Monday, February 25, 2008

No MSNBC At The Kellog Center...What Am I To Do?

So I just got into the Kellogg Center for the two day gauntlet that is the Bar Exam, and I get into my room, and what do I find? No MSNBC. CNN, Fox News, Headline News, CNBC, even networks like G4, but no MSNBC. Which means, tonight, no Hardball. No Morning Joe tomorrow morning. No pre or post debate coverage. May be the best thing that ever happened to me (I can do my last second review of my hundreds of notecards without any distractions, and I can get to bed earlier than planned, but this is very distressing). How can there be no MSNBC? At least the debate will be streamed on tomorrow night, but geez, this is a major disappointment.

I don't understand this.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Mike Huckabee on Saturday Night Live

Blog posting has been a little light the last few days, but with a small break in the primary calendar (though with the debate last Thursday, Hillary's eruption over weeks-old mailers yesterday, and another debate Tuesday, it's not a real break) and the Bar Exam coming up on Tuesday and Wednesday (It may not be a good thing that I can tell you who Tim Pawlenty is but not recite the five-part test for the tort of negligent misrepresentation -- We'll see though) posting has slowed. But I'll pick back up on Wednesday night, and hopefully actually get back to talking about sports some. The Pistons have continued to play well, and the Wings have cooled off a bit, and before you know it the Detroit Lions' Super Bowl, the NFL Draft, will be here, so we'll pivot back to sports while hopefully celebrating Barack Obama's primary victory over Hillary Clinton (though if I've learned anything in life, it's not to count the Clinton's out of anything).

In the meantime, speaking of not counting somebody out of the Presidential race, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is still at it, still running for the Republican nomination against John McCain despite it being mathematically impossible for him to win (but, remember, he's in the miracle business, not the math business -- I wonder if that's better than the "solutions business" Hillary Clinton is in). And he did a guest spot on Saturday Night Live's weekend update Saturday, and as usual, it was a hilarious performance. If nothing else, Huckabee should get a prime time cable news show out of this run, and it would probably be a big success. If I were MSNBC, especially given the reputation it has as a liberal network, I'd put him on at 9:00 weeknights, and bump Dan Abrams back to 10:00. In any case, here's the video, good for a good laugh.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How Will Obama Run His White House? Just Look at His Campaign

After another pair of double-digit victories last night for Barack Obama, a 17-point triumph in Clinton-friendly Wisconsin and a 50% victory in his native home of Hawaii, Barack Obama is now 10-0 since February 5th. It's pretty amazing actually. And a new Zogby poll not only has Obama leading Clinton by 14-points, but he has Obama up over McCain by 7, while McCain leads Clinton by almost double that amount. Ouch.

Hillary Clinton thought (and even said) that the campaign would be over on Super Tuesday, and her campaign had no plan, no organization, and no money to compete after that date. And Barack Obama did, and he's run up 10 straight double digit victories from Hawaii to the Virgin Islands to Maine and Washington and Louisana and everywhere in-between. That's what is amazing about Obama' run, it's not just that he's won 10 in a row, but he's won every contest by double-digits, most by 25-points or more, and has won in very region of the country. Wisconsin was perfect for Hillary Clinton demographic wise. A lot of working class white voters, lots of Catholic voters which support her (or, did before last night), and very few African Americans. Yet, she still lost by 17-points. Just incredible. And this was despite a barrage of negative ads run by the Clintons and a 48-hour news cycle which was very negative on Obama (his dust up with Deval Patrick's language and Michelle Obama's words about being "proud" of the country for the first time in her adult life).

One thing mentioned on Morning Joe this morning on MSNBC which I think was a great point. Hillary Clinton has constantly harped on the media coverage of the campaign, saying that the media is giving Obama a free ride and is overly critical of her campaign. But as was pointed out this morning, if Barack Obama had lost 10 races in a row, and lost them all by double digits, he'd be finished. This race would be over without question. All the pundits and party big-wigs would be urging Obama to get out for the good of the party, just as people are doing with Mike Huckabee on the Republican side. Yet, that isn't happening because the media, rightfully, is giving Clinton the benefit of the doubt. But how often can the Clinton campaign say that states don't count because they vote for Obama, or because they lean Republican, or because they have caucuses? As has been pointed out before, it's hard to run for President when you've told half the country their voices aren't important, and that the only states which matter are California, New York, and New Jersey.

And another great point was brought up in MSNBC's First Read was that maybe you can see how Barack Obama would run his White House by looking at his campaign. As opposed to Clinton, he has been fiscally disciplined, he has competed everywhere and been prepared everywhere, and for all the talk that he has no experience, and he certainly has no experience running a national campaign (unlike the Clintons which have been through this three times before, with Bill's first Presidential primary fight and his two national elections).

The Clinton campaign has been surprisingly unprepared for the long haul. Remember when Clinton herself said the contest would be over February 5? This is the only way to explain the consistent caucus beat-down they take and the lack of preparation for Wisconsin. It's the Obama campaign that's doing the little things tactically. At some point, one has to wonder if Obama will start using the organizational success he's had in this campaign as a talking point about his own preparation to run the White House. After all, this is the largest organization either Clinton or Obama has run.

It's a powerful point. Obviously Clinton wasn't fully prepared to be a candidate on "Day One" so why would we think she would be ready to be President on "Day One?"

The only good news for the Clinton campaign? A disastrous appearance on MSNBC's coverage last night by a Barack Obama supporter, a state Senator from Texas, who was stumped by Chris Matthews when asked a simple question: "Can you name any of Barack Obama's legislative accomplishments?" He was completely stumped and unable to come up with a single thing to say specifically. Now, Obama does have legislative accomplishments. He passed ethics reform in Congress. He passed health care in Illinois. He reformed the Illinois death-penalty system. But, this was a bad moment for this guy, Kirk Watson, and I don't think he'll be doing any more interviews for the campaign. It's must-see video and I've embedded it below.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

I Don't Understand the Clinton Campaign's Wisconsin Strategy

I'm at a loss to describe Hillary Clinton's campaign in the state of Wisconsin, one of two states holding their nominating process (Hawaii's caucuses being the other) on Tuesday. Today is her first day in the state, after Obama has spent nearly a week there, and According to the Milwauke Journal Sentinel she's leaving a day earlier than planned, taking off on Monday morning instead of Tuesday. So, in a state she really needs to win to break Obama's current momentum, where there are a lot of working class, lower-to-middle-class voters which she does very well with, and a state with a very small African American population, Clinton's strategy is to spend less than 48 hours in the state campaigning. Am I missing something here?

Whatever marginal gains Clinton will make by spending an extra day or two in Texas and Ohio as she has the past week will be dwarfed by the change in momentum that would come with a Clinton victory Tuesday night in the Badger State. And it's well within her grasp. Rasmussen had Obama's lead only 4%, 47-43 practically within the margin-of-error. Two other polls shown at Real Clear Politics have Obama up 4 and 5 respectively. If she could win Wisconsin, the media, which loves a comeback story, and loves a horse-race, and would like nothing better than for the Democratic race to go on forever, would flood the airwaves and newspaper front-pages with the story of Hillary's great comeback and how this would catapult her to victory in Ohio and Texas on March 4th. There is plenty of time to campaign in those states, Clinton should have been in Wisconsin days ago, and she certainly shouldn't be cutting back her stay with the polls so close. It's almost baffling. Clinton, even if she is raising $1 million a day online as her campaign says, couldn't buy all the positive and free media she would get from stopping Obama's momentum in Wisconsin. This is a critical error.

And instead of appearing in Wisconsin herself, Clinton instead is running the first negative campaign ads of the campaign, bashing Obama for not agreeing to debate, and then adding on some policy distinctions (or, depending on your take, distortions). But, as Wisconsin Governor and Obama supporter Jim Doyle has said, it's very disingenuous to attack a candidate for not debating in Wisconsin because it doesn't give Wisconsin voters a chance to compare the candidates, when the candidate running that ad isn't even campaigning in Wisconsin. How could Obama agree to a debate? Clinton is literally in the state, campaigning, for less than a weekend. To knock Obama for not giving Wisconsin voters a chance to see the candidates when Clinton herself is spending no more than 48-hours in the state takes a lot of chutzpah.

And because I think the Obama response ad is so well done, I've embedded both the second Clinton attack ad, and the second Obama response below. Judge for yourself which has the stronger message.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

This Is Why Super Delegates Shouldn't Be Counted -- Yet

Every news organization, have it be the Associated Press, or CBS News, or NBC, or the New York Times, has their own calculation of the delegate fight between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Some of the discrepancy is because somehow many of the states that have already voted have yet to finish allocating their delegates, many from states Barack Obama won, like Colorado and Illinois, and even Senator Clinton's win from California has yet to be fully reported. New Mexico hasn't even figured out who won that state's popular vote yet, and they voted over a week ago. But, the big reason why CBS News has Obama winning the delegate race 1134-1131 while most other news organizations have Clinton slightly ahead is because these networks are counting these uncommitted Super Delegates. No network has the same list of supposedly pledged Super Delegates and even 2008 Democratic Convention Watch an invaluable blog covering these Super Delegates is having a hard time keeping it straight. Tonight the site posted an "Ultimate Delegate Tracker" which showed that none of the major news networks can arrive at anywhere near a consensus on whose up and whose down. All they can agree on, apparently, is that it's close. Barack Obama's official "Results Center has him leading 1031-944, but that doesn't include the Super Delegates, and it includes projections of delegate allocations which the news networks have not yet added into their tallies.

The biggest problem, though, is the networks shouldn't be counting the Super Delegates at all in their reporting. And I'm not just saying that because currently Senator Clinton has anywhere from a 75-100 lead among those Super Delegates (almost mirroring Obama's lead in the pledged delegates). First, the media has been talking about how if Barack Obama wins the most pledged delegates, but loses the nomination fight because of these Super Delegates, the party will fracture. And that's probably right, but only if people understand that the election is being taken away from him. By reporting the inflated Super Delegate numbers, it appears Obama has been fighting from behind, when in truth, he's never trailed among pledged delegates. He started ahead in Iowa, and has never trailed, not one day of this primary campaign.

But the real reason I have such a problem with counting Super Delegates is they are uncommitted and change their mind at any time, for any reason. Tuesday's New York Times has a story about how Hillary Clinton supporters believe she must win both Texas and Ohio on March 4th to remain a viable candidate. And it quotes some of her Super Delegates as considering bolting and moving their support to Barack Obama.

“She has to win both Ohio and Texas comfortably, or she’s out,” said one superdelegate who has endorsed Mrs. Clinton, and who spoke on condition of anonymity to share a candid assessment. “The campaign is starting to come to terms with that.” Campaign advisers, also speaking privately in order to speak plainly, confirmed this view.

Several Clinton superdelegates, whose votes could help decide the nomination, said Monday that they were wavering in the face of Mr. Obama’s momentum after victories in Washington State, Nebraska, Louisiana and Maine last weekend.

Some said that they, like the hundreds of uncommitted superdelegates still at stake, might ultimately “go with the flow,” in the words of one, and support the candidate who appears to show the most strength in the primaries to come.

These Super Delegates are so uncommitted and so free to change their minds at any time, there is no credibility in any tally of Super Delegates. Just because Super Delegate X tells NBC she's supporting Hillary Clinton on Monday doesn't mean she won't tell CNN she's supporting Barack Obama on Wednesday and tell the Associated Press she's undecided on Friday. There's a reason these numbers aren't consistent, because the Super Delegates themselves have no obligation to be consistent, and can change their mind up until they vote (if they do) at the Democratic Convention.

So to keep reporting this facade of Super Delegate support, which at best is a rough estimate subject to wild swings in support, and at worst is a misleading total which causes average observers to believe in a lead which is only on paper, and which isn't inductive of anything other than how the morning went for any particular Super Delegate, is pretty irresponsible. Reporting on the Super Delegates is necessary, and important, but to include them in the totals which news networks report as the current delegate count isn't right, especially given these comments in the New York Times that the delegates aren't even fully committed to the candidate they claim they are for. NBC News does not include Super Delegates in their calculations (their current count is Obama 959, Clinton 905) and other networks should follow their lead.

And a quick aside, how impressive is Michelle Obama? A lights-out performance on Larry King tonight, showing that she's every bit as smooth and solid as her husband is, if not more-so. As Clinton supporter Paul Begala said afterwards, Obama should be wearing a "I'm Michelle's husband" button when he campaigns. You really get the feeling like we saw in the 1990s with Hillary Clinton, if Michelle wanted a future in politics, it would suit here just as well as it does Barack.

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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Obama Increases Pledged Delegate Lead With Saturday Sweep

Barack Obama, after winning more states and more delegates on Super Tuesday, increased his pledged delegate lead, and cut in half Hillary Clinton's lead among all delegates (including those uncommitted and unknowable Super Delegates) by going 4-4 with dominating victories in Washington, Nebraska, Louisana, and the Virgin Islands.

In Washington and Nebraska, two caucus states, Obama won with 67% of the vote in each state, and in the Virgin Island, Obama won by an overwhelming 90-7 tally, and that's no misprint, as Obama earned 1772 votes to Hillary's 149. Ouch. It was closer in Louisiana, but Obama, with over 50% of the vote in, held a 53-37 edge. All in all, Obama may gain upwards of 35 or 40 pledged delegates today, adding to 30+ delegate lead coming into tonight, giving him 20 victories in states and territories in 30 contests, an absolutely impressive number.

What is most impressive about Obama's victories is not just their breadth, but how he wins all over the country. Where 50% of the voters were black (Lousiana) and where hardly any black voters live (like Iowa and Utah and Idaho). Could you get three different states than Louisiana, Washington, and Nebraska? And Obama won all three going away. Add in the Virgin Islands, and it was a pretty good night for the Obama campaign.

Interesting on the Republican side with Conservatives shunning John McCain and giving Mike Huckabee some victories tonight despite the Republican race being all but wrapped up for McCain. Just incredible. Republicans eating their young. With the Democrats headed for a vicious and possibly forever damaging convention fight, you'd think the Republicans would put whatever small differences they have aside and unite behind one candidate to give the party the best chance to beat either Hillary or Barack come the fall. Guess not.

11:15 Update: And Mike Huckabee continues to lead both in Washington and Louisiana, which along with his big win in Kansas earlier in the day, may give him, as well as Obama, a clean sweep over John McCain. Just stunning the contempt the right has for their presumptive nominee. And I just love Mike Huckabee's comment to CPAC today. He said that even though some have said that it is mathematically impossible for him to catch McCain, he "didn't major in math, [he] majored in miracles and [he] still believes in them." Might be the best line of the campaign, maybe second to Barack Obama's line about John McCain and the "wheels falling off the Straight Talk Express."

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Friday, February 8, 2008

A Significant Democratic Super Delegate Concern

By now, most everyone who has heard about or has followed or has even read a newspaper knows about the problem the Democrats are currently having with these so-called "Super Delegates." Basically, along with thousands of "pledged" delegates coming from the primary and caucuses across the country, which are apportioned based on the popular vote in a given state and/or Congressional district, the Democrats have over 700 "Super Delegates" who each get one vote in the primary fight. These delegates have never been relevant before, but with the race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama going down to the wire before, and it looking like neither candidate may have enough pledged delegates to win the nomination without the Super Delegates, this is a rising concern for Democratic voters.

The most likely scenario, at the moment, is that Barack Obama will win more states, more pledged delegates, and perhaps even more popular votes than Hillary Clinton, but that Clinton will use her and her husband's influence, power, and legacy to lock-up enough Super Delegates to, if you are a Clinton supporter, win, or if you are an Obama supporter, steal, the nomination. Who are these Super Delegates? Every current Democratic Congressman, Senator, Governor, former President and Vice Presidential candidates, former Speakers of the House and Senate Majority Leaders, and then, and here's where it gets troubling, hundreds of members of the Democratic National Committee.

This is where the real problem is, with the DNC Super Delegates. I have no doubt that DNC Chairman Howard Dean deserves to be a Super Delegate, but what about the 400 others? Who even are some of these people? And right now, it's these unknown, unaccountable, mysterious DNC Super Delegates that are deciding this race. According to 2008 Democratic Convention Watch, a must visit website which tracks Super Delegates, Hillary Clinton currently has the support of 111 of these DNC Super Delegates to Barack Obama's 46. And while Obama currently leads in pledged delegates, Hillary Clinton has the overall delegate lead almost exclusively because of these DNC Super Delegates. Obama and Clinton each have the support of 10 Democratic Governors, and while Clinton has an 87-66 lead among elected Congressmen and Senators, it's the DNC Super Delegates giving her the lead at the moment.

It would be awful enough for Democratic Congressmen and Senators to swing the election away from the result of the pledged delegates, but at least those Super Delegates are accountable to their constituents. But what if Hillary Clinton's margin of victory is due entirely to these DNC Super Delegates who are accountable to nobody at all? That is an even bigger mess and larger concern than anything the DNC is currently looking at.

As Bradley Whitford's character on West Wing said, when in the season finale of the sixth-season the Democrats faced a similar fight at the convention, picking the next leader of the free world was not exactaly in the job description of these "Super Delegates."

Josh (referring to Democratic delegates): "They are only here to grunt, cheer, and stomp their feet at every cheap applause line.

[. . . ]

Rhonna: So you don't think they are qualified to do the job?

Josh: The job as previously constituted was to clap and wave noisemakers for five hours straight.

Rhonna: So the Delegates sole purpose is to pick our party's nominee [. . .] and we selected them with no regard for their ability to perform that job?

Josh: Did I mention we have a helluva balloon drop planned for Thursday?

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Clinton Campaign: Obama Dodging Debates

In an effort to move past the storyline of the day, which is Hillary Clinton's cash crunch which forced her to loan $5 million to her campaign last month and now has many of her top people working without pay, her chief pollster Mark Penn was on Morning Joe this morning (it was Penn's consulting company which apparently is being paid millions by the Clinton campaign, so maybe that's why Clinton is burning through cash at an alarming rate) and he tried to change the story away from "Hillary is broke" to "Obama is scared to debate."

An old political axiom says you don't challenge your challenger to a debate unless you think you are behind and before Super Tuesday, the Clinton campaign challenged Barack Obama to an ambitious series of debates in February, with at least one a week, and sometimes more. Obama, at a press conference yesterday, demurred, saying he was more interested in meeting voters one-on-one instead of in a debate setting, and besides, we've already had 18 debates already, the most of any campaign.

The Clinton campaign strategy, though, is very smart politically on a variety of levels:

1) First, it forces Obama, if he accepts, to take part in debates which Clinton tends to do very well in. Obama is a much better stump speaker than debater (Clinton is opposite and loves and does well in debates) and thus more debates would likely favor Hillary.

2) It forces Obama off the campaign trial. One thing is clear from Super Tuesday and the results of the campaign so far: The more time Obama spends in a state giving speeches, holding rallies, and meeting voters, the better he does. His rallies are inspirational and voters like him the more they see him. As Obama explained yesterday, his biggest problem is voters still don't know him very well. We assume everyone has been paying attention to the campaign, but truth is, people know Hillary Clinton and who she is, what she's done, and what she stands for, but Obama is still a relative unknown to a lot of voters. He needs that one-on-one voter contact to get people in his camp. The longer Clinton can keep Obama off the trial, and in debate prep and traveling to and from debates, the better for her campaign.

3) It allows her, if Obama declines to debate, to paint him as scared and not willing to let the voters compare the candidates directly.

It's a great strategy by the Clinton campaign and it's a tough spot for Obama. He needs that voter contact, and he needs to keep holding rallies and meeting voters in more intimate settings. Debates won't allow that, and spending a day preparing, and another half a day traveling could really throw Obama off his game and play right into the Clinton's hands. But he can't duck all these debate challenges either. It's a tough situation to be in for the Obama campaign.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Obama Maintains Pledged Delegate Lead

We don't know a lot coming out of Super Tuesday, like whom the Democratic nominee will be, but we do know some things. First, heading into the night, Barack Obama had more pledged delegates (due to his convincing wins in Iowa and South Carolina, his delegate tie in New Hampshire (despite losing the popular vote), and his delegate win in Nevada (again, despite the loss in popular vote)). We also know he ended the night with a bigger pledged delegate lead than he started with due to winning more states and more pledged delegates than Hillary Clinton did.

The Obama camp now projects topping Clinton by 13 delegates, 847 to 834.

NBC News, which is projecting delegates based on the Democratic Party's complex formula, figures Obama will wind up with 840 to 849 delegates, versus 829 to 838 for Clinton.

Clinton was portrayed in many news accounts as the night’s big winner, but Obama’s campaign says he wound up with a higher total where it really counts — the delegates who will choose the party’s nominee at this summer’s Democratic convention.

In a "battle for delegates" and in a campaign where the Clinton campaigns own Communications Director Howard Wolfson has said only delegates matter, the fact that Obama not only won more states (13-8 with a possibility a win in still-counting-votes New Mexico, where with 98% of the vote counted, Obama was leading by less than 100 votes) but more pledged delegates is a big win for him. And that's despite Hillary Clinton's wins in population centers like California and New York. How did that happen? Obama won much bigger margins than Clinton did across the country. She only won by 17% in her home state of New York. He won by 32% in his home state of Illinois. She won by 10% in California and New Jersey and Arizona. He won by 50% in Alaska, 35% in Colorado, 36% in Georgia, a whopping 62% in Idaho, 48% in Kansas, and 35% in Minnesota (and to be fair, Clinton had a huge margin of victory in her former home of Arkansas). He also won the close battles, like Connecticut (51-47 victory) and Missouri (49-48). And at the end of the day, he won more delegates, and thus is in a better position today to win the Democratic nomination than he was yesterday.

So what to do about those Super Delegates? Clinton's lead on the Democratic nomination right now is 100% due to her pre-committed Super Delegates, who, of course, are not committed at all, and could abandon Clinton at any time. As Barack Obama said today at a news conference if he enters the convention having won more states and more pledged delegates from those states, it is going to be very difficult for those Super Delegates to take that victory away because the Democrats around the United States will have spoken and their candidate would be Obama. And then there was this nugget from a very insightful column by Politico's Roger Simon. Maybe the Super Delegates won't even get seated at the convention if Obama has the pledged delegate lead.
But what happens if the margin of victory at the convention is the superdelegates. Is that the the way the party really will choose a nominee?

By letting the big-shots pick the winner?

Instead, there could be a huge floor flight. The convention can make whatever rules it wants, and I am guessing there would be a fight to bar the superdelegates and accept the votes of only the pledged delegates.

So maybe the people will speak. But, this only becomes relevant of course if Obama or Clinton fight all the way to the convention and Obama has the pledged delegate lead but not the Super Delegate lead. Which means Obama still has work to do, especially in Ohio and Texas. But if he can win the next six or seven primaries and caucuses (Louisana, Washington state, Nebraska, and Maine this weekend, Washington D.C., Virginia, and Maryland a week from yesterday, and Hawaii and Wisconsin a week from Saturday) he will erase Clinton's delegate lead, Super or not. But if he can't split the Ohio-Texas "mini Super Tuesday" on March 4th, it may not matter at all.

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Wrapping up Super Tuesday: Obama Wins More States, Likely More Delegates

So, it's 1:00 on Super, well, now Wednesday, and do we know anything more than we did before the voting started? Well, according to NBC, Barack Obama will likely end the night with more delegates won tonight than Hillary Clinton. He won many more states (13) than Clinton did (8) including Connecticut, which was unlikely, and Missouri, which is a big victory even though it was only by roughly 5,000 votes.

The problem for Obama? Clinton won California. And despite momentum being on Obama's side, she held on in New Jersey and won big in Massachusetts. Even though Hillary was leading by double digits in those states, because of Obama's recent surge, his losses though look much worse than they would have otherwise.

The other problem is the calculation of delegates. The Obama campaign claims they will have the most delegates at the end of the night, and NBC's Chuck Todd agrees, but other networks have Clinton with an edge. I trust Chuck Todd, who had the delegates within 5 or 6 of each other, a virtual tie even though Hillary won the big states (New York and California).

Overall though, this was a big night for Obama. 13 wins for Obama, likely/possibly more delegates, and maintain their overall lead in pledged delegates (though we likely have to wait until tomorrow to find that out for sure). And the upcoming states favor Obama like Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington, Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

It's still anybody's race, and if the delegates stay in Obama's favor, that's a big, big victory.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Final Zogby Poll: Obama Up 13 In California, Clinton Gaining Elsewhere

With just hours to go before voting starts in Super Tuesday states across the country (and don't forget about American Samoa), Barack Obama is gaining steam in California, while Hillary Clinton is re-gaining ground in former strongholds like New Jersey and Missouri. According to Pollster John Zogby's final tracking polls, Obama now enjoys a 13-point led in California, a remarkable accomplishment if accurate, but he now trails by 5 in New Jersey (after being tied yesterday, signaling a strong move towards Clinton in the past day or so) and his five-point Missouri lead has been cut to 3, just outside the polls margin-of-error.

n California, which alone provides more than one-fifth of the Democratic delegates needed for the nomination, Obama led Clinton by 49 percent to 36 percent, the poll found. The margin of error was 3.3 percentage points.

Clinton pulled into a 5-point lead in New Jersey, 46 percent to 41 percent, after being tied on Monday. Obama held a 45 percent to 42 percent edge on Clinton in Missouri. Both polls had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

Obama had a 20-point edge in Georgia, aided by a more than 3-to-1 lead among black voters.

The New Jersey lead by Clinton is also evident in the final Rasmussen poll where she leads 49-43. Not a surprise really given that New Jersey is part of the New York media market and is basically Clinton's home turf being Senator from neighboring New York. The fact that he was close at all there was stunning. The move back to the middle in Missouri is troubling though, as Obama really needs a win there, especially because it will likely be hours before the results of California are known, and with early newspaper deadlines across the country and the expectations to meet on cable and network coverage of Super Tuesday, Missouri will be looked at as a big determinate of how the evening is going. Clinton gaining ground there could be troubling news, especially if she wins.

Overall, especially because of how California seems to be surging for Obama, the Zogby numbers are good news, but may feel a bit more comfortable if the lead in California was a bit smaller and the lead in Missouri was a bit larger. We'll see how it all plays out in a few hours.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Obama Inches Ahead in Massachusetts Thanks To Ted Kennedy

Momentum really seems to be swinging Barack Obama's way at the moment, with a new poll out this afternoon giving Obama the lead in Massachusetts, once considered safely in the Clintons (I'm using the plural for a reason) column. The Real Clear Politics average lead for Clinton in the state, averaging the most recent polling data, is 17.5 points, but the Boston Globe is reporting this afternoon that Obama now has a statistically insignificant 2 point advantage, but a lead is a lead, especially in a race which was a 20-point gap 10 days ago. And the reason? Ted Kennedy's endorsement.

Obama has 46 percent to Clinton's 44 percent, while 7 percent of Democratic and independent voters likely to vote in the Democratic primary were undecided.

The endorsement last week by Senator Edward M. Kennedy for Obama is a key factor. Asked to size up the impact of three endorsements for Obama and Clinton, 43 percent of Democratic respondents cited Kennedy's endorsement as the most influential, followed by Bill Clinton's of his wife (23 percent) and Oprah Winfrey's of Obama (9 percent).

"The Bay State's senior senator Ted Kennedy clearly has more clout in Massachusetts than the popular former president, Bill Clinton," said David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Suffolk University. "Add to that the backing of Senator Kerry and Governor Patrick, with the resonant message of change as well as the Kennedy call for 'a new generation of leadership' and you have the reason why what was once Clinton country has become an Obama opportunity – and a political choice between the nostalgic and the new."

Obama has the support of all the major Democratic leaders in Massachusetts (Edwards, Senator John Kerry, and Governor Deval Patrick) but the state has long been considered safe for the Clinton campaign. Not anyomore. Like New Jersey, which pollster John Zogby has a 43-43 dead heat, Clinton may not have the firewall on the East Coast like she may have assumed. And given softening poll numbers in California and Missouri, it is a tight race. Although, this does get back to the expectations problem for Obama, where before, coming close in California would have been a victory. MSNBC's First Read points out though, now, the pressure may be on Obama to win California which is going to be tough despite his newfound support, thanks in large part to early voting which took place while Clinton had her 20-point advantage. Still, while NBC's Political Director Chuck Todd explains in his appearance on the Today show below, previewing Super Tuesday, that the Obama campaign may want a few more days to gather momentum, I almost wish the election were already here, because there may never be a time Obama is higher than right now.

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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Maria Shriver Appears at Obama Rally, Endorses Barack's Campaign

Joining her cousin Caroline Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey, and Michelle Obama (and after watching her speak, you really understand just how impressive she is, she's every-bit as charismatic and impressive as her husband is), the First Lady of California, Maria Shriver made a surprising appearance and speech at UCLA this afternoon, praising Obama (saying that if he were a state, he'd be California) and giving a rousing speech in support of Obama's campaign and urging people to vote and talk to the friends who may undecided and convince them to vote for Obama. With recent polls showing Obama not just gaining on Hillary Clinton in California, but taking the lead, with every vote counting and every vote mattering, Shriver's endorsement and appearance could be very important.

I had a disagreement with my friend Jared about that, but my point is, not that Shriver will change a lot of minds, but her appearance should get a lot of play throughout California television newscasts and newspapers. And in a state like California, which is so large, and so expensive, where you can't be everywhere or advertise everywhere (even if you do raise over $1 million a day), that free media is priceless. And who knows how important Shriver's endorsement and appearance will be among undecided women. The appearance wasn't to get my vote, or Jared's, but to get women's votes in California, and she may have succeeded in that regard.

And I'm more convinced than ever Obama needs to make a cross-country visit to California on February 5th. Neither he nor Hillary Clinton can put this election away on Super Tuesday, but if he can win California, where Clinton was up almost 20 points less than two weeks ago, he goes a long way to winning the nomination. And it's in his grasp, he has it. He has a midnight rally on February 4th/February 5th, and every local California morning show has video of thousands of people turning out for Obama, that could tip the balance. Now's not the time to do everything in your power to win. A trip to California might just get it done.

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Obama "Yes We Can" Music Video

In one of the cooler bits of, I don't even know what to call it, art I guess, from the Black Eyed Peas has put together a video combining Obama's "Yes We Can" speech, I think from the night of the New Hampshire primary (although I could be wrong on that -- And as a quick aside, I feel that was his best public speech of the entire campaign, even better the post-Iowa and post-South Carolina speeches), put it to music, added in a bunch of musicians and actors (like Scarlett Johansson and Grey's Anatomy's Kate Walsh) and other Obama supporters (like Hall of Fame basketball star Kareem Abdul Jabbar) speaking and singing along with the Senator. What results is an incredibly inspirational message of hope, exactaly what the Obama campaign is going for, which is probably why the video is now embedded on the campaign homepage. It's really well produced from a technical standpoint, and inspiring from a, well, inspirational standpoint. I almost wish Obama could run it on the air. Buy 4:00 worth of airtime in the Super Tuesday states Monday night and air it. You watch that, and it's so well done, and well produced, you can't help but get inspired by it.

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Zogby: Obama Up 4 In California, 20 in Georgia

There's a good reason why I set my alarm for 2:45 this morning (and even then, I still actually wasn't able to pull myself out of bed until close to 4:00). That's because pollster John Zogby was releasing his new Super Tuesday tracking polls overnight, and what we saw, at least for supporters of Barack Obama, was better than anything we could have imagined.

Zogby's latest polls show the race between Obama and Clinton as close as it comes, and for the first time in a major poll, Obama leads in California (and outside the margin of error to boot), has a gigantic lead in Georgia, and is within a hair in Missouri and New Jersey, the former a key battleground and "swing" state not just in the general election but in this primary race, the latter being Clinton's de-facto home turf.

"It looks like we have some serious horse races going on with Clinton and Obama," said pollster John Zogby said. "However it turns out, we can be pretty sure it is too close to be resolved on Tuesday."

Obama, an Illinois senator who would be the first black U.S. president, has a comfortable 20-point lead in Georgia fueled by a more than 3-to-1 advantage over Clinton among black voters.

In California, the poll found Obama led Clinton by 45 percent to 41 percent, with a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points. Clinton held statistically insignificant 1-point leads on Obama in New Jersey and Missouri, well within the margin of error of 3.4 percentage points in both surveys.

If Obama has a chance to grab California (and remember, he has a rally scheduled for today with his wife Michelle, Caroline Kennedy, and Oprah, really going for the women's vote to try to pull even closer to, or further ahead of, Clinton) you almost wish he wasn't spending the last days before Super Tuesday on the East Coast. After spending Saturday in Idaho, Minnesota, and Missouri, Obama spends Sunday in Delaware, and Monday in New Jersey and Massachusetts, where he ends his Super Tuesday campaigning with an 8:00 rally in Boston with Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. You almost wish he could get to California one last time, and a red-eye flight out there for some quick appearances on the day of Super Tuesday, which while exhausting and taxing, may just put him over the edge in that state, and may win him the nomination, no matter how the delegates turn out. And if Obama can win in New Jersey? That's a devastating blow to Clinton as well.

Obama supporters, though, also need to not take anything for granted. Clinton padded her lead by 4 points in the latest Gallup national tracking poll, and she added 2 points in Rasmussen's latest numbers. Rasmussen also has Clinton leading in most Super Tuesday states including Alabama (a close to must-win for Obama), Arizona (a brand new poll shows her up only 5 in the state), California (3 points but almost a week old at this point, a lifetime in politics), Massachusetts, Missouri (where Obama has halved an 18 point lead in only a week), New Jersey, New York, and Tennessee. So, even with Zogby's numbers, this is still an uphill fight. But, I'm feeling much better than I did when my alarm went off in the middle of the night, and it's not just because now that I looked at the numbers and wrote this blog entry, I can get back to bed for a few hours before my Bar Review class Sunday.

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