Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Yet another "parsing the words" scandal...

Apparently, David Axelrod, chief strategist for the Obama campaign, said Democratic Presidential candidates lose white working class voters anyway - as a HuffPo article puts it, Axelrod's saying don't worry about Obama's inability to win white working class voters!
Obviously, this is being played up, including by President Clinton, as the Obama campaign dissing white working class voters as inconsequential.

So I went to the source - an NPR interview this morning. Here's what I transcribed:
Inskeep: "In a general election, if Barack Obama is the nominee, does he have enough support in his base - young voters, new voters, upscale suburban voters - to win even if the working white class were to go to John McCain?"

Axelrod: "Let's understand that the working, white working class has gone to the Republican nominee for many elections going back to, even to the Clinton years, and so this is not new that Democratic candidates don't rely solely on those votes. But, if you look at the Washington Post poll recently, Senator Obama was doing slightly better among those voters in the general election than Senator Clinton. But what he can do that she hasn't been able to do is attract independent voters, attract younger voters, and that's why we are winning a lot of these battleground states...
<cross-talk and Axelrod says polls show Obama doing better in NY, CA etc. in the GE, snipped-RS>
In many of these large states Senator Obama is doing better in a general election matchup with Senator McCain than Senator Clinton and a lot of it has to do with the ability to expand the Democratic base."

So basically, what Axelrod's saying is that Democratic nominees - even the successful ones like President Bill Clinton - have not won the white working class voters (Reagan Democrats?) This seems fair enough - a recent paper by Ruy Teixeira and Alan Abramowitz (of the Brookings Institution and Emory University respectively) has this to say (via The Swamp):
"But despite Clinton's electoral success, it was not the case that he received a great deal of white working class support. He averaged only 41 percent across his two election victories. But he did, at least, prevent these voters from siding with his Republican opponents in large numbers, eking out one point pluralities among the white working class in both elections (the rest went to Perot)."

Further, Axelrod's point is that just because Senator Clinton is winning the white working class in Democratic primaries does not mean that she will win the bigger pool of such voters in a general election or do better than Senator Obama among these voters. On the other hand, Senator Obama is broadening the Democratic base by bringing in independents and Republicans, which is something Senator Clinton is not (I'd say less - RS) able to do. The Trail over at WaPo pretty much agrees.

And once again, something that is empirically true is distorted... But what else do we expect in this destructive Democratic race?

The morning after... April 22!

It seems like such a long time back when I wrote post-Super Tuesday that the race would go till Pennsylvania. Of course, now PA has come and gone - and we are none the closer to an end. If anything, the inability of Senator Obama to win the popular vote in at least one of OH, TX and PA could create some doubt in the minds of superdelegates (remember that Senator Obama won the delegate count in Texas). Though it appears this was not a problem for OK Governor Brad Henry, who earlier said he would wait till the Convention but announced this morning he is backing Senator Obama (even though Senator Clinton won OK...) (via Taegan Goddard's Political Wire.)

Separate from the MSM and Clinton spin, Senator Obama may not have won these 3 states, but he did win Senator Clinton's backyard states of CT and DE, as well as the battleground states WI (handily) and MO (by a hair!), and potential Dem takeover VA. Senator Clinton has not won states-favorable-to-Obama [MS, GA, AL, SC, WA, VA etc.] I think it is also interesting that while Senator Obama has usually managed to cut down Senator Clinton's substantial starting leads in states that are favorable to her - TX, PA, OH - and even overtaken them handily - WI - she has not been able to do so in the very rare reverse situations, for instance MS.

Both the Clinton and Obama teams say Indiana could well be the tie-breaker. Senator Clinton was expected to win PA; she will win KY, WV and PR. Senator Obama will likely take NC, OR, MT, SD and Guam. WaPo says as much. However, if Senator Clinton just edges Senator Obama in Indiana, while Senator Obama wins NC by 20% as current polls indicate, the Clinton gains in PA will be wiped out, and we will be back to where we were on April 21: Senator Clinton way behind in pledged delegates, as well as the popular vote - even if we add Florida into the mix (but here's why the "popular vote" is a fatally-flawed metric). Chuck Todd has a very nice analysis of this situation (via the Great Orange Satan):

So it looks like Pennsylvania didn't change much, except give some extended breathing space to the Clinton campaign. But at what cost? The Gray Lady herself slams their favorite Senator Clinton for taking the "low road to victory."

The questions that I have for Senator Obama's campaign are:

1. Where was the youth vote? [just 12% in the 18-29 age group, lower than the 16% in OH; SurveyUSA's last PA poll (via put the 18-49 at 50% of the electorate (18-34 21%), but this turned out to be just 42%.]

2. Turnout in Philadelphia and the suburbs: Again, SUSA's last poll had this region at 43% of the PA vote with Senator Obama leading 55-41. Instead, with 99% of the PA precincts reporting, Philly and the suburbs were just 38% of the PA vote - though Senator Obama won this area 57-43. That extra 5% would have made a HUGE difference. [Hmmm... should they have distributed yard signs and paid the Philly ward leaders to boost turn-out? - See this LAT story.]

Well, this should all be over on May 6. Or June 3. Or August 25-28. Please?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Flaming feminists... Take 2

Linda Hirshman over at talks about how Senator Clinton is apparently emerging as a battleground between mothers and daughters - and that some younger women are supporting Senator Obama to break away from their mothers. She says many feminist Obama-backers are facing intense pressure from men, and are becoming aware of the misogyny that older generation feminists like Robin Morgan warned them about... Hirshman also says she can't find a "vagina litmus test" that says women must support Senator Clinton.

Read my take on Robin Morgan's essay here. I am pretty sure Morgan says "goodbye" to all women who may not support Senator Clinton because of various reasons, including the fact that she may be unelectable. Or not likable. Or (blasphemy!) may actually find someone else... more inspiring! A real visionary! More bearable as President!
- That sure sounds like a "vagina litmus test."
- Democrats nominated experienced - but unlikeable - men in 2000 and 2004, and look where that got us. Why should Senator Clinton experience a different fate? Just because she's a Clinton? A woman? No, seriously- tell me why.

Hirshman also says: "In her attack on the mammas in the Guardian recently, youthful feminist author Michelle Goldberg described Morgan's warning about the silencing as "hysterical," meaning driven insane by your uterus. Does Goldberg now think Traister and Fortini have been infected with the women's disease?"
- If female writers use the word "hysterical," does that have a very different connotation than if a male (moi!) were to use it? I mean, if I say someone's hysterical, I am not thinking of a woman being driven out of control due to a chemical imbalance. I am just thinking of someone who's yelling and/or crying, historical connotations be damned. Maybe I am just not PC-enough...?

Finally, about the various acts of misogyny that are apparently coming out everyday. If that alludes to various calls for Senator Clinton to get out of the race - made mostly by men - then:
(a) I don't support those calls.
(b) But put the shoe on the other foot. Suppose the positions were reversed, with Senator Clinton leading by ~150 delegates, with no practical chance of being overtaken by Senator Obama. Then the pressure would be immense on Senator Obama to get out of the race, with the carrot of a vice-presidential slot, to avoid the present intense friction between Democrats (read the comments sections of major newspaper articles - they are filled with absolute bile, including horrendous accusations against the ObamaS). And dare I say it, he would have been forced to accept. After all, the race started with Senator Clinton as the inevitable, favored, establishment candidate. Which is also precisely the reason why the calls for her to withdraw have been largely muted.

Friday, April 18, 2008

[UPDATED 4/18 PM] Democrats voting McCain and the Democratic campaign strategy

A lot of recent polls show that about 30% of Clinton-supporters and about 20% of Obama-backers will vote McCain if their preferred Democratic candidate doesn't get the nomination. This basically means that both Senators Clinton and Obama would lose in November!

To avoid that problem, the sooner this nomination is wrapped up, the better - preferably by June 3 (the last Democratic primary). If it were to be over sooner because either candidate (read particularly Senator Clinton) is forced out of the race, that candidate's supporters might feel that their candidate did not get a fair shake. [Even though Senator Clinton proclaimed back in 2007 that the race would be over on Super Tuesday - effectively declaring the post-Feb 5 contests irrelevant. This was evident in her campaign's lack of preparation for these later states.]

Post-June 3, the eventual nominee will have 5 months to unite the Democratic Party - much better than the 2 months that will be available post-Convention. That is crucial to the Democratic candidate's chances, in my opinion.

One of the main reasons some Democrats/Dem-leaning Independents consider voting for Senator McCain is because they think he is centrist. A project of the Democratic Party/supporters (527s!) should be to paint Senator McCain as a Bush Conservative. I think this should be very possible, at least on the following issues:

1. Iraq, Iraq, Iraq - Senator McCain wants to stay in Iraq till a nebulous, undefined "victory" is achieved, continuing Bush-43's policies. Two-thirds of Americans want OUT. [See update below.]

2. Bush tax-cuts - Senator McCain was a Real Conservative when he voted against the Bush tax-cuts, citing the lack of cuts in spending. Now, he is for making the (currently-temporary) Bush tax-cuts permanent - never mind the ever-increasing federal deficit - saying that doing so would mean a tax-hike! The Fiscal Conservative is long-dead... [link]

3. Reproductive rights - Senator McCain is pro-life/anti-reproductive rights (a good read). This is a key issue for many of Senator Clinton's supporters. Do they really want to risk a third GOP term - during which, given all 4 liberal judges are about McCain's age or older, the composition of the US Supreme Court can change and overturn Roe? From the NPR article:

"Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, says her group has always considered McCain pro-life as well. And it's not just abortion, she says.
"He voted against family planning, he voted against the freedom of access to clinic entrances — that was about violence against women in clinics," Keenan says, adding, "He voted against funding for teen pregnancy-prevention programs, and making sure that abstinence only was medically accurate. This is very, very extreme.""

[On the flip side, some pro-life Democrats have endorsed Senator Obama, prominently Senator Bob Casey; that should ease the minds of some Independents/conservative Democrats about Senator Obama's position on these issues.]

The above strategy - of definitively linking Senator McCain to Bush-43 and painting him as a Bush Conservative - is similar to the "liberal" accusations that were thrown at Al Gore and John Kerry. And it does potentially use some wedge issues like #3 - even though it appears Senator McCain is the one out of the mainstream on #3 (see the NPR story, which says even some Republican voters favor legalized abortion).

But as I keep saying - it is time the Democrats played offense, and took the fight to "red" states like Nebraska, Virginia and Kansas, in addition to purple states like Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and New Hampshire. Given the substantial fund-raising advantage either Democrat surely will have against Senator McCain, it is just silly to continue the Kerryesque strategy of focusing on just a few battleground states (see the concentration of candidate visits and money spent on FL, OH and PA).

UPDATE 4/18 PM: Just read an article by Michael Hirsh in Newsweek. Hirsh says Obama '08 is beginning to look like Kerry '04, forced to defend his patriotism (a typical right-wing tack that Senator Clinton is also gleefully indulging in) and reduced to talking about "safe" issues like the economy instead of taking on Senator McCain on national security. Hirsh also points out that Senator Obama has the right perspective on Iraq and Afghanistan - if the US wants to catch Bin Laden, 1-2 brigades (10,000 soldiers) need to be sent to Afghanistan, away from Iraq.

Hirsh also says that the Obama position is increasingly becoming the conventional wisdom even with the military top brass. Thus, Senator Obama is, and has been for a long time, right on the issue of Iraq v. Afghanistan; Senator McCain is just wrong. Unlike Hirsh, however, I firmly believe Senator Obama will not make the Kerry mistake of allowing the GOP to set the terms of the debate.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The 21st Democratic debate...

The local ABC affiliate delays the transmission of the ABC debate tonight - to start at 7.00 PM Mountain time, after Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. I mean, who watches these shows?!

Anyway - I thought the debate was average. The 90-second answer/60-second response format was a little stifling. Both Senators Clinton and Obama often danced around instead of giving direct answers, so Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos often had to ask the question again! There was an extended discussion on taxes - not raising taxes for those with incomes less than $200,000 and for Senator Obama, on raising the upper income limit for the payroll tax.

Senator Obama got a couple good shots. One, when recalling that Senator Clinton's comment in 1992 about staying home and baking cookies (link via TJR) was also attacked as elitist. Senator Obama said that he thought those 1992 attacks were unfounded, but Senator Clinton took the wrong lesson from that, in making similar attacks now over the "bitter" comments.

The second point came when Senator Clinton and the moderators questioned Senator Obama over never-convicted Weather Underground member William Ayers (WaPo Fact Checker). Senator Obama pointed out that while he was barely associated with Ayers, President Clinton had actually pardoned two convicted members of the Weather Underground!

Senator Obama went on to say that making him complicit with Ayers is the same as making him apologize for his friend Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who once said abortion providers should be given the death penalty.'s John Dickerson says this goes to show Senator Obama's "penchant for troubling moral equivalencies." I disagree - I think Senator Obama was pointing out the ludicrousness of the entire situation. Does Dickerson really think Senator Obama has to answer for Ayers' actions? [See my earlier post on Dickerson here.]

Both Dickerson and MSNBC's Chuck Todd say Senator Clinton won (Todd says she will benefit for a short time only), though both agree that when she goes on the attack, she pays a bigger price than Senator Obama. I don't know - I thought Senator Obama came off reasonably well, fending off attacks and questions on his negatives (bittergate, Wright-gate) as "old politics." His final answer - his pitch to superdelegates - that he attracts voters who have never before participated in elections to form a new coalition that will be able to tackle the enormous challenges ahead, was also better than Senator Clinton's response (experience, great programs, blah blah blah).

I would say the debate was a draw - Senator Clinton always comes off as competent in a debate, but Senator Obama did well too. We will find out next Tuesday what the good people of Pennsylvania think.

In other news, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Harrisburg Patriot-News endorsed Senator Obama (via CNN's Political Ticker), as did Bruce Springsteen and Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney. Mr Rooney joins Franco "Immaculate Reception" Harris and Jerome "The Bus" Bettis. Yay!
[Dan Rooney; Franco Harris; Jerome Bettis.]

Finally, another great video from The Jed Report:

Free Tibet!

Or at least make it genuinely autonomous...

As the Olympic torch makes its way to China, it passes through India this week. Apparently, around 10,000 police officers will be deployed - in addition to other security forces - along the 3-mile route in Delhi:
"the President of Indian Olympic committee, Suresh Kalmadi, would only say: “We don’t want scenes of what happened in Paris and London to be repeated here.”"

Several prominent personalities have withdrawn citing different reasons - health (cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, the world's best batsman, has had a groin injury for a while); "strong personal reasons"; but best of all, to stand by the people of Tibet - that's India's soccer captain, Bhaichung Bhutia.
Also, "Kiran Bedi, India’s first senior female police officer, withdrew last week, saying that she did not want to “‘run in a cage.”"

Complete story at the NYT.

[Before anyone accuses me of hypocrisy over the Kashmir issue, see this post.]

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Annie Oakley!

Looks like Senator Obama's characterization of Senator Clinton as "Annie Oakley... packing a six-shooter" is catching on! Politico's Mike Allen writes about Senator Clinton's dramatic change in tone on the gun rights/gun control debate, with the headline:

'Annie Oakley' changes her tune


Sunday, April 13, 2008

More on bitter-gate

[See previous posts - here and here.]

Both the McCain and Clinton campaigns - as well as the mainstream media - play up the "they get bitter" line as Senator Obama stereotyping small-town America. That, of course, is to be expected from the rival campaigns. But IMHO, most folks are missing the point made by the complete statement (transcript here, an Off the Bus, HuffPo report by Mayhill Fowler). Senator Obama is actually trying to say that people are not not-voting for him out of race considerations, i.e. that people who don't vote for him are not racists.

Senator Obama: "...each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
Um, now these are in some communities, you know. I think what you'll find is, is that people of every background -- there are gonna be a mix of people, you can go in the toughest neighborhoods, you know working-class lunch-pail folks, you'll find Obama enthusiasts. And you can go into places where you think I'd be very strong and people will just be skeptical. The important thing is that you show up and you're doing what you're doing."
[The entire audio is worth listening to, but garbled; reading the transcript is essential.]

From Talking Points Memo: "Bitter and Angry in Rural Pennsylvania: Obama's Reality vs. Hillary's Fantasy" - by astral66, someone who lives in western PA, and says Senator Obama was "100% accurate in his assessment."
Karen Dalton-Beninato, over at Off the Bus on HuffPo, parses the "bitter" statement and says: "Obama was talking about sentiments he has heard across the Midwest. I've heard them too -- all you have to do is ask."

In other news, via The Jed Report, both the Scranton, PA Times-Tribune and the Allentown-Lehigh Morning Call endorse Senator Obama. The Scranton endorsement is particularly important given the deep Rodham family roots there. Both newspapers say Senator Clinton is a political lightning rod (even if it is not entirely her own fault) that would not offer a change from the bitter divisiveness of the past few years, while both applaud Senator Obama's vision and leadership abilities.
From Wikipedia: "The Times-Tribune is moderately independent. The paper endorsed George W. Bush in 2000, but it did not endorse anyone in 2004." No indications of the Morning Call's political leanings, if any.

Finally, here's a great video (linked via a comment on a blog - forget which one):

Saturday, April 12, 2008

CNN analysts and (gasp!) President Clinton agree with Senator Obama!

From The Jed Report (which is a great source for video clips), here are Gloria Borger, Jeffrey Toobin and Jack Cafferty analyzing the McCain-Clinton attacks on Senator Obama's "people are bitter" remarks:

And again, via TJR, President Clinton expresses pretty much the same sentiments as Senator Obama:

As the CNN analysts point out, Senator Obama's comments (which the Senator has admitted could have been phrased better) are factually accurate. Historically, in economic downturns, folks end up blaming others (immigrants, gays, other religions, etc.) for their ills, even if (and as is usually the case) the economic distress is caused by government policies more suited for (and often written by) billionaire industrialists and stock-holders.
An example - for the most part the Chinese are happy to let a bunch of Commie dictators run their country, because the dictators have cannily opened up their country to foreign investment that produces jobs on a massive scale. Has anybody heard of Tiananmen Square, 1989-style rumblings recently?

Friday, April 11, 2008

[UPDATED 4/15 AM] Senator Obama hits back on "people are bitter" attacks

At a California fund-raiser, Senator Obama said some voters in Pennsylvania are bitter because they have had trouble finding jobs for the last couple decades. Senators Clinton and McCain have attacked Senator Obama for being elitist and condescending toward ornery folk... Via The Jed Report, here's Senator Obama's response:

Update: Comments by Senator Obama today (4/13) in Steelton, Pennsylvania (he may be skinny, but he's tough!):

Finally, an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, a clear-headed explanation (via RCP):

Enough said.

Friday, April 4, 2008

MLK's last causes

On the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr's death, WaPo looks at the complex legacy of the Rev. - his opposition to the Viet Nam war, and his fight against poverty. He was under pressure from the Black community as they saw him "dilute" his commitment to civil rights, and his White liberal friends were leaving him over Viet Nam and his fight against poverty.

Best passage:
The war buildup had "continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube," King said. "So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

"Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them 8,000 miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools."