interestingly, Clinton also used one of the questions on the war to make this nifty little pivot:

"To underscore a point, some people may be running who tell you we don't face a real threat from terrorism," she said. "I'm not one of them. We have serious enemies who want to do us serious harm."

Who's she talking about, exactly, and is it smart primary politics for Clinton to be suggesting that "some" Democrats in the race (hint: name rhymes with Osama) are soft on terror? How very John Howard of her.

As Mickey Kaus notes with his usual satirical brilliance, Hillary has already managed to put herself in an incredibly difficult and probably untenable position on the war through "a conscientiously applied mixture of high-minded comity, Machiavellian calculation, stubbornness and bad expert advice." So it would certainly fit the mold of Hillary's campaign thus far that the bright new idea is to defend her position on the war by slagging her fellow Democrats for being soft on terror.

(Photo credit: Tim Dominick, The State)

'08 Hopefuls Turn Up Heat On War

The tone of the Iraq war debate got more strident today with Democratic presidential candidates competing to be more anti-war than the next and Republicans delivering bi-partisan blasts.

While stumping for Democrats in California yesterday, Sen. Barack Obama reiterated his opposition to the war and gave a thinly-veiled rebuke to President Bush's calls to continue fighting with a new strategy. "There are no good options in Iraq at this point," Obama said. "There are only bad options or worse options. But the worst option is to continue to put our young men and women in the midst of what is essentially a sectarian civil war in which they cannot succeed."

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Biden didn't just criticize the commander-in-chief strategies as ineffective, but said they are "emboldening the enemy." This came after Biden accused Bush himself of saying war critics embolden the enemy. (Taking the cake was Rep. Dennis Kucinich who claimed the U.S. is "on its way toward being a fascist kind of government.")

On the GOP side, Rep. Duncan Hunter characterized Congress' war debate as equivalent to pulling "the rug out from under the soldiers ... by condemning this mission," Hunter said. "I thought it was a disservice to our soldiers."

Sen. John McCain continued to campaign as a critical hawk by blasting Donald Rumsfeld's conduct of the war, claiming he predicted the bloodshed in Iraq and the need for more soldiers and a new strategy more than three years ago. McCain said, "We are paying a very heavy price for the mismanagement -- that's the kindest word I can give you -- of Donald Rumsfeld, of this war. ... I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history." McCain's comments were met by applause.

The best of the rest of today's news can be found here.

What John McCain Needs

Yesterday in South Carolina:

"It was a charade and a joke and a publicity stunt on the part of the Democrats in the Senate, because they wanted to embarrass the president of the United States, my friends."

That clip from Senator McCain campaigning in South Carolina led off FOX News' Special Report with Brit Hume last night and it is exactly the right campaign message the McCain folks need to be hitting -- and hitting consistently, day after day -- on the campaign trail. The quickest way McCain can begin to shore up support and win back disgruntled conservatives is to hit Democrats hard on their tactics regarding Iraq, while at the same time defending the commander-in-chief and the troops. The political reality is potential GOP primary voters hear that line and like John McCain just a little bit more.

Given McCain is already fully locked into the pro-war side of the political debate, it doesn't hurt him as much with general election voters as one may think for a number of reasons. First, there is an assumption in Washington that being "pro-war" on Iraq is a political loser because that is the way the war and in turn public opinion has been trending the last two years, but the future is never a straight line progression of the past and it is certainly not inconceivable that the situation in Iraq improves. Second, so much of the "anti-war" sentiment in the general public revolves around the growing frustration with the prosecution and success of the war as opposed to the rightness or wrongness of the mission, and with the Democrats now in charge of Congress their actions over the next 12 months - and how those actions affect the success of the war -- could very easily change the political dynamics of Iraq irrespective of what happens on the ground.

The point is the general election politics of Iraq are more fluid than the conventional wisdom thinks and if McCain wants to be president he has to win the Republican nomination first, something his campaign didn't understand in 2000, but appears to get this time around. The more sound bites John McCain can get like the one that led off Special Report last evening will go a long way toward repairing his relationship with the Republican base.

February 19, 2007

More on Marist

A couple of interesting results from the aforementioned Marist poll that deserve special mention.

First, this question:

Does the fact that Hillary Clinton will not say her vote was a mistake make you more or less likely to vote for her?

Among Democrats it's a total wash: 30% say they're more likely to vote for her for not apologizing, 32% said "less likely", and 38% said it made no difference.

The second question concerns Rudy Giuliani:

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is a pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-gay rights Republican. Would the fact that Rudy Giuliani has these positions be a major factor, a minor factor, or not a factor in deciding if you would vote for Rudy Giuliani for president in 2008?

Among registered Republicans, 32% said Rudy's position on these issues would be a "major factor," 40% said they would be a "minor factor," and 28% they would "not be a factor." That represents a rather substantial shift versus the Marist poll from December 2006. Among Republicans in that survey (same question, exact same wording), 47% said Rudy's positions as "a pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-gay rights Republican" would be a "major factor," 31% said they would be a "minor factor," and 22% said his views would "not be a factor."

Assuming those citing Rudy's views on social issues as a "major factor" are doing so in the negative (e.g. a major factor against his candidacy), the 15-point drop in that category among Republicans in the last couple of months would seem to be a significant, and positive, development for Giuliani.

However, despite that seeming piece of good news, when Republicans were asked whether they'd be more like or less likely to vote for Rudy based on those positions, 36% said "more likely," 48% said "less likely," and 16% said it would make "no difference."

In other words, even though it's impossible to know how this national survey of registered Republicans compares to the make up of the caucus goers and primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, it's evident that Rudy still has a long way to go to make the sale.

Marist '08 Poll

New Marist poll on 2008:

Democrats
Clinton 37 (+4 vs. December 2006 poll)
Obama 17 (+5)
Gore 11 (-2)
Edwards 11 (-3)
Biden 2 (-1)
Richardson 2 (+1)
Undecided 17 (+1)

Republicans
Giuliani 28 (+4 vs. December 2006 poll)
McCain 21 (-2)
Gingrich 11 (+3)
Romney 10 (+6)
Undecided 22 (+5)

Head-to-Head Match Ups
Clinton 45 - Giuliani 47
Trend: Clinton +2, Giuliani -2 versus December 2006

Clinton 46 - McCain 46
Trend: Clinton +3, McCain -3 versus December 2006

Clinton 49 - Romney 36
No trend

Clinton 56 - Gingrich 36
No trend

CT '08 Poll

Quinnipiac has a new '08 poll out for Connecticut:

Democrats
Clinton 33
Obama 21
Gore 9
Dodd 8
Edwards 5
Undecided 16

Republicans
Giuliani 43
McCain 27
Gingrich 5
Romney 4
Undecided 12

Head to Head Match Ups
Clinton 46 - Giuliani 44
Clinton 48 - McCain 40
Clinton 55 - Romney 27

Obama 43 - McCain 38

Edwards 40 - McCain 44

Dodd 43 - McCain 42

Favorable/Unfavorable Ratings
Giuliani 61/22 (+39)
Obama 48/10 (+38)
McCain 52/22 (+30)
Dodd 49/30 (+19)
Clinton 53/36 (+17)
Edwards 39/28 (+11)
Gore 44/49 (-5)
Romney 13/19 (-6)

February 18, 2007

Sullivan's Rewrite

Andrew Sullivan has been slinging the word "Christianist" about with sanctimonious ease for some time now. He never misses a chance to point out a news story and filter it through the "Christianist" lens. He's written a book on the subject. Heck, Sullivan has turned slamming "Christianists" into a veritable cottage industry.

So what does he do when a "Christianist" is booed out of a room by 800 Republicans for attacking a Republican presidential candidate for not possessing sufficient belief in Jesus Christ? He attacks the candidate, Mitt Romney, as a religious bigot.

The coup de grace to Sullivan's "Christianist" meme, of course, would be the nomination of Rudy Giuliani for President. Last week Sullivan confronted the growing body of evidence suggesting Rudy is acceptable, if not preferable, to Republican voters at this point by saying:

My view is that the managers and spokesmen of the base may be misreading the real mood of the evangelical rank and file. They're more pragmatic than their leaders.

This would seem to fly in the face of Sullivan's contention that the Republican party is controlled by "Christianists," whom Sullivan defines as those believing "religion dictates politics and that politics should dictate the laws for everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike."

We'll have to wait and see what happens. But I find it interesting that Sullivan isn't more demonstrably enthusiastic of Giuliani's candidacy and the fact that - although it's ridiculously early - he continues to extend his lead over the field. After all, if Sullivan considers himself a conservative, Giuliani should be far and away his top choice in the race across both parties.

Maybe Sullivan's muted praise of Giuliani is Machiavellian: Sullivan is so disliked by conservatives he knows his full throated support for Rudy would actually be harmful to Giuliani's candidacy.

Then again, when Sullivan posts a YouTube of Giuliani in drag kissing Donald Trump and asks "Will it go down well in South Carolina?", you almost get the sense he's trying to stir up trouble for Giuliani, and eagerly awaiting the day Giuliani goes down in flames so Sullivan can stand up and reaffirm his claims about the odious "Christianists."

P.S. If Giuliani wins, will Sullivan take credit (at least some) for having helped "reclaim" the party of Reagan from the "Christianists?"

Giuliani vs. McCain

CBS News released a poll last night (pdf) focused on Giuliani vs. McCain. Here are the particulars among Republican primary voters:

Head to Head Match Up
Giuliani 50
McCain 29
Niether 13

Giuliani wins 55-37 among self-described "moderate" Republicans, but he also wins 48-21 among those who label themselves "conservative" Republicans.

Favorable Rating
Among Republican voters only
Giuliani 60/7 (+53)
McCain 30/17 (+13)

Another interesting question: Republican voters were asked whether they would label Giuliani and McCain "liberal," "moderate," or "conservative."

McCain
Among Republican voters only
Liberal 16
Moderate 38
Conservative 28
Don't Know 18

Giuliani
Among Republican voters only
Liberal 20
Moderate 48
Conservative 18
Don't Know 15

Not a tremendous amount of news here: Republican voters perceive Rudy to be more liberal/moderate than McCain, but they also find Rudy very likable and, when given the choice between the two, preferable to McCain by a decent margin at this point in the race.

February 17, 2007

He's No Hillary

While Hillary is getting the stuffing knocked out of her as she travels around the country by Democrats demanding that she apologize for her 2002 vote to authorize the war in Iraq, the most prominent Democrat in the Senate says he has nothing to apologize for:

As he prepares to lead Senate Democrats in the debate on President Bush's Iraq policy, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada says he has no second thoughts about his vote in 2002 authorizing the president to go to war.

"The evidence at the time was persuasive -- especially if you go back and look and see what Secretary of State Colin Powell did at the United Nations," Reid said Tuesday.

"We've learned since then that the evidence was manipulated," he said. "So the answer is no. I'm not going to apologize."

Can Hillary get away with the same line? I doubt it.

February 16, 2007

Romney's Explanation

ABC News has the scoop on Romney's explanation for his 1992 vote for Paul Tsongas:

ABC News' Jonathan Greenberger Reports: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said today he voted for Paul Tsongas in the 1992 Democratic presidential primary as a tactical maneuver aimed at finding the weakest opponent for incumbent President George Bush.

The explanation came during an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, which will air Sunday on "This Week."

"In Massachusetts, if you register as an independent, you can vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary," said Romney, who until he made an unsuccessful run for Senate in 1994 had spent his adult life as a registered independent. "When there was no real contest in the Republican primary, I'd vote in the Democrat primary, vote for the person who I thought would be the weakest opponent for the Republican."

But 12 years ago, the Boston Globe reported that Romney was giving a different explanation for his vote for Tsongas.

"Romney confirmed he voted for former U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas in the state's 1992 Democratic presidential primary, saying he did so both because Tsongas was from Massachusetts and because he favored his ideas over those of Bill Clinton," the Boston Globe's Scot Lehigh and Frank Phillips wrote on February 3, 1994.

Rudy on Abortion

In response to my last post on Rudy's poll numbers, reader AG emails with a good point: the phrasing of the questions in the FOX poll is far too crude to accurately gauge how Republicans feel about Rudy's position on social issues. AG asks how the numbers might have looked if FOX had instead asked the following:

Are you more or less likely to support a candidate who is personally pro-life on the issue of abortion, but believes it is ultimately a woman's decision?

Are you more or less likely to support a candidate who will nominate strict constructionists to the Supreme Court in the mold of Scalia, Roberts and Alito?

AG also challenges the idea of labeling Rudy pro-choice: "In your opinion, what makes Rudy Giuliani "pro-choice"? He is personally against abortion, says he "hates it", would advise against it, and would nominate judges to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe."

Fair enough. But I call Rudy "pro-choice" because that's what he calls himself, and that is probably how most people will come to understand his position.

The debate that's pinging around the blogosphere is whether Rudy's pledge to nominate "strict constructionists" to the bench will be enough to bridge the gap with the base on the abortion issue. Law prof Ann Althouse thinks it will:

Can Rudy walk this tightrope? I think he can. With the level of legal understanding that Giuliani obviously has, it's a very thick, stabilized tightrope. You pick great judges who follow a strong interpretive methodology, and they take their proper constitutional position in an independent branch dedicated to law. How utterly solid and responsible.

Ace points out that Rudy's "pro-choice" position isn't all that different that our current President's "pro-life" one:

He's basically parrotting Bush's position, which is, felicitiously enough, my position, and a principled, coherent position to take on the issue. Put strict constructionists on the court to adjudicate not legislate new dubious rights, and Roe may or may not fall, and then the states can decide on the question.

The Influence Peddler agrees:

A rose is a rose is a rose. Bush describes himself as pro-life; Giuliani as pro-choice. That doesn't necessarily mean that they're all that far apart - in terms of practical effect.

My two cents, for what it's worth, is that Rudy may well be able to paper over differences on abortion with his pledge. But labels do matter, especially the ones we give ourselves, because they offer at least a glimpse into a person's world view - and Rudy's world view is distinctly more liberal than the Republican base on abortion. Yes, there are Republicans who call themselves "pro-choice." Even many Republicans who "hate" abortion but also begrudgingly recognize Roe v. Wade as the law of the land, don't want to throw women or doctors in jail, etc. (all of which Rudy says he believes) characterize their position not as "pro-choice" but "pro-life with exceptions." Again, it's a world view thing.

And the kicker for Rudy is going to be his public unwillingness to support a federal ban on partial birth abortion in 1999. This is a procedure that is opposed by the vast majority of Republicans. To give you an idea of where this puts Rudy on the ideological spectrum: when the Senate finally got around to passing the partial birth abortion ban in March 2003 by a vote of 64-33, only two Republican Senators voted against it: Lincoln Chafee and Olympia Snowe. You think either one of those Senators could win the Republican nomination for President?

February 15, 2007

Running the Republican Numbers on Rudy

Trying to read too much into any 2008 poll at this point, especially with respect to horserace numbers, is somewhat silly and a waste of time. But the new FOX News poll does have some interesting tidbits in the internals asking about voters' general impressions on issues. Again, I don't want to make too much of the numbers, only to point them out as more grist for the mill.

Here are the numbers that have some relevance to Mitt Romney:

Are you more who are more or less likely to support a candidate who is a Mormon?
Republicans only:
More likely 8% (a lot more likely 4%, somewhat more likely 4%)
Less likely 30% (a lot less likely 19%, somewhat less likely 11%)
Not a major factor 59%

Are you more who are more or less likely to support a candidate who has changed his or her position on the issue of abortion?
Republicans only:
More likely 16% (a lot more likely 6%, somewhat more likely 10%)
Less likely 28% (a lot less likely 16%, somewhat less likely 12%)
Not a major factor 39%

And here are the numbers with some relevance to Rudy Giuliani:

Are you more who are more or less likely to support a candidate who is pro-choice on the issue of abortion?
Republicans only:
More likely 22% (a lot more likely 12%, somewhat more likely 10%)
Less likely 46% (a lot less likely 36%, somewhat less likely 10%)
Not a major factor 30%

Are you more who are more or less likely to support a candidate who supports civil unions
for gays and lesbians?

Republicans only:
More likely 8% (a lot more likely 5%, somewhat more likely 3%)
Less likely 50% (a lot less likely 39%, somewhat less likely 11%)
Not a major factor 38%

Obviously, as a general proposition, the numbers show that between the two, Rudy has the more significant obstacles to overcome. But we already knew that.

Nevertheless, Rudy beats John McCain handily in a head to head match up, 56 to 31. Twenty-four percent of Republicans say they would "definitely vote for" Rudy, 56% say they "might vote for" him, and 17% say they would "under no circumstances" vote for Giuliani. McCain's numbers are slightly worse: 13% "definitely vote for," 54% "might vote for," and 25% "under no circumstances" vote for.

The biggest red flag for Rudy has to be that only 42% of Republicans surveyed correctly identified him as pro-choice. Twenty-one percent of Republican voters have it wrong and think Rudy is pro-life, and another 36% of Republicans don't have a clue what his position on abortion. In other words, nearly six out of ten registered Republican voters have yet to learn something about Rudy which, we can infer from the first question on abortion, will make close to half of them either "somewhat" less likely or "a lot" less likely to vote for him. There's no doubt the same holds true of his position on civil unions for gays, and the Second Amendment as well.

In time we'll see if Rudy has the skill and the charisma to defuse these differences with the Republican base and also whether conservative Republicans are willing to cut Giuliani any slack on social issues out of deference to his superior leadership skills and his commitment to fighting the war against Islamic jihadists, which is the overriding issue for most Republican voters.

The Worst Apology In History

Yesterday South Carolina state senator Robert Ford - an African-American - made news in a bad way. When asked by the press why he was endorsing Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama, Ford replied that, "Every Democrat running on that ticket next year would lose because he's black and he's top of the ticket. We'd lose the House and the Senate and the governors and everything."

Ford caught considerable grief for that statement, so he decided to issue and apology. Check it out:

"If I caused anybody, including myself, any pain about the comments I made earlier, then I want to apologize to myself and to Senator Obama and any of his supporters."

I don't believe I've ever seen anyone issue an apology to themselves for "any pain" caused by their own comments.

By the way, Mary Mitchell of the Chicago Sun-Times is none too pleased with Ford or his pal State Senator Darrell Jackson, another influential African-American state senator from South Carolina who signed on with Hillary shortly after his public relations firm, Sunrise Enterprises, inked a $200K deal with the Clinton campaign through the end of the '08 race. Mitchell writes:

Skepticism I understand. But when two black male legislators from the Deep South throw their hats in Hillary Clinton's ring at the start of a wide-open election, I want to slap them upside their heads.

Why are these black men so eager to drive Miss Hillary to the White House when Illinois' U.S. Sen. Barack Obama is also a front-runner?

And then she closes with this:

Political leaders like Robert Ford and Darrell Jackson are guarding their political turf in the same way drug dealers guard street corners. But worse, they are hatin' on a brother who dares to believe anything is possible.

Rudy's Slow Roll

In what might be the slowest roll out in Presidential history, Rudy Giuliani announced - yet again - on Larry King last night that he's running for President. But he did it in classic Rudy style, which is why you can't help but like the guy:

KING: Are you running or not?

GIULIANI: Yes, I'm running. Sure.

KING: Oh, you are. Have you -- when would you -- do you make an official announcement or is this it -- here, right now?

GIULIANI: I guess you do...

KING: You just said, "I'm running."

GIULIANI: I guess you do one of these things where you do it four times or five times in a day so that I can, you know, get on your show and about five others.

KING: So you're running?

GIULIANI: Yes, I'm running.

Giuliani goes on to discuss his position on abortion, gay marriage, gun control, and Iraq. Though I didn't watch the show, my impression from the transcript is that he handled them all fairly well.

Defending Hillary

Not that it will matter to the left, but David Brooks writes an effective defense of Hillary Clinton in today's New York Times:

Far be it from me to get in the middle of a liberal purge, but would anybody mind if I pointed out that the calls for Hillary Clinton to apologize for her support of the Iraq war are almost entirely bogus?

Brooks chronicles Hillary's public utterances before the war and finds them surprisingly consistent in seeking a "third way" by opposing a pre-emptive strike but also trying to give additional leverage to Colin Powell and the administration to force a diplomatic solution. Brooks points to Clinton's statement on March 3, 2003, when she said: "It is preferable that we do this in a peaceful manner through coercive inspection. At some point we have to be willing to uphold the United Nations resolutions.This is a very delicate balancing act."

Brooks concludes that Hillary should stand her ground:

Today, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party believes that the world, and Hillary Clinton in particular, owes it an apology. If she apologizes, she'll forfeit her integrity. She will be apologizing for being herself.

Brooks is right, though as John wrote the other day, the political reality is that at some point in the primary - probably sooner rather than later - Hillary's defense of her vote to authorize the war will become such a political liability it will be untenable. So we're fast approaching the moment where Hillary has to choose between her integrity and being president. Any guesses which way she'll go?

February 14, 2007

More '08 Polls

A new batch of 2008 state polls from ARG:

Alabama
Democrats
Clinton 44
Obama 13
Edwards 11
Undecided 23
Republicans
Giuliani 31
Gingrich 25
McCain 19
Romney 3
Undecided 16

Arizona
Democrats
Clinton 33
Obama 24
Edwards 13
Undecided 22
Republicans
McCain 45
Giuliani 21
Gingrich 11
Brownback 3
Romney 2
Undecided 18

Oklahoma
Democrats
Clinton 40
Edwards 16
Obama 15
Undecided 18
Republicans
Giuliani 37
McCain 21
Huckabee 14
Gingrich 3
Romney 2
Undecided 21

Utah
Democrats
Clinton 31
Obama 18
Vilsack 16
Edwards 9
Undecided 20
Republicans
Romney 40
McCain 21
Giuliani 13
Gingrich 6
Undecided 15

Franken Is In

Video messages are all the rage these days. Here is Al Franken's:

The question remains: can he keep his cool?

New York Loves Hillary in '08

New Quinnipiac poll on New York state's 2008 preferences:

Democrats
Clinton 47
Obama 16
Gore 11
Edwards 7
Biden/Richardson/Dodd/Clark/Kucinich 1
Undecided 12

Republicans
Giuliani 51
McCain 17
Pataki 7
Gingrich 6
Huckabee 2
Romney/Hagel/Hunter/Tancredo 1
Undecided 9

Head-to-Head Match Ups
Clinton 50 - Giuliani 40
Clinton 56 - McCain 35
Clinton 61 - Romney 25

Obama 46 - McCain 35
Edwards 48 - McCain 35

Favorable/Unfavorable Rating
Obama 44/9 (+35)
Giuliani 56/30 (+26)
Clinton 59/35 (+24)
McCain 48/24 (+24)
Edwards 44/21 (+23)
Gore 52/40 (+12)
Romney 13/14 (-1)

February 13, 2007

Sounds Familiar

Barack Obama Mitt Romney announcing his run for President:

"We have lost faith in government, not in just one party, not in just one house, but in government.

"We are weary of the bickering and bombast, fatigued by the posturing and self-promotion. For even as America faces a new generation of challenges, the halls of government are clogged with petty politics and stuffed with peddlers of influence.

"It is time for innovation and transformation in Washington. It is what our country needs. It is what our people deserve."

Obama: Ready or Not?

Barack Obama's campaign for president isn't even three full days old and he's already made his first gaffe:

Shortly after making the comment that U.S. soldiers' lives have been "wasted" in Iraq, Obama told reporters that he "absolutely apologized" to military families who were offended, adding further that, "Even as I said it, I realized I had misspoken."

This may be the first gaffe of the campaign, but it certainly won't be the last. Obama's ability to handle these type of situations is part and parcel of the selection process. As Dan Balz writes in today's Washington Post:

Obama's advisers expressed general satisfaction with the initial campaign swing. Still, they do not underestimate the difficulties ahead. Asked Monday what they regard as the most significant question Obama must answer in the coming months, communications director Robert Gibbs answered without hesitation: "People want to know if he can handle this."

To the extent Obama continues to commit unforced errors like the one in Iowa on Sunday, Democrats may begin to have creeping doubts about his readiness. I don't think that'll be the case: Obama seems a quick study and disciplined enough not to do himself in with self-inflicted wounds, and my hunch is he'll be adroit enough to navigate the rough and tumble with the big dogs in the primary - even though his only real experience to date has been a Democratic Senate primary where the front runner imploded in the final weeks and a non-competitive general election against an easily dismissed, hyper-aggressive opponent.

But even if Obama does run a competitive, mistake-free campaign, Democrats may still come to view him in the role of understudy. That's probably been part of Obama's calculation all along: best case scenario he captures the nomination with, to use his terms, an "improbable quest" for the White House. But if he makes a decent showing in the primaries, how does the eventual nominee - whether it be Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, or anyone else - not put him on the ticket?

February 12, 2007

Hillary, The War and Her Vote

Meet the Press yesterday:

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Hillary Clinton. She was in New Hampshire yesterday. Her first appearance there in 10 years. And it was quite striking how many times she was asked about her position on the war. Here she is being asked in Berlin, New Hampshire, by a voter, a very serious question. Let's watch that exchange.

Unidentified Man: And I want to know if right here, right now, once and for all, without nuance, you can say that that war authorization vote was a mistake. And the reason I want to ask is because a lot of other senators have already done so, including some Republicans and including one of your competitors, Senator Edwards. And the reason I ask personally is because I, and I think a lot of other Democratic primary voters, until we hear you say that, we're not going to hear all these other great things you're saying.

SEN: HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY): Well, I have said, and I will repeat it, that, knowing what I know now, I would never have voted for it. But I also--and, I mean, obviously you have to weigh everything as you make your decision. I have taken responsibility for my vote. The mistakes were made by this president, who misled this country and this Congress into a war that should not have been waged.

MR. RUSSERT: Roger Simon, it's interesting. Reporters have been asking Hillary Clinton, "Was the war a mistake? Was the war a mistake?" because all the other Democratic candidates, major ones, have said that. Now, a voter, several voters have stepped forward. Is this simply "Gotcha" or is this something that's dead serious in the voters' minds?

MR. SIMON: It's dead serious. The questions come because she refuses to make Iraq part of her stump speech. And I think, and many disagree with me, that her current position not to apologize, not to say it was a mistake, is an untenable position for her. I think she will be pushed to say, before we get to the Iowa caucuses, "I was wrong," for two reasons. One, I think that's where the Democratic voters are in Iowa and New Hampshire; and two, it feeds the image that the critics have of her that she's a divisive figure. If this keeps going on week after week, people are going to say, "Why doesn't she just say she was wrong? Why does she keep this controversy growing--going on?" She doesn't want that, and I don't think she's going to be able to stick to that.

I think Roger Simon is correct that it will become untenable for Senator Clinton (as long as she wants to be the Democratic nominee for President in 2008) to not completely disavow her 2002 Iraq vote. With Barack Obama having been against the war from the very beginning and John Edwards having flat out recanted and admitted to being "wrong" on his war authorization vote, Senator Clinton will be at too much of a competitive disadvantage in the Democratic race if she continues to dissemble and not give the anti-war Democratic base what it wants to hear on Iraq.

To a majority of Democratic primary voters the questions "I want to know if right here, right now, once and for all, without nuance, you can say that that war authorization vote was a mistake" has the simplest of answers and her refusal to provide that answer and admit she was wrong in 2002 only allows her rivals to gain increasing traction on the central issue of the war.

Hillary's Lead Down to Only 5 Pts?

Rasmussen Reports has new poll out on the 2008 Democratic field that has Hillary Clinton's lead down to a scant 5 points over Barack Obama -- 28% vs. 23%. That is by far the smallest lead for Senator Clinton to date, though a single election day poll by McLaughlin & Associates (R) had similar results (27% - 21%). Otherwise, all of the post-election presidential polling has shown Clinton with leads ranging from 11% (Gallup) to 28% (FOX News).

The latest National RCP Average of the Democratic field gives Senator Clinton a solid 17-point lead over Senator Obama. Edwards and Gore run third and fourth at 12.5% and 9.8% respectively.

In Iowa, Edwards runs particularly strong and trails Clinton by 2 ½ points in the latest RCP Average 24.7% vs. 22.3%. Obama comes in third at 16.3%.

The New Hampshire numbers are closer to the national polls and currently show Clinton with a 13-point lead over Obama, and a 19-point lead over Edwards in the latest New Hampshire RCP Average (Clinton 35.3%, Obama 22.0%, Edwards 16.3%).

Obama: Lincoln in 1860 or Dean in 2004?

As I stood in the freezing cold on Saturday morning watching Barack Obama announce his run for president in Springfield, two questions kept circling in my head:

1) Why couldn't Obama be a Senator from Florida or some other warm southern state?
2) How is this man going to become president?

With respect to question number two, I have to admit I'm torn. On one hand, it's hard to enter the vortex of media adulation and hopeful enthusiasm surrounding Obama's campaign without becoming infected by it to some degree. Obama is an exceptionally gifted orator who radiates charisma - two qualities that in and of themselves make him a formidable modern day presidential challenger.

But as much as Obama wanted to draw parallels between himself and Abraham Lincoln on Saturday, I couldn't get past the echoes of much more recent history: Howard Dean in 2004. Obama went out of his way to cast himself not as a presidential candidate but as the leader of a "movement" of a younger generation that was going to "change our politics" and "take back" the country. We're now seeing media reports touting the impressive number of people signing up to internet networking sites to support Obama. There's a very "deja-vu-all-over-again" feel to the whole thing.

Substantively, at this early stage it's hard to discern any differences between Obama's candidacy and Dean's. The difference is all in the packaging - and that may or may not be enough to change the outcome. Where Dean was tart and pugilistic, Obama is smooth and soothing. Dean wanted to gird up and go to war with Republicans, Obama says he wants to "disagree without being disagreeable."

The other big difference between the two is the color of their skin, and it's the thing that may allow Obama to transcend politics in a way few candidates have ever done and to fulfill his promise of reaching across the partisan divide to unite the country.

February 09, 2007

Edwards Gets Tough

Leno strikes with a very funny bit:

(h/t Minor Ripper)

Was Giuliani a Bum on 9/10/01?

Today Peggy Noonan makes a glancing reference to something I've been meaning to write about for a while with respect to Rudy Giuliani:

On 9/10/01 he was a bum, on 9/11 he was a man, and on 9/12 he was a hero. Life can change, shift, upend in an instant.

Noonan is over dramatizing for effect, of course, but a while back I got an email from a self-described liberal in NYC saying much the same thing - namely, that in the mythical afterglow of Rudy's performance on 9/11 people have forgotten that (to paraphrase my emailer's formulation) "on September 10 Rudy couldn't have been elected dog catcher in New York City."

So how much truth is there to the claim that Giuliani was a bum on 9/10? Not much, though I guess that depends on what criteria you use - not to mention taking into account the ideological make up of the registered voters iof both parties in New York City responding to surveys. A general answer is that before 9/11 Rudy was pretty darn well-respected, though not necessarily so well liked.

Six days before September 11, Quinnipiac recorded Rudy's job approval rating among 303 New York City likely Democratic primary voters at 42% approve and 49% disapprove.

Six weeks earlier, on July 25, 2001, Quinnipiac released a more detailed tab of Rudy's approval rating among a larger sample of 913 New York City registered voters:

 
Tot
Rep
Dem
Ind
Wht
Blk
Hisp
Men
Wom
Approve
50
86
41
54
63
25
43
56
46
Disapprove
40
12
48
34
28
63
45
37
42

Quinnipiac notes that Rudy's 50-40 job rating had been "unchanged for months." His favorable/unfavorable rating among all voters in the survey, however, was 39% favorable, 36% unfavorable, and 23% mixed opinion.

Even though it's further back and thus a bit less relevant to the discussion, another Quinnipiac survey in June of 2000 provided an even clearer picture of New York City voters' "respect-but-not-love" relationship with Mayor Giuliani:

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's approval rating has bounced back to 49 - 45 percent among New York City voters, his highest level in more than 18 months and a 24-point turnaround since April, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

The Mayor's highest ever approval rating was 74 - 23 percent in a February 11, 1998, poll by the independent Quinnipiac University. It stood at 60 -33 percent November 18, 1998. By April 19, 2000, his approval was a negative 37 - 57 percent, his lowest ever.

New York City voters approve 53 - 41 percent of the Mayor's handling of crime, and give him a negative 34 - 54 percent for his handling of education. He also gets a negative 21 - 68 percent rating for his handling of race relations.

Life in New York City has gotten better since Giuliani became mayor, according to 62 percent of New Yorkers, while 15 percent say it has gotten worse and 19 percent say it has remained the same.

"Now that he's out of the Senate race, is Mayor Giuliani on the rebound? This is the first positive approval rating for him since the Amadou Diallo case in February, 1999," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

"New Yorkers see their Mayor as a strong leader, and a big majority say life has gotten better since he moved into City Hall, but they still don't see him as a kinder, gentler Mayor."

White voters approve of the Mayor 64 - 30 percent, while black voters give the Mayor a negative 13 - 83 percent rating and Hispanic voters give the Mayor a 40 - 49 percent rating.

Looking at Giuliani's personal characteristics, New York City voters say:

* 80 - 17 percent that he can get things done;
* 27 - 68 percent that he has a likable personality;
* 74 - 23 percent that he has strong leadership qualities;
* 48 - 45 percent that he is honest and trustworthy;
* 26 - 68 percent that he is sympathetic to the problems of the poor;
* 32 - 60 percent that he works well with other political leaders.

Voters give the Mayor a 41 - 38 percent favorability rating, with 20 percent mixed and 1 percent saying they don't know enough to form an opinion. This is up from a negative 35 - 52 percent favorability rating April 19.

On one hand, discussion of what New York City voters thought about Giuliani prior to 9/11 is irrelevant to trying to speculate how folks in Iowa or New Hampshire will view him as a post 9/11 presidential candidate. On the other hand, despite ideological differences there is some universality to human nature, and history does often provide clues to the future.

Furthermore, in some ways this quick look back at Giuliani's past bolsters his over all case to both Republicans and to the country at large which is, in a nutshell: "you don't have to like me or even necessarily agree with me, but I'm a sonofabitch who gets things done." Then again, glancing at Rudy's past does make you question, as a prominent Democratic strategist said to me the other day, whether Giuliani's tough, pugilistic, New Yorker attitude is going to wear well over a long campaign with caucus goers in a place like Iowa.

February 08, 2007

Who Will Be the GOP Supply-Side Candidate?

The early (but much accelerated) race for president on the Republican side has coalesced around the "Big Three" of Senator John McCain, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Messrs. McCain and Giuliani have commanding leads in the early polls: The latest RealClearPolitics Average gives Mr. Giuliani a small five-point lead over Mr. McCain nationally, 31.4% to 26.4%.

Mr. Romney trails the other two substantially, logging in at only 6.4%. But with George Allen's surprise loss to Senator Jim Webb in November, Mr. Romney is thought to be the most likely candidate to emerge as the conservative option for Republican voters not enthused about either Mr. Giuliani or Mr. McCain.

Mr. Romney recently appeared to be reaching out to social conservatives with his high-profile fight against gay marriage in Massachusetts. However, a very damaging YouTube video of his 1994 debate with Senator Ted Kennedy opened him up to charges that his recent focus on social issues was little more than presidential political opportunism. With his campaign noticeably stalled in the last few months, Mr. Romney turned attention to the economy with a high-profile speech yesterday to the Detroit Economic Club, in which he promoted his vision of a tax-cutting administration that reduces entitlements, promotes free trade and lessens business regulation.

In a post-speech interview on CNBC with Larry Kudlow, Mr. Romney strongly played up his supply-side beliefs: "Raising taxes well above 18% of GDP would cause a slowdown of the growth in the economy, would reduce our employment and would reduce the wages and salaries of people in this country. It is a bad idea. Ronald Reagan, and before him John F. Kennedy, proved that by keeping tax rates low you create more jobs and innovation in this country."

Unlike 28 years ago when George H.W. Bush dismissed Reaganomics as "voodoo economics," supply-side economics is a well-accepted view in the Republican Party today and it is doubtful that either Mr. McCain or Mr. Giuliani would disagree with any of the Governor's broad points.

While Iraq has dominated the political oxygen for the last six months, as the 2008 Presidential campaign heats up there is likely to be a battle among the "Big Three" of Messrs. Giuliani, McCain and Romney to lay claim as the pro-growth, supply-side candidate in the GOP field. With the rapidly shrinking deficit and booming U.S. economy providing validation for the Bush tax cuts, this competition among the leading GOP contenders may lead the eventual Republican nominee to get behind a solid and perhaps bold supply side, pro-growth agenda -- including radical tax simplification, a flat tax and private retirement accounts.

At the same time, the Democratic Party will likely be turning away from the Clinton/Rubin economic approach of the 1990's to a more Jim Webb/John Edwards style populist, anti-trade, progressive approach to the economy. Though Iraq gets most of the airtime, the 2008 race could be a crucial turning point for the future of economic policy.

The Heads Blog 2008

At bloggingheads.tv, Bob Wright and Mickey Kaus discuss the presidential prospects of Rudy Giulani, Hillary's un-inevitability, and the fact that John Edwards is so calculating he can rightly be labeled, to use Bob's phrase, a "super duper."

Pennsylvania '08 Poll

Another new '08 poll from Quinnipiac, this time in Pennsylvania:

Democrats
Clinton 37
Obama 11
Edwards 11
Gore 11
Biden 5
Vilsack 1
Richardson 1
Dodd 1
Kucinich 1
Undecided 17

Republicans
Giuliani 30
McCain 20
Gingrich 14
Romney 4
Brownback 2
Hunter 1
Hagel 1
Huckabee 1
Undecided 20

Head-to-Head Match Ups

Clinton 44 - Giuliani 47
Clinton 53 - Romney 34
Clinton 45 - McCain 46

Obama 39 - McCain 46
Edwards 42 - McCain 47

Favorable/Unfavorable Ratings for the top-tier candidates (all voters)

Giuliani 61/18 (+43)
McCain 54/20 (+34)
Obama 39/15 (+24)
Edwards 43/27 (+16)
Clinton 53/39 (+14)
Romney 12/11 (+1)

February 07, 2007

Florida '08 Poll

New Quinnipiac poll on the '08 Presidential race in Florida. On the Democratic side, Clinton is cruising:

Democrats
Clinton 49
Obama 13
Edwards 7
Gore 7
Richardson 3
Biden 2
Clark 1
Undecided 13

On the Republican side, Giuliani has a slight lead over McCain:

Republicans
Giuliani 29
McCain 23
Gingrich 14
Romney 6
Thompson 2
Pataki 2
Brownback 1
Undecided 19

Head-to-head matchups show Clinton losing to Giuliani but beating McCain and Romney, while Edwards and Obama run slightly less well against McCain:

Clinton 44 - Giuliani 47
Clinton 47 - McCain 43
Clinton 52 - Romney 34

Obama 40 - McCain 42
Edwards 42 - McCain 43

Lastly, favorable/unfavorable ratings among all voters (not just registered primary voters) are as follows:

Giuliani 60/20 (+40)
McCain 50/21 (+29)
Obama 37/18 (+19)
Edwards 44/27 (+17)
Clinton 51/39 (+12)
Romney 13/11 (+2)

As far as name ID goes, 44% said they didn't know enough about Barack Obama to have an opinion. That number was a sky-high 75% for Mitt Romney - which just goes to show how little we really know about the way the race might shape up in the coming months.

February 06, 2007

More New Hampshire #'s

The latest from CNN/WMUR:

Republicans
McCain 28
Giuliani 27
Romney 13
Gingrich 9
Tancredo 3
Brownback 2
Pataki 1
Hagel 1
Huckabee 1
Undecided 13

Giuliani's favorable/unfavorable rating among Republican primary voters is 70/13 (net +56) and McCain's is 59/27 (+32), and Romney's is 53/27 (+26).

Democrats
Clinton 35
Obama 21
Edwards 16
Gore 8
Biden 3
Clark 1
Richardson 1
Vilsack 1
Dodd 1
Undecided 14

Among Democratic primary voters, Edwards leads in the fav/unfav rating category with a 74/13 (+61), Clinton is right behind with a 74/15 rating (+59), and Obama is also viewed very favorably with a 67/12 (+55).

The poll also asked all primary voters who was the "least liked" candidate in each party. Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich were the clear winners (or losers, depending on your perspective) from each respective side.

Hillary's "I Want to Take Those Profits" Problem

I have thought for over two years now that Hillary was a lock to win the Democratic nomination, and I still believe she is the clear favorite. But the withdrawal of Bayh and Warner from the race, which on the surface looked like a plus as it cleared up her right flank, is now starting to cause her problems as it has untethered the Democratic field from the center.

Obama, Clinton, and Edwards are all scrambling to pacify the anti-Iraq base of the Democratic party which is now the central, most powerful force in today's Democratic party. Had Warner and Bayh remained in the race Senator Clinton probably would have felt less a need to jack up the invective in her ideological attacks, thus causing her to say incredibly stupid things like (video):

The Democrats know what needs to be done. Again, we're working trying to try push this agenda forward. The other day the oil companies reported the highest profits in the history of the world. I want to take those profits and I want to put them into a strategic energy fund that will begin to fund alternative, smart energy; alternatives and technology that will begin to actually move us toward the direction of independence.

Hillary's supporters will suggest that this was an innocent slip of the tongue and she didn't mean to suggest the government should be expropriating legally earned corporate profits, while her enemies will suggest that she was simply letting slip her true inner socialist. For now, I'm less interested in the back and forths of that argument.

My point here is Hillary's inability to engage and energize left-wing partisan audiences without saying stupid things that will get her into trouble in a general election campaign. (She did something similar to this in an MLK event with Al Sharpton last year.) Cal Thomas made a related point the other day, and essentially it boils down to this: Hillary Clinton does not come close to having the same level of innate political ability as her husband.

Running for president is not like running for the Senate, and Hillary is not going to get a "pass" on the way to the Democratic nomination like her Senate primary coronation in 2000. The listening tour shtick is not going to cut it against Obama and Edwards (and possibly even Gore) especially with a newly revitalized Democratic left that is deeply suspicious of Clintonian triangulation.

Hillary is still the front runner, and Bill Clinton's influence should not be underestimated, but she is going to need to step up her political acumen to match the impressiveness of the juggernaut-like campaign organization that's been built for her.

Clinton already has a good deal of baggage to manage in her quest for the White House. Another twelve month's worth of "I want to take those profits" type gaffes will not only imperil her general election chances, but will hurt her in the eyes of Democratic primary voters who may feel she is just too much of a general election liability.

That Was Fast

Terry Jeffrey unleashes the social conservative anti-Rudy argument over at National Review this morning. We can skip past the first 791 words and cut right to Jeffrey's conclusion:

Rudy will not win the Republican nomination because enough of the people who vote in Republican caucuses and primaries still respect life and marriage, and are not ready to give up on them -- or on the Republican party as an agent for protecting them.

And Tony Perkins, Chairman of the Family Research Council, was quick to issue the standard social conservative threat:

"If by some chance Giuliani were to gain the Republican nomination it would set up a very similar scenario that we had last November. A unenthusiastic Republican base which will suppress turnout and set up a Democratic victory."

Except the problem last November wasn't Republican turnout, it was Independents and moderates who turned out and voted Democrat. Perkins wants to use the threat of a Democratic victory in November 2008 to bully Republicans into nominating a social conservative - like Sam Brownback or Mitt Romney, for example - with the irony being that such a candidate would likely get walloped in '08 by any of the top tier Democrats while Guiliani would be a favorite to win.

Giuliani Is In and Becomes the Immediate Favorite

There is an assumption by many that Giuliani is un-nominatable as a Republican for President given his less than conservative positions on many social issues. Charlie Cook summed up the conventional Washington wisdom on Giuliani's chances with his statement in the Washington Post several months ago that he'll "win the Tour de France before Rudy Giuliani wins the Republican nomination."

But the conventional wisdom on Giuliani's ability to capture the nomination is wrong. Not only can Giuliani win the GOP nomination, but as the Republican field sits today he has to be considered the favorite.

As Republicans look to their standard bearer in what will be a post-9/11 and post-George W. Bush world, the usual handicapping yard-sticks that may have worked in the '80's and 90's won't work this cycle.

Leadership is going to be the single most important issue to Republican voters and this is almost certainly Giuliani's strongest asset. As long as McCain remains Giuliani's chief rival for the nomination, Rudy will hold an advantage for the simple reason that conservatives like Rudy Giuliani and do not like John McCain. Leadership and the conservative animus toward McCain are why Giuliani has the edge.

The strategic box Giuliani puts McCain in is significant, especially since one of McCain's selling points to Republicans was always going to be that he could deliver a win in the general election. But the obvious tactic to employ against Giuliani, trying to undermine him with conservative base voters by attacking him on social issues, also undercuts McCain's ability to win the general election, which in turn, undermines his strongest selling point to Republicans.

The McCain campaign is going to have to a find non-social issues path to taking down Giuliani and they can't commit the same mistake they made in 2000 by going after independents and Democrats before capturing the nomination. McCain has to find a way to energize Republicans behind his candidacy. Robert Novak's column from earlier this week where McCain is playing up his supply side credentials may provide an early direction of where the Arizona Senator's campaign may be going.

Strategically, McCain would be well advised to position himself as the pro-growth, supply-side conservative in the Republican field. While Giuliani may be the favorite today, McCain should not be underestimated, especially if he were to get behind a bold pro-growth, economic agenda like a flat tax and private accounts for Social Security.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who had risen up into the "Big Three" with McCain and Giuliani after the implosion of George Allen last year, has struggled the last couple of months and is going to have to figure out a way to appeal to conservatives without it appearing like obvious political pandering. The recent You Tube video of his '94 debate with Ted Kennedy and the focus on his well-documented recent conversion to pro-life from pro-choice smacks of obvious political opportunism and tarnishes what is otherwise a compelling case for his campaign. The Mormon issue will also complicate his ability to get traction in the race.

Gingrich may create a few sparks if he gets in the ring and could generate a decent amount of support in the polls, but he is a sure loser in the general election which in the end creates insurmountable problems for his candidacy.

The others are all running to improve their name ID and for potential VP slots.

A couple of months ago I suggested to look out for McCain/Pawlenty in 2008. Today Giuliani/Huckabee may be the better bet.

But everyone should remember it is February 2007, not February 2008.

Giuliani on Hannity & Colmes (Video)

Rudy Giuliani gave a wide ranging interview to FOX News' Sean Hannity last night. Probably the most important words were: "I'm in this to win"

Part II: