14 June 2008

John McCain vs. YouTube

Republican candidate John McCain is facing an uphill struggle to win the Presidential election November. Concerns about his age (he would be 72 when entering office if he won the election - the oldest first term President in history), an unpopular Republican brand and a tarnished President he does not quite know how to handle. But perhaps the biggest problem being faced by Senator McCain is himself, or more specifically - his mouth.

Before McCain can even hope to convince the country to not reject his imperialist designs, he needs to stop harming himself with careless statements. Since he returned from the political wilderness last year and reentered the media spotlight in December 2007, John McCain has been accumulating sound bites that will undoubtedly harm his candidacy in the months ahead.

The most famous clips are his "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" and his talking about staying in Iraq for 100 years. And he has since added a third statement to the impressive list. Asked when he thought troops could start coming home from Iraq, McCain responded that the question was "not that important."

Now this is a little more complicated than a Clinton 'misspeak', as Senator McCain is not fundamentally saying anything that he disagrees with. He is against withdrawing from Iraq because of what he considers a risk of chaos and because leaving troops in the country to maintain a network of permanent bases is part of his design. The "100 years" quote and now the "not that important" statement were both attempts to express this argument: Once Iraq is pacified, troops can stay in Iraq as long as we want them to and they will not be in harm's way - as they do in Germany, Japan and South Korea.

McCain did go on to explain that what is important is the casualty level, and not the troop level.

The real issue is that McCain keeps scoring own goals with his delivery in framing the issue. Whatever the context, whatever his true meaning and however much Democrats might be distorting McCain's meaning when they imply that he wants the combat phase to last 100 years, the Republican nominee should never utter such statements. Just as the "100 years" quote, McCain declaring that the date of withdrawal is "not important" provides an incredible sound bite for Democrats to use.

And what is more crucial is that these comments are complicating and distorted further by McCains tendency to commit real foreign policy gaffes, like his repeated confusion between Shiites and Sunni.

In the era in which a YouTube clip can destroy a mighty frontrunner's candidacy, John McCain might not realise how damaging one sound bite can be. But you can bet that the Democrats will be lining up to remind him.

'Meet the Press' Host Russert Dies At 58

One of Americas leading political jourrnalists has passed away after suffering a heart attack at the age of 58. Tim Russert, host of NBC's 'Meet the Press'

Russert was born May 7, 1950, in Buffalo, New York. His parents were Timothy John Russert Sr., or "Big Russ," a newspaper truck driver and sanitation worker, and Elizabeth Russert.

Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown ordered that all flags on city property be lowered immediately to half-staff in Russert's honor.

He was a graduate of Canisius High School, John Carroll University and the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. He was a member of the bar in New York and the District of Columbia, according to a biography on CNBC.com

Before joining NBC, Russert served as press secretary for former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and as chief of staff to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Russert joined the network in 1984 and quickly established himself as the face of the network's political coverage, eventually becoming senior vice president and Washington bureau chief of NBC news.

His career at NBC was marked by a number of milestones. In 1985, Russert supervised live broadcasts of the "Today" show from Rome, Italy, negotiating an appearance by Pope John Paul II -- a first for American television.

Presidential Candidates React

Following the news of Russerts death, presidential candidates Senator Obama and Senator McCain expressed their sympathies to the news anchors familiy:

Barack Obama:

"I've known Tim Russert since I first spoke at the convention in 2004. He's somebody who, over time, I came to consider not only a journalist but a friend. There wasn't a better interviewer in TV, not a more thoughtful analyst of our politics, and he was also one of the finest men I knew. Somebody who cared about America, cared about the issues, cared about family. I am grief-stricken with the loss and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family. And I hope that, even though Tim is irreplaceable, that the standard that he set in his professional life and his family life are standards that we all carry with us in our own lives."

John McCain:

"I am very saddened by Tim Russert's sudden death. Cindy and I extend our thoughts and prayers to the Russert family as they cope with this shocking loss and remember the life and legacy of a loving father, husband and the preeminent political journalist of his generation. He was truly a great American who loved his family, his friends, his Buffalo Bills, and everything about politics and America. He was just a terrific guy. I was proud to call him a friend, and in the coming days, we will pay tribute to a life whose contributions to us all will long endure."

Ron Paul's Campaigns

Ron Paul, Republican presidential candidate, has finally ended his campaign, some four months after John McCain wrapped up the nomination.

But as one campaign ends, so another begins for the Congressman - that is, the 'Ron Paul Campaign for Liberty' (www.campaignforliberty.com)

So, what can we expect from this campaign, apart from an attempt to undermine John McCain?

Well, his mission is explained clearly and concisely (something I think we all wish politicians and political parties would do more often):

"The mission of the Campaign for Liberty is to promote and defend the great American principles of individual liberty, constitutional government, sound money, free markets, and a noninterventionist foreign policy, by means of educational and political activity."

This is followed by a 'Strategy' and 'Statement Of Principles', both of which seem to show exactly what the campaign stands for, why they feel the work is needed, and how they're going to do it.

It has certainly grabbed my attention, and I'll be waiting to see what work they do, and what difference it makes...

13 June 2008

Fox News vs. Michelle Obama

Fox news, never ones to shy away from controversy, have been injecting their own form of “fair and balanced" racism to campaign rhetoric.

The graphic "Outraged liberals: Stop picking on Obama's baby mama" was flashed during an interview with conservative columnist Michelle Malkin about whether Barack Obama's wife has been the target of unfair criticism.

This comes just one week after news anchors and commentators referred to Barack and Michelle's tender ‘fist-bump’, seen on stage as he proclaimed victory in the Democratic nomincation race, as a “terrorist fist jab”.

These comments against Michelle Obama are unique, and I believe are a preview of the attacks that can be expected in the run up to the General Election.

Unlike Senator Obama, whose mixed race heritage helps him transcend racial politics, Michelle, will apparently be targeted by those wishing to stir up racial tensions as campaign fodder.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote that the backlash against Michelle Obama, who is black, was a "good preview of how Republicans will attack Michelle, suggesting that she does not share American values, mining a subtext of race."

Bill Shine, senior vice president of programming at Fox, said in a statement that a producer "exercised poor judgment" during the segment. The producer was not fired; no other disciplinary action was announced.

12 June 2008

2008 In Numbers

I thought this was a great article from the Washington Post:

Presidential politics, like football, chess and other rule-bound competitions, is simple in objective but complex in execution. The objective is 270 electoral votes. This year the execution will turn on numbers such as:

48.3: In 2004, John Kerry won that percentage of the popular vote, the strongest showing ever by someone losing to a re-elected president. The lesson of this is that Democrats start from a position of strength.

251: That was John Kerry's electoral vote total. Barack Obama stands a better chance of holding Kerry's 19 states and the District of Columbia, and finding 19 more votes, than John McCain does of holding all 31 of Bush's states. Obama might capture the 2004 red states New Mexico (5 electoral votes), Nevada (5) and Colorado (9) - George W. Bush won them by a combined 127,011 votes -- giving him 270. McCain, who in his 10-year campaign for the presidency has lingered in New Hampshire long enough to vote as a resident, might turn it red, gaining 4 votes. Obama, however, has reasonable hopes of winning Iowa (7), which Al Gore won by 4,144 votes out of 1,315,563 cast in 2000. Bush won it in 2004 by 10,059 out of 1,506,908 cast. And Obama's estimated 90,000 caucus votes this year almost equaled the combined 118,167 won by Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, McCain, Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani, who finished in that order. Furthermore, Obama might carry Virginia (13).

Bush won it with 54 percent in 2004, but rapid demographic changes favor Democrats and Obama won this year's primary with 623,141 votes while McCain was beating Mike Huckabee with 244,135. And should former Sen. Sam Nunn be his running mate, Obama might win Georgia. Obama's 700,366 primary votes were more than Huckabee's 326,069 and McCain's 303,639, combined.

41 and 21: Obama lost by 41 points the primary in West Virginia, which is contiguous to Pennsylvania (21 electoral votes), where he lost the primary by 10 points, partly because, as in West Virginia, he was unappealing to blue-collar whites. McCain might hope to win Pennsylvania -- assuming that Obama's running mate is not the state's popular Gov. Ed Rendell.

7.2 percent and negative 1.2 percent: Michigan's first-quarter unemployment rate of 7.2 was the nation's worst and Michigan was one of just three states, and the only Midwest state, whose economies contracted (Michigan's by 1.2 percent) in 2007. Democrats misgovern Michigan, so McCain, especially if running with native son Mitt Romney, might hope to turn Michigan, with its 17 electoral votes, red for the first time since 1988.

55: California has that many electoral votes, more than one-fifth of 270. McCain, who likely will be relying on $84.1 million taxpayer dollars, cannot afford to compete in California.

15: Obama, probably relying on voluntary contributions, will have enough to spend speculative millions on, say, North Carolina (15). In 2004, Bush won it with 1,961,166 votes (56 percent) but in this year's primary, where turnout was below what it will be in November, Obama (875,683) and Clinton (652,824) received 1,528,507, slightly more than Kerry received in the 2004 general election.

56: That is the number of jurisdictions that will be deciding the allocation of the 270. There are 50 states and the District of Columbia. Maine and Nebraska, however, award two electoral votes to the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote, and one to whichever candidate carries each congressional district. Maine has two districts, Nebraska three. Since the two states decided to abandon winner-take-all allocation of their electoral votes (Maine in 1969, Nebraska in 1991), each state's congressional districts have not differed in their presidential preferences. But Nebraska's Second District is, essentially, Omaha. Obama might sense an opportunity.

5: That is the number of commas in the number of possible combinations of jurisdictions that can give a candidate 270 or more electoral votes. The votes disposed by the jurisdictions range from one (the Maine and Nebraska congressional districts) to three (7 states and D.C.) to California's 55, with 17 different numbers between three and 55.

2016: Assuming, not rashly, that Barack Obama wins, 2016 is the next time Hillary Clinton, who will then be 68, can seek the Democratic nomination. By then, the median age of the electorate will be 47, so for many millions of voters, Bill Clinton's tenure will seem only slightly less distant than Grover Cleveland's, the last Democratic presidency that did not make sensible citizens wince.

- George Will, Washington Post

Vice President Al Gore... Again?

In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Democratic Strategist James Carville argued that former Vice President Al Gore should reprise his role to serve on the ticket of Senator Barack Obama.

The 2000 election loser has seen his international status soar due to his advocacy of environmental issues and his winning of the Nobel Prize.

In the interview, CNN quotes Carville as saying:
“I think if I was Senator Obama I would say the biggest economic problem we face is the biggest national security problem and the biggest environmental problem,” Carville told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on the Situation Room.

“And if I were him, I would ask Al Gore to serve as his vice president, his energy czar, in his administration to reduce our consumption and reliance on foreign energy sources.

“That would send a signal to the world, to American people, to Congress, to everybody, that America's getting serious about this horrendous problem that we face.”

Interestingly, if Gore were to rejoin the political fray and become Vice President for a third time he would have spent longer in that office than anyone else in history. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride? Would Gore really want this label in history and be willing to subject himself to a subordinate role for further eight years?

His gravitas and status as the pre-eminent authority on global warming would certainly send a clear message that the United States was ready to tackle environmental issues and his southern roots (he is from Tennessee) coupled with his experience (he served in the U. S. House of Representatives (1977–85) and the U. S. Senate (1985–93) as well as being a veteran of three presidential campaigns between 1992 and 2000) would balance Obama’s youth and geography.

Some would argue that with a Nobel Peace Prize and an Academy Award there is little need for him to return to politics. I would argue the opposite - with these accolades, surely there is no better time for him return to politics and to push for real change at the top of government. The Vice Presidency has the potential to be a powerful position with unparalleled access and influence over the President. He knows how it works and he knows which levers need to be pulled to get things done in Washington. An interesting prospect for Obama, a first term junior Illinois Senator.

And seems like I have been talking about endorsements lately (Will Bill? 11/06/08), can we expect Gore to publicly back Obama in the near future? He remained steadfastly neutral throughout the primary season – perhaps angling to become a deadlock breaking party elder, or if you believe some of the more cynical reports, wanting to emerge from the chaos of a second convention ballot to become the nominee himself.

Breaking News: Obama's VP Vetter Steps Aside

A key member of Barack Obama's vice-presidential search team, James Johnson, is stepping down after criticism over a mortgage he received, the Obama campaign said.

"Jim did not want to distract in any way from the very important task of gathering information about my vice presidential nominee, so he has made a decision to step aside that I accept," the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said in a statement.

Republicans had been hammering Johnson since the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that he received a good deal on a mortgage from Countrywide due to his friendship with the company's CEO Angelo Mozilo. Obama has criticized Countrywide in connection with the subprime mortgage crisis.

From CNN.com

11 June 2008

Will Bill?

Following Hillary Clinton’s enthusiastic endorsement of Barack Obama on Saturday she stood, basking in the admiration of her devout supporters, with husband Bill and daughter Chelsea.

After watching America’s former first family (and until about 5 days ago, the dynastic embodiment of the Democratic Party), I couldn’t help but wonder, will the 42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, be endorsing Senator Obama himself in the near future?

After all, former President Jimmy Carter has been backing Senator Obama for some months – without actually endorsing him until last weekend (although you could argue that President Carter isn’t shy about offering his opinion about anything – whether asked or not – these days.)

Back in 2004 in a highly charged and warmly received speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, President Clinton lavished praise on John Kerry and promised to do his utmost to ensure he defeated George. W. Bush in the November General Election.

What’s more, President Clinton, in his role as a party Super Delegate, will be casting a vote at the Denver Convention in August. Will he steadfastly continue to back his wife, as he is entitled to do so, (after all, Hillary has only suspended her campaign, so those delegates who do not switch their support to Senator Obama will still be seated on the convention floor) or will he lead by example and line up behind the nominee?

More to the point was Hillary’s endorsement on Saturday representative of a Clinton brand endorsement, or just her decision as CEO of Hillary for President Corp.

I personally would expect to see some sort of personal endorsement from the Bill Clinton and I think he and Senator Obama will be keen to work with one another.

Firstly, it is another step in healing some of the rifts in the Democratic Party. Many Clinton supporters feel that WJC was unfairly pin pointed as the person who sought to inject race in to the campaign.

Bill has publicly stated his anguish at the loss of affection between himself and the African American community. He had always reveled in their admiration and had hyped up comments pronouncing him to be the first black president.

Before the furore about the result in South Carolina, there was marked affection for the Clinton family. Whilst on the campaign trail in California, Chelsea Clinton made a scheduled stop at the Glide Memorial church in downtown San Francisco. The church, with a significant black congregation, erupted in a spontaneous standing ovation for the former First Daughter.

Being seen to work on behalf of, and passionately advocate for, Barack Obama will be the first step in reconciliation between the Clintons and the African American community.

Additionally, Obama will not be able to turn his back on the Clinton administration, mainly because, come November, his grass root campaign stump rhetoric will not play in swing states – he will have to tack to the centre ground – and that has traditionally been Clinton territory.

So, as they say, watch this space.

Language Matters

When Hillary stood up to make her speech on Saturday, I didn't entirely know what to expect. I thought she would thank her supporters, talk of the campaign that was, and give her support to Barack Obama.

Then, she spoke...and by the end she had done those things, but had gone above and beyond what I think most were expecting.

She shared stories of voters and supporters, and reminded all who were there and who were watching, that 18 million people from all walks of life supported her and voted for her (while also successfully listing every 'walk' there was.)

She spoke of what public service meant to her "...helping people solve their problems and live their dreams", that she could be found "on the front lines of democracy - fighting for the future", of how the fight can be continued to "accomplish the goals for which we stand - is to take our energy, our passion, our strength and do all we can..."

She spoke of "we" several times, reiterating the fact that she is now speaking as a party member and exceptionally important Democrat, reminding her supporters that the biggest and most important "we" of all is the party (and at one point referred to it as a "family".)

Then at paragraph 17, there was a change - the famous Clinton fighting spirit came out, and the crowd got exactly what they hoped for - Hillary.

The one-liners were rolling, the rhythm of determination was on, and the crowd (and I, who by this point was standing open-mouthed) couldn't get enough of it. From "no exceptions, no excuses", "We cannot let this moment slip away. We have come too far and accomplished too much", to "...stretch the boundaries of the possible...", Hillary was ready for battle, and determined to win.

Then, the moment when all realised that she was truly endorsing Barack Obama: "So today, I am standing with Senator Obama to say: Yes we can."

She gave messages of support to her supporters "Always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in..." and then gave (for me) one of the most amazing metaphors I have ever heard: "Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it. And the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time. That has always been the history of progress in America."

There are many more examples of the brilliant and often awesome (in the true meaning of the word) language used in her speech, and I'm sure that everyone will have parts that they like and some that they don't, but above all else I believe this much is true: If there was ever a speech that defined Hillary and showed why so many millions of American and international supporters/fans want(ed) her as the Democratic Presidential Candidate, her Saturday speech is it.

To end, a one-liner from her speech:

"Some may lead; others may follow; but none of us can go it alone."

10 June 2008

Why is no one talking about Biden?

With all the talk about potential Vice Presidents I have noticed one name has been conspicuously absent from the prospective pool of candidates.

Senator Joe Biden, who ended his own Presidential campaign following the Iowa caucus, ran a reasonably strong campaign and was lauded as being clear, concise and compelling in the debates. His grasp of foreign policy issues and understanding of the complexities in Iraq marked him out as a man of genuine experience.

With one of Obama’s weak spots being his relative lack of foreign policy experience, Joe Biden would appear to be an ideal candidate to balance his ticket. He is chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been a Senator since 1973 and has been able to frame opposition to a continued US presence in Iraq in eloquent and powerful rhetoric.

With John McCain likely to contrast his own foreign policy experience with that of the first term Illinois Senator, Barack Obama will need to find a way to safeguard himself from the allegation of being unable to defend the nation in a time of war – a Republican smear tactic that has befuddled Democratic candidates since Vietnam.

Of course the Senator does have negatives.

For one, his 1988 Presidential Campaign ended humiliatingly when he was forced to drop out after ‘plagiarising’ a speech by former British Labour Party leader, Neil Kinnock.

What’s more, having camped out in Iowa for the best part of a year, Biden was never able to break into the top tier of candidates – or even manage to surpass Governor Bill Richardson in the second division of candidates.

Additionally, he doesn’t bring geography or a demographic to the ticket. Delaware is not a key state in the November election and unlike Bill Richardson - who would help with the Hispanic voter, Hillary Clinton - who has endeared herself to older women, and John Edward’s - whose anti-poverty agenda and humble origins make him a blue collar pin up, Biden isn’t a poster boy of any swing constituency.

Perhaps, rather than the Vice Presidency, we can expect to hear his name used abundantly in discussions about potential Obama cabinet members. He would seem an ideal candidate for secretary of State or Secretary of Defence – although he may face stiff competition from Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who has made little secret of his admiration for Barack Obama.

And if President Obama controls both Houses of Congress he would be reluctant to begin pillaging the Senate of Democratic members to fill his Cabinet – especially if control of either house is delicately balanced.

But he is certainly one worth thinking about.

9 June 2008

Should John McCain Be Worried?

McCain has now been the unchallenged Republican nominee since February. That is four months with a clear run to fundraise, build networks and define himself and his message.

He set out on a world tour offering to narrate his (impressive) life story to the world and offer a concise concept of what motivates him to fight for the presidency.

With his primary opposition entangled with sermons and snipers, racial politics and Vice Presidential manoeuvring we could have expected Senator McCain to ride above the grubby day to day bickering his opponents were engaged and position himself as a grown up politician for difficult times.

That has not been the case.

In spite of this four month head start over Senator Obama, the enduring image that the public has been left with flawed and campaign and a flawed candidate.
His statesmanlike tour of Europe and the Middle East undermined his claim that he the trusty pair of foreign policy hands who can is best able to make sound judgements.

His unequivocal statement that Iran is arming and funding Al-Qaeda in Iraq left his good friend and ally, Senator Joseph Lieberman, to tactfully whisper in his ear that "Actually Senator, no they're not…" only for McCain to hastily correct himself, asserting that he meant Iran was arming more general extremist movements.

This gaffe comes as the American people are have only recently became reacquainted to the notion having integrity in foreign policy and only succeed in reinforcing worries about the Senators age and the implications it could have on his ability to retain minute details and make decisive decisions on issues of national security.

Then there was his now infamous speech on Wednesday night that received almost unanimous scorn. He was boring. He was tedious. He mumbled. He was cranky. And that green screen behind him was a disaster. Unfortunately for McCain, these were some of the more generous reviews. And this on the same night that Barack Obama offered historic and soaring rhetoric from the same hall where John McCain will address the Republican National Convention in September.

In any spare time he has had, he has been forced to purge his campaign of all staff who have links to lobbyists and robustly defend himself against New York Times allegation she had had inappropriate relations with a female lobbyist during his 2000 Presidential run.

For sure his ‘clear run’ in the media has been overshadowed to a large extent by the historic Clinton/Obama battle which has saturated the media.

He is also running against an unpopular Republican President and a tarnished party brand. In fact his personal approval ratings remain between 10-13% above those of his party – like trying to run with a lead weight tied round your ankles.

Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager also argues there are many reasons to be optimistic. Last week he posted a PowerPoint study asserting that McCain currently hold slight leads in Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri and Nevada, and that Ohio is "a dead heat" and that Pennsylvania could go Republican. "This is a very good position for our campaign to be in," Davis contends

Additionally there is, of course, a marathon five months until ballots will be cast. If a week is a long time in politics, then five months is a rouge Reverend (or two…), a swift boat and any combination of unpredictable events that could destroy a campaign.

But many are already suggesting McCain must up his game, and soon.

Remember John McCain?

With all the hype and hoorah surrounding Hillary Clintons suspension of her campaign and the crowning of Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee, it has been all to easy to forget that this is a two party race. Remember poor old John McCain?

His greatest challenge to date seems to be a depserate attempt to remain relevant. He has now been the presumptive Republican nominee since Feburary but has been comprehsnively overshadowed by historic nature of the Obama - Clinton contest.

In fact several people that I know who have only a fleeting interest in American politics believe that the US Presidential Election has been a contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

So to remind people that the Republicans have a serious shot this November with him as the candidate, John McCain has launched his first significant ad buy of the General election. To be aired in nine swing states, it is an attempt to set out the narrative of his life and his heroic military service during the Vietnam war.

What do you think?

8 June 2008

Good Website

I have recently discovered this great website, which if you are as sad as me (I suspect you’re probably not) you might enjoy.

270 To Win

It is basically a way to map out the route to the General Election winning mark of 270 Electoral College Votes. It’s a good way to understand the coalition of states that either candidate will need to win the White House.

Hillary's Best (& Worst) Bits

With Hillary final exiting the stage I thought I would take one last (I promise) nostalgic look at her campaign...

Hillary: I'm in, and I'm in to win.

Clinton Smashes Fundraising Record

Hillary Looking Inevitable In 2008

Hillary Clinton Places Third in Iowa

It's Not Easy, It's Not Easy...

California is Clinton Country

Clinton Loses 11 In A Row

Clinton Revives Campaign with Texas & Ohio Wins

Cliton 'Misspoke' on Sniper Fire

Clinton Causes Outrage With Kennedy Assassination Remarks

Clinton Endorses Obama, Suspends Campaign

Its been quite a ride...