One of the biggest questions remaining in the Presidential campaign, aside from whom the candidates on the Democratic and Republican sides will be of course, is whether billionaire New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg will enter the Presidential race. Conventional wisdom said that had the Presidential race been say between Mike Huckabee and Hillary Clinton, there would be a fertile middle ground full of independents and moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats who would find Bloomberg's socially liberal, fiscally conservative approach. But with John McCain, a very popular moderate figure (more popular among moderates than members of his own party probably) likely getting the Republican nomination, that middle ground may be occupied (especially if McCain is joined by Barack Obama).
And to the end, I think we got a big foreshadowing of Bloomberg's ultimate decision, whether to run, or not, today when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced he was endorsing John McCain. Schwarzenegger and Bloomberg are very close (they shared a cover of Time earlier this year) and Bloomberg was just in California a few weeks holding a press conference with Arnold. The two share a lot of policy issues, including the fight against Global Warming, and you have to figure that if Bloomberg were to run, and were he to win, he would have to win California, and Arnold Schwarzenegger would be his biggest ace-in-the-hole there. But with Schwarzenegger endorsing McCain, I really think that signals that Bloomberg is going to sit this one out. Maybe I'm reading too much into the Schwarzenegger-Bloomberg relationship, but I don't think so.
And speaking of reading too much into things, Barack Obama has no campaign stops scheduled for Saturday, February 1st. Tomorrow (Friday), of course is the Democratic Debate in California, and Sunday Obama will hit Boise, Idaho, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and St. Louis, Missouri. But the day before? Not one stop scheduled yet. Leaving the date open for an Edwards endorsement perhaps? It would be perfect timing to get prominent, front-page coverage on Sunday newspapers across the country and to get talked about on all the Sunday political talk shows. Now, I know every media report has Edwards not yet deciding whether he's going to endorse, much less who it's going to be, and when, but you don't take a day off from campaigning this close to Super Tuesday. It's probably just a matter of campaign scheduling, but maybe, just maybe, that date is open for a reason.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
One of the biggest questions remaining in the Presidential campaign, aside from whom the candidates on the Democratic and Republican sides will be of course, is whether billionaire New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg will enter the Presidential race. Conventional wisdom said that had the Presidential race been say between Mike Huckabee and Hillary Clinton, there would be a fertile middle ground full of independents and moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats who would find Bloomberg's socially liberal, fiscally conservative approach. But with John McCain, a very popular moderate figure (more popular among moderates than members of his own party probably) likely getting the Republican nomination, that middle ground may be occupied (especially if McCain is joined by Barack Obama).
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
I was a big supporter of John Edwards in 2004. I took my time that year, and did not support any Democratic candidate at the start of the primary campaign. I liked Howard Dean but wasn't sold (in large part because unlike his public image as extraordinarily liberal, I wasn't sold on his more conservative positions on issues like gun control). After a watching a few of the debates, I quickly gravitated towards John Edwards. He was sharp, passionate, and a great candidate. He had a booklet he published explaining each of his policy positions, what he planned to do, and how he planned to pay for it.
I always thought he would have been a much stronger Presidential candidate than John Kerry (The young, energetic, exciting Edwards with the veteran experienced war hero Kerry as his VP always made more sense to me) and while I didn't support him this time around, I still respected his positions and always thought he, in many ways, had the best debates of any of the candidates throughout this process.
John Edwards, despite some of the negative things said about him and his profession, cares deeply about the poor and the underrepresented even if that didn't get him any votes. He cares deeply against fighting against corporate interests and lobbyists even if that prevented him from raising the kind of money you unfortunately need to compete for the Presidency.
Thank you John.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
John McCain got a BIG win in Florida tonight (and one that actually counts) and as he gives his victory speech, I'm struck by the only person in camera shot behind McCain: Florida Governor Charlie Crist.
Crist is extraordinarily popular in Florida and it looked as if he was going to stay neutral in the Republican race. But with Mitt Romney gaining a lot of steam in Florida, spending millions of his own money on television ads, and building a lead in most polls, Crist changed course, and on Saturday night, as Barack Obama was basking in the glory of his 28-point South Carolina victory, he endorsed McCain. Since then, he has traveled the state stumping for McCain, and the polls immediately turned around (the endorsement of Senator Mel Martinez helped too).
It's no accident McCain has Crist standing behind him tonight, as it was Crist who delivered Florida for McCain, and just may have won him the Republican nomination for President. So, it shouldn't be a surprise this summer when McCain announces Crist as his running mate. Southern Governor of perhaps the biggest swing state in the entire country, and one beloved by the Republican base which doesn't yet (and may never) fully trust McCain. It's a pick that makes sense and after tonight, after what Crist has been able to do for McCain, it's the least John McCain could do.
Hillary Clinton trying to turn Florida into a victory is really grasping at straws and momentum, but all the cable networks are showing her victory rally and I'm sure she'll get some good headlines tomorrow, so the media allows her to gain some momentum back.
But let's look into the numbers, in the only words I'll have to say about Florida. Fist, Florida had a ton of early/absentee ballots cast, some speculated that it was over one-third. According to MSNBC's Exit Poll, of those early voters, Hillary Clinton won 49-29. Among those who decided whom they were going to vote for over a month ago or more, Clinton won 64-25. But, then look closer.
Voters who decided within the last month? 46-42 Obama. In the last week? 38-31. In the last 3 days? 45-40 Obama. Clinton won those choosing a candidate today, but she was in Florida yesterday, and in Florida today, the only candidate there (breaking the early pledge to stay away in spirit if not reality) .
One other interesting number? Most times, voters say endorsements don't matter in their vote. Even if they really do, people are recluctant to admit their vote could be swayed by a political endorsement. 25% of Florida voters though said Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Barack Obama was "very important" to their vote, and among those voters, Obama won 58-32.
And with that, Florida is irrelevant, over, and shouldn't be talked about anymore.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
After a stirring 28% victory in South Carolina, where Barack Obama not only won 80% of the votes of African Americans, but showed he could win the votes of white voters as well (as he proved by convincingly winning in Iowa and coming in a close second in New Hampshire, states with a 95%-plus white population) as he tied Hillary Clinton among white men and won over 50% of the vote from white voters under 30, the Obama campaign is showing strong momentum going into February 5th when 23-states have caucuses and primaries. And his support among white men and young white voters shows that no matter how the Clinton campaign or others try to characterize Obama's blowout victory, this was no Jesse Jackson, one-dimensional victory. It was a broad base of support among both white and black voters, a coming together like we saw in Iowa, and like we may see across the country in the next few weeks. And today, rumors are rumbling of a possible giant endorsement coming Barack Obama's way: Senator Ted Kennedy, one of the largest Democratic figures in the country who has yet to endorse a candidate (former Vice President Al Gore remains on the sidelines, likely tepid after his endorsement of Howard Dean in 2004 failed).
First, though, Obama received a stirring and powerful endorsement this morning in the New York Times in a beautifully written editorial by Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the former President. In it she passes the Kennedy torch to Obama, writing about how Obama inspires the country, just as many say her father did in the 1960s.
Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.
We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960.
I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.
And now, Kennedy's uncle, Ted, may be joining the Obama team as well. Just last night, on MSNBC's always suburb primary coverage, Newsweek's Howard Fineman said he expected Kennedy to remain on the sideline, waiting in the wings to re-unite the Democratic party, should, as is increasingly possible, this battle between Clinton and Obama (and Edwards) goes to the convention. Yet, Time.com's Mark Halperin leaked word this morning that Kennedy was leaning towards an Obama endorsement (a notion not denied by Obama this morning on ABC's This Week) and ABC News is now reporting that Kennedy will in fact endorse Obama tomorrow in Washington D.C. in a rally before George W. Bush's State of the Union Address. The endorsement, in many ways, is huge for Obama. It gives him the full backing of the Kennedy family, and adds further fuel to the narrative that he is in the mold of both John and Bobby Kennedy and is a unifying force like both brothers Kennedy. It also provides him with the seal of approval from another senior statesman of the Democratic Party (to go along with John Kerry, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, and current Senate Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy).
And according to the Boston Globe, Kennedy will do more than simply endorse Obama, he plans to campaign hard for Obama up and through February 5th.
Kennedy believes Obama can ``transcend race'' and bring unity to the country, a Kennedy associate told the Globe. Kennedy was also impressed by Obama's deep involvement last year in the bipartisan effort to craft legislation on immigration reform, a politically touchy subject the other presidential candidates avoided, the associate said.
The coveted endorsement is a huge blow to New York Senator Hillary Clinton, who is both a senatorial colleague and a friend of the Kennedy family. In a campaign where Clinton has trumpeted her experience over Obama's call for hope and change, the endorsement by one of the most experienced and respected Democrats in the Senate is a particularly dramatic coup for Obama.
While polls show Clinton ahead in some large states, including her home state of New York and delegate-rich California, the Kennedy endorsement gives Obama a stamp of approval among key constituencies in the Democratic party that could make Super Tuesday more competitive.
Kennedy plans to campaign actively for Obama, an aide said, and will focus particularly among Hispanics and labor union members, who are important voting blocks in several Feb. 5 states, including California, New York, New Jersey, Arizona and New Mexico.
It's hard to go after Obama's inexperience with such powerful and experienced people backing his candidacy, giving Obama much needed credibility going into states where he is not nearly as well known as Clinton.
And it's that name recognition factor which is why I've been so angry with the Clintons for turning Florida into more than what it should be and for claiming victory in Michigan where she was the only candidate on the ballot. I've again and again on my frustration with Clintons (and I use the plural form for a reason) instance that Florida count for anything. Now, those Clinton supporters will claim that if Obama were up in the polls in Florida I'd feel different, and that the voices of Floridans should be heard. And I agree that the voices of voters in both Florida and Michigan are important, but the reason why the media should ignore these contests (and they have ignored Michigan for the most part) and why I get so agitated when I read Clinton is going to Florida Tuesday night for a victory speech (designed, no doubt, to get media coverage of her "victory" there to blunt Obama's momentum heading into Super Tuesday) is because they are nothing more than contests over name recognition.
There is no question, none, that everyone, whether they follow the primaries or not, whether they read the newspaper or not, knows who Hillary Clinton is. Or, the the very least, they know who her husband is, and they take their feelings of him and impute them on her. Barack Obama, on the other hand, is not very well known. I think being in this primary bubble and watching MSNBC everyday and following this race non-stop we forget that Obama is a one-term Senator from Illinois, and while that is used as a weapon against him by the Clintons, it's important in another way, because a lot of voters don't know anything about Obama. So when they take a poll or vote in a primary where Obama has agreed not to campaign, they have no frame of reference to support him, no views or knowledge of who he is or what his vision for America is. We think everyone pays attention to Iowa and New Hampshire and Nevada and South Carolina. Truth is, people, for the most part, don't. So voters don't know Obama, so of course they are going to gravitate towards somebody they do know, like Hillary Clinton, when given that option. That's why Florida doesn't matter. It's not that Floridians don't matter, it's that their voices, as reflected in whatever the vote totals are on Tuesday night, are not an indication of anything about whether Floridians, allowed to have a full campaign, would still support Clinton in the numbers that will be shown on Tuesday. It's all about name ID and Clinton certainly has a monumental edge, still, over Obama in that category.
That's the problem with Florida.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Barack Obama Wins South Carolina; Bill Clinton Tries to Marginalize Obama By Comparing Him To Jesse Jackson
Barack Obama is a big winner tonight in South Carolina, winning the state in a big way, and in such a way that the networks could hardly even wait until 7:00 to call the primary in his favor. In today's day in age of caution with the use of exit polling and networks taking their time before declaring a race won, the fact that they called it immediately for Obama means this should be a huge victory for him, and one much needed to gain momentum going into February 5th.
What should be most concerning about today though, were comments made by former President Bill Clinton, as the Clinton campaign continues to try to marginalize Barack Obama as the "black" candidate. Their former adviser, and current nemesis, Dick Morris, has postulated that the Clinton's have tried to, through their comments on Obama's drug use, and drawing Obama in to a fight about race in America, have done that in order to scare off white voters from Obama, with the strategy being that if you can marginalize Obama as simply the "black candidate," white voters will abandon him and Clinton will win the nomination. And with pre-polling data showing that Obama had only 10% support in the white community, it seemed to have worked. Obama, though, according to the exit polls tonight, got 24% of the white vote, which while not great, is much better than anticipated, and will make it harder for the Clinton's to try to claim Obama only won because the votes of African Americans.
That doesn't stop the Clintons, and Bill specifically, from trying though. In what might be the most offensive comment yet from the Clintons, Bill tried explicitly tonight to get the word out that Obama was simply the "black" candidate. Asked a legitimate question about what it says about Obama that it took two Clintons to take him on, Bill's answer was a complete non-sequitor. He said "Well, Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in 1984 and 1988." It didn't answer the question, and even more so, it was an incredibly blatant attempt to say "South Carolina voters just vote for the black candidate so you shouldn't take what they say seriously." That's incredibly offensive. Yes, Jesse Jackson was a powerful candidate in the mid-1980s, but I think there's no dispute, Barack Obama is much different kind of candidate, and does have a broader appeal than Rev. Jackson. The fact that Bill Clinton would try to so explicitly to tie Obama to Jackson and in-so-doing raise the racial issue, especially after he went off on a reporter last week for even asking him about it, is amazing.
And obviously, the voters of South Carolina did not appreciate that kind of campaigning. The question is, how will the rest of the country feel?
In Hillary Clinton's "concession" e-mail she mentioned that she will now be turning her attention to American Samoa and Florida where no delegates are at stake. Ever since the state moved up its primary in violation of DNC rules and the candidates each agreed not to campaign there, Florida is and remains irrelevant to this contest for the Democratic nominee for President. Hillary Clinton continues to bring it up because Barack Obama can't campaign there so she feels she can pad her resume with that "victory" after getting trounced by 28% in South Carolina. I just hope the media does not let her get away with this and they ignore the race down there, as they should, as nothing more than a meaningless vote.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
I don't really understand the value of so called "tracking polls." These polls take three days worth of polling, average them together, and give you a view of what the electorate is thinking over time. It's a fine idea of in theory, but in practice, these polls are like glaciers, they are very slow moving and don't respond quickly to jolts in the system, like a 500-point drop in the Dow or a contentious debate among Democrats. Take John Zogby's current South Carolina tracking poll as a perfect example. By using a three-day weighted sample, and by using one day which was before the Democrats debate, which has, as proved by Zogby's numbers from days following the debate, shaken up the race, just looking at the totals Zogby reports doesn't tell you nearly the whole story. In the past two days, John Edwards has seen a surge in South Carolina and in fact has, according to Zogby, overtaken Hillary Clinton for second place in the final day (Wednesday) of Zogby's polling. But, because the polling includes Monday and Tuesday in his sample, the number reported by the mainstream media is the three-day sample number, which shows Edwards in third place, trailing Clinton by five-points for second place behind Barack Obama. Let's take a closer look at the numbers.
In the first report of the poll, which was taken from Sunday to Tuesday, and thus only accounted for one day of polling after Monday's furious and game-changing debate, Obama lead Clinton and Edwards 43-25-15. From Monday-Wednesday, including two days of post debate coverage, Obama fell 4 points, Clinton 1, and Edwards gained 4. A huge jump, but in fact, the leap is even larger. Look at Zogby's report about just looking at Wednesday's total:
Edwards, meanwhile, has had his second good day since the Monday night CNN debate, in which he delivered a strong performance. He hit 19% support on Tuesday alone and then 27% support on Wednesday alone. And, on Wednesday alone, he pulled ahead of Clinton overall. He has pulled ahead among whites. Could he pull ahead of Clinton and finish in second place? Even with a strong showing here, where does he go next to take advantage of the momentum?
So, Edwards is really at 27% as of Wednesday, but because the poll counts a day even before Monday's debate, the reported number has him at only 19%. This is completely missing Edwards surge, and the collapse of both Clinton and Obama (though Obama remains in first place). Hillary Clinton may finish in third place, her second such finish of the campaign. And Edwards may get his second "silver medal" as Mitt Romney would say. And while this may come to a shock to the national media, who may say they never saw this coming, it's entirely predictable based on Zogby's poll.
In this era of 24-hour-news-cycles and when events like Monday's debate or Tuesday's stock-market mini-crash (and later recovery) have such a profound effect on people's views and opinion is so fluid that what people think on Monday may not be what they think Monday night, much less Wednesday, I think we need to ask how helpful these tracking polls are. We all asked how the polls could be so wrong in New Hampshire when Hillary Clinton seemingly made up a double-digit deficit overnight. Well, by using tracking polls, even if Clinton's comeback began two days earlier, it wouldn't have really registered to the amount it was in reality. We get fooled by not looking at the internal numbers of these tracking polls and thinking that a huge jump by Edwards, like over 15 points in two days, isn't meaningful before 48-hours before the primary.
We need more day-to-day polls, those are the numbers which need to be released and reported upon. They are far less likely to miss these moves in public opinion and tell you where people stand today, not yesterday.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
I have a newfound respect for Hillary Clinton's Communications Director Howard Wolfson tonight. Over the past few months, I have come to loathe Wolfson in a very respectful way. For the kind of campaign Hillary Clinton is running, Wolfson is an incredible Communications Director, public advocate, and strategist. He has played a large role in helping Clinton overcome her defeat in Iowa, and he can get anyone off message and get anyone to believe practically anything he says (a trait all of the Clinton folks seem to be gifted with). He's exactaly the staunch advocate a candidate running a campaign like Senator Clinton is needs, and he deserves a lot of credit for what he's done for her and the campaign. Hence why he hasn't become one of my favorite political figures.
But, today, Reading Ben Smith's blog I came across this fact and story about Wolfson: The man doesn't fly. Well, that's not entirely true, he will fly on Air Force One, but that's about it, so as the Clinton campaign goes from Nevada to South Carolina to Iowa to New Hampshire (pretty much traveling the entire length of the continental United States) Mr. Wolfson has been following along by car.
“It’s all mishegoss—fear is not rational,” said Mr. Wolfson when asked to explain the root of his now decade-long aversion to air travel. “I could point to a couple of things but at the end of the day it just ascribes a level of rationality to it that doesn’t exist.”
He said the last time he was airborne was around the time of Mrs. Clinton’s 1999 Senate race, when he traveled on Air Force 1 and other military transports. When asked if he did so because those government planes seemed safer than commercial aviation, he said “That’s what makes sense to me,” but immediately added, “I want to make it very clear that I am not arguing for the rationality of any of this.”
Perhaps the gravest consequence of Mr. Wolfson’s fear of flying is that he has to spend hours and hours, and hours and hours, driving by himself.
“It’s usually alone,” he said. “There are not many other people willing to drive 17 hours.”
Wolfson echoes my sentiments exactaly. As I've written about before I have the same irrational fear, and like Howard, I try to skip planes when possible (although, unlike him, I would fly from Nevada to South Carolina, or, as I have in the past few years, from Detroit to Las Vegas and back) and I defend my avoidance of the air in a very similar way. I completely understand it's irrational and that I'm much safer in a plane than driving or taking Amtrack, but still, that doesn't make me feel any more secure once turbulence starts at 30,000 feet. I also think I too would fly on Air Force One because it would be presumably much much safer with much better pilots and failsafes than a normal plane.
Anyways, good for you Howard Wolfson, keep up the ground game.
Monday, January 21, 2008
So the latest storyline heading into tonight's Democratic debate in South Carolina has to do with another state: Florida. As Ben Smith has outlined at Politico.com, the problem has to do with a national ad campaign Barack Obama began today, with a one-minute ad running on CNN and MSNBC all across the county in all 50-states. That includes the state of Florida, which had its delegates stripped by the Democratic National Committee because it moved its primary up in the calender to January 29. As a result, each of the Democratic candidates have promised not to campaign in Florida, and they have each stayed away except for small fund raising activities.
Well, after learning that Obama's campaign reached all 50-states, which includes Florida, the Clinton campaign hastily got all indignant, held a conference call with reporters denouncing Obama's breaking of the non-campaign pledge, and now say "all options are all the table" involving Florida, including campaigning there.
There's a simple reason why the Clinton campaign is doing this: They lead in Florida because Obama has been unable to campaign there. The national media ignored Michigan (and we'll get to Michigan in a moment) and the Clinton campaign, which seems likely to lose South Carolina this week, would love nothing more than for the national media to treat Hillary Clinton's "victory" in the previously uncontested Florida race as a "momentum booster" going into Super Tuesday on February 5th. They are taking this opportunity to try to convince everyone Florida really is in play, so when they do win on January 29, it gets covered, talked about, and gets Clinton off the mat after her expected South Carolina defeat. Makes sense. Problem is, it's incredibly hypocritical.
First, this is not a Florida ad-buy, it's a national ad-buy. The Obama campaign inquired about excluding Florida from where the ads were run and were told by CNN and MSNBC that it was impossible to do so. Not only that, but they went to the South Carolina's Democratic National Committee representative herself and got permission from the South Carolina DNC Party Chair. If the South Carolina DNC chair had no problem with the ad-buy, why should the Clinton campaign?
Not only that, but their indignation is very peculiar given that as soon as Hillary Clinton "won" Michigan, her campaign sent out an e-mail claiming victory and she has mentioned her victory in Michigan in most press releases and other campaign memos I've seen. Well, Michigan, like Florida, doesn't count, there was no victory there, she picked up no delegates, and not only that, but she wasn't even opposed on the ballot, as Barack Obama and John Edwards, per DNC wishes, took their names off the Michigan ballot after they moved up their primary (the only reason they did not do so in Florida was because Florida law did not allow them to do so). And why is Clinton so upset now over this ad which is running all over the country, not just in Florida, when she herself did not follow the wishes of the DNC by removing her name from the Michigan ballot as the other candidates did. She kept her name on the ballot so she could run up the score in a state where there was no campaign, and she's trying to do the same in Florida.
It may be smart politics, but it's hypocritical, especially given the Clinton campaign's continuing trumpeting of their "win" in Michigan and the Obama campaign needs to come out strongly on this and not let the Clinton campaign, as they have ever since Iowa, win the "spin" war and let this story be covered on their terms.
This YouTube video is hilarious, and as is custom online, when you see something this ingenuous you have to pass it on and make it known to as many people as possible. As anyone who has followed this Presidential primary season knows, if one word could describe the campaign, it would be change. Barack Obama started it, then John Edwards and Hillary Clinton jumped on the bandwagon, and even Mitt Romney on the Republican side has become an agent of "change." Well, a great video is now on YouTube taking all these mentions of "change" and put them to music, namely David Bowie's song "Change." The hilarity that ensues is a must-watch.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Wow. I didn't really mean for Quo Vadimus to turn into all-politics, all the time, and certainly not into a de facto propaganda machine for the Obama campaign, but that's seemingly has been what has happened this month. I guess it makes some sense. Aside from studying for the Bar Exam, my time is pretty much spent watching MSNBC (Morning Joe and Hardball are daily rituals, and with all the extra debates and primary/caucus coverage, it adds up pretty fast) and sleeping, so it's little wonder that when I do find time to post, it's on politics and this fascinating race for both the Democratic and Republican nomination. And given my natural support for Obama, my posts tend to be (well, are) probably, well, a bit slanted. Let's try to change that a bit, both in terms of looking at the race a bit more objectively (we'll see how long that lasts, probably until the next Clinton attack, oh wait, there I go again) and instead focus on another of my passions: sports, which used to be the calling card of this young blog.
So the New England Patriots at 18-0 and going into the Super Bowl and I do have to admit I am a bit disappointed that it won't be Brett Favre and the Packers going up against Tom Brady's Patriots. To see Brady, perhaps the best quarterback of his generation, to potentially conquer Favre, perhaps the best quarterback ever, to give his team the Super Bowl and an undefeated season, that would have been something to watch. Instead we'll get Eli Manning on the Giants, the Manning that isn't funny and personable and isn't a big star (yet). But he's showing he has the talent to be known on his own regard and not just as Peyton's little brother. And you have to give the Giants credit. Winning at Tampa Bay, at Dallas, and at Green Bay was very impressive. Plaxico Burress is an incredible wide receiver and the Giants defense is strong. Strong enough to upend the Pats in two weeks? I doubt it. But stranger things have happened, and the Giants played the Patriots extraordinarily tough in Week 17, so we should see a good game at the very least.
What else is going on? The Red Wings and Pistons have cooled off a bit after incredible starts to the season, but honestly, I haven't blogged much (if anything) about them because no matter how well they play now, it's irrelevant if they falter in June. It's nice to Chris Osgood rejuvenate his career, and Henrik Zetterberg grow into one of the NHL's best and most exciting players, and it's great to see the Pistons bench (especially Jason Maxiell and rookie Rodney Stuckey) play so well and give the starting five some much needed and much deserved time off during the season, but all that matters is the post-season. So I'll watch a bit from the sidelines until then. The Tigers signed Nate Robertson to a contract extension last week, locking up 4 of their starters (all except for Kenny Rogers) for at least the next three years. Solid move. Now let's get Cabrera signed.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
With Hillary Clinton's win in Nevada this afternoon, which as we now find out, may not be a win at all, today might be a perfect example of the power of the Hillary Clinton campaign to defeat Barack Obama in the "spin game" and the power of the media to control who actually wins and who actually loses based on how they report expectations going in, and even how votes are counted and delegates are awarded.
Confused? So are those in Nevada, but let's take a closer look. All afternoon, the media, and rightfully so based on the vote totals being reported by the Nevada Democratic Party, have reported that Hillary Clinton was the big winner in Nevada. A six-point win based on the latest results with a huge margin of victory among women and Latino voters. But, as Obama senior adviser David Axelrod just said on MSNBC's coverage of tonight's caucuses and the South Carolina primary, as it turns out, due to the weighting of rural counties, of which Obama won convincingly, he actually will leave Nevada with the most delegates (A fact later confirmed, somewhat, by a post by Ben Smith over at Politico.com). Obama picks up 13 delegates, Clinton will pick up 12, and Obama actually increases his lead so far to, well, two delegates (not counting, of course, the super-delegates which are non-binding and not all declared at the moment). And, as Axelrod also pointed out, the Clinton campaign has been continuously saying only delegates matter. If that's the case, Obama won tonight. Is that how it will be reported tomorrow? No. Will Clinton get a bump and momentum going forward because of her "win" tonight? Absolutely. But that's just because of how the vote was characterized tonight. The bottom line, as it turns out, is that in real terms, Obama leaves Nevada in better shape, in terms of delegate count, than he started with. He essentially lost the popular vote, but won the electoral college, to steal an analogy from the general election.
Now the test is, can the Obama campaign get the media to report that story? Going in to today's caucus, the Obama campaign was far outspun by the Clintons. The Clinton campaign did a masterful job as Chris Matthews has been saying all day of playing down expectations and talking about how biased the system was against them and how Obama had an edge going into today. The truth is, while Obama did have the powerful Culinary Union, Clinton had a 20-point lead in Nevada as early as two weeks ago and had all of the major Democratic establishment support, which gave her a far greater edge organizationally. And all those casino caucus sites that the Clintons complained about and which supporters of theirs tried to sue to stop, almost all went for Clinton, as did a significant portion of the Culinary Union's own membership.
Just as in New Hampshire, the Obama campaign did a horrible job of managing expectations and they can't allow that to happen in South Carolina next week. If they allow the Clintons to paint South Carolina as "unwinnable" for them because of the support of African American voters there who will support Obama, and Hillary comes even remotely close to winning, it's a loss. He can't let the Clintons continue to dictate the storyline of this campaign. If he does, he's lost it before he ever had a chance to win it at all.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
In just over an hour polls close throughout Michigan (though, with turnout as low as has been reported, there may not be many more people left to vote) and I would just love to see a Mitt Romney victory tonight. Not just because he's a Michigan guy and I like to see those from our great state do well, and not just because it would help derail John McCain's campaign (while McCain is a patriot and a honorable man who would make a great President, because of these qualities, I don't want him anywhere near the nomination as he is the most, and likely only electable Republican candidate) but because it would throw the Republican race into complete chaos.
Should Romney win, we'd have three major primaries/caucuses (and a Romney win in Wyoming), and three different winners (Mike Huckabee in Iowa, McCain in New Hampshire, and Romney in Michigan) with South Carolina completely up for grabs and Rudy Giuliani waiting in Florida. Imagine Rudy does hold on and wins in the Sunshine State. That would be five big states and five different winners. On Super Tuesday, when over 20-states have primaries and caucuses, imagine would could happen. Mike Huckabee, the popular and gregarious former Baptist preacher could sweep the Bible Belt states. John McCain could do the same in the Southwest where he's a Senator (Arizona). Rudy could take the Northeast, including New York, splitting some with Romney, who could also do well in some of the Midwest states.
There is a growing chance, every day, especially if Romney wins tonight, of no nominee having enough delegates to win the nomination heading into the primary. It happened on West Wing during Season Six, and now, with life imitating art, it could actually happen again. If Romney loses tonight, conventional wisdom, which I agree with, has John McCain on a roll, having won two primaries in a row with a good chance to make it three in South Carolina on Saturday. He could be unstoppable at that point. But if he does get stopped tonight, then there's no telling what could happen, and from a (somewhat) neutral political observer, there's almost nothing better than that.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Hillary Clinton was on Meet The Press this morning, and overall, I thought she did a pretty good job of staying on message, trying to push the blame of the recent racial attacks on the Obama campaign to the Obama campaign (if that makes any sense) and painting a picture of Obama (rightfully or not, accurate or not) as someone who has wavered on the Iraq War (when it is pretty clear when you look at the record, he hasn't -- Though he did make a political move not to knock John Kerry and John Edwards at the 2004 Convention, and for that Clinton fairly can go after Obama) She even said this when speaking with Tim Russert this morning:
You know, I think that we don't want anyone, any of our supporters, anyone--and that's why in my campaign, any time anybody has said anything that I thought was out of bounds, they're gone, you know? I have gotten rid of them, I have said that is not appropriate in this campaign.
That's a great sentiment. Sadly, it lasted all of about eight hours. That's because at a Hillary Clinton rally this afternoon in South Carolina, Senator Clinton was introduced to Senator Clinton by Bob Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television. With Clinton on stage behind him, Johnson had this to say:
As an African-American, I'm frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Bill and Hillary Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say what he was doing, [but] he said it in his book.
There is no doubt, no question, no arguing that what Johnson was referring to was Obama's admitted past substance use. Hillary Clinton, though, did nothing, ignored the comment, did not condemn it or the personal attack, and went on with her event like it never happened.
After, her campaign did release a statement, but amazingly, it was not to rebuke Johnson for his remark, or distance Hillary from it, but it was another statement from Johnson defending his remark.
My comments today were referring to Barack Obama's time spent as a community organizer and nothing else. Any other suggestion is simply irresponsible and incorrect.
Give me a break. So, the statement should have read: "As an African-American, I'm frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Bill and Hillary Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues when Barack Obama was a community organizer in Chicago working for poor African Americans." That doesn't even come close to making any sort of logical sense. It is beyond disbelief that the Clinton campaign would think anybody, any person who has any modicum of intelligence would think that's what Johnson was saying. He was trying to make a cheap point and get some cheap laughs and continue a pattern of personal attacks of the Clinton campaign where they let their supporters and campaign officials skewer Obama only to let the story get out and then go "That wasn't authorized and the person has been let go." Thank God Clinton has such a big payroll and can afford to keep hiring and firing these people.
Tonight was even worse because Hillary Clinton was right on stage, right there when the comment was made, and despite her pledge on Meet The Press she stayed silent. That is all you need to know about the kind of campaign Hillary Clinton is running and how she expects to win the Democratic Nomination.
Friday, January 11, 2008
A sign of a good campaign is a good public relations strategy, especially when it comes to revealing endorsements of a particular candidate. Endorsements by themselves, may not make a difference in the overall scheme of a campaign (Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean, for example, in 2004, flopped and endorsements of Barack Obama by former Senators Bill Bradley and Gary Hart in the days leading up to the New Hampshire primary produced similar results) but some endorsements do send broader messages about a particular campaign and their timing can be crucial to "change the story" in today's word of soundbytes and 24-hour news-cycles.
Since his defeat in New Hampshire, Obama has attempted to (and in many ways has) changed this narrative away from Hillary Clinton's amazing comeback. And he's done so with the support of endorsement after endorsement after endorsement, and some actually, unlike many, may be able to help transform the race.
First, the night of the New Hampshire primary, Obama was endorsed by Nevada's Service Employees International Union and the following day, he got a big get (and perhaps decisive in Nevada), with the endorsement of Nevada'a Culinary Workers Union. With Nevada moving to a caucus for the first time, and nobody quite knowing who is going to show up and participate, the huge labor and turn-out-the-vote strength these two dominant Nevada unions have is a huge boost for the Obama campaign.
Yesterday, Obama rolled out three big Congressional endorsements, with South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson, California Representative George Miller, and perhaps most importantly, John Kerry. The endorsement of Miller, who most may not know, is interesting, because the veteran Congressman is the chief confidant of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and conventional wisdom believes he would not have endorsed Obama without her blessing, which is an indirect shot at Hillary Clinton, the potential first woman Present by the first woman Speaker of the House. And the Kerry endorsement, perhaps most important for his infrastructure in key states and ability to raise money, still provides Obama with an experienced ally firmly in the Democratic establishment. Though pairing with Kerry may be a bit off-message for Obama from his change ideal (as I think Mary Matalin pointed out on television yesterday) it's still a new positive for Obama and got a lot of coverage on newscasts and in newspapers across the country.
Then today, Obama announced the endorsement of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. Napolitano, a two-term Democratic Governor in a red state, is one of the most prominent women in politics not named Clinton or Pelosi, and was considered as a potential running mate for John Kerry in 2004. Her endorsement of Obama will not just help him in Nevada (nearby to Napolitano's Arizona and in her home state on February 5th) but will help try to show women that it's okay not to support Hillary Clinton.
Will all these endorsements end up meaning anything in the long run? Maybe actually. The labor endorsements in Nevada may be enough to win those states, and if nothing else, the endorsements of Kerry and Napolitano have allowed Obama to continue to ride a wave of positive (and at this time of year, maybe even more importantly, free) publicity nationwide with serious political figures endorsing Obama's message of change and hope. With an election as close as this race is going to be, every bit of help and added news coverage helps.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
It is a little over 12 hours since the cable news networks announced that Hillary Clinton had won, in stunning fashion, the New Hampshire primary. As I wrote last night, the win was as much or even more surprising than Brack Obama's triumph in Iowa, because nobody, even her own campaign, thought she could stay within single digits of the Illinois Senator, and instead, she won by just over three-percent. How could the polls be so wrong? How could so much change in 24 hours to turn a double-digit defeat into a victory? MSNBC's First read (a daily must-read) has some good thoughts:
One other question, as the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson raised on MSNBC last night: When you lose a lead like that, does anyone else think of what happened to Tom Bradley in California? Did race play a role in a double-digit or high single-digit lead evaporating over night? In fact, we can only think of three races in which the public polls and the final result were SO off, and they all involved African-American candidates: Bradley's '82 gubernatorial campaign in California, Doug Wilder's surprisingly narrow '89 victory for Virginia governor, and Harvey Gantt's surprise loss for North Carolina Senate. There is no poll question we can find that can truly measure this phenomenon. But African-Americans are thinking this, and the difference between Iowa and New Hampshire is a voting curtain: Democrats didn't have one in Iowa; they had one in New Hampshire.
So how did the polls get it so wrong? It's likely a confluence of events: 1) the emotional Clinton; 2) the ganging up factor from the debate; 3) the stubborn nature of NH voters to reject what Iowa recommends; 4) race; 5) more independents going to McCain; and 6) complacency among young voters. Could one of these factors erase a double-digit lead? Probably not. Could each of six cost two points each? Perhaps.
I think their analysis makes a lot of sense. I don't think you can discount the "Bradley Effect" (as discussed above, it reflects white voters telling pollsters they plan to vote for a minority candidate, in an effort not to sound prejudiced, but then using the secrecy of the ballot to vote for another candidate) because it wouldn't take a lot of voters, when combined with the other last second momentum Clinton silently gained to turn this election. Race has not been talked about a lot in this campaign (aside from mentions about the demographics of given states like Iowa and New Hampshire's 95% white population, or the heavy Hispanic population in Nevada and African American population in South Carolina) in large part for two reasons. The first is because people are uncomfortable talking about it, and that leads into the second point, that nobody, including the media, wants to admit that there still may be a racial element in our country that does not want to see an African American (or any minority for that matter) become President.
Hillary Clinton talks about breaking the ultimate glass ceiling by becoming the first woman to be elected President, and there's no doubt that would be a tremendous event, but Barack Obama is a trailblazer too. And sometimes people say "The US isn't ready for a black President" or "the US would never elect a black President" and you want to dismiss that, you want to say this is 2008 and while certainly racial inequities and racial discrimination has not disappeared, that we are a better country than that. So we ignore Obama's race, at least as far as it being a negative factor (we mention how it will help him attract votes in South Carolina, but we don't mention how it may hurt in all white states like New Hampshire) but should we? I've embedded a video of a discussion on race from Morning Joe this morning with Chris Matthews, where he says Obama can't complain about this "Bradley Effect" because it will hurt him more than help him (which I agree with) but that he should practically discount all polls which show him ahead. That's a pretty sad statement if Matthews predicate is accurate, but based on what we saw in New Hampshire, maybe it is. It's easy to sound tolerant in a poll and in a public caucus, but behind the secrecy of the voting booth, maybe some people vote differently. Ben Smith over at Poltico.com has an interesting post up on the Bradley Effect and what role (if any, he thinks it may have been minimal here) it played yesterday.
And as I said, combined with some of the other factors the MSNBC post above talked about, it wouldn't even need to be a large number of voters who feel and act this way. But in such a close primary election, they may swing the entire thing. They certainly could have in New Hampshire. And there were other factors too. Independents voting for John McCain (even more so may have because they saw Obama with such a big lead, they figured McCain needed their support more -- and if enough thought that way, Obama could have lost a lot of support quickly) and the influx of women voters to Clinton's camp in the past 24-48 hours. I've also read a great point somewhere that said that the increased turnout and great weather that New Hampshire had yesterday, which many theorized would help Obama, actually hurt him in the end. New Hampshire has one of the oldest populations in the country, and older voters are overwhelmingly Clinton supporters. While a big snowstorm or bad weather may have made it impossible for them to leave the house and get to the polls, with the nice weather, they had no problem voting, and voting in large numbers for Hillary.
This race is certainly not over. Nevada next week and South Carolina will be huge, and if Obama can win both, he'd have a lot of momentum going into February 5th and Super Tuesday. And he gave another great speech last night (another reason why I'm embedding the video of Morning Joe below because it showed part of his speech and his 'Yes We Can!' refrain which if it doesn't touch and inspire voters, nothing will) and if he does pick up the endorsement of the Culinary Union, that would be big.
One thing is for sure though. There will be no confidence in any of the opinion polls heading into the elections in the next few weeks.
1:30 Update:According to ABC News, Barack Obama has received the endorsement of the Culinary Workers Union, which is a huge boost to his campaign, and should help to soothe the sting of last night's loss. The "conventional wisdom" of the mainstream media, at least in the past few days, was that the endorsement of the Culinary Workers Union could decide the Nevada caucus, so this is no small endorsement, and not only that, but it should get a good amount of publicity, and help Obama stop any momentum Clinton has after Iowa. I also found an embeddable video of the full version of Obama's speech from last night, it's worth watching. Just as good as his Iowa victory speech, if not a bit better because of the "Yes We Can" refrain.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
In what may be just as stunning of a victory as Barack Obama's five-days ago (and, wow, does it not seem like that Iowa victory and amazing Iowa victory speech was a lifetime ago, when in fact less than a workweek has passed since Obama's victory) Hillary Clinton has won New Hampshire, defeating Barack Obama and John Edwards. Going into tonight, most polls had Clinton down at least 7 or 8 points, with some having her down double-digits, but something obviously changed in the 24-hours leading up to the polls (perhaps her humanizing moment when she lost her composure a bit at a lunch yesterday) and suddenly the Democratic race is back in flux -- again.
So where do we go from here? Hillary Clinton almost assuredly will not skip South Carolina and Nevada now (largely because she has a good chance at winning them), a strategy floated early in the day. The large Culinary Union in Nevada, which was set to endorse of Obama (or so the reports were when Obama was poised to win New Hampshire going away) may now endorse Clinton, adding fuel to her comeback story, and almost assuring her victory in that state. High noon may come in South Carolina in two weeks, but how February 5th turns out is a mystery at this point.
I think today was an example of a misstep of Obama's campaign, perhaps because of it's inexperience in these types of national campaigns. Whether they got a little too cocky after Iowa, or they were fooled by the polling data it seemed everyone was looking at, they allowed expectations to get way out of control. Even if Obama had won by four or five points, instead of losing by that margin, it likely would have been spun as a Clinton victory (I wrote about that fear yesterday). Clinton's campaign, on the other hand, real or not, spent the day leaking stories of a campaign overhaul and panic in the campaign and worry about a double-digit loss. They lowered expectations to the point where almost anything they did could be considered a victory, and a real victory stuns the political world and jump-starts her campaign again. Even if it was unintentional, the panic and leaks and desperation from the Clinton campaign, and the over-exuberance of the Obama campaign, led to a change in expectations, and a situation where Obama became almost inevitable, and tonight, we learned he isn't.
This is a big blow to Obama because his campaign is supposed to be more than just a campaign, it's supposed to be a movement. A movement of independents and even Republicans as well as Democrats, and tonight, in a state full of independents, he wasn't able to defeat Clinton. It takes the air of his sails as he heads to Nevada and South Carolina. Even if he loses Nevada (and should he still get the Culinary Union's endorsement, that would take the sting out of tonight's loss and change the news-cycle away from his loss) he can still win South Carolina. And that's the last primary before Super Tuesday, where I'm becoming more and more convinced California will decide the race on that day. Clinton will take the Northeast and probably Arkansas, Obama the South and states like Missouri. And then California may decide it.
Another stunning night tonight, in a series of them in this Democratic campaign, and one practically nobody saw coming. And we'll see where it goes from here.
University of Michigan Football coach Rich Rodriguez is being interviewed on the Jim Rome Show right now and he just said, when asked about the future of Ryan Mallett, that "I think he is going to transfer." He said that Mallett has not told him that personally, but that Mallett has apparently let people know in the program that he is planning on leaving, and Rodriguez sounded as if he was prepared for life with a new quarterback.
Whether that's prep-superstar Terrell Pryor, or somebody currently on the roster (like Georgia Tech transfer Steve Threet, high school quarterback-turned-wide receiver Junior Hemmingway) remains to be seen.
The New Hampshire primary has begun with 17 voters, 7 Republican and 10 Democrat, and the results are in. John McCain won the Republican vote with 4 votes, Mitt Romney had 2, and Rudy Giuliani had 1 vote. For the Democrats, Barack Obama dominated with 7 votes, John Edwards had 2 votes, and Bill Richardson had 1. Hillary Clinton and Mike Huckabee were shutout and received zero votes.
It's a fun tradition there in Dixville Notch (and a few other New Hampshire towns that have the same kind of event happening tonight) which was famously featured in a fouth season episode of The West Wing (there the New Hampshire town was known as "Hartsfields Landing, named after Hart's Location, another town holding a midnight primary) though it probably isn't indicative of much (I believe Wes Clark won in 2004) but it's unique and gives the media something meaningless to talk about and blog about (like this post) until the real results come in.
As for predications for tomorrow (or later today I should say), I think Obama beats Clinton by 7, Edwards by 12. I'll also take McCain over Romney by 4, with Huckabee in third and Ron Paul beating out Rudy for 4th. And I'll also predict a 7-point Obama victory will be spun by the national media as a loss and the start of Hillary Clinton's national comeback, but we'll see how that goes.
Monday, January 7, 2008
Some good news and some better news for Barack Obama today, with just over 12-hours to go before polls open in New Hampshire. Though, as a natural worrier, I think there may be a problem with expectations being raised as high as they are, but as MSNBC's Chuck Todd talked about on Hardball tonight, at the moment, high expectations are of no concern to the surging Obama campaign.
First in New Hampshire, Obama, in almost every poll, has opened up a double digit lead on Hillary Clinton after being behind before his victory in Iowa. CNN has him up 12, Marist 8, Rasmussen 10, CBS 7, and USA Today 13. And Obama got a bit of continuing good news in two late afternoon poll releases, which surveyed South Carolina for the first time since Obama's Iowa win. Rasmussen has Obama up 12 and SurveyUSA has a more dramatic 20 point Obama lead. With a large African American population in South Carolina, and Obama proving to black American that he can win in states like Iowa and New Hampshire which have populations which are over 95% white, such a surge was not unexpected, but such a dramatic move has to have Hillary Clinton thinking seriously about skipping the state entirely, conceding it to Obama, and instead focus on February 5, where over 20 states have their primaries, and where Clinton will either overtake Obama's momentum or be swallowed up in it. Not only that, but Obama is dead-even in a Gallup national poll where Obama has been perpetually behind by double-digits, even as he drew near in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina
Politico.com has a great story up this afternoon about Clinton trying to re-organize her campaign to focus on February 5th, and talks about plans of hers to go negative on Obama and focus on states which only allow Democrats to vote in the primaries, thus preventing Obama's momentum with independents from carrying him to victory. Clinton, especially if she loses in double-figures in both New Hampshire and South Carolina, not only has to take in to account her dreams of being the first woman President, but she should take into account what's best for the Democratic Party. Obama is bringing people together, is bringing voters into the Democratic Party who may never have voted for a Democrat before, or whom may vacillate between the parties, and to win the general election, especially against somebody like John McCain (who appeals to Democrats and Independents) that's going to be crucial. If Hillary goes guns-blazing against Obama in an effort to win the nomination, at best for her, she wins but scares off all those independent voters (and certainly any Republicans Obama would bring in) and is able to win the nomination, but only on the backs of registered Democrats, ensuring a loss in November (and there's the risk she alienates African American voters, without whom any Democratic Presidential bid is doomed. At worst for her, she still fails to derail Obama's momentum, but damages him to such an extent, he can't win in November.
There is a real chance, a real, legitimate chance, that Obama is a once in a generation candidate who can bring the country together and once that momentum gets going, and it brings in Republicans, and Independents, that the wave keeps going, and he cruises to a victory in the general election. And if that happens, that not just wins the Democrats the White House, but it likely helps Democrats pick up seats in the House and maybe even get to 60 votes in the Senate, and thus, beyond threat of a Republican filibuster. Does Hillary Clinton really want to risk that for the party she and her husband have worked their entire adult lives for? Especially when there's no guarantee she's going to be successful even if she does unload on Obama in the coming weeks.
The one positive for Clinton, and the one caveat for an Obama coronation, is the fear I mentioned at the top of this post, and that's expectations. As Chris Matthews constantly talks about on Hardball, in 1992, Bill Clinton, after blowing a double-digit lead before the New Hampshire Primary, clawed back, and still lost by 8-points. Yet, he went out, gave what amounted to a victory speech, and called himself the "Comeback Kid." The moniker stuck, and Clinton, despite the convincing loss, was able to turn around his campaign. Tonight, Obama has, by most accounts, a double digit lead on Hillary Clinton. Chuck Todd on tonight's Hardball said the feeling he gets, from talking to campaign aides and other media members, is that Obama's lead may be even greater than the polls indicate (remember, before Iowa, most showed Obama with a small lead, or tied with Clinton and John Edwards, and then he went on to win by 9-points). So, if the media, at worst, expects Obama to win by double-digits, he almost has to do so, or the story isn't Obama's two-state victory, in two states he was trailing in a week ago, it's going to be "Comeback Kid: Part II." If Clinton is able to narrow the gap to four, five, maybe even six points, that's a big victory for her, despite her previous lead. And, Hillary Clinton getting emotional this afternoon at a campaign event will help her, and make her more human and relatable (two qualities she has not shown a lot of recently) and may draw undicded voters (especially women) her way.
Expectations are a funny thing, and when the media gets in their head that a candidate better win by a certain margin, and you fall short, it's a loss, even if an Obama victory in New Hampshire would otherwise be considered a huge victory. Now, all the polls, and pundits, and prognastications see a big Obama victory, and don't see him having a problem meeting (or perhaps beating) those expectations. But, if he doesn't, even if he wins, I think Clinton's comeback will be the story. Now, if Obama does win by 10, 12 points, then Clinton, despite her current plan to go all out for Super Tuesday on February 5th, must think really hard about what's best for not just her and her husband, but what's best for the Democratic Party. And if the Obama wave continues to grow, she may not be able to stop it, and it may not be in the best interest of Democrats (much less the country) for her to try.
Friday, January 4, 2008
Sometimes, when it comes to the NFL Draft, I'll be the first to admit, I get it wrong. In 2005, for example, I was yelling as loud as anyone into my television that the Detroit Lions needed to draft USC wide receiver Mike Williams. Even though the Lions had drafted wide receivers the previous two seasons, Charles Rogers was looking like a bust and Williams, had he been eligible for the 2004 draft, likely would have been the #1 pick because of his incredible amount of pure talent. With three cornerbacks (another position of need) taken in the first 8-picks ahead of the Lions I was ecstatic when the Lions passed on Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson and selected Williams. Oops. We all saw how that turned out, as Williams never was willing to work to develop his immense base-talent and Johnson, on the other hand, has turned into a good and solid (if unspectacular) linebacker for Kansas City.
Last year though, I pleaded with the Lions to pass on the top wide receiver in the draft, Calvin Johnson, and this time take the linebacker, Ole Miss's Patrick Willis. (I even titled the post "2007 NFL Draft Preview aka Why the Detroit Lions Shouldn't Draft Calvin Johnson")
Despite Johnson's immense talent, and incredible potential, I think it would be a huge mistake to draft him if, as expected, Tampa Bay and Atlanta are fighting over themselves to draft Johnson, and the Lions are offered numerous second round draft picks to move down. And this feeling has nothing to do with the fact that the Lions have taken three wide receivers in the past four years in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft, with two of those picks, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams, being huge disasters. The Lions can't look back. They should only look forward. The draft picks they made in the past are a sunk cost. They can't go back. If the team needs a wide receiver (and their pursuit of Kevin Curtis this off-season shows that the team believes that they do) and Johnson is as good as everyone says (and there's little doubt that he's going to be a star) then the Lions should not let the fact that they have constantly drafted wide receivers in the first round stop them.
With all of that said, Johnson would not be the worst decision the Lions could make tomorrow (cough, Leon Hall, cough), and I'm not sold on Gaines Adams, the defensive end the Lions seem to be focused on if they don't draft Johnson. There are a lot of questions about Adams work ethic and football IQ, and Mississippi's Patrick Willis and LSU's LaRon Landry have no such question marks and both could step in and start at key positions which are hard to fill (middle linebacker and safety). So between Johnson and Adams, I would like to see the Lions take Johnson, even if technically, defensive end is a bigger "need" for the Lions. But, with the potential for a trade down, and Willis or Landry sitting on the board at #8, or even Adams on the board at #4 with additional second round picks in the wings, the Lions have to take that trade, no matter how much of a star they think Johnson may become.
So, while I may have been wrong in 2004, I can say I was right in 2007 as Willis, who is going to the Pro Bowl in his first season, was named Rookie of the Year today. And while I was impressed with Calvin Johnson this year (despite his late season drops and lack of concentration) and think he will be a special player, Willis already is a special player. Imagine him in the defensive backfield with Ernie Sims, crushing opposing offenses. And not only that, but the Lions would have earned a number of additional draft picks with their selection of Willis because it would have involved a trade-down.
Just another missed opportunity to add to the list of the Millen-regime.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
With the votes almost all counted, and the speeches given and the Democratic field winnowed (Joe Biden and Chris Dodd have already dropped out as has Mike Gravel) it is a huge night not just for Barack Obama, but for America. As Obama said in his fantastic victory speech, tonight was a night about hope and a vision for the future. A vision for a united America. One that Obama can bring together and Clinton can't.
If you look at the raw numbers, it's amazing. Obama defeated Hillary Clinton by 9-points, and Edwards by 8 (a 38-30-29 victory). As much as was made about it being a three-way race, Obama didn't just win, he won in as much of a blowout as you were going to see tonight. The turnout was well north of 230,000, almost doubling the 2004 caucuses, and a lot of that was because of Obama's appeal to independent voters and Republicans. And that appeal goes central to electability, and how Obama is the most electable Democratic candidate because he doesn't just get the Democratic support, he expands the Democratic Party and gets support from all walks of life, all ideologies. And according to MSNBC's exit and entrance polls, he won with women too.
It's certainly not over. Saturday night's debate in New Hampshire is crucial, and a stumble in New Hampshire restarts the ballgame, but Obama has incredible momentum and he gave an incredible speech at the right time. He waited perfectly for the 11:00 news to start, and I imagine he got his speech on a lot of local newscasts. And he was on his game, giving a speech which matched his performance from Iowa's Jefferson-Jackson dinner, and perhaps the best speech of his campaign and political life (though many will be partial to the 2004 Democratic Convention speech). He hit all the right notes, talked about bringing America together (nodding toward his electability), and talked about the challenges we face that we can only slay if we work together, and that's what Obama can do: Bring the United States together. And now he has proof to back that up, as he helped bring out a record turnout in Iowa, up almost 90% over 2004, and included a large number of independents and even Republicans.
Last note, you have to give an incredible amount of credit to Mike Huckabee. He was outspent nearly 20-1 and still won by almost double-digits. And he gave what I thought was one of the best speeches I have heard in a long, long time when he discussed his victory. He is a very formidable candidate, not just in the Republican race the rest of the way, but next November as well. He's an amazing communicator, politician, and orator. Him winning Iowa is no fluke.
And neither was Obama's victory and if he follows it up with another knockout blow in five-days in New Hampshire, there may be nothing the Clinton campaign can do to stop Obama because the country wants so badly to come together and to move past the divisiveness of the past. Iowa took that step tonight (with their nominations of both Obama and Huckabee). It's time for the rest of the country to do the same.
The national media is now projecting that Barack Obama will WIN the Iowa Caucus, and Hillary Clinton will likely finish in a tie for second, or third, behind John Edwards. This is a huge win for Obama, especially if he can pack on a few extra points in the late going here.
More later, but this is a great night for American politics. Now Obama must follow this through with a win next week in New Hampshire. Saturday night's debate is going to be critical now.
As the Democratic Caucus in Iowa begins, and I have a window open to Drudge, MSNBC's First Read and Politico.com (and, of course, MSNBC's coverage on TV), I can't help but think back to the 2000 Election.
I was a senior in high school and I was volunteering for the Voter News Service to report the outcome from my local precinct. As I went in to volunteer I had a spring in my step as I heard on the radio that the state of Florida had been called for Al Gore, and it seemed to seal the election for Gore and the Democrats. To my dismay, a few hours later, Florida was back in the undecided column. I spent hours that night, watching MSNBC and CNN and refreshing the voter totals from Florida as they came in. I kept track of the Florida vote on a legal pad, back and forth, as 95% of the precincts reported, then 96% and 97%. I finally fell asleep around 3:00 a.m., with nothing determined, and as we know, nothing was decided for weeks, so I could have gone to bed earlier. But that night was tense and fun and exhilarating. Like tonight. And as I have a map up of Iowa, with a county-by-county breakdown of the votes as they are reported (which can be found on Politico.com) and I keep waiting for each small report to trickle in, it's like 2000 all over again.
I just hope the night has a better, and earlier resolution.
After months of hype, thousands of television ads, Oprah, and tens of millions of dollars spent, the Iowa Caucuses are here. Tonight, we'll know (or not) whether the Democratic establishment succeeded in overcoming the surge of Barack Obama and John Edwards to keep Hillary Clinton at the front of the pack and whether the team of a floating cross (or was it a conveniently lit IKEA bookshelf?) and Chuck Norris can overcome the millions of dollars spent by Mitt Romney.
I've talked at length previously about why I think Barack Obama is the best choice to lead not just the Democratic Party, but country, and bring the change we desperately need while (unlike Senator Clinton) being able to work with Republicans and Independents to get it done, so I'll just say one more thing. It's almost ironic, that the reason why a lot of Iowans and others are hesitant to support Obama is not his policies or his inexperience (really) but they fear he isn't electable. After Al Gore and John Kerry, Democrats are so desperate for a win, and the only Democrat to win in my lifetime, and the lifetime of a lot of Democrats, was Clinton. Barack Obama, though, is infinitely more electable than Hillary Clinton. Just take one look at the head-to-head polls. Hillary is a toss-up, or worse, against most Republicans. Obama is a clear winner. Now, the Clinton campaign will say that's because her negatives are so high because she's had to fight off Republican attacks since 1992, and Obama's numbers will dip once the Republicans get a hold of him.
I don't believe it, and you shouldn't either. No Republican in this race, not one, is as tough, or as calculating, or runs as ruthless a campaign (and ruthless is not always bad in politics, so that word probably sounds more negative than I mean it to be) as Hillary Clinton, and she's had a really hard time knocking Obama off-stride. If she and her campaign and the Clinton machine can't do it, no Republican will be able to. And just look at how Obama will win Iowa, if he wins Iowa. It's by bringing an extraordinary number of independents and even some Republicans into the Democratic world to vote for him. That won't just help him win the Iowa Caucus, it will help him win the state of Iowa in the 2008 Presidential Election, a state the Democrats haven't won since 1996. And it will help him win all across the country. Hillary Clinton will never get that kind of broad-base support. She's a 50% + 1. Barack Obama could unify a nation. And that's not hyperbole. Obama isn't just the smart choice policy wise, he's the right choice politically looking toward the general election. Let's hope Democrats in Iowa wake up this morning feeling the same way.
On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee has the momentum, but Mitt Romney has the on-the-ground organization, and probably will squeak by because of that if I had to guess. But, as everyone keeps saying, Huckabee is a great politician and a great communicator. He spent, at most, $500,000 in Iowa. Mitt Romney spent at least $8 million, and likely closer to $10 million. It's an amazing spread considering Huckabee is leading going into tonight's vote. I watched Huckabee on the Tonight Show tonight and he was great. I don't know if I agree with his plan for a "Fair Tax" (national sales tax) in place of the income tax, but the way he explained it, it's hard not to get on board. I still can't vote for him, for any number of reasons (his stances on guns being the most blatant, but his disbelief in evolution is up there too) but it's hard not to like the guy, and if Hillary Clinton gets nominated, there is not a more perfect Republican candidate to take her down than Huckabee. I know most Democrats relish the chance to take him on, thinking he'll be an easy foil in November, but I wouldn't be so quick to celebrate should he win. He may win Iowa, despite being outspent 20-1 for a reason.
I'll be posting here tomorrow night, a night I plan on spending watching MSNBC all night. With a team like Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, Howard Fineman, Eugene Robinson, Andrea Mitchell, Pat Buchanan, Norah O'Donnell, Joe Scarborough, and others, there won't be any better political coverage out there (though I may flip to CNN and Fox News to see what they say as well).
I'd close by saying something like "It doesn't matter who you vote for, just make sure you vote" tomorrow if you are in Iowa (or, as I properly should say, "just make sure you caucus") but it does matter who you Caucus for. America will either change for the better tomorrow (an Obama win), or will simply be arming itself for the same fight it's been having since the 1980s (a Clinton win). Maybe Clinton can win that fight. Likely, she'll just be fighting it for her term in office. Obama, though, as Mike Huckabee said on the Tonight Show (praising Obama) he's a vertical politician. He transcends right, left, Republican, Democrat, and he can lift America up. Iowa voters just have to let him.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Good for Lloyd Carr. Good for Jake Long, Chad Henne, and Mike Hart, who won't leave Michigan 0-8 against Ohio State and in Bowl Games. Good for the Michigan program, which picked itself up off the mat and won a game in a hostile environment that nobody gave them a chance to win (I certainty didn't -- And neither did Las Vegas, which made Michigan a 10.5-point underdog against the Florida Gators). Michigan defeated Florida 41-35 in today's Capital One Bowl, ending Lloyd Carr's career on a high note, and giving Michigan's seniors the signature victory they have been starving for.
And what a strange game. Mike Hart, who fumbled three times in his entire college career before today, and not once in his last 1,002 touches, fumbled not once, but twice, both inside the red zone, both as Michigan was about to score a touchdown. Wide receiver Mario Manningham carried the ball seven times for 53 yards on reverses. Seven carries for a Michigan wide receiver. Michigan had four turnovers, Florida none, yet Michigan led for most of the game. And the offensive firepower of Florida? No match for Michigan, which put up 524 total yards of offense (compared to 399 for Florida). 524 yards of offense -- That may be what we'll expect to see from new Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez, but to see it from a Lloyd Carr coached team, just incredible. And how about that defense, blitzing even on Florida's final drive and putting pressure on Tim Tebow and Florida all game long? Where was that all season? Not at all the game that anybody expected, but in a very pleasant way for Michigan fans.
In many ways, this was not just the end of Lloyd Carr's tenure at Michigan, but the end of Michigan as fans have known it over the past few decades. Rich Rodriguez' spread offense (whether run by a returning (or potentially not) Ryan Mallett, or by somebody within the program like current wide receiver Junior Hemmingway, or by potential freshman recruit and #1 ranked high school quarterback Terrell Pyror). And what a way to go out. Healthy, aggressive, and successful. A vision of what could have been this season had Michigan not lost to Appalachian State and Oregon, and if Chad Henne and Mike Hart not spent most of the season fighting various injuries.
Today though is not a day to look back on what could have been, but a day to celebrate the ending of the Lloyd Carr era, and the end of the Michigan careers of Chad Henne, Mike Hart, and Jake Long (and potentially Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington as well, who had a remarkable game, with some of the best catches I have ever seen in a Bowl Game). Lloyd Carr went out, deservingly so, on top, leading his team to a huge upset, in an incredibly exciting game that will be talked about at Michigan for years to come.