Add to Technorati Favorites Presidential Politics for America: 6/1/08

Friday, June 06, 2008

Barack Obama Veepstakes (Part 2)

With Barack Obama now officially the presumptive Democratic nominee, it's time to continue the Barack Obama Veepstakes, despite Obama's specific request for no one to ask him about it. Part 1 from a few weeks ago can be found here.

5. Bill Richardson (Governor, New Mexico)
In any typical year (read: white, male nominee from the northeast), Bill Richardson would have been the perfect running mate.

Obviously, with New Mexico and Florida as key swing states, a Latino VP nominee probably gives the Democrats their best chance to bring those states to the blue column. He also makes the Dems competitive in the Southwest, where Colorado and Nevada then become poachable. Richardson, however, was on every Democrat's short list for many more reasons than geography.

Richardson brings diverse experience and a myriad of political and governing skills. Richardson is a second term governor. He has been ambassador to the U.N., Energy Secretary (how important is that, these days?), and served in Congress. Perhaps most importantly, Richardson's wealth of experience and skills, but relatively lackluster personality in public, is perfect for a vice-presidential nominee who should make people at ease about voting for the pair, but will not steal the spotlight from the top of the ticket. This also gives Richardson time to grow a personality before he takes another stab at the presidency in eight years.

However, the elephant in the room is a killer. There will undoubtedly be a lot of Americans who will come out to vote against a Black/Latino ticket. Polls that say 5% of the country isn't ready for an African-American President and 12% isn't ready for a Latino President are representatives of the bare minimum number. I can't imagine the gall it takes for someone to tell a stranger on the phone or with a clipboard that they are allowing race to negatively play a role in their vote. Those numbers - that 5 and 12 percent - is higher. The argument that "these are people who wouldn't vote for Democrats anyway," falls apart when one considers the amount of people who wouldn't have bothered to vote until this ticket was nominated. Five percent of a presidential election is six million voters. How many of those would be voting anyway, and how many are coming to the polls because an African-American and Latino are running for positions that whites have cornered in the last 54 elections?

The unfortunate truth is that it would be too much change for too many Americans, despite change being the theme of Campaign 2008. The Democrats feel they are in the driver's seat and will not play with fire.

4. Brian Schweitzer (Governor, Montana)
Obama has publicly stated that he is looking to be competitive in many states usually punted by Democrats. It's these low-electoral "fly-over" states (Midwest, Mountain West) that campaigns often ignore in favor of coast-hopping and big-city-stumping. Obama specifically asserts that he will target those states.

The reason? Obama will have a lot more cash than McCain. Obama has smashed all fund-raising records in political history, having more cash on hand than any political figure who isn't a part of a monarchy. Meanwhile, McCain is still having trouble uniting the Republican base, which means there are some typical GOP donors that might not be contributing. If Obama, who has shown crossover appeal throughout the primary cycle, forces John McCain to spend money in places McCain would otherwise not have to, that increases Obama's chances in swinging some 2004 red states, most notably Ohio, Florida, Virginia, New Mexico, and Colorado.

Governor Schweitzer would go a long way in competing in these fly-over states. He brings many positive factors that Obama will be looking for in a vice-presidential nominee. He's a popular governor, meaning he has executive experience and has the qualities to siphon off McCain votes in the Mountain West and Midwest. Schweitzer, a staunch defender of the Second Amendment, would give Republicans who like Obama but are looking for a tangible reason to vote for a pair that could potentially be in power for sixteen years. Another quality held by Schweitzer is that he has the classic plain spoken, folksy, down to Earth charm, which contrasts strongly with Obama's elitist, fill the stadium, blow off the doors charm.

Indeed, many of these qualities make him an excellent compliment to Obama. While they agree on the huge issues facing this country - withdrawal from Iraq and energy independence - Schweitzer offers enough geographical, ethnic, and political differences that an Obama-Schweitzer ticket could be appealing to the entire country.

That leaves three to go. Check in this weekend for the Final Three and the conclusion of the Barack Obama Veepstakes!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Clinton to Suspend Campaign

Hardly breaking news, Hillary Clinton has announced she will suspend her campaign for the Democratic nomination and support Barack Obama in the general election. The difference between suspension and concession? With suspension, you do not formally withdraw from the race. You keep all your delegates, and you can pick up where you left off at any time. No one ever does, mind you, but they could.

Scour the political websites and blogs if you want analysis on her decision. Click here if you want to see my post from yesterday, where I saw the Democratic Odyssey as a 16-month historical journey.

With the nomination sewn up for Obama, tomorrow will be a good time to continue the Barack Obama Veepstakes. I can then address the Clinton as VP situation. Here was part 1, where I counted down #10 to #6.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

It's Over

No, she hasn't conceded yet. Nor has she suspended. She hasn't dropped out and she hasn't given up.

But it is over. History has been made. Barack Obama is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party.

Yet, with all of the stories that slowly trickled in during the last couple days - the seventeen senate superdelegates, Clyburn, Carter, Clinton ready to concede, Clinton letting go staff, Clinton not conceding, Clinton wanting to meet face to face with Obama, Clinton interested in VP, Obama only interested in offering the VP if Clinton declines - it was easy to forget the big picture.

This was an historic event on several levels.

First, the magnitude of this upset is unparalleled in modern primary politics. Hillary Clinton, a lion in the Senate, with a 25-point lead in 2007 for the Democratic nomination, and with her spouse as the most popular member of the party and perhaps the most popular politician in the country, was beaten by a dark-skinned, mixed-race, first-term U.S. Senator with a Muslim sounding name who was just over two years removed from state politics when he declared for the United States presidency. Read that sentence again.

Second, the story everyone is talking about. For the first time in this country's history, a non-white has been nominated for President by a major political party. As an extension, if Obama wins on November 4th, he will be the first person with at least 50% African heritage to be the President of any country in western civilization.

Third, finally, and most important to me, I have to turn to a Hillary Clinton line from last night. Who would have thought that it would be Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama, who could put forth the quote of the contest? Nothing sums up the ground breaking experience of the 2008 Democratic Primary better than a snippet of her simple prose. I know it's not Shakespeare, Jefferson, Glenn Cheney, or Dylan. I know it's clich├ęd. I know it seems obvious looking back on it. But she said it, and she's absolutely right.

"...we saw millions of Americans registering to vote for the first time, raising money for the first time, knocking on doors, making calls, talking to their friends and neighbors, mothers and fathers lifting their little girls and their little boys on to their shoulders and whispering,

"'See, you can be anything you want to be.'"

The crowd erupted, as it should have. Young minorities and young girls who saw the Democratic Primary come down to a woman and a black man must have been inspired. Our society isn't perfect. We haven't torn down all the barriers. We haven't convinced all the racists and misogynists of their archaic and misguided thoughts, and through aesthetic affirmative action, we've even gone too far in the opposite direction at times...

But those young girls and minorities haven't experienced any of that yet. They're new and innocent and untouched by the evils of prejudice and thoughtless malevolence. The most publicized and talked about news event of their young lives had a black man and white woman vying for the nomination of the Democratic Party. I don't think we can yet accurately predict the far-reaching effect this one political event will have on the next generation, but we can hope that the very best was taken from it.

And as we wave good-bye to the last few pre-19th Amendment seniors, as the generation that grew up in pre-Civil Rights slowly fades away, as the memory of the George Wallace south diminishes, and as my generation of Rodney King, OJ Simpson, and affirmative action begins its exit in a few decades, the generation who watched Clinton-Obama with wide eyes and big dreams will take our place. It was Dr. King's dream and it's becoming a reality.

So yes, the Democratic Primary is over, but it might not be the only thing that is. Over is the time where we walk into an election cycle with full confidence that we will see a white man vying against a white man to lead a country that is half female and steadily growing less white. Over is the time where we discount a candidate's viability because of the way they look. Over is the time where a girl or a black child gives up on their dream to hold the highest office in the land because of what they see when they look in the mirror.

It's over.

So I apologize if you checked into Presidential Politics for America this morning and wanted to see me break down numbers (unnecessary) or finish off my Barack Obama Veepstakes (Friday) or preview Obama-McCain (all summer). I just had to take a minute with a wide-angle lens and appreciate what we've experienced. I urge you to do the same.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Montana and South Dakota Polls

Although there are signs that Hillary Clinton might be suspending her campaign any day now, why not take a look at polling data for the last two primaries, just for old time's sake? The polling data, like the respective state populations, are sparse.

South Dakota (15 pledged delegates)
American Research Group (5/31-6/1)
Clinton: 60
Obama: 34
Difference: Obama +26

Dakota Wesleyan University (4/3)
Obama: 46
Clinton: 34
Difference: Obama +12

Montana (16 pledged delegates)American Research Group (5/31-6/1)
Obama: 48
Clinton: 44
Difference: Obama +4

Mason-Dixon (5/19-5/21)
Obama: 52
Clinton: 35
Difference: Obama +17

PPFA Analysis: Obama, who is 45 delegates short of the 2,118 majority, is on the doorstep of the nomination. As evidenced by the polls, Obama is expected to win both states today. Assuming a modest 17-14 split in his favor, that leaves Obama 28 short of the majority. When the seventeen remaining undecided superdelegates in the United States Senate, and now the Democratic House whip, declare their support for him, that will leave him only 10 short. It's almost over. With still undecided superdelegates expected to make a decision after these final two primaries, Obama could be pushed over the top by the beginning of next week, if not the end of this one.

This inevitability explains why there are stories floating around that we could be days or hours away from a Hillary Clinton concession. Stay tuned.

I'll be back by tomorrow morning, concession or not.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Hillary Clinton Conceding?

Will Hillary Clinton's speech following tomorrow's Montana and South Dakota primaries be a concession (slash suspension) speech?

There are signs, writes Thomas Edsall of the Huffington Post, that she is indeed winding down that campaign. Edsall cites the following:

-She has asked top donors and backers to attend her speech.

-She will be making the speech from New York.

-Clinton and Barack Obama spoke yesterday concerning "post primary activities," according to what Edsall dubs "a reliable source."

-Marc Ambinder from The Atlantic explains that the Clinton campaign is getting their financial affairs in order.

-Clinton staffers are being told that their roles on the campaign are ending Tuesday night. In addition, Bill Clinton may have dropped a hint earlier today, when he said that tomorrow's primary day is probably "the last time I'm ever involved in a campaign of this kind."

These hints come on the same day that rumors swirled about 17 U.S. Senators, who were previously undecided on their superdelegate vote, would come out together for Obama following tomorrow's primaries. Depending on his success in Montana and South Dakota, it might be enough to put him over the top of the majority, and probably within a handful.

This might be over soon. If she does concede on Tuesday/Wednesday, as I have predicted she would numerous times over the last month, be sure that she'll stress that she simply wanted all the states to vote before conceding.

However, it is Hillary Clinton. She might have one more curveball for us. A Clinton concession? We'll believe it when we see it.

Seventeen Senate Supers to Announce for Obama

There is a significant development today regarding undecided superdelegates. The seventeen remaining undecided superdelegates in the United States Senate are rumored to be ready to endorse Barack Obama en masse after the last two primaries, which are being held tomorrow.

Obama, who is 45 delegates short of the 2,118 majority, is on the doorstep of the nomination. With Montana and South Dakota scheduled to award 31 pledged delegates to Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton, Obama will have his hand on the door handle. Obama is expected to narrowly win both states. Assuming a 19-12 split in his favor tomorrow, that leaves Obama 26 short of the majority. With the seventeen Senators, that leaves him only 9 short. With still undecided superdelegates expected to make a decision after these final two primaries, Obama could be pushed over the top by the beginning of next week.

Stay tuned.

Puerto Rico; Updated Primary Standings

Hillary Clinton's victory in Puerto Rico yesterday was convincing and it was expected.

But was it negligible?

One could make an argument both ways. On the one hand, you if you average the delegate count estimates of CNN, Goobergunch, FoxNews, ABCNews, Real Clear Politics, and Wikipedia, Barack Obama still has an insurmountable lead in pledged delegates and a clear lead in overall delegates.

Average pledged delegate spread:
1740-1625 (Obama +115)
Remaining pledged delegates: 31

Average overall delegate spread:
2070-1915 (Obama +155)
Remaining overall delegates: 234

Assuming no Obama superdelegates change their minds:
Total of 234 remaining overall delegates that Hillary Clinton must win to win by one delegate: 195
Percentage of remaining overall delegates Clinton needs to win by one delegate: 84.

Since, ultimately, the Democratic nominee will be determined by overall delegates, one can see how unlikely it is that Hillary Clinton can come back to win.

Yet Clinton has been hammering away at two arguments for months now, ever since the writing was on the wall after Pennsylvania. She claims that she is the better candidate to face McCain(subjective, debatable) and she claims that she is the true popular vote winner.

The popular vote argument is starting to hold water.

First, one should keep in mind that the remaining publicly undecided superdelegates that have yet to endorse Obama have probably been leaning towards Clinton. Why else would they reserve their vote?

Therefore, one can assume that the publicly undecided superdelegate has simply been waiting for a legitimate reason to support her, one that is not grounded in an argument both sides can easily make (eg. the better general election candidate).

Furthermore, remember that a potentially huge outcry that would come from a superdelegate veto and overturn of pledged delegates would stem from the will of the people being ignored. But if the unannounced Clintonian superdelegates can make the case that, if Clinton wins the popular vote, they actually are following the will of the people, than the outcry would be at least partially deflected.

So where does that popular vote stand? Well, it depends on who you ask. I will take a close look at those numbers later in the week, after Tuesday's Montana and South Dakota primaries finish off the voting process.

I'll be back tomorrow with Montana and South Dakota polls (if they even exist out there) and predictions. See you then.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Florida & Michigan Decision; Puerto Rico Polls

Hillary Clinton can win Puerto Rico. She can win Montana. She can win South Dakota.

And by Tuesday night, she will still have lost the Democratic Primary.

Yesterday's decision from the Democratic National Committee rules and bylaws committee reinstated all of the delegates from Michigan and Florida, but awarded them only half their weight at the convention. This decision yielded 87 extra delegate votes for Senator Clinton and 63 extra delegate votes for Senator Obama. Significantly, both Michigan and Florida now get to send their entire delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Denver this August.

The compromise seemed reasonable, though, predictably, Clinton backers seemed to want nothing less than 100% of Michigan delegates fully awarded to their candidate, despite Michigan ignoring the rules laid down by the national committee and despite all major Democratic candidates withdrawing their names from the Michigan ballot except Hillary Clinton.

Rather than analyzing the merit of the decision made by the rules and bylaws committee (a decision which I predicted with nearly perfect accuracy yesterday), I'd like to look at the ruling's impact on the Democratic Primary.

Which is nothing.

Time for some numbers:

Clinton's 24 delegate dent in Obama's lead is negligible. His 161 pledged delegate lead was cut to 137, with 86 pledged delegates remaining. His overall delegate lead was cut from about 200 to approximately 175. With 291 remaining pledged and superdelegates, she would need to win about 80% of them. If she wins each of the remaining states with 60% of their delegates, she would need to convince 88% of the remaining undecided superdelegates (181 out of 205) to overturn the pledged delegate results in order to win the nomination by one delegate.

A tall order. Some would say impossible. Include me in that some.

Simply, Clinton cannot come back. I still fully expect her to withdraw from the race on June 4th, with some version of, "I just wanted all of the states to have a chance to vote" as the crux of her argument concerning her late withdrawal.

Here are some polls for today's El Primario de Puerto Rico. There is not much polling data coming out of the principality island, but here it is. (Note that the third one was taken back in the first week of April.)

Vocero/Univision Puerto Rico (5/8-5/20)
Clinton 59
Obama 40
Clinton +19

El Vocero/Univision/Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner (5/8-5/20)
Clinton 51
Obama 38
Clinton + 13
Research & Research (3/31-4/5)
Clinton 50
Obama 37
Clinton +13

Look for Clinton to still win big (58-42ish) and put an 8-10 delegate dent in Obama's insurmountable lead. However, do not expect the Clinton camp to care about the delegate spread. She will hammer home the idea that the Puerto Rican votes should count in the overall popular vote (they do not, only votes from the states do), and should thusly strengthen her popular vote case. She can then continue to declare that more people have voted for her in this primary than have voted for any candidate in any primary in our country's history (when one counts Florida, Michigan, and Puerto Rico). In this regard, she would be correct.

It will be a great line during her concession speech.

I'll take a look at the Puerto Rico results tomorrow as we amp up for (finally) the South Dakota and Montana primaries on Tuesday. At the end of the week, I'll finish the Barack Obama VP nomination countdown.
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