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Friday, February 15, 2008

Wisconsin and Ohio Polls Update

Hillary Clinton's March 4th firewall is the only thing standing in the way of a Barack Obama nomination. If she wins both Texas and Ohio by large margins, she bides her time until she wins Pennsylvania in April. With a close overall pledged delegate count as the primaries wind down in May, her superdelegates will be able to hand her the nomination. While Barack Obama's supporters seem to acknowledge that Texas will definitely go to Clinton (Latinos and the "Big State" pattern), they seem to keep their hopes up for Ohio.

The Ohio polls do not back up these ambitions.

In the past five days, three major Ohio polls have come out. Here is a quick look at the numbers for the Democratic Primary:
Rasmussen (2/13 poll)
Clinton - 51
Obama - 37
Spread - Clinton +14

Quinnipiac (2/06-2/12)
Clinton - 55
Obama - 34
Spread - Clinton + 21

Survey USA (2/10-2/11)
Clinton - 56
Obama - 39
Spread - Clinton +17

Average
Clinton - 54
Obama - 37
Spread - Clinton +17

First look analysis: Despite this brilliant run by Barack Obama, Clinton maintains a healthy lead in Ohio. With no conclusive or complete Texas polling data available yet, one has to assume she is doing just as well if not better down in the Lone Star State. Her plan of losing several small states in exchange for winning big ones might not be a Giuliani-like disaster after all.

Second look analysis: Then again, the Democrats have two primaries on Tuesday. The Hawaii Caucus will surely follow the other caucuses in their adoration for Obama. The Wisconsin Primary, with a sizeable 92 delegates, will be a huge factor in determining how close Obama can stay to Clinton on March 4th. If Obama wins Wisconsin, that will be ten straight contests in which he beats Clinton. Run some Ohio polls after that and see what happens.

However, if Clinton were to win Wisconsin, this reaffirms many Clinton supporters from the March 4th states, and she could win by even a larger margin than currently projected.

The two major Wisconsin polls taken in the last week, from Rasmussen and Strategic Vision, each have Obama up by four points. Clearly, the state can go in either direction.

And so can this primary.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

McCain's Top 10 VP Valentines

With McCain having the nomination in his back pocket, and with some downtime between primaries, I thought it was an excellent time for a gimmick column. On Valentine's Day 2008, which politician would make the best match for John McCain? Who is the likeliest Vice-Presidential candidate? Here are my thoughts on the top ten likeliest Vice-President choices, in reverse order for dramatic effect.

Considerations that did not make the list: Sarah Palin (too inexperienced), Kay Bailey Hutchison (makes it if Clinton is nominated), Michael Steele, JC Watts (African-American vote not up for grabs, and could hurt with the far right base), Fred Thompson (too old), Jeb Bush, Condoleezza Rice (too close to the President).

10. Joe Lieberman (Senator, Connecticut)I had to include him, if for no other reason than to bring up the Dream Election. Of course, the Dream Election was only feasible if the conservative base screwed over McCain after he patiently waited for eight years after losing to then-Governor Bush. McCain would run third party for his last hurrah, and he'd run on the platform of bipartisanship, targeting the moderate and Independent third of the country. To secure the middle ground, he would run with former Democrat Joe Lieberman, with whom McCain is famously friends. This would split the country in three parts, Democrat, Republican, and In-between.

Alas, McCain will easily win the nomination, and a glance at his struggle with the conservative base reveals that to select a former Democrat as his VP would be general election suicide.

9. Sam Brownback (Senator, Kansas)
He ran for president this time around but could never get off the ground. McCain can pick him up and make him a lock for the nomination when he steps down. He is an uber-conservative that would be a light at the end of the tunnel for the social conservative base.

8. Newt Gingrich (Former House Speaker, Georgia)
He's the smartest Republican in the country. He was going to run before some issues with his American Solutions group did not allow him to. Considering how the election panned out, he probably would have won. He brings McCain's knowledge of the Middle East, as well as agreement with McCain that the war is necessary, but it was just mismanaged in its early stages. Additionally, he brings something McCain does not, and that's a tried and true conservative record, greater than McCain's 82%. He is a hero in the Republican Party, dating back to the 1994 Revolution. I consider him the early favorite for the 2012 election should Hillary Clinton win. The problem is, he's not going to run for VP if he think the Republicans will lose, as that will damage his chances at running for the top spot in 2012.

7. Mike Huckabee (Former Governor, Arkansas)
With each passing day, McCain has to consider bringing Huckabee on board in order to start his national election. If Huckabee had squeaked out Virginia on Tuesday, McCain would not have been able to win the nomination until at least May. Now, however, McCain can realistically secure the nomination by March 4th, or, at the latest, with the Pennsylvania Primary on April 22nd, making a Huckabee choice less likely. McCain might even hold Huckabee's stubbornness against him.

6. Jim DeMint (Senator, South Carolina)
He's a southerner with a 100% conservative rating in 2006. He is the perfect balance for McCain... but he's a Senator with no executive experience from a state that is not in play.

5. Charlie Crist (Governor, Florida)
When looking at electoral math, this guy jumps out. He's extraordinarily popular in Florida, and if Republicans want to hold onto the White House, they must hold onto Florida. His endorsement of McCain before the Florida Primary might have made the difference when McCain delivered the almost-knockout blow to Mitt Romney. However, his executive experience is limited, as he's only had it for less than two years. Moreover, while he does keep Florida red, his popularity will not extend to any other state or region.

4. Mark Sanford (Governor, South Carolina)
He's similar to DeMint, except as a governor, there is executive experience.

3. John Thune (Senator, South Dakota)
He's young (47), extremely conservative (100% in 2006), and is a quasi-hero in the party after knocking off Democratic Senate leader Tom Daschle in 2004. Moreover, he's fervently supporting the McCain campaign, which will help with skeptical conservatives. Unfortunately, two senators on a ticket have no executive experience, and South Dakota is hardly an advantageous state for the Republicans.

2. Tim Pawlenty (Governor, Minnesota)
Pawlenty has a check next to his name in all categories, and must be on McCain's short list. He has executive experience. He's from a swing state. He's conservative. He's young and has a future in the party.

1. Mitt Romney (Former Governor, Massachusetts)
Romney dropped out of the race for the same reason Huckabee stayed in it. They both want to be considered for the VP nomination by the guy who beat them. Huckabee's strategy was that if he won enough states, McCain would just want to end the primary as soon as possible by offering the #2 spot to Huckabee. However, McCain's sweep of Huckabee on Tuesday makes McCain's nomination as inevitable as ever.

This leaves Romney, whose breathtakingly conservative withdrawal speech was a verbal audition for the VP nod. He said he needed to get out of the way for McCain (while Huckabee and Paul were still in the race, by the way). He talked about the importance of the war on terror, implying McCain was the right guy for the job. He also mentioned the importance of the future of the Republican Party remaining the conservative party.

In the closing weeks of Romney's campaign, the conservative base was pushing his campaign. It was probably more anti-McCain than pro-Romney, but regardless, if the two joined up, it would galvanize the Republican Party more than any other potential ticket with McCain on top. Romney brings a geographical balance, executive experience, a handsome family, personal and public economic success, and millions of his own dollars into the campaign war chest.

He would make a great Valentine for John McCain.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Clinton Not Learning From Giuliani?

Those who cannot learn from history...

Whether it is due to unfamiliarity with misfortune or a brash New York arrogance, Hillary Clinton is making the same mistakes that plagued Rudy Giuliani's fall from inevitability. Once leading national party polls, Hillary Clinton's patience has produced a strategy that is unlikely to succeed, and she only has to look at Giuliani's ill-fated campaign to see why.

We are only a few weeks removed from Rudy Giuliani's off-Broadway portrayal of the Hindenburg. His double-digit lead from November seemed like ancient history as he lost all the early primaries. However, the skid did not convince Giuliani to deviate from his strategy. He had his lead in Florida and he had his leads in California, New York, and New Jersey on Super Tuesday. Each of them were bigger than any early primary state, and by winning those states, he would re-assert himself as the favorite for the nomination of his party. It was his firewall, playing the role of tourniquet no matter how bad the bleeding became in the smaller states.

You know what came next. With each early primary loss--Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, Nevada, and South Carolina--his polling dropped in states across the board, including the larger states on which he was counting. Campaign contributions were no longer a strength, especially when compared to the kind of funds his rivals were receiving. He was constantly portrayed as the loser in the news. He lost all momentum. By the time Florida arrived on January 29th, he was running a distant third in the state. The Florida disappointment sealed his fate in California. His big-state, firewall strategy was an utter failure.

Hillary Clinton has now lost seven consecutive states, with a District to boot. Obstinately, she continues to remind us that she wins the big states. She hopes that the remaining big states - Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania - will all vote for her. After all, as of now, she does hold leads in those places. She downplays the losses in states she was supposed to lose. She sees her firewall as the equalizer; reversing, or at least slowing, the trend and momentum of the Change Express.

Despite its failure, Clinton has clearly taken some pages out of the Rudy Giuliani handbook.

... are doomed to repeat it.

Ohio Poll

Clinton's March 4th strategy is based on numbers that will look like this for the next two weeks. Keep in mind, she is expected to do better in Texas than Ohio.

Here are the latest Ohio polls from USASurvey:
Democrats
Clinton - 56
Obama - 39

Republicans
McCain - 50
Huckabee - 36
Paul - 6

McCain can put Huckabee away with a Texas win, which looks like a lock. Tomorrow, I'll take a look at McCain's VP possibilities.

More on Clinton's March 4th strategy to come within a half hour...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Obama and the Change Express

Between now and March 4th, there are five primaries up for grabs in the Democratic Primary:

Tuesday, February 12
Washington DC (15 pledged delegates)
Maryland (70)
Virginia (83)

Tuesday, February 19
Hawaii (20)
Wisconsin (74)

That's 262 pledged delegates. On March 4th, Texas and Ohio account for 334 pledged delegates. Conclusion: Even if Barack Obama opens up a pledged delegate lead of 150, much of that lead can evaporate in twelve hours. That is, unless he can convince Texas and Ohio to join the 19 states and counting that have went to Obama.

In order to convince them to leave Hillary Clinton's camp, Obama had to win every primary between Super Tuesday and March 4th. This past weekend, he started strong, sweeping the weekend states. Today, he will continue the push, taking all three of the "Potomac Primaries." The Hawaii Caucus will surely be his, as caucuses great favor him, and he spent some of his youth on the islands.

Clinton might not be able to afford waiting until March 4th. This could be decided as early as Wisconsin on February 19th. If Obama wins Wisconsin, it would be a sweep of every state since Super Tuesday. If Clinton wins Wisconsin, the momentum is back in her corner, and Texas and Ohio are given enough reason to still vote for her. If Texas and Ohio vote for her, as explained yesterday, she will use those enormous state delegations and her superdelegate advantage to ride the wins to the nomination.

If the Change Express is to be stopped, it must be stopped by March 4th.
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