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.
This blog continues the discussion that we began with Epic Journey: The 2008 Elections and American Politics (Rowman and Littlefield, 2009).The latest book in this series is Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Obama on Intelligence and Terror
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
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.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.
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.
Monday, December 28, 2009
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.For a scholarly analysis of President Obama's travel, see The White House Transition Project.
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.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Population and Trends in the Electoral College
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Filling Gaps in the White House Website, Part 27
Friday, December 18, 2009
Polls Show Rightward Shift
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
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
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
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.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The Beer Track and 2010
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
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.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Palin and Shatner
Friday, December 11, 2009
Polls, Obama, and the Democratic Party
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
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:
Among other domestic 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.
- 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?
[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.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Palin and Obama
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
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.
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
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."
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
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
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.