Friday, May 30, 2008

My email to David Broder

This Thursday David Broder's column addressed the divisions in the Democratic Party and how they might make governing difficult for Senator Obama if he is elected President.  Using an old interview from the recently deceased Hamilton Jordan, he draws an analogy between Senator Obama and Jimmy Carter, who also rose out of obscurity to win the nomination of a divided party.  He concludes:

Because Carter ran against the Washington establishment, he had no claim on their loyalty -- and they easily spurned him, Jordan told his interviewers. Because he sought to appease them by giving the vice presidency to one of their own, Walter Mondale, they scorned him. And because he tried to flatter them by giving key places in his administration to some of them, he faced continual rebellions within his own White House and Cabinet.

This is the cautionary tale Obama and his brain trust could find in Jordan's interview. Obama, too, has profited from fragmentation in the Democratic Party that has allowed a long shot, once again, to capture its greatest prize. But if he is elected, he will have to solve the problems of fragmentation that doomed Jimmy Carter.

While Broder makes some good comparisons, especially about Carter's and Obama's outsider status, there are major differences between Carter's situation and Obama's.  Broder says:  "In the two previous elections, the Democratic Party was riven by strife over the Vietnam War, social policy and civil rights."  I don't see such deep disagreement over policy in the party today.  Also, the parties have become used to outsider candidates as both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush ran as outsiders, even though Bush had insider support due to his father.  I addressed my thoughts to Broder in this email:

Mr. Broder,

I've just read your column, "The Enemy Within." While you make some good arguments, and think it is appropriate that we remember the important contributions of Hamilton Jordan, I'm not sure that I agree with your conclusions.

The division between Senators Clinton and Obama seems to be more of style over substance. The only domestic policy differences to surface during the campaign are the minor variations in their health care plans and Senator Clinton's gas tax relief proposal. The two Senators have some substantive differences on how to handle foreign policy, specifically Iran, but that debate won't feature much Congressional involvement. This unity is not exclusive to just Senators Clinton and Obama, the only Democratic contenders to seriously disagree with the party line were Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel.

As the campaign has moved forward the personality divisions have deepened. Clinton supporters are resentful that the first serious female candidate has been robbed of her chance. Obama supporters decry the methods Senator Clinton has used to stave off her inevitable defeat. This leads me to believe that the main difficulty for Obama will be unifying the party to get elected, not governing. I just don't think Congressional Democrats are going to implode debating whether we should have a health care mandate or not.

The wildcard, as you mention, are the new Democrats that will get elected to Congress during this cycle. Integrating so many new members into the Democratic caucus would be a difficult challenge for any President, but it will have to be faced no matter who is the nominee. The political debate so far has shown that this is a year of uncommon political unity within the party. Senator Obama, with his new voters and new money, should be able to seize the governing initiative and accomplish some of his goals.

Matt C.
Sadly, Broder hasn't replied to my message.  Hopefully I'll have better luck next time.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Superdelegate Contact Update

I've updated the Superdelegate Contact Spreadsheet to include information for 27 superdelegates who are not US Representatives, Governors or US Senators.  They are on the "Non-Elected" tab.  All of these superdelegates are from states where Senator Obama won the vote.  Please be polite and responsible when contacting these superdelegates.  Only contact a superdelegate if he/she is from your state, or in the case of US representatives, your Congressional District.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Contacting Undecided Superdelegates

Reports indicate that the Clinton campaign is planning street protests at Saturday's Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting in Washington.  Meanwhile, Senator Clinton and her husband have continued their rhetoric featuring selective popular vote counts and non-existent evidence that Senator Obama can't win in November.  It is clear that Senator Clinton will not exit the race unless she is pushed, and only the superdelegates can provide that motivation.  

Senator Obama has already won a majority of pledged delegates excluding Michigan and Florida.  After June 3rd, he will have a majority of the pledged delegates including any possible division of Michigan and Florida delegates.  It is time for the superdelegates to end this process to the party can unify for the general election.  Still, it is difficult for many superdelegates to choose between their two colleagues.  By contacting superdelegates, we can let them know how much we want them to express the will of primary and caucus voters. 

This spreadsheet contains the phone numbers and contact forms for the 30 elected officials whose constituents voted for Senator Obama, but who have not declared their endorsement.  Next to each superdelegate is the percentage by which Senator Obama won his/her state or Congressional District.  This list is not for spamming the superdelegates.  Please contact a superdelegate only if he/she is your Representative, Senator or Governor.

There are another 56 undeclared superdelegates from areas won by Senator Obama, but they are not elected officials.  I will try to find contact information for as many of them as I can, but I expect that many do not want to be found.


I'd like to thank Andy Romano at Stumper for highlighting my comment on his Mitt Romney VP analysis.  He didn't agree with my points, but he felt they were good enough to mention.  You can see the post here, my comments are highlighted under "update."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Guess who's going to the convention.....

After months of reassurances to the contrary, Senator Clinton yesterday held out the option that she may take the nomination battle to the August convention if the votes from Michigan and Florida are not counted.  This came after spending the day in Florida comparing her fight to get the delegates seated to the challenges faced by civil rights activists, suffragists and our nation's founders.

Many journalists (including Chris Cilliza at The Fix) thought that Senator Clinton was just answering a question during the interview and was really trying to find a compromise on the delegates.  Sadly, today brought more evidence that Senator Clinton intends to take this squabble to the convention.  First, Clinton adviser Harold Ickes said that the Michigan and Florida delegations should be seated in their entirety, and that the uncommitted delegates from Michigan should not be given to Senator Obama even though they declined to support Senator Clinton when Obama was not on the ballot.  Later, Senator Clinton added to yesterday's bombast by saying while in Florida:
You learned the hard way what happens when your votes aren't counted and the candidate with fewer votes is declared the winner, Clinton told supporters in Florida.

The lesson of 2000 here in Florida is crystal-clear: if any votes aren't counted, the will of the people is not realized and our democracy is diminished.

Ironically, Senator Clinton does not appear to have learned the true lesson of the Florida recount, which is that you should fight for what is just, not what is politically expedient.  When Vice President Gore challenged the vote in Florida he did not call for a recount of votes statewide, instead he wanted the votes from just the precincts which voted for him to be counted with the most permissive standards possible.  The Supreme Court denied his request by saying that this would treat voters from separate parts of Florida differently in violation of the equal protection clause.  When the Associated Press conducted its comprehensive vote study it found that the limited recounts Gore requested would not have changed the outcome of the election, but a complete statewide recount would have.  If Gore had asked for the right thing he still may not have won as the Supreme Court may have found another reason to deny him, but at least he and the Democratic party wouldn't have looked so bad while losing.

So ask yourself:  does it really make sense to count 328,309 votes from Michigan where Senator Clinton and Dennis Kucinich were the only candidates on the ballot, but not count the 238,168 voters who clearly said they'd take anyone other than the two of them?  If Senator Clinton is as resolute as she sounds to take this preposterous argument to the convention, then only the superdelegates have the power to prevent another Florida 2000 type fiasco from unfolding.  Over the next week, I'll start covering movements to pressure superdelegates from the Obama states and districts to put an end to this process before that happens.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Vote Counting, Superdelegate Odds and Ends

Slate Trailhead has an excellent post on how the Clinton campaign is counting when they say that they are "winning the popular vote."

The caveats the Clintons apply to their count are:
  1. The votes from the Florida primary, where no one campaigned are counted as-is, netting Senator Clinton 294,772 votes.
  2. The 328,309 people who voted for Senator Clinton in Michigan, where she was the only major candidate on the ballot, are counted.
  3. The 238,168 people in Michigan who voted "Uncommitted" are not counted.

The author, Christopher Beam, believes that the fairest way to count the votes is to count Florida and Michigan but give the uncommitted voters to Obama.  To support this, Beam gives us Clinton spokesman Harold Wolfson's statement that he would be willing to give Obama the uncommitted delegates to get the rest of the delegates counted.  Giving the uncommitted votes to Obama, Beam concludes that Obama leads by about 57,000 votes.

However, Beam's 57,000 number does not include the estimates of people who caucused in Iowa, Maine, Washington and Nevada.  The AP includes estimates for these caucuses since they do not report popular vote numbers, but they have been omitted from the Clinton campaign's count.  If you count these estimates, Obama gains another 110,000 votes, putting his advantage at about 167,000.  Clinton may still find a way to take the popular vote lead, but she will need a lopsided victory in Puerto Rico to do it.

The Superdelegate Roundup Spreadsheet has been updated with the primary results from Kentucky and Oregon as well as superdelgate endorsements through today.  The percentage breakdowns remain the same as Monday, so I won't publish the numbers again here.  Only 3 superdelegates endorsed today (2 for Obama, 1 for Clinton), which is a slowdown from the pace we've seen for the past two weeks.

Huffington Post has reported that four independent sources from the Young Democrats of America (YDA) say that Haim Saban, a billionaire entertainment magnet and Clinton supporter, offered the group $1 million in exchange for the endorsements of their two uncommitted superdelegates.  Saban denied the report.  YDA says they declined the offer.  One of their superdelegates has endorsed Senator Obama while the other remains uncommitted.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Superdelegate Roundup Update - Obama Leads All Categories

Senator Obama continued to get the lion's share of superdelegates over the last week, taking 25 since last Monday compared to only 6 for Senator Clinton.  Obama now has an absolute lead of 26 superdelegates.  He has also taken the lead in each of our Superdelegate Roundup Spreadsheet categories; he has a slightly greater percentage of affirmers, he has captured 3% more defectors than Clinton has, and he has 7% more support from superdelegates in areas which still haven't voted.  The numbers are below, we'll see if Senator Obama's lead grows after tomorrow's Kentucky and Oregon primaries.

Clinton Area Superdelegates:  335
Clinton Affirmers:  177 (52.8%)
Clinton Defectors:  88 (26.3%)
Clinton Undeciders:  70 (20.9%)

Obama Area Superdelgates:  373
Obama Affirmers:  198.5  (53.2%)
Obama Defectors:  87.5 (23.5%)
Obama Undeciders:  87 (23.3%)

Pre-Vote Area Superdelegates:  51
Early Clinton Commiters:  12 (23.5%)
Early Obama Commiters:  16 (31.4%)
Early Undeciders:  23 (45.1%)

Total Obama Superdelegates:  302.5 (39.9%)
Total Clinton Superdelegates:  276.5 (36.4%)
Total Undecided Superdelegates:  180 (23.7%)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Who's the Candidate of Hamas?

For weeks, Senator McCain has been drawing attention to remarks made by a Hamas spokesman in support of Senator Obama.  On several occasions, McCain has called Obama the "candidate of Hamas," while tying  Obama's support from the terrorist group to his expressed willingness to speak to Cuba, Iran and other traditional enemies of the United States.  The scuffle came to a head this week when President Bush raised the specter of appeasement to terrorists during a speech at the Israeli Knesset.  Yesterday, Obama condemned Bush's comments as a "false political attack."

I think it's worth taking a moment to consider Hama's motivation for making its comments.  The 2004 Presidential election was influenced by Osama bin Laden's "October surprise" video, which he released just 4 days before the election.  CIA analysis now indicates that the release of the tape was calculated to aid the reelection of President Bush.  Could Hamas be playing the same game with their statement?  During the Bush administration, Hamas has seen their power within the Palestinian territories increase.  They took control of the government by winning elections in 2006.  In 2007, they seized total control of the Gaza Strip during an armed conflict with their rivals, Fatah.

Hamas is not the only terrorist organization to see it's influence expand during the Bush administration.  Just last week, Hezbollah militias in Lebanon took control of western Beirut causing a major setback for the US supported government.  This follows the 2006 July war between Hezbollah and Israel where Hezbollah was able to hold Israel to a stalemate.  The Iraq war has allowed Iran to promote terrorism within Iraq, and has fanned the flames of Islamic radicalism outside Iraq.  Even Al Qaeda has been rebuilding it's capabilities in Afghanistan since it concluded a cease fire with Pakistan last year.

It is reasonable to infer that Islamic terrorists are pleased with our current policy towards the middle east.  Electing Senator McCain would help to continue that policy.  Al Qaeda has shown in the past that they are willing to use words and actions to coerce voters to choose the outcome they desire.   If we are going to make the choice that is best for us, we must do so without the fear that terrorists spread.


For a little weekend fun on this very serious topic, here's a clip of Chris Matthews interviewing conservative talk-show host Kevin James on Hardball.  The two get into an argument over what appeasement means as James and other conservatives are trying to compare Obama to Neville Chamberlain.  The fun part begins at the 4 minute mark.  I question the wisdom of McCain supporters evoking the ghosts of World War II during this campaign.  Unlike Obama (and President Bush), Senator McCain was actually alive when Neville Chamberlain promised "peace in our time" in 1938. The last thing McCain needs to do is highlight his age in this debate, especially while getting the history wrong.