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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Superdelegates, RIP

In our discussion of the Democratic nomination process (Epic Journey, pp. 121-122), we note that Clinton took a small plurality of primary delegates.  Obama won because he prevailed strongly among caucus delegates and superdelegates.  In other words, ironically, he did best in the least democratic aspects of the system.  Now Democrats seem likely to end the role of superdelegates as free agents. Politico reports:
A group created by the Democratic National Committee to examine the role of the superdelegates, the Democratic Change Commission — steered by the Obama campaign's top delegate counter, Jeff Berman — held a conference call Wednesday to recommend that these unpledged delegates cast their votes based upon the electoral results of their states rather than on personal preference.

The recommendations of the commission, co-chaired by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina and Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, will now go before the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee.

While the elimination of superdelegates isn’t likely to have any impact in 2012, when the party is all but certain to renominate President Obama, commission members say it will help democratize future presidential primaries.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Obama on Intelligence and Terror

The Christmas terror incident draws attention to President Obama's comments during the campaign.  On August 1, 2007, he told the Woodrow Wilson Center:
I will also strengthen our intelligence. This is about more than an organizational chart. We need leadership that forces our agencies to share information, and leadership that never -- ever -- twists the facts to support bad policies. But we must also build our capacity to better collect and analyze information, and to carry out operations to disrupt terrorist plots and break up terrorist networks.

This cannot just be an American mission. Al Qaeda and its allies operate in nearly 100 countries. The United States cannot steal every secret, penetrate every cell, act on every tip, or track down every terrorist -- nor should we have to do this alone. This is not just about our security. It is about the common security of all the world.

As President, I will create a Shared Security Partnership Program to forge an international intelligence and law enforcement infrastructure to take down terrorist networks from the remote islands of Indonesia, to the sprawling cities of Africa. This program will provide $5 billion over three years for counter-terrorism cooperation with countries around the world, including information sharing, funding for training, operations, border security, anti-corruption programs, technology, and targeting terrorist financing. And this effort will focus on helping our partners succeed without repressive tactics, because brutality breeds terror, it does not defeat it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Obstruction and the Filibuster

Arguing against the Senate filibuster in The Washington Post, Ezra Klein writes:
The government can function if the minority party has either the incentive to make the majority fail or the power to make the majority fail. It cannot function if it has both.

In decades past, the parties did not feel they had both. Cooperation was the Senate's custom, if not its rule. But in the 1990s, Newt Gingrich, then the minority whip of the House, and Bob Dole, then the minority leader of the Senate, realized they did have both. A strategy of relentless obstruction brought then-president Bill Clinton to his knees, as the minority party discovered it had the tools to make the majority party fail.
This account of the first two years of the Clinton presidency is inaccurate. In 1993 and 1994, President Clinton won over 86 percent of the time on the congressional votes on which he took a position, the highest success rate in nearly 30 years. True, the Clinton health plan failed, but it is inaccurate to blame obstructive floor tactics, since the measure did not even reach the floor of either chamber. On another key issue, indeed, Republicans gave him a key victory in spite of his own party. Strong GOP support enabled the North American Free Trade Agreement to pass even though most House and Senate Democrats voted against it.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Presidential Travel

The 2008 election shaped the president's travel in 2009.  The Washington Times reports that of the 23 states he has visited for policy events, 18 have been in battleground states.
Over the course of Mr. Obama's first year in office, the White House has been methodical and strategic in selecting destinations for policy speeches and town-hall meetings, The Washington Times has found in a review of the president's domestic travel.

Mr. Obama has ventured out of the confines of Washington to secure memorable and symbolic backdrops for important speeches, as he did when setting his Afghanistan war address against the gray-jacketed cadets of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York. He has made multiple trips to other states known for their Democratic fundraising heft, such as Illinois and California, and has stopped in presidential battleground states that he won or lost by less than 5 percentage points.

Mr. Obama marked his first 100 days in office with a speech in Missouri. It was one of two trips he has taken to the state, which he lost to his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, by just one-tenth of 1 percentage point. He has visited Ohio and Pennsylvania three times each, and he chose Montana, a state he lost by 12,000 votes, or 2.5 percentage points, for one of his health care town-hall events.
For a scholarly analysis of President Obama's travel, see The White House Transition Project.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Population and Trends in the Electoral College

The 2012 election will have a different distribution in the electoral college, and the Republicans may realize a slight benefit. The Politico reports:
"Based upon the results of the 2008 election for president but with the electoral vote for the 2012 election, the Republicans would see a slight gain under the projected apportionment of 7 votes," Polidata's Clark Bensen told POLITICO on Thursday. "Twelve of the 18 states with shifts voted for Obama in 2008 while 6 voted for McCain. Nine of the 12 Obama states would lose seats, while five of the six McCain states would gain."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Clergy Money

A fascinating datum from CQ:
Like other previously untapped fundraising sources, Obama’s small-dollar juggernaut in the last election cycle also successfully passed its online collection plate among the country’s clerical class, raising $691,000 — or more than 10 percent of the past 30 years’ total — from ordained ministers, rabbis and other members of the clergy. In the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama also outraised GOP nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona by more than 5-to-1 among religious leaders.

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 31

In an NPR interview with Robert Siegel and Julie Rovner, the president talked about a provision of health legislation:

Inside this reform bill that I'm pushing is a provision that has a panel of experts — doctors, medical experts — who are going to look at all these practices to start changing how we think about medicine.

SIEGEL: Will politicians defer to their judgments — to their scientific judgments?

OBAMA: Well, one of my goals is to make sure that doctors and scientists are giving the best information possible to other doctors who are seeing patients. Look, if you talk to most health care economists right now, they will tell you that every good idea out there, when it comes to improving quality of care and reducing costs of care, are embedded in this bill. It's not going to happen overnight because we're going to have to change both how doctors think about health care and how patients think about health care.

James Pinkerton addresses this issue at The Serious Medicine Strategy blog.

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 30

On the NewsHour, the president expressed frustration with the Senate filibuster:
I think that right now that's the way things are operating. And we've had to make sure that we fight through those issues. I think Harry Reid has done a very good job grinding it out.

But as somebody who served in the Senate, who values the traditions of the Senate, who thinks that institution has been the world's greatest deliberative body, to see the filibuster rule, which imposes a 60-vote supermajority on legislation - to see that invoked on every single piece of legislation, during the course of this year, is unheard of.

I mean, if you look historically back in the '50s, the '60s, the '70s, the '80s - even when there was sharp political disagreements, when the Democrats were in control for example and Ronald Reagan was president - you didn't see even routine items subject to the 60-vote rule.

So I think that if this pattern continues, you're going to see an inability on the part of America to deal with big problems in a very competitive world, and other countries are going to start running circles around us. We're going to have to return to some sense that governance is more important than politics inside the Senate. We're not there right now.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 29

Today on "The Tom Joyner Show," the president again went after his critics:
And you know, look, the thing about a lot that goes on in cable news - and you know this better than anybody Tom - I mean, these guys fundamentally are entertainers. They are often times not thinking from a journalistic perspective; they are thinking, ‘How can we generate some controversy to boost our ratings?’ You know, the difference between you and them is you’re explicit about the fact that you’re entertaining people, and some of the stuff they try to pass off as news. My hope is that with the health care debate winding down, we get that done. The people, everybody takes a deep breath and remembers that everybody’s an American. I’ve got my birth certificate to prove it. We are all just trying to do what’s best for the country. We’re gonna have our differences, but we don’t have to attack each other’s motives which I think has become a habit in Washington. You know you know me pretty well, Tom, and I’m always an optimist. I don’t hold grudges, and I’m just interested in getting the job done.
As for holding grudges, see the president's reported comments to Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR): “Don’t think we’re not keeping score, brother."

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 28

April D. Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks interviewed the president on Monday. The White House website quotes the president's remarks on vaccination, but otherwise has no transcript of the interview. The Huffington Post does. An excerpt:
Well, first of all, I think it's important to understand, April, that the Senate and the House bills are 95 percent identical. There's 5 percent differences, and one of those differences is the public option. But this is an area that has just become symbolic of a lot of ideological fights. As a practical matter, this is not the most important aspect to this bill -- the House bill or the Senate bill.
News reports suggest that the differences might be more significant.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Backroom Deals

At the Financial Times, Anna Fifield reports:

The Democratic leader in the US Senate has vigorously defended the backroom deals needed to win enough support to pass his $871bn healthcare reform package on Christmas eve.

Harry Reid spoke to reporters yesterday amid mounting criticism of the "sweetheart" deals needed to win 60 votes.

He said: "There are 100 senators here and I don't know that there's a senator that doesn't have something in this bill that isn't important to them. That's what legislating is all about; it's the art of compromise."

Reuters reports: "Makers of brand-name drugs, medical devices and cosmetic treatments as well as suppliers of home health care services are among the industry winners in the U.S. Senate's sweeping healthcare reform bill."

On January 26, 2006, Senator Barack Obama said:

See, one of the reasons why lobbyists like Abramoff and their allies in Congress have been able to manipulate the system is because most of their backroom deals are done in secret. Just the other day, we heard that because of pressure from health care industry lobbyists, Republican negotiators met behind closed doors and changed a budget bill to provide a $22 billion giveaway to HMOs -- $22 billion that would come right out of the pockets of American taxpayers. But of course, no one knew about the change until much later, and no lawmaker would admit to making it.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Presidential Approval, State by State

Politics Daily has state-by-state polling data on the president. Ohio, Virginia, and Florida were key Obama wins in 2008, but their voters now disapprove of his performance. He is also below 50 percent in such key states as Iowa, Missouri, and Pennsylvania.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 27

Not all gaps in the White House website are substantive. Consider the president's Univision interview with Gloria Estefan, posted by Ben Smith at Politico. Among other things, she asked which White House chimney Santa Claus would use. The president answered: "Well, we think that he’s going to be coming down into the Yellow Room, which is right at the middle of the Residence. So, that’s where we are going to set the cookies and the milk, because after working all night, giving the gifts…"

Friday, December 18, 2009

Polls Show Rightward Shift

Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, notes a distinct rightward movement in public opinion:
What's really exceptional at this stage of Obama's presidency is the extent to which the public has moved in a conservative direction on a range of issues. These trends have emanated as much from the middle of the electorate as from the highly energized conservative right. Even more notable, however, is the extent to which liberals appear to be dozing as the country has shifted on both economic and social issues.

Pew Research surveys throughout the year have found a downward slope in support both for an activist government generally and for a strong safety net for the needy, in particular. Chalk up these trends to a backlash against Obama policies that have expanded the role of government.

More surprising is declining support for gun control, a fall in support for abortion rights, and a rise in public doubts about global warming. Much of the change on these issues has come from independents, a category now populated by many former self-identified Republicans. But a lack of passion among Democrats -- and liberals in particular -- is also a part of the story of this conservative trend among the public at large.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 26

In an interview with Charles Gibson of ABC, the president discussed how senators are dealing with health care. He mentioned the idea of deliberative democracy:
And -- and, you know, many of them, I think, sometimes feel that they've got a better idea than we do. We try to incorporate as many as possible. The problem
is, each one of them may have ideas that are completely contrary to what the
other senator wants. And so there is a balancing act. But and one of the challenges that we as a country are going to have is that, for our system of government to work, for our deliberative democracy to work, for the Senate especially to work, because of all the arcane procedures that are involved, you have to have a sense that occasionally we're willing to rise above party.

Because of the gaps in the White House website, it is impossible to say for sure, but this passage appears to be his first use of the term "deliberative democracy" during his presidency. My colleague Joseph Bessette coined it. (Obama did earlier mention it in The Audacity of Hope.)

The World is Round

The aftermath of the 2008 election hangs over the health care debate. Former DNC chair Howard Dean opposes the Senate bill. Why? Mark Murray at MSNBC writes:
In retrospect, was Barack Obama's conspicuous snub of Howard Dean a big mistake, given the former DNC chairman's opposition to the Senate health-care bill moving through Congress? Remember that when Tim Kaine was tapped to be the new DNC chairman, Dean wasn't at the Obama-Kaine press conference announcing the move. Instead, he was in American Samoa, but his allies maintained he would have canceled that trip had he been given a heads up about the press conference.What's more, Dean never got a plum position in the Obama administration. Possibly adding insult to injury, few DNC aides who worked for Dean initially got top jobs in the Obama administration.
At the time of the snub, Jonathan Martin of The Politico also noted that Dean had clashed with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel in 2006, when the latter chaired DCCC.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The President and Wall Street

In an article in The Washington Examiner, Timothy Carney notes that the president has close ties to Wall Street:
Obama raised $14.8 million from Wall Street in the 2008 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics -- more than any politician ever, and more than George W. Bush raised in both of his elections combined. From the fattest cat, Goldman Sachs, Obama raised $997,095, more than four times McCain's Goldman haul and more than any candidate has raised from any single company since the McCain-Feingold campaign finance regulations.
In 2008, the Center reports, the securities industry gave 56 percent of its presidential contributions to Democrats. In comparison with Obama's total, McCain only got $8.7 million.

As Carney points out, the industry has been sympathetic to the administration's agenda. After the House passed its regulatory bill a few days ago, the CEO of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association wrote: “While we may disagree on certain policy details, there is no doubt that the industry shares the same goal of reforming our financial system as President Obama and the Congress. We stand committed to further constructive engagement on these issues as the legislative process moves forward."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Beer Track and 2010

In Epic Journey, we discuss how President Obama had more appeal to upscale "wine track" voters than to downscale "beer track" voters. At National Journal, Ron Brownstein sees some danger to the Democrats along the beer track:
Nationwide, about 30 percent of whites over 25 hold college degrees, according to new census figures. The share of whites with college degrees runs below that national average in 241 House districts; Democrats now hold 128 of them and Republicans 113. Those Democratic seats, particularly in interior states, present big opportunities for Republicans: Those districts include 25 of the 39 that my colleagues at The Cook Political Report rate as most vulnerable to a GOP takeover.

In 194 districts, the share of whites with college degrees exceeds the national average. Democrats hold 130; Republicans only 64. That 66-seat advantage contributes much more to the Democratic majority than the party's 15-seat edge in the blue-collar seats. The Cook Report rates only 14 of the well-educated Democratic districts as vulnerable. Yet more could waver, because Obama is showing new vulnerability among college whites ... A possible Republican surge next year in blue-collar "beer track" districts remains the biggest threat to the Democrats' House majority. The Democrats' vulnerability will deepen, however, if they cannot hold the line in "wine track" districts whose education levels exceed the national average. That's one way a difficult 2010 election for Democrats could turn catastrophic.

Rasmussen Reports provides some new numbers that might distress the Democrats:

Republican candidates have bounced back to a seven-point lead over Democrats in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 44% would vote for their district’s Republican congressional candidate while 37% would opt for his or her Democratic opponent.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 25

A staple of media coaching is the following: "When a reporter tosses a loaded negative question your way — Diffuse it with four simple words: Never Repeat a Negative."

In his 60 Minutes interview Sunday night -- transcript at CBS, not the White House website -- the president disregarded that advice. Steve Kroft asked him about Afghanistan:
KROFT: Do you feel like you've staked your Presidency on it?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Oh, I think that given the number of things that I've had to deal with since I came into office, there are a whole bunch of things that I've staked my Presidency on. Right? That we can bring about an economic recovery that produces jobs in this country and gets us back on track towards a path of prosperity. Making sure that we end the war in Iraq in a way that stabilizes that country and is true to the sacrifices of the troops that we've sent over there and the enormous amount of resources that we've spent. Making sure that we get Afghanistan right. Making sure that over the long term we're able to deal with our federal budgets in a fiscally responsible way.
It will be bad enough if Afghanistan goes bad or the deficit remains high. Now his opponents will be able to say that he staked his presidency on these things.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Palin and Shatner

The line between news and entertainment continues to blur. Sarah Palin on Conan O'Brien, with William Shatner:

Friday, December 11, 2009

Polls, Obama, and the Democratic Party

As we point out in Epic Journey, Barack Obama ran as the anti-Bush, and used antipathy to the incumbent to stoke passion. Now that he is the incumbent and Bush is in the nation's rearview mirror, things have changed. Public Policy Polling reports:
Perhaps the greatest measure of Obama's declining support is that just 50% of voters now say they prefer having him as President to George W. Bush, with 44% saying they'd rather have his predecessor. Given the horrendous approval ratings Bush showed during his final term that's somewhat of a surprise and an indication that voters are increasingly placing the blame on Obama for the country's difficulties instead of giving him space because of the tough situation he inherited. The closeness in the Obama/Bush numbers also has implications for the 2010 elections. Using the Bush card may not be particularly effective for Democrats anymore, which is good news generally for Republicans and especially ones like Rob Portman who are running for office and have close ties to the former President.
Passage of health care reform might not help the president or his party. Resurgent Republic reports:
Given the disproportionate share of voters age 55 and older likely to comprise the electorate in next year’s mid-term, passage of health care reform legislation would pose a serious risk to Democratic majorities in the House and Senate according to a new survey released today by Resurgent Republic, a non-profit conservative organization that gauges public opinion toward government policy proposals.

The nationwide survey of 1000 voters age 55 and older had a sample in which Democrats enjoyed a seven percentage-point advantage over Republicans (32%-25%) and President Obama enjoyed a favorable rating of 53%. These numbers are similar to recent surveys of voters of all ages. However, voters 55 and older opposed health care reform being debated by Congress by 48-39%, with intensity running strongly against the legislation’s proponents (40% strongly opposed versus 25% strongly support). This opposition correlated with pluralities now holding a favorable view of Republicans in Congress (46% favorable-42% unfavorable) and an unfavorable view of Democrats in Congress (44% favorable-45% unfavorable), despite the partisan identification of the sample favoring Democrats.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Polls Boost GOP

For the time being at least, Republicans can take heart from new poll data. CNN reports:

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Thursday, 40 percent of people questioned say the U.S. would be better off if Democrats ran Congress while 39 percent feel things would be better if Republicans took charge on Capitol Hill. The 1-point margin is a statistical tie. Support for Democrats is down from a 10-point advantage in August and a 25-point margin in January.
(Full report here.)

On issues, the Democrats lost support across the board as Republicans gained.

Among the economic and budget issues:

  • On reducing the federal deficit, their 30-point edge a year ago has given way to a 7-point deficit.
  • On taxes, they were up by 17 points; now they're down by 2.
Among other domestic issues:

  • On health care, they were up 39 points. Now they're up by 4.
  • On the environment, they were up by 44 points; they're now up by 25.
  • On education, they were up by 35; now they're up by 15.
  • On morality, they were up by 20 points; now they're up by 1.

Among foreign affairs and defense issues:

  • On foreign policy, they were up by 20; they're now up by 1.
  • On regaining international respect for the United States, they were up by 31; they're now up by 8.
  • On Iraq, they were up by 21; they're now up by 5.
  • On protecting against terrorism at home, they were up by 9; they're now down by 7.

Changes in the Nomination Rules?

Rhodes Cook reports that the national committees are trying to address the front-loading problem:

[T]he two parties are working to revamp the oft-criticized presidential nominating process for 2012. With too many states voting too early a common complaint in 2008, the two parties each have their own commission studying a revamp of the system for next time.

They could produce a later starting date, a spread-out primary calendar, and on the Democratic side, a sharp reduction in the number of unelected "superdelegates." (The latter, a variety of party and elected officials, comprised nearly 20 percent of the last Democratic convention and drew criticism as being anti-democratic.)

The big news, though, is that for the first time ever, the two parties are working concurrently and are consulting with each other in the process. The hope is that each might produce a final product that not only puts both parties on the same basic wavelength, but would enable them to present a common front in selling their revisions to the nation and to the states that will be asked to comply.

More at "Frontloading HQ," Josh Putnam's blog.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Palin and Obama

At the Los Angeles Times, Andrew Malcolm writes:

Obama's new Gallup Poll job approval number is 47%. Last month it was 53%.

Regular Ticket readers will recall how in this space in late November we pointed out that Obama's closely watched job approval slide was coinciding with Palin's little-noticed rise in favorability. And it appeared they might cross somewhere in the 40s.

Well, ex-Sen. Obama, meet ex-Gov. Palin.

The new CNN/Opinion Research Poll shows Palin now at 46% favorable, just one point below her fellow basketball fan.

Malcolm oversells his point by comparing Obama's job approval rating to Palin's favorability rating. Though job approval and favorability are related, they are not the same thing. Most polls put Obama's favorability rating in the mid- to low-50s.

Neverthless, it is still fair to say that Palin's stock has risen while the president's has fallen.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Palin in Iowa

At The Politico, Jonathan Martin observes that Palin is not doing the standard GOP meet-and-greets during her stop in Iowa:
But if the former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate's maiden trip to the Hawkeye State as a presidential prospect was unusual by Iowa precedent, the event illustrated why she doesn't necessarily need to stick to the traditional playbook – and raised the possibility that even sacrosanct political dictums of Iowa can be bent or even broken ... What makes her potentially so formidable was on vivid display in the hundreds of admirers who waited for hours on the ground in a mall hallway – and some began the vigil overnight in the bitter cold - to get a quickly scribbled signature, handshake and fleeting glimpse at the person most just called "Sarah." Though some wearing Cornhusker red came from Nebraska, just over the Missouri River, many were from this city and the surrounding northwest Iowa counties that traditionally give Republican candidates some of their largest margins in the state. But they weren't the sort of party regulars who comprise the county GOP committees and always show up when a national politician comes to town. Many said they hadn't previously participated in the state's quadrennial caucuses and some indicated that they weren't even sure what the caucuses are. And while most were self-identified conservatives, there were also registered Republicans or independents who had previously backed candidates of both parties but who were drawn to Palin because of what she represents.
At Bloomberg, John McCormick provides some statistical context:
An Iowa Poll taken Nov. 8-11 by the Des Moines Register newspaper showed 68 percent of Iowa Republicans view Palin favorably. That is almost as high as the 70 percent favorability recorded for former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who won the state’s 2008 Republican presidential caucuses. The poll has a margin of error of 4.2 percentage points.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Obama, Subpoenas, and Hauntings

Referring to congressional hearings on the gate-crasher incident, presidential press secretary Robert Gibbs said: "I think, you know, that, based on separation of powers, staff here don't go to testify in front of Congress."

Last year, the president took a very different position. A reporter asked about congressional efforts to get Bush White House aides to testify about the firings of U.S. attorneys. Then-candidate Obama said:
I think that nobody is above the law. If there are specific assertions of executive privilege, then, you know, those can be examined. But I think this notion, this blanket notion that you can't subpoena White House aides, where there's evidence of genuine wrongdoing, I think is completely misguided.
You know, as I recall, Richard Nixon mounted similar arguments. That's not how we operate. We're a nation of laws and not men and women. So, you know -- and my -- that's a precedent I don't mind living with as president of the United States.
CQ reporter David Nather nailed it in his lead: "This could come back to haunt him someday."


The Los Angeles Times reports on a new Pew survey:
Thirty-seven percent of Americans said they view Obama as religion-friendly, while only 29% said they see the Democratic Party that way, according to the poll. The findings aren't surprising. During his campaign for the presidency, Obama courted religious voters more aggressively than most recent Democratic presidential candidates by putting faith front and center. In July 2008, during the height of the presidential race, then-Sen. Obama pledged to expand a controversial White House program that gives federal grants to churches and small community groups. Later that summer, during a forum at evangelical Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in Orange County, Obama, who is Christian, spoke of "walking humbly with our God" and quoted from the Gospel of Matthew. It paid off. Forty-three percent of voters who said they attend church weekly chose Obama over Republican John McCain, according to the National Election Pool exit survey, a change from recent election trends, in which religious voters overwhelmingly chose Republican candidates. Among occasional worshipers, Obama won 57% of the vote.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The 2010 Midterm: Latest Polling

At The Hill , Markos "Kos" Moulitsas reports polling data suggesting that 2010 will be harder on Democrats than 2006 or 2008:

For the first time, I had Research 2000 ask, “In the 2010 congressional elections, will you definitely vote, probably vote, not likely vote or definitely will not vote?” The results were nothing short of cataclysmic:

Among Republican respondents, 81 percent said they were definitely or probably going to vote, versus only 14 percent who were definitely or not likely to do so. Among independent voters, it was 65-23. Among Democrats? A woeful 56-40: Two out of every five Democrats are currently unlikely to vote. A look at key Democratic constituencies shows how demoralized the party’s base currently is. Among African-Americans, just 34 percent are likely to vote, versus 54 percent unlikely to do so. Republican-leaning white voters clocked in at 66-29. Only 41 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds, a key constituency for Democrats in both 2006 and 2008, are likely to vote, compared to 49 percent likely to sit things out.

Rasmussen reports that the GOP has a seven-point lead in the generic congressional ballot:

Since late June, support for Republican candidates on the Generic Ballot has ranged from 41% to 44%, while support for Democrats has run from 36% to 40%. Looking back a year ago, the two parties were in a much different place. Throughout the fall of 2008, support for Democratic congressional candidates ranged from 42% to 47%. Republican support ranged from 37% to 41%.

The 2010 elections are nearly a year away, and many things could change. Moreover, the Democrats have great institutional and financial advantages. Still, they cannot be happy with these data.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 24

A couple of weeks ago, the president answered questions from Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez. One answer recalled the "no preconditions" incident in the 2008 nomination campaign:

For years, I have said that it is time to pursue direct diplomacy, without preconditions, with friends and foes alike. I am not interested, however, in talking for the sake of talking. In the case of Cuba, such diplomacy should create opportunities to advance the interests of the United States and the cause of freedom for the Cuban people.

We have already initiated a dialogue on areas of mutual concern – safe, legal, and orderly migration, and reestablishing direct mail service. These are small steps, but an important part of a process to move U.S.-Cuban relations in a new and more positive, direction. Achieving a more normal relationship, however, will require action by the Cuban government.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Palin Online

In an earlier post, we cited an article on Sarah Palin's Facebook tactic. Nevertheless, The Hill quotes GOP consultant Jordan Raynor criticizing her Internet presence:
"What I don't like about as far as an online strategy is that she puts most of her eggs in the Facebook basket. She should be extending her online cachet into other strategy,” he said. Raynor and other consultants claim that her e-mail list of supporters could be larger considering her political celebrity. Online political strategists have come to see an e-mail list as the essential tool of a web campaign. Raynor, who works for a firm that works with a statewide candidate and a congressional candidate, noted that the Obama campaign raised two-thirds of its funds through its enormous e-mail list of around 10 million backers. Obama’s list of grass-roots supporters was such a powerful tool that, after the election, the Democratic National Committee adopted it and renamed it Organizing for America.

“Even with this web 2.0 and social networking, we still see that one of the most powerful tools is a really good e-mail list,” said a former campaign co-manager for former Sen. Fred Thompson’s (R-Tenn.) 2008 presidential bid who declined to be named.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Obama and Berlin

In an interview with Spiegel, Obama manager David Plouffe reflects on his candidate's famous speech in Berlin:

SPIEGEL ONLINE: In your book on the campaign you called Obama's campaign trip to Berlin in 2007 [sic, 2008] an "audacious gamble." Why?

Plouffe: The whole trip was risky. Putting on an overseas visit when you are a head of state is hard enough. As a campaign we did not have diplomatic resources. Obviously, he had to perform at a high level, for instance with the speech in Berlin. If you trip once, you pay an outsized penalty.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: And the trip was criticized.

Plouffe: The Republican candidate John McCain said that he would rather be with 10,000 bikers in the US than with 200,000 screaming people in Berlin and he compared Obama to starlets like Britney Spears. But that misread where the American electorate was. They were hungry for a leader who could have a better and stronger relationship with a country like Germany.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Even if that is seen as being overly "European" in the US?

Plouffe: Americans don't see Berlin like they do Paris, which might seem a little bit too "socialist." That made it a little easier for us to have a public event there. All the way through to Election Day, we heard people refer to the speech and the foreign policy vision Obama outlined in Berlin.

Americans tend to associate Berlin with three presidents: Truman (the airlift), Kennedy (the building of the Wall and JFK's speech), and Reagan ("Tear down this wall!"). Curiously, Obama neglected to mention any of them in his own Berlin address.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Politico reports that the president really likes to say "unprecedented."
Obama has relied on “unprecedented” in more than 90 instances, using the word at least 129 times in everything from major addresses to small speeches, statements, memorandums and proclamations. (Bush, by contrast, used the word 262 times over eight years.)

Obama has used “unprecedented” to describe his efforts on science research, his plan for the auto industry and his administration’s ethics, transparency and accountability guidelines.

He has promised an “unprecedented commitment” to education, to developing clean energy and “to preserving America's treasured landscapes,” which, Obama has noted, have seen “unprecedented droughts” and “unprecedented wildfires” in the face of climate change

The practice has plenty of precedents in the 2008 campaign. A small sample:

  • April 23, 2007: In this way, the security alliances and relationships we build in the 21st century will serve a broader purpose than preventing the invasion of one country by another. They can help us meet challenges that the world can only confront together, like the unprecedented threat of global climate change.
  • July 26, 2007: And I'd like to especially thank the couple hundred of you who have joined my College Democrats Steering Committee. This is an unprecedented show of support and we're very grateful to have it.
  • March 27, 2008: I see them here in Manhattan, where one of our biggest investment banks had to be bailed out, and the Fed opened its discount window to a host of new institutions with unprecedented implications we have yet to appreciate.
  • May 12 2008: We fought to make sure that the claims of disabled veterans in Illinois and other states were being heard fairly, and we forced the VA to conduct an unprecedented outreach campaign to disabled veterans who receive lower-than-average benefits.
  • September 18, 2008: Our government and the Federal Reserve have already taken unprecedented action to prevent a deepening of this crisis that could jeopardize the life savings and well-being of millions of Americans. But it is now clear that even bolder and more decisive action is necessary.
  • October 9, 2008: Yesterday, the Fed took another unprecedented step to cut rates together with nations around the world, and those nations will soon be gathering in Washington to deal with this crisis.
  • October 21, 2008: Earlier this month, with major financial institutions on the verge of collapse and global markets on the brink, we took unprecedented action and passed a $700 billion rescue plan.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Obama Approval

Talking Points Memo offers a perceptive observation about state-by-state approval data:
A look at key swing states suggests that the current political situation has really become a lot like last year -- from one state to another, Obama's approval ratings are pretty close to election results from 2008. Using those election results as a benchmark, it's as clear a sign as any that the honeymoon is truly over -- we're right back to 2008 campaign mode, in terms of average voter opinion.

In all these states, and in the country overall, Obama had a very strong honeymoon period, but that really does seem to have worn off. There may be one difference, though, and it's a crucial one: Obama's own supporters aren't as revved up as they were back then, while the opposition has become very energetic. And that can make all the difference in 2010.

Brendan Nyhan cautions that passage of health care legislation would not necessarily raise Obama's numbers. He looks at analogous bills under previous presidents -- LBJ's Medicare bill, Reagan's budget and tax bills, Clinton's deficit reduction bill, and Bush 43's tax cut -- and finds no bump in approval ratings.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mitt Money

CQ reports:

After spending millions of his own money during his unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney apparently has learned a thing or two about fundraising. Romney’s political action committee, Free and Strong America PAC Inc., is leading all other politician PACs in receipts this year with more than $3 million. Romney’s committee pulled in $440,000 during the month of October, besting the efforts House Majority Leader Rep. Steny H. Hoyer ’s, D-Md., AMERIPAC, which corralled $271,000 in receipts and Rep. Eric Cantor ’s, R-Va., Every Republican Is Crucial (ERIC PAC), which took in $118,000 for the month.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"This Year"

At Slate, John Dickerson notices that the president has a habit of setting deadlines, then forgetting them. Take health care. From Chuck Todd's interview with President Obama, November 18, one might not think that the president had committed to signing a bill by year's end:
TODD: You gonna sign health care before the state of the union?
OBAMA: I expect so.
TODD: But obviously not the end of the year at this point?
OBAMA: You will not hear that from me.
TODD: You're not ready to say that?
OBAMA: Absolutely not.
But he had already carved a 2009 deadline into stone, and repeatedly:

October 5: And so if you're willing to speak out strongly on behalf of the things you care about and what you see each and every day as you're serving patients all across the country, I'm confident we are going to get health reform passed this year.

September 12: Nobody should be treated that way in the United States of America, and that's why we're going to bring about change this year.

July 23: I want the bill to get out of the committees; and then I want that bill to go to the floor; and then I want that bill to be reconciled between the House and the Senate; and then I want to sign a bill. And I want it done by the end of this year. (Applause.) I want it done by the fall. (Applause.)

July 1: It's not something that we're going to keep on putting off indefinitely. This is about who we are as a country. And that's why we are going to pass health care reform -- not 10 years from now, not five years from now; we are going to pass it this year. (Applause.) That is my commitment. We're going to get it done. (Applause.)

June 22: AARP is committed, as I am, to achieving health care reform by the end of this year.

June 13: I know some question whether we can afford to act this year. But the unmistakable truth is that it would be irresponsible to not act.

May 13: We've got to get it done this year. We've got to get it done this year -- both in the House and in the Senate. And we don't have any excuses; the stars are aligned.

May 11: It's reform that is an imperative for America's economic future, and reform that is a pillar of the new foundation we seek to build for our economy; reform that we can, must, and will achieve by the end of this year.

March 5: And our goal will be to enact comprehensive health care reform by the end of this year. That is our commitment. That is our goal.

February 24: So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.

The Audacity of YouTube

In The Audacity to Win, his memoir of the 2008 campaign, Obama manager David Plouffe has an important insight about new media. Describing Obama's Philadelphia speech on racial issues, Plouffe says:

As was the case throughout the campaign, most people did not watch the speech on TV. It was delivered on a Tuesday morning, when just about everyone was at work. Instead, people watched it online, most of them on YouTube, either as it was happening or at their leisure later that day or in the days to come. Eventually, tens of millions of voters saw the speech through various outlets.

This marked a fundamental change in political coverage and message consumption, and one that will only continue as technology rolls forward: big moments, political or otherwise, will no longer be remembered by people as times when everyone gathered around TVs to watch a speech, press conference or other event. Increasingly, most of us will recall firing up the computer, searching for a video and watching it at home or at the office — or even on our cell phones.

Read more:,8599,1932963-2,00.html#ixzz0XL32ePPl

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 23

In an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd, the president fudges the distinction between "when" and "if."

TODD: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - can you understand why it is offensive to some for this terrorist to get all the legal privileges of any American citizen?

OBAMA: I don't think it will be offensive at all when he's convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him.

TODD: But having that kind of confidence of a conviction - I mean one of the purposes of doing - going to the Justice Department and not military court is to show of the the world our fairness in our court system.

OBAMA: Well --

TODD: But you also just said that he was going to be convicted and given the death penalty.

OBAMA: Look - what I said was people will not be offended if that's the outcome. I'm not pre-judging; I'm not going to be in that courtroom, that's the job of prosecutors, the judge and the jury.

In an interview with Fox's Major Garrett, the president dismisses concerns about

GARRETT: David Obey said yesterday that erroneous estimates from the Administration on the job creating power of the stimulus bill -- and I'm quoting now -- are outrageous and the administration owes itself, the Congress and every American a commitment to work night and day to correct these ludicrous mistakes. Your reaction?

OBAMA: Look I understand David Obey's frustration -- I think that we made a decision very early on, on the biggest stimulus package in history. And, every economic model that we looked at at the time said that if you start economic growth, that unemployment will cap out at a certain rate. Now, there is no doubt that unemployment's been worse than any of the economic models that occurred at the time.

GARRETT: But his criticism isn't about the job creating part, it's just about what you have said about the job creating. Have there been mistakes and do they need to be corrected?

OBAMA: Look, I think this is an inexact science. We're talking about a multi-trillion dollar economy that went through the worst economic crisis since 1933. The first measure of success of the economic recovery is: did we pull ourselves back from the brink? We did. Have we gotten economic growth going again? We have.

The question now is: can we make sure we're accelerating job growth? That's my number one job. Nobody's been more disappointed than I have to see how high the unemployment rate has gotten. And, I spend every waking hour, when I'm talking to my economic team, about how we are going to put people back to work.

GARRETT: So this is a side issue? The estimate thing?

OBAMA: This is a side issue.

GARRET: Got it.

Palin's Tour and the 2012 Convention

As we note in Epic Journey, Barack Obama used his 2006 Audacity of Hope book tour to explore the possibility of running for president. Sarah Palin is doing something similar.

Look at the states that she is visiting on her book tour. Now look at the state-by-state delegate allocation for the 2012 Republican national convention. (The numbers will shift a bit as a result of the off-year and midterm elections, but the basic pattern will be the same.) The states on her schedule add up to a majority of delegates. Here is the detailed list (I am counting Alaska, which is listed as “possible” and is of course the starting point for any Palin tour.)

Alabama 46
Alaska 26
Arizona 53
Arkansas 34
Colorado 34
Florida 94
Idaho 30
Indiana 42
Iowa 25
Michigan 56
Minnesota 37
Missouri 55
Montana 25
Nevada 25
New Mexico 22
New York 98
N. Carolina 52
Ohio 65
Oklahoma 41
Penn. 68
S. Dakota 25
Texas 147
Utah 37
Virginia 47
----------1,184 of 2,325

Although it is technically not part of the tour, she will be speaking at next year's Bakersfield Business Conference, a huge event in California, the state with the greatest number of convention delegates. And the people who attend the conference —professionals and owners of small businesses — also happen to be the kind of folks whose financial support would be most helpful to a Republican candidate for president.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Marketing Lessons from the 2008 Campaign

Sarah Palin is drawing on the 2008 campaign for marketing strategy and tactics. Peter Wallsten reports in The Wall Street Journal:

Sarah Palin will launch her national book tour next week, one part of a carefully crafted strategy that has allowed the former vice-presidential candidate to leapfrog traditional media outlets and appeal directly to her dedicated and vocal fan base. The coming tour through small towns and midsize cities is designed mostly to maximize sales of "Going Rogue: An American Life," which will be formally released Nov. 17. But associates say it also serves as a reintroduction for Ms. Palin and a warm-up for what promises to be a starring role in next year's midterm elections and, if her supporters get their wish, the next presidential race. Among the features of this new strategy: buying Internet advertising based on Google searches of her name, and using Facebook as a key means of communicating with voters. Her team also has considered filing libel suits against bloggers who spread rumors about her family.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ongoing Lessons from 2008

Pawlenty ought to learn from Romney, as Dan Balz writes in The Washington Post:
Four years ago, Romney lurched to the right in preparation for his presidential candidacy. He did it on social issues, where his prior support for abortion and gay rights left him vulnerable on his right flank. Pawlenty has a consistent record of opposition to abortion and gay marriage. In his case, he appears to be catering to the conservative, populist anger on the right, which is challenging the party establishment and attacking Obama in sometimes extreme language. The real risk for Pawlenty, as Romney learned in his unsuccessful 2008 campaign, is losing his true voice and his authenticity. Romney spent so much time trying to reposition himself and picking narrow tactical fights with his rivals that the qualities that might have made him a more attractive candidate were lost in the smoke. But once a candidate starts down that road, it can be hard to pull back.
(Why do reporters always refer to rightward moves as "lurches"?) Anyway, First Read reports:
A Pawlenty adviser responds in an e-mail to First Read: "Some people may assume that Governor Pawlenty's a moderate since he hails from such a liberal-leaning state, but in fact his record is consistently conservative. Since he ran as a conservative and governered as a conservative, it should be no surprise that he continues to lead as a conservative now. He feels strongly that President Obama and Congressional Democrats are leading the country in the wrong direction on health care and deficit spending, and he's going to say so."
The GOP learns from Obama, as The Des Moines Register reports in a story on David Plouffe:

Through Organizing for America, the Obama campaign’s successor, he’s working to foster citizen-level advocacy. “You watched us – we put a huge premium on the campaign of people talking to people. We didn’t think there was any more important kind of political communication than that,” he said. “And we still believe that.”

Whatever you think of Obama’s policies, anyone interested in presidential politics would be wise to study his 2008 campaign tactics. We’ll be seeing them again in 2012 – in some of the Republican campaigns.

The son learns from the father, as AP reports:

Former presidential candidate Ron Paul's son is borrowing a page from his father's playbook for his U.S. Senate bid, leaning heavily on Internet fundraising and tapping the enthusiasm of young Republicans on college campuses.

The difference this time is that it could actually work. Eye surgeon Rand Paul, once ignored as a longshot, raised more than his main 2010 GOP primary opponent in the most recent fundraising period, and experts say he has a legitimate shot at winning the Senate seat being vacated by colorful Republican Jim Bunning.

"On some levels, it's more than a grass roots campaign," said Western Kentucky University political scientist Scott Lasley. "It's a guerrilla campaign. It's not the easiest to compete against."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

GOP Leads in Gallup's Generic Congressional Ballot

It is a little less than a year away from the midterm, and "generic vote" does not automatically translate into election results, but the latest numbers from Gallup are significant for the GOP:
Republicans have moved ahead of Democrats by 48% to 44% among registered voters in the latest update on Gallup's generic congressional ballot for the 2010 House elections, after trailing by six points in July and two points last month.

The Nov. 5-8 update comes just after Republican victories in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial elections, which saw Republicans replace Democrats as governors of those states.

As was the case in last Tuesday's gubernatorial elections, independents are helping the Republicans' cause. In the latest poll, independent registered voters favor the Republican candidate by 52% to 30%. Both parties maintain similar loyalty from their bases, with 91% of Democratic registered voters preferring the Democratic candidate and 93% of Republican voters preferring the Republican.

Over the course of the year, independents' preference for the Republican candidate in their districts has grown, from a 1-point advantage in July to the current 22-point gap.

Noting that the survey included registered voters, not likely voters, Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones adds: "Gallup will not begin to model likely turnout until much closer to the 2010 elections, but given that Republicans usually have a turnout advantage, if normal turnout patterns prevail in the coming election, prospects for a good Democratic showing appear slim."

Three years ago, Gallup analyst David Moore pointed out that "our experience over the past two mid-term elections, in 1998 and 2002, suggests that the RV [registered voters rather than likely voters] numbers tend to overstate the Democratic margin by about ten and a half percentage points."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 22

In an interview with Jake Tapper of ABC, the president uses the language of business management to describe the war in Afghanistan:
I have an obligation as commander-in-chief to make sure that whatever investments we make are leading to a safer United States, are sustainable, that we have a strategy to make sure that Afghans are carrying the burden of their own security, that we have an effective partnership with Pakistan that is working to achieve our goals in the entire region and that we're not working at cross purposes, that issues of corruption are dealt with, that we are identifying not just a national government in Kabul, but provincial government actors that have legitimacy in the right now.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Explaining Bittergate

Mayhill Fowler, the citizen journalist who broke the news of Barack Obama's comments about "bitter" working-class people who cling to guns and religion, reveals the likely origin of those remarks. As she writes in The Huffington Post, Pennsylvania reporter John Mullane pointed her to a New York Times Magazine article:

As is clear from Obama's remarks at the San Francisco fundraiser, he had that same Sunday, on the flight to San Francisco, been reading in the New York Times Sunday magazine Michael Sokolove's engrossing essay on returning to Levittown, where Sokolove had grown up, and finding the old working class community not particularly disposed to Obama. According to Mullane, after the town hall meeting in Levittown Obama had planned to stop by Gleason's Bar, where Sokolove had conversed with the locals. "Eight men sat around the bar, and not one of them supported Obama," Sokolove had written. Mullane said that in setting up the Gleason's stop the campaign staff had told the bar staff that Obama really wanted to talk to Steve Woods, the Gleason's habitué whose negativity had been particularly colorful. "Rapid fire, he told me the issues he cared about," Sokolove wrote. "'No. 1, gas prices. It's killing everybody. No. 2, immigrants. They should go back to Mexico. Three, guns. Everybody should have the right to bear arms. In fact, everyone should have a gun in this day and age,'" Woods had said. But, as is often the case with campaign schedules, Obama was running very late that Wednesday and never got the chance to swing by Gleason's Bar and meet Steve Woods.

"That's why Obama said what he did in San Francisco," Mullane told me. "He was thinking about Steve Woods. He'd just read about Woods in Sokolove's piece. Did you notice that Obama in San Francisco echoed both Woods and Sokolove?"

Texas Switch

AP reports a party switch in Texas with potentially significant consequences in the statehouse (emphasis added):

State Rep. Chuck Hopson says he's leaving the Democratic Party and becoming a Republican. Hopson says President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress don't reflect the conservative values of his East Texas district. Hopson, in a telephone interview from Jacksonville, said Friday that more than 70 percent of voters in his district voted for Republican John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.The decision is a blow for the Texas Democratic Party. The split in the Texas House was a narrow 76-74 in favor of the GOP. State Democratic Party chairman Boyd Richie said that he's disappointed but still confident Democrats will gain control of the House with next year's election.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The White House and the Permanent Campaign

The Washington Post profiles White House political director Patrick Gaspard. Unlike other White House aides, he has a calm and low-key style. It quotes deputy chief of staff Jim Messina on another difference.

Gaspard is an unlikely political director in other ways. He is not, people close to him said, obsessed with obscure House races, and can tire of endless talk of polling numbers involving distant contests. He began to settle into his role this summer, other advisers said, when the Obama political operation got involved in promoting health-care reform. "We are all campaign hacks," Messina said. "Patrick is a movement guy. He really came up through the movement and the grassroots."
Forbes columnist Dan Gerstein sees trouble:

Now, new presidents always bring trusted campaign advisers into their administrations. But they usually mix them with a range of serious governing professionals, who come with a very different ethos, to balance out the politicos and bring diverse perspectives into the presidential inner circle. This White House is disproportionately different. But Obama's West Wing is devoid of governing wise men (think Leon Panetta for Bill Clinton, James Baker for the first George Bush and Clark Clifford for multiple Democrats). It is stocked almost exclusively with political pros and a handful of Friends of Barack whose main and often dominant frame of reference is partisan or personal. ... What's missing from this group, besides diversity of experience and interests, is a senior adviser or two with an independent point of view who could carry Obama's post-partisan portfolio. Someone who would wake up every day thinking about how to form broad-based coalitions, to deepen the confidence and trust of independents and non-rabid Republicans in government, and push Obama to honor his promise to change politics-as-usual in Washington. Or at minimum, someone not ingrained or trained to think that the Republicans are the enemy.

From what I can tell, this void has left the Obama White House with a blind spot that has hurt the president and his agenda.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The House Health Bill

(Photo by Jesse Blumenthal)

From The Politico:
It runs more pages than War and Peace, has nearly five times as many words as the Torah, and its tables of contents alone run far longer than this story. The House health care bill unveiled Thursday clocks in at 1,990 pages and about 400,000 words. With an estimated 10-year cost of $894 billion, that comes out to about $2.24 million per word.

Organizing for America

In California's Inland Empire, Organizing for America -- a DNC grassroots group that is the successor to the Obama campaign --is working for the president's health proposals:
Cal State San Bernardino student Torrey Reed was only too happy to oblige when an Obama organizer stopped him on a campus walkway last week and asked him to immediately open his cell phone and tell his senator he supported health care reform.The organizer gave him the number and told him what to expect from the staffer who answered. "It's the first time I've felt like I really had an impact on something," said Reed, 21, of Moreno Valley.

Similar, brief interactions occurred a few hundred thousand times last week as an army of volunteers fanned out across the country to drum up support for President Barack Obama's top political priority.

"I know organizers everywhere are going through the same type of stuff," said Tommy Purvis, 30, San Bernardino County's main organizer for Organizing For America, a national volunteer group advocating for health care reform and other parts of Obama's agenda.

Last week, the OFA orchestrated a national "day of action," visiting college, public parks and even ferry boats to get Obama supporters to call Congress and say they support health care reform. It's that kind of push that the OFA hopes will keep Obama's agenda on track.

A big problem, however, is that there is no single bill to rally around. Moreover, reports The New Republic:

Obama's people had created something both entirely new and entirely old: an Internet version of the top-down political machines built by Richard Daley in Chicago or Boss Tweed in New York. The difference (other than technology) was that this new machine would rely on ideological loyalty, not patronage. And that was a big difference. The old machines survived as top-down organizations because they gave people on the bottom something tangible in return for their participation. By contrast, successful organizations built mainly on shared philosophy tend to be driven by their memberships. Marshall Ganz, the legendary United Farm Workers organizer-turned-Harvard-professor and godfather of the Obama field strategy--he helped orchestrate Camp Obama, a grassroots training program for staff and volunteers--sees the command-and-control nature of OFA as a crucial flaw. "It's much more an instrument of mobilizing the bottom to serve the top than organizing the bottom to participate in shaping the direction of the top," he told me.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 21

This past week, NBC aired Savannah Guthrie's interview with the president. The White House website does not include a transcript, and only partial transcripts are available on non-subscription sites:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Base Hit

Democracy Corps recently did a focus groups of Atlanta-area Republicans aged 45-60. The group issued a report that got a modicum of attention during a slow-news weekend. Authors
Stanley B. Greenberg, James Carville, Karl Agne, and Jim Gerstein reach these conclusions:
[T]hese voters identify themselves as part of a ‘mocked’ minority with a set of shared beliefs and knowledge, and commitment to oppose Obama that sets them apart from the majority in the country. They believe Obama is ruthlessly advancing a ‘secret agenda’ to bankrupt the United States and dramatically expand government control to an extent nothing short of socialism. While these voters are disdainful of a Republican Party they view to have failed in its mission, they overwhelmingly view a successful Obama presidency as the destruction of this country’s founding principles and are committed to seeing the president fail.
To their credit, Greenberg and company do not resort to the tired charge that conservatives are racist. On the contrary, they write: "[W]e allowed for extended open-ended discussion on Obama (including visuals of him The Very Separate World speaking) among voters – older, non-college, white, and conservative – who were most race conscious and score highest on scales measuring racial prejudice. Race was barely raised, certainly not what was bothering them about President Obama."

In general, though, the report's tone is critical. It suggests that "mocked minority" belief is evidence that the Republicans are out of touch. Perhaps the authors are the ones out of touch. Evidently, they don't watch The Daily Show or The Colbert Report.

The focus group members worry about the abrupt growth of government. While other Americans might not use words such as "socialist," they are also concerned. Says Gallup: "New Gallup data show that 57% of Americans say the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to businesses and individuals, and 45% say there is too much government regulation of business. Both reflect the highest such readings in more than a decade."

The authors are probably correct, however, that Republican base voters differ from independents in certain ways. But so what? So do Democratic base voters. According to one poll, 35 percent of Democrats believe in the core idea of "truther" conspiracy theory, the idea that President Bush had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks. The authors say that GOP base voters "are actively rooting for Obama to fail as president," though they do not quote any focus group members actually saying that. The "they want him to fail" charge seems to be another way of saying that they disagree with the president's policies. Are such sentiments really that outrageous? Base Democrats would have said the same thing about President Bush. Indeed, one of them was Carville himself, who said "I certainly hope he doesn't succeed."

So what we have here is a finding that base voters are base voters. Tune in next week, when we learn that Yankees fans tend to root for Bronx-based teams.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Feuds Within Feuds

On September 15, this blog noted a couple of likely reasons for Bill Clinton's endorsement of Gavin Newsom in the California Democratic gubernatorial primary. First, Newsom foe Jerry Brown had harshly attacked the Clintons in the 1992 presidential primaries. Second, Newsom had endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primaries (perhaps payback for a perceived snub by Obama). Now Sherry Jeffe adds:
The Clinton-Brown grudge isn’t the only feud in play. Just days before Clinton came to California, DreamWorks founders and Hollywood powerhouses Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen endorsed Brown for governor and announced plans to host a mega-fundraiser for him.

Why? As Andy Spahn, their political consultant, told Variety, the three believe that Brown “is the best-qualified candidate to fix the mess in Sacramento.” They also contributed to Brown’s attorney general campaign fund.

Yes, but... could the trio’s endorsement have something to do with the rift between Geffen and the Clintons, which widened when Geffen hosted a fundraiser for Obama in late 2007? Those certainly weren’t healing words that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd quoted Geffen as saying: “Everybody in politics lies, but [the Clintons] do it with such ease, it’s troubling.”

Friday, October 16, 2009

GOP 2012

Rasmussen reports the preferences of likely GOP primary voters for their party's 2012 nomination:
  • Huckabee 29%
  • Romney 24%
  • Palin 18%
  • Gingrich 14%
  • Pawlenty 4%
  • Some other candidate 6%
  • Not sure 7%

Obviously, one campaign sets the table for the next. The top three were all players in 2008. Rasumssen also notes that Huckabee seems to be gaining at Palin's expense. Still, one should not make too much of these numbers. At this stage in the 2008 race (i.e., the fall of 2005), Huckabee was largely unknown outside conservative evangelical circles, and Palin was still the mayor of Wasilla.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wine Track Districts

In Epic Journey, we discuss Barack Obama's appeal to "wine track" voters. A new USA Today analysis suggests that the Democratic majority in the House rests on an wine track/poverty track coalition:
The Democratic-controlled House is now an unusual combination of the richest and poorest districts, the best and least educated, and the best and the worst insured. The analysis found that Democrats have attracted educated, affluent whites who had tended previously to vote Republican.Democrats now represent 57% of the 4.8 million households that had incomes of $200,000 or more in 2008. In 2005, Republicans represented 55% of those affluent households. ... "The story is really education," says David Wasserman of the non-partisan Cook Political Report.He says "educated, wine-drinking Democrats" and poorer minority voters are an effective coalition because both groups are increasing in numbers. Even so, Wasserman expects Democrats to lose up to two dozen seats in the 2010 congressional elections, especially in poorer, white districts."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More Omens for 2010?

Gallup reports some good news for the congressional GOP:
Roughly a year before the 2010 midterm elections, Gallup finds the Republican and Democratic Parties nearly tied in the congressional ballot preferences of registered voters. Forty-six percent of registered voters say they would vote for the Democrat and 44% say the Republican when asked which party's candidate they would support for Congress, if the election were held today.

Other Gallup data suggest one reason for the change:
Americans' approval of the job Congress is doing is at 21% this month, down significantly from last month's 31% and from the recent high of 39% in March.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Scots-Irish

Cameron Joseph has a perceptive analysis of the Scots-Irish vote at The Atlantic:

The populist fury aimed at President Obama and his fellow Democrats may have roots much deeper than health care. In fact, it may be that it can be traced back to the emigration of the Scots-Irish, the first white group to settle interior America.They've been called rednecks, hillbillies and crackers. In the modern parlance of political correctness, they've been referred to as the Bubba vote. They live in Sarah Palin's "real America," and they make up the majority of Reagan Democrats. They count as distant relatives at least twelve U.S. presidents, from Andrew Jackson to Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton and even to Barack Obama, yet the Scots-Irish remain largely ignored as an ethnic group in America

Friday, October 2, 2009

Chicago Hopeless

Chicago's loss of the Olympics is a political problem for President Obama. His efforts went far beyond the last-minute Copenhagen trip.

From a press pool report on June 6, 2008:
Sen. Barack Obama made a surprise public appearance in Chicago today, speaking for about 5 minutes just after 12 pm at a downtown event to rally Chicagoans around their city's bid for the 2016 Olympics. Chicago is one of four cities being considered for the Olympic Games (the others are Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, and Madrid). “It's a good time to be in Chicago,” Mr. Obama started off.“White Sox are winning. Cubs are winning. And Chicago's going to win the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics. And your senator, he's winning too.”

From the Chicago Tribune, November 21, 2008:
It didn't take long for Barack Obama to start playing a significant role in promoting Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics.About 15 minutes into Chicago's Friday presentation of its bid plans to the general assembly of the European Olympic Committees, the president elect gave an 85-second videotaped address to an audience that included some two dozen International Olympic Committee members. ... ``While I am unable to be there in person, I wanted to take this opportunity to speak with you because I deeply believe in the Olympic movement and have long supported hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games in my home city of Chicago.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Byron York nicely sums up why Mitt Romney is probably running again:
So if you list the things politicians do when they're in the early stages of a presidential run -- well, Romney qualifies.
Political action committee? Check.
Fundraising for GOP candidates? Check.
Courting party activists? Check.
Profile-raising book? Check.
TV appearances? Check.
But Andy Barr explains an obstacle that did not loom as large in the 2008 campaign:
Three years ago, Romney was heralded for his innovative effort to institute near-universal health care in his state. But now that the issue has emerged as a partisan fault line and the Massachusetts plan has provided some guidance for Democratic reform efforts, Romney finds himself bruised and on the defensive as the GOP rallies around opposition to President Barack Obama’s plans.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Positive Signs for the GOP

As we describe in Epic Journey, President Obama and his party enjoyed stunning success with fundraising in 2008. But now the Republicans seem to be doing a little better. According to the Washington Post:
As the battle over President Obama's effort to overhaul the health-care system reached a fever pitch this summer, the three national Republican committees combined to bring in $1.7 million more than their Democratic counterparts in August. The pair of Democratic committees tasked with raising money for House and Senate candidates -- and doing so at a time when the party holds its strongest position on Capitol Hill in a generation -- have watched their receipts plummet by a combined 20 percent with little more than a year to go before the November 2010 midterm elections.
The polls also show a shift in the political breeze. Gallup reports:
The Republican Party's image -- quite tattered in the first few months after the 2008 elections -- has seen some recent improvement. Forty percent of Americans now hold a favorable view of the Republicans, up from 34% in May. The Republicans still trail the Democrats on this popularity measure, as 51% of Americans now view the Democrats favorably. With the Democrats' favorable rating dipping slightly since last November, their advantage has narrowed.
One reason may be increased attention to terrorism, an issue where the GOP has at least a modest advantage. Gallup again:
Americans continue to give the Republican Party a slight edge over the Democratic Party -- 49% vs. 42% -- in their perceptions of the party that will better protect the United States from international terrorism and military threats. The Republicans' edge on this issue is unchanged from last year but has diminished from earlier in the decade.
Economic conservatism may also work to the party's advantage. Still more Gallup:
Americans are more likely today than in the recent past to believe that government is taking on too much responsibility for solving the nation's problems and is over-regulating business. New Gallup data show that 57% of Americans say the government is trying to do too many things that should be left to businesses and individuals, and 45% say there is too much government regulation of business. Both reflect the highest such readings in more than a decade.