Saturday, March 8, 2008

Obama wins Wyoming, but ...

There was plenty of sound and fury ahead of the first contested Democratic presidential caucuses in Wyoming in 50 years. But the result -- a 61-38 win for Barack Obama -- was basically a wash: Obama won seven of the state's delegates while Hillary Clinton picked up the remaining five.

Of more importance, perhaps, is the moral victory Obama scored. He needed good news after a rough week, which started badly when reporters hounded him about NAFTA and Tony Rezko and got worse when he lost Texas. It even ended on a sour note when his senior foreign policy adviser resigned after being quoted in a Scottish magazine article calling Clinton a "monster."

Obama needed to restore order -- calm, really -- to his campaign. The 'W' in Wyoming should serve to steady the ship as Obama steers toward Tuesday's Mississippi primary.

From the column: Disenfranchised voters

For all the talk about the disenfranchisement of voters in Florida and Michigan, I haven't heard anyone yet take up the cause of newsroom employees of the Dallas Morning News.

Yes, DMN reporters have been disenfranchised -- by their employer. DMN bigwigs disseminated this e-mail to newsroom employees on Feb. 29, just four days before the Texas primary and caucus.

The ruling from on high: Voting, OK; caucusing, not so much.

Texas has a complicated nominating process that is a hybrid of a primary and a caucus. Two-thirds of the state's delegates are awarded based on the result of the primary; the remaining third are apportioned based on results from the caucuses.

Therefore, if newsroom employees are allowed to vote in their primaries but not in their caucuses, their votes are diluted to two-thirds what they could be -- and what the votes of other Texans, including non-newsroom employees of the DMN, can be.

Regular readers of this space know how I feel about advocacy activity on the part of reporters. (If not, click here.)

But I believe that the DMN employees should challenge this misguided policy in federal court. There is a fine line between protecting the integrity of the institution of the Dallas Morning News and trampling the constitutional rights of its employees ... and the News has clearly crossed it.

From the column: General election matchups

Hillary Clinton's case to superdelegates is based on the idea that of all the states to have held their nominating contests, she has won the biggest ones -- California, New York, Ohio, etc. The argument is that her victories over Barack Obama in states Democrats need to win to take back the White House in November translate into a head start over John McCain for her.

Obama's case centers on his broad appeal, demonstrated in the number of states he's won and the coalitions he's built to do it. He leads in popular votes, states won and pledged delegates. His argument is that he is better suited than Clinton to make the Democratic Party competitive in traditionally red states.

So who's right?

They both are.

According to an analysis by SurveyUSA based on interviews of 600 registered voters in each of the 50 states -- a total of 30,000 interviews -- both Clinton and Obama beat McCain in hypothetical matchups -- although Obama, theoretically, would win four more electoral votes than Clinton.

The interesting thing is that while several red states do turn blue for Obama, some blue states turn red if he is the Democratic candidate. An additional irony is that for all of Clinton's talk about "electability," Obama seems more electable than Clinton.

Check out this link for the site's breakdown of a Clinton-McCain matchup; click here for the Obama-McCain numbers.

Want to see the hypothetical maps side by side? Gotcha covered ... click here.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Analogies rule

One of my favorite things about politics is the Art of the Sound Bite. It's difficult to break complicated policy issues down into digestable pieces that average voters will understand. (No, I'm not insulting their intelligence; just telling the truth.)

Enter the sound bite.

Some of my favorites from this week include:

  • "That's looking more like a Soviet-style ballot." (Fox News Channel's Brit Hume describing Michiganders' Democratic presidential primary dilemma, since Hillary Clinton was the only name on the ballot there. Barack Obama and John Edwards had requested that their names be removed.)
  • "When Sen. Obama was confronted with questions over whether he was ready to be commander in chief and steward of the economy, he chose not to address those questions, but to attack Sen. Clinton. I for one do not believe that imitating Ken Starr is the way to win a Democratic primary election for president." (Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson dropping the Democratic version of a dirty bomb by invoking the name of the much-reviled special prosecutor who investigated former President Clinton's relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.)
  • "She's nothing but a ball of white privilege and entitlement wrapped up in a blanket of victimhood and agrievement." (An anonymous poster on a message board at, describing Hillary Clinton and her refusal thus far to release her recent tax returns.)

No cussing! (I swear!)

I came across this story about the City of South Pasadena, Calif., instituting a "No Cussing Week" in the town. At first, I rolled my eyes. After all, it is California. But then I read it and found that the move, which is now an annual one, has its genesis in a 14-year-old boy: McKay Hatch, who rejected swearing as a general course of action.

"My mom and dad always taught me good morals, good values, and not cussing was one of them," said McKay Hatch ... "I've cussed before, I'm not gonna lie to you. But I try not to cuss any more."

He was in junior high school when he became fed up with all the blue language around him.He understood why his friends use foul language: "They just want to fit in like everybody else and they don't know how. They figure if they cuss maybe it's an easy way to do that."

But it wasn't for him.

"I finally told my friends, `I don't cuss.' And I said, 'If you want to hang out with me, you don't cuss."'

The story goes on to say that enough of McKay's friends -- teenagers, mind you -- came around to his way of thinking that they had enough to form a club at school. The No Cussing Club of South Pasadena High School had 50 members by the time it met for the first time on June 1.

"Nine months later, the No Cussing Club has a Web site, claims a membership of 10,000 and boasts chapters in several states and countries. Hatch considers his greatest achievement, though, to be getting his hometown of 25,000 to become a cuss-free zone," the story says.

I love McKay Hatch. The kid is a positive example to his friends and uses peer pressure for good. His efforts are drawing national and international attention (and my favorite headline about this story comes from the Los Angeles Times: "They do so solemnly not swear...")

Check out McKay's web site, and consider joining him yourself!

Thursday buzz

Good morning,

The push to create a solution to the Michigan-Florida delegate mess is picking up momentum this morning.

State officials working on the issue have been joined in their efforts by congressmen in Washington, and while all sides -- the DNC, both governors, legislators from both states and officials from both campaigns -- agree that something should be done to seat the as-now excommunicated delegates, funding remains an issue.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican (who, incidentally, signed the legislation that moved the Sunshine State's primary up, thus triggering the state's penalty from the DNC), has backed away from earlier indications that he would support the state paying for a repeat of the Democratic primary. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, has maintained her opposition to a taxpayer-funded do-over from the start.

Check out the FNC story, which I found to be the superior of the two, or this CNN writeup for more.

Wednesday roundup - look out below!

Finally, if you're a fan of strange news, I don't want to upset you, but ... According to some reports, Earth could be in the crosshairs of the gamma rays of a death star.

Yes, in the crosshairs of the gamma rays of a death star.

Can you believe it?!

If Bill Nye the Science Guy is on your list of people to meet before you die, click here to read about the scary celestial supernova-to-be in the words of the physicist who discovered the rotating pinwheel system known as Wolf-Rayet, or WR104 (come on, who else is going to compare a death star and James Bond?). If not, click here for the explanation written for the rest of us.

Wednesday roundup - dizzying delegate division

Will they or won't they?

With the delegate race as close as it is, pundits are having a field day playing their best games of "What if?" And one of their favorite topics has to do with what will happen to the 156 Democratic delegates in Michigan and the 210 in Florida. You may recall that Democratic National Committee leadership voted to strip the states of their delegates to punish them for moving their primary contests ahead of Super Tuesday I. The candidates agreed not to campaign there ... but Hillary Clinton didn't bother to remove her name from the ballot in Michigan, and she won the "beauty contests" held in those states. Clinton, of course, wants the delegates seated; Obama also would like them seated -- but only according to the results of a do-over of sorts that would give Democrats a re-vote.

From Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic, here's a nice look at this issue as of 6:45 p.m. tonight.

Wednesday roundup - Obama's missed opportunities

Remember how we talked about how for Obama, the story in the wake of Super Tuesday II may be about missed opportunities? I bookmarked this article before the results last night just in case Obama pulled off the double feature, but it's still useful, if for a different reason. It gives you a good idea of the chance Obama had to wrap things up last night -- figuratively, if not literally.

Wednesday roundup - Harper: Oops!

A good argument can be made that Barack Obama's mishandling of the NAFTA-Canada issue** cost him crucial votes -- not only in the close contest in Texas, but also in Ohio; even though Obama lost the Buckeye State to Clinton, it's reasonable to think that he could have had a better delegate showing with an effective response to the question of whether he really was sending the Canadians mixed signals about an Obama Administration's intentions regarding NAFTA.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Enter Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is none too pleased that someone leaked word of a meeting that took place between a Canadian trade official and an Obama surrogate on the issue. Harper wants heads to roll as a result of the leak, which Harper called "blatantly unfair."

**Need a primer on the NAFTA flap? I've got you covered. From the Reuters article:

The issue arose when Obama and Clinton said in a debate last week they would threaten to pull out of NAFTA -- which joins the United States, Canada and Mexico as trading partners -- unless its environmental and labor standards are renegotiated. Shortly after, a memo circulated that was written by a Canadian diplomat after a February 8 meeting in Chicago with Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee.

"He (Goolsbee) was frank in saying that the primary campaign has been necessarily domestically focused, particularly in the Midwest, and that much of the rhetoric that may be perceived to be protectionist is more reflective of political maneuvering than policy," the memo read.

Wednesday roundup - Ingraham supports Hillary?

While watching FNC's Greta van Susteren and awaiting a segment on the investigation into Lauren Burk's murder, I saw a segment Greta had pretaped with conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham. When asked what she thought about the Super Tuesday II results last night, Ingraham actually took a portion of the credit for Clinton's victories, saying that she and fellow right-wing talker Rush Limbaugh "decided to get out the vote for Hillary" in recent days. Here's your link to the parallel universe where that comment could be true.

[SIDEBAR: Is the wackiness of this primary seasion the best argument yet for closed primaries, or what? If the purpose of a primary is to determine a party's nominees, then only persons of that party should be able to vote in that party's nominating contest. This strikes me as what Hyundai would call a "DUH" moment. Both sides are talking about the popular vote, but I have to wonder what those numbers would look like if open primaries weren't the rule.]

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Wednesday roundup - Caucus counting continues

Hey guys,

Here's the first of a few posts rounding up political news and views tonight:

First of all, Super Tuesday II isn't over yet. Elections officials in Texas are still counting votes from last night's caucus action. According to CNN:

The Texas Democratic Party estimates 1.1 million Texans attended the precinct conventions, doubling the 508,000 who voted in 2006 ... In what pundits have dubbed the "Texas two-step," the state's Democratic Party hosts both a primary election, in which 126 delegates are awarded, and a post-election caucus in which another 67 are awarded. It's possible for the loser of the primary to win more delegates with a strong showing in the caucuses. And Texas' method of awarding delegates in the primary -- with more delegates coming from large population centers like Houston, Dallas and Austin -- further complicates the matter.

Also, Clinton's campaign is laying the groundwork for legal action challenging the caucus results, the AP reported, citing "hundreds of complaints" of mischief caused by the Obama campaign at caucus.

Tragedy in Auburn

It has been a difficult day in Auburn.

News broke early this morning that police were investigating the shooting death of 18-year-old Auburn University freshman Lauren Burk.

Any murder is a tragedy. But it seems much more disturbing when it happens to someone so young, and in an area that -- thank God -- doesn't deal with such stories often.

Our prayers are with Lauren's family. No matter what else happens from here on out, they will never be the same.

This writer hopes that justice will swiftly find its way to Lauren's killer.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

It's Hillary

At 11:50 p.m. Central time, CNN calls Texas for Hillary Clinton.

She needed both states; she got them. We have a race, ladies and gentlemen.

Perhaps the strangest hypothetical in this whole surreal experience came from Larry King, who raised the specter with Clinton loyalist Paul Begala of Al Gore emerging as the "compromise candidate" from a brokered convention in Denver. No, Begala said; the unspoken undercurrent seemed to be that neither candidate would come that far to pave the way for Gore (although Begala didn't miss an opportunity to mention that Gore would be finishing his second term if not for those "guys in black robes," or something like that).

The night may end up being more about missed opportunities than victory. Obama had a chance, the pundits note, to wrap up the nomination -- in feel if not in reality. He had ridden a high for several weeks and had begun to attract the support of influential superdelegates; a win tonight in either Texas or Ohio would have meant a tsunami of similar support that could have mortally wounded Clinton's efforts. But it was not to be.

CNN's A-list hit the two high points in conclusion: One, as Jeffrey Toobin pointed out, "all bets are off" regarding the nomination, since neither candidate can secure it with pledged delegates alone; two, when asked where we go from here, Gloria Borger said, "We go to Pittsburgh."

Anyone out there reading from Pennsylvania? Get ready to become the center of the political universe. "Every journalist in the world is going to converge on Pennsylvania," Borger said, adding that the showdown there will make other "showdowns" look minor.

If you live in Pennsylvania (or have friends/relatives/high school buddies/college roommates/anyone you've ever bumped across who do), let me know. I'd love to hear from you.

Once again, late breakers -- those who decided whom to support in the last three days -- went for Clinton 61 to 38 percent. What was the big issue in the past three days? That "3 a.m. phone call" advertisement and the fallout it created.

"Clinton delivers, Obama inspires," Bill Schneider concludes from exit polls data.

How about your thoughts from tonight? Did her wins "restore the viability" of Clinton's campaign, as Wolf Blitzer said? Was it more of a disappointment for Obama than it was a Clinton coup? What do you expect going forward? Let me know in comments; we'll mull results over together tomorrow.

Obama's speech

Obama appears in San Antonio and sets up his Monday morning quarterback drill: It's about the delegates, he says; we still have the same delegates we had this morning, and we are well on our way to winning this nomination.

Obama looks ready for a fight. Let's hope he handles it better than he handled the press last weekend!

Hillary's speech

Can I just ask you ... where has this Hillary been all primary season?

She gave a great speech in victory that was everything it should have been. It was full of direct responses to the questions her opponent has raised, not only about her ability to affect change but even her ability to envision change. She has finally figured out a response to "Yes, we can," and it's "Yes, we WILL."

The only thing that gave me pause in the speech was the line about how she looks forward to debating McCain in the fall. That could be played as presumptuous by Obama's people as they fight to paint tonight's result with a brush that favors them. With statements like those, Clinton plays into the idea that she feels she is "entitled" to this nomination and that Obama is just in her way.

All in all, it was a great speech; I just hope it didn't go too far.

As for the timing of the speech, it came on the heels of the call of Ohio for her but before the results in Texas become apparent. John King tells us that there are still many votes outstanding in the major metropolitan areas of the Lone Star State, so Hillary probably wanted to get out in front and make sure that she gave this speech on a high note.

Obama's on the way out to give his speech.

Clinton wins Ohio

After coming out of the gate behind Barack Obama in Texas, Hillary Clinton slowly crept closer ... closer ... closer to him as returns rolled in. The spread was 2,000 votes, then 1,500, then 200 out of more than 1.4 million votes counted. Finally, at 9:45 Central time, Clinton overtook Obama to take the lead in the Lone Star State.

Her supporters cheered.

But, like their candidate, they were just getting warmed up: Just more than 10 minutes later, political pundits called Ohio -- one of Clinton's two firewall states -- for the former first lady, and her supporters went wild.

The early focus in the aftermath -- even as votes continue to be counted in Texas -- is more on what it means for Obama than what it means for Clinton. Was it "buyer's remorse" that led voters to break for Clinton? Is it indicative of a mistrust voters have of Obama's leadership capability? Does it indicate that Obama has peaked?

As an example, the CNN pundit desk is wrapped up in the intricacies of what is coming to be known as "NAFTA-gate," Obama's series of missteps regarding discussions his campaign surrogates had (or didn't have?) with members of the Canadian government about whether Obama was sincere in his comments last week that he would force a renegotiation of the trade deal or withdraw the United States from it.

CNN pundit Alex Castellanos is exactly right in that is isn't that Clinton has found her own voice; it's that she has kept Obama -- since the weekend, at least -- from using his. She has put him on the defensive, knocking him around on the ropes a bit, and he's lost his footing. The question now will be whether he can regain it, and whether he can regain it in time.

Problems in Ohio

As we await results from Texas and Ohio, the drama continues to unfold in the Buckeye State.

Record turnout throughout Ohio has led to ballot shortages in several counties, and although some counties were ordered to remain open past scheduled voting hours, not all were. In fact, in at least one county in Ohio where polls were ordered to remain open past regular hours, the order only applied to some precincts within the county. I still don't understand how such subjective orders are legal.

For more on the Ohio drama, click here.

Hillary wins Rhode Island

Hillary Clinton has notched her first win in 13 contests by snagging a 'W' in Rhode Island.

The win snaps Obama's 12-contest winning streak and could portend good things for her tonight.

Huckabee drops out

Mike Huckabee just gave a tremendous speech to reporters in Irving, Texas. It was everything that has drawn voters to the former Arkansas governor throughout the primary season.

I will look for a transcript of it and post it for you if I can find it; in the meantime, although it's obvious that it was written ahead of time, ABC News has this terrific roundup of Huckabee and his unlikely presidential candidacy.

If McCain drops the general election to the eventual Democratic nominee, count on seeing Huckabee again -- starting in two years.

McCain and Bush

CNN's Dana Bash reports that McCain will travel to the White House tomorrow to appear with President Bush and accept his endorsement for the presidency.

McCain's advisers have made a good decision, in my view, to put this inevitable photo op at the front end of the general election campaign. They knew it was going too have to happen; apparently they believe that the sooner they can get it out of the way, the better. The news value of the appearance will be swallowed up, to a degree, by the morning-afters of today's action and continued campaigning by the Democratic candidates.

Also, CNN reports, with nothing more to lose, Mike Huckabee will drop out on Thursday, Bash reports.

Presumptive nominee no more

John McCain wins the Republican nomination, CNN calls at 8 ET.

Exit polls in Texas apparently indicate that McCain will have enough of a win in the Lone Star State to wrap up the GOP nomination. McCain will also win Rhode Island, CNN projects.

The Republicans now coalesce around McCain as the Democrats continue to slug it out.

I guess the McCain staffers won't be needing that Alka-Seltzer after all ... lucky for them.

Delegate math

CNN's John King has just explained that neither Clinton nor Obama can wrap up the nomination with pledged delegates, even if each wasto run the table with large-margin victories. The point was to show that superdelegates will have a role in determining the nomination. Gloria Borger (my favorite pundit) pointed out that the Clinton campaign may very well "pivot" and make this fight less about delegates and more about popular votes, in contrast to a couple of weeks ago when it was all about the delegates when Obama was winning in popular vote.

(Incidentally, I'd like to point out that there's nothing requiring regular delegates to vote for their pledged candidate at the Democratic
National Convention. In effect, they are all "superdelegates." For more, click here.)

"Superdelegates are politicians; they are not kamikaze pilots," Borger said, explaining the delicate process by which superdelegates will decide their votes -- perhaps based more on nuance and local factors than on the national pressure that will be brought to bear upon them.

That is why I love Gloria Borger.

My husband just asked me, "Where is your 'I heart Gloria Borger' shirt?"

"I don't know," I told him, "but I should be wearing it."

Also, the first numbers are in from Texas, and they look good for Obama -- although it's early -- and Huckabee is pulling 37 percent in early returns.


CNN reports that the McCain campaign has placed -- but covered -- a banner that reads, "1,191," meant to celebrate McCain's achievement of attaining enough delegates to go from being the "presumptive GOP nominee" to the formal nominee.

Man, if I was a staffer, I'd be a bit nervous about that. It's a bit presumptuous. It's why staffers drink a lot of Alka-Seltzer.

It would be a sick feeling to have to take that banner down and drag it along to Mississippi next week.

Ohio for McCain

John McCain wins Ohio and its 88 delegates, while the Democratic race is too close to call.

Voting hours extended

Voting hours have been extended in Sandusky, Ohio, until 9 ET due to the inclement weather.

(Can anyone out there explain to me how it is that polls can be held open in one part of a state and not the others? That doesn't seem fair.)

Perhaps they really are holding the polls open because Sandusky County ran out of Democratic ballots -- AT 11:30 A.M.

Now that's turnout!

Exit polls: A long night?

Exit polls indicate that it could be a long night for us political junkies!

According to ABC's exit polls in Ohio and Texas, "change" trumps "experience" by 15 to 20 points in each states, but that African-Americans and Latinos have turned out in huge numbers in Texas. Black turnout is good for Obama, while Latinos have bolstered Clinton's support.

Also, the new optical-scan machines in Ohio seem to have provided reliable service with few problems, according to this story from the Port Clinton News-Herald.

SIDEBAR: I voted on optical- scan machines in Florida and never had a problem; also, our county was always one of the first ones finished with tallies, no matter the race or the turnout -- thanks, Bob Sweat! You're one of the best supervisors of elections in Florida!

Polls are closing ...

... and CNN analysts are wasting no time in making their first projections.

Vermont leads things off, going for Barack Obama and John McCain. That's 23 Democratic delegates for dispersal and 17 GOP delegates.

You guys want to make any predictions about what will happen in the big states tonight and what will happen as a result? I know you're out there ... how about a little prognostication?

25 minutes to poll closings in Ohio, where the weather has been terrible. Lou Dobbs and Wolf Blitzer spent about five minutes discussing the hardiness of Ohioans (?) and whether the weather (ha ha) would keep them away from the polls. Blitzer, a Buffalo, N.Y., native, concluded that Ohioans were hardy enough, and Dobbs concurred, although he chastised Blitzer for "overanalyzing" things.

Briefing book

If you have a few minutes, here's a cool briefing book on today's contests from Fox News Channel. It reads kind of like the CIA's World Fact Book (which, incidentally, is also a really cool way to waste some time -- ever heard of Burkina Faso?)

Bad news

We'll take a breather from politics for a moment to discuss this incredibly bad news from the world of sports: Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre is retiring.

Favre is the quintessential NFL quarterback: hardy and tough, great under pressure, a real winner. He is also a class act, which, unfortunately, is an increasing rarity in professional sports.

There is no one like Brett Favre. The NFL will not be the same without him, and Sundays will be less exciting now that he won't be there.

Best of luck, Brett. It's been a great ride.

Cracks in Obama's armor?

Barack Obama also understands expectations, and he's been scrambling to keep the focus on Hillary.

After a contentious news conference yesterday in which Obama was questioned about a meeting one of his surrogates had with Canadian officials over Obama's position on NAFTA and Obama's relationship with disgraced Chicago investor Tony Rezko, Obama seemed to show the first chinks in his unflappable public relations armor.

(If you need a quick, dispassionate primer on Rezko, who he is and why people are talking about him, check out this list from the Chicago Sun-Times.)

Some of the verbage used by the press after yesterday's action with Obama: He was "exasperated" and "scurried away" from the news conference; Obama "lashed out" at rumors about his religion.

In addition to fending off suddenly aggressive reporters, Obama continued his crusade against the nameless, faceless, 500-pound elephant in this campaign: The whispers about his religion. (Heard the one about how he took his Senate oath on the Koran? It isn't true.) Read more on Obama's comments yesterday here and here.

Also, no doubt you've received that chain e-mail about how Obama doesn't say the Pledge of Allegiance, how he turns his back to the flag, etc. Check out this link from Internet rumorbuster for the truth about these whispers.

Finally, it's not like anyone really paid attention with everything else going on yesterday, but Obama's communications director, David Plouffe, did his part to try to keep the pressure on Clinton. It's too bad that one of the best quotes of this campaign was lost in yesterday's hubbub:

"They were sitting on enormous leads as recently as two weeks ago," (Plouffe) said on the call, dismissing the notion of a Clinton "comeback."

"They keep moving the goal posts, but at some point you run out of field," he said.

Hillary's high stakes

Remember our recent discussion about expectations? The higher they are, the harder they are to meet.

Hillary Clinton knows that full well, and the results of tonight's contests have all but been eclipsed by the statements from her campaign that no matter what happens tonight, she intends to stay in the race at least through April 22 and the Pennsylvania primaries.

Clinton and her surrogates made no bones over the past two weeks about the absolute critical nature of these primaries to the survival and continuance of her campaign. Most media outlets and pundits agreed, saying that if tonight's contests resulted in anything other than wins -- and big wins, at that -- for Clinton, the delegate math would simply be too much for her to overcome. Articles like this from the Cincinnati Enquirer and louder calls for Clinton to get out of the race if she doesn't show well tonight, most notably from former Democratic candidate and potential VP pick Bill Richardson, have been popping up with increasing frequency.

But as March 4 drew closer, the campaign stepped away from the all-or-nothing perspective they had on the outcomes tonight, and the Clinton machine has been in overdrive, pumping out this message to anyone who will listen (and even to some who won't): We're not going anywhere.

A couple of examples of how Clinton has tried to spread the word include chief strategist Mark Penn pointing out that there are 16 more contests to go after today and Clinton herself telling supporters (and, perhaps, more importantly, fundraisers) that she's "just getting warmed up."

As voters head to the polls in four states (oh yeah, Rhode Island and Vermont also vote today), just in case things don't go her way tonight, Hillary Clinton has tried to answer the dreaded campaign viability question before reporters and pundits have a chance to ask it.

Super Tuesday II!!

Whoo hoo! It's Super Tuesday II!!

Things seem to be looking up for Hillary Clinton. Recent polls show her maintaining a five-or-so point lead over Barack Obama in Ohio and seem to indicate that she has managed to level off her free-fall to at least remain even with Obama in Texas. These are good signs for Hillary in that in previous contests, undecideds tend to break for her. One poll I heard yesterday said that there were still nine percent undecideds in Ohio.

One thing to watch as the day progresses, and that's the weather in the Buckeye State: Hillary has to do well in the northern part of the state, and the weather throughout Ohio is poor today. Rain, sleet and snow greet voters in different parts of the state. This can have a huge impact on the outcome of a race; just ask Mike Huckabee, who probably lost South Carolina to John McCain due to an ice storm in the western part of the Palmetto State, where much of his evangelical conservative base resides.

I'll keep you posted throughout the day as I hear interesting things here and there. I think of today as that day about two weeks after Christmas when you realize that there's still a present for you that someone forgot about or somehow managed to misplace. Election results tonight will be like ripping that wrapping paper off the last gift!

(Well, maybe ... maybe there will be six more weeks of unwrapped gifts if this thing doesn't deliver a clear winner tonight!)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Another hit

Hillary scores again with a response to Stewart's question about whether she would be asking Obama to get out if she had won 10 or 11 victories in a row: "That's a lot of questions, John." Ha ha!

Hillary is sending a message here: She's emphasizing "what big states have to say." The implication is that the other states -- the other 45, presumably -- don't matter as much when it comes to deciding the nominee. (Hillary uses the word "ahistorical." Is that a word?) There's the groundwork for her staying in the race after tomorrow: "We didn't give up on the big states," she says, adding, "The next state is Pennsylvania," on April 22.

Hillary ends on a feel-good line about having "a lot of repairwork to do" when George W. Bush leaves the White House. That's a safe line in front of this Comedy Central crowd.

All in all, she gets a B-. Nothing extraordinary, but nothing to hurt herself, as far as I can tell.

Whew. Can I change the channel now?


"It is pretty pathetic," Clinton deadpans to Stewart's "why-are-you-talking-to-me-on-the-eve-of-the-most-important-night-of-your-life" line. That is great!

But now Hillary seems to be trying too hard. I am so sick of that "I'm feeling really good" line.

SIDEBAR: Did you know that the campaigns spend a lot of time and effort putting together the groups that are seen behind the candidate and behind the podium at any political event? There's an art and a science to it. You have to "look" the part they want, or ... you're stuck in front of the podium. This group was obviously chosen to reflect age first (it's a young crowd) and racial diversity second.

The idea that experience and hope are mutually exclusive in Washington: This is a surprisingly good question from Stewart. Hillary has a real chance here; let's see if she takes it ... hmm, that was a bit of a disappointment. Why doesn't she take these questions on more directly?

She gets a C+ so far. I have to give Stewart props, as much as I hate to do so, because that question was one of the few useful, unique questions to be posed to Hillary all primary season.

First segment

Seriously, I am in the 10th minute of the Daily Show, headed to the first commercial break, and I'm waiting to laugh the first time. What do people find funny about this?

The one line I found interesting was, "This campaign is beginning to look like an alcohol-free Edward Albee play."

From Wiki:

Edward Franklin Albee III (born March 12, 1928) is an American playwright
known for works including Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Zoo Story, The Sandbox and The American Dream. His works are considered well-crafted and often unsympathetic examinations of the modern condition. His early works reflect a mastery and Americanization of the Theatre of the Absurd that found its peak in works by European playwrights such as Jean Genet, Samuel Beckett, and Eugène Ionesco. Younger American playwrights, such as Pulitzer Prize-winner Paula Vogel, credit Albee's daring mix of theatricalism and biting dialogue with helping to reinvent the post-war American theatre in the early 1960s. Albee's dedication to continuing
to evolve his voice — as evidenced in later productions such as The Goat or Who is Sylvia (2000) — also routinely marks him as distinct from other American playwrights of his era.

So even though it wasn't funny, at least I learned something in this first segment.

Here we go with Hillary. Please, please be funny.

The Daily Show

Witness my dedication to you: I am steeling mysef to watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which I absolutely LOATHE!!!

Hillary had BETTER be funny! ... because Jon Stewart is not.

Steinem's outrage

Let's talk about the outrage, the unmitigated outrage people should be feeling toward comments made by feminist icon Gloria Steinem.

Speaking at a rally in support of Hillary Clinton in Austin, Texas, last night, Steinem denigrated the military service of presumptive GOP nominee John McCain, who was held as a POW and tortured for more than five years during the Vietnam War.

Among her unbelievable comments were these:

Suppose John McCain had been Joan McCain and Joan McCain had got captured, shot down and been a POW for eight years. [The media would ask], ‘What did you do wrong to get captured? What terrible things did you do while you were there as a captive for eight years?’” Steinem said, to laughter from the audience.

... Referring to (McCain's) time in captivity, Steinem said with bewilderment, “I mean, hello? This is supposed to be a qualification to be president? I don’t think so.”

This is simply incredible in the most organic sense of the word, as in "unable-to-be-believed" incredible.

Clinton trotted communications director Howard Wolfson out to say that Clinton "has repeatedly praised Senator McCain's courage and service to our country. These comments certainly do not represent her thinking in any way. Senator Clinton intends to have a respectful debate with Senator McCain on the issues."

Blah, blah, blah. How about Clinton herself coming out and forcefully denouncing Steinem's comments? How about Clinton putting her money where her mouth is as far as respect for the military and the work that servicemen and women do?

Let me just say, in response to Clinton's recent ad question about who I want answering the phone at 3 a.m. when there's something going on in the world, I certainly don't want anyone anywhere near that phone, let alone answering it, who identifies in any way with someone who can speak this way about the torture and captivity of American soldiers anywhere in the world.

And Barack Obama doesn't get a pass. Let's hear from him, too, on Steinem's comments and what he thinks of them.

She cannot even conceive of the horrors McCain and other American POWs have bravely faced in the name of freedom. Steinem owes an apology to John McCain -- and every other American serviceman or woman who has ever worn the uniform of the United States military.

One more note: An editor's note at the end of the Observer's story about Steinem's comments says, "Due to high traffic, comments have been disabled for this article."

I bet!

What's up with that hat?

Let's take a break from the serious stuff for a minute to ask one burning question about this election:

I believe that Media Bistro's own Gail Shister says it best: Bill Schneider, WHAT'S UP WITH THAT HAT???

Bill Schneider is one of CNN's political analysts. I saw him do a piece last night from Rhode Island, and he was wearing The Hat. Honestly, I looked up at the television, saw Schneider, and I don't remember hearing anything else he said about the campaign because I was thinking, "What's up with that hat?"


According to Shister's story, Schneider won't comment on the makeup of the fuzzy hat (is it real fur or faux? No comment, Schneider says), but he insists he has to have the hat because of a dearth of "natural fur" on his head.

I'm a newspaper person at heart, so TV people aggravate me on a relatively frequent basis. But sometimes, I just have to laugh at them.

This is one of those times.

Texas primer link

I've realized that somehow, I corrupted the link to the Texas primer in the post below. Here's the corrected link!


Super Tuesday II preview

Ok, folks ... here's your Super Tuesday II preview:

  • The latest RealClearPolitics average (a combination of all major polls) show Barack Obama with a slight lead over Hillary Clinton in Texas, while Clinton leads Obama in Ohio. I'm no pollster, but I'd counsel some caution while viewing the Ohio numbers: The RCP average factors in one poll that shows Clinton with a 12-point lead. Others show her lead to be in single digits. The 12-point poll no doubt skews the average, which comes out to +5.4 points for Clinton.
  • Turnout, and the disparity thereof, continues to be one of the biggest backstories to the primary season. According to CNN's numbers, Democrats have cast 22 million votes in primaries and caucuses this season, compared with 14.1 million for Republicans. "Ohio, it appears, will be no exception in a presidential primary season punctuated by remarkable Democratic intensity and some signs of a shrinking or changing Republican base," CNN says.
  • Here are the Democratic fundraising numbers through two lenses; one, an update on where the candidates are financially going in to March 4; the other, a report on the wary eye GOP leaders are casting toward their counterparts -- and the excitement that fundraising indicates. From the latter article:

"Since the midterm election of 2006, Democrats have had an enthusiasm gap with Republicans," said GOP strategist Scott Reed. "They have big crowds, raise more money and appear to have more excitement on the campaign trail. Couple this with turnout numbers, which are off the charts, and Republicans are going to have a big challenge in the fall."

Obama raised $36 million in January. Clinton aides said she raised $35 million in February, and estimates for Obama place his haul for the month at more than $50 million. McCain, who raised about $12 million in January, is on a similar pace for February, according to his campaign.

Such a money advantage could mean that for the first time since post-Watergate campaign finance laws, a presidential candidate may forgo public financing for the general election. That would mean turning aside $85 million for September and October on the assumption that he or she could raise more.

  • Courtesy of, with-it.aspx" target="_blank">here's a useful primer on the labyrinthine primary/caucus (the "primacaucus" or "Texas Two-Step," according to locals) hybrid that the candidates' supporters will navigate in the Lone Star State on Tuesday. "We have grown men crying over it," Clinton told the New York Times. But not everyone will be at the caucuses ... More on this one later.
  • We talked yesterday about the ground game and how it works. The link I gave you used Barack Obama's Ohio operation as an example. Clinton's ground game has been called into question by some longtime Clintonistas (the poll numbers in the second half are outdated).
  • Clinton campaign mastermind Harold Ickes made news recently for his insistence that Clinton would win the nomination with superdelegates and that Obama's state victories would be "irrelevant." But even that strategy seems to be shaky. Georgia Rep. John Lewis, one of the last major civil rights leaders and one of those highly sought-after superdelegates, has switched his support from Clinton to Obama, citing the 3-to-1 ratio with which his constituents supported Obama on Feb. 5.
  • Finally, it's never too early for hindsight. Here's Democratic strategist and Hillary Clinton supporter Susan Estrich on what you won't be hearing from her if Clinton fails to land the two big wins on Tuesday night. The gist: "For all those who say Hillary should have been the candidate of change instead of the voice of experience, the force for unity instead of a symbol of division, the face of the future instead of a reminder of the past, I have only one answer: Get real." Ah, Susan. You have such a way with words.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Dallas Morning News takes a leap

The Dallas Morning News delivered a surprise to its half-million subscribers this morning by endorsing Mike Huckabee in the Republican race for president.

The News freely acknowledged that Huckabee, barring some sort of unforeseen circumstance that would turn the GOP race on end, will lose the nomination to John McCain. But that didn't stop the News from looking at the race in a different light.

By supporting Huckabee on Tuesday, voters can deliver a message to Republican party fathers, the News said, that Huckabee -- and what the News called his "good-natured approach to politics" -- has a place in the coming restructuring of the GOP.

This is the meat of the editorial:

To that end, Mr. Huckabee, 52, should be a top leader in tomorrow's Republican Party. His good-natured approach to politics – "I'm a conservative; I'm just not mad about it," as he likes to say – is quite appealing after years of scorched-earth tactics from both parties. He's a pragmatist more concerned with effective government than with bowing to ideological litmus tests. For example, he has proven himself willing to violate anti-tax dogma to undertake investment in infrastructure for the sake of long-term prosperity.

Mr. Huckabee also is good on the environment, contending that the future of the conservative movement depends on embracing conservation and stewardship of the natural world. And he's a compassionate conservative especially in tune with middle-class anxieties in a globalizing economy.

Though his social and religious conservatism puts him on the wrong side of abortion, gay rights and other key issues, that same deep-faith commitment inspires his dedication to helping the poor and to racial healing. He truly is representative of the next wave of evangelical chieftains and, if nothing else, will emerge from this primary season the leader of one of the most influential factions in the GOP coalition.

Incidentally, the DMN also endorsed Barack Obama, concluding, "All in all, Mr. Obama offers Texas Democrats the best choice for leadership, for judgment – and for substance."

Obama's Ohio ground game

Tired of sound bites and stump speeches? This post is for you.

On its face, it's a window into the inner workings of Barack Obama's campaign in Ohio; from a broader perspective, it's an explanation into why party insiders -- i.e., those who walk the precincts, make the phone calls and wave the signs -- carry so much weight in the nomination processes.

This is where the rubber meets the road.

Hillary self-deprecates

Hillary Clinton took advantage of the red carpet unfurled for her by Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live last week.

Clinton appeared on SNL last night to poke fun at everything from her cackle-laugh to her struggles on the campaign trail ("The campaign is going very well. Very, very well," the former first lady responded before earning some laughs with a deadpan: "Why? What have you heard?").

I looked for clips of the show but couldn't find any right away ... if you can, please share. I'd love to post them here.

Clinton appeared on Ellen DeGeneres' show last week and will appear on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart tomorrow, according to CNN.

What do you guys think about the candidates making appearances on these comedy shows? Do you think it's helpful? Let me know your thoughts in comments.


This just in: Women are expert liars, according to a new study reported today by The New York Post.

Women lie about all kinds of things and for all sorts of reasons, according to the study.

Click on the "next" link below the photo of now-infamous Lauren Cleri for a Top Ten list of things about which women lie.

Who's Lauren Cleri, you ask? She's the new Liars' Queen, after appearing on "The Moment of Truth." She amassed $200,000 by admitting to an affair and that she wished she was married to an ex-boyfriend, but she ended up penniless after lying about whether she thought she was a good person.

If, somehow, you missed this story, you can catch up here.

Some things just aren't worth any amount of money ... and that's the truth.