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.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Pyrrhic Victory

Yesterday, Senator Clinton won her second most lop-sided primary victory of the entire campaign, clobbering Senator Obama in West Virginia 67% to 27%.  Not only was the magnitude of her victory stunning, but exit polls raised doubts about Obama's ability to transcend race and win the support of working class white voters in November.  Senator Clinton pressed her case with the superdelegates and did interviews for all the evening news programs to convince voters that her candidacy was still alive.  By these accounts, this should have been a very good day for her, but events showed why she has hit her stride too late.

First, NARAL Pro-Choice America, a million-member non-profit which promotes abortion rights endorsed Senator Obama, citing the need to unify the party to elect a pro-choice candidate in November.  Then, Senator Obama announced the support of another 4 superdelegates (roundup spreadsheet updated) compared to only 1 which came out for Clinton.  This continues the pace of superdelegates that emerged after last week's North Carolina primary.  Finally, former Senator and Presidential candidate John Edwards gave his endorsement to Senator Obama during a speech in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The endorsement bounced all coverage of the West Virginia primary from cable news, meaning that Clinton did not get even one full favorable press cycle out of her victory.

Edwards's endorsement raises two questions:  why did he endorse now instead of earlier and what will the effect of the endorsement be?  I believe he endorsed now because this was his last chance to be a kingmaker.  Senator Obama is poised to claim a majority of the pledged delegates in next week's Oregon primary.  That, combined with the continued flow of superdelegates may make Obama the presumptive nominee soon.  By endorsing now, Edwards can put a period on this race before the final numbers come in.  He also has a chance to help Obama improve his standing with working class white voters in the Kentucky primary next week.  Senator Edwards may cause these Kentucky voters to take a second look at Senator Obama.  Obama will still have to win them over himself, however, as the 2004 Democratic ticket which featured Edwards as VP only carried 41% of the white vote.  

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hillary's Fundraiser

I received a fundraising letter from Senator Clinton today.  I've never contributed to her before, so I'm guessing she got my name off the DNC list.  Blazing across the envelope is the statement "We're going all the way."  The letter itself seems a bit outdated.  The second paragraph begins with "This month we face critical tests in Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky and Oregon."  Sadly, the tests in Indiana and North Carolina occurred last week.  The best part is at the end where she says; "Matthew, I promise you that as long as I have your support, as long as you are fighting by my side, I will work as hard as I can to win."  I've been supporting Senator Obama for months and she hasn't stopped trying to win, so I don't think she's going to stop now.

Superdelegate Roundup Update - Obama Takes the Lead

Over the past week, the trickle of superdelegates toward Senator Obama has turned into a stream.  According to Democratic Convention Watch, Obama has netted 25 superdelegates since last week's North Carolina primary, compared to a net of 1 for Senator Clinton.  By their count, he now has 279 superdelegates to her 270.5.  Obama has also taken the lead in the "defector" category of the Superdelegate Roundup Spreadsheet.  Obama has convinced 24.5 of superdelegates from Senator Clinton's areas to support him, while she is only covincing 23.6% of superdelegates from his areas to support her.  Obama can thank 4 California superdelegates who announced their endorsements this week for the boost to Clinton's defector percentage.  It is interesting to note that more superdelegates have now defected from areas where Senator Clinton won the vote than remain undecided.  

Finally, Senator Obama has taken the lead in endorsements from superdelegates whose areas have not yet voted (18 vs 15), although this is now the smallest piece of the pie with only 61 superdelegates.  We'll see how the trends go for the next couple of weeks, though I doubt there will be a major shift until this Kentucky/Oregon primaries on May 20th.  

The total numbers now stand as follows:

Clinton area superdelegates:  318
Clinton Affirmers:  168 (52.8%)
Clinton Defectors:  78 (24.5%)
Clinton Undeciders:  72 (22.6%)

Obama area superdelegates:  370
Obama Affirmers:  183 (49.5%)
Obama Defectors:  87.5 (23.6%)
Obama Undeciders:  99.5 (26.9%)

Pre-Vote area superdelegates:  61
Early Clinton Commiters:  15 (24.6%)
Early Obama Commiters:  18 (29.5%)
Early Undeciders:  28 (45.9%)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Superdelegate Roundup Update

It's been awhile since I posted an update on the superdelegate roundup spreadsheet, although I have been making updates to it regularly.  Senator Clinton still leads in all superdelegate categories, although the size of her leads has declined sharply.  The numbers now stand at:

Clinton area superdelegates:  309
Clinton affirmers:  163 (52.8%)
Clinton defectors:  69 (22.3%)
Clinton undeciders:  77 (24.9%)

Obama area superdelegates:  369
Obama affirmers:  171 (46.3%)
Obama defectors:  87.5 (23.7%)
Obama undeciders:  110.5 (29.9%)

Pre-Vote area superdelegates:  67
Early Clinton committers:  20 (29.9%)
Early Obama committers:  18 (26.9%)
Early Undeciders:  29 (43.3%)

Senator Clinton is still retaining a greater percentage of superdelegates from areas which voted for her (52.8% vs 46.3%), as well as getting a greater percentage of superdelegates from areas which voted for Senator Obama to defect to her (23.7% vs 22.3%).  

This advantage may not last long, however.  Since the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, Senator Obama has received commitments from 6 superdelegates, compared to only 1 for Senator Clinton.  One of Senator Obama's new supporters, Jennifer McClellan from Virginia, is a former Clinton supporter, meaning Senator Clinton has netted zero superdelegates since the last round of primaries.  We'll see if this trend continues into next week.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

What Obama meant about his grandmother

Senator Obama's landmark speech on race relations has dominated the news cycle for the past couple of days. There have been many reactions, a good summary of them from Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post is here. I found it amazing how Senator Obama was able to so eloquently blend his own life story with the rest of the American racial experience in a way that both caused reflection and hope. This morning, however, Senator Obama made remarks during a Philadelphia radio interview that were much more controversial than anything he said during the speech. When asked about the comments he made about his grandmother during the speech, Obama said:

The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity, but that she is a typical white person. If she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know - there's a reaction in her that's been bred into our experiences that don't go away and sometimes come out in the wrong way and that's just the nature of race in our society. We have to break through it. What makes me optimistic is you see each generation feeling less like that. And that's pretty powerful stuff

The statement has already received bad press from different corners of the media, and deservedly so. No Caucasian likes being called a "typical white person."  This is the kind of unforced error that Senator Obama cannot afford to make as he closes in on the Democratic nomination.

As impolitic as the comment was, Senator Obama does have a point when it comes to the instantaneous reactions people have to African Americans. These reactions are illustrated by Harvard University's Implicit Association Test, which tries to compare how people associate Caucasians and African Americans with things that are good or bad.  You can take the test yourself by clicking on the link, selecting demonstrations and choosing the Race IAT.  Results from Harvard's study show that 88% of white people have a pro-white or anti-black implicit bias.  The influence of the image blacks that is bred into our society is so strong the even 48% of blacks showed the same pro-white or anti-black bias.

Senator Obama has an important role in discussing race in America.  Let's hope that in the future he chooses his words on the radio as carefully as he chose them during his March 18th speech.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Phil Bredesen's Superdelegate Solution

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen wrote an op-ed for the New York Times this morning suggesting a solution for the Democrats' superdelegate dilemma.  He proposes holding a "superdelegate primary" immediately after all the primaries are completed on June 3rd.  The superdelegates' votes would then be bound to the results of the primary, guaranteeing the nomination to one of the candidates before the convention in August.  This way, he hopes to allow the Democratic party to use the summer months to focus on the general election, rather than determining the nominee:

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could each still believe that the nomination could be his or hers at the national convention in Denver in August.

In that situation, we would then face a long summer of brutal and unnecessary warfare. We would face a summer of growing polarization. And we would face a summer of lost opportunities — lost opportunities to heal the wounds of the primaries, to fill the party’s coffers, to offer unified Democratic ideas for America’s challenges.
Governor Bredesen's proposal makes much sense.  As he points out, the superdelegates will have all the information they need to make their selection once the primaries are completed.  While some have suggested that the superdelegates should reserve their votes in case one of the candidates becomes unelectable between, I view this as a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy.  If making the other candidate unelectable is the only way Senators Clinton and Obama can obtain the nomination, they are certain to spend the summer months trying to make the other appear unelectable.  We have already seen the results of their in-fighting:  Senator McCain now leads them both in national polls.

The "superdelegate primary" would allow the superdelegates to be scrutinized as a group among themselves, outside of the politicking that will occur at the convention.  It will give the Democrats the time they desperately need to bring the party back together.  While I would prefer an agreement by the superdelegates to follow their local election results, I believe Governor Bredesen has proposed the next best solution.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Republican Veepstakes

With the Republican nomination well settled, I think it's an appropriate time to start guessing who John McCain may select as his running mate.  To help educate my guesses, I've tried to pull together data on which states are most likely to flip from the party they voted for in 2004.  Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post put together this list last week of states he thinks are most likely.  I've also used electoral maps from SurveyUSA which were constructed from poll data in each state.  Here is the map if Senator Obama is the Democratic nominee.  Senator Clinton's map is here.  The maps illustrate differences in the strengths and weaknesses between the Democratic candidates which should guide Senator McCain's Vice Presidential selection.

Senator Obama's strength is in the mid-west and south-west.  He has a much greater chance of flipping Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada than Senator Clinton does.  I also believe he has a realistic chance of flipping Virginia.  Senator Obama's weaker in some of the more moderate Democratic states; his nomination could put Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New Hampshire at risk for the Democrats.  I also believe he has a reduced chance of winning Ohio.  While Senator Clinton is strong in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida and Ohio, I believe her chances of flipping any other states are much less than Senator Obama's.  She is also at greater risk of losing Minnesota and Wisconsin, both of which voted for Senator Kerry very narrowly in 2004.  SurveyUSA also has her losing Michigan.

Against Senator Clinton, McCain would probably view Pennsylvania and New Jersey as lost causes.  He would also face a greater risk of losing Ohio and Florida.  Furthermore, I don't believe he'd feel as much pressure to select a social conservative for VP, as facing Senator Clinton would automatically energize southern social conservatives.  Therefore, I believe he would try to make up for the potential losses Ohio and Florida by selecting Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty as his running mate.  Pawlenty would almost certainly deliver Minnesota for the Republicans (his approval is 59% there), and he may help in western Wisconsin enough to flip that state as well.  Together, those two states would probably be enough to seal victory for the Republicans.

Senator Obama would pose a different challenge for McCain.  He has done well in red state primaries and conservatives don't have the same distaste for him that they have for Senator Clinton.  He also did very well in the Wisconsin primary, making it less likely that McCain could win there, even with Governor Pawlenty on the ticket.  I believe the most effective running mate for Senator McCain against Senator Obama would be, as much as I don't like the guy, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.  While Santorum probably wouldn't be able to deliver Pennsylvania against Senator Clinton, I believe he could do so against Senator Obama.  He would energize the social conservative base of the party in a way that few swing state Republicans could.  In addition to carrying Pennsylvania, I think Santorum could help McCain hold Virginia and Ohio.  Santorum would hurt McCain in New Jersey and California, but I don't think he would end up winning those states anyway.

So those are my best guesses, I'm not going to dignify them by using the term "predictions."  If you have any other ideas or want to remark on my reasoning, hit the comment button below.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Let's be Fair to Tucker

Next week Tucker Carlson's nightly show on MSNBC will be replaced by a show hosted by David Gregory.  I've encountered several stories both on television and print announcing the cancellation of the "bow-tied" host, often with glee.  All of them either mentioned the "bow-tie" in the first sentence, or pictured him with it, even though he stopped wearing the bow-tie over a year ago.  Here is a sample: (the website of his own network!)
Washington Post
The Colbert Report

I have no problem deriding what Tucker was, his bow-tied attire caused me to chuckle almost nightly when he was on Crossfire.  Jon Stewart had this great television moment when he pointed out how ridiculous Tucker's role on that show was.  However, we should recognize people when they improve themselves.  Carlson's show on MSNBC was much less strident than his appearances on CNN.  While he still provided a conservative slant to the news, he did so in a less divisive setting.  Whether he was interviewing Democrats, Republicans or talking with a balanced panel, he asked insightful questions and allowed all views to be aired.  Tucker should be congratulated for showing us how journalists can reinvent themselves in a good way.  Hopefully, he will be given another outlet so he can continue to do so.

Mississippi Republican Votes

I've been puzzled by the Mississippi exit polls which indicate that Republicans made up 13% of all the votes in the Democratic primary there, and 76% of them voted for Senator Clinton.  This is a sharp reversal from most previous states, where Senator Obama captured the majority of Republican voters.  

Andrew Romano at Newsweek made this post trying to explain the vote.  It shows that the Republican voters who voted for Senator Clinton tended to like her less then they liked Senator McCain - but they disliked Senator Obama even more.  Of all Clinton Republican voters in Mississippi 94% said Obama did not inspire them, 89% said they would be dissatisfied if he were the nominee and 86% said that Obama was not trustworthy.   The same numbers for Senator Clinton are 61%, 41% and 72% respectively.

It appears that Republicans who are voting for Clinton are not doing so just because Rush Limbaugh tells them too.  They are doing so because they have a genuine dislike of Senator Obama that outweighs their dislike for Senator Clinton.  It would be interesting to see the numbers for those Republicans who voted for Senator Obama, to see if they voted because they like him, or because they dislike Senator Clinton more.  This would give us a better indication of whether or not Senator Obama can pull any Republican voters away during the general election.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Superdelegate Roundup Update - Mississippi Results

The Superdelegate Roundup Spreadsheet has been updated with the Mississippi election results and other endorsement updates.  Most of the numbers remain unchanged, although Senator Clinton's affirmer percentage has slipped a little bit more due to the resignation of Governor Spitzer in New York.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Democratic Divide

We are well into the Democratic primary race and the results are looking eerily similar to those predicted by a leaked Obama campaign memo from early February.  The memo outlines which states the Obama campaign expects to win and which ones it expects to lose.  The fact that the predictions have been so accurate implies that voters are making decisions based on factors that are easy to identify and hard to change.  During election night coverage, the pundits pour over exit-poll data to find which are voting for which candidates.  The voter profiles you hear over and over again on the networks are:

  • Women vote for Clinton, men vote for Obama
  • African-Americans vote for Obama, Latinos vote for Clinton
  • People with college degrees vote for Obama, those without them vote for Clinton
  • Young voters vote for Obama, older voters vote for Clinton
I decided to take a closer look at it myself.  I dumped the exit poll data from CNN's Election Center into a Google spreadsheet and checked each state for each profile.  Places where a profile is broken are highlighted in red.

The only states where all of the profiles held were Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Texas.  The most rigid profiles are the racial ones.  Senator Clinton has not won the African-American vote anywhere, not even in her home state of New York.  Senator Obama has only one the Latino vote in his home state of Illinois, and Virginia, both by slim margins.

Out of 27 states for which I have exit poll data, Senator Clinton has lost the female vote 12 times, while she has won the male vote 5 times.  Senator Obama lost the college educated vote six times, while he won the non-college educated vote 7 times.  Finally, Senator Clinton won voters under 60 9 times, while she lost voters over 60 5 times.

Where the profiles have been broken, they have been definitive.  Senator Obama won every state where won the female, over 60, non-college educated or Latino vote.  Similarly, Senator Clinton won every state where she won the male, under 60 or college educated vote.

So the voter profiles have been powerful in this election, but they are not all-powerful.  Each candidate has shown an ability to reach into the other's bases to get the voters they need for critical wins.  They will have to continue to do so if one of them is going to break the delegate deadlock before the Democratic National Convention.

Superdelegate Roundup Update - Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont

I've plugged in the complete results from the March 4th primaries, plus the latest updates from Democratic Convention Watch.  The numbers now stand as follows:

Clinton Area Superdeleages:  263
Clinton Affirmers:  125 (47.5%)
Clinton Defectors:  46 (17.5%)
Clinton Undeciders:  92 (35%)

Obama Area Superdelegates:  321
Obama Affirmers:  123 (38.3%)
Obama Defectors:  82 (25.6%)
Obama Undeciders:  116 (36.1%)

Pre-Vote Area Superdelegates:  136
Early Clinton Committers:  34 (25%)
Early Obama Committers:  26 (19.1%)
Early Undeciders:  76 (55.9%)

The only percentage that has seen a drastic change from a week ago is Obama's affirmer percentage, which has increased 4.7%.  This reflects both Senator Obama's good week in recruiting superdelegates from areas he'd already won (like Georgia and Alabama) as well as his victory in Vermont, where most of the superdelegates had already decided to support him.  Senator Clinton's affirmer percentage went down 2.5%, mostly because many superdelegates in Texas and Ohio, which she won, have not yet decided who to support.  I expect her affirmer percentage to bounce back once superdelegates from these states contemplate her victories.

Monday, March 3, 2008

You know it's time to vote when....

The candidates debate healthcare for 16 minutes and don't cover any new ground.

Saturday Night Live has already run out of funny sketches about the debates.

You get really upset when 15 minutes go by and there's no update from Slate Trailhead, MSNBC First Read or even Washington Post's The Fix.

No one says anything new during 2 whole hours of Tim Russert Sunday programming.

You realize that you watched 2 whole hours of Tim Russert programming hoping that someone would say something new.

There have been so many campaign commercials, the candidates have to use the same film in their attack and response ads.

Even Jack Nicholson is recycling his old movies.

No one thinks of the Texas Two Step as a dance anymore.

You volunteer to call a hundred people in Ohio for the Obama campaign.  Half the numbers have either been disconnected, or have new owners.

Those voters you do reach think the "kitchen sink strategy" means that they get to throw their  kitchen sink at YOU.

Even election officials are hinting at results before Election Day. (Are we still going to have to wait for voting to close before we hear the exit polls?)

Six months before the Democratic National Convention, some superdelegates are already wishing they weren't superdelegates.  (Here, here, here and here)

You actually watch a clip of the Canadian Parliament to see how they feel about the whole NAFTA memo leak.  (Who cares how they feel???? - Fareed Zakaria apparently...)
Good luck to voters in Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont - We're all waiting to hear from you.

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Domestic Policy Gap

Since Tuesday night's Democratic debate, Senators Obama and McCain have sparred over each other's positions on the Iraq War and foreign policy. While the Iraq War is an important issue, and one in which the candidates clearly differ, most indicators are that domestic policy will play the dominant role in the upcoming general election. This can be confirmed by looking at the exit poll results from CNN's Election Center, which list which issues voters considered most important. I've summarized the results for 6 states below:

State Democratic Issues Republican Issues
Missouri Economy 55%, Health Care 22%, Iraq 19% Economy 44%, Iraq 20%, Illegal Immigration 18%, Terrorism 13%
Georgia Economy 54%, Health Care 21%, Iraq 21% Economy 42%, Illegal Immigration 22%, Iraq 18$, Terrorism 13%
California Economy 46%, Iraq 32%, Health Care 19% Economy 34%, Illegal Immigration 28%, Iraq 19%, Terrorism 15%
Virginia Economy 49%, Iraq 30%, Health Care 17% Economy 32%, Iraq 24%, Terrorism 21%, Illegal Immigration 19%
New York Economy 46%, Iraq 30%, Health Care 20% Economy 42%, Iraq 20%, Terrorism 18%, Illegal Immigration 17%
Tennessee Economy 52%, Iraq 23%, Health Care 22% Economy 37%, Illegal Immigration 25%, Iraq 17%, Terrorism 17%

The highest poll for military/foreign affairs was among Virginia Republicans where Iraq and Terrorism combined for 45%. For the other states, Republicans polled this combination in the mid 30s, while Democrats polled Iraq by itself between 17% and 30%. All the poll results show the economy as the top issue ranging from 32% for Virginia Republicans to 55% for Missouri Democrats. Democrats cited health care as an important issue (17%-22%) while Republicans looked at illegal immigration (17%-28%)

While these numbers are no surprise given the condition of our economy, they should cause concern for Senator McCain. If you look at his record of bills/amendments introduced and passed since 2003 (tab McCain Categorized on the Spreadsheet), you will notice that much of his effort is focused in the defense/foreign policy arena. Out of the 92 bills and amendments he proposed and passed over the last 5 years, 60 of them came in the areas of defense, foreign policy or native-american relations. Looking at just the last 3 years, that number is 36 out of 43 total. Additionally, many of the bills I have classified as "other" are homeland security related, hardly falling under the economy, health-care, illegal immigration umbrella.

It is clear that domestic policy has not been an area of great concentration for Senator McCain. He has admitted himself that he doesn't know as much as he should about the economy, as this video shows. While this is understandable given his extensive military background, Senator McCain's foreign policy expertise may not be enough to win this election, especially considering that many of his foreign policy positions have not been very popular. Senator McCain will have to work very hard to close the domestic policy gap if he is going to make a convincing case to the American people this fall.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lobbyists in the Washington Ecosystem

One of the stated goals of Senator Barack Obama's campaign for President is to reduce the power of special interests in Washington and return control of the government to the American people. Lobbyists are the conduit carrying special interest influence into government. According to, over 2 billion dollars has been spent on lobbying each year since 2003. Senator Obama's efforts in the Senate include modifying rules to prevent lobbyists from sending gifts to Representatives, and forcing them to disclose who they raise money for. I think it is important to fully understand the role lobbyists play in Washington so we can take further steps to reduce the control they have over the legislative process.

A good place to start is this anecdotal article by John Dickerson at Slate. Dickerson relates a conversation he had with a lobbyist friend who explains that he and his colleagues rarely, if ever, explicitly trade votes for money. Their sway comes from the information they provide to Capitol Hill staffers who either don't have the time, or as Dickerson suggests, motivation, to find themselves. The book, Tribes on the Hill: The United States Congress -- Rituals and Realities by J. McIver Weatherford, verifies this role of the lobbyist as the information broker:

They explain the details of bills, supply computer analyses of how an issue affects different parts of the constituency, and which groups oppose or support the issue with how much enthusiasm. As John Kennedy described them, "Lobbyist are in many cases expert technicians and capable of explaining complex and difficult subjects in a clear, understandable fashion." Among the specific tasks lobbyists perform, Kennedy listed preparing briefs and legislative analyses as well as writing legislation.

Why are staffers calling lobbyists for their information? Is John Dickerson right in that the staffers are just being lazy, or is it that they just don't have the time or resources necessary to do the job? The Washington, DC law firm Meyers and Associates offer this explanation:

In many cases, lobbyists serve as an "extension" of a congressional office staff. Given the hundreds of bills and amendments introduced during each legislative session, it's impossible for legislators to gauge the potential effects that each may have on affected groups or individuals. Lobbyists assist staff by communicating often complicated issues and by knowing how to break an issue down into relatively small and simple parts. The goal is to simplify the learning process of the Member and/or congressional staff person, yet provide them with accurate and timely information. In this regard, lobbyists perform a valuable service not only to their client but to the staff and Members of Congress as well.
While I could believe John Dickerson if he were pointing to a few Congressional staffers who were lazy, I doubt that this explanation applies to all of them. I think it is more likely that the volume of bills and amendments that pass through a Congressperson's office is too much for the staff to handle by themselves. Still, do we want industry supported lobbyists to be the resources used by Congressional offices to fill in the gaps?  I believe that the party organization is much better suited to fill this advisory role.  By hiring large numbers of policy professionals, the parties themselves can provide the information and policy development resources necessary to guide a legislative effort.  While lobbyists would still be important for organizing funds and interests, they would cease to be the information source of first resort, and that would allow legislators to better serve the whole of their constituency.

Such an undertaking would be expensive, according to the Washington post, top lobbyists can earn from a quarter to a half a million dollars a year. It would take hundreds of these professionals to create an institution that would have a meaningful impact. Still, the Obama campaign is collecting over a million dollars a day. Senator Obama has reminded his supporters that he will need their efforts to bring about change both before, during and after the Presidential election.  If we want to reduce the power of the special interests, we have to be prepared to fill in the void that this would create.  This means we will have to be active and supportive in the creation of our party institutions.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Superdelegate Roundup Update - Obama Gains

Senator Obama has been making strides with the superdelgates over the past week.  Since last Thursday, he has secured 11 endorsements, compared to only 1 for Senator Clinton.  Many of these endorsements have come from Washingtion, DC and Wisconsin, areas which have already voted for Senator Obama.  This has pushed his affirmer percentage up 2 percent, breaking the 1/3 mark for the first time.  The latest numbers are:

Clinton Area Superdelegates:  208
Clinton Affirmer:  104 (50%)
Clinton Defectors:  35 (16.8%)
Clinton Undeciders:  69 (33.2%)

Obama Area Superdelegates:  307
Obama Affirmers:  103 (33.6%)
Obama Defectors:  78 (25.4%)
Obama Undeciders:  126 (41%)

Pre-Vote Area Superdelegates:  204
Early Clinton Committers:  57 (27.9%)
Early Obama Committers: 41 (20.1%)
Early Undeciders:  106 (52%)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Knocking On Doors In Ohio

This past weekend I celebrated my 30th birthday by driving to Ohio and canvassing for the Barack Obama campaign.  Since I live in Nashville, Tennessee, the Cincinnati area was the most accessible to me.  Canvassing was just starting up there and my wife and I signed up for events in the suburbs of Milford and West Chester.  These areas are very hostile for any Democratic candidate; both counties (Clermont and Butler) voted 2-to-1 for President Bush in 2004.

The atmosphere indicated by the past election results was confirmed by many of our fellow volunteers.  Amy, the organizer of the canvassing event in Milford, told us that many people in her neighborhood just check the name with the "R" next to it without knowing anything about the candidates.  Still, Amy told us that she had success convincing a number of her co-workers to register and vote for Senator Obama.  We also had some success in our canvassing.  While fellow Democrats were few and far between, most were receptive to hearing about Senator Obama; and some had already decided to vote for him.  We also found a number of Republicans who were interested in learning more about the Senator and who were glad to learn that they could get a Democratic ballot for the primary.

Not everyone in the area is open to hearing a Democratic message.  While most of the Republicans we encountered were polite before telling us they weren't interested, a few were quite gruff and one made a couple sarcastic taunts before slamming his door in my face.  This was to be expected considering that I had knocked on over 100 doors.  A worse indicator, however, came during dinner when my wife and I overheard a conversation where a table of Republicans enthusiastically anticipated the swift-boating of Senator Obama.  One of the participants declared that she had early-voted for Senator Clinton because she felt she would be easier to beat in November, while another used racial epithets to describe Senator Obama.  This just shows that no matter how high-minded a conversation we try to have during the campaign, some people just don't want to work together.

Despite these difficulties, outreach efforts in red areas are very important for the Obama campaign.  The margin of victory in the popular vote in the general election will have more significance for Senator Obama than any other of the remaining candidates.  In order to implement the far-reaching changes he has proposed in Washington, he will need as big a mandate as possible.  This means that Obama supporters are going to have to find votes in enemy territory, like Cincinnati.    Based on the efforts of the volunteers I witnessed this weekend, I am confident that they will reduce that 2-to-1 Republican advantage by November.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Clinton - Obama Senate Votes Comparison

Using the Washington Post Congress Votes Database, I compiled a list of votes that Senators Clinton and Obama disagreed on since January of 2005 when they have both been in the Senate. Also included, is a second sheet containing all votes where both Senators Clinton and Obama voted, with Senator McCain's vote included and information on whether Senator McCain voted along with the Republican Party consensus.

Here is a link to the Google spreadsheet.

I wasn't able to find any broad trends in the votes where Senators Clinton and Obama disagreed. Out of over 900 total votes, they only disagreed on 52. Out of those, Senator Clinton voted against the Democratic party consensus 30 times, compared to 21 times for Senator Obama. Both Senators appeared to agree with Senator McCain at the same rate; on 23 of the split votes, Clinton agreed with McCain 23 times, compared to 22 for Senator Obama. Senator McCain did not vote the other 7 times Clinton and Obama were split.

I have not had time to go through each of the motions to determine the most noteworthy disagreements. The only controversial things that appear obvious to me are Senator Clinton's vote for cloture on reauthorizing the USA Patriot act (Vote 23, 2005) which went against her party. On the other hand, Senator Obama seemed slightly more willing then Senator Clinton to confirm President Bush's nominations. He voted to confirm 4 nominees which she rejected, and for 2 of those nominees Obama went against the Democratic consensus. Much of the rest of their disagreement appears to be on the issues of energy, government transparency, homeland security and immigration. I will try to discern any substantive differences in their positions by looking at the motions and votes in more detail.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Superdelegate Roundup Update

The Superdelegate Roundup Spreadsheet has been updated with the primary results from Wisconsin and Hawaii, as well as delegate pledges from Democratic Convention Watch.

Clinton Area Superdelegates: 208
Clinton Affirmers: 104 (50%)
Clinton Defectors: 34 (16.3%)
Clinton Undeciders: 70 (33.7%)

Obama Area Superdelegates: 303
Obama Affirmers: 95 (31.4%)
Obama Defectors: 77 (25.4%)
Obama Undeciders: 131 (43.2%)

Pre-Vote Area Superdelegates: 212
Early Clinton Committers: 58 (27.4%)
Early Obama Committers: 41 (19.3%)
Early Undeciders: 113 (53.3%)

The only noticeable change in the numbers is that the percentage of "undeciders" in the pre-vote areas has continued to decline, falling another 4.6% since Sunday. The number of committed superdelegates in pre-vote areas has remained the same since then, but the total number of superdelegates in pre-vote areas fell by 23 with the results from Wisconsin and Hawaii.

On the pledge update front, DNC superdelegates John Rednour from Illinois and Dana Redd from New Jersey switched their allegiance from Clinton to Obama. Rednour is now an affirmer while Redd is a defector.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Superdelegates and Campaign Donations

Last night, I found an article on Capital Eye which investigated the contributions made by Senator Clinton's and Senator Obama's PACs to the campaigns of various superdelegates since 2006.  The article finds that the donations made by the candidates to superdelegates provide a good indicator of who the superdelegate has committed to:

Yet the Center for Responsive Politics has found that campaign contributions have been a generally reliable predictor of whose side a superdelegate will take. In cases where superdelegates had received contributions from both Clinton and Obama, seven out of eight elected officials who received more money from Clinton have committed to her. The one exception: Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, whose endorsement of Obama was highly publicized, received more from Clinton than from the Illinois senator--$10,000 compared to $4,200. Thirty-four of the 43 superdelegates who received more money from Obama, or 79 percent, are backing him. In every case the Center found in which superdelegates received money from one candidate but not the other, the superdelegate is backing the candidate who gave them money.

I added the campaign contribution data to the Superdelegate Roundup Spreadsheet to see if the donations affected whether the superdelegates were following the will of the voters.  I also added contribution data for Hillary's PAC going back to 2002, which I found on  

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the donations do not seem to be having nearly as much impact as implied by the Capital Eye article. Out of the 105 total defectors identified by my spreadsheet, only 3 have defected to a candidate that gave them the most donations.  I have highlighted these superdelegates in red, 2 are pledged to Obama and 1 to Clinton.  Next, I looked at superdelegates from areas which have not yet voted.  Out of the 235 superdelegates from these areas, only 11 have pledged to the candidate who provided them with the most funds.  I have highlighted these in orange, 8 are pledged to Obama, 3 to Clinton.  Finally, I looked at the uncommitted superdelegates from areas where primaries or caucuses have already been held.  Out of the 189 of these "undeciders", only 9 received greater donations from the candidate who lost the election in the superdelegate's state or district.  These are highlighted in yellow, 6 are witholding support from Clinton, comapred to 3 witholding support from Obama.

If we view a "normal" superdelegate vote as being one that conforms to primary or caucus results for the superdelegate's state or congressional district, then the campaign donations from the candidates to the superdelegates (as has been uncovered so far by public records) can only be said to cause 23 "deviations" from this norm, out of 768 superdelegates (3%).  Out of these 23 "deviations", 16 are in favor of Obama and 7 are in favor of Clinton.  I will continue to monitor these numbers to see if the impact of contributions increases or decreases as election results and delegate pledges are reported.  

Monday, February 18, 2008

Capital Gang on Campaign Finance

The Capital Gang, a group of journalists that used to have a show on CNN, visited Tim Russert on Meet the Press yesterday.  In this web exclusive, Russert asked the gang if Obama should accept public funds for the general election (question is at the 10:25 mark).  Mark Shields, Al Hunt and Margaret Carlson said he should.  Bob Novak said he shouldn't and Kate O'Beirne said it didn't matter because voters don't pay attention to campaign finance issues. 

Shield's main case for refusing the funds was that Obama made a pledge to do so and would be hurt by McCain if he recanted now.  Hunt also said that refusing the funds wouldn't hinder Obama's campaign that much because the Democratic Party and 527 organizations will be able to raise money for the general election and buy the commercial time that Obama would have bought himself.  Carlson felt that he had to refuse the funds to stay true to himself and consistent with the image he has put fourth for the entire campaign.

Novak believes that public campaign financing has been a disaster and thinks those who want Obama to accept public funds also want the Treasury Department to fund all elections, which he is against.  I don't think this argument is very credible; every major party presidential nominee since 1976 has accepted the general election grant, and yet there has not been a large-scale expansion of public campaign financing.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Superdelegate Roundup Update, Pre-Vote Areas Committing

I've put the latest superdelegate pledge updates from Democratic Convention Watch into the Superdelegate Roundup Spreadsheet.  Both the Clinton and Obama area numbers held steady, but the pre-vote areas saw another 4.2% of their superdelegates commit to a candidate (2.5% for Clinton, 1.6% for Obama).  To see how the week went, I've compared each percentage from those in Monday's (2/11) update.  

Clinton Area Superdelegates: 208
Clinton Affirmers: 104 (50%) (vs 48.5% on 2/11)
Clinton Defectors: 32 (15.4%) (vs 12.1% on 2/11)
Clinton Undeciders: 72 (34.6%) (vs 39.4% on 2/11)

Obama Area Superdelegates: 279
Obama Affirmers: 89 (31.9%) (vs 33% on 2/11)
Obama Defectors: 74 (26.5%) (vs 22.9% on 2/11)
Obama Undeciders: 116 (41.6%) (vs 44% on 2/11)

Pre-Vote Area Superdelegates: 235
Early Clinton Commiters: 59 (25.1%) (vs 25.4% on 2/11)
Early Obama Commiters: 40 (17%) (vs 13.2% on 2/11)
Early Undeciders: 136 (57.9%) (vs 61.4% on 2/11)

For the entire week, Senator Obama had a net increase of 25 superdelegates, compared to only 14 for Senator Clinton.  Interestingly, defector rates for both candidates are up, and Obama's affirmer percentage actually went down.  It seems that Senator Obama will have to work harder to convince superdelegates from areas that voted for him to affirm the will of the voters if he is going to close the superdelegate gap with Senator Clinton.

* Another note, some superdelegates are having trouble sticking with their commitments.  After reports got out that he had switched his pledge from Clinton to Obama, Rep. John Lewis's office denied the reports.  Democratic Convention Watch has moved him back into the uncommitted column until they can firmly determine his pledge.  DNC member Sarah Swisher from Iowa switched her support to Obama after he received the endorsement of her union, the SEIU.  Swisher had originally supported Senator Edwards, so she has now supported all three candidates.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

General Election Financing

Senator McCain called Senator Obama out yesterday for refusing to stand by a pledge to accept public financing for the general election.  A year ago, when asked in a questionnaire by the Midwest Democracy Network if he would accept public financing for the general election, Obama wrote "Yes. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election."  Now, Senator McCain is saying that he will indeed accept public financing, and he expects Senator Obama to do the same.  Obama's campaign has vascillated, his press secretary Mark Burton said “We will address that issue in the general election, when we’re the nominee."

The reasons for Senator Obama's change in stance are clear; his fundraising operation is now pulling in over a million dollars a day and will far outstrip anything Senator McCain could achieve.  By refusing to use public funds, Obama could greatly outspend McCain, who would be limited to $85 million if he accepts the funds.  Senator Obama's opponent for the Democratic nomination, Senator Clinton, has also not pledged to use public funds.  If he were to make such a pledge before she did, she could use that as a reason for why she would make a better general election candidate. Her campaign, despite its previous financial difficulties, has seen a recent uptick in fundraising, and could conceivably outspend McCain by refusing public financing.

While I can understand the issues Obama is grappling with, I believe he needs to step forward and confirm his pledge with McCain.  Obama's disavowal of PAC money and focus on small donations from individuals are a big step in fighting the special interests in Washington, but the public funds are the only ones that are 100% special interest proof.  Senator Obama would not necessarily be giving up all of his fundraising advantage by accepting the public funds.  The $85 million limit only applies to spending after the convention, which for the Democrats ends on August 28th.  With the last primary taking place on June 7th in Puerto Rico, Obama, if he is the presumptive nominee by that point, would have two and a half months to use his privately raised funds to launch a defining campaign against Senator McCain.  Senator Obama can have the best of both worlds, maintaining the high ground on campaign finance while heavily outspending his opponent at the same time.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Superdelegate Roundup Update - New Mexico Called

Senator Clinton has reached the 50% affirmer plateau, fueled by the calling of New Mexico in her favor. Most of the superdelegates in New Mexico had already pledged their support to Clinton. While most of the numbers remained stable, there were a few notable updates from Democratic Convention Watch. Three superdelegates who had until recently supported Senator Clinton, switched their allegiance to Senator Obama. Christine "Roz" Samuels, a former Clinton affirmer from New Jersey, became a defector. David Scott and John Lewis, former Obama defectors from Georgia, became affirmers.

Clinton Area Superdelegates: 208
Clinton Affirmers: 104 (50%)
Clinton Defectors: 31 (14.9%)
Clinton Undeciders: (35.1%)

Obama Area Superdelegates: 278
Obama Affirmers: 86 (30.9%)
Obama Defectors: 75 (27%)
Obama Undeciders: 117 (42.1%)

Pre-Vote Area Superdelegates: 234
Early Clinton Committers: 53 (22.6%)
Early Obama Committers: 36 (15.4%)
Early Undeciders: 145 (62%)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

All Sizzle, No Steak?

Both Senators McCain and Clinton have made statements in recent days implying that the main appeal for Senator Obama stems from his rhetorical flourishes, and that he lacks the substance to make real change.

To put this claim to the test, I decided to examine the legislative records of all three Senators.  Using the Congressional Records database available from the Library of Congress, I compared the bills and amendments introduced by each Senator since all 3 have been in the Senate together, starting in January of 2005.   I've placed the short descriptions of the items each Senator introduced and passed in this Google spreadsheet.

I realize that this does not provide the whole story.  I haven't given much weight to the items the Senators introduced and didn't pass, and I haven't looked at what they cosponsored.  There are also many important Senatorial activities that do not appear on the Congressional Record.  However, I think looking at the items each Senator proposed and successfully guided through the Senate is a significant and equitable means of comparison.

Over the term, the base numbers look like:
Senator Obama:  265 items proposed, 39 items passed
Senator Clinton:  327 items proposed, 37 items passed
Senator McCain:  180 items proposed, 43 items passed

If you look at the spreadsheet, you'll see that each Senator has passed a number of bills or amendments which I would classify as "fluff", but I think they balance each other out in that respect.  Senator Clinton has made more proposals than either of her opponents, but her end results in bills/amendments passed is the same.

Senator Obama's signature items appear to be ethics reform, global-warming and veterans support.  His key achievement was his amendment requiring lobbyists to report which politicans and PACs they collect money for.  On the environment, he passed amendments providing money to study carbon sequestration and the development of Flexible Fuel Vehicle refueling stations.  He has sponsored numerous programs to help returning veterans cope with injuries and reintegrate with society. 

While arguments can be made in regards to experience, it appears to me that during the years they have all served together, Senator Obama's legislative effort has been of the same magnitude as both of his opponents.  He should have plenty of answers when they ask him "Where's the beef?"

More Superdelegate Roundup Updates

Some more pledge data has come in from Democratic Convention Watch and has been added to the Superdelegate Roundup Spreadsheet. Numbers from Senator Obama's areas are steady, but some superdelegates from Senator Clinton's strongholds are committing, and both her affirmer and defector numbers are up. Superdelegtes from the pre-vote areas are also committing, and there Senator Obama saw an increase of 1.9%, vs only .6% for Senator Clinton.

Clinton Area Superdelegates: 199
Clinton Affirmers: 99 (49.7% - a 1.5% increase from yesterday morning)
Clinton Defectors: 29 (14.5% - a 1.4% increase from yesterday morning)
Clinton Undeciders: 71 (35.7% - a 3% drop from yesterday morning)

Obama Area Superdelegates: 278
Obama Affirmers: 85 (30.6%)
Obama Defectors: 76 (27.3%)
Obama Undeciders: 117 (42.1%)

Pre-Vote Area Superdelegates: 243
Early Clinton Committers: 57 (23.4% - a .6% increase from yesterday morning)
Early Obama Committers: 36 (14.8% - a 1.9% percent increase from yesterday morning)
Early Undeciders: 150 (61.7% - a 2.6% drop from yesterday morning)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Superdelegate Roundup Update

State and district level results from Virginia, Maryland and DC are in and have been added to the spreadsheet.  I also added district level results from Maine and all but one district in Washington State.  While statewide results for New Mexico are still undetermined, I was able to get results for district 3 where Tom Udall is a superdelegate.  These, along with updates from Democratic Convetion Watch, have been added to the Superdelegate Roundup Spreadsheet.

Our Affirmer/Defector/Undecider Totals are now:

Clinton Area Superdelegates:  199
Clinton Affirmers:  96 (48.2%)
Clinton Defectors: 26 (13.1%)
Clinton Undeciders:  77 (38.7%)

Obama Area Superdelegates:  279
Obama Affirmers:  85 (30.5%)
Obama Defectors:  76 (27.2%)
Obama Undeciders:  118 (42.3%)

Pre-Vote Area Superdelegates:  241
Early Clinton Commiters:  55 (22.8%)
Early Obama Committers:  31 (12.9%)
Early Undeciders:  155 (64.3%)

Despite Senator Obama's victories over the weekend and last night, he appears to be losing ground with superdelegates as his Affirmer percentage dropped from 33% to 30.5% and his defector percentage increased from 22.9% to 27.2%.  I believe this is explained by the inclusion of DC, Virginia and Maryland as Obama areas.  Many political operatives live in these states (Harold Ickes, Terry McAuliffe, for example) who are part of the Clinton machine and who are contributing to the increased number of Obama defectors.  It will be interesting if the numbers change over the coming days as the impact of last night's primaries is felt nationwide.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Talking Health Care

I've been trying to pull together some resources for comparing Senator Obama's and Senator Clinton's health care reform plans.  First, here are the links to the plans themselves:

All analyses I've read say the key differetiator between the plans is the mandate Senator Clinton places on all individuals to get health insurance; Senator Obama only mandates that children be insured.  Everyone agrees that Senator Clinton's plan will insure more people and cost more than Senator Obama's, though there is little agreement on how many more people or how much more money.  Paul Krugman of the New York Times thinks that Senator Clinton's plan is well worth the added expense; he figures that it will cover many more people at only a slightly higher cost.  Timothy Noah from Slate thinks Hillary's mandate will make her plan unsalable to voters.  The Wall Street Journal agrees with Noah, although I don't expect them to support any health care reform package when it is brought before Congress. has a point-by-point comparison of the plans, which verifies that the mandate is the key differentiator.

With the two plans being so similar, we also have to consider the people who are proposing the reforms and the arguments they will use to achieve their aims.  Senator Obama says that his bipartisan approach will allow him to make changes that that Senator Clinton can't.  While I agree that Obama personally will be more able to reach across the aisle and engage Republicans, I believe that Senator Clinton is the one who is better framing the need for health care reform.  On her website, she emphasizes that her health care plan is good for small business.  I think this will be key to selling any proposals to Congress.  While the need to help the uninsured and underinsured in this country is undeniable, having that be the sole argument for change only allows reforms to be attacked with the "big-government entitlement" label.  Health care reform should be pursued as an economic and global competitiveness issue, for both small and big businesses.  We are losing jobs to overseas employeers, because health care costs here are too expensive.  GM now builds more cars in Ontario, where the unions are much stronger, than in Michigan, because Canada has national health care which makes labor there cheaper.  By enlisting the business community's help to lobby for lower health care costs, either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton could put together a broad coalition to fix our health care system.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Superdelegate Roundup Update

I have updated the Superdelegate Roundup Spreadheet with statewide results from Maine (district level results are not yet available), and pledge updates from Democratic Convention Watch.

I have also introduced new terminology: a superdelegate who votes along with the popular vote of his/her state or district is an "affirmer", a superdelegate who votes against the popular vote of his/her state or district is a "defector". A superdelegate who has not committed to vote for a candidate is an "undecider".

The spreadsheet update yields the following results:

Clinton Area Superdelegates: 198
Clinton Affirmers: 96 (48.5%)
Clinton Defectors: 24 (12.1%)
Clinton Undeciders: 78 (39.4%)

Obama Area Superdelegates: 218
Obama Affirmers: 72 (33%)
Obama Defectors: 50 (22.9%)
Obama Undeciders: 96 (44%)

Pre-Vote Area Superdelegates: 303
Early Clinton Commiters: 77 (25.4%)
Early Obama Commiters: 40 (13.2%)
Early Undeciders: 186 (61.4%)

Meet Maggie Williams

Yesterday, Senator Hillary Clinton appointed longtime aid, Maggie Williams, as her new campaign manager.  During President Clinton's administration, Maggie Williams served both as advisor to President Clinton and as Chief of Staff to the First Lady.  I found a video (real player, streaming) where Maggie Williams introduces a course she taught at the Harvard Institute of Politics in 2005.     

I don't want to read too much into this, but I found the topic of the course amusing.  Of all the lessons learned during her years in the Clinton administration, Maggie Williams found it most important to teach students how to fight partisan investigations.  Now that she is Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, her job is to get the voters' focus away from those uglier aspects of the Clinton era.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Superdelegate Roundup

I've created a spreadsheet to keep track of how superdelegates have pledged themselves coupled with the popular vote in their state or Congressional District. I hope this will help to gauge the impact that superdelegates have on the nomination. If superdelegates voted along with the general population, we would expect them to be evenly split between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. However, the current estimates indicate that Senator Clinton has between 80 and 95 more superdelegates than Senator Obama.

I took my list of superdelegates from Democratic Convention Watch. This site lists all the superdelegates and keeps track of which ones have publicly committed to vote for one of the candidates. For each delegate, I indicated how their state voted, if their state has held a caucus or primary. For superdelegates who are US Representatives, I indicated how their Congressional District voted, if such data was available.

I took my state level results from the New York Times. Most of the Congressional District results came from USA Today, although my data for Nevada came from here, while my data for New Jersey came from here. I was unable to get data for Washington Congressional Districts because they are not done counting yet. I also do not have data for Maine, and statewide results in New Mexico are still undetermined. These states and others will be added as data becomes available. I did not include superdelegates from Florida and Michigan in my totals since these delegates are not currently allowed to vote for a nominee.

Here are the totals:

There are a total of 198 superdelegates in states or Congressional Districts which voted for Senator Clinton. Of these 97 (49%) have committed to voting for Senator Clinton, 23 (11.6%) have committed to voting for Senator Obama and 78 (39.4%) are uncommitted.

There are a total of 211 superdelegates in states or Congressional Districts which voted for Senator Obama. Of these, 71 (33.6%) have committed to voting for Senator Obama, 47 (22.3%) have committed to voting for Senator Clinton and 93 (44.1%) are uncommitted.

There are a total of 312 superdelegates in states which have not yet held a caucus or primary, or whose caucus or primary has not yet provided results. Of these, 78 (25%) have committed to voting to Senator Clinton, 37 (11.9%) have committed to voting for Senator Obama and 197 (63.1%) are uncommitted.

It appears that Senator Clinton is achieving her superdelegate edge in all possible places; she has convinced a greater percentage of delegates in her areas to commit to her rather than remain uncommitted, she has convinced a greater percentage of delegates in Senator Obama's areas to commit to her rather than follow the will of the voters, and she has convinced a greater percentage of superdelegates from areas which have not held votes to commit to her. It will be interesting to see how these numbers change as we get closer to the convention.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Tom Delay's Day

Yesterday Senator McCain spoke to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in the first of what will be many attempts to mend fences with his party's conservatives.  While some conservatives appreciated his efforts, others used the event to further annunciate their objects to the Arizona Senator.   Most conspicuous among the latter group was Tom Delay, the former representative from Texas.  In an interview with Chris Matthews, Delay highlighted his differences with McCain on issues including gun control, immigration, global warming and campaign finance reform.  When Matthews tried to pin him down and asked him, if faced with the prospect of a Hillary Clinton Presidency, would he continue to withhold his support from Senator McCain, Delay equivocated, saying the he didn't know who would be a more dangerous President

Most people will conclude that Delay was just speaking hyperbolically, he really sees that McCain is closer to his positions than Clinton and he is just speaking this way to get more concessions from McCain before he gives his endorsement.  I feel that it may go deeper than that.  For years, Delay's bread and butter was the the politics of division that tries to pit 51% against the other 49% in all-or-nothing propositions.  It was for this reason that Delay was such an asset to Karl Rove in getting the Bush agenda through Congress.  The election of John McCain would mark a setback for that way of thinking.  John McCain has reached across the isle to build consensus on many issues and has rarely engaged in the type of sectarian debate favored by Delay and his friends.  Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, would serve as a lightning rod for the type of invective Delay has been hurling for years.  With her in the White House, Delay will continue to play his old game, with the hopes of making a great comeback.  So, I believe Tom Delay when he says he doesn't know which candidate is most dangerous to him.

I don't think Delay's view will be shared by rank-and-file conservatives - of any persuasion.  I am not a cultural conservative, but I know many of them, and the one thing I've taken away from my conversations with them is that the issue of abortion overrides all others.  By just about everyone's count, the Supreme Court is one vote away from overturning Roe V. Wade.  While some conservatives point out that McCain has made remarks indicating that he may not nominate someone like Justice Samuel Alito, this shouldn't cause much concern because Alito would not make it through a Democratic Senate anyway.  Only a John Roberts type conservative could get confirmed, and McCain has consistently said that he would put forward nominees like Roberts.  With their long sought after goal so tantalizingly close, I doubt cultural conservatives will turn their backs on McCain.

Meanwhile, I expect that fiscal conservatives will vote with their wallets.  They know that Clinton will raise taxes on them more than McCain ever would, and so they will give their support to McCain.  The only Republicans who really benefit from rebelling against McCain are those who have made partisanship and the heightened anxiety of the "culture war" their calling card.  That is why Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham have been so loud in recent weeks.  While John McCain may not represent the best aspirations of all segments of the Republican Party, he will have an easier time unifying those segments than Tom Delay would have us believe.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Political Fundraising

A topic in the current presidential election that I don't believe has received enough attention is the shift we're seeing in how the candidates raise funds.  Over the past few decades,  most political funds have come from the so-called "masters of the Rolodex" who use their social networks to put on elaborate, $2000 a person, fundraising events.  Additional funds come from PACs, Unions and businesses.

The 2004 Presidential race saw the beginning of the online fundraising phenomenon.  Howard Dean led the fundraising pace early, driven by small contributions from individuals online.  Dean's candidacy died with the famous scream in Iowa, but online fundraising persevered.  Today, it has been taken to new heights by Senator Barack Obama who raised $32 million dollars from hundreds of thousands of online donors during the month of January.  Reports indicate that only 3% of his donors have maxed out the $2,300 annual limit, compared to 70% for Senator Clinton, who raised $14 million in January.  Senator Clinton has recently got into the act, however.  After stories got out that she had to loan her campaign $5 million and her staffers had to go without pay for a month, Senator Clinton raised $3 million online in one day.   It now appears that online donors will play a key role in keeping Senator Clinton's campaign going through the coming months.

The obvious question is, what does this shift mean?  If money translates into influence, then you would expect the power of PACs and those well heeled few with vast social networks (not to mention those wealthy enough to plunk down $2,300) to go down.  Indeed, fighting back against the "status quo" of special interests is a key theme of the Obama campaign.  (Disclosure:  I support Senator Obama)  If the special interest influence is declining, you would think that something would fill the void.  Senator Obama would say that the online donations will give him the freedom from special interests to seek out the best solutions to our problems, which I believe to a degree.

However, I must also believe that Senator Obama's views will be shaped in part by those who give to his campaign.  Exit polls indicate that Senator Obama is the favorite of the "liberal-elite" (Chris Matthews calls them "white wine sipping urbanites"), whereas Senator Clinton is chosen by blue collar workers.  This doesn't surprise me as you would think that wealthy individuals would be more likely to make political donations of any kind, let alone online.  Polls also indicate that of all democratic primary voters, 55%-60% are college graduates, versus only 21% in 2004 and 27% in the general population.  Again, college graduates would have the discretionary income necessary to make more political donations.

Could Senator Obama's online donors be fundamentally changing the demographics of the primary electorate?  Are we trading one set of elites for another, albeit broader, set?  How is this going to shape policy?  While Senator Obama does put fighting for equality at the center of his campaign, as any Democrat should, he also includes many abstract themes like changing the mode of discourse and ethics reform.  These, along with a focus on the environment and green energy as a top issue all seem to appeal to his demographic.

Kinda makes me wonder how Al Gore would have done if he had had online fundraising.  It should have been a no-brainer for him, he did invent the Internet after all.