05/06/2008 - 3:11am
It was very funny this morning - Barack on the Today show being interviewed by Matt Lauer just after Hillary had a go round with Meredith. Barack must have had Tim Russert on the brain, as he kept calling Matt "Tim." Russert must have enjoyed it.

Matt started off with a couple of Wright questions, and just as Barack was getting a bit impatient and saying that he'd answered such questions exhaustively, Matt went and asked a good follow-up. Why shouldn't the Wright situation go to Barack's judgment?

Barack dodged, of course, but it was gratifying to know that Matt has a journalist's bone in there somewhere.
05/06/2008 - 2:23am
They are the protectors of the best interests of their party, but super delegates do have a conflict of interest - giving their support to the highest bidder. That's right, the democratic nomination gets decided just like legislation in Congress. First, let's go back to February and this from the Boston Globe:
"While it would be unseemly for the candidates to hand out thousands of dollars to primary voters, or to the delegates pledged to represent the will of those voters, elected officials serving as superdelegates have received about $890,000 from Obama and Clinton in the form of campaign contributions over the last three years," the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics reported today.
Only $195,000 of that money was paid out by Hillary, and she got little in return for it. Barack's paid much more money into the 'politics of old' bribery system and gotten a much better return on investment:
Obama's political action committee has doled out more than $694,000 to superdelegates since 2005, the study found, and of the 81 who had announced their support for Obama, 34 had received donations totaling $228,000.
Ed Lasky explains in the American Thinker that the leverage goes further than cash. Barack, he explains, has created an electoral goldmine that will only be shared with super delegates who play ball:
The Obama campaign has compiled a giant database of supporters that can be tapped by superdelegates who need help -- and of course money -- in their own future campaigns. The Senator has developed the campaign equivalent of a gold mine that has many years of production ahead.
Donors who give less than $200 don't have their names included on campaign filings with the FEC according to election law. These small donors are Barack's bread and butter, meaning he has a huge list of names that no one else has access to:
The Mybarackobama site is the first social network site devoted to a political campaign. Mybarackobama.com capitalizes on "viral growth": by inviting friends to join you in supporting Barack Obama. Powered by this simple but effective mechanism, the Obama campaign's list of contacts, supporters and donors has grown at an exponential rate with zero incremental costs of "acquiring" them. Why buy mailing lists?
This leverage that Obama has over super delegates who are office holders is not to be underestimated, Lasky argues, in considering the likelihood that Hillary could snatch the nomination from Barack.
05/05/2008 - 10:01pm
Barack's now a believer in Hillary, as he joins her in expecting that nothing will be decided until the end of primary season:
On NBC's "Today" show, Obama predicted that after the final contests June 3 in Montana and South Dakota, "We will be in a position to make a decision who the Democratic nominee is going to be," he said.
Hmm, how times have changed.
"I want your vote. I want it badly," Obama said on a factory floor in Durham in North Carolina's high-tech Research Triangle region.
As Tom Rush once sang - "Times ain't now, Momma how they used to be." Or something like that.
05/05/2008 - 12:06pm
I was in the shower at 5:30 this morning and turned on my Sony Shower radio (they have really good AM tuners, by the way) to hear the all-news station in Boston running through the headlines. The big story? Barack's campaign for the presidency hasn't been impacted by the Wright scandal.

Where would they get such a stupid idea? From the New York Times, of course. In a story entitled "Poll Shows Most Voters Unaffected by Wright," the Times says:
The poll, conducted after Mr. Obama held a news conference on Tuesday in which he renounced his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., for making incendiary comments, found that most Americans said they approved of the way Mr. Obama had responded to the episode and considered his criticism of Mr. Wright appropriate.
The Times knows the effect of a headline like that, and of sentences like "most Americans said they approved of the way Mr. Obama had responded..." The paper is well aware that when absorbed casually, the story will be perceived as meaning that Barack has dodged the bullet. This is obviously untrue.

Why is the Times so eager to make such a bad situation look harmless to Barack? You'll have to decide. Ask yourself why it would be good news for Barack that "most Americans" like the way he responded to the Wright situation. The flip side of those numbers shows the real problem for Barack:
...nearly half of the voters surveyed, and a substantial part of the Democrats, said Mr. Obama had acted mainly because he thought it would help him politically, rather than because he had serious disagreements with his former pastor.
Now there's a tragedy for Barack that you could build a headline around. The man who wants to change the way Washington does business is perceived by half of the electorate as doing business as usual. By the way, a recent Fox News Poll showed that number at 58%.

But does that mean the Times lied? Depends on how you define it. If a lie is the failure to convey the truth when the truth is known, then yes. It's a deliberate misrepresentation of reality by using facts.

And by the way, the facts are based on bad science, bad science that was paid for by the Times.

The most important phrase in the story comes rather far in, and it stands alone with no supporting context:
The survey of 601 registered voters was conducted between Thursday night and Saturday night.
The key phrase is registered voters. Registered voters. Sounds good, doesn't it? Activist Americans are ones who register, right? Sorry, no.

Roughly half of registered voters show up for hotly contested primaries like tomorrow in North Carolina and Indiana. Which means half of the people voting in the Times poll wouldn't go to the polls to vote. Which means their disengaged, uninformed opinions are tilting the poll. Any reliable poll will spend some time with each voter asking questions designed to determine with a high level of probability whether they are likely to vote. This poll is garbage.

The Times did included this bizarre sentence in the story:
The relatively small number of Democrats surveyed limits the conclusions that can be drawn about the poll’s findings regarding sentiment within the party. Moreover, as a national poll, it does not necessarily reflect the thoughts of voters in Indiana and North Carolina.
In other words, this worthless poll of registered voters is statistically invalid to begin with because the survey samples are too small. One big "Never mind!" from the Times, after the damage is done.

Still, the poor quality of the poll doesn't mean it fails to contain some facts that provide a picture supported by other polls that are scientifically valid. The real problem is that the Times wants to make it look like good news for Barack, so the story is tilted.

USA Today also uses a poll of registered Democrats and those leaning that way for its analysis on the race, but the paper isn't trying to make things look good for Barack where they're particularly bad.
Barack Obama's national standing has been significantly damaged by the controversy over his former pastor, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, raising questions for some voters about the Illinois senator's values, credibility and electability.

The erosion of support among Democrats and independents raises the stakes in Tuesday's Indiana and North Carolina primaries, which represent a chance for Obama to reassert his claim to a Democratic nomination that seems nearly in his grasp. A defeat in Indiana and a close finish in North Carolina, where he's favored, could fuel unease about his ability to win in November. Such results also could help propel Hillary Rodham Clinton's uphill campaign all the way to the Democratic convention in August.

Those first two paragraphs in USA Today nail down the state of the campaign at this moment with incredible precision.

Read down to the next post to see some of the dramatic damage done to the reputation of Barack by the Wright controversy.
05/04/2008 - 5:46pm
Hillary is still trending up in North Carolina, as Barack's dramatic drop of support there continues. Expected to win by 15 points or so in late April, his lead now is down to 7 points in a cumulative assessment of the many polls by Real Clear Politics. He leads by 8 with 8% undecided in the latest CNN poll. The undecideds tend to break Hillary's way. In a state where 40% of Democrats are black, anything less than a solid win for Obama could represent a tipping point, as he has been getting close to 90% of the black vote.

The Zogby poll, released yesterday, shows Barack with a 9% lead in North Carolina, but a point ahead in Indiana with a huge 15% undecided. The Real Clear number crunch shows Hillary still leading at slightly under 8% in Indiana.

The most damning poll of all, as usual, has to do with underlying issues. Consider this from Rasmussen:
...just 30% of the nation’s Likely Voters believe Barack Obama denounced his former Pastor, Jeremiah Wright, because he was outraged. Most—58%--say he denounced the Pastor for political convenience.
This shift in perception of Barack from Messiah to Politician is the foundational change that has taken place, allowing Hillary to fight him while they're both standing in the same ring for the first time. That's why her gas tax proposal has some resonance - "she may be pandering, but that's what politicians do. Obama lied about Wright. At least she's going to put some money in my pocket."

Meanwhile, Barack was on for a full hour of Russert this morning, looking all the more disingenuous on Wright. Asked from a number of directions why Wright was appalling this week but "like family" five weeks ago when he was saying the same things, Barack essentially said he'd ignored the evidence and given him the benefit of the doubt out of naive loyalty.

But there was no basis to claim naivite, Russert pointed out, as Barack had disinvited the preacher from his February 2007 campaign announcement when he learned of Wright's comments about America being a country committed to white superiority and black inferiority.

Barack dodged the question by saying his loyalty was to his church. If that were the case, he wouldn't have felt the need to go easy on Wright in March.

Responding to Russert, Obama acknowledged that he later apologized to Wright for blocking his public involvement with that event.

Obama agreed that it is fair game for people to question his judgment in having such a long relationship with Wright, but said it should be considered along with everything else he has done over the last two decades. "This is one element of a much larger track record," he said.

And that track record includes William Ayers, Tony Rezko and a wife whose never been proud to be an American.

As one reader asked in a letter to the editor in the Boston Globe today:
If Obama has trouble handling the petty demagoguery of Wright, who just has a big mouth, how will he handle the truly dangerous demagoguery of tyrants such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...
I understand how for some voters the conversation on Wright feels now like its a spinning mush of sameness. But because Barack's arguments are circular ones, they defy credulity, causing a need to go deeper. Its important to get him on the record with his white lies to help drive home the point that hope without experience, hope without a track record, and hope without a proven ability to get the job done is a hopeless way to choose a leader.

Its going to be quite a fall if Barack hangs on to get the nomination.
05/04/2008 - 1:49pm
For months we've been hearing that Hillary should drop out of the race for President. But Hillary's perseverance has brought the race to a point where the question can rightly be asked of Barack Obama - Why don't you drop out?

Folks will still say you're crazy for asking it, but that's because most people don't follow campaigns in real time, meaning they aren't current enough on trends to look into the future.

Blogger Chris Wilson wrote a piece in Slate a couple of weeks ago suggesting that Barack get out of the race. I'm not on board with the entirety of his analysis, but I do think Barack should get out. I'll give my argument after we examine Wilson's.

His logic? Hillary should have already dropped out, but she doesn't possess the power to get herself to do so. Barack, on the other hand, is fully capable of making such a decision:

And if he's really serious about representing a new kind of politics, now is the time for him to prove it in the only meaningful way left. Moreover, were he to play it right, dropping out now nearly guarantees that he'll be elected president in 2012.
Under Wilson's scenario, the split in the party would lead to Hillary's loss, but Barack would be canonized as the "new" sort of politician he's posing as now, and he would sail into the presidency in four years.
Mr. McCain will be eminently more beatable in 2012. Demographics will continue to shift in Mr. Obama's favor as his 14- to 17-year-old supporters come of voting age. Anyone foolish enough to challenge Mr. Obama for the nomination – and don't rule out Mrs. Clinton – will go nowhere.
Here's my take.

First, there's no reason that Hillary should have, at any point, considered leaving the competition. She is right that Barack can't win, so staying in can always be justified as an attempt to save the party from another George McGovern decision.

Barack should get out of the race now, but he should make a deal - he'll work to elect Hillary and encourage all democrats to do the same, but if she loses, she agrees to defer to him in 2012. Here's my thinking:

  1. Barack is a damaged candidate, a loser in '08. As a true liberal who is new to national politics, he hasn't been careful enough about who his friends are and will be ravaged in a national election. In four years, after Hillary's loss to McCain, he'll be better positioned to compartmentalize these issues.
  2. Barack is unqualified to be President. If he stays in the Senate for another term, he'll have a couple of years of experience outside of campaign season, so he'll be able to craft a small record to run on.
  3. It's going to be an awful time to be President. Were he to win, he would have to break his promise (lie) to withdraw troops on a strict timetable, and thus would be poorly situated for re-election in 2012, as Iraq would be his war. McCain will have to solve health care, a bad economy and Iraq. Those solutions will make for lots of angry people.
  4. McCain will be viewed as too old for another term, but he'll want it and won't defer to his VP.
  5. Barack will be the party leader in four years having fallen on his sword and handed the nomination to Hillary.
Is this likely to happen? Not right now. But if Barack takes a lickin' in Indiana similar to Pennsylvania, and North Carolina ends up a toss-up, then it will start to look like a very good idea for everyone, especially super delegates committed to Barack who will be looking for a way out of their bad decision if Hillary's surge in popularity continues.
05/04/2008 - 1:29pm
Listen to my conversation with Kevin Whalen Friday from Pundit Review. After some talk about blogging, we have a great conversation on the presidential race.

05/03/2008 - 1:03pm
Ted Kennedy, a vociferous supporter of Barack's presidential bid, sounds surprisingly melancholy about the campaign in today's Boston Herald:
“I’ll be out across the country. We’re beginning to run out of time, but I’ve been campaigning and traveling,” Kennedy (D-Mass) said at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library yesterday.
Beginning to run out of time? Really! What sort of attitude is that, Ted?
“I’m hopeful of what the outcome will be in those states (North Carolina and Indiana), but I think its gonna be a tough battle... I'm very hopeful that he'll get a good response. No one questions that this is a hard-fought race.”
Wow. This gives whole new meaning to the idea of the "politics of hope."
“Barack Obama represents a newer vision. He has been able to bring newer groups into the political process, people that have tired of politics of division, politics of fear and politics of special interests,” Kennedy said.
Yup. That part we know. It's opening the door to the idea that Barack could be stopped that seems a bit odd. He has, I thought, got the thing in the bag.
“My sense about Barack Obama is he still offers the best opportunity for new leadership in this country,” Kennedy said.
Well, don't think the Massachusetts Senator has given up on Barack even if the thrill is gone. His former aide, Paul Kirk, was one of this week's super delegate announcements for Barack.

By the way, Obama's isn't the only campaign with something to fear from a Kennedy. This is what Robert Kennedy, Jr. had to say:
“I am here because I love this woman,” he told a crowd of Clinton supporters in southern Indiana, which holds its presidential nominating primary on Tuesday.
Women are generally best served by ducking when Cupid's arrow is heading their way on behalf of a Kennedy.
05/03/2008 - 4:05am
If current polls are an accurate indicator of what's going to happen in Tuesday's votes, the result will be - more of the same.

In the Real Clear Politics aggregate of all the polls, Barack's lead in North Carolina has shrunk to 8.2% (he lead recently by 25% in one poll), and Hillary's lead in Indiana is up to an average of 6.2% (this had recently been a draw). Could Clinton pull a major upset and win in North Carolina?
One month ago Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) faced an uphill climb in North Carolina. A few days from Tuesday's primary, Clinton has clearly closed in on Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and there are now whispers of a Clinton win among her state-wide supporters.
If Hillary wins in single digits in Indiana while Barack wins NC by single digits, the message is the status quo. There's little fodder for those who want to argue that Clinton is unjustified in staying in the race. Likewise, more wind heads into the sails of the "What's Barack's Problem?" question. Why can't he put her away, some Dems will grumble?

Meanwhile, as Hillary's campaign does better and gets stronger, watch for super delegates to move equally and oppositely toward Barack. Even though he is proving to be a candidate who can't win in the fall, in their contempt for the Clintons and fear of alienating newly registered Democrats, the party is fighting to help Barack hang on to a nomination that he deserves less every day.
05/02/2008 - 1:24pm
Polls show working class Americans abandoning the Obama ship like it's the Titanic.
Reflecting that shift, a poll released Thursday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press showed Clinton's lead over Obama nationally among whites who did not attend college had increased from 10 points in March to 40 points at the end of April.
Ironically, this is resulting in more Super D's declaring for Barack. Why? They don't want to be put in a position to deny voters the nominee they've chosen, they fear of dragging things out longer, and they have huge contempt for the Clintons.

This rationale leaves out one important reality - Barack can't win, Hillary can. And, it could end up putting the party just where it doesn't want to be, embracing a candidate (Barack) who voters don't want.

How sweet it is!
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