The 50 State Strategy is Good for Democracy and the Poor

>> Sunday, June 15, 2008

I have to confess that I have not read Kos’ book. I actually went to buy it once but it was not in stock. All of this may be in his book but I have no idea. What I am going to write about is the effect of the 50 state strategy not on the electoral prospects of the Democratic Party but on the effect on the American Democracy as a whole. When politicos talk about electoral strategy and where to commit resources they take into consideration where they can make the best use of them to get their candidates and future candidates elected. What people do not seem to realize is that the expansion of the electoral map in a presidential campaign makes for a better democracy.

Kos has actually touched on this when he talks about the benefits of the primary. The benefits he cites are increased registration and the building of party infrastructure. What those two things represent is involvement. Those two things are about people becoming involved and engaged in the political process. The long and contested primary built up excitement and involvement in every state and territory it touched. The side effect of this increase in involvement is better knowledge and the increased likelihood of future participation. Once the initial barrier to involvement is breached the resistance becomes less each cycle until participation becomes the habit and not the exception.

One benefit that goes unremarked upon is an increase in voting among the lower income demographics.

“As acknowledged by political scientists and pundits alike, American voters comprise an unrepresentative sample of the nation; they are older, more affluent, better educated, and more likely to be white than they would be if everyone were to participate at equal rates”. (Gimpel et al 2007 787)

The problem with having this group make the decisions for everyone is that more often than not they make the decisions out of their own self interest. For people who do not fit this narrow cross section of America they are being left out of the process. These people are people who need the most help as they are typically at the bottom of the food chain, the poor, the minorities the young. These voices and interests were being neither herd nor represented. Having large segments of a countries population go unrepresented is not good for Democracy and does not contribute to a healthy polity. There are fewer people interested in keeping the government honest and holding it accountable.

More and more people were being left behind in the 90's because the prevailing electoral strategy and tactics were reinforcing the negative habits instead of correcting them. There are three basic reasons why people do not participate in politics. The reasons are that they can’t because they

lack necessary resources, they don’t want to because they lack sufficient interest or knowledge, and nobody asked them to because they fall outside of the traditional networks that rally voters (Gimpel et al 2007 787). The failure of the 90's affected all three of these reasons. The 90's saw the rise of large media ad buys and the atrophication of local and state party infrastructure. There was a focus on appealing to those voters with a solid reputation for turn out ignoring any idea of growing the base or targeting less traditionally vocal groups. The 50 state strategy is changing this.

Modern campaign tactics use technology to great effectiveness. Computerized voter lists, demographic patterns, the internet and email allow savy campaigns the ability to contact and organize more voters more efficiently than ever before. Combine these with grass root efforts to get everyone, lower income voters included, involved allows for increased political participation and thus a better democracy.

The premise is simple enough. The more people are involved with political campaigns and the political process the better citizens they become. Presidential campaigns are the biggest, most interesting, and best equipped to get people involved. Thus the more states the Presidential campaign is heavily active in the more people will become better citizens. This is why the 50 state strategy is better than the typical DLC Ohio-Florida-Penn strategy. Limiting the Presidential campaign to a very few states greatly reduces the contact voters out side of these traditional battleground states will have with the campaigns. Over the period of a few cycles these effects will accumulate and reduce the breadth of the voting demographic.

The recent research bears this difference between low income voters in battle ground vs non-battleground states out. 2004 might be considered the early development of the internet and computer campaigning combined with grass roots effort.

The conditional effects indicate that poor voters who live in battleground states report significantly
higher political interest levels than their low income brethren in safe states, particularly so in 2004. (Gimpel et al 2007 791)

On a 100 point scale they found a 9 point difference between the low income voters in bg vs nbg states when it comes to political interest. They also found that the contact levels for the low income voters in 2004 was different between those with traditional voter profiles and those without. The difference in contact between bg and nbg states for low income voters was a spectacular 36% in 2004. In competitive states the poor are being brought into the voting public but not in states considered safe. This obviously reduces their over all voice and representation weakening our Democracy.

There are other findings that reveal the importance of the campaigns presence in the state. Campaign involvement is 7 to 8 percentage points higher among low-income voters in the most competitive states in 2004 than it is in the safe states. An eight percentage point increase in turn out or participation in a group could have a major impact on an election. A consistent increase would more than likely lead politicians to consider the wants and needs of this group in a very serious way.

The divide between the bg and nbg states cannot be stressed enough. In the states where resources are committed people become more interested and participate more. In those bg states we get closer the classical picture of the citizen as an informed and enthusiastic participant in Democracy. In nbg states we see the apathy among the lower income citizens continue unchecked. The 50 state strategy will go some way towards changing this. What has started out as a means to get more and better democrats will bring with a better democracy simply by including and engaging a wider segment of the populace.

It all seemed very intuitive and yet the effect of the 50 state strategy on our Democracy was not something i had thought about. Sure if it gets the Republicans out of office then it is good for our country but it also increases the type of people the democrats will represent. It will give us a progressive majority. Corporate Dems will have a harder time getting elected if the poor actually become a political force. Our Democracy will be better of when it truly represents all of us and not just the rich old white Americans.

Ok, so this really is my last diary before my vacation.

James G. Gimpel, Karen M. Kaufmann, Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz (2007) Battleground States versus Blackout States: The Behavioral Implications of Modern Presidential Campaigns
The Journal of Politics 69 (3) , 786–797


McCain paying price for past soft treatment

>> Saturday, June 14, 2008

Much has been said about the way John McCain does not understand modern technology. He does not understand the internet or youtube or google. This aspect of McCain’s campaign is not due to his age. No, instead this is simply a sign of how little he has had to worry about campaigning in the past. McCain has developed a confidence is his campaign ability built upon his lauded 2000 campaign and his return from the near politically dead last year. He has fallen victim to his own hype. He has such confidence that the media will treat him wonderfully, after all he is John McCain.

The Republican Primary was not an especially great test of skill. Without the Reagan heir apparent George Allen the different wings of their coalition were split. The candidates were flawed and not that compelling. In addition, they lost a great deal of oxygen to the Democratic race. Also missing was any challenge to the ideas being presented. None of those candidates went out on a limb they all wanted to claim the Reagan mantle. McCain claimed the mantle of Reagan and proclaimed himself a conservative. McCain rode the division between the Romney and Huckabee sectors of the Gop to win the nomination.

McCain has really come to rely on the light treatment from the media. When he was campaigning in New Hampshire all we heard about where John McCain’s vaunted campaign skills. He was lauded for his ability to hold town hall after town hall to win support. It might be revisionist but I have to wonder just how good those town halls were. If they were anything like the town hall described in multiple diaries yesterday they could not have been very good. Digging at all beneath the surface of a town hall like that reveals how fragile the McCain mythos is.

McCain relies on never having to answer followup questions on his statements. It is what has come from soft media treatment. The followups are where the scrutiny is. When he is asked to clarify his answers are usually as bad as the original. That happened with his statement about it not being too important when troops are coming home and it happens with his 100 years in Iraq comment. When asked for any depth or insight on his statements McCain cannot offer any. He has never needed to before.

Now he does. In this race his opponents do not care that he is supposed to be a straight talker. His opponents do not care that he claims to be independent. In this cycle Dems will be hitting him on all of the stupid things he says. They will force the media to pay attention. Even if the tm never gets around to announcing McCain is unqualified people will pick it up because every day he will have to respond to another of his stupid statements. Stupid statement like this one

“I will look you in the eye and promise you that I will get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice,” McCain said in response to a direct question from one of the 2,000 people in attendance at the college’s Pemberton campus gym.

McCain said the key to ending the long search for bin Laden was to increase the number of human spies abroad.

“We need better human intelligence. We need people who can swim in the water,” McCain said.

That is a really, really stupid statement.

McCain now has to answer for those types of statements in a way he never has before. Yes the internet has played a role but so has the soft media treatment. It has made him overconfident and sloppy. He bought his own hype and now he is going to pay the price for that.


Will the Iraqis Kick US Out?

>> Friday, June 13, 2008

Every one should be following the story of the US-Iraqi SOFA. This agreement has major implications for the future of the US in Iraq and has some constitutional implications in both countries. As the self-imposed deadline over the completion of the agreement nears several important question are being asked. The most interesting of these is, “Will the Iraqi’s kick us out?”

In lithiumcola’s diary, he talks about the idea that the possible rejection of the SOFA by the Iraqi government is a positive sign for Democracy in Iraq. The problem is that once the people in Iraq start thinking that they should be running their own country agreements like SOFA where they are forced to fully subvert themselves to our will become very unpopular. A part of this thought is that the Iraqi people might very well decide to kick us out before we can get around to deciding we should leave.

Here is a brief summary of what the US is asking for in the agreement.

...the US wants its troops to have complete freedom of movement in the country, whereas the Iraqis want it to be limited. The Americans are said to be seeking to retain the right to dominate Iraqi air space up to 29,000 feet, and to gain open access to the land, air and water of Iraq. The US wants to retain the right to arrest and detain any Iraqi whom the US believes represents a security threat. Washington desires the right to launch military operations to chase terrorists without seeking Iraqi government permission. The US wants immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts for American troops, contractors and corporations in Iraq.

The US also wants to retain the right to define terrorism against Iraq. It does not want to give any undertaking that it will defend Iraq from any outside attack unless it is convinced about the nature of that attack. Likewise, it is not offering to safeguard the democratic regime in Iraq. -Juan Cole

These terms would definitely end any hope of Iraq gaining true democracy or becoming a functioning nation state. In addition, these terms would have had the effect of perpetuating our presence and control in Iraq far beyond the end of President Bush’s term. It was this aspect of the SOFA that sparked outrage here in the US. With the possibility of a coming Democratic administration and the possibility of withdrawal from Iraq, Bush sought any means available to cement our presence.

There is another reason beyond the possibility of an Obama administration that requires the SOFA between our two countries. In December, the UN mandate that provides the legal framework for our presence there will expire. The last time the UN mandate expired the US and al-Maliki went to the UN and got an extension. That will not be happening this time.

...the Iraqi parliament passed a resolution earlier this year, in May, stating that any United Nations renewal that doesn't come back to the parliament is illegal and unconstitutional. And they sent a letter one month before that to the Security Council to this effect. One hundred and forty-four Iraqi parliamentarians, which is more than half of the parliament, sent this letter saying that any renewal without coming to the parliament is unconstitutional. And they demanded to set a timetable for a withdrawal of all the multinational forces. Source

The Parliament has no interest in renewing the mandate. This includes members of al-Maliki’s own party. As the LAT describes

Officials in Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's ruling coalition are questioning whether Iraq needs a U.S. military presence even as the two countries press forward with high-pressure negotiations to determine how long American forces will remain.


Maliki's advisors are now asking aloud whether the American presence creates more trouble for Iraq with its Arab and Iranian neighbors or whether it safeguards the country's sovereignty, the Western official explained.

The recent campaigns in Basra, Sadr City and Mosul have emboldened the Iraqi’s confidence in their own abilities. While these beliefs may be totally unfounded, their presence combined with the beliefs of some that the US should not have been authorized previously and those who want a role more limited than the current US government is willing to accept has led to the formation of a coalition who just might do what our own legislators have been unable or unwilling to do, get us out of Iraq.

Opposition in Iraq has brought together the forces of al-Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Sadr’s supporters have been marching in the streets in opposition for some time now. Sadr has also decided to fight the agreement in a military fashion. He has formed a new militia dedicated to fighting the Occupier (Us). Sistani has sent his supporter into a Mosque in Karbala order to foment opposition to the agreement.

Opposition here at home has been mostly on the Democratic side.

Six senators, including the chairmen of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees and their ranking minority members have written Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the past week asking for transparency in the negotiations and more briefings. White House, State Department and Pentagon officials briefed lawmakers and staff members on the talks Tuesday.

"There's a tremendous amount of concern up here about the state of these negotiations. ... It's been expressed repeatedly," said a senior congressional staffer, who requested anonymity. He noted that their appeared to be growing talk in Iraq of simply extending the U.N. mandate.

A spokesman for Obama (D-Ill) said any long-term U.S. security commitment to Iraq must be subject to Congressional approval; alternatively the administration should seek an extension of the current UN mandate. Obama wants a new administration to make it "absolutely clear that the United States will not maintain permanent bases in Iraq," said spokesman Bill Burton. Source

This does not mean that the Republicans are totally on board. When this was, being talked about in April even some Republicans realized that reaching the agreement without getting approval from congress is just a bad idea.

Senator George Voinovich, an Ohio Republican, warned Satterfield that the level of congressional concern could jeopardize the pact.

"From my perspective and from what I am picking up from my colleagues, it is not going to happen, and it is going to turn into a big political thing between now and the election, and I think in the long run could even hurt the situation rather than help the situation," said George Voinovich. "I'm saying, 'look at reality.'"

Voinovich suggested the administration ask the United Nations to extend its mandate authorizing the U.S.-led military mission for several more months, after a new U.S. president is seated. Source

We already know that the UN thing is not going to happen. It will be interesting to see how the Republicans treat this going forward. What will they do when the mandate runs out any we are left without a justification for our being there. Will they demand we stay there in defiance of international law? McCain is on record as saying

"I am confident that I can convince the American People that the consequences of a date for withdrawal are catastrophe and Al Qaeda trumpets that they win. I believe I can convince the American people that after nearly four years of mishandling the war, that we're now doing the right thing and are succeeding. I think I can convince the American people that by continuing with this strategy, we will be able to withdraw more troops" and then proceeded to say he didn't think it was an issue whether or not Bush went to Congress on a plan to say in Iraq long-term, saying, "We have status of force agreements with countries that have never been approved by Congress." [ABC's This Week, 2/17/08]

Will al-Qaeda claim to have won if Iraq decides to use their sovereignty over their own country to kick us out? Under the rhetoric of McCain and Bush we would have to really take over Iraq and have a real occupation. I cannot see how this would pass muster even with the craziest of the right wing. Therefore, if we cannot reach an agreement then we are looking at being kicked out of Iraq.

It would be poetic Justice to have Bush and the Republicans shown up by the Iraqi people themselves. The rhetoric of the right is never truly concerned with the Iraqi people. The discussion of Iraq has always been conducted based on the assumption that we can stay as long as we want. It turns out that our puppet regime is not such a puppet after all.


McCain Win Bad for GOP?

In the pundit links presented on the DKos front page there was an article on theorizing on the effects of a McCain win for the GOP. I read that article and have to say it was not all that good. The biggest issue I had with it is that it rested on some very poor assumptions. It required assumptions like McCain would not govern as a conservative and that the Obama loss would not hurt Dems so bad. As I read the piece, I could not help but think, “Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.” A McCain win would be a disaster for everyone so if it is worse for the GOP (which i contend it is not) it is only worse in the way losing your health, house and your job is worse than losing your house and your job.

The title of the article is Why a McCain Win May Be Bad for GOP, Good for Democrats. That alone should start up that skepticism. Here is the premise for the article

In the worst-case scenario, a McCain victory in November could likely lead to a Republican bloodletting that would tear apart the GOP well before 2012, contribute to another good Democratic election in 2010 and hand Democrats such a strong advantage during redistricting that Republicans wouldn't be able to recover for years.

What I think is immediately absent here is that the GOP needs a little bloodletting. They have grown stale and old relying on the same old worn tactics and strategies. They need new blood and new ideas and the only way to get those is through some strife and a little upheaval. The type of change needed in the GOP will not come easily just as the change in the Dems from DLC to Dean/Obama was not an easy change.

I also think that the premise misses the fact that the current climate for the Republicans is so bad that it is hard for it to get worse. That is the basic theory of the article that McCain would make it so bad that no one would ever want to vote Republican and that the party itself would be fractured. That might be true but I think that a McCain win would just be postponing the GOP shakeup and rebuilding. The Republicans are playing out a cycle where their ideas and programs have been in power since Reagan. They have had the same players and leaders for the last 20 odd years with people like McCain being one of them. A McCain win would be bad because it prevents the GOP from performing any self evaluation and making the changes it has to in order to compete in the future.

The article really goes down hill from there because it is predicated on the idea that McCain really is a Maverick.

The scenario is simple: McCain wins and immediately follows his own instincts - meaning he tries to patch together a series of coalitions on ethics, immigration, spending and global warming.
The one thing that is sure is that a McCain presidency wouldn't merely be a "third Bush term." That's a smart campaign slogan for Democrats, and it should be effective.

But anyone who knows McCain and has followed his efforts over the years - including his 2000 campaign against George W. Bush - knows that, if the Arizonan gets to the White House, he'll follow his own instincts, not the current president's road map.

What this overlooks is that McCain has spent the past eight years moving to the right and cozying up with Bush. McCain has sold out on numerous issues to make his run for the presidency. Almost everything people ever thought McCain stood for has been thrown aside in his quest for the presidency. McCain is not the McCain of 2000 and he is not a Dem in Republican clothing. McCain really will run a third Bush term on the things that matter like the war in Iraq. He has also shown that he is not really committed to ethics as his campaign is run by lobbyists and he has a zero rating on the environment so how much work he will do on Global Warming is not clear.

The article refers repeatedly to the idea that McCain is closer to Dems than the Republicans are but he is not proving that in his campaign. I guess it is not out of the question that once in power he will flop back the other way to some other position on issues like immigration or campaign finance or ethics or not torturing people.

This is how the article treats the effect of the Obama loss on Dems.

Of course, Democrats won't want to lose the '08 presidential race and a chance to end the war in Iraq in the hope of solidifying themselves for a decade. And an Obama defeat surely would produce its own round of Democratic recrimination and finger-pointing. But ultimately, an Obama defeat wouldn't damage Democrats the way it eventually would Republicans.

That is it? I think that this is a vast understatement referring to the consequences of an Obama loss. At the very least the 50 state strategy that Dean and Obama and the net roots has advocated and fought for would be thrown out. An Obama loss would also set back the cause of African American politicians for a long time. It would prove the nay sayers right that America is just not ready for a Black president. It would allow Clinton a big, “I told you so.” This vindication would vault her to the top of those candidates for 2012. It would destroy the enthusiasm and commitment of the young voters and activists who have fought for Barack in every state across the county. An Obama loss would not be a small thing for the Democratic Party.

If the Dems cannot win now would we really expect them to win in 2012? The situation is as good as it has ever been for the Dems. To think that if they blow it now they will get a better shot in 2012 is nonsense. We have the most money, the worst president, the most energizing candidate, we oppose the oldest candidate, the country is ready for change. If not now when? No, a loss to McCain would not simply be setting us up for a bigger win later.

An Obama loss would not only be a devastating tragedy for Dems but it would also be a tragedy for our county. McCain has no intention of ever getting us out of Iraq and all of his policy ideas now seem to be straight from the GOP playbook. The country cannot withstand another four years of these devastating policies designed to raid our treasury and create true class separation in our country. McCain would not do anything about the corruption that pervades the executive branch, as he would more than likely retain many of those people. McCain would be a disaster. So yes, a McCain win would be bad for the GOP because it prevents it from starting the rebuilding process. However, his win would be a disaster for our country and for Democrats.


No Ceremony for Those Who Marry in Kings, Kern, Butte

>> Thursday, June 12, 2008

Three counties in California will not be performing ceremonies for Gay couples who wish to marry. A previous diary on Kos detailed that Kern County Auditor-Controller-County Clerk Ann Barnett has stopped performing ceremonies for couples who want to marry with a civil service. Not reported was that the symbolic gesture appeared to be spreading as Merced, Butte and Kings Counties also said they will cease performing ceremonies. However, an in depth look at the situation reveals the possibility that only Kern and Kings appear to be refusing out of anti-gay sentiment.

The official reason cited by these counties is budgetary concerns. If we examine the budget for Butte county, we find that Butte did in fact have an $8,447 difference in the amount budgeted for services and supplies and the amount requested for the 07-08 fiscal year. Also denied was a request for two additional positions. A search around the net reveals that the situation in Butte seems to be a legitimate decision in response to budgetary concerns. Dagon at spoke to Candace J. Grubbs, the elected Clerk-Recorder, on Monday June 9, 2008. She reported that

After the Primary Election, her office found itself in a budget crunch. They had to leave positions unfilled. She had to look at all the duties of her job and see what she could NOT do and get by. Wedding ceremonies are a "may" ,not a "must do" for Clerk-Recorders. Plus, Ms. Grubbs sees herself as in competition with the private sector ... not only religious folks, but also non-religious folk AND the "deputies for a day."

In California, for a small fee through Ms. Grubbs office, ANYONE may officiate at a single wedding. They apply, get trained in how to fill out the paper work, and officiate at the one wedding. Way cool. Ms. Grubbs thinks this is so much more personal and pleasant an option than one of her staff, unknown to the couple, officiating at the nuptials.

Dagon is of the opinion that Grubbs is sincere and not doing this out of some desire to symbolically thwart the marriage of same sex couples. In response to that question about Ms. Grubbs, Dagon said,

But I spent a good 15+ minutes on the phone with Ms. Grubbs this morning. I probed this way and that. She sure had all the correct answers of a good business woman and a non-homophobe. I did not pick up ANY bias at all in her decision to stop the ceremonies ... none at all. And I was looking for it.

She did not know me from Adam. She knew I was not a reporter and did live in the county. That is all she knew about me. But we had a most pleasant time on the phone ... well I was migraining and not speaking very clearly so I had the sympathy thing going for me. But I really and truly did not pick up any bias.

And at Chico Pride Fest on Saturday, there were fliers around from Wedding Planners ready to provide you with a male or female officiate for your ceremony. There is a private sector in Butte County to provide wedding ceremonies.

And the "deputy for a day" for wedding ceremonies is "must" for the Clerk's office ... she has to provide that service.

I am almost convinced that budgetary problems are not a fig leaf to hide the real intent of Ms. Grubbs. Still, I remain somewhat skeptical. The services cost $37 each and it seems like it would be a way of making money to help cover some of the budget shortfall. It is possible however, that Ms. Grubs duties do not allot enough time to perform the ceremonies and complete her other duties. Cursory research found that ceremonies took anywhere from 10-30 minutes to perform. Ms. Grubbs estimated 200 ceremonies a year. That does not seem like an inordinate amount of time, especially as there is not likely to be more than two on any given day.

Something that may or may not lead credence to the actions of Ms. Grubbs is what happened in Merced. Stephen Jones, the clerk for Merced had originally declared he too would cease ceremonies over budgetary concerns. He received immediate pressure to reverse his decision. He eventually did so after receiving another clerk position to perform weddings and some additional space. His office performs 500 weddings a year. Note though that he too is suspected of acting initially out of anti-gay sentiment but being undercut when his excuse was erased.

Jones sent an e-mail Thursday morning to Dee Tatum, county chief executive officer, and the Board of Supervisors outlining his decision to stop performing weddings.

In his response, sent before Jones announced plans to stop performing marriages, Tatum wrote, “If space is a problem, then certainly we can make (room) 301 available and 310, as well as the board chambers when it is not in use.”

Tatum added, “I would suggest before you take this step to see if this is legally defensible. I place no value on whether marriages are right or wrong or should be conducted or not. We, the organization, will certainly be asked why after all these years we have taken this step.”

The same article that gives the information on Jones also includes a quote from another clerk regarding the financial implications of performing the ceremonies.

Contrary to the claim from Kern County that the ceremonies are a drain on resources, Weir, the clerk in Contra Costa County, said they make money.
"It is a financial plus," said Weir, whose office makes $72,000 a year solemnizing marriages at $60 a pop. "It's something you can do fairly easily, pays its own way and is a service you are providing to your customer."

There are a couple possible sets implications from this information. The first is that Butte is not charging enough for the ceremony or that the private sector there is forcing them out of business by undercutting them. The second is that Ms. Grubbs is using the cessation of ceremonies as leverage for more resources in her budget battle with the county. If enough pressure is applied to start up the ceremonies, she may get the money for the positions she wanted. The last possibility is that Grubbs was simply lying and fooled Dagon.

Circumstantial evidence suggests that the last possibility is not highly unlikely Proposition 22 was passed in Butte 69-31. In comparison, Kern County was 80 and Merced County voters supported it with 77 percent voting in favor. The proposition passed statewide with 61 percent of the vote.

What is not in dispute is that the Kern County Auditor/Controller/County Clerk Ann Barnett is definitely doing this out of a desire to symbolically thwart same sex couples right to marry. She went as far as she could to avoid aiding the couples in any manner and when that failed, she canceled all the services. She ended up canceling 25 heterosexual ceremonies that had been scheduled after June 13 to prevent the same sex couples from getting their ceremonies.

Kern County is a notoriously conservative place and that someone in this county would refuse to abide by the law when it comes to equal rights for homosexuals should have almost been expected. I do not expect that the end to ceremonies will last particularly long. There is enormous pressure, if not in Kern, from the State that wants to see the courts ruling enforced as a matter of precedent and keeping law and order. Ann Barnett will have to do the ceremonies or resign. Her budgetary excuse is utter nonsense.

Little information exists about the situation in king county. the most commonly cited information is this

The clerk in Kings County has indicated he does not plan to grant the new licenses until the Court of Appeals takes that step, said Stephen Weir, president of the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials.

Kings County has a notice on its Web site saying it does "not anticipate any changes in our current marriage license procedures until such time as the lower court's implementation rulings take effect."

The legal question Kings County is using is a question over the Supreme Court's decision ordering a lower-level court, that had upheld California’s law on traditional marriage, to issue a new order favoring gay marriage. There is debate about when that appeals court must comply. Kings County is taking the position that it does not have to issue gay marriage licenses until that court issues the revised order. Not sure how long that will hold up.


Will Immigration Return as a Major Electoral Issue?

>> Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Simmering below the surface of American politics for the last few decades has been the topic of Illegal immigration. After the attempt at comprehensive reform fell apart the issue seems to have dropped off the table. However I doubt that this will be the case for the entire duration of the election season. I predict illegal immigration will be making a return as a major electoral issue.

The first thing that makes me believe that immigration will return as an issue is that it is something that needs to be dealt with. As a country we need to have a legitimate policy in place and the one we have now creates only problems. Our policy has created a human rights issue with virtual slavery for a segment of the population. Both sides want to see something done on this issue though what should be done is a matter of dispute. The issue seems to be bigger with the right wing than it does with liberals on the left but if the right starts hammering on the issue the left will have no choice to respond.

Evidence of the importance of immigration is the multitude of articles on the subject that come out in major papers every week. There are articles about the new electronic border fence and about immigration in Spain. There are also articles that deal with the local tactics taken by police agencies around the country. Immigration is an issue that simmers below the surface and bubbles to the surface on a regular basis.

Its no real wonder though as to why the issue has become so important. The answer comes down to economics and economic insecurity. In times when the economy heads south the lower wage unskilled jobs dry up. This causes conflict and scapegoating in the lower economic groups. These groups are more than likely minority groups and that causes more tension. Immigration becomes a wedge issue at that point allowing one group to be pitted against another, tailor made GOP politics.

There are factors that have developed that will influence the likelihood that immigration becomes an issue. The first is the nomination of John McCain. John McCain made some political hay when he joined with Ted Kennedy to work on comprehensive immigration reform. He took major flak from the right for this and it is cited as a major cause in his near elimination from the GOP primary last year. After that he backed off the topic and became a very “border first” candidate talking about securing the border and not much else. The issue of immigration was a major one in the GOP primary with most of the candidates running on the deport them all platform.

After securing the nomination Sen. McCain seems to want to get back to the idea of comprehensive immigration. In March at a speech in Silicon Valley California McCain had this to say,

“I believe we have to secure our borders, and I think most Americans agree with that, because it’s a matter of national security. But we must enact comprehensive immigration reform. We must make it a top agenda item if we don’t do it before, and we probably won’t, a little straight talk, as of January 2009.”

McCain seems to be committed to this, at least in front of a friendly audience. The second thing about McCain that makes me believe he will be very interested in using immigration as his issue is his perception that the Latino community is vulnerable to being pulled away from the Dems. The catalyst for this line of thought was the Democratic Primary where Hillary Clinton won a significant majority of the Latino Vote versus Obama. This is not a guarantee that they will vote for McCain but it does offer a better chance than if they had all voted for Obama.

Targeting Latino voters also plays into the overall McCain strategy of appealing to disenchanted Dems who are former Clinton voters angry at her defeat. McCain’s own strategy video highlighted how his campaign perceives his strength on immigration and how he wants to target these soft Dems. Another reason to target these Latino and soft Dems is that is also combines well with his idea that California is vulnerable.

There have been rumblings that the McCain camp thinks California is vulnerable because of a combination of independents, who the McCain camp thinks he can win, Latinos and, angry Clinton voters. It might end up being his white whale. Regardless of whether he goes after California, winning a large section of the Latino vote helps him in New Mexico and also helps him protect any potential issues in Texas.

Admittedly, there are issues with McCain’s potential use of immigration as an issue. The first is that the right hates the position that McCain would take to go after the Latino vote. McCain has shown a remarkable unwillingness to take stands against the GOP since assuming the nomination. Then again Bush was on the side of immigration reform so it would be consistent with his attempts to carry out a third Bush term.

One complication for the introduction of immigration as a major issue is that Obama is in a strong position substantively on this issue. Obama has a very detailed plan on the issue of immigration that McCain would have a more difficult time attacking. McCain has strength on the issue but Obama does not have weakness and this might make the issue less attractive. The only weakness that Obama has is his willingness to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. McCain actually lacks a real plan although he could always revive his senate bill.

Another reason standing in the way of immigration as a major issue is that the Republican party as a whole is very much against McCain’s probable position. This would force the down ticket Republicans to break with McCain. A win for McCain but a loss for them as they look like the typical close minded nativists they are.

Despite the negative problems for McCain on the issue I do think immigration will return. He needs something to use as an issue where he is perceived positively. Iraq is not a winner for him. Economics are not good for him. Immigration though might be. It allows him to be a maverick and to reinforce that part of his image. He can attack on the driver’s license issue and might lure some Latino support. Immigration will return as an issue.


NYT hardcore concern trolls on FISA

>> Monday, June 9, 2008

I am constantly amazed by the White House’s ability to multitask when it wants to achieve its horrific agenda. One thing I thought we had finally found a victory on was the FISA legislation. Here was something we could at least be somewhat proud most of our Dems showed a vertebra or two. It appears that some of our Dems may be getting nervous, at least that’s what I get from the NYT who wrote a text book concern troll article on a possible “compromise”.

The opening paragraph gives an indication of what tone the article is going to take.

With Congress at an impasse over the government’s spy powers, Congressional and intelligence officials are bracing for the possibility that the government might have to revert to the old rules of terrorist surveillance, a situation that some officials predict could leave worrisome gaps in intelligence.

“Some officials predict could leave dangerous gaps in intelligence” is code for Republicans might not get to protect their corporate allies. Reverting to the old FISA would not be the worst thing to ever happen. If it were then the president would be willing to accept a short term extension to prevent any possible increase in risk. Instead, he is holding his breath still waiting for the Dems to cave. This idea of “dangerous gaps in our intelligence” has been revealed as false. Remember the White House FISA Facts Sheet?

MYTH: Even if the critical tools provided by the Protect America Act expire, the authorizations already in place to monitor terrorist communications will leave the Intelligence Community with all the tools it needs to continue current surveillance and begin new surveillance on any terrorist threat.

FACT: If Congress lets the Protect America Act expire without passing the bipartisan Senate bill, the Intelligence Community’s ability to obtain vital foreign intelligence information, including the location, intentions, and capabilities of terrorists and other foreign intelligence targets abroad, will be weakened.

The Times itself ran a piece in February that pointed out the fact that there will not be any serious gaps.

The lapsing of the deadline would have little practical effect on intelligence gathering. Intelligence officials would be able to intercept communications from Qaeda members or other identified terrorist groups for a year after the initial eavesdropping authorization for that particular group.

If a new terrorist group is identified after Saturday, intelligence officials would not be able to use the broadened eavesdropping authority. They would be able to seek a warrant under the more restrictive standards in place for three decades through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

What happened? Where did the disconnect come from? They used to know that the Republican arguments were bogus but now they are running articles concern trolling for the Republicans. The article goes down hill from here. The next three paragraphs are just wrong.

But government and Congressional officials said in interviews that they saw it as a dangerous step backward. A return to the old rules, they said, would mean that government lawyers, analysts and linguists would once again have to prepare individual warrants, potentially thousands of them, for surveillance of terrorism targets overseas.

Telecommunications companies would also have to spend considerable time shutting down existing wiretaps, and then start them up again if ordered under new warrants, officials said. In some instances, the broad orders given to the companies starting last August cover tens of thousands of overseas phone numbers and e-mail addresses at one time, people with knowledge of the orders said. A senior intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the administration was concerned that reverting to the older standards and requiring individual warrants for each wiretap would create a severe gap in overseas intelligence by raising the bar for foreign surveillance collection.

In some cases, the government might simply be unable to establish in court why it suspected that a foreign target was connected to terrorism. Part of the problem, officials said, is that communications going from one foreign country to another sometimes travel through a telephone switch on American soil and, under some interpretations of the older rules, could not be tapped without an individual warrant.

Are you kidding me? There are two highlighted problems here. The first is that it would just be too much work. That is really the argument in the first two paragraphs. It is not that it is especially hard or a major hurdle it is just more work. The second argument is contained in the last paragraph. The second argument is that they might not be able to show a reason to tap the phones.

The bar is not particularly high. There hasn't been a single FISA warrant turned down since 9/11. You don't even need to have the warrant before you start wire-tapping the suspected terrorist. You get three whole days to prepare a warrant after the fact. There really is no reason that they would be unable to get a warrant from the FISA court unless they really have zero basis to get the warrant in the first place. If they cannot establish a link to terrorism in a secret court designed to hide secret sources then they have no basis for the warrant.

The Times goes all out to raise the concern level on this. They get quotes from some very impartial and impressive sources like Mukasey and unnamed Dem staffer probably working for Jay Rockefeller.

Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey has described the idea of reverting to the older standards of foreign surveillance as “unthinkable,” adding, “I still hope and actually think that it won’t happen.”

Even some Democrats, at odds with the White House for months over the surveillance issue, said they were worried about the summer situation. “Until August, we’re O.K.,” said one senior Democratic Congressional aide involved in the negotiations. “After August, we’re not O.K.”

If it is so unthinkable that this legislation expires then pass the extension. It is not that big an impasse. If the fate of America is uncertain then the Republicans should simply help the extension pass. The White House and the GOP were really confident that the Dems would end up caving but when that did not come to pass they found themselves in a bad position, victims of their own hubris.

Officials said that even at the start of the year, when it became apparent that Congress might allow the temporary surveillance law to expire, intelligence officials took no steps to try to go to the secret intelligence court and renew the one-year authorizations from last August so that they would have extra time.

Some people still hold out hope that the Dems will cave and that the Republicans will get their way. Examples of these people include Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, and Senator Christopher S. Bond. Both have been working hard to ensure that ATT (as well as President Bush and their own asses) are well protected.

“I was hoping we’d made progress,” said Mr. Bond, who has been the White House’s point man in the talks. “But the longer this drags on — I’m not so sure.”

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who leads the Intelligence Committee and is heading negotiations for the Democrats, declined to be interviewed, his office said. He said in a statement that “it has taken many months of difficult negotiations to get to this point, but I’m increasingly optimistic that we’re on the verge of a deal.”

Seriously no deals. Bush is almost gone why give in now? The Dems have finally done one thing that the American people elected them for and Rocky wants to give it all away. As always the motivation behind the potential Democratic capitulation is fear. Fear of being labeled “soft”. Soft on terror or crime or drugs or Iran, whatever it is being soft on it is seen as a major weakness and the accusation is something the DLCers seem to run from.

As hard as the White House has pushed, Democrats may have even more at stake. They acknowledge not wanting to risk reaching their national convention in Denver in August without a deal, lest that create an opening for the Republicans and Senator John McCain, their presumptive presidential nominee, to portray themselves as tougher on national security — a tried-and-true attack method in the past — just as the Democrats are nominating Senator Barack Obama.

There will be no opening if they stand tall. Anything backed by Bush is immediately suspect these days and Bush has gone to great lengths over his desire for immunity. The instances where Dems assert themselves on National Security have been rare. They need to become common. The GOP has proven that they cannot be trusted with the security of our nation. Capitulating on FISA would be a major step backward for the Dems and America. Another question might be why the NYT is concern trolling for the Republicans.


John McCain Fantasy Land

My last entry was on the McCain campaign strategy video and how it was mostly wishful thinking and fantasy. The entire thing was defensive. It seems that no one is giving John McCain a real chance in this election… or that is how the McCain camp must be feeling. All any one seems to do now is downplay expectations for McCain. I think McCain is getting somewhat defensive of this. You can see an excellent summation of John McCain’s defensiveness and delusions in his interview with Newsweek entitled “How to Beat a Rockstar”.

The first thing to know about this interview is that it was conducted just before McCain took his tour of the Florida Everglades. The same Everglades he voted against protecting. Everywhere McCain goes is an issue he was on the wrong side of and has to try to explain. Not so good for McCain. The second thing to note is the framing of the questions. The questions are actually not as favorable to McCain as you might expect although there is a definite need for follow up on many of them. From his responses you can see what McCain is going to try to do in the election, spin.

The interview starts off with a statement about how awesome Obama is and how hard it is for Republicans this year. McCain appears to acknowledge this. Good framing for the interview putting McCain on a more defensive posture. The second Question with McCain’s answer is

Q-So what's the strategy? How do you overcome those two things?

A-Well, the strategy is the themes of reform, prosperity and peace, and I have the experience, background and a record and the kind of judgment to lead the country through extremely difficult times. There are threats to our economy that are incredibly serious—witness the unemployment numbers that just came out—and to our nation's security. I'm convinced that, using the kind of communications that won me the nomination of my party against significant odds, I will be able to gain the presidency as well. But I think it's got to do with substance, and it's got to do with a concrete plan of action for the future of the country.

McCain wants to highlight reform, prosperity and peace? He is certainly not doing a good job of that so far. In fact, I would say he is doing the exact opposite of this. He constantly highlights the need for war and his promoted policies are all going to be continuations of the Bush legacy. That starts him out 0-3 and it does not get much better. He also claims to have “…a record and the kind of judgment to lead the country through extremely difficult times”. A careful examination of this claim will reveal just how wrong he is here. He was and continues to be wrong about the war. He was wrong about the G.I. Bill. He has been wrong on so many things I really do not have time to list them.

I am really not sure what he is talking about in the second half of his answer. He won the nomination because Huckabee and Romeny split support and because there was no proportional representation. It did not really have to do with his communications. As far as substance goes Obama is the more substantive candidate. He has plans for every thing. His list of issues and what to do with them is long and detailed in contrast to McCain whose plan for Iraq is step one stay, step two ?, step three glorious victory. He is the one lacking in concrete plans.

The third question is about McCain’s use of Obama sounding rhetorical devices and whether it makes him sound old and cranky, note the use of the word vigorous.

Q- The other night you were using the trope "That's not change we can believe in." Watching, it struck me that fighting on somebody else's rhetorical field and offering a negative as opposed to a positive is not the most vigorous way forward.

A- Well, I think it's an important part of this campaign to point out that everybody wants change, but there is a right change and a wrong change. I believe that what Senator Obama is advocating is a return to the failed policies of the '60s and '70s—bigger government, higher taxes—and certainly not the same view on national-security challenges. So, I thought it was important to point out that there is a right change and a wrong change.

Actually, the only change McCain seems to be interested in is him as president. His policies are a continuation of the failed Bush policies. Someone should ask McCain why every one wants change. McCain seems very inconsistent on the issue of changing things. He is against it yet says every one wants it. In addition, government has exploded in size under Bush so that would not even be a change. The right change for McCain is no change.

The next couple of questions are fluff but the sixth is the longest answer given in the interview and it merits discussion. The question is about Obama and accomplishments. It really plays into the experience argument that McCain wants to make.

Q- St. Paul, he said, to paraphrase, that he honors your achievements even though you choose to deny his.

A- We have sharp differences.

I think it's important to know that when he wants to have a specific withdrawal strategy, getting the troops out of Iraq, he has not sat down with General Petraeus, the leader of our troops over there. I think that needs to be pointed out to the American people because it's American lives that are on the line as we speak.

So if that shows a lack of respect, I respectfully disagree. I think it shows that there is nothing more important than the security of this nation and the lives of the men and women who are serving it, and he hasn't ever seized an opportunity to sit down with the general who is in charge over there. These young Americans are serving with such courage and dedication.

If he wants to call it that, fine. He's free to call it whatever he wants, but I think it's important to point out what he has done and what he hasn't done, as well as what I have done, and my clear record.
One of those areas is bipartisanship. He talks about bipartisanship. There is little or no evidence of that in his time in the Senate. I have a long record, ranging from Ted Kennedy to Russ Feingold to Joe Lieberman.

I think it's important to point these things out, and I will. And I don't believe it's disrespectful to do so. I think it's part of the evaluation process that the American people are doing.

By the way, do you think it's disrespectful for him to have distorted my comment about being in Iraq for a hundred years? Every objective organization in America said that's a false characterization of my remarks in the context of what's necessary to stop the casualties and have a victory, rather than saying we are going to be in a war for a hundred years. I have given other speeches saying we are going to win this war, and we are winning it now, and he refuses to acknowledge that.

So, the parameters of this debate are not going to be set by Senator Obama. The parameters of this debate will be decided by the American people, and they will judge whether I have respected him or not. I believe that I respect him in every possible way, and I will continue to do so.

The first part of the answer is just part of the McCain and Republican hopes of baiting Obama to make a pilgrimage to Iraq. They want him to go so that they have the image of Obama being educated by Petraeus. Supposedly there is some great wisdom that Petraeus can impart that he failed to do when Obama questioned Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker at a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on Iraq April 8.

The next is a lie and distortion intended to make it seem like Obama is a super liberal partisan. He has worked with Richard and Tom Colburn on major pieces of legislation. McCain talks of bipartisan ship but some of his examples are things he now disowns like comprehensive immigration and campaign finance reform. When McCain does break with his party it is rarely on anything that matters.

The presumptive Republican nominee arguably cast the decisive vote 14 times since 1999 to ensure Republicans got their way, and he had five other close cases where his vote may have made a difference, Senate records show. By comparison, McCain effectively handed Democrats a win on roll-call votes four times in the same period. On one of those occasions, Republicans could still have won if Vice President Dick Cheney had cast a tie-breaking vote.
Congressional Quarterly gave McCain a 90 percent score for "party unity" voting last year and said he supported the president's position on legislation 95 percent of the time. Source.

Notice in the answer McCain is really defensive about that 100 years of war thing. He does not really give a good explanation of what it meant because Obama is not far off. McCain does not care how long we are in Iraq casualties or no. We have to stay there because of casualties but once they stop we should stay forever and no John McCain we are not winning the war. McCain claims to have respected Obama is every possible way yet he also tried to make it seem like he was endorsed by Hamas. That was not very respectful in my opinion.

The next two questions need to be taken together because they are both about national security and Obama as commander in chief.

Q- Do you think that an Obama presidency would make the country less secure?

A- Not as secure as my presidency would. That's one of the major reasons why I'm running. I believe I have the experience and the knowledge and the judgment to make America more secure than an Obama presidency would. And if I thought he would make it safer, then obviously I would not have much of a reason for me seeking the presidency.

Q-So, is he ready to be commander in chief?

A- That is a decision that will be made by the American people. I will point out his record: lack of experience, and again, things like [the] failure—it's now the 878th or 879th day since he went to Iraq. How do you know what the situation is and how do you make judgments if you don't go there? How do you say the surge has failed when it's clearly succeeding? It's clearly succeeding. Only the most devout believers [in America's inability to win] will now say that the United States is not winning the war in Iraq. We are winning, but he is saying we are not.

There are several things apparent here. The first is that McCain believes that saying we are winning clearly makes it true. Obama saying that we are not winning and that we should never have gone is not a mark against him. The American people are now on that side as McCain’s own numbers show. Second, McCain is only in it for the military job. He clearly is not a domestic policy guy. That might explain why he just cheated off the Bush plans when it comes to domestic policy. He really just wants to be able to start some more wars. The third thing is that he really thinks he has a winner in this Obama go to Iraq thing. That is being mentioned second only to the surge is working.

McCain was also asked about the new report that came out detailing the fact that Bush and Co used intelligence they knew to be bad. He basically said that everyone else thought he had WMD’s too so that makes it ok. He also threw in this gem though

The second thing, of course, is that the sanctions were breaking down, airplanes were getting shot at, it was a multibillion-dollar scandal in the Oil-for-Food Program. So it's pretty clear that the status quo was not going to prevail.

McCain is saying here that things were not going well so if Bush lied to get us into war it does not matter because we would have had to go eventually. This is a stupid remark. Bush lied to us and now more than 4,000 of our soldiers are dead and McCain thinks that the fact that we might have needed a new course with Saddam justifies these lies and these deaths. I thought he was supposed to hate war? For someone who hates war this is a pretty causal attitude to have.

The second to last question put to McCain is about his recent change in thought on warrantless wiretaps.

Q- There was a report raising questions about statements you made in the past about the wiretapping program and what your advisers say [today]. Have you changed your thinking on wiretapping?

A-Of course not. My position has been exactly the same. I have always said the president should obey the law. I still believe the president should obey the law.

Total dodge as the NYT explains.

Mr. McCain was asked whether he believed that the president had constitutional power to conduct surveillance on American soil for national security purposes without a warrant, regardless of federal statutes.
He replied: “There are some areas where the statutes don’t apply, such as in the surveillance of overseas communications. Where they do apply, however, I think that presidents have the obligation to obey and enforce laws that are passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, no matter what the situation is.”

Following up, the interviewer asked whether Mr. McCain was saying a statute trumped a president’s powers as commander in chief when it came to a surveillance law. “I don’t think the president has the right to disobey any law,” Mr. McCain replied.

David Golove, a New York University law professor who specializes in executive power issues, said that while the language used by Mr. McCain in his answers six months ago was imprecise, the recent statement by Mr. Holtz-Eakin “seems to contradict precisely what he said earlier.”

McCain did change his mind on this issue. He changed his mind on what the law the president must follow is. See that is the best way to get around a law just say it does not apply. That way you are in compliance even when you are violating the laws or say the constitution.

The final question is about press coverage. McCain’s base is the press and he goes out of his way to be friendly to influence coverage. He denies this. He talks about an inability to change the coverage and that he will never complain about the coverage. This is total crap. McCain host BBQ’s to influence the coverage and when the NYT wrote that piece on him and his female lobbyist friend he was more than willing to comment on that coverage.

This is going to be the standard fair for McCain this election. A steady dose of deception and lies about the war, his own record, and Obama’s record. He will combine these things with a revolving door of trivial and distracting issues like an Obama trip to Iraq. All the time he will be living in his own fantasy land where we are winning the war and he will get to be president.


McCain Campaign Wishful Thinking

>> Sunday, June 8, 2008

McCain Campaign Wishful Thinking

I heard about the McCain campaigns strategy video that they put online. I have to say that the presentation was the first thing I have been impressed with done by the McCain campaign. It is a clean and fairly well narrated video. It has many string visuals and some nice power point bullets thrown in. It does address many of the important aspects of the campaign and does outline a general strategy against Sen. Obama. However, I think many of their arguments will not hold up and many are already specious. In the end, the presentation felt more like an exercise in positive thought and wishful thinking than a road map to victory.

The video is organized into four distinct groupings. These categories are political environment, electoral map, organization, and money. I will treat each category in chronological order assessing the arguments strengths and weaknesses.

Political Environment

The McCain campaign does offer some strait talk when the narrator Rick Davis tells the viewer that the political environment and the state of the Republican brand are at in the worst states ever for them. This is very true and due in large part to the policies of George W. Bush McCain is intent on perpetuating. To illustrate how bad it is Davis foes through the litany of economic and national security issues that plague the country. He makes a remark about the favorability ratings of the GOP and Bush not being particularly high.

To combat these problems they are going to rely on two things. The special John McCain aura of Maverickness and the disillusionment of Clinton voters as a result of the primary contest. The video includes three important graphics in this section. The first is a chart that purports to show that people project their own ideologies onto McCain.

McCain Strategy 8

This graph is very important because it demonstrates how poorly McCain has been defined by Democrats and by the media at large. He is not a moderate he is a conservative and his views are out of line with many Americans. As a corollary to this whether McCain’s views are out of line with a given person may depend on the moment as he has a habit of reversing, switching, altering, changing, his position to fit the audience and the moment. This constant switching has the effect of making people believe that he is in fact aligned with them because the media and his opponents have not painted him as the chameleon he is. This is something that can change and needs to change for the Dems to achieve victory.

Another part of this graphic is the depiction of Sen. Obama as having views that are too liberal and out of the mainstream. This is a clue to a strategy McCain and the GOP plan on perusing. They wish to try and reinforce this apparent perception that he is too liberal and might be some sort of socialist. It is fairly obvious and Obama needs to be ready for it.

The next important graphic is one that reveals voters top issues. This one is important because it shows what the McCain camp thinks are its strengths and weaknesses and might tell us where they will focus some of the policy attacks. The top issue there is immigration. That is where McCain leads Obama the most. I think that this means the McCain camp will try to make immigration a major issue in the southwest and use the issue to try and peal away Latino support. Remember they believe that McCain is tephlon so his reversals on the issue will not be seen as an issue. McCain will try to play both sides of the fence on this issue.

McCain Strategy

The graphic also shows McCain losing on the economy, health care, and the war in Iraq. I was really surprised to see them use a graphic that shows McCain losing on what are going to be three of the most important issues this coming November. They tried to spin it as a plus that he was only down 5 on economic matters but losing an issue as big as this is a major problem for McCain as is losing his signature issue Iraq. This is doubly baffling because they have a graphic that shows how important Obama issues are compared to McCain and McCain would be the obvious loser.

The last graphic of importance in this section is the one dedicated to showing his regional outperformance of generic Republican. The important thing in this graphic is to understand exactly how McCain probably accounts for his over performance.

McCain Strategy 2

His best improvement is in the “border south” region. This is not a term I was particularly familiar with but apparently, it includes Virginia, W. Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, and Arkansas source. It appears to be referring to Civil War Border States. These states would include much of Appalachia. Appalachia has so far, been unfriendly territory for the Obama campaign. McCain also likes to point out his lead in Florida a state where Obama did not run a full campaign.

I think I should state at this point that I have no idea where McCain got most of these numbers. He could simply be making them up for all I know but might as well refute his statements with his own numbers.

Electoral Map

This is a particularly fun section. I am taking all of my electoral stuff from Nate Silver at In this section, I am not sure that the McCain campaign and I are on the same planet. They make some assumptions and statements that are flat out laughable. Let us start by putting up what the McCain people view as the traditional battle ground states and what they view as safe Republican states.

McCain Strategy 3

McCain Strategy 4

There are several important things to note in these too graphics. The first thing is that McCain considers states like Virginia and Alaska to be safe and solid. Obama intends to campaign there and he might have a shot at winning those two states. At the very least McCain may have to spend money there. Next check out what the battle ground states are in McCain’s mind. Tennessee is not a battleground. Nor will W. Virginia or Kentucky be battleground states. Similarly, Arizona is not likely to be fought over. The next graphic though is where the money is.

McCain Strategy 5

I believe these are the states McCain is targeting to swing to him in November. I think he is in for a big disappointment. California is not going for him. 538 has a 97% probability calculation that it goes for Obama. Does Mccain really think he can afford to spend the money and time chasing after California because it has independents in it? McCain’s special map also has Connecticut coming to him on the back of the Joementum. He also thinks he can make a play for the disaffected Dems in Penn and Ohio using the Appalachia vote to his advantage. 538 has 68% probability that Penn Goes fro Obama and 49% in Ohio. These states McCain is looking at really are not looking to good for him.

McCain thinks he can target these Midwestern Rustbelt states and pick off a big chunk of Obama’s electoral votes. I really do not see these areas hit extremely hard by economic factors voting for McCain. This is born out by his own numbers that show him losing on the economy. 538 concurs that the states that appear in the upper Midwest on the McCain map are, with the exception of Michigan, fairly out of reach for him. Michigan will more than likely come around after Obama gets a chance to campaign there since he was unable to in the primary. 538’s scenario analysis has Obama winning all of the Kerry states at a 24.81%. Compare this to the Scenario analysis for McCain winning all of W’s states at 8.008%.

Obama is in a stronger electoral position that McCain is judging by McCain’s special map.


This section of the presentation was briefer. It focused on what McCain is touting as his lean mean campaigning machine. Davis highlights a supposed flexability and dedication to grass roots effort by implementing regional campaign managers. These managers are supposed to be able to do their own thing in some capacity when it comes to messaging and the get out the vote drives etc. In addition to this McCain was highlighting the opening of regional and state campaign offices in the states he planned to target on his special map. They tout the fact that they are up and running in 23 states.

This tiered and flexible campaign system is mostly a sham. I say this because they highlight how the regional managers are working with the RNC people in their region. The reason they are doing this is because the McCain campaign itself is not raising money all that well. They need to rely on the hybrid system that they created to skirt the campaign finance laws. The McCain campaign is tied to the GOP at the state level because that is the only place they have money.


The McCain campaign has a complex relationship when it comes to the subject of campaign finance. I did a diary some time ago on the fundraising disparity between the two campaigns and where each is getting their money. Obama is raking in the money from donors under 200 and raising enormous sums of cash from half of the democrats. McCain’s camp understands this and that is why they created the hybrid where they are funneling money to the lower levels of the state and RNC organizers and proMcCain campaigners. On a strictly campaign-to-campaign level, McCain is left in the dust. However, the ability of donors to give unlimited sums to the RNC and other McCain subsidiaries is allowing him to stay afloat. Here is the graphic he uses to show the hybrid advantage.

McCain Strategy 6

See how much more money the RNC has than the McCain campaign itself? That is because McCain continues to fail when it comes to getting money from small donors. Only $20,454,345 or 23% of his money has come from donations under $200. McCain would be unable to campaign properly without the RNC. His burn rate at this point is 78% compared to 86% for Obama and neither has significant debt.

McCain also talked about his staff difference where he has 250 employees and Obama has over 1,000. To me this is a simple reflection of the fact the Obama campaign can afford people. McCain has to have fewer people on his campaign because the RNC cannot pay for his staff. McCain tried to use Obama’s April burn rate as some sort of evidence that his lean campaign is better but we all know that spending Clinton into the ground was part of the Obama strategy. He could afford to take the hit in April if it got her out quicker.

So that is my tour and analysis of the McCain strategy video. There are some interesting things revealed in it. The probable use of immigration as a tool, the need to assure supporters that they can handle the crap brand and being out fundraised. The probable attack on Obama as too liberal and the strange decision to possibly target California as a swing state. I think most of the presentation ended up being spin and wishful thinking though.


Why Hillary Clinton Lost

>> Saturday, June 7, 2008

It is particularly fashionable to be doing the Clinton campaign post postmortem and thought I would do one too as my first entry here. My general perception gleaned from comments spread around the tubes is that most people focus on her Iraq war vote. I do not feel that is the biggest reason for her loss. I believe that there are two things that combined to cause the Clinton campaign defeat. The first is the hiring of Mark Penn as Chief Strategist and Pollster and the second is Hillary Clinton’s choice of loyalty over results.

I should explain why I do not believe the Iraq war vote was the cause. Those in favor of this rationale believe that the vote itself opened the door for an Obama candidacy. They use John Kerry as an example of someone who was unable to overcome the war vote. I do not believe that the war vote in itself doomed Kerry but it was his inability to properly explain the vote. Clinton could have overcome this by taking the track Edwards did and apologizing profusely far in advance of her run. The war has been unpopular for a long time now and Clinton was planning her run long before that. She had more than enough time to build a foundation of remorse and anti-war credibility. Sen Clinton may never have fully won over the anti-war crowd but it would have made a much smaller opening for Sen. Obama. Her vote was not cast out of consideration for a presidential run, that is just her political and foreign policy style but she is more than capable of making a political choice to position herself as against the war. The long planning that went into her run is what allows the blame to fall on the two causes I chose.

“Mark Penn has run this campaign,” said Ickes in a brief phone interview this morning. “Besides Hillary Clinton, he is the single most responsible person for this campaign.- Harold Ickes, NYO Feb 28, 2008.

Mark Penn has been with the Clinton’s for a long time. He is credited with getting Bill reelected in ’96, although Doles age probably helped. He was also in charge of Sen. Clinton’s 2000 senatorial campaign. This first senate race is where Penn mapped out the strategy for Hillary Clinton that he would later repeat during the presidential campaign. In 2000, Penn forsook big themes and relentlessly focused on poll-tested pothole politics, such as suburban transit lines and dairy farming upstate. This is the core of his philosophy, all politics is local. He is known for breaking groups down into micro-categories and trying to target them with programs and policy that he thinks appeal to them.

The NY times quotes a source discussing Penn from his time during Clinton’s Senate run:

For months now, a dispute has preoccupied Hillary Clinton's campaign. Put crudely -- as it often is -- it centers on whether the campaign should primarily be about personality or issues.
''Mark's attitude is the issues, the issues, the issues,'' one exasperated Clinton adviser said. Penn's view has been that Hillary needs to keep talking about things like the Westchester County Bee-Line and Suffolk County beach erosion."

It was Penn’s idea to avoid the humanization of Hillary Clinton. He was determined to show that she was tough enough to be commander in chief and in doing so he over extended on that issue. People never doubted her toughness. Instead, they thought she was a poll driven robot. It was obvious to many of her aides and supporters that she needed to be humanized and show her personality. She played into the exact negatives she needed to overcoming not reinforcing. Against seemingly everyone else in the campaign, Penn has bet the house on his strategy. He has been using the same ideas for the past 12 years. He needs them to work, it is his life. Given this, it is not surprising that he was slow to change or adopt new messaging in response to Obama.

It should also be obvious Penn was never going to change his beloved strategy if he could avoid it. Another point is that once Penn was forced to change he would no longer be in his element. Remember he worked his micro-targeting for his entire political life. He was just unable to properly adapt to a new way of thinking. Batting right handed your entire life and then trying to switch to lefty is not usually going to work out so well either. That is why after the March 4 victories the campaign was unsure what to credit for the victory. Some were sold on the simple demographic advantage others on the red phone.

Many of her advisers are waging a two-front war, one against Sen. Barack Obama and the second against one another, but their most pressing challenge is figuring out why Clinton won in Ohio and Texas and trying to duplicate it. While Penn sees his strategy as a reason for the victories that have kept her candidacy alive, other advisers attribute the wins to her perseverance, favorable demographics and a new campaign manager. Clinton won "despite us, not because of us," one said.

Sifting through the data yesterday, her divided circle offered other theories. Some credit field operatives who set up organizations in record time. Others cite strong Hispanic outreach in South Texas that held off a late Obama push. And even some Penn opponents grudgingly cite his television commercial that asked which Democrat is more prepared for a 3 a.m. crisis call at the White House. Source

Penn also made the fundamental choice to set up Senator Clinton as inevitable and he made the choice about pursuing electoral strategy. The campaign message adopted by the campaign geared toward tightly focused policy without an overarching uniquely Hillary Clinton theme set up the Clinton campaign to capture certain Demographics more than others. Specifically, they were set up to capture an older population more risk adverse and a lower income population distrustful of intangible long-term vision. Her message resonated with people who felt too uncertain about Obama. However, the message locked Clinton into this group and prevented her from branching out in the campaign. She was at the mercy of demographics for the entire race.

The idea of an inevitability argument is not bad in and of itself. It might have been very effective in pushing Obama and others to the margins and causing some to practice strategic voting and avoid a vote for Sen. Obama. This is a high-risk strategy because once it is pierced it forces the campaign into a major overhaul. Instead, Penn and Clinton needed to try and turn Obama into a Kucinichesque figure. Obama needed to be painted as too liberal and as the one note antiwar candidate, someone everyone kind of likes but no one votes for. Clinton failed to define her opponents when she was defining herself as inevitable and left a large opening. The Obama candidacy needed to be pro-actively killed before it got off the ground. Clinton allowed him to establish his theme of change and a new way of doing things and it cost her putting her on the wrong side of the electorate.

Remarkably not knowing she was on the wrong side of the electorate is also Mark Penn’s fault. He was the chief pollster and responsible for testing his own message. This is not a good idea as some people in the campaign recognized.

Three times, campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle and senior adviser Harold Ickes tried to hire another national pollster so Penn would not be the one to test his own message, campaign sources said, and three times they were rejected. Source

You need an objective party to test a message. Penn was able to design and craft his questions and his interpretations so that he could justify his own beliefs. Even if this did not happen, it very well could have and never should have been allowed to happen. Penn was also very reluctant to allow his poll numbers to be seen by others and for a long part of the campaign, there was no checking is his conclusions fit the data. There are examples from Penn’s own career where he did a poor job evaluating data

Over and over, Penn told the Vice President that Bradley posed little or no threat, that Bush was not as far ahead as public polls suggested and that most voters were confusing the Texas Governor with his father. At one point, when Penn was insisting that Gore was no farther than 10 points behind Bush, a campaign official quietly asked another pollster to check Penn's work. The number came back: Gore down by 18. Source

And it was happening in the Clinton campaign too.

Unlike most campaign pollsters, he does not delve deeply into the numbers he has gathered when he makes his presentations and recommendations. "He never shows you the crosstabs," says one Democratic strategist who is familiar with Penn's work. "He does a PowerPoint, and he never shows you the data that underlies the conclusions he is presenting." A source who knows the workings of the Clinton campaign says that, after much wrangling over that issue, Penn started turning over his data to the top echelon of officials there — but that it usually came in weeks after a decision had already been made and executed on the basis of his advice. Source

Penn was also responsible for the electoral map. There is some debate over whether the Clinton camp should have skipped Iowa. I tend to side on the side that they should not have skipped Iowa because the inevitability argument only works if you do not lose. Skipping Iowa probably guarantees a loss and there would have been no way to predict how it would have affected the campaign. Winning in Iowa and then winning in New Hampshire and then in Nevada would have put Obama in a very bad position. Obama winning in South Carolina would not have been as effective without his wins in the white state of Iowa and may not have happened at all. The rest of the caucus states is another matter entirely.

The entire big state strategy was a very poor idea. Once it was known that Obama was not going away quietly, Clinton needed to reorient her strategy to a long-term one picking up delegated wherever possible. She did not and the failure to anticipate the effects of the proportional representation system has to be laid at the feet of Penn. He drew the map and decided where they needed to play. The failure to plan for not only the caucus states but post Feb. 5 states is a major strategic blunder.

"Until we got to the 6th or 7th of February, there was no Hillary Clinton campaign in Wisconsin or most other states," said Joe Wineke, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. Obama outspent Clinton on the air in Wisconsin by $1.5 million to $300,000, he said, and scored a strong victory on Feb. 19. source

None of this ever should have happened. Therefore, Penn is second only in responsibility to Clinton herself. She should have fired him after Iowa or New Hampshire when it was clear his initial strategy failed. The failure to do this is all on Hillary Clinton. It was a widely held belief that he should be the one to go

When word got around, there was a "parade to the doorstep" of the candidate by other top aides urging her to keep Solis Doyle or accept their resignations, a senior adviser said. "There was virtual universal agreement that if there was fault, it should be laid at the door of Mark Penn, not Patti Solis Doyle," the adviser said. "People thought change should be made, but the wrong person was being fired. And it created enormous resentment within the campaign." Source

Clinton clung to Solis Doyle when it was clear she was not being effective at her job then threw her under the bus too late to make a real difference in the outcome of the race. Doyle had a reputation earned in the 2006 Senate race for hemorrhaging money. By now, we know that the Clinton campaign was held up only because of personal loans from Clinton to her campaign. The Clinton campaign ran a bloated operation spending money like it was going out of style and spending it in the wrong places like millions to Mark Penn and not in caucus state. When personnel decisions needed to be made at critical times before Obama really took off and won all of February Clinton stuck with Penn. Clinton made the wrong choice and it was her campaign thus she bears the ultimate responsibility with mark Penn a close second.


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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