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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.