Monday, March 31, 2008

Okay...My Fault

So maybe mobile blogging was not such a great idea as since my last post the Royals have scored four runs, chased Verlander, and taken the lead.

I'll have more tonight but today really shows how vulnerabe the Tigers bullpen is. Instead of bringing Joel Zumaya in during the 7th inning we had to use three relievers including Jason Grilli and two runs scored. Ouch.
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Mobile Blogging Opening Day

Live from Comerica Park - So far so good for the Tigers who lead 2-0....Make that 3-0 after Miguel Cabrera blasted a home run to start the fifth inning. A great start to his Tigers career (we'll just ignore the errir in the first inning). Tigersd have eight hits through five innings so offense looks good, and Brandon Inge has looked good too.

Justin Verlander is on his A game today looking very much the part of the Opening Day starter. Mixing pitches well and keeping KC off balance.

So far so good from Comerica Park.
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You Have to Love Opening Day

Opening Day 2008, and aside from NFL Draft Day, possibly my favorite day of the year. Everything is new and exciting and especially this year with the Detroit Tigers, with expectations so high and the ability to see such an incredible lineup with Miguel Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, and a healthy Gary Sheffield.

So long as it doesn't rain of course. See, I will be at Comerica Park this afternoon for Opening Day but I can't afford a rainout because I start work tomorrow, and skipping out on my first day to catch a rescheduled Opening Day probably wouldn't go over very well.

The Detroit Tigers are in an interesting position heading into the 2008 season. In 2006, nothing was expected, and Tigers fans were rewarded with a trip to the World Series. In 2007, a repeat was expected, but injuries to Kenny Rogers, Joel Zumaya, and Gary Sheffield derailed the Tigers season and the team finished second in the American League Central and missed the post-season. Now, though, with the additions of Cabrera, Renteria, Jacque Jones, and Dontrelle Willis, expectations are higher than at any point since the mid 1980s. It is not going to be match what everyone expects, especially when the Tigers bullpen is so questionable (Zumaya and Fernando Rodney are starting the season on the Disabled List; and Yorman Bazardo and Aquilino Lopez are starting the season in the 'pen, which is all you really need to know). But with an offense which should put up historic numbers, and hopefully a healthy bullpen later in the season, when it will really matter, this has all the makings of a legendary season for the team which dons the 'Old English D.' And if any manager will be able to keep a lid on the team's own, internal expectations, and keep the team full of superstars and Hall of Famers in line, it's Jim Leyland.

I'm happy it's Opening Day for another reason, because it will bring me back to blogging about sports here again. Since early December I have been writing so much about the 2008 political nomination battles, I really haven't spent time writing about the Pistons or Red Wings, or Tigers spring training. With the Major League Baseball season starting though, the NBA and NHL playoffs around the corner, and the NFL Draft only a month away, sports will take back some airtime in the blog. Let's just hope Detroit teams are a little more like Barack Obama and a little less like Hillary Clinton, and their successes out number their failures (what -- You thought I'd abandon politics completely? Not yet.)

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Rasmussen, Gallup Show Democratic Race Heading in Opposite Directions

If there is one thing I have learned from following the race for the Democratic nomination for President as closely as I have is that polls are, for the most part, worthless. Certainly we learned that in New Hampshire, and really in every case since. And there is no better evidence of that then what we have seen from both the Gallup and Rasmussen "Tracking Polls" which are taken daily and try to give people a sense of the race and how voter preferences react to news events. Certainly with the controversy over Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's speech on race Tuesday, and Governor Bill Richardson's endorsement Friday, there has been a lot for voters to digest. So how have they reacted? Well, that all depends on which pollster you put your faith in, Rasmussen or Gallup. Because the polls show the race moving in two opposite directions (one in Clinton's favor, one in Obama's) and it's not clear which to believe.

First, some background. Tracking polls are polls that are taken over a period of days. The sample size on each individual day is small, but when combined with previous days sample, it allows for a view of the race over time. As Rasmussen explains:

Daily tracking results are collected via nightly telephone surveys and reported on a four-day rolling average basis. The general election sample is currently based upon interviews with 1,600 Likely Voters. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

So how did the Wright story and Obama's response play in these polls? Not well, initially, in both polls. According to Rasmussen, before the Wright story hit, Obama led Clinton by 8 points, 50-42, on March 14. The next day though, as the Wright controversy hit full tilt, Obama's lead collapsed, and he led Clinton by a statistically insignificant one-point margin, 46-45 on March 15. Now remember, the Tracking Polls weight four days of polling, so for Obama to fall that dramatically in one day's results showed how much ground he really lost, and how quickly, to Senator Clinton. In the Rasmussen poll, though, Obama never fell behind Clinton. He rebounded to a 3-point edge on March 16, and a 5 point advantage on March 19 (47-42), the day after his speech on race.

Gallup, on the other hand, showed a much steeper decline for Obama. Despite leading Clinton 50-44 before the Wright scandal, Obama, unlike with Rasmussen, quickly fell below Clinton. On March 16, Clinton moved ahead of Obama, 47-45. And two days later, on March 19, before Gallup had factored in Obama's Tuesday speech on race in America, Clinton her largest lead in weeks, a 49-42 advantage. So, while Rasmussen showed Obama recovering, and building his lead back to 5 points over Senator Clinton, Gallup had Obama bleeding heavily, moving from a six-point edge before Wright to a seven-point deficit after.

Given how wildly different these polls were, it probably is no surprise that since Obama's speech, the two polls continue to wildly differ on how Americans have responded. Rasmussen, which showed Obama maintain strength after the initial Wright flurry, has shown a new fall for Obama since his well-received (at least in the media) speech on Tuesday. Despite leading Clinton by 3 points (46-43) two days ago, and one-point yesterday, today's newest poll shows Clinton leading 46-44, her first lead since March 9. Gallup, on the other hand, has shown an incredible Obama resurgence since his speech. Trailing 49-42 just four days ago, today, Gallup reports Obama has re-taken the lead, and has a three-point advantage over Senator Clinton, 48-45, regaining almost all of the support he lost in the initial wake of the Wright controversy.

The differences between the polls are striking, and they show the foolishness of radio hosts, television hosts, and even the campaigns who treat these polls like the gospel. I love Joe Scarborough and his Morning Joe show on MSNBC, but he continually talked this week about Obama's collapse in the Gallup Tracking Poll. And I kept thinking "But he's still up in Rasmussen's Daily Tracking Poll." And now that Obama's fallen off by Rasmussen's tally, but fully recovered by Gallup's, I don't know what to think. Which probably tells me that I, and everyone else, shouldn't think much about these polls.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Washington Post: Hillary Clinton Misleads Public on Balkin Trip

I'm currently watching Bill Richardson's effusive endorsement of Barack Obama, essentially saying that Obama's historic speech on race in America given this Tuesday pushed him over the edge and convinced him to enthusiastically endorse Obama, despite his ties to the Clinton family, of whom he served twice (as Energy Secretary and Ambassador to the United Nations) in the Clnton White House. It's a huge endorsement for Obama, not just because of Richardson's stature, but because it ends the week for Obama on a positive note, after a very rough news cycle.

But I am almost more interested in a Washington Post story which I first read about on Ben Smith's blog over at Politico.. Earlier in the campaign, Hillary Clinton, trying to show her extensive foreign policy experience, talked about running from gunfire during a trip to the Balkins in 1996.

"I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."

The only problem? According to the Washington Post Clinton's story is nothing more than fiction. In fact, there's a photograph of Clinton at the runway greeting ceremony where bullets were supposedly flying.

Doesn't appear Clinton appears too concerned about her well-being or that of her daughter or the young girl in the photograph. The Post, in fact, gives Clinton "Four Pinocchios" which means the statement not just contains "significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions" but is a real "whopper" (their words, not mine.).
Far from running to an airport building with their heads down, Clinton and her party were greeted on the tarmac by smiling U.S. and Bosnian officials. An eight-year-old Moslem girl, Emina Bicakcic, read a poem in English. An Associated Press photograph of the greeting ceremony, above, shows a smiling Clinton bending down to receive a kiss.

Among the U.S. officials on hand to greet Clinton at the airport was Maj. Gen. William Nash, the commander of U.S. troops in Bosnia. Nash told me that he was unaware of any security threat to Clinton during her eight-hour stay in Tuzla. He said, however, that Clinton had a "busy schedule" and may have got the impression that she was being hurried on her way.

According to Sinbad, who provided entertainment on the trip along with the singer Sheryl Crow, the "scariest" part was deciding where to eat. As he told Mary Ann Akers of The Post, "I think the only 'red-phone' moment was: 'Do we eat here or at the next place.'" Sinbad questioned the premise behind the Clinton version of events. "What kind of president would say 'Hey man, I can't go 'cause I might get shot so I'm going to send my wife. Oh, and take a guitar player and a comedian with you."

This is not the only example of Hillary over-stating her foreign policy or executive experience. Her role in helping craft peace in Northern Ireland has been severely questioned and her recently released schedules shed no light on any substantive foreign policy experience she obtained in the Clinton White House. This continues to be a real question for Hillary Clinton. Not only does it mean that she does not have significantly more experience than Obama, it goes to her character and honesty with the American people. And according to the Washington Post, at least here, Clinton has been anything but honest.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What I'm Watching - A Lot of Movies

It's been a nice period during the past few weeks, relaxing, watching a lot of Hardball and Countdown (and the new David Gregory MSNBC show, Race for the White House, which I'll post on in a few days) and even checking out Hannity and Colmes to see how badly the right is slandering Obama, but I think I may stop because it just raises my blood pressure and no good comes of watching it. Tonight, Hannity attacked Obama because some Super Delegate who has no connection to the Obama campaign said some outlandish things. I'm waiting for the exclusive on the racist tendency's of Obama's mailman next week and why this should force Obama to resign from office.

But this post is not about politics, it's about movies, because aside from the political nonsense, and the occasional Pistons and Wings games, I've been catching up on a lot of movies in the past few weeks. With a new Blu Ray DVD player and DirecTV providing me all of the movie channels free for three months, I've been filling my DVR with every HD movie I haven't seen yet (and even some I have). So what have I watched so far?

Michael Clayton (Blu Ray)- After finishing up Damages on Blu Ray (which I wrote about last week) I moved on to another legal drama short on the law on the new high-definition DVD format, the Oscar nominated and critically acclaimed Michael Clayton. And I was, well, pretty underwhelmed. It was good, don't get me wrong, but it didn't blow me away like I thought it was going to. I was surprised at how small a role Tilda Swinton had, especially after she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and while George Clooney was good, and the supporting cast was good, I don't know, maybe my expectations were too high. There were some great scenes, especially the final "negotiation" (not that you can really call it that) between Swinton and Clayton, but overall, I wasn't a huge fan. I do have to say though, Blu Ray DVDs are pretty amazing. The picture and audio quality just blows everything else out of the water.

Gattaca (Blu Ray) - I've said a few times before in the blog that I don't consider myself a "Sci-Fi Guy." I never got into Star Trek, never watched the Star Wars movies, but there are a lot of science-fiction movies and television shows I like, and Gattaca is near the top of the list. The mid 1990s thriller featuring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Jude Law, is a story about overcoming the odds and perseverance as much as it is about genetic engineering and what life could be like in the "near future." Gattaca has always been one of my favorite movies (it's probably in my Top 5 with Field of Dreams, Almost Famous, The Fugitive, and maybe Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and when the new version was released on Blu Ray this week, I jumped at the chance to add it to my collection. And with superior picture and sound (as mentioned above) you can't go wrong.

Deja Vu- I love having the movie channels and being able to DVR all sorts of films I never saw and watch them in HD whenever I feel like it. I watched Deja Vu yesterday, and for those unfamiliar, it stars Denzel Washington as an ATF Agent who uses new government technology to first investigate, then travel back in time to try to stop, a murder and terrorist attack by Jim Caviezel. Time travel movies usually make my head hurt, because of the logical problems time travel always presents, but unlike a lot of reviews of the movie, which were pretty harsh, but I liked this a lot. The ending, which I won't ruin, was both frustrating but somewhat logical. There were a lot of things which could have been done better, but overall, unlike many, I really liked Deja Vu and would recommend it.

Thank You For Smoking- I was really looking forward to this movie. It got great reviews, it was about Washington lobbying, had an all-star cast including William H. Macy, Rob Lowe, Katie Holmes and Mario Bello. And I hated it. Well, maybe hate is too strong. I thought it was over the top, too cute for its own good, and many of the characters were not characters at all but caricatures. And maybe that was the point because this movie was supposed to be a satire of lobbying, but, I just didn't find it very entertaining. Maybe that speaks more to me not enjoying satires, I don't know. But William H. Macy's character was a cartoon character, the great Mario Bello, whom I loved in The Cooler, was completely wasted in a nothing role, and that was basically it.

Stranger Than Fiction- Now here was a good movie. I'll be the first to admit I am not a huge Will Ferrell fan. I know most people are, but I just don't find his brand of humor entertaining. I have a similar view of most of Jim Carrey's most successful and well received comedies. And just as I loved Carrey in some of his more serious roles (like The Truman Show, which I am a big fan of) I really liked Ferrell in this more serious movie that still has a more understated humor which shines through. Dustin Hoffman is good here as well, and the story keeps you engaged from start to finish. You really don't know how the story is going to end until it does, and it keeps you guessing. Makes you wish Ferrell took on more semi-serious roles instead of the next sports-satire that he's gotten into a loop of doing, because somewhat surprisingly, he was very very good here.

So what's next, with time running down before I start work in April? I have I-Robot on Blu Ray, which I was told is quickly becoming the "demo disc" to use to really show off the power of the Blu Ray players. And I have a few other movies left on the DVR, but at least for the next few days, movies (and politics for that matter) take a back seat to basketball, as the NCAA Tournament starts up (BTW -- North Carolina over UCLA in the finals).

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Monday, March 17, 2008

If Real Life Were The West Wing, Barack Obama Would Win The Presidency During His Speech on Race Tomorrow

If Aaron Sorkin was penning the script for the race for the Democratic nomination for President, tomorrow morning, when Barack Obama speaks in the shadows of the city which helped create this country more than three hundred years ago, the race would be over.

After weeks of hostilities between not the candidates but their surrogates, after comments with racial undertones and blatant racism, deplorable comments and resignations, from both sides, it all my end tomorrow when Barack Obama gives a landmark speech in Philadelphia on race in the race for the White House. Barack Obama, the first African American with a legitimate chance to become President, has tried to stay above the racial divisions which still plague this country. But have it be the racial rhetoric from Bill Clinton or Geraldine Ferraro or the despicable, unforgivable statements and actions taken by Obama's own Reverend, Jeremiah Wright and the church Obama belongs to, he has been unable to stay above the conflict without becoming dragged into it. The son of a Kenyan student and a white Kansan, raised by his mother, by an Indonesian step-father and party by his two white grandparents in Hawaii, Obama's story and his rise to the precipice of the Presidency is uniquely and proudly American.

Every week, campaigns send out press releases and hold conference calls, trying to "set the agenda" for the day or the week. And they hold big speeches on the economy and Iraq and say to the media, "Hillary Clinton is giving a major address on Iraq today" or "Barack Obama is giving a major address on the economy tomorrow." Most of the time, despite the public claiming they want to hear about the issues and not the partisan bickering, and despite the media claiming the grit their teeth as they have yet another Democratic "strategist" come on to talk about the latest gaffe or misstep in the horse race instead of spending time discussing what really matters to Americans in their every day lives, it are these policy speeches which are left unaried and unheard by the vast majority of the American public. Was Hillary Clinton's major address on Iraq covered by all the major cable news outlets today? No. But comments by Barack Obama's church were covered from every angle, multiple times. The same ground trodden over and over again.

Tomorrow's speech should be different. Barack Obama speaking on race on our country and our politics. It could be a monumental day as this is not an ordinary speech. It could be the speech which marginalizes Obama as the "black candidate." The candidate who wins Alabama and Georgia and Mississippi despite receiving only a quarter of the white vote becuase he wins 90% of the black vote. Or it could be the speech that shows America that Obama is more than what he appears to be from the outside looking in and more than what his church says or his pastor does. The candidate that won overwhelmingly in Iowa and Utah and everywhere in between, attracting votes of people of all races and ethnicities.

You can almost hear the music from W.G. Sunffy Walden, the roar of the crowd, the feeling that one speech can move a nation and while it won't solve the problems of race in society, unlike the continued taunts of the Clinton campaign, words do matter. Words move people, words affect people. The words Barack Obama chooses tomorrow may very well decide whether he is the next President of the United States, and more than that, whether he can bring the country together, not just Republican and Democrat and Independent, not just rich and poor, but Black and White and Asian and Hispanic, and every ethnicity and religion and culture.

It is not an easy task, it is a high bar that would take somebody, some person, to reach. But nobody told Barack Obama this was going to be easy. He is not lucky to be who he is, he has worked for where he is, and if there is any politician that can inspire and lead a nation with his words, yes, just words, there is no question there is no better person in this country today to do so than Barack Obama. Maybe his speech tomorrow will be forgotten as soon as its given, as the 24-hour-news-cycle moves to some other scandal, some other campaign storyline. Or maybe it will win Barack Obama the Presidency, put the racial divisiveness of this campaign behind us , and convince Democrats that the only way to win in the fall is not continue to fight amongst ourselves, but to come together, and there is no way to do that, unfortunately, without addressing the racial tones which have dominated the campaign for the past two weeks.

I'd watch the speech tomorrow, something tells me we may see something truly special. If West Wing is any guide, tomorrow Barack Obama will win the Presidency.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Clinton Campaign Once Again Shows They Don't Understand The Delegate Process

If one needed any further proof that one campaign understands what it means to be in a race for delegates and another campaign thinks they can win the nomination without the support of the majority of the delegates, there is no better example than what happened last night in Iowa.

While the country, and the Clinton campaign, is focused on the April 22 primary in Pennsylvania, the Obama campaign focused their attention on Iowa. While Iowa was the first state to hold a primary or caucus this year, the fight for delegates in Iowa did not end with Obama's victory on election night back in January (wow, does that seem like a long time ago). That's because while Iowa did apportion delegates on that night, those delegates were for county conventions. At the county conventions (which took place yesterday) delegates to the state convention were selected. And at the state convention, then delegates to the national Democratic convention will be elected. If it sounds confusing, don't worry, it's obvious the Clinton campaign doesn't understand the process either.

Here's where it gets interesting (at least for political geeks and junkies like myself, and where it should get interesting for anyone following the fight for delegates). In January, John Edwards finished in second place ahead of Hillary Clinton and was awarded 14 delegates. Well, since Edwards has now dropped out of the race, at the county convention, those 14 delegates were up for grabs. And while some Edwards supporters continued to vote for their candidate, and six of Edwards fourteen delegates remain with him, eight were lost. All eight went to Barack Obama. And elsewhere in the voting, one Hillary Clinton delegate defected to Obama's camp, giving Barack Obama, when practically nobody was looking, a net gain of 10 delegates last night.

So while Hillary Clinton netted 9 delegates out of Ohio, Obama netted more from last night's Iowa county conventions. That's remarkable, especially because Hillary likely won't gain more than 10 or 15 delegates from Pennsylvania in late April. How behind can the Clinton campaign continue to fall while still having a legitimate argument they should be the Democratic nominee? Every delegate is crucial right now, and the Obama campaign, despite being ahead over 150 pledged delegates, understands that, and takes no delegate for granted. The Clinton campaign, meanwhile, puts down the caucus system, which as NBC's Chuck Todd rightly points out is going to haunt Hillary through these county conventions and they continue to lose massive amounts of delegates making it impossible for them to overcome the pledged delegate lead Obama has.

And unless the Clinton campaign realizes how important actually gaining delegates is, instead of meaningless "momentum" or "talking points," they will continue to fall further and further behind Obama, even if their rhetoric tries to convince the world (and, most importantly, the remaining unpledged Super Delegates) the opposite is really true.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lions Cut Kevin Jones and Kalimba Edwards; Another Proud Day in the Millen Regime

It's another proud day in the Matt Millen regime as leader of the Detroit Lions as two more of his top draft picks have been cut from the Lions as the team has announced that both defensive end Kalimba Edwards (who just last season signed a lucrative extension with the team) and running back Kevin Jones are no longer part of the Lions team. While Jones may come back at a reduced salary, that isn't looking incredibly likely at this point, and Edwards won't be back.

Excellent. More top draft picks gone. So aside from Ernie Sims, Roy Williams (who himself isn't likely to be with the team past this season), Jeff Backus, and Calvin Johnson, is anyone left? Daniel Bullocks and Gerald Alexander I guess. Now, cutting Kalimba Edwards, I understand. He has consistently underperformed, he'd never lived up to expectations, and if Rod Marinelli, a defensive-line specialist, can't get anything out of you, it doesn't make much sense to keep you around.

Now Kevin Jones, that I don't understand. Yes, he's been injured. He missed most of the start of last season with a Lisfranc fracture and he tore his ACL near the end of the last season. But from all reports, he was ahead of schedule on his rehab and was all set to be ready for training camp. He and the Lions even just recently agreed that he'd be doing the rest of his rehab here in Detroit. Now, suddenly, he's gone. When healthy last season, Jones was very productive, and he's been productive his whole career when he's been healthy. And with the loss of TJ Duckett earlier this off-season, Jones was key to the Lions offense going into the 2008 season. Now he's gone, leaving the Lions with Tatum Bell, Aveion Cason, and Brain Calhoun (who spends more time on the injured list than Jones).

Which means the Lions will likely spend their first round pick on a running back in this April's draft, which is no less than disastrous. The Detroit Lions have so many holes in key positions (right tackle, defensive end, middle linebacker, outside linebacker) the last thing they need to do is spend ANOTHER first round draft pick on an offensive skill player. Matt Millen has already spent the majority of our first round picks on offensive skill players (Charles Rogers, Joey Harrington, Roy Williams, Mike Williams, Kevin Jones, and Calvin Johnson) and only two remain with the team, and Roy Williams isn't likely to be with the Lions past this season. The only first round draft pick who has made a real impact (okay, maybe Roy Williams has too) is Ernie Sims, who not coincidentally is the only defensive player Millen has chosen in the first round. Wasting another draft pick on a running back when Kevin Jones would have been fine if supplemented with a third round running back is another in a long line of failures by the Detroit Lions.

If we didn't have so many other needs, then maybe. But with the way the team stands now? What a disaster.

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

Why Bill Foster's Victory Tonight Was So Important For Barack Obama

Something pretty extraordinary happened tonight, and not just Barack Obama winning the state of Wyoming by a 61-38 margin. In a special election to fill the seat in the United States House of Representatives vacated by former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert, a seat in a very Republican area of Illinois, in a District Hastert has won overwhelmingly since entering Congress in the 1980s, Democrat Bill Foster has become the newest member of Congress. Foster, endorsed by Barack Obama (Obama even cut a TV spot for Foster), despite not being a career politician, withstood a multi-million dollar effort from the Republican Party to hold the seat (and even overcome John McCain campaigning for his opponent).

This is great news for Democrats, as it continues to show that when given the choice between Republicans and Democrats, even in previously Republican areas, the country keeps trending Democratic, which bodes for well for picking up House and Senate seats in the fall and increasing our majorities in both houses of Congress.

But even more than that, tonight was a huge victory for Barack Obama, and not just because he gained Foster's Super Delegate vote tonight. One of the biggest advantages of Obama, and one of the biggest fears about Hillary Clinton, is that Obama is bringing so many new people to the Democratic party, and attracting so many independents and even Republicans in some areas of the country, that he'll be able to not just ensure victory for himself in November, but help even more Democrats win down the ballot. People coming out for Obama will likely vote for Democrats in House and Senate races and state races as well. Obama has done extraordinarily well in Republican states, and even if he can't win them in the fall, he'll force John McCain to spend time and to spend money in states that Republicans usually take for granted. Instead of concentrating his efforts on Ohio, Michigan, and Florida, McCain will have to spend precious resources in places like Virginia, North Carolina, and Colorado.

And Obama's appeal has an added benefit to Democrats running in these Republican states. Even if Obama can't pull out a state himself, he may draw enough turnout to win a few House races otherwise unreachable. One of the biggest fears of Democrats in "red" states is that having Hillary Clinton at the front of the ticket will be an anchor which will sink the Democrats' chances to pick up crucial Congressional seats in swing and leaning-Republican districts. And when Super Delegates make their decision on whom to support, this downstream, down-ballot impact is going to be very important in their decision making. And having Obama's imprimatur certainly pushed Bill Foster over the edge, and it could push many other Democrats to victory as well. So Obama had a very, very good night tonight, because with Bill Foster's victory in the reddest of red areas of Illinois, it shows the power Obama can have leading the Democratic Party in 2008, and that's a lesson Super Delegates are not likely to soon forget.

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Saturday, March 8, 2008

Detroit Lions Take Step in Right Direction, Sign Cornerback Brian Kelly

The Detroit Lions took a step in the right direction on Saturday, as both ESPN and reported that the team had reached a three year deal with veteran cornerback Brian Kelly. Kelly, a longtime mainstay in the Tampa Bay secondary, became another in a lengthening list of former Bucs to join up with their former head coach Rod Marinelli this off-season. Already safetys Dwight Smith and Kalvin Pearson and defensive tackle Chuck Darby have joined the Lions, and Kelly is a key addition.

One of the weakest parts of the Lions defense the past, well, forever, has been their secondary. And after trading away Dre Bly before last season, and cutting Fernando Bryant this off-season, it was looking like another lost year for the Lions secondary. But after acquiring a young ballhawk of a cornerback in Leigh Bodden in the Shaun Rogers trade, and signing veterans like Smith, Pearson, and now Kelly, who have extensive experience not just with the Lions defensive scheme but with the Lions defensive coaching staff, it's a net plus for the Lions. The team is now stacked at defensive back, with five quality safetys (although veteran Kenoy Kennedy likely won't be with the team next season), two new starting corners (Bodden and Kelly) and decent nickel and dime backs (the team re-signed both Keith Smith and Travis Fisher, and the underachieving but still learning Stanley Wilson will be back). That's a step in the right direction.

Now I know that this post has a different sound and a more upbeat feel to it as compared to yesterday's post criticizing the Lions free agent moves thus far this off-season but Kelly is a big addition at a key area of need. Since that post we also signed defensive tackle Chuck Darby, who while not nearly as talented as Shaun Rogers, brings a work ethic far superior to anything Rogers brought to the table. That's not to say I'm now thrilled with the Lions off-season, because I'm not. We still need a running back and an offensive tackle, and it looks more and more as if one of those two positions will be filled in the first round of the draft, something I wish wouldn't happen because of our past draft history and are desperate needs on defense. We still need at least one defensive end, a middle linebacker, at least one outsider linebacker, and probably another defensive tackle for good measure. This team still has a lot of holes, and needs a lot of improvement. But I always get sucked in to being bullish on the Lions chances.

As much as I love to complain about their coaching staff and their personnel moves, I'm an optimist at heart when it comes to the Lions, which I realize, given their history, is beyond silly. I always end up seeing the positive in the Lions moves, and see big things in their future. I feel that way today with how we've solidified our secondary and turned one of the biggest weaknesses on the team into one of the biggest strengths. There's a long way to go, but at least for one weekend day, it was a good day at Ford Field.

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What I'm Watching and Reading -- Damages and John Adams

With the Bar Exam behind me, and with moving into my new place pretty much complete, I've settled into a nice pattern of doing nothing as I try to recharge and get ready to start work and the real world in April. I wake up, watch Morning Joe that I DVR, eat lunch, read books and watch my DirecTV and newly growing collection of Blu Ray DVDs, I watch Hardball, and well, life is good.

So what have I been watching and reading (aside, of course, from MSNBC political coverage)? Mainly one set of DVDs and one biography, at least for now. First with the DVDs, I've started watching Damages, the FX show about a cut-throat (literally as well as figuratively) law firm run by Glen Close. Close's firm is running a hundred-million dollar class action lawsuit against a crooked CEO played by Ted Danson, and the show is told from the perspective of the firm's newest associate, who may have only been hired because of her connection to a key witness in the case. The show flashes back and forth from the present time to the past (where the bulk of the story takes place) as the viewer tries to piece together why things did not turn out so well for the young associate (being arrested for murdering your fiancée is never a good ending). The cast is great (and has anybody ever realized that Tate Donovan, who plays Close's confidant, looks like a twin brother of former DNC Chairman and current Hillary Clinton campaign chair Terry Mcauliffe?) and the show is very addicting. I've been hooked on the episodes and I may finish blowing through them this weekend (there are only 13). Great show, well worth checking out. Sort of like The Firm on steroids.

Damages has been so addicting, I've fallen behind in reading, and getting through a fair number of books this month was a key goal of mine. Instead of continuing and trying to finish one of the numerous books I'm in the middle of (I read through half of Bill Clinton's My Life before law school started and never finished it, and there are numerous sports books, including Mark Frost's The Greatest Game Ever Played I'm partway through) I started reading David McCullough's biography of our second, and mostly overlooked President, John Adams. While Washington and Jefferson get most of the headlines in the history books, Adams was no less important, and HBO, next week, will begin airing a multi-part mini-series) based on McCullough's book starting Paul Giamatti as Adams and the great Laura Linney as his wife Abagail. I'm about 100 pages in right now, and as to be expected from a McCullough biography, it's a great read. I was hoping to have the 400-page-plus tome finished by the premiere on March 16, but that's looking less and less likely by the day, but I'm going to try.

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Friday, March 7, 2008

Underwhelmed by the Detroit Lions in Free Agency

We all knew the Detroit Lions were not going to be extraordinarily active in free agency.'s Tom Kowalski told us that weeks ago. A combination of a salary-cap crunch and the Lions not being thrilled with the players out there led to that, but so far, the Detroit Lions now have far more holes than they had a week ago, and for a team that wasn't very good to begin with, this is not good news.

We've lost both Boss Bailey (Denver) and Teddy Lehman (Tampa Bay) leaving us with who again at linebacker? The perpetually disappointing Paris Lenin and the oft-injured Alex Lewis. And Donte Curry, maybe? Of course we have Ernie Sims, but that's it. Now, yes, Bailey has never lived up to his potential, and Denver gave him a lot of money, and Lehman was also constantly injured, but still, it is not as if linebacker was a position of strength for the team where we had a lot of depth. Perhaps the theory is to draft a middle linebacker and shift Lenin to the outside, but I'm not encouraged.

We also have yet to find a replacement for T.J. Duckett, who took off for Seattle. As Nick Cotsonika writes in the Detroit Free Pres if the season ended today, due to injuries to Kevin Jones and Brian Calhoun, your starting running back if the season ended today would be Aveion Cason. And we wonder why the Lions are the way they are. Now, the Lions may draft a running back, but considering all the other needs we have, another top pick on an offensive player is the last thing the Lions should be doing. And for all the talk the Lions were going to sign Warrick Dunn, that seems more like wishful thinking than reality at this point.

We've also lost our starting right tackle (Damien Woody), cut our starting cornerback (Fernando Bryant), and traded away our Pro Bowl defensive tackle (Shaun Rogers). Now, that's not to say all these moved were bad. Rogers had more negative intangibles than positives he brought to the team, and I like the cornerback we acquired from Cleveland (Leigh Bodden). But our other additions? Two safetys (Dwight Smith and Kalvin Pearson) when safety is a position we were actually okay with (with two young players, Daniel Bullocks and Gerald Alexander, and a veteran Kenoy Kennedy) and a tight end (Michael Gains).

The Detroit Lions have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks and months. We need a running back, at least one offensive tackle, a defensive tackle (though rumors are we may sign Seattle's Chuck Darby to fill Shaun Rogers' shoes), at least one defensive end, probably two linebackers (at least), another cornerback. And the problem is, most of these are starters we need, not depth positions. And given how free agency has gone so far, I can't see the Lions being too successful in filling these holes.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

There is No Such Thing as Momentum in Democratic Primary Politics

It's "momentum" versus the "math" or so the media would lead viewers to believe. Barack Obama's momentum was snapped after twelve consecutive victories yesterday and Hillary Clinton has the momentum today. Hillary Clinton is "putting her coalition together" (white women over 45, those making under $50,000 a year, and Catholics). Voters are having "buyers remorse" about Barack Obama.

None of these things are true (as Chris Matthews pointed out on MSNBC's coverage of the primary last night). Here's what is true. Hillary Clinton had a very good night last night. She outperformed in Ohio, she won Texas, she picked up some delegates, and she likely froze in place the mass roll-out of Super Delegates for Barack Obama. But her victories last night had nothing to do with buyers remorse or momentum.

We look at exit polls and we say "the coalition is coming back to Hillary Clinton" but that's a complete fallacy. These voters have never left Hillary Clinton. White women over 45 in Ohio are not the same as white women over 45 in Wisconsin or white women over 45 in Virginia or Maryland or Washington state. Just because this demographic voted one way in one state doesn't mean the same demographic group will vote the same way in a different state. Citizens of Ohio and Texas have different concerns than voters in Virginia and Maryland. They aren't fungible, they aren't the same.

As Chris Matthews pointed out last night, you can't have buyer's remorse if you haven't bought anything, and these are all new voters, new states. It's not as if the voters in Virginia and Maryland and Washington state which gave Obama 20, 25-point wins have jumped ship. Voters in different states will vote different ways because they aren't the same.

For the same reason, momentum is simply illusory. The candidates are tied to the DNC nominating calender and what we see as momentum is really just individual states voting the way the those states are going to vote. Whether Ohio was on Super Tuesday or on March 4th, it was likely going to be a good state for Senator Clinton. Whether Louisiana was on Super Tuesday or February 9th, it was going to be a good state for Senator Obama. Yes, Barack won 11 contests in a row, but that was because he had a good run of states which favored him either because of demographics (high African American populations and/or large pockets of highly educated, wealthy voters) the nature of the process (caucuses), or the individual circumstances of certain states (states like Washington and Virginia have not been hurt economically like Ohio). It had nothing to do with momentum. So, now, similarly, Senator Clinton has no real momentum.

And the easiest proof of that is the next two contests. On Saturday, there is a caucus in Wyoming. On Tuesday, there is a primary in Mississippi. Barack Obama should win both by double digits, and potentially by 20+ points. So does that give him the momentum back? Of course not. That's because the results in Wyoming and Mississippi are not at all dependent on how Ohio or Texas or Rhode Island voted.

Both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama have legitimate claims to certain "talking points." She's won the big states like California, New York, Massachusetts, and Ohio (though I do get incredibly frustrated every time she mentions Michigan and Florida in that list). But unlike Clinton's claims to the contrary, Obama has won big states too, like Illinois, Missouri, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. He's won Colorado and Washington state, she's won Texas. The bottom line is, he's won more states, more delegates, and more votes. And her taking away the nomination at the convention is my biggest fear, not because I think she'd be a bad President, but because doing so would mean tearing the party apart, and would mean that African Americans and young voters, whom Obama has energized like never before, would abandon the party, and would guarantee defeat in the fall.

So we don't know what will happen next. Obama will likely gain back any delegates he lost yesterday in Mississippi and Wyoming. And Pennsylvania will have a six-week run up to the primary which will make Iowa look like child's play. And he still leads in delegates. And Michigan and Florida will likely have to re-vote at some point.

What we do know though is that all this talk about "momentum" and "buyers remorse" is nonsense. And don't let the media or the campaigns try to tell you any differently.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Super Tuesday II Predictions

I continue to be very pessimistic today about Barack Obama's chances in Texas and Ohio, especially as Zogby has Clinton erasing a three-point Texas deficit overnight, and has her now leading by 3 in the Lone Star State.

My predictions? Clinton by 6 in Ohio, by 4 in Texas (but he'll win more delegates in Texas), by 5 in Rhode Island, and Obama by 20 in Vermont. At the end of the night, Obama will have netted more total delegates than Clinton (thanks to a big win in Vermont, close losses in Rhode Island and Ohio, and a delegate, but not popular vote, win in Texas) and this race is back to square one. Obama will win Wyoming and Mississippi in the next 10 days and then we'll have a six week blitz in Pennsylvania leading up to April 22. If Obama can win there, it's over. If he loses, then we have a fight over Michigan, Florida, and Super Delegates, and the party is ripped apart, and the Republicans win in November.

But tonight, it's going to be Hillary Clinton's night. Even if she ends up losing more delegates than she wins.

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Monday, March 3, 2008

I Just Have a Bad Feeling About Tomorrow

I just have a bad feeling about tomorrow.

Hillary Clinton is gaining fast on Barack Obama and I continually get a worse and worse feeling about tomorrow night. As I wrote yesterday Barack Obama has let expectations way out of control for tomorrow, and despite being down nearly 20 points in both Ohio and Texas as early as two weeks ago, he surged to such an extent that two close losses tomorrow could be devastating. And you have to give the Clinton campaign credit. From leaking the picture of Obama in African tribal dress and hedging on Obama's religion (there's no question, as we saw on 60 Minutes last night, that these rumors of Obama's religion have taken on a life of their own, and Clinton herself refusing last night to unequivocally say Obama is not a Muslim was very telling) to hitting him on experience and the "red phone ad" in Texas and NAFTA and this Canadian meeting where an Obama adviser praised NAFTA in Ohio, the Clinton campaign has stopped Obama's momentum in his tracks. Some of it is fear-mongering and some of it (the religion hedge) is offensive, but there's no question it's working. Hillary has re-taken the lad in Rasmussen's daily tracking poll, and she's widening her lead in Ohio in all but John Zogby's latest poll (and we all know how well Zogby did when he called a big Obama win in California) and closing fast in Texas after falling behind earlier in the week.

I just do not have a good feeling about tomorrow. I think there's almost no question Clinton wins Ohio, and it could be by a larger margin than people think. And Obama may be able to hold on in Texas, but it really depends on the African American and Hispanic turnout.

Clinton, even with victories in Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island, would still be 150 pledged delegates behind and 100 total delegates behind on Wednesday, and there's a good chance even if she wins the popular vote in Texas, she'll lose the delegate count. We forget that Clinton was supposed to win these states going away. Now, squeaking by may be a mortal blow to Obama's coronation. And the more I look at the numbers and watch MSNBC, the more I think tomorrow will be Clinton's night, in Ohio and Texas, and that the entire national storyline will change to Clinton once again being considered the front-runner. And all this despite an almost insurmountable delegate lead for Obama.

I just have a bad feeling about tomorrow.

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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Barack Obama and the Expectations Problem

In many ways Barack Obama has run an incredible campaign. He faced off against the Clinton machine, a veteran of three national races (one Democratic primary in 1992 and Presidential races in 1992 and 1996), with a team that could raise more money than anyone, and with connections in more places than anyone running for President. And he's a one-term Senator, who nobody knew before 2004. Yet, despite the advantages of the Clintons, and Obama's lack of experience with national races, he has, in almost every way, run a far superior campaign than Hillary Clinton. He's raised more money from more people (over 1,000,000 donors, an amazing figure). He's won twice as many states, won more votes, many more delegates. And he had the foresight to organize in the caucus states and to prepare for a long race which would last far past February 5th.

But Barack Obama has not run a perfect campaign. Almost every time he has Clinton on the ropes, he can't put her away, in large part because his campaign fails to properly keep expectations low. After his stunning 9-point victory in Iowa, everyone had him dominating in New Hampshire, where he perpetually trailed. And when he lost by 2-points it may have well been 20. On Super Tuesday, Obama may have won more states and more delegates, but the states where he was on the rise, where the expectations got out of control, California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, he lost, and in the case of Massachusetts, lost badly despite the support of both Democratic Senators (Ted Kennedy and John Kerry) and the Democratic Governor (Deval Patrick). So Super Tuesday was almost a net loss for Obama, despite being a great night overall because even though he badly trailed in New Jersey, California, and Massachusetts, he was rising so fast, the expectations got out of control.

The same thing is happening for "Junior Super Tuesday." Barack Obama, two weeks ago, was down almost 20-points in both Ohio and Texas. In that time, he has made an incredible run (as he does in every state he campaigns in -- Another reason why it is unfair to count Michigan and Florida) to cut the lead in Ohio to under 5, and to take the lead in Texas this week. And the stakes couldn't be higher. If Obama can win one, he all but eliminates Clinton. He wins both, and there's almost no question Clinton drops out of the race Wednesday morning.

The problem now is though, again, because Obama has risen so fast, and closed so quickly, and because his campaign has done a horrendous job of maintaining low expectations for the night, Hillary Clinton wins by practically showing up. Her campaign maintains that Obama must win all four states Tuesday, especially Texas and Ohio, or it shows that voters have lost faith in him. While that's not true, obviously, because both states were strongly in Clinton's column as recently as 10 days ago, it does not seem like such a sure thing anymore that Clinton will drop out if she loses Texas. Since Obama is now seen as the favorite in that state, if she wins, despite her huge lead two weeks ago, she's made a great comeback, and it will keep her in the race.

And there's evidence that the race in Texas is tightening. Zogby has the race down to 2 points from six yesterday. Other polls also show a Clinton rebound, which should continue after her tough national security ads in the state and her appearances on Saturday Night Live tonight and the Daily Show tomorrow, which should guarantee Hillary positive press coverage (and lots of free media) in the 48-hour run up to the primaries.

Maybe I'm just needlessly worried, especially so close to securing the nomination for Obama. But I really fear these expectations are almost unrealistic for Obama, and now, should he lose Texas, even by 2 or 3 points (and pick up more delegates in the process) it will be looked at as a loss, just like Super Tuesday was. And even though Obama has made up incredible ground among the Super Delegates, I can still see Clinton trying to wrestle this nomination away somehow, tearing the Democratic Party apart in the process, and making it impossible for us to win the fall.

So while Barack Obama may have run a great campaign, and a much superior campaign than Senator Clinton, it is not perfect, and his inability to keep expectations low have been a constant issue. I just hope it doesn't come back to haunt the campaign on March 4th.

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Detroit Lions Trade Shaun Rogers

So it figures that the first sports related post I have in a long time (too long really) relates to the Detroit Lions trading away one of their best players in the Matt Millen era. For all of Shaun Rogers' faults, and there were many, when he had his head on straight (which wasn't often) he was a dominating defensive tackle. Last season, when the Lions were winning and showing life, so was Rogers, and he was getting sacks, and blocking field goals, and even scoring a touchdown on a long run back. Then Rogers faded and likely not coincidentally, so did the Lions, and we were left without another lost season. So, after failing to convince Rogers to maintain his weight and his conditioning, the team did what they threatened to do years ago, and that was trade Big Baby away and get what they could for the former Pro Bowl player.

And the best they could do was a third round pick and cornerback Leigh Bodden from the Cleveland Browns. I actually much prefer this trade to the original swap with Cincinnati which would have netted the Lions only a third and fifth round draft pick. Here, we keep the early pick, and get a guy in Bodden who can step in and start at cornerback next year. Bodden, who is only 26, had what could be considered a career year last season, with six interceptions and 88 tackles. The Bengals Chad Johnson, who is loathe to give credit to an cornerback, once called Bodden the toughest defensive back he has to face, and given how much of a need the secondary was for the Lions, this was a big pickup. With the addition of safety Dwight Smith, the returning Daniel Bullocks (the young safety who missed all of last season with a knee injury), and the re-signing of Keith Smith, the Lions secondary actually doesn't look all that scary anymore. And considering the team will likely sign one more corner and draft at least one early on in the 2008 NFL Draft, there may actually be something to get encouraged about. Maybe.

Now the Lions still have a lot of holes to fill. Right tackle is a concern, though with the acquisition of Bodden, an offensive tackle in the first round of the draft may be more of a possibility than it was a week ago. Defensive tackle is also a concern now, as I'm not convinced Shaun Cody is ready to step in to a starting roll. And, of course, linebacker is a glaring weakness. Oft-injured Boss Bailey may join his brother in Denver, leaving the Lions without a strong-side linebacker and in desperate need of a middle linebacker, as I'm ready for the great Paris Lennon experience to end.

So, while the Lions may have done themselves well yesterday, acquiring Bodden, and adding him to Smith and Smith in the rebuilt Lions secondary, the team still has a looooooooong way to go to get back to respectability. But we already knew that, right?

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