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Friday, March 28, 2008

Drawn Out Primary Hurting Dems?

The theme of the week? The Democratic civil war.

Several polls have come out this week suggesting that once the Democratic nominee is decided, many supporters of the losing candidate will either a) Sit out the general election; or b) Vote for McCain over the Democratic nominee.

Will those numbers hold?

Well, IF those numbers held, John McCain would win in a landslide. This spat of polls generally agree that 25-30% of Clinton supporters would vote for McCain over Obama. Another 10-15% would sit out. The numbers look similar for Obama supporters in a Clinton nomination.

Conservatively, that's 35% of the Democratic vote that the winner of the Democratic Primary would not have in November. These polls suggest that regardless of the Democratic nominee, enough Democrats will be disenfranchised that the nominee could not possible rally enough numbers to keep pace with the GOP and McCain's significant Independent base. Once again: a landslide, the likes of Reagan in '84 and Nixon in '72.

Now, does anyone think that's possible in this election? Will the Republican Party dominate in November after the success, or lack thereof, of the current administration?

Not a chance.

So what's going to happen?

Without a doubt, those polling numbers will prove to be premature and misleading. Two very important factors will make those polls obsolete within weeks of a concession from either candidate.

1) Democrats who supported the loser will then be left with only two choices. One choice is a candidate that is identical or similar to their own in nearly every issue. The alternative is four more years of Republican leadership in the executive branch, to which, I think, most Democrats will have a strong aversion. The choice for Democrats is clear.

2) If the loser of this primary does not come out in full support of the nominee by the convention, they should leave the party. Yes, ego's will be bruised but wounds must be licked. To not do everything it takes to keep out a conservative hawk would be a horrendous career move by the Democratic runner-up. If this is coupled with a Democratic loss in the general election, the loser can never hope to win the nomination of the Democratic Party in the future.

Knowing this, the vanquished Democrat will fully, publicly, and officially endorse the vanquisher either before or at the convention. When this happens, nearly every supporter of the losing candidate will follow the endorsement to the nominee, thus evening the playing field for the general election.

The lesson, as always... see through the polls!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Obama's Speech: One Week Later

(Editor's note: Today is part 2 of the blog's first "mailbag," which will directly respond to reader emails and comments from the last few weeks. Part 1 was yesterday. All questions, comments, and personal attacks are accepted through the comment page at the end of each post as well as through the "Email me" on my profile.)

Date: 3/19
Reader: Most Things Are Connected at Some LevelRe: Puerto Rico Primary
Comment/Question: Now that Mr. Barone --of U.S. News & World Report-- has discussed whether Puerto Rico's "all-or-nothing" 63 Delegate Primary might be incredibly decisive in determining the outcome of the primary, will you comment on this related issue that may well impact the result of the PR Primary?
PPFA Response: Simply, the reports that the June 1st Puerto Rico Primary has a winner-take-all primary for its 63 delegates is erroneous. True enough, as the basically anonymous reader points out, Michael Barone did write a piece that declared Puerto Rico as an "all-or-nothing" primary, but Barone and many others who went under the winner-take-all assumption, did not do enough research.

The misconception stems from the last few Puerto Rico Primaries. For example, both Al Gore and John Kerry swept the Puerto Rico delegation in 2000 and 2004, respectively. Why? Because no one else was left in the race. Puerto Rico was the last primary and Gore and Kerry were the last candidates remaining in their respective contests. Thus, they earned all delegates from the island.

Make no mistake, the island uses proportional voting, and if Hillary Clinton is still alive in this race come June 1st, both candidates will earn delegates.

Date: 3/21
Reader: William
Re: Richardson's endorsement of Obama
Comment/Question: Bill Richardson for VP?
PPFA Response: I've gone back and forth on this one over the last year. Bill Richardson is perfect for the bottom of your average ticket. His experience is broad and deep (Congress, Ambassador, Cabinet, Governor). He attracts the crucial Hispanic vote in the swing-states of New Mexico and Florida. His strength in the southwest offers a good geographical balance with the northern Obama or northeastern Clinton.

But if this primary continues to barrel towards a Barack Obama nomination, could an African-American and Latino run together on a ticket when neither ethnicity has ever been on one? Is this feasible in an undoubtedly hard-fought and tight general election?

It's a difficult call for the party. On the one hand, a ticket like that could represent exactly what a change election should be. Two Democrats who criticize the current administration and look unlike any presidential or vice-presidential candidate in the history of the country. (And yes, I realize this could work for Obama-Clinton.)

On the other hand, this election was seemingly in the pocket of the Democrats until they started to screw it up. Discouragingly, putting an African-American and a Latino on a ticket might do be another example of self inflicted gunshot wounds in the feet.

Date: 3/19
Reader: Lexi
Re: Obama's speech
Comment/Question: Why is a guy who grew up a rich kid with a Kenyan father and Southern White mother (no ties to being a slave whatsoever) lecturing Northern Whites regarding the Civil War when it was our ancestors who fought and died in the Union Army to free the slaves?
PPFA Response: Where to begin...

Obama did not grow up a "rich kid," so you started an argument with either intended deception accidental ignorance. His autobiography and all biographical data explicitly state that he was raised in a middle class family. That Kenyan father you mentioned left when Barack was 2, not returning until a brief visit 8 years later.

Regardless, I don't think it's relevant that he has no Union Army ancestors. Why is ancestry required to intelligently discuss history? Does an American history professor need lineage traced back to the French and Indian War? Of course not.

The Civil War, however, is not without a role in the discussion of racial division in this country. In this sort of discourse, its presence is essential. Remember that while the Union Army fought, whether for slavery, union preservation, or because they were conscripted, there was a Confederate Army, too. In 1860, when a liberal presidential candidate the South did not vote for won the election on a platform that included abolition, they were willing to go to war in order to maintain the African slave as a sub-caste in society.

Here comes the crux of the matter: Is there clearly not a residue effect from slavery in this country? Furthermore, are we not seeing an echo of the darkest period of this country's history in this campaign? You do not have to be a caricatured racist for race to be an issue. Poor schools, cleaning up ghettos, affirmative action... these are not race-less issues.

Obama tackled these issues straight on. He did not sidestep the controversy, he did not throw his friend with whom he disagreed under the bus, he did not dodge his ethnicity, he gave the white person's perspective (continually bypassed via racial affirmative action) and the black person's perspective (the whole slavery and civil rights thing), and he still spoke to the issues that are relevant today. He articulated what was on every educated person's mind and did this as well as any politician since RFK.

I look forward to future Obama speeches on this subject, as I would if it came from Clinton, John McCain, or President Bush. To ignore it accomplishes nothing. To address it, in a time where you are certain the 24-hour news cycle will analyze it for a week, is as heroic as it is unsafe. Obama, whether you love him or hate him, whether you agree or disagree with his platform, should be unanimously commended simply for his attempt.

He closed asking for a stronger union, for a union that acknowledged imperfection yet continues to strive to be perfect. What is important here is not that a mixed race presidential candidate lacks ancestry in the Civil War. One does not need a familial connection to our country's history to have a deeply personal connection with its present.

The issues, the ideas, and the hope were the story. To attack the man proves nothing except that the point of the speech was lost. Let us hope that Lexi has the minority opinion.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Media Still Favors Obama? Hardly.

(Editor's note: Today is part 1 of PPFA's first "mailbag," in which I will directly respond to reader emails and comments from the last few weeks. Part 2 will be tomorrow. All questions, comments, and personal attacks are accepted through the comment page at the end of each post as well as through the "Email" button on my profile.)

Reader comments and emails from the month of March:

Date: 3/6
Reader: Jay G
Re: Clinton winning big states
Comment/Question: So what about Clinton saying she won Ohio and Democrats need Ohio in November? Is she right?
PPFA Response: She's right in the sense that she did win Ohio and that Democrats probably need to carry Ohio in the general election, though I've crunched some realistic electoral math that show otherwise. However, the implication that she is the only Democrat that could win Ohio is erroneous.

She implies that a Democrat cannot win without winning women and rural areas. This is, of course, true. However, just because Barack Obama lost women to Hillary Clinton will not mean he will lose women to John McCain. Similarly, just because Clinton loses the black vote to Obama does not mean she will lose the black vote to McCain.

Ultimately, both Democratic candidates are depending on the base of their primary opponent to carry any swing-state. This is actually part of a much larger underlying question. Will the emotionally wounded loser of the Democratic Primary have an ego intact enough to genuinely and passionately rally their base in an attempt to bolster the chances of their vanquisher? By extension, will supporters of the Democratic loser be too bitter to show up on November 4th?

Date: 3/7
Reader: KindelRe: Florida and Michigan
Comment/Question: Could they redo their primaries and only award them half their delegates?
PPFA Response: Kindel made a great suggestion here, but it seems as if a re-do of their primary is out of the question. This would have solved a couple problems, still penalizing the states for defying the orders of their national party, but also giving them a voice at the convention.

However, it seems as if no re-votes will take place. Still, I fully expect Florida and Michigan to be seated, as explained in my "Fixing Florida and Michigan" column from March 7th. They will either split each delegation down the middle or allocate their delegates proportionally based on the national pledged delegates. That way, neither felonious state can impact the primary, but both will get the opportunity to be represented at the national convention.

Date: 3/11
Reader: DJ
Re: Big Primaries
Comment/Question: I thought that if she won Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, she was going to win the nomination. You're saying no?PPFA Response: Perhaps you heard that somewhere else, but not here. I believed that heading into the March 4 primaries, the only way she could win was by winning all three states. Winning the three, however, did not necessarily mean that she would win. Besides, she ended up splitting Texas with Obama anyway, as she won the Texas Primary and he won the Texas Caucus. Ultimately, he actually came away with more total Texas delegates.

Date: 3/7
Reader: Karl
Re: Florida and Michigan Re-votes; Obama favoritism
Comment/Question: If Obama was the one who needed the states, they would revote.PPFA Response: This line of bitterness comes from one of many who believe that Powers That Be are trying to destroy Hillary Clinton. I beg to differ.

Typically, Powers That Be are influential insider bigwigs. In the case of a Democratic Primary, that means lobbyists and superdelegates, both solidly in the corner of Clinton, though her support from the ladder is waning as Obama wins states, the popular vote, and pledged delegates.. Most superdelegates favor Clinton, and continue to seek reasons to commit to her.

So the Powers That Be are not the insiders. Who else might they be?

Popular sentiment from the Clinton camp: The media has handed Obama the nomination. Indeed, one can make a case that the media favored Obama earlier in the primary process. The question is: Why? Let's not forget two crucial factors in their subconscious or 1% conscious effort to do so.
1) It's easy to cook when you have the right ingredients. Obama is likeable with a clear message of hope. Nothing is easier to play up.
2) They wanted a close race. Clinton was dominating the polls throughout 2007 and any sign that Obama could give her a race was played up by the media in order to cover a close contest.

In the last few weeks, however, there has been a palatable media swing to Clinton, enthusiasm about The Speech aside. For example, one of the two most media driven issues in the Democratic Primary are the possible re-votes. The media would not continue to talk about Florida and Michigan if they were truly biased towards Obama; they would not want the re-votes to take place. They know the re-votes would help Clinton and tighten the race, therefore the media continues to talk about them, despite the unlikelihood of them happening.

It is crazy to wager on Clinton to win the nomination at this point, but the media covers it as if it's still a toss up. She has no margin of error if she wants to come back. She would need every single break for the rest of the race to keep it close and nothing would please the media more. That's the point. They love a close race and they love a long race. It's why they favored Obama until - with their help - he made that huge push in February to begin to put Clinton away. Now they need to correct their bias with bias in the other direction. It's what basketball fans dub a "make-up call."


Part 2 of the mailbag is tomorrow, when I'll respond to a rather angry emailer who thought the media, including myself, overrated the Obama speech.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

McCain Lies Low as Numbers Rise

(Editor's note: This long-weekend, I'll recap the week that was in presidential politics, showing why all three contenders have a reason to enjoy a Good Weekend. Friday was Barack Obama, yesterday was Hillary Clinton, and today John McCain. Happy Easter.)

This post will show polls implying that the fierce, elongated Democratic Primary has swung the momentum in the favor of the Republican Party. I'll do this by looking at general election polls that pit John McCain vs. Barack Obama before and after John McCain's nomination.

Real Clear Politics keeps track of nearly ever major poll conducted for the general election, seen in this link. If one takes a look at the last two months, February and March, RCP has identified 26 major polls in a potential Obama-McCain match up. They come from a large number of sources, including, but not limited to: Rasmussen, Gallop, Time, Fox News, CBS News, CNN, USA Today, Reuters, Zogby, NBC, Newsweek, and the Washington Post.

Here's what we find: From February 1 to March 2, the month before Mike Huckabee conceded and McCain clinched the nomination, RCP tracked sixteen McCain-Obama polls. Obama won fourteen of them. McCain took only two. Obama won his by an average of seven points. McCain won an LA Times poll by 2 and a USAToday/Gallup poll by 1. Clearly, Obama was polling much better than McCain before McCain won the GOP nomination.

When one takes a look at the McCain-Obama polls since March 4, however, one sees that the two candidates split the ten polls 5-5. In contrast to the previous month, Obama only won his five by small margins (5, 3, 2, 1, and 1). What's more is that McCain won the last three in a row, and he won them by an average of four points.

Obama and Clinton can only afford to attack each other. Neither is able to waste time or money attacking McCain. McCain is facing no competition. As such, Obama and Clinton's negative numbers continue to rise, similar to McCain's positives. The drawn out Democratic Primary is seemingly hurting the Democratic Party, though future posts will try to disprove this. Stay tuned for that.


Responses to reader emails and comments coming tomorrow.
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