Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Did Hillary Just Offer Her Pledged Delegates for Poaching?

Sen. Hillary Clinton has floated a new possible path to victory: she reminds Obama's "pledged" delegates that they're free to switch sides (Newsweek, Daily News). Does she really want to open that door? What's sauce for the gander's delegates is sauce for the goose's.

Mickeleh's Take: I keep encountering folks who are turned off by Clinton's scorched-earth tactics. Among the supers, more folks have switched away from Clinton than to her. What if the same trend takes hold among the pledged delegates?

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Line Obama Needs to Fix In His Speech.

One of the biggest, surefire, applause lines in Sen. Barack Obama's standard stump speech is this one:
"Here is the good news-the name George W. Bush will not be on the ballot. [CHEERS, APPLAUSE] And my cousin Dick Cheney won’t be on the ballot. [LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE] Well, everyone’s got a black sheep in the family.”"
It's an easy warm up joke. But why just let it lie there? Isn't this a ripe opening for Obama to remind us that, while George Bush won't be on the ballot, his war will be; his confusion about who's the real enemy will be; his economic program will be.

People think highly of John McCain. The press loves him. But he's running for the third term of George W. Bush. The Democrats need to work harder—at all levels—to tie McCain to the failed Bush presidency.

Mickeleh's Take: The best way for Obama to take on Sen. Clinton is to show us how effective he will be in taking on John McCain.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama on Race: Breadth, Depth, and Respect

A funny thing happened on my way to blog about Obama's speech on race. I saw the Reuters headline: Obama denounces preacher; says can't disown him. Not inaccurate, but is that really the headline?

True, Obama talked at length about his relationship with Rev. Wright and distanced himself from his former pastor's remarks without denouncing the man. But isn't that what we all expected? Couldn't that headline might have been written last night?

Here's the real headline. Obama talks honestly about race in America (video). He put the whole festering, difficult tangle of issues on the table for open discussion without pandering or patronizing. It's never happened in any presidential campaign I can remember.

What astonished and heartened me about the speech was its breadth, depth, and respect.

Breadth, in that it encompassed the full sweep of race relations in this country from slavery, through constitutional compromise, segregation, and hopeful future.

Depth, in that it embraced our shared and separate experiences from both black and white perspectives—acknowledging resentments and suspicions on both sides—all channeled through the lens of Obama's multi-ethnic heritage.

Respect, in that the tone, structure, language, and argument of the speech appealed to our heads as well as our hearts, adult-to-adult.

Oliver Willis wrote this after the speech:
"One of my personal maxims has been that politicians will disappoint you... With Senator Obama, for the first time in my life, I have watched a political leader who I don’t worry if he’ll be up to the task."
Mickeleh's Take: If I may borrow from Rep. Ferraro, we're very lucky he is who he is.

Monday, March 17, 2008

What the Media Never Bothered to Answer About Rev. Wright

No question that Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, made outrageous remarks in his sermons. The clips that have been most played on YouTube and TV are harsh, inflamatory, and disturbing. There's no easy way to spin, "God Damn America." Obama did what he needed to do, in written and video communications he distanced himself and denounced the statements. (see below for excerpts and clips).

How is it that this story—based solely on excerpts from old, long-available videos of sermons—was covered breathlessly as breaking news? It was covered with the urgency of of a crane falling and demolishing a New York building or an investment bank suddenly sucked into a sinkhole of bad credit, or the revelation that a righteous governor went to high-priced whores.

We got a lot of "what?" But very little "Why?" and not a bit of "Why now?" Does anyone know the flashpoint of the Rev. Wright firestorm? Anyone tracking that down?

Missing from the coverage was any sense of the context of the Rev. Dr. Wright's remarks. Here are some of the things what I wish the press would have told me.
  1. Who is Rev. Wright (other than Obama's former pastor)? What's his bio?
  2. What has he accomplished in his community? With his congregation?
  3. What, taken as a whole, is his message to his congregation? to the African American community? to the Christian Church, to America?
  4. What do his colleagues think of him?
  5. What do members of his congregation think of him? What do they think his message is? Why are they drawn to him?
  6. What is the background of Rev. Wright's black liberation theology?
  7. What were the sermons with the nasty bits actually about? What was their message? What did they ask of the congregation?
Instead, the standard media play was: Here are some awful things that Obama's minister preached; will it sink his campaign or will it just get people to stop talking about Geraldine Ferraro?

The best main stream attempt to answer any of this came this morning in The Wall Street Journal in an article by Suzanne Satalin and Douglas Belkin. They quote Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University
"America is our country and we love her, yet she has done such awful things. We have to have a place where we say…'This is not okay. I'm still hurt about this.' "
The best perspective piece I've seen on Rev. Wright is not in the traditional media, but in this blog post by Kim Pearson on BlogHer.

Mickeleh's Take: If you want to take an even longer view: Rev. Jeremiah Wright's namesake, the prophet Jeremiah delivered even harsher messages against Israel and Jerusalem than anything Rev. Wright has said about the United States. In a ministry spanning the last days of the Kingdom of Judeah through the destruction of the Temple of Solomon, Original Jeremiah was even charged with treason, and indicted on a capital offense for his troubles. He railed against prophets who say all is well, all is well, when it's not well at all. (You probably know the more famous translation, "They cry 'peace, peace,' when there is no peace." Or the more recent version, "'The surge is working, the surge is working,' when the surge is not working.")

PostScript: Obama's statements.
"I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it's on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue."

He also sat for a friendly interiew with Keith Olbermann (MSNBC), and a prosecutorial one with Major Garrett (Fox News) and then addressed the issue again at a rally in Plainfield Indiana.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ferraro's Game: Segment and Conquer

Former Congressional Rep. Geraldine Ferraro is playing a nasty, cynical game. It's a game I know well because I play it professionally. She's not a racist. She's a marketer.

Ferraro is just working the old dodge of market segmentation and positioning. And the Clinton campaign is eagerly playing along.

Ferraro's original claim (in the Daily Breeze) that "if Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position" frames the competitive product as a candidate for blacks and elitist, latte-swilling liberals. What's that leave for her own product (Clinton)? The much larger segments combined from white working-class and rural voters and women.

She's not a racist, but she's dog whistling to them along with whites who resent black progress and to feminists who think that the woman candidate deserves to go first while the African American candidate waits his turn.

Will Bunch calls it "Hillary's 'Archie Bunker' Strategy," and he reminds us that Ferraro was Archie's congresswoman.

Adam Hanft exposes the preposterousness of taking Ferraro's claims at face value by asking us to imagine the impact of a white candidate who had the education, skills, perspective, and vision of Obama.

But Ferraro herself exposes her own cynicism (or idiocy) in the defense she made on ABC yesterday morning.
"I was celebrating the fact that the black community in this country came out with a pride in a historic candidacy, and has shown itself at the polls. You'd think he'd say, 'Yeah thank you for doing that.'"
Right. That's just what you'd think. Obama, whose signature is broad appeal to black and white, old and young, gay and straight, Democrat and Republican is about to thank you for defining him as the niche candidate for the black community.

It's a shameful game. And more shameful is the record of the Clinton campaign moving slowly and gingerly to ever-so-slightly distance itself from it. But the Clinton campaign has no shame.

Even the master shamer of cable TV, Keith Olbermann won't move the Clintonistas. But he has moved me, and I'm hopeful he will move you. His rant is up all over the Web in the left blogosphere. But just in case you've somehow missed it, here it is again.

Mickeleh's Take: Segmentation and positioning are powerful tools in politics as well as marketing. The Clinton campaign has chosen the route of Segment and Conquer.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Obama Netted +13 Delegates Last Week

Kos has revised his delegate math since I posted earlier. Turns out his California total rose (after certification), and it turns out there were even more superdelegates declaring for Obama. So the net gain for Obama is thirteen delegates on the week.

Clinton Obama Takedown Comes in Three Sizes

The Clinton camp continues to trash Obama's ability to serve as commander in chief. As of this morning we have the Poppa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear versions:

Baby Bear was Gov. Ed Rendell, yesterday on Meet the Press said Obama is qualified, but Clinton more so: 
I think he's qualified. I don't think he's as good a potential commander in chief right now as Hillary Clinton is. But I certainly think he's qualified. And I will work my heart out for him if he's our nominee,
Mama Bear was Sen. Clinton Herself, leaving out a direct pronouncement on Obama's qualifications:
I think it’s imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold. I believe that I’ve done that. Certainly, Sen. McCain has done that and you’ll have to ask Sen. Obama with respect to his candidacy,”
Today, Papa Bear, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said no. And then preposterously added that he could get better by Denver (to qualify as Clinton's running mate).
We do not believe that Senator Obama has passed the commander-in-chief test. But there is a long way between now and Denver."

Mickeleh's Take: Wolfson is spinning so hard, he's in danger of disintegrating. Obama is not qualified if you're voting in a primary. But by Denver, if you're voting for Veep, maybe he will be. I wonder if Governor Rendell got a reprimand for speaking honorably.

Obama's Top Five Wins Last Week

No question that Hillary has had a good run these past two weeks. She snapped her 11-state losing streak with wins in Ohio and Rhode Island, and the perception of a win in Texas. Her "kitchen sink" strategy planted doubts about Obama's fitness as commander-in-chief and his forthrightness. She successfully worked the refs (with an assist from SNL). She won the spin cycle when two of Obama's key advisors (Goosling and Power) were caught talking trash. She managed her public personas, tamping down the over-the-top "shame on you," scold and "the sky will open" sarcasm.

Conventional wisdom says all this has rattled the Obama campaign and thrown it off stride. I hope not. Because he's had a terrific week and Clinton has given him ammunition to come out of this stronger than ever.

1. IL-14. Former Republican House speaker Denny Hastert's house seat went Democratic (53-47) in a race where Obama endorsed victorious Bill Foster and John McCain endorsed the loser. This district hasn't voted Democratic since the 70's. Obama's camp should flog this win heavily. Obama has coattails. Superdelegates notice those things. Here's Obama's TV Spot. (By the way... Foster himself counts as one more superdelegate for Obama.) Extra bonus: Foster opposes retroactive immunity for the telecoms.

2. Wyoming. It's not just that Obama won, but his win gave the Clintons one more chance to repeat their disrespectful spin that some states just don't count. (I live in Washington, and I'm tired of hearing from Clinton camp that we don't matter.) And more important, it gives the Obama camp an opportunity to remind superdelegates in a majority of states that Clinton dismisses them as unimportant.

3. McCain. Hillary Clinton actually rated the Republican standard bearer as more qualified than Obama (while out of the other side of her mouth she touted Obama as a potential "dream-ticket" running mate). What a golden opportunity to tie Clinton to McCain/Bush. Clinton needs to be held to account and penalized for creating sound bites and video clips for the Republicans.

4. Delegates. Kos did the delegate math for the week. In all the primaries and caucuses (OH, RI, VT, TX, WY), Hillary nets a gain of four. Obama picked up a total of four supers (including Foster). But, according to Kos, it doesn't end in a tie, as there's an "unpledged" delegate in Wyoming who will be selected by the elected delegates. Since Obama has a majority of Wyoming's elected delegates, he's going to get that one too. So Obama's net for the week is plus one.

5. Focus. The downside spin is that Obama is rattled and thrown off stride. Here's the upside. Last week was a wake-up call. Obama's got the more disciplined campaign engine (Goosling and Power notwithstanding); he's got the cleaner, larger donor base; he's got a huge dollar advantage; he's all got charisma. But, it seems, he's been coasting in a bit of a complacency bubble which just popped.

Mickeleh's Take: This is going to be a fine, fun week for Obama fans.

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Do Florida and Michigan Supers Fall to Clinton by Default?

The DNC, the states, and the campaigns continue to wrestle with the issue of the disqualified delegates from Florida and Michigan. Chuck Todd (NBC) points out that the two states have 53 superdelegates between them who will owe a big debt to Sen. Clinton if her efforts to get them seated pay off.

Mickeleh's Take: The Clintons launched their campaign with a YouTube video that cast them as the Sopranos. I'll bet they know a thing or two about collecting debts.

Obama's Gloves

Eriposte in The Left Coaster compiles a long list of negative attacks from the Obama campaign against Clinton.

He says it's a "fairy tale" that Obama has run a purely positive campaign.

Mickeleh's Take: Obama fans: is this good news or bad? Pundits keep saying Obama needs to take the gloves off. What if they've been off and nobody noticed?