05/14/2008 - 9:51pm
One thing we know for sure - no one understands life better than young folks. That's why everyone I know checks with a twenty something before reaching a conclusion on any important topic.

Proof of the power of youthful comprehension is displayed in Michigan, where Barack is campaigning. A reporter there spoke with folks who were lining up 11 hours early to hear Barack speak, and, wow, these kids are an inspiration:
Korr, who drove from Kalamazoo (from Grand Rapids), was one of about 10 people lined up by 9:15 a.m. He said he has not been involved in the Illinois senator's presidential campaign, but he would like to be. "It's about change," Korr said, shielding himself from rain drops under the arena overhang.
Imagine that? Remarkably, Korr wasn't the only one there who gets the meaning of Barack's candidacy:
"Change," echoed Robert Young, 32, of Greenville, the second person in line.
This is why democrats are always trying to get more young people to vote. They realize that kids "get it" in a way that older people can't help but envy.
Sitting down in the third position was John Kilbourne, whose East Grand Rapids home features an "Obama Garden of Hope."
See? How many grownups do you know who have their own "Obama Garden of Hope?"

On the other hand, the superdelegates announcing for Barack don't seem any brighter. Congressman Pete Visclosky says:

“My choice is Senator Barack Obama who promises to bring Americans together to reach pragmatic, progressive solutions to the problems we face," the Merrillville Democrat said in a statement Wednesday.

Even more impressive is U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, who claimed that only Barack...
"...can move us beyond the politics of statement and gridlock."
Huh? What is "the politics of statement and gridlock?" Even young Mister Korr, standing in line all day in the rain to hear Barack speak, did better than that. But then again, he had the advantage of the 50 mile drive from Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids to sort things out.

Come on Donnelly - can't you just say "Change?"
05/14/2008 - 12:05pm
Could McCain, the veteran who spent years as a POW, get outflanked on military support? New legislation, proposed by Senator Jim Webb (D-Va), would update the GI Bill.
On the day before West Virginia's primary election, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama called for passage of the new GI bill Monday in Charleston... The proposed 21st Century GI Bill would allow soldiers to receive free tuition for college. Obama said it is one of a number of upgrades to GI benefits and health care the federal government should provide.
Under the revised bill, a $1200 buy-in, collected out of GI paychecks over the course of a year, would be eliminated. It would

...essentially guarantee a full-ride scholarship to any in-state public university, along with a monthly housing stipend, for individuals who serve the military for at least three years.

The proposal would give veterans 15 years to use the benefit, instead of the current 10-year limit, and would set up a new government program that matches financial aid by more expensive private institutions.

This is a big increase in money for school:
For a pricey public school — such as Miami University in Oxford, Ohio — that benefit might be worth as much as $31,000 per school year, compared to the $9,900 average benefit that veterans are given now.
Benefits would also accrue more generously over time and would be more readily transfered to family members.

When combined with the wear and tear of a longterm war and the natural appeal of the Obama persona and message of change for young GI's, this measure could permanently change which party military voters support.

John McCain realizes he's being outflanked in a battle over his natural base, but he's opposed to the measure for its expense, and a concern that it is designed to encourage people not to reenlist.

While Democratic leaders say they see a yes-vote on their proposal as a no-brainer for any lawmaker facing voters this fall, the new GI benefits plan has Republicans — and even some members of the more fiscally conservative Democratic rank-and-file — balking at the cost.

"The last thing we want to do is create a situation in which we are losing our men and women who we have worked so hard to train," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.

Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Richard Burr of North Carolina have proposed an alternative that would boost the maximum monthly stipend for GIs from $1,100 a month to $1,500 a month.

This is a wonderful opportunity for democrats, who find themselves in the happy position of 1) being able to buy the support of a targeted constituency, their stock in trade, and 2) seizing an opportunity that's been handed to them by the GOP, and 3) being on the right side even while spending irresponsibly.

But democrats have a point when they argue that taking care of the troops is part of the cost of war, and they're proposing a tax increase on people making over a million dollars a year to pay for the Webb measure.

The politics is playing out this week:

Democrats are pushing Webb's bill and other domestic add-ons, including a major expansion of state unemployment benefits, as part of a larger $195 billion package that would pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through early next year. A House vote is planned this week.

Ultimately, Democratic lawmakers and their aides say they expect some version of the GI bill will pass eventually, even if they have to strip the domestic add-ons and find money elsewhere in the national budget to offset the costs.

McCain is working feverishly to escape the obvious potential for damage:
It was McCain who instigated a letter to Webb signed by himself and two fellow Republicans on Monday, in an effort to end a standoff between the two Vietnam veterans. Discussions followed Tuesday between Webb and McCain ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and late in the day there was a staff meeting that lasted more than an hour.

It is too early to predict what will come of the discussions, but Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), a former Senate Armed Services Committee chairman who has served as an intermediary of sorts between the Webb and McCain camps, was hopeful.

“I think it’s an exciting chapter. I’m enjoying every minute of it,” Warner told Politico. “We’re going to get it. I’ll bet your bottom dollar we get it. ... I’ll give you odds we’re going to win.”
For an insider's take, read military blogger 'Greyhawk' in his Mudville Gazette.

Thanks to Kevin Whalen at Pundit Review for promoting the work of Milbloggers like Greyhawk, especially to me.
05/13/2008 - 11:03pm
As Hillary has won the votes of democrats, Barack has been winning over independents, exciting the party. John McCain, meanwhile, is working to position himself as a centrist who can pull votes away from Barack on issues such as global warming:
McCain is emphasizing the environment while he tours the Pacific Northwest this week, seeking the support of independent voters. Although environmental groups regard McCain more favorably than most Republicans, some view his record as disappointing.
With President Bush immensely unpopular, it is incumbent on McCain to stake out some new territory so that Barack's attempts to brand him as a continuation of Bush don't take hold.
"I will not shirk the mantle of leadership that the United States bears," McCain said, alluding to Bush, who withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement to curtail emissions. "I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges."
Of course, to get something you have to give something up. Even as McCain describes himself as a conservative, becoming the Global Warming Republican is not going to win over those members of the party who are shaky on McCain over things like immigration.

Apparently, as his people crunch the numbers, they figure he's better off chasing centrists than he is conservatives. Perhaps the latter group is shrinking in influence so fast that McCain is creating a new model for winning national elections as a member of the GOP.

Will it work? Here's Jeffrey Toobin's reaction, which will likely be common:
"You know, the fact that he acknowledges global warming is seen as a big advantage for him, but it's like acknowledging gravity. It is a scientific fact." Toobin then compared McCain to President Bush on the issue, stating that "the real issue is not whether it [global warming] exists. The question is what to do about it, and, in that area, he's not as far as to the right as Bush is, but he's pretty close."
So the real power of this tactic is that it makes McCain seem younger and hipper than your average old republican, and again, it makes him look unlike G.W. Bush.
05/13/2008 - 3:36pm
Barack's running mate has been revealed.

Not Hillary. Not John Edwards. Not even Evan Bayh.
Bob Barr, a onetime Republican congressman from Georgia, on Monday announced his plan to run for president as a Libertarian, promising to rein in federal spending and limit military involvement abroad.

"The government has run amok fiscally," Barr said at a news conference. During the first quarter of this year, he said, the private sector lost millions of jobs while the federal government was "hiring with enthusiasm."

Barr, who left the Republican Party two years ago, is expected to win the Libertarian Party's nomination during its convention this month in Denver.
Barr is the guy who could be Barack's real running mate, who working in unorchestrated tandem with the democratic nominee, could be the deciding factor in denying John McCain the White House.
Barr confirmed that he was asked by McCain supporters not to run, but he defended his decision, saying that "American voters deserve better than simply the lesser of two evils."
Some argue that Barr's entry automatically is bad news for the GOP says consultant Christopher Barron:
I could actually envision a scenario under which Barr's candidacy actually helps McCain by siphoning off some of the enthusiasm among college voters and antiwar advocates for Obama."
05/13/2008 - 11:54am
Barack is working hard to court Jewish voters, concerned over an aura of mixed feelings he may hold toward Israel.
Asked if he thought Israel was a “drag on America’s reputation overseas,” he said it was not. But, referring to tensions in the Middle East, he said: “What I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions.”
He is correct, of course, in what he says. But he's being honest about an issue that most members of Congress turn and run from - blind allegiance to Israel is required to avoid attack. Nuanced, balanced comments are seen as a threat.
On Friday, Robert Malley, who was a special adviser on Arab-Israeli affairs to President Bill Clinton, severed his ties to the Obama campaign after he learned that The Times of London was preparing to publish an article disclosing direct contacts he had with Hamas.
And, of course, at least one Hamas official says the group is excited about Barack's candidacy, as one would expect all terrorist organizations to be.
The official, Ahmed Yousef, said that “we like Mr. Obama and we hope that he will win the election.”
Considering that Barack already has a 20 point gap in Jewish support, it's not clear that this is going to help. But then again, there are only 4 million Jews in the U.S. - what's the big deal?
Jewish voters make up a small but important constituency in several states rich in electoral votes, like California, Florida, New York and Mr. Obama’s home state, Illinois.
True enough. But going unmentioned here, I suspect deliberately, is that Jewish voters are just a segment of the population that cares deeply about Israel. The others, such as religious conservatives, may be more inclined to vote for John McCain, which explains why the nurturing of the issue is targeted at Jews.

But American Jews are almost universally liberal, and opinion leaders will work hard to make sure that concerns about Barack's Israel devotion are mitigated. Among them, Marty Peretz of New Republic:
Last Thursday, Barack Obama and I had a longish telephone conversation... Last on our agenda--but longest--was Israel. He knew my historic concerns. I said that I was pessimistic about the possibilities of peace. He said he was "skeptical." That is exactly the right frame of mind for a president to bring to the 100-year dispute that has eluded the most ingenuous formulas for resolution. It is certainly better than being too optimistic.
Reaction to Barack's approach will be fun to watch. He's been very shrewd, I think, reinforcing the Obama brand by appearing to be strong, offering a nuanced opinion on support for Israel, but doing so with a group of voters who would otherwise kill to get him elected.

05/13/2008 - 3:29am
Here are the latest numbers:
The Rasmussen Reports' daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows Barack Obama attracting 47% of the vote while John McCain earns 46%.
Gallup shows Hillary still running slightly stronger against McCain than Barack:
...according to Gallup Poll Daily tracking from May 7-11, both Democratic candidates are now beating McCain among national registered voters in Gallup Poll Daily trial heats for the fall election. Obama leads McCain by four points, 47% to 43%. Clinton leads McCain by five points, 49% to 44%. Both leads represent the candidates' highest margins over McCain, to date, since Gallup began tracking the general election ballots in early March.
The new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that Democrats aren't worried about the long primary fight, with 64% saying Hillary should stay in the race. It doesn't mean they want Hillary, however:
Democrats by a 12-point margin would rather see Obama as the nominee, a lead that's held steadily in ABC News/Washington Post polls since early March.
And the poll shows Barack gaining in a head to head matchup against McCain:
In general election matchups, Obama leads McCain by 51-44 percent, similar to the last two ABC News/Washington Post polls. Standings in a Clinton vs. McCain race are 49-46 percent, again roughly similar to previous ABC News/Washington Post results.
Do Americans lie to pollsters? Voters say they're much more biased against McCain's age than they are influenced by race or gender, a result that doesn't seem credible:
The greatest risk of losing votes is among those who are "entirely" uncomfortable with the idea; that's 15 percent for a 72-year-old president, vs. 6 and 7 percent, respectively, for a black or female president.
In West Virginia, a new poll says that Hillary leads by 36%:
The survey, conducted by Suffolk University in Boston, gave Clinton a 60 percent to 24 percent lead over Barack Obama, who leads in overall delegates and popular vote.
05/12/2008 - 1:48pm
Once the darling of the media, it was actually liberal reporters from ABC who showed that they are willing, on occasion, to do their jobs and treat Barack like a guy who is running for President. Does that mean that the love affair is over? Now that Barack is human, does he stay human, or do they put him back on the media pedestal?
Much of Obama's success stemmed from his uncanny ability to charm the media and, through them, the voters, who often make up their minds based on what they see and read about a candidate.
John Friedman in MarketWatch says that this is the big challenge now for Barack:
To keep the momentum going, Obama will have to understand -- every day -- that he will face even more media scrutiny.
Mainly, he will have to try harder to be as assertive as possible. Journalists -- especially the New York Times' brilliant, acerbic columnist Maureen Dowd -- have hounded him and suggested that has looked weak because he couldn't vanquish Clinton.
Not to be forgotten, writes Friedman, is that John McCain is popular with the press:
Recently, when the New York Times published a story loosely insinuating that McCain may have had an improper relationship with a female lobbyist, the paper was blasted by politicians and members of the media alike. They saw it as a cheap shot, partly because McCain had built up so much good will.
I doubt that the sympathetic outpouring on McCain's behalf would have been so strong if a rather unpopular politician had been the target.
05/12/2008 - 3:44am
Both camps are denying talks over a VP slot for Hillary, but the disclaimers were all sharply focused. David Axelrod, Barack's top strategist said there have been no discussions about helping to pay off Hillary's debt and:
He also denied rumors that the Clinton camp may be in some kind of discussions with the Obama camp to make her his running mate. "There's been no discussion about vice presidential nominees and this whole scenario," Axelrod said.
From the other side:
Also on "Fox News Sunday," Clinton's top strategist, Howard Wolfson, said that "We think Sen. Clinton is going to be the nominee," and that he has "seen no evidence of her interest" in the No. 2 slot.
On the other hand, Carl Bernstein reports the opposite story:
Friends and close associates of both Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are now convinced that... she is probably going to fight to be the vice presidential nominee on an Obama-for-president ticket.
The Obamas will resist, Bernstein writes:
However, several important Democrats aligned with Obama predicted that he -- and Michelle Obama -- will vigorously resist any Clinton effort to get on the ticket. Rather, Obama is more likely to try to convince Clinton to either stay in the Senate or accept another position in an Obama administration, should he win the presidency.
The jist of these stories is, no one is sure how Hillary will handle things, or exactly what she wants.
05/11/2008 - 4:55pm
On with Stephanopoulos this morning, Majority Leader Harry Reid made a big deal about John McCain's character, repeatedly mentioning his temper. He also talked about how McCain has changed from the time when Reid was trying to get him to flip parties, saying that was before he became an extension of George Bush.

This is Barack's new kind of politics?

Meanwhile, an Obama superdelegate brought up McCain's Keating Five Savings and Loan history while introducing Barack the other day. Obama was asked if this was an appropriate area of discussion:
“I don’t have any doubt that John McCain’s public record about issues that he’s apologized for and written about is not germane to the presidency,” Obama continued referencing an earlier question, “You know, I was just asked previously about a whole host of issues and associations that were a lot more flimsy than John McCain’s relationship to Keating Five. What I’ve said is, you know, I can’t quarrel with the American people wanting to know more about that and me having to answer questions about that.”
The I can't quarrel part is funny. Didn't Barack act like it was some sort of criminal offense when he was asked questions about Reverend Wright during the last debate?

So if Keating is on the table, that must mean that Barack's shady land deal with the Rezko's will be treated as fair game. And what about a discussion on Black Liberation Theology? Barack's friendship with the bombers?

05/10/2008 - 3:12pm
An interesting breakdown of how Reverend Wright impacted voters in Indiana and North Carolina in the Washington Post shows, once again, that Hillary had a point about Barack and white voters.
Among white active churchgoers in both states, a majority said Wright was very important to their vote, and in each state about nine in 10 of those for whom the issue was very important voted for Clinton.
Were black voters who attend church regularly immune to some reality about Barack? Nope:
In the Tarheel state, black voters who gave Wright's sermons the most consideration still gave Obama a 70-point advantage, but it was slimmer than his 93-point win among those who said it was not a factor.
So if you are a values-based voter, you hold Barack to a higher standard:
In Indiana, the issue also split voters: About half of those who attend services weekly or occasionally rated the Wright issue important, while only a third of those who never attend services said the same.
But the numbers are scarier for Barack in North Carolina:
In North Carolina, among those who said they attend religious services weekly, nearly six in 10 called Wright important to their vote, almost double the figure among those who never attend services. Even among Obama's own supporters in the Tarheel state, 45 percent who attend services weekly called the controversy important to their vote; among those, a third who rated it "very important."
Its fun to consider how less energized voters, those who vote in general elections but not primaries, will choose in the Barack McCain matchup.

And what happens when the other scandalous Obama relationships begin to get explored? Is Barack immunized from Wright style controversies now, or is he more vulnerable to being undermined now that his judgment has been shown to be questionable?

There are many exciting months, and story lines, to go.
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