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Blog Home Page --> August 2008

Obama Accepts Nomination, Pledges "American Promise"

DENVER, Colorado -- The first African American in United States history accepted a major party's presidential nomination tonight, breaking at least one barrier that has stood for two hundred thirty-two years.

Giving thanks to party leaders and former rivals after a prolonged ovation from 75,000 fans crammed into Invesco Field, Barack Obama brought the crowd to their feet again: "With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States."

Vaulted into prominence by an optimistic convention keynote speech four years ago, Obama took the opportunity to change tactics with a hard-hitting criticism of President Bush and Senator John McCain while focusing heavily on policy proposals some have suggested have been lacking in Obama's earlier speeches.

"Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and Independents across this great land: enough! This moment -- this election -- is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive," Obama said. "Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight."

Perhaps best known for his 2004 assertion that "[w]e are not a collection of Red States and Blue States, we are the United States of America," Obama reprised the line to blunt notions that Democrats and Republicans have differing levels of patriotism. "The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a red America or a blue America, they have served the United States of America," he said. "So I've got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first."

Obama pulled no punches in Denver. McCain's economic policies are flawed "not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it," Obama said. "[I]t's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America."

That change, which Obama has promised since launching his campaign in February 2007, had been somewhat ambiguous before tonight's address, and the Democratic nominee used his speech to flesh out more details of what he called "the American promise."

Obama promised to revise the tax code, eliminate the capital gains taxes for certain small businesses and cut taxes for what he said would be nineteen in every twenty families. He promised an end to dependence on oil from the Middle East and an increased reliance on American-produced energy.

"America, now is not the time for small plans," he said. From education to universal health care, workers' rights and bankruptcy laws, Obama offered red meat to the stadium of fans. In an appeal to more fiscally conservative voters, Obama also promised a "line by line" review of the federal budget with an eye toward cost reduction "because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy," he said.

Obama laid out a contrast with McCain more clearly, and to a wider audience, than he has at any point during the campaign. Obama and McCain have been content with debating more about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than any other single issue, and on both war and domestic policy, Obama cast himself as the candidate of the future. "We need a President who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past," he said.

Though both campaigns has devolved into name-calling and petty arguments over issues which will help no undecided voters decide, Obama pledged to renew his commitment to a high-minded campaign. "What I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes," Obama said. "Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism."

In Invesco Field, and across the nation, enthusiasm Obama's initial introduction to America from 2004 was renewed in one of the most dramatic speeches of the 2008 presidential campaign. "I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the nay-sayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me. It's been about you," Obama said.

The American promise, Obama said, is what "brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream."

"America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend," Obama said. "America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future."

Forty-five years to the day after Martin Luther King Jr. told a crowd of thousands marching on Washington that he had a dream, many dreams were realized as Obama accepted his party's presidential nomination.

Obama: "The American Promise"

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama
Democratic Convention
Thursday, August 28th, 2008
Denver, Colorado
As Prepared for Delivery

To Chairman Dean and my great friend Dick Durbin; and to all my fellow citizens of this great nation;

With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest - a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours -- Hillary Rodham Clinton. To President Clinton, who last night made the case for change as only he can make it; to Ted Kennedy, who embodies the spirit of service; and to the next Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, I thank you. I am grateful to finish this journey with one of the finest statesmen of our time, a man at ease with everyone from world leaders to the conductors on the Amtrak train he still takes home every night.

To the love of my life, our next First Lady, Michelle Obama, and to Sasha and Malia - I love you so much, and I'm so proud of all of you.

Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story - of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren't well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to.

It is that promise that has always set this country apart - that through hard work and sacrifice, each of us can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams as well.

That's why I stand here tonight. Because for two hundred and thirty two years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women - students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors -- found the courage to keep it alive.

We meet at one of those defining moments - a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.

Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can't afford to drive, credit card bills you can't afford to pay, and tuition that's beyond your reach.

These challenges are not all of government's making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.

America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.

This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work.

This country is more generous than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment he's worked on for twenty years and watch it shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news.

We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty; that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes.

Tonight, I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and Independents across this great land - enough! This moment - this election - is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive. Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight. On November 4th, we must stand up and say: "Eight is enough."

Now let there be no doubt. The Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and respect. And next week, we'll also hear about those occasions when he's broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.

But the record's clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.

The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives - on health care and education and the economy - Senator McCain has been anything but independent. He said that our economy has made "great progress" under this President. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. And when one of his chief advisors - the man who wrote his economic plan - was talking about the anxiety Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a "mental recession," and that we've become, and I quote, "a nation of whiners."

A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud auto workers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made. Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third or fourth or fifth tour of duty. These are not whiners. They work hard and give back and keep going without complaint. These are the Americans that I know.

Now, I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than one hundred million Americans? How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people's benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?

It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it.

For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy - give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is - you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps - even if you don't have boots. You're on your own.

Well it's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America.

You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.

We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage; whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma. We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was President - when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000 like it has under George Bush.

We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off to look after a sick kid without losing her job - an economy that honors the dignity of work.

The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great - a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.

Because in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton's Army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the GI Bill.

In the face of that young student who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree; who once turned to food stamps but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.

When I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed.

And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle-management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman. She's the one who taught me about hard work. She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she's watching tonight, and that tonight is her night as well.

I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as President of the United States.

What is that promise?

It's a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect.

It's a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.

Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves - protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology.

Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who's willing to work.

That's the promise of America - the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper.

That's the promise we need to keep. That's the change we need right now. So let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am President.

Change means a tax code that doesn't reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.

Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will cut taxes - cut taxes - for 95% of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

Washington's been talking about our oil addiction for the last thirty years, and John McCain has been there for twenty-six of them. In that time, he's said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Senator McCain took office.

Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.

As President, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I'll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy - wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can't ever be outsourced.

America, now is not the time for small plans.

Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy. Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don't have that chance. I'll invest in early childhood education. I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American - if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

Now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. If you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves. And as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.

Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for a sick child or ailing parent.

Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses; and the time to protect Social Security for future generations.

And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day's work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons.

Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime - by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow. But I will also go through the federal budget, line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less - because we cannot meet twenty-first century challenges with a twentieth century bureaucracy.

And Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America's promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our "intellectual and moral strength." Yes, government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient. Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can't replace parents; that government can't turn off the television and make a child do her homework; that fathers must take more responsibility for providing the love and guidance their children need.

Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility - that's the essence of America's promise.

And just as we keep our keep our promise to the next generation here at home, so must we keep America's promise abroad. If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next Commander-in-Chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have.

For while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face. When John McCain said we could just "muddle through" in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights. John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell - but he won't even go to the cave where he lives.

And today, as my call for a time frame to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush Administration, even after we learned that Iraq has a $79 billion surplus while we're wallowing in deficits, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.

That's not the judgment we need. That won't keep America safe. We need a President who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past.

You don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in eighty countries by occupying Iraq. You don't protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can't truly stand up for Georgia when you've strained our oldest alliances. If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice - but it is not the change we need.

We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country. Don't tell me that Democrats won't keep us safe. The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans -- Democrats and Republicans - have built, and we are here to restore that legacy.

As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm's way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.

I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.

These are the policies I will pursue. And in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain.

But what I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America.

So I've got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can't just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose - our sense of higher purpose. And that's what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America's promise - the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that's to be expected. Because if you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

You make a big election about small things.

And you know what - it's worked before. Because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn't work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it's best to stop hoping, and settle for what you already know.

I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don't fit the typical pedigree, and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the nay-sayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me. It's been about you.

For eighteen long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past. You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. You have shown what history teaches us - that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn't come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American people demand it - because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.

America, this is one of those moments.

I believe that as hard as it will be, the change we need is coming. Because I've seen it. Because I've lived it. I've seen it in Illinois, when we provided health care to more children and moved more families from welfare to work. I've seen it in Washington, when we worked across party lines to open up government and hold lobbyists more accountable, to give better care for our veterans and keep nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands.

And I've seen it in this campaign. In the young people who voted for the first time, and in those who got involved again after a very long time. In the Republicans who never thought they'd pick up a Democratic ballot, but did. I've seen it in the workers who would rather cut their hours back a day than see their friends lose their jobs, in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb, in the good neighbors who take a stranger in when a hurricane strikes and the floodwaters rise.

This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that's not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit - that American promise - that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It's a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours - a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.

And it is that promise that forty five years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.

The men and women who gathered there could've heard many things. They could've heard words of anger and discord. They could've been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.

But what the people heard instead - people of every creed and color, from every walk of life - is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one.

"We cannot walk alone," the preacher cried. "And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back."

America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise - that American promise - and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.

ID: Risch +12

In 2006, scandal-plagued Republicans like Mark Foley, Tom DeLay and Bob Ney cost their party seats even when they weren't on the ballot. Idaho Senator Larry Craig's arrest in the Minneapolis airport, though, doesn't look like it will have a negative effect on the GOP's chance to hold his now-open seat, a new poll from the Gem State shows.

The poll, conducted by Greg Smith & Associates, surveyed 600 likely voters between 8/18-22 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Smith has worked for Republican candidates in the state, though this poll was not conducted for any candidate. Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch, the Republican nominee, was tested against Democratic ex-Rep. Larry LaRocco and independent candidate Rex Rammell.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Risch............41 / 27 / 52 / 37
LaRocco.......29 / 51 / 18 / 31
Rammell..........3 / 4 / 2 / 1

Neither candidate has solidified their political base, though if Risch is able to pull Republicans together he would easily win the race in such a GOP-heavy state. Risch leads in every region of the state except for the North Central area, also the least populated region in Idaho.

It's no surprise that Risch is leading by a wide margin. The race is actually a rematch of the 2006 contest for Lieutenant Governor, in which Risch beat LaRocco by a wide 58%-39% margin. This year, Democrats look better off targeting First District Rep. Bill Sali, a vulnerable incumbent, than the open Senate seat.

FL: Buchanan Leads Rematch

If Rep. Vern Buchanan, a freshman Florida Republican, survived the 2006 election cycle, he might be able to survive anything. Buchanan, who won a narrow victory in 2006 over Democrat Christine Jennings, is well ahead in a rematch, a new Republican poll shows.

The poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies for the National Republican Congressional Committee, surveyed 400 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Buchanan and Jennings were tested, along with independent candidates Jan Schneider and Dan Baldauf.

General Election Matchup
Buchanan.......48 (+4 from last, 7/08)
Jennings.......30 (no change)

Buchanan is seen favorably by 47% of district residents, while 27% view him unfavorably. Jennings, meanwhile, has considerably lower name recognition, with 36% seeing her favorably and 29% seeing her unfavorably.

The Republican has an ambitious paid media plan and a significant fundraising advantage over Jennings.

National Democrats have reserved their own airtime to augment Jennings', and the party is hammering Buchanan over lawsuits filed by former employees of companies he owns. Those employees say they were coerced into supporting his campaign.

CO: Udall, Obama +3

With barbs flying between Democratic Rep. Mark Udall and former Republican Rep. Bob Schaffer, both candidates have seen their negative ratings almost double, according to a new poll conducted for Schaffer. Unlike most independent surveys, Udall has only a small lead.

The poll, conducted for Schaffer's campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee by Hill Research Consultants, surveyed 553 likely voters between 8/23-24 for a margin of error of +/- 4.2%. Udall, Schaffer and three third-party candidates were tested.

General Election Matchup
Udall..........41 (-4 from last, 4/08)
Schaffer.......38 (no change)


Each candidate had unfavorable ratings in the mid-teens in the first poll conducted for Schaffer, in late March and early April. Now, Udall is seen negatively by 33% of Colorado voters, up from 15%, while Schaffer is viewed negatively by 34%, up from 18%. Both candidates have run advertisements slamming their opponent, and outside groups have also gotten involved with ads of their own.

Schaffer's campaign has constantly trumpeted the notion that Udall is, in their words, a "Boulder liberal," and 48% of respondents think the Democrat is, in fact, more liberal than they are. 38% said Schaffer is more conservative than they are. If Schaffer can perpetuate the association of Udall with liberal, the Republican could make Colorado a close race.

Strategy Memo: History Repeating?

DENVER, Colorado -- Good Thursday morning. As Denver prepares to rid itself of the scourge that is a major party convention, we wonder, will this city ever get more cabs? Here's what Washington and Denver are watching this morning:

-- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I have a dream" speech in Washington on August 28, 1963. Forty-five years to the day later, the first African American candidate will accept his party's nomination for President of the United States. With a vice president already in tow, a night after Delaware Senator Joe Biden accepted his own nomination, Obama will speak in prime time to an audience of millions. In person, as many as 80,000 people are expected to attend.

-- The speech could be the apex of Obama's campaign; last time we checked, the Illinois senator has proven pretty adept at given convention addresses. And with thirty million or more tuned in, tonight is an opportunity Obama won't get again, to make his case, unfiltered and on his terms, to voters. Poll results show a big majority of Americans like Obama -- both he and opponent John McCain have approval ratings in the low- to mid-60s. Tonight gives Obama a chance to convert at least a few of those who like him into those ready to support him.

-- But tonight isn't without risks. Democratic Party officials are worried that the speech comes with big political risks, and that in an uncontrolled environment, the risks the Obama campaign is taking are just too great. Politico's Charlie Mahtesian and the New York Times' Rutenberg and Zeleny write on Democrats' efforts to both tone down the event while retaining the intended impact of wooing not only those watching on television but also those Colorado residents who actually attend.

-- Republicans are already salavating over the chance to renew the portrayal of Obama as a larger-than-life celebrity unable to connect with the average American. Obama will speak on a stage that has evoked images of a Greek temple to some (Organizers say the columns are meant to invoke federal buildings in Washington), and the McCain campaign sent out a tongue-in-cheek memo offering suggestions for proper toga attire at the event, taking place in what they call the Barackopolis (The -opolis suffix actually means "city," but "naos," the word for temple, doesn't sound as good).

-- It's a major opportunity, and it's a major minefield, that Obama faces tonight. The upside is clear: 80,000 major fans cheering him on would give anyone predisposed toward Obama a chill and a positive impression of Obama. But for those who remain undecided, McCain's efforts to portray Obama as a celebrity have been effective, making the speech at Invesco Field more an area of concern for Democrats as they try to reduce Obama's star power.

-- Meanwhile, John McCain has selected his running mate, though by the time you read this in the morning that person will probably still be blissfully unaware of the job offer to come. The soon-to-be GOP nominee virtually settled on a candidate earlier this week and top aides were consulted yesterday, Politico's Mike Allen reported yesterday. McCain will notify the nominee sometime today, with a major rally set for Ohio planned tomorrow, followed by stops in Pennsylvania and Missouri. Even as Obama makes his speech tonight, reporters already are keeping half an eye on St. Paul and McCain's pick, a choice that could leak as early as today.

-- That pick is not likely to be someone pro-choice, it appears. McCain's suggestion that he was open to such a candidate, first thought to refer to former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge and inviting speculation over eBay CEO Meg Whitman and Colin Powell, looks like it was actually aimed at gauging support for Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who is one of McCain's closest backers. Lieberman was under consideration as late as this week, Politico's Jonathan Martin reported yesterday, and after a phone call from Karl Rove asking him to withdraw his name from consideration, Lieberman said no, indicating he has some interest. McCain may want to pick Lieberman, but choosing a pro-choice running mate would cause a revolt among delegates in St. Paul.

-- Bad Omen Of The Day: Hurricane Gustav could hit the coast of Louisiana on Monday, the opening day of the Republican National Convention, as a dangerous Category 3 storm, weather experts said yesterday. As President Bush speaks to the country on Labor Day, a third major storm in three years could hit New Orleans, inviting unflattering comparisons to the lackluster federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a rising star who would have played a prominent role at the convention, has already begged off in order to prepare his state for the storm. And if that's not enough to make Republicans go batty, Bush's Justice Department is looking to reduce lobbyist Jack Abramoff's sentence, the Washington Post reports.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama will officially accept the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in a primetime address to delegates and guests at Invesco Field in Denver. McCain, meanwhile, is preparing to step all over that announcement with his decision to name a vice presidential contender tomorrow. He lands in Vandalia, Ohio this evening in preparation for tomorrow's rally. The big question: Will word of McCain's choice leak before newspaper deadlines tonight?

Biden Accepts Veep Nod

He's been a senator for thirty-six years. He's chaired two of the most powerful committees in the upper chamber. And he can't stop talking about his father's old sayings. Tonight, Joe Biden accepted the Democratic vice presidential nomination.

Biden is already skilled at the two roles of a vice presidential nominee, lavishing praise on the man at the top of the ticket while savaging John McCain, even though Biden maintains he and the Arizona Senator are friends beyond politics.

From what Biden called proposals for irresponsible tax cuts to McCain's positions on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Biden maintained McCain offers a continuation. "That's not change, that's more of the same," he repeated. "Again and again, John McCain has been wrong, and Barack Obama's been right."

When one is as verbose as Biden, the inevitable slip-up is bound to happen. Biden committed what he called a "Freudian slip" during his speech, at one point calling John McCain "George" while comparing him to President Bush.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden brings a gravitas on international issues few aside from McCain can match. He spent much of his introduction to the Democratic convention on those issues, citing his recent experience with the conflict between Georgia and Russia. "Remember when the world used to trust us?" Biden asked. "When Barack Obama's our president, they'll look at us again, they'll trust us again."

Born and raised in working class Scranton, Pennsylvania, Biden will use his background to help Barack Obama connect with so-called Reagan Democrats, a group among whom Obama struggled during the primaries.

Biden's personal story is touching as well. Just after his election to the Senate, Biden's wife and daughter were killed in a car accident, while his two sons were severely wounded. Biden took his first oath of office in his sons' hospital room, one of those sons, Beau Biden, told the convention when introducing his father.

That tragedy spurred an above-and-beyond commitment to his surviving family. Biden and others make constant mention of his devotion to taking the train from Washington back to his home in Wilmington on an almost nightly basis.

Obama made a surprise appearance on stage to give the convention a look at the Democratic ticket in person. The Illinois senator, who was formally nominated as Democrats' presidential nominee earlier today, thanked each evening's major speakers, including his wife, former rival Hillary Clinton and husband Bill Clinton.

Clinton: Obama "Ready To Be President"

DENVER, Colorado -- Greeted with the the loudest and longest sustained applause of the convention, former President Bill Clinton did his best tonight to put to rest stories of a bitter rivalry between the one-time First Family and Democratic nominee Barack Obama.

Clinton's only regret, he joked, was that he had to follow his wife's speech a day earlier. "In the end, my candidate didn't win. But I'm really proud of the campaign she ran," the former president said. "Last night, Hillary told us in no uncertain terms that she'll do everything she can to elect Barack Obama. That makes two of us."

Too, Clinton filled in a blank his wife left out the night before and sought to distance his earlier criticism of the Democratic nominee. "Barack Obama is ready to lead America and restore American leadership in the world. Barack Obama is ready to honor the oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," he said. "Barack Obama is ready to be President of the United States."

The Democrat had already passed his first presidential test, Clinton said, in naming Delaware Senator Joe Biden as his vice presidential running mate. "He hit it out of the park," Clinton said of Obama's selection.

Clinton has been a headache for the Obama campaign, making headlines as late as this week when, at an event in Denver, he said a candidate who can get something done is worth more than a candidate without the clout. Throughout the primaries, and even afterwards, Clinton seemed to suggest Obama lacked the experience necessary to be president.

Tonight, Clinton did everything he could to answer each charge he himself once leveled. "Republicans said I was too young and too inexperienced to be Commander-in-Chief. Sound familiar?" Clinton asked. "It didn't work in 1992 because we were on the right side of history. And it won't work in 2008 because Barack Obama is on the right side of history."

The politician in Clinton knew his place, leveling respectful charges against John McCain over the Republican's record and platform on the economy. But Clinton's speech was about healing a rift with Barack Obama, and while the media may be infatuated with the story, the sustained standing ovation the former president received tonight showed his party is still infatuated with him, and is willing to forgive any sins he may have committed against Obama after a simple act of contrition.

AK House Race Still Undecided

With all but nine of the 438 voting precincts in Alaska reporting, Rep. Don Young leads his GOP primary challenger Sean Parnell 45.48%-45.32% -- a difference of 145 votes. Parnell, Alaska's lieutenant governor, had led yesterday's contest until rural votes were counted early in the morning, giving Young the lead with just 2% of precincts left to count, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Although Young has won relatively easily over the last three decades, his association with an FBI corruption probe -- part of which led to the recent indictment of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens -- placing his re-election to an 18th full term representing Alaska on thin ice.

Democrat Ethan Berkowitz now must wait for the final results to come in before he knows who his general election competition will be. The former state representative won 54%-37% over Diane Benson, who was the 2006 Democratic nominee for the seat.

If Parnell pulls out the win, he and Berkowitz will face each other in a second straight election, as both were running mates in the 2006 election for governor. Republican Sarah Palin won 48%-41% over Democrat Tony Knowles, making Parnell the lieutenant governor.

--Kyle Trygstad

Strategy Memo: The Speech

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DENVER, Colorado -- Good Wednesday morning. What were you doing at 3 a.m.? Hopefully not answering the phone. And apologies for the late posting -- we forgot to hit the publish button. Here's what Washington is watching today:

-- Tuesdays in August mean primary elections, and yesterday Alaska and Florida held their first rounds. In Alaska, Rep. Don Young is clinging to a narrow 150-vote lead over Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell in the Republican primary, while Senator Don Young cruised to re-election with 64% of the vote. In Florida, Republican Rep. Ric Keller survived a surprisingly close primary challenge with just 53% of the vote, while wealthy businessman Tom Rooney won the right to face Democratic Rep. Tim Mahoney in November.

-- Rooney was the candidate Republicans in Washington wanted, but other than his narrow 37% to 35% win over State Rep. Gayle Harrell, the GOP didn't have much to celebrate last night. Under investigation in connection to the VECO Corp. scandal, Young is seen as an underdog for re-election if he holds onto his lead. Stevens, too, trails Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich by a wide margin. And Keller has a credible challenger in Florida, meaning another Republican seat could be in trouble.

-- Back to Denver, Hillary Clinton's prime time address last night did something to heal the rift between backers of Barack Obama and those who supported the New York senator. The speech went almost as far as Clinton could have gone in urging her delegates to back her one-time rival. "We are on the same team, and none of us can afford to sit on the sidelines," Clinton said. "Barack Obama is my candidate, and he must be our president."

-- Clinton stayed on message, echoing the renewal theme of Day Two, and Obama reportedly loved the speech; Michelle Obama and Joe Biden certainly looked like they were appreciative. But Clinton's address didn't go all the way to fixing the hole the extended primary process ripped in the fabric of the party, the Washington Post's Eli Saslow writes this morning. No matter how great the speech was, he writes, Clinton delegates are still frustrated with their situation.

-- Too, much of the speech revolved around Clinton's own presidential campaign. Thanking her fans and the "sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits," Clinton enumerated the reasons she ran for office in the first place, at one point going more than 800 words without mentioning Obama's name. Clinton also never said Obama was ready to lead, as Tom Bevan pointed out last night. Republicans were quick to point out the same.

-- Meanwhile, those who watched Clinton on television also got to see John McCain doing his best to spend all the money he has before he accepts federal funding for his campaign after his convention in St. Paul. McCain has been remarkably visible this week, giving speeches and staying in the news at least with paid media. That's a departure from what nominees traditionally do during their opponents' conventions, which is taking a few days off the trail (And windsurfing, in one memorable case). Obama has his own plans for a bus tour during the GOP convention, marking the end of what has traditionally been a down week for contenders.

-- Roll Out Of The Day: McCain will dominate the news coverage on Friday, though, as he formally rolls out his vice presidential pick with major rallies scheduled for Ohio, followed by stops in Pennsylvania and Missouri, Politico's Jonathan Martin reports today. Obama's roll out of Joe Biden worked well, though McCain's plan involves more public events together than Obama's first days with the Delaware senator.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama spends his day with veterans and military families on the night his convention will focus on security, both economic and physical, in Billings, Montana. Biden will accept the vice presidential nomination tonight in a prime time address in Denver. McCain has no public events slated.

MI: Knollenberg, Walberg Lead

Two Michigan Republicans facing tough races lead their Democratic challengers according to a new poll, but in both cases, the incumbents are well under the crucial 50% mark, giving national GOP strategists another reason to worry.

The poll, conducted by Michigan-based EPIC-MRA for the Detroit News and four television stations, surveyed 400 likely voters in both the Seventh and Ninth Districts for margins of error of +/- 4.9%. The Seventh District poll, which tested Rep. Tim Walberg and State Senator Mark Schauer, was conducted 8/20-22. The Ninth District poll, which pitted Rep. Joe Knollenberg against former State Lottery Commissioner Gary Peters, independent candidate Jack Kevorkian (Yes, that Jack Kevorkian) and Libertarian Adam Goodman.

General Election Matchups


Both incumbent Republicans have bad job approval ratings. Just 35% say they have a positive impression of Knollenberg's job performance, while 47% say they think of his performance in a negative light. Walberg gets a similarly anemic 32% positive to 43% negative rating.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved $1.5 million in television airtime aimed at Walberg and $1.1 million targeting Knollenberg. If they drive down both incumbents' favorable numbers any further, Republicans may find themselves on the wrong end of the next poll.

NH: Shaheen +11

Former Democratic New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen is at the top of Democrats' list of Senate takeover opportunities, but the newest poll out of the Granite State will do something to aleviate Republican heartburn. Still, Shaheen, the poll shows, is maintaining her big lead in her repeat race against Republican Senator John Sununu, and Democratic Governor John Lynch is cruising toward a third term.

The poll, conducted by American Research Group, a Republican firm, surveyed 600 likely voters between 8/18-20 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Sununu and Shaheen were tested, along with Lynch and his Republican opponent, State Senator Joe Kenney.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Shaheen......52 / 87 / 10 / 61 (-6 from last, 7/21)
Sununu.......41 / 7 / 81 / 33 (+5)

Lynch........58 / 91 / 28 / 58 (-2)
Kenney.......32 / 5 / 64 / 26 (+5)

In a state full of independent voters, Shaheen maintains her huge lead among those not affiliated with either party. But Sununu has cut Shaheen's twenty-two point lead from late July. That July poll may have been an outlier, though, as it showed the largest lead for Shaheen since a poll from June 2007. More recent polls have showed the Democrat with a low-double figure lead.

One major factor continues to be Sununu's lack of significant advertising. It's not because of a shortage of funds; the first-term Republican has plenty of money in the bank, suggesting he is saving his warchest for a major post-Labor Day push.

Lynch, meanwhile, has proven a popular governor during his first two two-year terms. Republican efforts to recruit stronger candidates, including Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta, were unsuccessful.

Top 10 Convention Moments

Sifting through the mass of notable political conventions, RealClearPolitics has chosen 10 to include in its list of most memorable convention moments. In it you'll find three Kennedys mentioned, and one famous Minnesotan appears twice.

Feel free to debate the picks -- these are RCP's Top 10 Convention Moments.

--Kyle Trygstad

Strategy Memo: Clinton's No-Win

DENVER, Colorado -- Good Tuesday morning. Day Two of the Democratic National Convention dawns cloudless in Denver, a night after House Democratic Caucus chairman Rahm Emanuel and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin wowed delegates at a celebration of Chicago in Denver. Those Chicagoans know how to make a pizza. Here's what Washington is watching today:

-- The convention will come to order around 5 p.m. Eastern Time with speeches from former candidate Dennis Kucinich, Emanuel and Governors Janet Napolitano, Kathleen Sebelius, Deval Patrick and Brian Schweitzer. All but Schweitzer, who stayed neutral, were early Obama backers. The two major speeches of the evening come from keynoter Mark Warner, running for Senate in Virginia, and Hillary Clinton, who will close the convention this evening.

-- All eyes will be on Clinton, and expectations are high for the former First Lady's address to delegates. Clinton has three audiences tonight, starting with her own delegates she needs to convince to back Obama. Second, Clinton will need to target Democratic Party bigwigs, with whom she has fences to mend, especially if she really thinks Barack Obama will lose in November; if Clinton is right, a good relationship now could lead to a nomination in four years.

-- The third audience is the most important, and the most difficult to satiate. A hungry media, convinced that Clinton and Obama have an unsalvageable disaster of a relationship, love the storyline, and only a speech that kowtows to the new nominee will put that narrative to bed. Clinton, no shrinking violet, is going to acknowledge her supporters, many of whom are in the convention hall in Denver; that's just going to make the Clinton-as-spoiler story continue.

-- Will Clinton's speech be cathartic? Will it invite further criticism for the one-time candidate the media loves to hate? Perhaps most importantly for Clinton, can she walk the tightrope of praising Obama while leaving herself wiggle room to say she told them so if the younger senator loses in November? Clinton herself is holding events throughout the week in Denver, but it does send a bit of a mixed message when former campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe decides to head out of town before Obama's big speech, as the Washington Post's Matthew Mosk reported yesterday.

-- Meanwhile, there is life outside Denver, and if John McCain had his way, Bill Ayers would be a big part of it. Ayers, the 1960's radical who is now a part of Chicago's political establishment, is the feature of a new advertisement being run by the American Issues Project, a conservative outfit with just one donor who also helped fund the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Clinton brought up Obama's ties to Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground, during the primary, but Republicans hope to make his name world-famous much in the way Willie Horton's was in 1988.

-- Obama is not happy about the advertisement, and in his response he demonstrated that which John Kerry and other recent Democratic candidates failed to: Obama signaled to backers and opponents that he will not take the hits without responding. Obama launched an ad hitting back in key swing states, while his campaign said it planned to ask the Justice Department to get the spot off the air, calling it an obvious effort to circumvent election law, the AP's Jim Kuhnhenn writes. If John Kerry or Al Gore had been as strong in their responses, some Democrats will say, President Bush might not be where he is today.

-- McCarthyism Of The Day: That would be Rep. Kevin McCarthy we're talking about. The California freshman, in St. Paul already as chair of the Republican Platform Committee, has the first draft of the GOP's guiding document, and to NRO's Stephen Spruiell, the differences from four years ago, when President Bush was mentioned 200 times, are clear. Even McCain's name is nowhere to be found. Spruiell says the newer document is heavy on principles and light on policy, a great way to start rebuilding an ideologically damaged party.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama, who watched the convention from a living room in Kansas City, holds an event echoing tonight's convention theme, "Renewing America's Promise," in the city early this afternoon. McCain will speak at the American Legion's national convention in Phoenix.

Kennedy Highlights First Night

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DENVER, Colorado -- Senator Ted Kennedy's surprise appearance at the Democratic National Convention could not have been more appropriate. For a politician who has done as much to define the latter half of the twentieth century Senate as any other, skipping an event like a convention nominating Barack Obama, who Kennedy supported early in the primary campaign, would have been unthinkable.

The Kennedy family, forty eight years after John Kennedy was elected president, remains the closest thing America has to a regal dynasty. To those who fall on the left end of the political spectrum, the photo of a young Ted with brothers John and Robert is an image that still holds incredible resonance.

His speech to convention delegates, which followed a video tribute produced by the documentarian Ken Burns, is a quadrennial affair. Often called the liberal lion, Kennedy is the most visible representation of a wing of the Democratic Party that once ruled, and may be on the ascendance again.

This time, though, just months after a diagnosis of and surgery on a brain tumor, the speech held an added weight. "It means so much personally to every one of us," said James Roosevelt, who chaired the party's Rules and Bylaws Committee and who is the grandson of Franklin Roosevelt. From Massachusetts, Roosevelt echoed those who said Kennedy transcended his state. "To the party and the country, [Kennedy has] been such a wonderful leader, and that's what he was showing tonight."

Those who have held office for years and those who are new to elected office from both sides of the Democratic spectrum spoke of Kennedy's importance to the party. "It was the most powerful speech I've ever heard," said Rep. Jim McDermott, one of the more liberal members of Congress. "It's a great statement, and he's got an enormous amount of courage," said former Virginia Governor Mark Warner, a more moderate Democrat who called the speech "very powerful."

Kennedy's tenure in Congress has so far encompassed both personal and political zeniths and nadirs. From his first years during the heyday of Camelot to the dark days of personal tragedy, from his failed run at the presidency in 1980 to the countless laws which bear his name, Kennedy has served as an anchor to many. "He's been the workhorse. He's steadied the party, he's taken us through some pretty tough times," McDermott said. "But he' never lost his vision of what he thought was right."

The appearance, which was uncertain until just hours before he walked on stage, held special meaning to others who serve as anchors of the party. Vice presidential nominee Joe Biden arrived in town two days early to take in the speech, while Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, one of Kennedy's closest friends, said he flew in to be there for a moment he called "very emotional."

Democrats will celebrate Obama's nomination for the next three days. But for some, the chance to see Kennedy speak in person will be the highlight.

Note: In the interest of full disclosure, this reporter worked for Dodd. Given his close relationship with Kennedy, though, it seemed appropriate to seek his insight.

AL: Rogers +21, Griffith +5

The Republican brand may be in tatters nationwide, but two public polls out of Alabama show GOP Congressional candidates running well against good Democratic opponents.

The polls, conducted by Capital Survey Research Center, tested both the Third and Fifth Districts. In the Third, 468 likely voters were polled for a margin of error of +/- 4.5%. Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican, and Democratic attorney Joshua Segall were tested. In the Fifth, 502 likely voters were surveyed between 8/19-21 for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%, testing State Senator Parker Griffith, the Democratic candidate, and two-time Republican nominee and advertising executive Wayne Parker.

General Election Matchups


Griffith, running to replace fellow Democrat Bud Cramer, was leading an early April poll by the same firm by a huge 48%-32% margin. Parker needed a runoff to secure the Republican nomination, while Griffith was virtually uncontested on the Democratic side. Still, after that runoff, Parker has closed the gap significantly.

Segall is rapidly becoming a favorite of Netroots denizens who pay attention to House contests, and he's raised a good amount of money. But in this heavily Republican district, Rogers looks like he doesn't have much of a challenge to worry about.

If Republicans brag about Rogers' lead and Parker's closing the gap, keep it in mind that next time Capital Survey Research Center polls anywhere in Alabama. With close ties to the Alabama Education Association, the polling firm is a lightening rod for GOP criticism any time they release a poll showing Democrats in good position.

CO: Udall +8, +10

As Democrats gather in Colorado, two new polls show one of the state's Senate seats is ripe for the party's taking. Rep. Mark Udall, the Democratic nominee to replace retiring Senator Wayne Allard, has consistently led former Rep. Bob Schaffer, the Republican nominee.

The first poll, conducted by independent firm Mason-Dixon for the Denver Post, surveyed 400 likely voters between 8/13-15 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Udall and Schaffer were tested, along with Green Party candidate Bob Kinsey.

General Election Matchup


More voters both know Udall and see him favorably. The Second District congressman has favorable ratings of 42%, compared with 23% who see him unfavorably. Schaffer, who lost the 2004 Senate primary to beer magnate Pete Coors, is viewed favorably by just 27% of voters, while 25% see him in a negative light.

Udall also leads a Suffolk University poll, conducted 8/21-24 among 450 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.6%. Udall, Schaffer, Kinsey and American Constitution Party candidate Douglas Dayhorse Campbell were tested.

General Election Matchup


In virtually every poll, save a Quinnipiac University survey that showed the two tied, Udall has opened a small but significant lead. Still, it's not an insurmountable lead by any means, as Schaffer is running closer to Udall than many expected. National Republicans looking for a place to make a stand could pick Colorado.

Convention News And Notes

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DENVER, Colorado -- Get Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer in a room with reporters and other, more staid politicians and the guy just can't help cracking a few jokes. We were going to call this post "Quote of the Day," but there are just too many good Schweitzer lines from which to choose. Here are some of our favorites:

Asked whether choosing a governor would give John McCain a leg up on a Democratic ticket that features two Senators: "Boy, that'd shake up the world if McCain picked another white guy to be his vice president," he said. Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney "are not going to bump him up, they're not going to bump him down. They're just going to be a bump."

McCain got in trouble in Colorado for suggesting a renegotiation of a water agreement among several Western states, something Schweitzer knows about: "In the West, whiskey's for drinkin' and water's for fightin'," he said.

Other notes from the convention:

Democratic Governors Association chairman and West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin says his party will pick up at least one chief executive mansion this year, pointing to Missouri as the most likely pickup. Attorney General Jay Nixon is leading Rep. Kenny Hulshof by a wide margin.

Manchin and Schweitzer, discussing Democratic-held seats up this year, are most worried about North Carolina and Washington. Of Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire's race, Schweitzer said "We're watching it very carefully." DGA finance chairman Martin O'Malley of Maryland said the DGA will raise $20 million this year and will aim "north of 20 [million]" next year.

Former Washington State Democratic Party chairman Paul Berendt, storming down the hall at the Colorado Convention Center, paused long enough to tell Politics Nation that, as a delegate for Hillary Clinton, he would "probably" cast his vote for the New York Senator. Berendt said he will work for Barack Obama, but with his daughter in attendance, he wants her to see him vote for Clinton.

Convention Flair 101

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Looking for free media? There's no better way to get it at a convention than to deck yourself out in the most ridiculous attire imaginable, all in hopes of promoting your candidate to viewers at home who see the presidential contest more as a costume party than a political choice.

Barring funny hats, outlandish use of campaign paraphernalia is also a guaranteed winner. Samantha and Annie Woods did their best, decking out their Volvo in about 520 Obama bumper stickers:

obama car.jpg

The sisters paid 29 cents a piece for the stickers, then sold Obama-backing t-shirts to raise gas money they needed to drive to Denver:

obama car 2.jpg

As a former Volvo owner himself, Politics Nation can attest to the number of t-shirts they had to have sold.

Strategy Memo: Denver Divide

dnc logo
DENVER, Colorado -- Good Monday morning. We apologize for the delay in posting, but logistics on the ground at the Democratic National Convention leave something to be desired. Here's what Denver, and Washington, are watching today:

-- Democrats kick off their quadrennial gathering in Denver today at 3 p.m. local time, or 5 p.m. Eastern. Day one's theme: One Nation, highlighted by speeches from DNC chair Howard Dean, former President Jimmy Carter, former Republican Rep. Jim Leach and Michelle Obama, among others. A video tribute to ailing Senator Ted Kennedy could prove the highlight of the night, as rumors are running around Denver that the liberal lion could make an appearance himself.

-- But before national Democrats shed an emotional tear over one of their heroes, the party will have to deal with a renewed focus on the fracture between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The two rivals are insistent on putting to rest any stories of a feud -- Obama strategist David Axelrod and Clinton strategist Maggie Williams issued a joint statement strongly denying a rift yesterday -- but it's not a story that will go quietly into a good Monday night. From fundraising to help eliminate Clinton's debt to assigned speaking slots during this week's Mile High confab, schisms are becoming more evident, as Politico's Harris and Allen write today.

-- Republicans, meanwhile, are doing everything they can to help that divide grow. A new advertisement John McCain's campaign is running in key states highlights Debra Bartoshevich, a Clinton delegate whose ticket to Denver was taken away when she said publicly that she will back the Republican. Clinton "had the experience and judgment to be president. Now, in a first for me, I'm supporting a Republican, John McCain," Bartoshevich says in the spot. It's a similar note to that struck by RNC Victory chair Carly Fiorina, who has spent the last few months traveling the country to meet with former Clinton supporters.

-- The real reason the story won't die: The media won't let it. Clinton has done her part for Obama, traveling to rallies around the country (And doing a little fundraising for herself along the way), and it's certainly not a storyline the Obama team wants to perpetuate -- he's gone as far as giving Clinton a roll call vote to mollify upset supporters. But the media is spoiling for a fight, and with Clinton spending a significant amount of time in Denver, with events on at least three of the next four days, it's the fight that presents itself.

-- In convention news, full voting rights have been restored to both the Florida and Michigan delegations, a move expected once a nominee became obvious. The DNC restored both states' voting rights a few months after the party's Rules and Bylaws Committee granted them full seating but only half votes, CNN's Rebecca Sinderbrand writes. It took a full year -- more, actually, considering the several years the RBC took to craft party rules regarding presidential nominations -- but Michiganders and Floridians have their space back.

-- Don't underestimate the power of Kennedy's expected speech tonight. Suffering from brain cancer, the Massachusetts Senator plans to be in Denver to see Obama accept the nomination Kennedy once sought, the Boston Globe reports today. As the first major Democratic power player to back Obama in what turned into a watershed moment for the campaign, and thanks to his perch in the upper echelons of party lore, Kennedy could speak any time he chose. The first day of the convention, when voters who might be turned off by Kennedy's liberal rhetoric, won't be what those voters remember. But it will be something loyal Democrats remember, akin to an address from Ronald Reagan for Republicans. There won't be many dry eyes in the house.

-- Balancing Act Of The Day: Joe Biden is such old news. The Delaware Senator, tapped as either a great choice (This author's opinion) or a cop out to political expediency (RCP's Tom Bevan's opinion), is preparing for his Wednesday speech to delegates even as John McCain promises he'll get a vice presidential rival soon. If McCain chooses former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Democrats may have even more trouble gaining ground in the West, a region that has long been a top target, the San Francisco Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead writes. But will Christian conservatives be okay with Romney's Mormonism? As with Biden's penchant for misstatements versus his foreign policy and other experience, that's a balance McCain will have to find.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama holds a town hall meeting in Davenport, Iowa, while his wife walks through the Denver convention site and offers her own speech to delegates. McCain has a press conference scheduled in Phoenix before holding fundraisers in California. He appears on Jay Leno's Tonight Show this evening.

NC: Dole +3

Senator Elizabeth Dole is in a tight race for re-election, a new survey shows, as new advertisements hitting the first-term Republican and praising her Democratic rival collaborate to reduce Dole's once-sizeable lead.

The poll, conducted by TelOpinion Research for the North Carolina-based Civitas Institute, surveyed 600 likely voters between 8/14-17 for a margin of error of +/- 4.2%. Dole, Democratic State Senator Kay Hagan and Libertarian Chris Cole were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Dole........44 / 15 / 80 / 47 / 43 / 44 (-3 from last, 7/16)
Hagan.....41 / 67 / 10 / 37 / 42 / 41 (+3)
Cole..........4 / 3 / 3 / 8 / 6 / 3 (+2)

Dole has a big lead among voters in both Western and Eastern Carolina, regions where she leads by nearly twenty points, while Hagan keeps the race close with a massive 61%-28% lead in the Research Triangle. Hagan has not made serious inroads among independent voters in the last few months, but she's consolidated her Democratic base enough to make the race close.

The race has narrowed thanks in part to advertisements run by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has slammed Dole as an ineffective Senator who votes with President Bush too often, and thanks to Hagan's own first ads of the general election, which hit the air two days before the poll went in the field. Earlier Civitas polls had shown significant movement after Dole started running her first ads, back in June.

NV: Heller +5

With one of their party's incumbents already in trouble, Nevada Republicans could have a bumpy ride ahead in the Silver State's other, more conservative district, according to a new poll. Forget Rep. Jon Porter, who has a strong challenger in the state's southern Third District; now, according to the poll, even freshman Republican Dean Heller is in trouble.

The Research 2000 poll, conducted for the Reno Gazette-Journal and KTVN, surveyed 400 likely voters between 8/18-20 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Heller and former State Democratic Party chair and 2006 candidate Jill Derby were tested.

General Election Matchup

In a district in which President Bush won by a sixteen-point margin in 2004, Heller defeated Derby by just five points in 2006. Two years later, Derby is running close again, and in a rapidly-growing district that contains 95% of the land mass of Nevada, the race looks like another close finish.

Democrats are enthusiastic about the district thanks to recent voter registration gains. The party picked up 15,000 new voters in the Second District, according to the Secretary of State's office, while Republicans lost 4,000 voters of their own. The 19,000-voter swing, Democrats hope, will be enough to erase Heller's 13,000-vote win from 2006.

With Porter already facing a tough race against State Senator Dina Titus, the last thing Nevada Republicans need is a second competitive race targeting one of their incumbents.

MN: Franken +1

After some of the most challenging political months any candidate has gone through in recent years, comedian Al Franken has new reason to think his bid against Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman has a chance, according to a new poll released today.

The poll, conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis at the University of Connecticut for Minnesota Public Radio and the Humphrey Institute, surveyed 1093 adults between 8/7-17 for a margin of error of +/- 3.6%. Coleman, Franken and former Senator Dean Barkley, running as an independent, were tested among a sample that was 50% Democratic, 39% Republican and 11% independent or other.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Franken............41 / 71 / 7 / 30
Coleman...........40 / 8 / 81 / 36
Barkley...............8 / 8 / 6 / 11


Though a statistically insignificant lead, the results are a far cry from the ten points, or more, by which Franken has trailed in recent polls. It is also the first time Franken has led a live-call poll since late January, when Minnesota Public Radio and the Humphrey Institute showed him leading Coleman by a 43%-40% margin.

Barkley's presence in the race is going to hurt the Democrat more than the Republican, giving Minnesota voters another option to register their disapproval. Splitting the anti-Coleman vote by even a small margin could make all the difference in such a tight race, and two-thirds of Barkley voters say they see the country headed in the wrong direction, meaning that without the independent on the ballot they would most likely flock to Franken.

Republicans will complain about the poll's methodology by pointing out that it surveys adults instead of registered or likely voters, though the pollsters did weight the results to reflect current turnout models. Too, a survey over an eleven-day period could ring alarm bells for pollsters more accustomed to conducting polls over just a few days.

Still, a lead for Franken is a lead, even after stretches in which the Democrat was defending himself from accusations that he neglected to pay taxes in some seventeen states while simultaneously having to explain sexually-explicit articles he had written for a men's magazine. The last live-call poll taken in Minnesota, conducted for the Wall Street Journal and by Quinnipiac University, showed Coleman with a fifteen-point lead.

MO: Baker +2

As Republican Rep. Kenny Hulshof runs for governor, his northeastern Missouri Congressional District could give Democrats an opportunity to steal another seat. After competitive primaries on both sides, a poll conducted for Democratic nominee Judy Baker shows her leading by a narrow margin.

The poll, conducted by Momentum Analysis for Baker's campaign, surveyed 400 likely voters between 8/12-14 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Baker, a state representative, and former state tourism director Blaine Luetkemeyer, the Republican nominee, were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP)
Baker.................41 / 78 / 14
Luetkemeyer......39 / 12 / 66

Luetkemeyer's bitter primary, in which the Club for Growth spent considerable resources on his opponent's behalf, appears to have opened rifts that have yet to heal. The Democratic primary was less heated, though Baker beat out a number of well-known Democrats, including former House Speaker Steve Gaw.

Democrats are optimistic about their chances in the Ninth District, but it is expected to vote heavily for John McCain, giving Luetkemeyer a leg up. President Bush won the district by eighteen points in 2004, and Hulshof never had trouble carrying the seat.

Still, Hulshof's run for governor could turn out to be an impetus for ticket-splitting that might benefit Democrats; most public polls have showed Attorney General Jay Nixon easily leading Hulshof, who had his own bitter primary to deal with. If Hulshof's lead in his own district, which should be his best political base, is diminished by a Nixon rout, Democrat Baker could benefit.

NC Gov: Perdue +2

The candidates are on television, independent groups have been hammering away at one more than the other, and the two have met for one debate. So why is the race for North Carolina Governor so static? According to a new poll, neither nominee is having a lot of success winning over voters.

The poll, conducted by Republican firm TelOpinion Research for the Civitas Institute, surveyed 600 registered voters between 8/14-17 for a margin of error of +/- 4.2%. Lieutenant Governor Bev Perdue, the Democratic nominee, and Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, the Republican choice, were tested, along with Libertarian Michael Munger.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Perdue.........43 / 67 / 11 / 43 / 44 / 42 (no change from last, 7/16)
McCrory.......41 / 18 / 78 / 31 / 42 / 41 (+1)
Munger...........3 / 2 / 1 / 6 / 3 / 3 (+1)

The race has remained essentially static since May, when both Perdue and McCrory won their respective nominations. Both candidates are up with their own advertisements, but two Democratic-leaning unions have spent heavily with ads slamming McCrory, leaving observers in both parties surprised that the numbers haven't moved more.

McCrory has a big 53%-29% lead in his hometown Charlotte, as well as a smaller lead in the Republican-leaning Western half of the state. Offsetting those gaps are large Perdue margins among voters in the heavily Democratic Research Triangle, where she leads 59%-27%, and the northeastern part of the state.

The two candidates debated for the first time on Tuesday, but it's unlikely that meeting will cause many to change their minds, as it was competing for television viewers with the Olympics and a town hall meeting featuring Barack Obama. Neither candidate seriously goofed.

Strategy Memo: Two Reasons

Good Thursday morning. With Politics Nation back in his native West Coast, pardon the abbreviated -- and finally veep-free -- morning briefing. Here's what Washington (The Beltway, not the Evergreens) is watching today:

-- Forget what the media tells you. Forget who gets the most coverage. Forget all you think you know about the presidential election, save one salient fact: The race is essentially tied. Barack Obama leads John McCain by the slimmest of margins, by just 1.2 points in the latest RCP Average. Going into the conventions, that means one candidate will need a big bounce following the conventions or the three presidential debates to actually establish himself as a front-runner.

-- Why is there no significant lead for either candidate? Two main reasons: First, even though Democrats should be running away with the White House race this year, Obama is a new, young and fresh candidate. All positives, right? Not so fast. Americans like to know their presidential contenders, and not enough people know Barack Obama yet. That's not to say that won't change when heavy advertising starts after the conventions, when more people start paying attention to the race. But at the moment, Obama's slim lead is more a generic ballot lead than it is thanks to his own political persona.

-- Second, John McCain is that known quantity that Obama is not. And, given his close relationship with independent voters, he is not easily pigeon-holed as just another Republican or just another President Bush. McCain is the only Republican who could possibly win the White House, and he's showing that by sticking close to Obama in recent polls. In fact, two new polls from CBS/New York Times and NBC/Wall Street Journal each have the Republican closing on his Democratic rival after a stellar week on the Russo-Georgian conflict. Republicans may love to hate McCain and trash his campaign, but the party's nominee is doing just fine for now.

-- Both candidates should be worried, too: Obama should be ahead by a wider margin, but he hasn't broken 50% since a late July CNN poll. That doesn't speak well for the guy who's supposed to be running away with a win. McCain, the known quantity, should be polling better than the low 40s, but only one well-respected poll has him above 45% in the last few weeks. Both candidates appear to have a ceiling, and the winner could be the candidate least likely to offend the sensibilities, rather than the most post-partisan, a mantle both Obama and McCain have sought in recent months.

-- Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is back in the spotlight, and from all accounts she's actually doing her part to help Obama, rather than cause him ulcers. Clinton will address sheet metal workers on Obama's behalf in the key swing state of Florida today, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports this morning, followed by rallies at Florida Atlantic University and in Taramac, before hosting a fundraiser in Miami.

-- Perhaps most importantly, Clinton's staff has started a team to whip votes for Obama over the New York Senator, Politico's Glenn Thrush reports, designed to stomp out any pro-Clinton protests or rallies that could undermine the Democratic nominee's big week. Sure, Clinton's done her part in raising money and early campaigning for the Democratic ticket, but Obama -- gracious himself when he approved a roll call vote that would acknowledge the close primary contest -- is getting a boost from Clintonites who want to make sure their nominee has a successful convention.

-- Tragedy Of The Day: One of Clinton's biggest backers in the primary, Ohio Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, passed away yesterday at the tender age of 58. Tubbs Jones, an ardent surrogate and the first black woman elected to represent the Buckeye State, suffered a brain hemorrhage late Tuesday and was taken off life support around midday Wednesday, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Tubbs Jones was one of the most colorful members of Congress, and one of the most tenacious fighters for the causes she loved. She was a true partisan, but statements from every side of the aisle came pouring out today in a fitting tribute to a well-liked member of Congress.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama is spending his second straight day in Virginia, with a discussion on the economy slated for Chester in the morning and a town hall meeting in Chesapeake in the afternoon. McCain is in Phoenix with no public events planned.

RNC Announces Speaker Lineup

The Republican National Convention issued a press release announcing the speakers and themes for the September 1-4 event in St. Paul. Jonathan Martin notes three VP prospects not on this list. Another one we noticed...South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Monday, Sept. 1
"Love of country, my friends, is another way of saying love of your fellow countryman." --Sen. John McCain

John McCain's commitment to his fellow Americans, a commitment forged in service to his country, is one of the defining hallmarks of his life. Monday's events will highlight John McCain's record of service and sacrifice and reflect his commitment to serving a cause greater than one's own self-interest.

Speakers will include:
-U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Conn.)
-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (Calif.)
-Vice President Richard B. Cheney
-First Lady Laura Bush
-President George W. Bush

Tuesday, Sept. 2
"If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you are disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and correct them."
--Sen. John McCain

John McCain's life is a testament to the fundamental truth that every American can be a force for change. A restless reformer who has dedicated his career to taking on special interests and the status quo, John McCain will deliver the right kind of change and reform to meet the great challenges of our time. On Tuesday, the convention program will underscore his vision of a government that is transparent, principled and worthy of the American people it serves.
Speakers will include:

-Former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani
-Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (Ark.)
-Former Gov. Tom Ridge (Pa.)
-Gov. Sarah Palin (Alaska)
-Gov. Jon Huntsman (Utah)
-Rosario Marin, California Secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency and former Treasurer of the United States
-Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.)
-Gov. Linda Lingle (Hawaii)
-Former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (Md.)

Wednesday, Sept. 3
"America's best days are still to come."
--Sen. John McCain

The American story is one of perseverance. Even in the face of tough times, the ingenuity and spirit of the American people has ushered in a new era of prosperity. Wednesday's program will focus on John McCain's plans to get our economy back on track and continue our long tradition of meeting the challenges we face and using our prosperity to help others. The day will conclude with an address by the vice presidential nominee.

Speakers will include:
-U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman (Minn.)
-Meg Whitman, National Co-Chair for McCain 2008 and former President and CEO of eBay
-Carly Fiorina, Victory '08 Chairman for the Republican National Committee and former Chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co.
-Former Gov. Mitt Romney (Mass.)
-Mrs. Cindy McCain
-Gov. Bobby Jindal (La.)
-Republican Party's Vice Presidential Nominee

Thursday, Sept. 4
"Our next president will have a mandate to build an enduring global peace on the foundations of freedom, security, opportunity, prosperity, and hope."
--Sen. John McCain

John McCain understands the challenges that America faces in the world and the sacrifice necessary to defend our freedom in a way that few others can fathom. Thursday's events will reflect his vision of an America in pursuit of peace and seen as a beacon of goodwill and hope throughout the world. The evening will close with John McCain accepting the Republican Party's nomination for the Presidency of the United States.

Speakers will include:
-Gov. Tim Pawlenty (Minn.)
-Gov. Charlie Crist (Fla.)
-U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (Kan.)
-U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez (Fla.)
-John McCain

In the coming days, the 2008 Republican National Convention will announce additional speakers and program details.

NE: Terry +9

It was a sign of nervous Republicans when Rep. Lee Terry suggested he would win re-election because of "Obama-Terry voters." The Nebraska Republican leads a new poll conducted for his Democratic rival and posted first by Swing State Project, but he may have been right: In one of just two states that awards part of its electoral vote haul by Congressional District, Barack Obama is running just four points behind John McCain.

The poll, conducted by Anzalone Liszt Research for businessman Jim Esch, surveyed 600 likely voters between 7/27-8/2 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Terry and Esch were tested, along with Obama and McCain.

General Election Matchup

Generic GOPer......42
Generic Dem..........37


At first glance, the numbers should worry Republicans; it's a close race two years after Esch finished about ten points behind Terry and four years after President Bush beat John Kerry by 22. But the Omaha-based district leans Republican, and the GOP is leading all three matchups. Terry is under the 50% mark, but he's still well ahead.

National Democrats have yet to name Esch to any of their top challengers programs, while Terry has already raised about as much as he did in the 2006 cycle. Terry doesn't have to pull a Gordon Smith and line up as close to Obama as he possibly can just yet.

AK: Parnell +2

Republicans may complain about Democratic interest groups while Democrats have it in for GOP-leaning Freedom's Watch, but the Club for Growth remains the independent organization that has influenced the most elections so far this year. A week after the Club released its first poll of the cycle, they're back with a second in the race in which they would most like to have an impact, Alaska's House contest.

The poll, taken by the Republican firm McLaughlin & Associates, surveyed 300 likely primary election voters on 8/18 for a margin of error of +/- 5.7%. Republican Rep. Don Young, Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell and State Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux were tested.

Primary Election Matchup

The Club has actively backed Parnell with advertisements slamming incumbent Young. And the poll is consistent with most other public surveys, which show both candidates in the mid-40s in a neck-and-neck contest. Polls also show Parnell running much better against likely Democratic nominee Ethan Berkowitz than would Young.

The Club for Growth can be a nuisance to national Republican leaders. In 2006, the group helped conservative Rep. Tim Walberg oust incumbent moderate Joe Schwarz in Michigan, and in 2008 helped State Senator Andy Harris beat moderate Rep. Wayne Gilchrest in Maryland. Both seats are now Democratic targets. But in Alaska, where Young looks like a sure loser in November and Parnell is in better position, Congressional Republicans have to be singing the group's praises behind closed doors.

Strategy Memo: Rumor And Innuendo

Good Wednesday morning. Politics Nation is headed to the other side of the country to scope out some hot races in the other Washington, so check back for updates from the West Coast later this week. Here's what Beltway insiders are watching today:

-- A sign of the August doldrums or a sign of a truly momentous impending decision? All anyone is talking about, and most of what Strategy Memo has been about these days, is the vice presidential picks both Barack Obama and John McCain are set to make this week. Final bets have been placed, unfounded rumors run rampant and, for Obama at least, the tension is palpable. One thing is sure: Unlike in 2000 and 2004, both candidates have succeeded admirably in keeping the decision to a tiny circle of aides and advisers, so that the picks will still be something of a surprise.

-- Yesterday, all the buzz was around Joe Biden, the Delaware Senator who finished his own presidential campaign after finishing fifth in Iowa. The foreign policy ace with a background on the Judiciary Committee as well could not have been a hotter property in the morning, and no one generated more buzz when he told reporters camped outside his house that he's "not the guy," as NBC/NJ's Mike Memoli writes. Biden tried to walk back the statement last night, but something about the way he said it made it seem more final than a standard denial (Watch the video for yourself, courtesy ABC News).

-- The hot seller today just may be Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, a long-time Obama supporter whose name sort of fell off the radar near the beginning of the selection process. Sebelius would go far toward emphasizing Obama's Kansas roots, where his mother and grandmother grew up, the New York Times said today. Too, Marc Ambinder notes that Obama's domain name and are hosted by the same company. Or is that reading too much into things?

-- Then again, would picking Sebelius bring up a serious women issue for Obama? Backers of Hillary Clinton could find the choice of a woman with less political experience as insulting as not picking the runner-up to begin with. And speaking of reading too much into things, news agencies perked up last night in Raleigh, North Carolina when Obama compared his choice to Dick Cheney: "My vice president will be a member of the executive branch, he won't be one of these fourth branches of government where he thinks he's above the law." No one expected Obama to give his veep the powers Cheney enjoys, but the two uses of the pronoun "he" suggest things might not be going Sebelius' way.

-- On the Republican side, so many rumors are swirling around John McCain's choice that we can't help but wonder if the Arizona Senator is sending so many mixed signals because he just likes watching the tidal wave of reporters run back and forth checking out every last one. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, for example, will be headed to Denver to serve as a war-room surrogate opposite the Democratic convention, the Boston Globe reported last night. Would McCain really send a veep choice to the other guy's convention? Somehow that strikes us as off. Then again, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty could also head to Denver.

-- What of reports from the Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes last week that McCain might pick a pro-choice running mate? Is that preparation for picking former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge? One GOP strategist tells The Page that the one-time head of the Department of Homeland Security is out of consideration. A stalking horse for Joe Lieberman, perhaps? Conservatives are actively working to head that off, the Washington Times reports today, even though fellow McCain confidante Lindsey Graham is pushing his fellow senator.

-- Question Of The Day: But no matter who the pick is, the presidential nominees will do their best to roll them out with carefully-planned precision. After Obama announces, his ticket will head to Springfield, Illinois by Saturday for the major introduction (How far after the announcement this comes remains an open question), while McCain is set to make his pick public at a mega-rally the day after Obama's big speech in Denver. Timing is everything, writes the LA Times' Mark Barabak, but the schedules are now condensed. Does either campaign wish it had made public its choice earlier, before the conventions?

-- Today On The Trail: Obama is in Virginia today (Hint! Hint! Rumor! Innuendo!) where he will talk about the economy at a community college in Martinsville before heading to a town hall meeting in Lynchburg. He's introduced by Mark Warner at the first event, and by Jim Webb at the second event. Notice a top Virginia surrogate who's missing? We can't help but wonder why Tim Kaine isn't on the list. McCain, meanwhile, has a town hall meeting in Las Cruses, New Mexico to attend.


Sorry for the light posting of late. We've been busy hyping up the newest addition to the RCP family, The Scorecard. The Scorecard is a joint project between yours truly and Politico's Josh Kraushaar, and it's your one-stop shop for all the news, notes and, importantly, advertisements from Congressional races around the country.

Count on Politics Nation to be your repository for all the latest live-telephone polls from around the country as we run up to Election Day, as well as your first stop in the morning for the latest round up of news and developments on the presidential campaign trail. That's right, Strategy Memo isn't going anywhere.

We don't say this enough, but thank you, readers, for joining us so faithfully. It's you all who make this election season so much fun.

So stop by The Scorecard when you can, tune in to Politics Nation on XM Radio every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. Eastern Time, and keep clicking for the cutting-edge analysis we try to deliver every day.

Strategy Memo: Waiting Is The Hardest Part

Good Tuesday morning. Just six days left to go in the Olympics, and Team USA needs to speed up that gold medal count. So far, China's Project 119 is working like a charm. Here's what Washington is watching today:

-- It's still a slow day in Washington, with the House out of session (But Republicans still on the floor talking about energy), the Senate holding a brief pro forma session and President Bush clearing brush in Crawford. The Agriculture Department releases its report on the nation's stockpile of cranberries today (Ocean Spray executives on the edge of their seats) while the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants holds a government accounting and auditing seminar. And the Tax Foundation launches CompeteUSA, a new campaign against business taxes.

-- On the presidential campaign trail, things are a little more exciting. We could be as close as 24 hours away from the announcement millions have been obsessing over for months: The identity of Barack Obama's running mate. The likely Democratic nominee will roll out his pick with an early-morning announcement to supporters, followed by a swing through key battleground states, the New York Times reports today. The decision, reached while on vacation to Hawaii and known to only a few top advisers, is unlikely to be a surprise as Obama is expected to choose someone safe and not game-changing and, therefore, risky.

-- That means the list likely boils down to Joe Biden, Tim Kaine and Evan Bayh. No shock, those three have been under consideration for months. But it's worth a final check of their pros and cons. Biden's pro is foreign policy; the president of Georgia specifically asked for the Senate Foreign Relations chairman. The con: He talks too much, and he's the definition of Washington insider. Bayh's pro is that he's a Clinton backer from a state that could be in play. The con: He's boring, and when you're trying not to be elitist, do you really want to pick a St. Albans alum named Birch Evans Bayh III? Kaine's pro is his close relationship with Obama and his status as an outsider. Then again, that's his con, too: After three years as Richmond mayor and four years in the Lieutenant Governor's mansion, followed by three years as governor, the experience issue is still a question.

-- There are good historical analogies, too: Bayh is the experienced senator from the neighboring state, a la Al Gore in 1992. Kaine is the dramatic change from the past, like Joe Lieberman in 2000 (Don't assume that means the ticket would lose; Gore led Bush most of the way). And Biden gives Obama more street cred among Washington insiders who have yet to get to know him, like Jimmy Carter's pick of Walter Mondale in 1972. Do any of those pros make one the favorite over the others? Probably not, though Bayh would appear to be the safest choice and Kaine the most risky. Do any of the cons eliminate one's chances? Again, probably not, though Kaine's experience issue and Biden's loud mouth don't do them any favors.

-- Meanwhile, John McCain is set to roll out his pick the morning of August 29, the day after the feeding frenzy that is Obama's convention acceptance speech. Mere hours after Obama's address, McCain and 10,000 of his closest friends will meet in Dayton, Ohio, Politico's Mike Allen reports today. Unlike Obama, it seems less likely that McCain has made his decision, swinging between several candidates including low risks Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty and higher-risk choices like Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge.

-- We'll save the pros and cons of the Republican ticket for another day, closer to McCain's announcement. Suffice it to say, though, that McCain's goal is to temper any sort of Obama bounce. Will a vice presidential pick on a Friday morning be enough to blunt the impact of a speech before 75,000 adoring fans? Put a different way, will a veep selection be enough to tear the eyes of the media away from a candidate McCain's team has derisively called "The One"? To be sure, McCain's choice could effectively extend the time during which all eyes are on Republicans through the weekend and into the following week's convention. But "could" and "will" are two different words, and McCain seems about as likely to swing for the fences as Obama -- which is to say, not very.

-- It must be a pleasant feeling, being forced to spend millions of dollars by a certain date. That's the situation in which John McCain finds himself, needing to burn through cash before he is officially nominated and the Federal Election Commission cuts him a fat check for $84.1 million. So McCain is doing his best to get rid of all his cash on hand, and in the process he's actually outspending Obama in virtually every key battleground state. McCain has spent more than half a million dollars more than Obama in Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Wisconsin, while Obama is outspending McCain in North Dakota and Virginia, per TPM's Greg Sargent.

-- But McCain could be running against a new candidate, as the Obama who came back from vacation is different from the Obama who left for Hawaii a week and a half ago. This Obama is ready to hit back, the Post's Murray and Weisman write, and the script has already been penned. "Just as John McCain has embraced George Bush's policies, he's embraced his politics. And the same people who brought you George Bush are now trying to package John McCain," Obama said yesterday in Albuquerque. Expect the mantra of Bush Republican to come out of the Obama campaign a lot more than it has in the past.

-- Big Picture Of The Day: Voters in the suburbs have gotten all the attention in recent years, from Soccer Moms to NASCAR Dads. There's a reason for that, though: Most Americans live in the suburbs, and key swing counties in a number of states are those in suburban areas, USA Today's Susan Page writes today. Want to win Oregon? Win Clackamas and Washington Counties, outside Portland. Want to take Nevada? Democrats need to run up big numbers, and Republicans need to mute their losses, in Clark County, around Las Vegas. There's a reason suburbs get all the attention, and their trends after this year will give clues to broader political trends.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama is in Orlando where he will address the same Veterans of Foreign Wars convention McCain addressed yesterday. He'd better speak quickly, though, as Tropical Storm Fay moves north of the Florida Keys. Fay is not expected to cause serious damage, but it won't be fun to fly through. Later tonight, Obama holds a town hall meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina. McCain is down South too, touring an oil rig in New Orleans.

OK Sen: Inhofe +9

Republican Senator James Inhofe leads his Democratic opponent, but the two-term incumbent doesn't have an overwhelming lead, according to a new poll conducted for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The survey, conducted by Benenson Strategy Group, polled 600 likely voters between 8/12-14 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Inhoff and State Senator Andrew Rice were tested.

General Election Matchup
Inhofe............50 (-3 from last, 6/08)
Rice...............41 (+8)

Inhofe's job performance numbers aren't stellar, with 46% saying he's doing an excellent or good job and 47% saying he's doing fairly or poorly. But an incumbent who reaches 50% remains in strong position. Given Inhofe's electoral history, it's not surprising that the race looks close; while Inhofe has bested his previous two opponents by a wide margin, he's never attracted the support of more than 57% of Sooner voters.

Despite Inhofe's lead, Democrats are clearly interested in the seat. The DSCC's expenditure is at least the third time Benenson has polled the Inhofe-Rice matchup for national Democrats. And because the state features inexpensive television time, relative to other states with longer-shot Democratic opportunities like North Carolina and Minnesota, national Democrats could decide that at least a few expenditures are justified.

Strategy Memo: Back On Top(ic)

Good Monday morning. We're back from our mini-break, and with a week to go before the Democratic National Conventions, we're expecting a busy stretch run to November. Here's what Washington is watching today:

-- We didn't miss much last week, save an international crisis that could have a lasting impact on the presidential contest. With Russian troops apparently pulling out of disputed Georgian territories under a ceasefire negotiated by France and the U.S., full-blown and uncontrollable war has been averted, for the moment. But the skirmish did have an impact; it forced John McCain and Barack Obama's campaigns off message, and off the economy, for a whole week. In the end, that helped McCain a lot more than it hurt.

-- As Russian tanks and troops marched into South Ossetia, McCain's warnings about Moscow's intentions came flooding back, and his strong statements all week gave a glimpse into his approach to a foreign crisis as president. That's something a candidate can only hope to give voters, and McCain's authority on the subject, his knowledge of the area and his history of caution about Russia served him well. Too, it refocused the debate from the economy to foreign policy, at least in the minds of the editorial columnists at the major papers, and therefore off a McCain weakness toward a McCain strength.

-- For Obama, the Georgia crisis was also a positive, in that it gave the campaign a chance to learn without screwing up. Consider it a test run: Their candidate was on vacation, through a fault only of bad timing. Their candidate issued a series of statements on the matter, taking an increasingly harsh tone toward Russia. And their candidate got the chance to make contact with the embattled country's president, Mikhail Saakashvili. The next time there's a foreign crisis that could be a game-changer in a bigger way than the Georgian conflict -- and each campaign has contingency plans for such events -- the Obama campaign will have at least some experience, and will be able to react forcefully either way.

-- That test may be at hand already: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has resigned ahead of impeachment proceedings that would have stripped the leader of his office, the New York Times writes this morning. Nine years after taking power in a coup, and after ushering his country into the nuclear club, Musharraf denied wrongdoing but handed power to a coalition of parties who will choose his successor. Both Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir Bhutto's widower, and Nawaz Sharif, the head of state Musharraf deposed almost a decade ago, are considered contenders. Whether either would be as strong an American ally as Musharraf is unlikely, while the kind of control they would assert over tribal territories on the western border also remains to be seen.

-- How would McCain or Obama approach a new Pakistani leadership? The country has nukes along with 165 million people, not all of whom are major fans of the U.S. Too, both McCain and Obama have promised to track down Osama bin Laden (McCain says he'll follow bin Laden "to the gates of hell"), and as likely as not the al Qaeda leader is on the Pakistan side of the border with Afghanistan at any given time. How much pressure would they exert? How far would they go inside Pakistan's borders? It's an issue over which the two skirmished in February, with McCain accusing Obama of willingness to bomb the allied nation without their permission. Watch the issue come up in a debate focused on foreign policy in the coming months.

-- The big winner in the recent focus on Georgia and Pakistan: Joe Biden. Every other top vice presidential contender was on television this weekend except the Delaware Senator, who spent his time on his way to Georgia to meet with top leaders, the Times' John Broder writes. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman joined colleages Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman -- McCain supporters, both -- in the country over the weekend. The difference, though, is that Saakashvili actually invited Biden by name, making his stock in the vice presidential sweepstakes shoot through the roof. If voters aren't happy with Obama's lack of foreign policy experience, he could do a lot worse than picking the guy who chairs the committee.

-- Both candidates had events scheduled for Florida today, and at least some of those on the daily lineup will get the ax as Tropical Storm Fay swirls towards the Sunshine State. Florida Governor Charlie Crist warned that hurricane experts expected the storm to hit the Keys and the state's west coast by tomorrow, causing both candidates to alter their plans. Still, with McCain on this commander in chief kick, he took advantage of the situation, forgoing a fundraiser and receiving a briefing on the storm instead, the AP's Phil Elliott writes. That's another nice contrast McCain can draw, and not with his general election opponent: This time, McCain's briefing could say to some, the president will actually pay attention to a hurricane.

-- Disturbing Trend Of The Day: Republicans in Congress have purged many of their moderates. Now it's Democrats' turn, as some, especially in the online community, begin to campaign against the very moderates who provide the party with their Congressional majority. One group, Blue America, has spent $100,000 and will double that before the election against Democratic freshman Chris Carney in Pennsylvania; they also spent serious cash against Rep. John Barrow in Georgia, with ambitious plans to take out Majority Leader Steny Hoyer in 2010, the Wall Street Journal writes. Of those three, only Hoyer represents a district that would likely stay in Democratic hands if the incumbent lost, assuming a good Republican candidate were to run. What a good way to lose a majority.

-- Today On The Trail: McCain is still in Florida, where he will address a convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars in Orlando. Obama, in his first post-vacation weekday back on the trail, is in New Mexico for a discussion on the economy and a town hall meeting with voters in Albuquerque. President Bush is at the ranch in Crawford, while Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez meets the presidents of Guatemala, Colombia and El Salvador in Atlanta.

NC 08: Hayes +10

Republican Rep. Robin Hayes won his re-election bid in 2006 by just over 300 votes, but this time he could be in better shape against the same Democratic opponent, a new poll conducted for his campaign shows. With Barack Obama seriously competing in the Tar Heel State, though, the district that gave President Bush a nine-point margin in 2004 looks like it will be another close race.

The poll, conducted for Hayes' campaign and the National Republican Congressional Committee by Public Opinion Strategies, surveyed 400 likely voters between 8/4-5 for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Hayes and teacher and businessman Larry Kissell, the Democratic nominee, were tested.

General Election Matchup


Hayes retains a good favorable rating, with 51% of the district seeing him in a positive light and 20% viewing him negatively, while Kissell has a ways to go to build his name recognition; just 14% have a favorable impression of the Democrat while 11% see him unfavorably.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is expected to deliver aid to Kissell this year, having reserved a whopping $1.6 million in ad time already. In 2006, the committee didn't spend significantly in the district, an error the party regretted when the race ended in such a narrow loss for Kissell.

NJ: All Tied Up

The contest between Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg and Republican ex-Rep. Dick Zimmer is neck and neck, according to a new poll sponsored by the conservative anti-tax group Club for Growth. It's no surprise coming out of the Garden State, though, where voters never seem to make up their mind until the very end of an election, though Democrats backing Lautenberg take serious issue with the poll.

Conducted by the Republican firm Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates, the surveyed 400 likely voters between 7/30-31 for a margin of error of +/- 4.3%. Lautenberg and Zimmer were tested, along with five other minor party candidates. The sample breakdown was 41% Democratic voters, 25% Republicans and 34% independents or others.

General Election Matchup

The incumbent's favorable ratings would look bad in most states, but in New Jersey, where most incumbents are unpopular, Lautenberg's 46% favorable to 39% unfavorable rating isn't bad. Zimmer is seen favorably by 23% of New Jersey voters, while 14% see him unfavorably.

The Club for Growth poll comes two days after a Quinnipiac University survey showed Lautenberg leading by seven points, with a significantly smaller pool of undecided voters.

Democrats suggest the poll oversamples certain Republican-heavy areas while undersampling Democratic turf. Too, one might question the survey's question order; respondents are asked a total of eleven questions before the Senate matchup in the Club's poll, while respondents are asked just a screening question before the Senate matchup in the Quinnipiac poll.

CO: Udall +6

Democratic Rep. Mark Udall maintains his healthy, but slim, lead over Republican ex-Rep. Bob Schaffer, a new independent poll shows. But both candidates are well under the crucial 50% mark, as they have been virtually all year, making some wonder whether both candidates might not be too far to one side or the other for Colorado.

The poll, conducted for the Rocky Mountain News and CBS4 Denver by Public Opinion Strategies, surveyed 500 registered voters 8/11-13 for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Udall, Schaffer, independent candidate Buddy Moore and Green Party nominee Bob Kinsey were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Ind)
Udall..............44 / 34
Schaffer.......38 / 33
Moore.............5 / 12
Kinsey............2 / --

Udall has a big 14-point lead among women and trails among men by just three, according to the News' write-up. And, as further evidence of Colorado's changing political landscape, the candidates are approximately tied on the Western Slope, previously a Republican bastion that is now represented by Democrat John Salazar.

But Schaffer should be pleased that he trails by a single point among independent voters. Still, the way this race is going, it is telling that so many independents haven't picked a candidate yet: Both Udall and Schaffer are trying to convince voters their opponent is too far out of the mainstream, and in the early part of the race, both may have succeeded.

A word on methodology: Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican firm based in Northern Virginia, has a satellite office in Denver. To ensure the survey can be judged as an independent poll instead of a Republican-leaning one, Democratic firm RBI Strategies consulted on the poll's design and analysis of the data. Both companies are among the top recommended by strategists in their respective parties.

Strategy Memo: Langiappe

Good Friday morning. It's our last day of vacation, so apologies if the posting is a little light. If you're intent on watching Sunday shows this weekend, Face The Nation is the place to be, with interviews with vice presidential front-runners Tim Pawlenty and Evan Bayh. Two other top veep hopefuls, Tim Kaine and Tom Ridge, will hit Meet The Press and Fox News Sunday, respectively.

John McCain got good news yesterday when the Federal Election Commission ruled he did not break any laws in unilaterally withdrawing from public financing earlier this year, ending a Democratic lawsuit over the matter. And both McCain and Barack Obama join Pastor Rick Warren at his Saddleback Church tomorrow for a forum on faith.

Today On The Trail: There is no trail. Both Obama and McCain have an empty schedule today, before tomorrow's event in Lake Forest, California.

Strategy Memo: Judicial Review

Good Wednesday morning. If no one else is going to write it, we will: The referees and judges in a number of sports, from basketball to soccer to diving to gymnastics, are killing us. Are they watching the same games we are?

Whose idea was it to wait so late for vice presidential picks? Should the operating theory be that the picks have been made and that timing is the only issue? And no matter what he says, Colin Powell is still having trouble shooting down Bill Kristol-spread rumors that he will show up in Denver to endorse Barack Obama.

Today On The Trail: John McCain is in Colorado today, where he sits down with Aspen Institute CEO and author Walter Isaacson. Meanwhile, President Bush spends part of his morning at CIA headquarters in Langley, where he will be briefed on progress in the war on terror and on the situation in Georgia.

The Mighty, Falling

Once a power player on the national Republican scene, the mighty Ralph Reed, formerly of the Christian Coalition, has seen his stature plummet. Reed, who lost a primary for Lieutenant Governor in 2006, is even seeing his name displayed in a new context by the Associated Press.

"Figure in Abramoff scandal raises money for McCain," the AP's Charles Babington heads today.

Emails between Reed and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff shed light on some of Abramoff's shady dealings with several organizations.

AL: Bright +10

No matter who wins a southern Alabama seat held by retiring Republican Terry Everett, Montgomery has a good chance to keep Everett's seats on two prominent committees. Both parties have said their candidates, Democratic Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright and Republican State Senator Jay Love, will get slots on the Armed Services and Agriculture Committees should they come to Congress.

A new poll, conducted by Capital Survey Research Center, shows Bright maintains the early lead. Conducted 8/6-7, the poll surveyed 505 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Both Bright and Love were tested among a sample made up of 35% Democrats, 31% Republicans and 34% independents and those who prefer other parties.

General Election Matchup

The poll mirrors results from a survey taken for Bright's campaign last week, which also showed the Democrat leading by ten points. But Republicans say the poll is skewed towards Democrats, given that Capital Survey Research Center also conducts polls for the Democratic-leaning Alabama Education Association. The head of the company, former Auburn University Political Science Department chief Dr. Gerald Johnson, dismisses GOP complaints and points to his long track record.

No matter whether Love or Bright wins the seat, neither will be able to recoup Everett's seniority any time soon. The retiring Republican is the second-ranking Republican on the Agriculture Committee and the fourth-ranking member of the GOP on Armed Services. Everett is also the second-ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee.

Democrats hand out their committee assignments through Steering Committee recommendations, which are ratified by the full caucus. It is rare that a Steering Committee recommendation is overturned by the caucus.

For Republicans, the Steering Committee has the final say over committee assignments. While a vote on Love's appointments isn't a guarantee of getting either seat, Minority Leader John Boehner's endorsement is a strong indication that Love would get both seats.

Strategy Memo: Yes, Virginia

Good Wednesday morning. Day three of Strategy Memo's mini-vacation and we feel recharged already. Virginia Senate candidate Mark Warner has been named the keynoter at the Democratic National Convention, which is driving some news this morning.

Warner was once considered a potential candidate for president in 2008, but he decided against a run before the race really kicked off. Still, he could be a potential future candidate. Consider the convention keynoter in 2004, a state senator named Barack Obama, or a spotlighted speaker (albeit not the keynoter) in 1988, Bill Clinton.

Today On The Trail: John McCain is in Livonia, Michigan, just west of Detroit, to tour an aerospace and defense company. Later, he heads to Birmingham, in crucial Oakland County, for a press availability. Obama is relaxing on a Hawaiian beach, while President Bush participates in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the White House before meeting Sameer Mishra, champion of the 2008 National Spelling Bee.

What Clinton's Crash Can Teach Us

It is simplistic to say that Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign was done in simply by constant in-fighting and egos that could fill the Beltway. In a broad look at the rise and fall of the most inevitable and anticipated campaign in modern history, Joshua Green's research shows the campaign's strategies could have worked, if only the pieces fell into place. But to manage a campaign the size of a small Fortune 500 company is a feat in itself, a feat only made more difficult when ego gets in the way.

In his sweeping look at the campaign, The Atlantic's Green parsed internal emails and strategy memos to find out exactly what went wrong. As future candidates on both sides of the aisle prepare to mount bids for the highest office in the land, the failed campaign of Hillary Clinton offers all several important lessons by which to live.

1) Who's the boss? Mark Penn, Harold Ickes, Mandy Grunwald and Howard Wolfson lunged at each others' necks as often as possible, swearing at each other on conference calls and leaking rumors that one or the other was moments from being sent packing. At critical times, it was Clinton who stepped in to stop the fighting, and to give the marching orders.

On a political campaign, any number of advisers can offer strategy, claim credit and try to avoid blame. But the person in charge is the candidate him- or herself. When required, Clinton forced action, and it often served her campaign well. The problem was that by the time it was required, action was often too late. Staff also has to learn a lesson: They're there to elect the candidate first. When the campaign wins, everyone gets at least some credit. When it loses, everyone gets at least some blame.

2) Watch Out For The Icarus Effect. As Barack Obama begins to get criticism for his supposed hubris, the Icarus analogy -- comparing the candidate to the Greek figure who flew too close to the sun with wings held together by wax -- has cropped up with increasing frequency. Clinton, though, got there first. At one point polling above 50% among the primary electorate (No candidate who reached the halfway mark had ever lost a nomination), Clinton's slipping support gave rise to a new round of stories questioning whether she might lose.

Clinton's strategists believed John Edwards or Barack Obama could have survived losing Iowa or New Hampshire. It was their candidate, they thought, who would be most damaged by a loss. With the aura of inevitability comes the pressure of expected perfection; one loss, and Clinton the Powerful was Clinton the Mortal. If any future campaign has the choice to claim the front-runner mantle, the lesson from the Clinton campaign is clear: Run away, and no matter one's position in the polls, claim the underdog role. It was a lesson the campaign learned too late; by the end of the primaries, both Clinton and Obama were claiming to be racing to catch up.

3) Identity politics. Chief strategist Penn wrote early in the campaign that race would not be a factor. He was wrong, as African American voters first in South Carolina and then around the country demonstrated. But Clinton always had her own identity problems, to the point of what Green calls "paralyzing schizophrenia." Is she the tough fighter hell-bent against apologizing for her vote on the war in Iraq, or the sympathetic figure who wants invisible Americans to be heard?

John McCain won the primary as John McCain (Though arguably the Arizona senator veered right after securing the nod). Few Americans knew Barack Obama, allowing him to define his own personage to primary voters (Something he is struggling to do now with general election voters). But everyone knew Hillary Clinton, and early polls showed most voters in Iowa thought she was the best potential leader, the strongest and most experienced candidate; they just didn't like her.

Instead of being one thing to one set of voters and another to those in a different state, Clinton should have, like the other two, stuck with a theme throughout. Her successful appeals to working class voters in the final contests, from Ohio to Texas to Pennsylvania and others, was the right strategy aimed at the right slice of the electorate. It just didn't come soon enough.

4) Plan for the worst, hope for the best. Perhaps the biggest cause of Clinton's stunning collapse came as the campaign realized that, after Iowa, it was out of money. Clinton raised more than $100 million through 2007, but had blown through virtually all of it after Iowa Democrats caucused. Harold Ickes, the long-time party stalwart who single-handedly fought a losing campaign of his own to get other Clintonites to pay attention to delegate selection rules, also argued for a significant $25 million reserve fund. Neither of Ickes' warnings were heeded, and instead the campaign spent so freely in advance of what it saw as the February 5 end date -- another prediction that didn't turn out right.

John Kerry was lambasted in 2004 for retaining millions in his campaign account after losing a narrow election to President Bush. And Clinton, to her campaign's credit, won just about every contest the media dubbed crucial to her campaign -- from New Hampshire to California to Ohio and on to Indiana, though never taking a big enough majority of delegates to blunt Obama's early lead. But for a campaign based on firewalls, they had remarkably few resources with which to back them up.

The lesson any future strategist has to recall from the Clinton campaign's broken finances, then, is to spend every nickel one has to, and keep something in the tank for a last stand. For Kerry, that last stand was Election Day. Clinton's tactical mistake was assuming her last stand would be February 5. And while the Obama campaign long planned a delegate fight that could last to June, Ickes' delegate selection warnings went unheeded.

Clinton claimed more votes than anyone in Democratic primary history. But that's as good as Al Gore having won the popular vote. Ickes knew the fight wasn't over popular votes, just like any kid who's taken civics knows the general election isn't about the popular vote. In the primary, the race is for delegates. In the general, the race is for electoral votes.

5) Call 'em like you see 'em. The media has slipped into Obama-mania several times during the campaign, to the point at which every other candidate has complained. Sometimes, the media even takes note, engages in some serious omphaloskepsis and reassesses its approach to the Illinois Senator. That has produced the likely Democratic nominee's most memorably difficult weeks on the campaign trail.

McCain's campaign is the most recent to have successfully goaded the media into taking another look at Obama. The fawning press coverage of the Democrat's overseas trip, followed by a McCain attack ad equating Obama with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears turned into a new storyline that Obama has become too much of a celebrity. Clinton's campaign, with the help of a late February Saturday Night Live skit, caused a similar re-evaluation and similar bad press for Obama a week before his March 4 defeats in Ohio and Texas.

Both times, McCain and Clinton were hammered for their purported negativity and whining. But both times, what the opinion writers said turned into incorrect conventional wisdom. Faced with a candidate who gets overwhelming positive press in the future, a rival should not be shy about complaining, but, like Clinton and McCain, in a somewhat humorous way.

Clinton's slow, steady, decade and a half-long rise to the top of Democratic politics was punctuated by a decline that took just over a month. It won't save Hillary's political future, but strategists might salvage information from that crash in order to prevent something similar from happening to them.

NJ: Lautenberg +7

New Jersey voters generally have trouble making up their minds until the end of an election season. But a new poll shows the overwhelming majority of Garden State voters have their favored candidates in a Senate race that pits incumbent Frank Lautenberg against former Rep. Dick Zimmer.

The Quinnipiac University poll, conducted 8/4-10, surveyed 1,468 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 2.6%. Lautenberg and Zimmer were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Lautenberg......48 / 79 / 12 / 42 / 45 / 51 (+1 from last, 6/11)
Zimmer.............41 / 12 / 80 / 44 / 46 / 36 (+3)

Lautenberg holds big leads among urban and suburban voters, while Zimmer keeps it close by blowing out the incumbent in he exurbs. Zimmer, who represented a district in the middle of the state that included Trenton, will need to boost his support in three Republican-held districts that contain parts of the Philadelphia suburbs, where he trails by five points.

Both candidates have net favorable ratings, though Lautenberg's 43% favorable to 35% unfavorable is not extremely healthy for an incumbent (46% approve of Lautenberg's job performance, while 38% disapprove). And Zimmer has name identification problems, with just 25% of New Jersey voters seeing him favorably and 12% viewing him unfavorably; 62% of voters have not heard enough to make up their mind.

Garden State voters are also worried about Lautenberg's age. The Senator's primary opponent, Rep. Rob Andrews, ran advertisements pointing out that Lautenberg would be 90 years old once his term is up, and while Andrews couldn't win, 55% of voters still say Lautenberg, at 84, is too old to effectively serve in the Senate. If Zimmer can somehow make that argument without insulting older voters, he could cut into Lautenberg's lead.

AK: Parnell +4

Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell is ahead of Republican Don Young just two weeks before Alaska's primary, a new poll conducted for his campaign shows. With the state's primary just two weeks away, the first-term Lieutenant Governor looks like he's in good position to knock off the seventeen-term incumbent.

The poll, conducted for Parnell's campaign by Maryland-based Basswood Research, surveyed 300 likely voters on 8/5 for a margin of error of +/- 5.7%. Young, Parnell and State Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux were tested.

General Election Matchup

One-day polls are seen as less reliable than surveys conducted over several days, and the small sample size means Parnell's four-point lead is statistically insignificant. But to be an incumbent who trails his opponent and is under 50% with such a short amount of time left before the primary is to be in terrible political position. The poll comes after the release of another survey with a smaller sample showed Young leading by a small margin.

Strategy Memo: Rock Out

Good Tuesday morning. Strategy Memo is on vacation this week. We're bringing you a quick list of the candidates' whereabouts, and we'll be back with full analysis on Monday.

Meanwhile, check out John McCain's and Barack Obama's top ten favorite songs as reported by Blender Magazine, and realize just how out of touch both candidates are. Obama picks the wrong Kanye and Springsteen songs, and while McCain gets points for the Louis Armstrong shout-out, the two ABBA songs are almost indefensible.

Today On The Trail: McCain has a town hall meeting scheduled for York, Pennsylvania, before fundraising later this evening in Teaneck, New Jersey. In between, he will sit down with Fox News for an interview to air on Special Report tonight. Obama takes time off his vacation for his only campaign event of the week, a fundraiser at a swank Hawaiian resort.

DNC Narrows The Field

Did the Democratic National Committee just acknowledge that Hillary Clinton has no chance to become vice president? In announcing themes for each of the four nights of the party's late August gathering in Denver, the party tapped Clinton to deliver the keynote address on the second night, while the vice presidential pick will make his or her acceptance speech on the third night, Wednesday.

Two different people on two different nights, writes Politicker's James Pindell, necessarily means Clinton is out of the sweepstakes. Sure, we already knew that, but it's still funny that the DNC would make the announcement.

Potential First Lady Michelle Obama will give her speech to the convention on Monday night, while Barack Obama will accept the presidential nomination in a speech at Invesco Field on Thursday, the final night of the convention.

Clinton delivering the keynote speech again highlights the tightness of the Democratic race. Usually, the keynote is reserved for a party's rising star, not someone long established as a political force in her own right. But with Clinton supporters still making noise about wanting respect in Denver, anything less than the top speaking gig would have further incited intra-party riots.

Those who give major addresses to the convention have gone on to take a shot at higher offices themselves. Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton gave a long-winded (thirty-two minute) speech on the 1988 convention's opening night. Then-Indiana Governor Evan Bayh, who Clinton himself said would likely be president some day, keynoted the 1996 convention. Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford addressed the 2000 convention in the keynote role six years before he ran, though unsuccessfully, for Senate.

In 2004, a convention speech even launched a future presidential bid, as Obama himself delivered a rousing address that many credit with vaulting him to the top of national Democrats' minds. So it is somehow ironic that, four years later, it will be a party elder, rather than the new generation, delivering the highlighted speech of the convention.

AK: Berk, Young Lead

A month before the primary, Alaska Rep. Don Young holds a narrow lead in the Republican nomination battle while former State Rep. Ethan Berkowitz has a big lead on the Democratic side. As Young's popularity plummets, that's the best outcome Democrats can hope for, according to general election matchups.

The survey, conducted by Ivan Moore Research, a Democratic firm that has not worked for Berkowitz this year, polled 505 likely voters between 7/18-22 for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%, with oversamples of 284 who say they will vote in the Democratic primary (+/- 5.8%) and 250 who plan to vote in the Republican primary (+/- 6.2%). The total sample was made up of 31% Republicans, 18% Democrats and 51% others and independents.

Young, Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell and State Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux were tested among the Republican sample, while Berkowitz, 2006 nominee Diane Benson and retiree Don Wright were tested on the Democratic side. Wright was also tested as an independent candidate.

Primary Election Matchups


General Election Matchups


Positive/Negative View
Berkowitz........50 / 18
Parnell..............47 / 15
Young..............41 / 52
Benson............36 / 17
LeDoux............16 / 15

The same poll showed Democratic Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich leading Republican Senator Ted Stevens by an eight-point margin, just a week before Stevens was indicted on seven felony charges (Moore polled again just after Stevens was indicted, showing Begich's lead growing to 21 points).

Strategy Memo: Vacation Time

A brief programming note: With Barack Obama on vacation and the Congress out of session until the second week of September, Strategy Memo is taking a week off to prepare for the conventions and the final sprint toward November.

Politics Nation will continue posting, and each morning we'll let you know where John McCain is headed that day. So join us each morning for all the Congressional and Senate news you can stomach, and Strategy Memo will be back and ready for action next week.

Today On The Trail: McCain is campaigning with former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, where he will tour a General Electric plant in Erie. Earlier, McCain will make a statement to the press about the growing conflict between Georgia and Russia.

Obama Offers First Peek

Want to be the first to know who Barack Obama chooses as his vice presidential contender? Just surf on over to his website and sign up with your cell phone. In an email to supporters tonight, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe offers supporters the opportunity to get the news via email or cell phone text message "the moment Barack makes his decision."

"Barack Obama is about to make one of the most important decisions of this campaign -- choosing a running mate," Plouffe writes to supporters in a Sunday evening email. "You have helped build this movement from the bottom up, and Barack wants you to be the first to know his choice."

Obama's campaign sought cell phone numbers via text message during the primary (Lucky for his campaign, the guy's last name has five letters, the number needed for special text-only lines). Once Election Day comes around, the campaign can contact voters less likely to head to the polls via their cell phones to boost turnout.

The offer highlights another aspect Obama's campaign thinks will help them win, the enthusiasm gap. Polls have showed voters backing Obama, especially younger voters, are much more excited about their candidate than voters backing John McCain. Interest in every aspect of Obama's campaign, including interest in and speculation about the vice presidential choice, is higher than ever.

So, does the email mean the vice presidential pick is imminent? Of course, Obama's on vacation this week, and the Olympics would take at least some of the attention away from the pick. But speculation that Obama spent part of the the end of last week in Chicago to deal with the vice presidential pick could mean the vacation is time for the Senator to settle on his choice.

Does anyone know what's on Evan Bayh's and Tim Kaine's calendar for the next few weeks?

AL: Dueling Polls

According to two new polls released in Alabama, Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright and State Senator Jay Love lead their respective races for Congress. The two polls make the situation clear as mud because both Bright, a Democrat, and Love, a Republican, are their party's nominees in the race for the same seat, held by retiring Rep. Terry Everett.

Love's poll, conducted by Republican firm McLaughlin & Associates, surveyed 300 likely voters between 7/21-22 for a margin of error of +/- 5.7%. Bright and Love were tested.

General Election Matchup

Generic GOP.........48
Generic Dem.........34


Love's poll shows Republicans John McCain and Governor Bob Riley are hugely popular in the district, with favorable ratings of 63% and 70% respectively. National Democrats Nancy Pelosi (19% favorable to 49% unfavorable) and Barack Obama (39% to 47%) have upside down ratings.

Bright's poll tells a much different story. The poll, conducted by Democratic firm Anzalone Liszt Research, surveyed 400 likely voters between 8/3-6 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Bright and State Senator Jay Love, the Republican nominee, were tested.

General Election Matchup

The district is more conservative than both Rep. Don Cazayoux's Louisiana seat and Rep. Travis Childers' Mississippi seat, which Democrats won in special elections earlier this year. The district gave President Bush a two-to-one margin in 2004, and Everett never had a problem carrying during his eight terms in Congress.

Bright, mayor of a city that comprises a significant portion of the district, has a strong 63% favorable rating compared with just 16% who see him unfavorably in his own poll. Bright and Love each have strong name recognition around the district, with four in five voters recognizing the Democrat and three in four recognizing his Republican opponent.

It is no coincidence that Anzalone Liszt is polling for Bright. The firm, based in Alabama, conducted polls for both Cazayoux and Childers, and their client roster is heavy on Democrats in the South who are sticking closely to an economic script that has so far proven effective this year. On the other hand, trying to tie Bright to Obama and Pelosi might not prove effective for Love. An internal audit of those two special elections, in which Republicans attempted to make the same ties, found those tactics didn't work.

CA 26: Dreier +12

California Rep. David Dreier leads by a healthy margin in a poll conducted for his Democratic opponent, but the fourteen-term incumbent did not break the 50% mark, giving businessman Russ Warner at least a chance to make a competitive race in the Rancho Cucamonga-based district.

The poll, conducted for Warner's campaign by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, surveyed 400 likely voters between 7/15-16 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Dreier and Warner were tested.

General Election Matchup


Dreier could worry about his future given that Obama is running so close to McCain in a district that gave President Bush an eleven-point margin. Hispanic voters are becoming a larger part of the district's population, and down the line Democrats could play here.

Still, Dreier won with 54% in 2004 and with 57% in 2006, and his job approval rating is still a healthy 45% to 33% who disapprove. Warner has a ways to go, especially given that even after respondents were given information about both candidates, Dreier still led by a 47%-44% margin.

Cohen Beats Tinker, Racial Tension

Rep. Steve Cohen, who won just 31% of the primary vote in a crowded field in 2006, beat former Congressional aide and attorney Nikki Tinker by a 79%-19% margin to retain the Democratic nomination in Tennessee's Ninth District. In the Memphis-based seat where about 60% of the population is African American, a white Jewish Democrat winning a second term by such a vast margin came as a surprise to many.

Tinker, who is African American, went on the attack late in the campaign, using language and images in advertisements that invoked the Ku Klux Klan and toed other racial lines. But Cohen, a former State Senator and local official for three decades, confidently predicted victory all along, and turned some of the attacks back against Tinker.

Too, Cohen had a record he could claim helped his African American constituents. After being denied entry to the Congressional Black Caucus last year, Cohen pursued a resolution in the House apologizing for slavery, seeing it pass the House just before adjournment for August recess.

But race still played a role in the contest. After an advertisement, which hit Cohen for failing to vote to remove a statue of Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest (Cohen said the board on which he sat, a planning commission, had no jurisdiction over the matter) and another that could be construed as attacking Cohen for being Jewish, even Tinker supporters started making noise.

Tinker had been endorsed by EMILY's List, the prominent Democratic group that backs pro-choice women, but on the day of the primary, the organization rolled out six new endorsements instead of focusing completely on their candidate in Tennessee. "We were shocked to see the recent ads run by the Nikki Tinker for Congress campaign. We believe the ads are offensive and divisive," said the group's president, Ellen Malcolm, in a statement to The Scorecard. "EMILY's List does not condone or support these types of attacks."

Barack Obama and Harold Ford Jr., neither of whom got involved in the contest between Cohen and Tinker, issued statements yesterday as well. "These incendiary and personal attacks have no place in our politics, and will do nothing to help the good people of Tennessee," Obama said in a statement.

"Whenever race, religion or gender is invoked in a political contest, it generally means the candidate has run out of legitimate arguments for why he/she should be elected," added Ford in his own statement, who represented the district in Congress before his failed run for Senate in 2006. Ford's rebuke was particularly stinging for Tinker: The former congressman, whose family had held the seat since 1974, helped Tinker get her start in politics, hiring her as his campaign manager.

The seat gave John Kerry 70% of the vote in 2004 and is the state's strongest Democratic-performing seat, virtually guaranteeing Cohen a second term even with three independent candidates on the ballot.

Strategy Memo: Bucking Trends

Good Friday morning. It's the day Beijing residents have been waiting for since July 2001, when the International Olympic Committee awarded the city the twenty-ninth modern Olympiad. It's also the day we start learning more about badminton (Bet on the Danes and the Chinese) and fencing (USA! USA!) than we ever thought possible. Here's what Washington is watching on the last day before we all sink slowly into Olympic fever:

-- The Senate holds today its biweekly (almost) pro forma session to prevent President Bush from making any recess appointments, ironically staying in session even as House Republicans kick off day six of their protest to force Democrats in the lower chamber to return to office. President Bush and other world leaders attended a social lunch with Chinese President Hu Jintao today, and attended the opening ceremonies, which continue as this is published. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez is hard at work raising money for Republicans in separate events in Oregon, California, Nevada and New Mexico.

-- Before we get to the presidential trail, Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen yesterday fended off a challenge from former Congressional aide Nikki Tinker by a surprisingly large four-to-one margin, as Josh reported on The Scorecard. In a contest marked by a surprising turn toward racism and borderline anti-Semitism, Cohen, who is white and Jewish, retained the Democratic nomination in a majority-African American district based around Memphis. More on this race later, but suffice it to say apparently invoking the Ku Klux Klan doesn't always work as a negative ad.

-- Meanwhile, the notion of what roles Hillary and Bill Clinton will play at the convention is starting to clear up, writes the New York Times' Katharine Seelye, as both the Clintons and Barack Obama's campaign rush to throw water on any rumors of a continued rift between the nominee and the runner-up. A public draft of the Democratic National Committee platform released yesterday cited Clinton's historic run for the presidency, and Clinton will be speaking in what has often been the keynote slot.

-- Now the former president is being invited in, NBC's Andrea Mitchell reported last night, handed a speaking slot on the convention's Wednesday evening, a day after his wife and right before the vice presidential nominee hits the stage. Clinton will speak, according to sources who talked to Mitchell, giving Democrats two chances to see the former First Couple and Obama two chances to placate the two who could be a thorn in his side or a benefit to his campaign, depending on how they act.

-- A story in yesterday's Washington Post suggesting some Democrats think Obama needs to hit back hard got party strategists all over the country in nothing short of a full-blown tizzy, as elders fear a repeat of close but losing elections in 2000 and 2004. Particularly insistent in a loud response is Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairman Chuck Schumer, who offered advice in an interview with Politico's Ben Smith. Praising McCain's ad hitting Obama as a celebrity, Schumer would take McCain to task: "What do you mean he's not one of us? It's John McCain who wears $500 shoes, has six houses, and comes from one of the richest families in his state," the New York Senator said.

-- Speaking of John McCain's advertisement and the close contest for president, we've seen two big examples of when the conventional wisdom has been wrong in recent weeks. Thanks to the blanket media coverage, most thought Obama's trip to Europe and the Middle East couldn't help but be a success; he never made a misstep, he hit the photo opportunities perfectly, and he got help from as high up as French President Nicolas Sarkozy. But polls never reflected any serious bounce that lasted more than two days or so, and national numbers remain tight.

-- The speech in front of a crowd of 200,000 in Berlin led McCain to mock Obama as the country's biggest celebrity in an advertisement that has gotten more air time than virtually any other ad of the campaign. But the ad was panned by Republican strategists and McCain's own former advisers, and widely seen as a misfired shot. Two weeks later, former Senator Tom Daschle and Schumer both say the ad was effective, bucking conventional wisdom once again and establishing what has proven the first line of attack on Obama that has actually worked.

-- Intimidation Of The Day: A group of liberal activists once associated with are collecting money to hit the Republican Party where it seriously hurts: In the wallet. The new organization, led by ex-MoveOn strategist Tom Matzzie and former Center for American Progress publicist Judd Legum, will send a letter to top GOP donors warning them of the consequences of handing cash to right-leaning groups, including increased scrutiny and possibly even legal jeopardy, the New York Times' Michael Luo writes. Intimidation? Or an effort set to backfire and fire up GOP donors?

-- Today On The Trail: McCain is heading back to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines today, where we can only hope he enjoys as many fried things on a stick as possible. Later, McCain will head to Rogers, Arkansas for a media availability. Hillary Clinton hits the campaign trail for Obama in Henderson, Nevada this afternoon, while the soon-to-be nominee and his family arrive for a bit of vacation in Hawaii.

Strategy Memo: Obama's Bad Week

Good Thursday morning. Just a day before the Olympics begin in Beijing, and we can't wait. Here's what Washington is watching today:

-- President Bush is in Thailand, where he participated this morning in a briefing on relief efforts in cyclone-flattened Burma before departing for China, where he meets with IOC chief Jacques Rogge before the opening ceremonies. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao keynotes the Young America's Foundation conference for conservative students at The George Washington University, while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice commemorates the tenth anniversary of embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. Finally, Congress may be out of session, but House Republicans are on day five of their protest on the House floor.

-- On the campaign trail, all is not well for Barack Obama, he of the celebrity status and an accompanying, albeit small, lead in the polls. In need of a vacation, and just two and a half weeks away from his convention kickoff, Obama is facing a slew of tough decisions sure to infuriate many backers, a rival who has found a weak spot and a former rival who, despite their best efforts at unity, just isn't happy with her fellow Democrat. Every candidate has their bad weeks, and it's better to get them out of the way now than in the waning days of the election, but Obama's been riding so high for so long that any fading lead could become a story.

-- Most intriguingly, Obama has to deal with a new round of stories questioning whether Hillary Clinton is really fine with the way her candidacy ended. Clinton told a gathering of supporters she thinks her delegates should be heard at the Denver convention, ABC News reported first yesterday, and while her backers plan a parade in her honor, Clinton wonders if Obama can win in the Fall and retains a frosty relationship, Time's Karen Tumulty writes. Clinton probably won't let her name be placed in nomination at the convention, and few aren't going to vote for Obama because of their fondness for Clinton, but an unhappy former First Couple is grist for an insatiable media.

-- Meanwhile, former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, one of Obama's first major backers, blames his candidate's recent dip in the polls on rival John McCain's recent advertisements touting Obama's celebrity status. Daschle called the McCain bump a "short-term blip" in an interview with the Financial Times, but he's got a point: Having returned from his trip overseas, Obama had as much as a nine-point lead in some polls. Now, it's a 3.5-point lead in the latest RCP Average. It may be that the advertisement was widely panned even by former McCain advisers, but it looks like it worked.

-- Other Democrats are worried that Obama is falling into the same trap earlier nominees have by failing to hit back as hard as possible, the Washington Post's Weisman and Bacon write today. Only now, after McCain's own ratcheted-up rhetoric began early last month, is Obama hitting back, questioning whether the Republican is a maverick in a recently released response ad. But the delayed timing reminds some of late responses from John Kerry and Al Gore to prominent and biting attack ads, and that scares Democrats desperate to avoid a repeat. No matter what the campaign does, look for intense pressure from the rail birds to get ahead of the curve.

-- All that, as well as a poll showing nearly half of Americans have seen too much of Obama, lends itself to the perfect time for the Democrat to sneak stealthily to Hawaii for some much-needed vacation and return tanned, ready and rested. Surrogates can hit the trail, negative ads can fly without being associated with the candidate himself and voters can get a break. Don't think Republicans won't ease up, though; while Obama is in the Aloha State, his press corps will have followed him, and at least one RNC strategist is advocating, tongue not so much in cheek, for a high-profile surrogate to be at the same hotel too.

-- Meanwhile, just because Obama's having a bad week doesn't mean McCain has had the best of his race either. McCain is in Wilmington, Ohio today, where he will be confronted with the closing of a DHL shipping hub and the accompanying loss of 8,000 jobs in the small town hit hard by an economic slowdown. McCain didn't do anything about the closing, but manager Rick Davis did lobby Congress to allow a combination of operations between DHL and UPS, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Wall Street Journal reported. McCain's campaign advisers who happen to be lobbyists, among them Davis and Charlie Black, won him the Republican nomination. But with them comes baggage, and McCain's going to be toting it around for the rest of the campaign.

-- Ruined Opportunity Of The Day: It almost doesn't matter whether reports from a tabloid newspaper are true, former presidential contender John Edwards is not only off the vice presidential list, his status as the third-place finisher, guaranteed a convention slot, is in jeopardy as well, McClatchy's Mark Johnson writes. The mainstream media, including this space, hasn't touched the story with a ten-foot pole, but if Edwards speaks at the convention, he won't be able to avoid answering questions.

-- Today On The Trail: It's a quiet day on the trail as McCain holds a town hall meeting in southeast Ohio before heading to Liberty Township for another event. Obama, who hits the road for vacation tomorrow, is in Minneapolis today before returning to Chicago with no public events. An interview with Michelle Obama plays this morning on ABC's Good Morning America and tonight on Nightline.

WA: Gregoire Up Big?

Could a race decided by only 130 votes in 2004 be split wide open this year? That's what Washington Governor Christine Gregoire hopes, but a new poll suggesting as much is ripe for Republican complaints.

The Elway Poll, conducted by Elway Research among 405 registered voters between 7/27-31 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%, tested Gregoire and her 2004 opponent, former State Senator Dino Rossi.

General Election Matchup
(All / Ind)
Gregoire.......52 / 43 (+5 from last, 6/22)
Rossi............36 / 37 (-3)


Republicans have always charged that pollster Stuart Elway skews his sample towards Democrats, and this is the first poll of the race in a while that has Gregoire ahead outside the margin of error. But Barack Obama's twelve-point lead is close to the latest RCP Washington Average, which has the Illinois Democrat ahead of John McCain by 10.6 points.

Still, most polls show the race extraordinarily close, as it was four years ago. A Strategic Vision poll released last week showed a two-point Gregoire lead, and a Moore Information poll taken for Rossi earlier in July showed the race tied.

MO Picks Hulshof, Nixon

Rep. Kenny Hulshof fended off State Treasurer Sarah Steelman to secure the GOP nomination for governor last night, setting up a battle with Democratic Attorney General Jay Nixon in November.

Hulshof, the favorite of the party establishment, won 49% of the vote to Steelman's 45% with all the state's precincts reporting. Nixon easily outpaced his token opposition to capture 85% of the vote, setting up what is expected to be one of the few competitive governor's races this year.

While Nixon has essentially been running for governor for four years, incumbent Republican Matt Blunt's surprise decision to retire after just one term forced Hulshof and Steelman into a six-month sprint to yesterday's primary. Now, Nixon has a big warchest, with $2.9 million on hand a week before the primary, while Hulshof had to spend most of his money to get past Steelman.

Most public polls had shown Nixon leading both Republicans by wide margins, and above the critical 50% threshold. The latest available, conducted for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in early July, showed Nixon leading Hulshof 52%-35%.

In the battle to replace Hulshof in his northeast Missouri district, former state tourism chief Blaine Luetkemeyer won the Republican nomination over more conservative State Rep. Bob Onder by a 39%-31% margin. State Rep. Judy Baker, the more liberal candidate in the race from the district's population base in Columbia, beat former House Speaker Steve Gaw 42%-33% for the Democratic nomination, setting up what Republicans see as a race that favors their candidate.

Hulshof never had trouble holding the district, and President Bush won the district twice, most recently with 59%. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is poised to add Baker to the Red to Blue program for top challengers, meaning the Democrat will be able to count on fundraising and structural help.

Martin To Face Chambliss

In Georgia, former state Rep. Jim Martin earned an overwhelming victory in the Democratic runoff against DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones, winning 60% of the vote to 40% for Jones. Martin is now tasked with taking on a well-funded Republican incumbent in Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

Jones led the five-candidate primary field in July, but failed to secure the nomination after earning 40% of the vote, ten points shy of an outright win. Martin, who didn't join the race until March, outraised Jones and earned a spot in the runoff by finishing second with 34%.

In yesterday's runoff, Jones received just 40% of the vote once again, with Martin apparently winning over the voters who had preferred the other three primary opponents. Martin even took a 24-point victory in Jones's DeKalb County, which Jones represented as a state representative and CEO for 16 years.

Martin enters the general election as a serious underdog against Chambliss. The first-term senator holds a large fundraising advantage over Martin, who was forced to spend money on two contests to receive the nomination and now has less than three months to recover before the general election.

-- Kyle Trygstad

Jenkins-Boyda Match Set

In perhaps the upset of the night, Kansas State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins overcame a huge cash and name recognition disadvantage to defeat ex-Rep. Jim Ryun for the GOP nomination to take on Democratic freshman Nancy Boyda. Jenkins, who ran as a moderate, won by just over 1,000 votes, a 51%-49% margin.

Defeating Ryun is something of a feat in Kansas, where the one-time track star was viewed as a local hero. That Boyda beat him at all in 2006 was a surprise -- she scored a four-point margin of victory in 2006 after losing by fifteen points in 2004. That Jenkins held Ryun off this time is a big surprise.

Ryun had backing from the Club for Growth and conservative groups, while Jenkins took a much more moderate tack. That moderate approach is usually not the way to win a Republican primary. But despite being outspent by a five-to-one margin through the July 16 pre-primary filing deadline, Jenkins denied Ryun the chance to try for his old seat.

Perhaps, though, it is not surprising that Kansas Republicans would choose a more moderate candidate. A serious schism has existed between conservatives and moderates over the past decade, handing Democrats the ability to pick off seats here and there. Governor Kathleen Sebelius won both her elections over Republican rivals by exploiting those divisions and picking moderate Republicans as running mates, sending conservatives into apoplectic fits.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has weighed in with a big ad reservation, but Boyda has asked them to pull those ads to assert her independence from the party. Boyda has a record close to the middle of the House, but in a Republican district based around the state capital in Topeka, in a presidential year the freshman Democrat is going to have real trouble holding on to her seat, and national Republicans see it as one of their top targets.

Kilpatrick Safe, For Now

Detroit Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick survived her most difficult competition yet in her bid for re-nomination, scraping by with a lead of just 1,700 votes. The Michigan Democrat, whose son Kwame has run into legal trouble as mayor of the state's largest city, declared victory early this morning.

Kilpatrick took 39% to 36% for former State Rep. Mary Waters, while State Senator Martha Scott took 25% of the vote. In the heavily-Democratic district in which John Kerry took 81% of the vote, winning the Democratic nomination is tantamount to winning in November.

The chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Kilpatrick needed to bring in the big guns in the campaign's final days. She hosted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week, and overall had spent more than $650,000 through the July 16 pre-primary filing period, compared with just $10,000 raised and spent for Waters.

Still, with such a narrow win, Kilpatrick will have a target on her back in two years, when Waters or Scott could be back to run a serious campaign. If either do, the six-term Kilpatrick will be in big trouble.

Strategy Memo: Olympic Green

Good Wednesday morning. With the U.S. Women's soccer team kicking off against Norway this morning, we're reminded how much we love the Olympics, and apologize well in advance for late posts over the next few weeks. Here's what Washington is watching today:

-- Two days before the opening ceremony, President Bush is in nearby South Korea, touring Asia for a final time as commander in chief. Bush will speak to a U.S. Army garrison in Yongsan before taking off for Bangkok, Thailand. There, Bush will hold a working dinner with Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. Defense Secretary Robert Gates makes remarks today on the 60th anniversary of two executive orders integrating the armed forces. And the House and Senate remain on holiday through the week of Labor Day.

-- The Commission on Presidential Debates, the last organization that is scheduled to have a direct impact on the presidential contest, made news yesterday by tapping four top television hosts to moderate each of the four debates between Barack Obama, John McCain and anyone else who gets 15% in the polls. Jim Lehrer will kick off debate season at the University of Mississippi on September 26, followed by Gwen Ifill moderating the vice presidential contest on October 2 from Washington University in St. Louis. Tom Brokaw has the stage October 7 at Belmont University in Nashville, and Bob Schieffer runs the show October 15 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.

-- The four debates will all take place east of the Rockies (And would have all been east of the Mississippi had founders built Washington University just a few miles east), but the Commission had no intention of snubbing the West Coast. Commissioner Frank Fahrenkopf told Politics Nation that the first choice to hold the vice presidential debate, Washington State University in Pullman, turned down the opportunity to do so after lobbying for one of the three presidential meetings.

-- But before we get to the debates, foundations must be laid, and both candidates are spending significantly over the next sixteen days of Olympic competition to do so. News that Barack Obama would purchase a $5 million ad buy during the Games was overshadowed only at the last minute by John McCain's $6 million ad buy, putting both on the level of top corporate sponsors, the Washington Post writes today. The massive ad buys will run across all of NBC's channels.

-- Both candidates will get prime time slots as part of their packages, and it's the first time any candidate has made a big effort to advertise nationally since 1996, when Bob Dole did so, Advertising Age's Teinowitz reports. It's also the first move both candidates have made toward really becoming 50-state candidates, as opposed to sticking to the traditional map of battleground states plus whichever borderline states they're targeting today.

-- Why is McCain, who is expected to be underfunded compared with Obama, spending so much? Because the guy has to get rid of his money before he accepts his party's nomination in early September. McCain had $35 million in the bank on July 1, the latest date for which FEC reports are filed, and many had pointed out that he was spending far more than he was taking in in recent months. When McCain's balance hits zero near convention time, he'll get a nice $84.1 million infusion of general election matching funds. So to get creative, why not spend money on national ad buys? Next stop for both candidates: Prominent college football games featuring two battleground states. Michigan plays Penn State on October 18.

-- Irresponsible Speculation Of The Day: It wouldn't be an August day without vice presidential speculation swirling around some contender. And with Obama in Indiana joining Senator Evan Bayh at town hall meetings, tongues are wagging over the two-term governor, two-term senator and former Secretary of State. Bayh's brief and abortive presidential bid lasted all of two weeks back in December 2006, and he's been on the short list enough times to begin meriting comparisons to Bob Graham. Could 2008 be the year Bayh makes it to the head of the pack? His expected sit-down meeting with Obama today could answer that question, at least in Obama's mind.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama and Bayh stop by Elkhart, Indiana for an energy town hall meeting today, while wife Michelle has a town hall meeting of her own with military families in Norfolk, Virginia, a part of the state Obama will have to compete with military man McCain if he hopes to win. McCain is in West Virginia this morning, where he stops by Marshall football practice, before heading to Ohio for a visit to a factory in Jackson.

IL 06: Roskam Up Huge

Two years after a close race against an Iraq war veteran with a compelling story, Republican freshman Rep. Peter Roskam faces another veteran with good credentials, and being from Illinois, Roskam has to contend with home-state excitement surrounding Barack Obama. But a new poll for Roskam's campaign shows the suburban Chicago Republican in good position to keep his seat.

The poll, conducted by Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies, surveyed 400 likely voters between 7/20-22 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Roskam and former state Deputy Homeland Security Director Jill Morgenthaler, the Democratic nominee, were tested.

General Election Matchup


Roskam's big lead over Morgenthaler comes in spite of Obama's lead in a district that gave President Bush a six-point win in 2004. Roskam won his first race, against Iraq war vet Tammy Duckworth, by a narrow two-point margin in 2006.

Strategy Memo: It's A Gas

Good Tuesday morning. Journalism lost a giant yesterday when Bob Novak, conservative columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and the self-proclaimed Prince of Darkness, announced his immediate retirement to fight a brain tumor, the Washington Post writes. We can only hope he's back soon. Here's what else Washington is watching this morning:

-- The Senate sits down for a pro forma session in order to prevent President Bush from making any recess appointments, while the House remains out of service. Republican members of Congress are planning to return to Washington in shifts over the August recess, several told Politics Nation, in order to keep up the pressure on offshore oil drilling. Bush is in South Korea, where he will meet the media with President Lee Myung-bak, who with First Lady Kim Yoon-ok will host a social lunch.

-- Barack Obama will head to Ohio today for an energy town hall meeting, during which he will slam John McCain for what he calls a flawed energy policy, according to the prepared remarks. Obama's also up with a new advertisement hitting his rival for failing to fix the process after almost three decades in Washington, while Democratic groups are questioning the legitimacy of some donations from oil company employees to McCain, the Washington Post's Matthew Mosk writes. It's true, McCain did reap millions in donations from oil executives when he reversed his position on offshore drilling, and while energy has been mostly a positive for the Republican, taking the money has left him open to criticism.

-- But Obama himself is clearly feeling the heat on energy and gas issues, as one of the most obvious reversals of position he's committed so far this year. Obama said yesterday in Lansing that he now supports releasing some of the stockpiled oil at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to lower gas prices now, the LA Times' Nicholas and Hook write, just a few days after he said he, too, would back at least some offshore drilling as part of a comprehensive energy proposal.

-- Energy is almost unique among issues on which one might change a previous position. McCain was against subsidies for ethanol and against offshore drilling eight years ago, but back then people were filling up at a dollar a gallon. Even when Obama came to office, the price per barrel of oil was just over a third of what it is today. Such dramatic changes force a candidate to rethink a position, and could also give them the opportunity to explain such a growth of opinion as a demonstration of a maturity and ability to be president. Or, as they probably will do, they can both slam the other for "flip flopping."

-- The biggest loser in the whole process: House Democrats. As Republicans stay in Washington to drive up talk of quick fixes, offshore drilling and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as Obama and McCain start accepting more drilling and energy exploration options, and even as some Democrats like Pennsylvania Rep. Jason Altmire start to publicly call for votes, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has to be feeling the heat. Altmire, an endangered freshman, will be joined by colleagues who are nervous about their own political future. What is most likely is that September will be spent on some form of energy package, not all of which is going to be to Pelosi's liking.

-- Meanwhile, in more practical considerations, Obama continues working to expand the presidential map beyond traditional red and blue states, as Tom Bevan noted yesterday. Among the most ambitious of those expansion plans is the notion that Alaska voters will back Obama, which would make only the second time Alaskans have voted Democratic for president in the state's brief history. The Post's Karl Vick points out today that a state with such an independent streak, and where McCain finished last in the Super Tuesday caucuses, gives Democrats hope, especially given Obama's commitment of resources. If Obama wins Alaska, though, he's going to carry other red states too, making McCain's path to 270 almost impossible.

-- But it's not just Alaska that is giving Republicans fits. Across the nation, more voters are registering with the Democratic Party as the GOP shrinks, the New York Times' Steinhauer writes today. In once-swing Oregon, Democrats have gained 4.5% of the state's voters while Republicans have lost 2.5%; Iowa showed a 4.1% swing to Democrats and a 0.8% loss for Republicans. New Hampshire, New Mexico and Pennsylvania have shown similar swings. Only Kentucky, Louisiana and Oklahoma, none states in which Obama will seriously compete, have shown Republican gains and Democratic losses. The first signs of a fundamental shift? It's compelling evidence, and frightening for the GOP.

-- Photo Opportunity Of The Day: When President Bush landed at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska yesterday, he addressed 3,000 U.S. troops stationed in the oft-frigid north, along with one indicted Senator. Bush acknowledged Senator Ted Stevens, per CNN's Elaine Quijano, but of course he didn't say anything about the seven felony counts Stevens faces. Even polls taken after the indictment show Stevens winning a higher percentage of the vote than Bush's approval rating. Frankly, we're not sure which side should have thought twice about being in the same room at the same time -- the guy who faces voters in three months or the guy with a legacy to think about.

-- Today On The Trail: It's all energy, all the time. Obama is on the trail in Ohio, where he hits town hall meetings to talk about energy in Youngstown and Berea, in the western suburbs of Cleveland. McCain will stop by the Enrico Fermi Nuclear Plant in Newport, Michigan, to highlight his own support for expanded energy production.

Wadhams' Potty Mouth

There is a game some political reporters play while talking to Colorado Republican Party chairman Dick Wadhams, a noted Republican strategist who is also managing ex-Rep. Bob Schaffer's campaign for Senate this year: Count the number of times Wadhams refers to Schaffer's opponent, Democratic Rep. Mark Udall, as a "Boulder liberal." If the number is any fewer than five times in a single conversation, the reporter hasn't asked enough questions.

Wadhams is coming under fire for one more thing he's said, though, after telling a Rocky Mountain News reporter that his campaign would "shove a bunch of 30-second ads up [Udall's] a**" on energy issues. The Colorado Democratic Party and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are calling on Wadhams to apologize for what DSCC spokesman Matt Miller called a "bizarre, vulgar outburst."

Democrats rubbed salt in old wounds by calling the comments Wadhams' "Macaca moment," referring to the infamous critique then-Senator George Allen made to a tracker videotaping an appearance in Southwest Virginia in 2006. Wadhams, at the time, was a top aide to Allen, then seen as a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination two years later.

Wadhams has no plans to apologize. "I embrace what I said Friday. I have no apologies. I won't back down at all," Wadhams told the News in a story out today. And, of course, he couldn't resist another message bomb: "If Democrats want to embrace Boulder liberal Udall who missed votes in Washington so he could fund raise in Colorado, let's have that debate."

Dems Battle To Face Chambliss

DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones and former State Rep. Jim Martin will face each other once again tomorrow in a runoff for the Democratic nomination in the Senate race in Georgia. Jones led the five-candidate July 15 primary field with 40 percent of the vote, 10 points shy of the votes needed to secure the nomination. Martin finished second with 34 percent, earning a spot in the runoff for the national party's favored candidate.

No matter who wins the nomination tomorrow, Senator Saxby Chambliss is gearing up to defend his seat from possibly its most potent threat -- the voter registration drives of the top Democrat on the November ballot, Barack Obama. Along with Virginia and North Carolina -- Southern states with the potential to swing Democratic -- the Obama campaign is making a major push in Georgia to register African Americans and get them to vote Democratic in November.

That's why the Chambliss campaign and the state GOP are heading up their own aggressive GOTV drives, and why the incumbent has readied an invitation to tomorrow's winner to participate in a series of debates, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

However, if Jones wins, he shouldn't expect much help from Obama. Jones, a conservative Democrat who has boasted about voting for President Bush twice, sent out a flier in early July featuring a doctored photo that appeared to place him and Obama next to each other. Obama made clear his displeasure: "I do not endorse him. I have not endorsed him. He put my picture on his literature without asking me."

Jones also has a checkered past that could hurt him in the general election, and one that a candidate for president may not want to be associated with. Some have even argued that Jones is so divisive, he could cost Obama the state.

With Georgia's Republican tilt and his large fundraising advantage, Chambliss is heavily favored to retain his seat for a second term. The state last voted for a Democrat for president in 1992, and most recently President Bush defeated John Kerry by 17 points in 2004.

Whoever wins the nomination tomorrow will need to begin raising cash immediately. In their second quarter financial reports, Martin reported having $300,000 on hand, twice the amount of Jones, while Chambliss reported having $4 million in the bank. Those numbers have changed by now, but with a competitive runoff, it's likely the margin has only grown.

-- Kyle Trygstad

Boyda In The Crosshairs

Few Democrats are in greater jeopardy than freshman Rep. Nancy Boyda, whose 2006 win over Republican Jim Ryun was one of the biggest upsets of the year. Now, Ryun is back for another try at his old seat, but he faces State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins in tomorrow's Republican primary, meaning Boyda will begin her general election run against an opponent whose bank account has been depleted.

Boyda, who had lost to Ryun by a fifteen-point margin in 2004, stunned the incumbent with a four-point win in a district that gave President Bush 59% of the vote in his final run. Largely ignored by national Democrats, Boyda rejected offers to become a member of the party's Frontline program for endangered incumbents and called on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to pull the $1.2 million earmarked for advertising on her behalf.

Boyda is well-funded for now, having pulled in almost $1.24 million and retaining $891,000 through the July 16 pre-primary filing deadline. Ryun has actually outraised Boyda, pulling in $1.68 million so far, but his battle with Jenkins has cost him $1.57 million. He held $222,000 in reserve for the final three weeks. Jenkins, on the other hand, has spent slowly and still had $489,000 stored in reserve.

Ryun, running as a conservative, provides a contrast with both Boyda and Jenkins, who has spent her time running as a moderate. Conservative groups including the Club for Growth have put their money behind Ryun, and most agree he retains the strong favorite in tomorrow's vote.

Boyda has kept a moderate record in her first term in Congress, with a voting record very close to the middle of the House and far more conservative than fellow Kansas Democrat Dennis Moore. But Boyda's Second District, which includes Topeka and the eastern fifth of the state not counting Kansas City, is more conservative than Moore's Third District, which includes the state's largest city.

President Bush has already shown up in Kansas, holding a fundraiser for Moore's opponent, and his presence could help replenish Ryun's or Jenkins' depleted warchests after the primary. As Republicans search the country for ways to stanch losses elsewhere, Boyda could find herself a top target in a district that will likely overwhelmingly go to John McCain in November.

Parties Pick Next Hulshof

As Rep. Kenny Hulshof collects establishment support in his bid for governor, the rush to replace the six-term Republican in the northeastern Ninth District of Missouri comes to a head tomorrow when a crowded field that includes a shooting range owner, a former football player and more than a few Democratic hopes of stealing yet another Republican seat.

On the Republican side, former State Tourism director Blaine Luetkemeyer and State Rep. Bob Onder have found the most support and had widely outspent their opponents through the July 16 pre-primary filing deadline. Former Mizzou football standout Brock Olivo, who went on to play for the Detroit Lions, generated some buzz early, but he has yet to convert that to big support. And State Rep. Danielle Moore, who owns the shooting range, had yet to break the $100,000 barrier either, while both Luetkemeyer and Onder neared $500,000 raised.

The Club for Growth could be a big factor in the district. Luetkemeyer has been the target of about $100,000 in advertisements hitting him for his record on taxes and spending, expenditures that will help Onder and other candidates in the end. Both Onder and Luetkemeyer are running television spots in advance of the primary.

Democrats are pinning their hopes on either State Rep Judy Baker or former House Speaker Steve Gaw. Baker has raised more than $405,000 through the pre-primary period, while Gaw had raised about half that amount. Former State Senator Ken Jacob, who ran for Lieutenant Governor in 2004, and Marion County Commissioner Lyndon Bode each had raised about $100,000.

Come November, the primary winners will face off in a district that reaches from the Iowa and Illinois borders in the north and east to the University of Missouri, in Columbia, and the St. Louis outskirts. John McCain is likely to win the district by a margin similar to that of President Bush, who took eighteen-point and thirteen-point majorities in 2004 and 2000.

Still, Democrats are excited by their chances, especially with Barack Obama's commitment to the state and the possibility of a blowout at the gubernatorial level; state Attorney General Jay Nixon leads both Hulshof and Treasurer Sarah Steelman, who also face off tomorrow in the gubernatorial primary, by a wide margin. To show their enthusiasm, the DCCC added the seat to the Red to Blue program, even before a nominee is chosen.

It would be a tremendously uphill fight, but with enough of a wind and a moderate candidate, Democrats hold out hopes of stealing the seat.

OK: Inhofe +22

Not every Republican Senator running for re-election this year is in trouble, as a new poll conducted for the Tulsa World shows Oklahoman Jim Inhofe in good position to keep his job for another six years. While Washington may not be popular these days, the Senior Sooner boasts an approval rating of 61%.

The Oklahoma Poll, conducted 7/19-23, surveyed 750 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 3.6%. Inhofe and State Senator Andrew Rice were tested among a sample made up of 53% self-identified Democrats, 42% self-identified Republicans and 5% independents.

General Election Matchup
Inhofe.........52 (-8 from last, 12/07)
Rice............30 (+11)


The Democratic sample looks high, but voter registration in Oklahoma shows just over 50% signed up as Democrats while 39% checked the Republican box. Inhofe and Rice both easily won their primaries last Tuesday.

Strategy Memo: High Energy

Good Monday morning. We know Peyton Manning didn't play as he comes back from an injury, but it was still fitting that the Washington Redskins gave the Indianapolis Colts a drubbing in last night's Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, given the induction into the Hall of Skins greats Art Monk and Darrell Green this weekend. Here's what a happy Washington is watching today:

-- The House and Senate kicked off August recess last week, and the Congress will not return to Washington until the week of September 8. If you happen to live in Fort Yates, North Dakota, or near Long Beach, California, you can drop by field hearings of the Senate Indian Affairs or House Transportation and Infrastructure Committees, respectively. Even President Bush is getting out of town, with a stop at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska before continuing on to South Korea, eventually en route to China for Friday's start of the Olympic Games.

-- Congress may be out of session, but House Republican leaders are spending their first day of recess on the House floor, resuming a protest the party began as Speaker Nancy Pelosi gaveled the session closed on Friday. Led by Reps. Mike Pence, Lynn Westmoreland and Tom Price, as many as forty Republicans stayed on the floor and gave speeches demanding action on rising gas and energy prices. The lights were off, the microphones were off (save one brief period when Arizona Rep. John Shadegg figured out the key sequence), but Republicans made their point: Energy is an issue that works for the GOP, and they're going to use it all through August recess to close the gap with Democrats.

-- House Minority Leader John Boehner yesterday called for members of his caucus to return to Washington for a repeat performance, and several members, mostly in safe seats and with little competition, will return today to keep the focus on lifting bans on offshore drilling and oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Pelosi, meanwhile, told ABC's "This Week" that there will be no votes on new offshore drilling, per USA Today's Susan Page, ensuring both that several appropriations measures will not go through this year and that Republicans will have an issue in the Fall.

-- The issue is settling at the fore of the presidential campaign as well, as Barack Obama is set to unveil a sweeping energy plan today in Lansing, Michigan, that his campaign says will eliminate the need for Middle Eastern oil in a decade, create five million new green-collar jobs and hand Americans an energy rebate, CNN's Steve Brusk previews. And while Obama launches "Energy Week," which will make stops in Ohio and Indiana as well, John McCain will spend time on the subject as well, dropping by a nuclear power plant near Detroit to highlight his own call for expanded energy production.

-- Side note: This is the second time Obama has called for some kind of rebate, after his proposal for a second round of stimulus checks. Take a look at the proposals through three separate lenses: First, assuming that stimulus money actually works (Which is a long shot, given shrinking consumer spending even as the first round went out), it's a smart move for the economy. Second, it's a cynical ploy to win votes by telling people he'll give them money. Third, it lends new credence to an old GOP slam on Democrats, that the free-spending Obama will wreck the budget. Two rebate proposals could be a coincidence, but three will be a trend.

-- Final point on energy: Gas is currently $3.88 a gallon, according to AAA's daily national average. That's down 22 cents a gallon from a month ago, and as the Summer winds down and the driving season comes to an end, the number of miles U.S. drivers travel will shrink further, reducing prices even more. Don't get us wrong, if gas prices stabilize at $3.50 a gallon, or even as low as $3 a gallon, the toll on consumers will still be heavy. But something about $4 a gallon seemed like a psychological bridge too far. We've been down this road before, as both parties have used gas and energy prices -- and their attending debates over ANWR and offshore drilling -- during the Summer only to see it fade as a priority in the Fall (See, for example, 2006). Will Republicans find the issue effective in November? That may depend on just how far prices fall.

-- Back to the presidential trail. Happy birthday, Barack Obama! After 47 years on Earth, you're running for President of the United States, and look what the conservative movement has brought you: Released on his birthday, The Case Against Barack Obama has jumped to #23 on the Amazon best-seller list. It's published by the same company, Regnery, that launched the anti-John Kerry "Unfit for Command" four years ago, but don't expect a hatchet job from author David Freddoso, who, in the interest of full disclosure, is a friend of Politics Nation. Will it be effective in moving votes away from Obama? If so, when will Democrats launch their own monster of the publishing industry, a la blogs as a response to talk radio?

-- Puzzle Of The Day: We were surprised over the weekend when reports surfaced that Rep. Eric Cantor has been asked for vetting documents by McCain's vice presidential selection team, but not because the 45 year old Virginian is apparently under consideration for the position. Cantor would bring youth, a new vitality with young conservatives who are looking for a new direction for their party, and he'd lock down Virginia, a state Obama wants to make competitive, among other advantages the LA Times' Leslie Hoffecker details. Rather, it is surprising that new vetting is taking place so late in the process. Is it nervousness with leading candidates Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney? Or is it a move toward a controlled Hail Mary? Then again, it may just be repaying a prominent backer with a heightened profile. After all, that's a lot of what a short list is for.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama presents his plan, "New Energy for America," in a speech in Lansing, Michigan today, before flying to Boston for a fundraiser this evening. McCain starts his day at the National Label Company in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, where he will host a small-business roundtable. Later, he heads to Sturgis, South Dakota for a rally at the annual motorcycle rally.

NC: Dole +8, Obama Close

A new poll shows North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole retaining a solid lead over her Democratic rival, but it's not a done deal by any means. And a first round of advertisements from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee could cut into that lead.

The poll, conducted by Research 2000 on behalf of DailyKos, surveyed 600 likely voters between 7/28-30 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Dole and State Senator Kay Hagan, the Democratic nominee, were tested among a survey made up of 44% Democrats, 36% Republicans and 20% independents and others.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom / R-D / Cha / W-S)
Dole.......50 / 18 / 89 / 50 / 54 / 46 / 46 / 49 / 53 (+2 from last, 4/30)
Hagan....42 / 71 / 8 / 39 / 39 / 45 / 47 / 40 / 38 (+1)

McCain...47 / 16 / 85 / 47 / 52 / 42 / 42 / 51 / 52
Obama...43 / 77 / 6 / 35 / 39 / 47 / 48 / 38 / 38

(Geographic note: "R-D" is the Raleigh-Durham area; "Cha" is the Charlotte region; and "W-S" is Winston-Salem and surrounding areas)

The overriding lesson: Democrats need to consolidate their base and win over more independent voters, as close to twice as many voters from their base are backing the Republican candidates. Hagan is a popular challenger, with a 51% favorable rating and a 32% unfavorable, which compares positively to Dole's 53% favorable and 38% unfavorable.

Stevens Takes A Hit

Looking for a metric on how much the indictment of Ted Stevens has affected the Alaska Senate race? Alaska pollster Ivan Moore has an answer, thanks to a well-timed poll and an equally fast follow-up. The answer, as one might imagine, is that Stevens now looks even more damaged than he was just a week ago.

The polls, conducted by Ivan Moore Research, were conducted 7/18-22 among 504 likely voters for a margin of error +/- 4.4% and 7/30-31, after the indictment, among 413 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.8%. Stevens was tested against former State Rep. Dave Cuddy in the Republican primary and against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich in the general.

Primary Election Matchup
(7/31 / 7/22)
Stevens........59 / 70
Cuddy...........19 / 21

General Election Matchup
(7/31 / 7/22)
Begich..........56 / 51
Stevens........35 / 43

(7/22 sample only)

Stevens' approval rating is down eleven points in the same period; just 44% see him positively, down from 55% two weeks before. His negative ratings are up from 38% to 48% between the two polls.

Stevens, eight points down just two weeks ago, trails by twenty-one now. Still, Cuddy, who ran against Stevens in the 1996 primary, has yet to benefit from Stevens' slide. With just three weeks to go until the August 26 primary, Cuddy or businessman Vic Vickers, who is up with his own advertisements, have a long way to go if they are to prevent Democrats from stealing the seat.

As Begich pulls farther ahead, an emerging question then becomes whether Alaska voters are willing to vote for the Democrat atop the ticket. With Obama trailing by just three points, well within the margin of error, his investment in the state looks more prescient at the moment.

ID: Risch +10

If Democrats have a shot at taking over Idaho Senator Larry Craig's seat, Republicans should just go home right now. A new poll conducted for DailyKos shows the Republican in the Gem State well ahead, but thanks to a third-party candidate, it's not unthinkable that the state could send its first Democratic Senator to Congress since Frank Church.

The survey, conducted by independent pollster Research 2000, was conducted 7/28-30 among 500 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.5%. The sample included 48% Republicans, 23% Democrats and 29% independents. Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch, the Republican, was tested against ex-Rep. Larry LaRocco, a Democrat, and independent Rex Rammell, a rancher.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Risch..........42 / 5 / 64 / 35 / 45 / 39
LaRocco.....32 / 81 / 5 / 38 / 28 / 36
Rammell........5 / 2 / 7 / 4 / 6 / 4

McCain........53 / 9 / 79 / 44 / 56 / 50
Obama.........37 / 85 / 7 / 48 / 35 / 39

Both major party candidates are popular with state voters. Risch is seen favorably by 45% of Gem Staters, while just 26% view him unfavorably, and LaRocco has a similarly positive 43%-21% favorable to unfavorable rating. Rammell, a conservative property-rights advocate, will take more votes from Risch than from LaRocco, but if Democrats are to have a real chance, he'll need to do better than the 5% he gets here.

KY: McConnell +11

A new poll out of the Bluegrass State shows senior Senator Mitch McConnell leading his Democratic rival by a healthy margin, though if rival businessman Bruce Lunsford invests his own money in the race, it could close.

The survey, conducted by Research 2000 for DailyKos, polled 600 likely voters between 7/28-30 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. McConnell and Lunsford, who won an expensive Democratic primary, were surveyed among a sample that contained 46% Democratic voters, 38% Republican voters and 16% independents.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
McConnell....49 / 18 / 86 / 51 / 53 / 45
Lunsford......38 / 65 / 6 / 37 / 35 / 41

McCain.........56 / 28 / 87 / 64 / 59 / 53
Obama..........35 / 64 / 4 / 26 / 34 / 36

The trouble, as with all federal Democrats running in Kentucky, is to convince voters in their own party that they are Kentucky Democrats instead of national Democrats. The party has a huge voter registration advantage -- 57% of Bluegrass voters are registered Democratic, while 37% of voters are registered Republicans -- but they're not terribly loyal to their party, as is evident when more than a quarter of self-identified Democrats say they will vote for John McCain.

Lunsford has run before, but he's been through some bitter primaries, which has left his favorable rating at an uncomfortable 44% favorable to 42% unfavorable. More people like McConnell, who has 49% favorable ratings, but about the same number, 41%, see him unfavorably.

Strategy Memo: Race Clouds All

Good Friday morning. If Congress is lucky, they're done for the month of August after today. If anyone else is lucky, they actually get to spend the weekend on their own time. Are we starting to see why Congress' job approval rating is 17% in the latest RCP Average? Here's what Washington is watching today:

-- The Senate will try once again to pass the Defense authorization bill, a measure Republicans blocked yesterday. That move elicited accusations from Democratic leader Harry Reid that the GOP had taken a pass on an opportunity to support the troops; it's part of the Republican effort to force votes on energy exploration. The House will take up the Military Construction appropriations bill, which will include veterans' funding as well. President Bush is visiting his parents in Kennebunkport, Maine, while Vice President Cheney fundraises for Republican candidates in Birmingham, Alabama.

-- The presidential contest is sliding into the mud so fast it's enough to make one's head spin. Yesterday's bitter accusations and counter-accusations put the final nails in anyone's hope for a civilized campaign, and, given that race is now a central part of the discussion, at least for today, there's a possibility that both campaigns are going to get worse before they get better. Then again, at times two campaigns involved in a nasty fight will stop and come to some sort of truce before continuing in a more positive measure. If these two campaigns think things are getting out of hand, they could do the same thing.

-- Here's how we got this far: John McCain's advertisement calling Barack Obama a Hilton- or Spears-like celebrity encouraged a first response of disappointment from Obama, who told reporters right before getting on a campaign bus in Missouri that he wondered why McCain didn't have enough positive things to say about himself. Later, at a campaign event in Springfield, Obama went farther: "What they're going to try to do is make you scared of me. You know, he's not patriotic enough. He's got a funny name. You know, he doesn't look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills," Obama said, per the Post's Weisman and Eilperin.

-- McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, offered a stunning response: "Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck. It's divisive, negative, shameful and wrong," read the statement, emailed to the media yesterday. With the first African American heading a major party ticket, it was probably inevitable that race would play an overt role in the campaign, as Jonathan Martin and Ben Smith write. But to have it brought up by McCain, and to accuse Obama of starting it, is a twist most didn't see coming.

-- Campaign aide Steve Schmidt, who is running day-to-day operations for McCain, tells Martin and Smith that their goal is to prevent a preemptive strike they see Obama using: That every normal contrast and attack is race-based and worthy of blame. Schmidt's money quote: "Say whatever you want about Bill Clinton, but it's deeply unfair to suggest his criticism of Obama was race-based. President Clinton was a force for unity in this country on this subject. Every American should be proud of his record as both a governor and president. But we knew it was coming in our direction because [the Obama campaign] did it against a President of the United States of their own party." Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, told reporters his candidate had not charged McCain with playing the race card.

-- How do racial politics play out? Both candidates say they want to avoid injecting race into the campaign, but as we wrote above, this year, that's almost impossible. On the exterior, any discussion of race helps Obama, as the media becomes morally outraged and as his legions of backers become more, to borrow a phrase, fired up and ready to go. But Obama can't cry wolf too many times, especially when no one sees McCain himself overtly using race. McCain's celebrity ad is one thing (Poetic justice for anyone who thought it was over the line: Most Republicans agree it's a terrible ad), but it's a stretch to say it has racial overtones. Race can help or hurt Obama, but there's no upside at all for McCain, which makes any use of the issue by his campaign a mistake, and one they haven't made yet.

-- On the primary front, Obama looks like he's in good position even with those Democrats who once backed Hillary Clinton. But the small and vocal minority is causing problems at the party's platform committee, which is meeting this weekend in Cleveland, where they will push for an added item accusing the media of "pervasive" sexism. The move comes as Clinton's chances to be number two on the ticket slip further into oblivion, the LA Times' Peter Nicholas writes. Does anyone care about a platform argument when considering which candidate to vote for? No, but Obama now faces the choice of perpetuating the Clinton-rift story or of placating the vocal minority at the risk of admitting he benefited from sexism.

-- Issue Of The Day: Not race, but energy could make the biggest difference this November. House Republicans yesterday asked for a special session over the August recess to deal with energy issues, CNN reports, which is about as likely to be granted as a snowball's chances of surviving somewhere exceedingly hot. That's a smart way to keep the issue at the fore, and it's already cost Democrats the ability to control the appropriations debate, as this reporter wrote today. House Minority Leader John Boehner told reporters this week that the issue wasn't going away, and the GOP already knows it's one of the few issues that works in their favor.

-- Today On The Trail: Obama is in St. Petersburg, Florida for an economic town hall at a local high school, before stopping by Orlando for an event later today. McCain starts his day in Orlando, where he will address the National Urban League, followed by a press availability in Panama City, Florida. Later tonight, he'll swing by a country music concert.