Sunday, September 30, 2007


SEPTEMBER 30, 2007, NBC MEET THE PRESS (video, 10:21).

Howie P.S.: Ben Smith cautions against reading too much into this latest poll.

"Iowa Trip to Mark New Intensity for Obama Campaign:Tour's Theme: 'Judgment and Experience'"

"Barack Obama accepts an honorary law degree before speaking at Howard University. A new poll shows him leading the field in Iowa."

On Tuesday, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois will embark on a four-day campaign swing through Iowa, starting off with events that will mark the fifth anniversary of a speech he gave opposing the war at a rally in Chicago. His advisers have labeled it the "Judgment and Experience Tour," and Obama's success in persuading voters he has both may hold the key to his presidential aspirations.
The tour signals the intensification of Obama's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and a commitment to spend more time in key early states such as Iowa and New Hampshire and fewer days in the Senate, where he will miss virtually all votes next week. And it will also mark increased engagement with his main rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

Obama's effort comes as Clinton has solidified her position atop the field of Democratic candidates. A race that once was seen largely through the prism of Obama vs. Clinton has evolved into a contest in which Obama finds himself jockeying with former senator John Edwards of North Carolina to be seen as the clear alternative to Clinton.

National polls suggest that Obama has gained no significant ground on Clinton since the race began, and a new survey in New Hampshire showed the gap between the two widening, giving rise to concern even among Obama's supporters that he has not yet found his groove as a candidate.

At the same time, third-quarter fundraising reports, which will be released in the next few days, are expected to show that the novice candidate and first-term senator has raised $75 million or more in his nine months of campaigning. On Thursday, Obama's aides said, the candidate drew more than 20,000 people to a rally in New York's Washington Square Park. And a poll of Iowa Democrats released by Newsweek yesterday showed Obama leading the Democratic field among people likely to attend the caucuses.

Obama advisers remain confident, saying they are laying the groundwork for strong finishes in the early states that will propel Obama to victory.

"Our campaign was never geared and the plan was never written to win the nomination in September and October," said Robert Gibbs, Obama's communications director. "It's planned and written to win this in January and February when people vote."

Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, said that "there is this fascination in the political community and Washington to treat every day like Election Day."

"It's our view that the election process begins in January," Axelrod said. "I don't think what counts is what you produce in a national poll or transient polls along the way. It's whether you are building a foundation that will produce what you need next year."

Obama has begun to sharpen his criticism of Clinton, something many supporters have been urging. At last week's debate at Dartmouth College, he criticized "Hillary" by name for using a task force that had closed meetings during her health-care reform effort in the 1990s as first lady. In New York the next day, he poked fun at Clinton for not answering a question in the debate about whether the Illinois native would cheer for the Yankees or the Cubs if they both made the World Series, then turned serious in criticizing Clinton for ducking a question about what she would do to reform Social Security.

But Axelrod emphasized that there will be no all-out assault on the New York senator.

"I know there's a tremendous blood lust out there in the political community who want us to be in a steel-cage match with her," he said. "Barack Obama didn't get in this race to tear Hillary Clinton down or anybody else down. He got into the race to lift the country up. No doubt we have differences, and he will draw those differences. But he's going to resist the thirst for gratuitous combat, because that's part of his critique of the political process."

In a campaign that has been defined as a contest between change and experience, Clinton seems to have the advantage. In recent weeks, Obama has retooled his stump speech to more directly address the experience question, casting his opponents as people simply with more "years in Washington." And he will emphasize this point by arguing that it was sound judgment, not deep Washington experience, that led him to oppose the Iraq war, in contrast to Clinton and other Democratic candidates.

Yesterday, Obama responded to former president Bill Clinton's criticism in an interview last week that the senator is too green to be commander in chief. "I remember what was said years ago by a candidate running for president," Obama told a crowd in Concord, N.H. "He said: 'The same old experience is not relevant. You can have the right kind of experience and the wrong kind of experience.' Well, that candidate was Bill Clinton, and I think he was absolutely right."

But David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, acknowledges that Obama needs more time to explain why he is qualified for the presidency after only two years in the Senate. "Obviously, there are voters saying Obama is an untraditional candidate," he said. "This is something they're processing. They're probably evaluating him differently, so I think we do have a little bit more work to do than some of the other campaigns."

One of the challenges of his campaign is that on most major issues, Obama and Clinton have little difference in views, one of the reasons Obama has had to rely so much on his initial opposition to the war to distinguish himself from her. His early war opposition remains one of his strongest applause lines on the campaign trail. But even among Democrats who want a quick withdrawal of troops from Iraq, polls show that Clinton is the favored candidate.

Seeking to cast Clinton as a Washington insider, Obama has touted his non-Washington credentials to argue that he can reform a system dominated by lobbyists and special-interest money. But it's not clear how effective that line of criticism has been.

"The lobbyist stuff is inside baseball," said Marilyn Katz, an Obama fundraiser. "The question remains: Who do you believe has the leadership capacity?"

In many ways, the same questions that hovered around Obama's candidacy when he announced last winter remain today. One is whether he can convert the enthusiasm that propelled him unexpectedly from first-term senator to presidential candidate into actual votes in Iowa and New Hampshire. Another is whether he can expand his support from a base built on well-educated, relatively affluent Democrats to the kind of broader coalition that has been the hallmark of every winning candidacy in past Democratic races.

Obama advisers said they plan no significant adjustments to their overall strategy but predicted there will be changes around the edges of the campaign. Valerie Jarrett, a longtime friend of Obama's, has begun to play a more active role inside the campaign. Obama's Senate chief of staff, Pete Rouse, is likely to shift his focus from the Senate to the campaign as the primary-caucus season nears.

And they continue to express confidence in Obama's ability to defy expectations.

"He looks back at his [Senate] primary election in 2004, when he was sitting comfortably in fourth place for a really long time," Gibbs said. "Then the campaign got fully engaged both on the ground and on TV. We all know what happened."

Saturday, September 29, 2007

"The Richardson Surge"

John Nichols (The Nation):
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was supposed to be the cautious candidate Democrats respected but never got excited about. With his extensive diplomatic experience and his hunger for a return to the national stage--if not as a realistic candidate for the presidency then as a top vice presidential prospect or the next Secretary of State--the man who served as Bill Clinton's Energy Secretary and United Nations ambassador was tagged at the time of his January announcement as a deliberate, capable but almost certainly inconsequential contender for the 2008 nomination.
But Richardson has refused to play his assigned role, and with an unexpectedly resolute antiwar stance and a freewheeling campaign style that distinguishes him from the field's punch-pulling frontrunners, he is the first member of the race's "also-ran" pack to elbow his way from the margin of error to the verge of serious competition.

Richardson's edgy, opinionated and at times risky high-wire campaign has gained him double-digit poll numbers in the first primary state, New Hampshire, where he has begun to attract endorsements from key local Democrats and favorable reviews from the state's influential newspapers. One recent New Hampshire poll put him ahead of John Edwards. A summer survey of Democrats in the first caucus state by Iowa's Des Moines Register had Richardson in front of Barack Obama and just five points behind Hillary Clinton as the choice of the most likely caucusgoers. In Nevada, another early caucus state, Richardson's support has grown from 2 percent in March polling to 11 percent in August.

Why is Richardson clicking? Against a field of first-tier candidates (Clinton, Obama and John Edwards) who don't mind savaging the Bush Administration's management of the Iraq imbroglio but who regularly fall short of proposing clear exit strategies, Richardson offers not just a résumé but specifics--and a sense of urgency. His TV ads in the early caucus and primary states identify him as the candidate with "the only plan that pulls every single soldier out of Iraq." As the contender with the most international experience--save, perhaps, hapless Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Joe Biden--Richardson says it is not merely possible but necessary to end the US military presence in Iraq and to replace it with diplomacy and targeted aid initiatives. Rejecting all the dodges of the frontrunners, Richardson argues, "If we are going to get out, we need to do it now."

For all his much-ballyhooed experience, and for all the sole Hispanic contender's supposed--if largely unconfirmed--appeal to the party's rapidly expanding Latino voting bloc, Richardson recognizes that it is his position on the war that is giving his candidacy traction. Of course, he's glad to discourse on how to tackle the crisis in Darfur and his concerns about Pakistan, and he's more than willing to detail his mainstream progressive positions on everything from gay rights to net neutrality. But the governor's antiwar position is now the primary focus of his media buys, his savvy campaign appearances and his aggressive new direct-mail fundraising appeals to liberal donors. That's smart politics. Richardson's Iraq stance is at once refreshing and reassuring for grassroots Democrats, who polls suggest are increasingly frustrated with the cautious approach of party leaders. In the former UN ambassador they get a candidate who knows his way around the world, who understands the delicacy of diplomacy, who actually negotiated with Saddam Hussein and yet whose statements echo the assessment (if not quite the Department of Peace rhetoric) of antiwar absolutist Dennis Kucinich. As party leaders seek to exclude from debates two outspoken advocates for bringing the troops home, Kucinich and former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, Richardson's résumé and his poll numbers assure him a place on the stage and an ability to keep prodding the frontrunners to clarify their murky positions on Iraq.

None of this means Richardson is on a fast track to the nomination. He's still playing catch-up in a brutal fundraising competition, and he remains a largely unexamined contender with his share of political baggage--the Energy Department's bungling of the Wen Ho Lee nuclear espionage scandal during Richardson's tenure is an embarrassing footnote, as is his post-Cabinet service on the boards of energy firms with troubling environmental records. But no 2008 Democratic candidate has come further on the basis of a bold stance on the essential issue of the race than Richardson.
At the very least, he will make it difficult for Clinton, Obama and Edwards to continue dancing around the core questions of the war. And if the leading Democrats fail to make convincing moves toward withdrawal, Richardson is better positioned than any other candidate to ride that issue to the center of the competition.
Howie P.S.: I don't feel any surge, but I've been wrong before.

"Hardball: Mario Cuomo Describes Congress As Abdicating Their Constitutional Duties" (with video)

Crooks and Liars, with video:


video_wmv Download (559) | Play (545) video_mov Download (244) | Play (272)

I’ve always admired the no nonsense approach of Mario Cuomo. I remember his ‘84 keynote address at the Democratic convention was so stirring that my whole family hoped he run for national office. And again, Mario Cuomo cuts through all the political spin and gives the unvarnished truth. His condemnation for Congress for their naivety and willingness to give up their responsibilities to an untrustworthy administration makes me wish again for Cuomo on the national scene.

Let’s not do what we did before and wind up apologizing for our resolutions and saying we’re sorry. Now remember, the Founding Fathers gave the powers to declare war to the Congress. That power cannot be delegated to the President. You can’t adopt a resolution and say well, the Founding Fathers wanted us to do it, but it’s too heavy a lift for us, so we empower you, Mr. President, if you feel like doing it, to do it.

And my goodness, the President you’re talking about is the president who started a war with a mistaken context-assuming he was telling the truth, and I will-he was wrong about the reason for it, he was wrong about complicity, he was wrong about how many troops we needed, he was wrong about how we would be greeted when we got there, he was wrong about the civil war, wrong about how much it would cost, wrong about how long it would last and now you’re saying maybe he can start another war. It’s a mistake; this an opportunity for Democrats to show real leadership. And the presidential candidates should lead the way. And if they don’t, then the question is going to be when it comes to improvident war-making, why are you any better than Bush?

"A poll for Obama"

Ben Smith:
Obama got the boost that he -- and perhaps that a media looking for this to turn into a head-to-head between him and Clinton -- needed from Newsweek today: A poll that has him, for the first time, up in Iowa.

Among all Iowa Democratic voters, Clinton draws 31 percent, followed by Obama (25 percent) and Edwards (21 percent). But among likely caucus-goers, Obama enjoys a slim lead, polling 28 percent to best Clinton (24 percent) and Edwards (22 percent). Bill Richardson is the only other Democratic candidate to score in the double digits (10 percent).

Worth keeping in mind people who say they're "likely" to caucus is still a looser screen than one might like,* and also that according to the poll, his support isn't as strong as Hillary's.

Still, it suggests that his expensive new advertising push there could be making a dent, and it puts a bit of a damper on Hillary's inevitability.

UPDATE: Actually, it's the second poll with Obama up. The other was the August 3 ABC/Washpost survey. And details of the screen, which I'd initially misread, are here: it's registered Iowa Democrats who say they'll "definitely" or "probably" attend, and captures mostly repeat caucus-goers, a sign that it's a tight screen.

Friday, September 28, 2007

"Countdown: Jim Webb on Lieberman/Kyl, Rush Limbaugh and the Spanish Downing Street Revelations" (with video)

Crooks and Liars, with video:

video_wmv Download (1003) | Play (1182) video_mov Download (489) | Play (667) (h/t Bill W)

It’s dizzying to try to keep up with all the plates that the Right Wing are spinning. On Thursday’s Countdown, Keith Olbermann and Sen. Jim Webb try to put it all in perspective.

(On the Spanish “Downing Street” memos) There’s no real surprise there. If you look back at where the situation was in ‘02, I and General Tony Zinni and other people were saying that Iraq probably would have been sixth highest in terms of the threats to the United States. In fact, I wrote a piece in the Washington Post five years ago this month, basically saying “Do you really want to be in Iraq for the next 30 years?” and that these people have no exit strategy because they don’t intend to leave.

Obama: "Our Politics Are Broken" (videos from the rally in NYC on 9/27/07))

Video, part one (06:50).

Video, part two (06:50).

"At Debate, Nonverbal Cues May Speak Louder Than Words" (with videos)

WaPo with videos:
Tim Russert was pressing Hillary Rodham Clinton to answer a question she was trying to brush off, and three public-speaking coaches were riveted to the television.

"No, let me finish -- " Russert was saying early in Wednesday night's Democratic debate in New Hampshire.

"I know what the question is," Clinton said firmly. And she kept cutting him off until the moderator threw up his hands and let her answer her way.

Hours later, the consultants still couldn't get over the way Clinton won the rhetorical jujitsu against Russert, as they viewed it: with a steady gaze, a non-shrill tone, her left hand drawing an invisible line not to be crossed.

"If her voice had jumped up, or if she had made a quick cutting gesture, it would have been untoward," mused Seth Pendleton.

"She was showing patience with his lack of understanding," said John Neffinger.

Matt Kohut nodded. "It was masterful."

But . . . what was her answer again? Something about Israel and Syria? No one could remember. "It's the nonverbals," Pendleton said, laughing sheepishly, "that are endlessly fascinating here."

It's the "nonverbals" that the threesome, partners in a small, Washington-based consulting firm, KNP Communications, believe play a crucial role in how swing voters pick a candidate. They cite academic research in which average-Joe subjects predicted, with a startling level of accuracy, which candidate won a race after viewing only a brief, soundless clip of the pols in action. It's the soft science of first impressions and gut reactions -- not just what candidates say, but how they say it. Which ones convey warmth and strength with expansive gestures or a firm gaze; which ones undercut their messages with weakling posture or an untimely scowl.

In other words: Why Reagan beat Carter. Why Bill Clinton beat Dole.

The KNP guys -- Democrats unaffiliated with any of the 2008 presidential candidates -- earn their living loosening up CEOs and pols. They agreed to watch this week's debate with us to talk about who's got it when it comes to the nonverbals -- and who needs work.


Her eye contact is strong, her movements deliberate but not wooden. "How much calmer is her voice than all these shouting senators?" marvels Neffinger.

The topic is local police who refuse to enforce immigration law. "I don't think there is any choice," she says, shaking her head. Pendleton likes the shake: "It helps punctuate what she's saying. If you nod, people nod with you."

But Clinton's always been adept at conveying strength. Warmth? Still a new thing for her. So the test comes at the moment when Clinton declares she opposes torture, even to cadge information about an imminent terror attack -- and Russert notes, gotcha!-style, that her husband disagrees.

"Well, he's not standing here right now," retorts Clinton, staring down Russert -- and then breaks out in a coy grin: "Well, I'll talk to him later."

"Damn!" exclaims Neffinger.

"The tone is, 'I'm the one wearing the pants now,' " says Pendleton. "But she rounds it out with a genuine smile. That's a skill, to weave in warmth and humor."


He's blinking a lot -- is it the lights? -- and his smile seems forced. "He has a tendency to lose the smile as soon as he's made it," says Kohut. "It's not a real smile." When he talks about torture, his eyebrows stay raised just a little too long. "It's like writing in all caps," says Neffinger. "The value declines the more you use it."

But his body language displays a real enthusiasm when the topic moves to economics. "We have to be very careful," Edwards says, about Social Security, and he cups his hands as if carrying an egg.

Russert hits him with a question about $400 haircuts and the $500,000 he earned from a hedge fund, and Edwards visibly bristles.

"He's [peeved]!" says Pendleton, approvingly.

"Well, he could be more [peeved], if he could get the smile off his face," says Neffinger.

But Pendleton argues Edwards is demonstrating just the right amount of indignation: "He's talking faster, he's jutting out, like 'You want some of this?' The eyes narrow. There's a bit of Clint Eastwood."


He shifts from side to side, but in a "dynamic" way, not metronomic. He's doing the furrowed-brow thing, which feels appropriate with talk of Iraq.

But this is a candidate who won hearts with the "optimistic visage" of his 2004 Democratic convention speech. "His eye contact was up and out," says Pendleton. "His cadences were natural and energetic." Can Obama get that back?

He can, indeed -- when he starts talking about his children, and suddenly his head tilts upward, his face shining. You can't force that kind of warmth, the KNP guys say; it has to spring from a candidate's genuine feelings about a topic. Like Edwards, Obama lights up again (smiling, eyebrows raised) when the subject moves to pocketbook issues.

Then there's that . . . that look. Neffinger tries to mimic it: the cocked head, the easy grin, the sideways gleam in the eye. "That's part of the reason he's the young, hip candidate. He's the cool guy. He's got the head bob. Reagan had it."


Strong voice. More relaxed than ever, he's giving confident one-word answers, resisting the old impulse to declaim. Almost a great speaker. Except . . .

"We're talking about Iraq, right?" says Neffinger. "Let's see if he can keep the smile off his face." He does. But with Biden, you never know when it's going to come back. On the topic of cities coping with federal immigration mandates, the fantastic grin is unfurled, just as Biden describes a troubled city that "went in the dumpster."

Pendleton notes that Biden is simply smiling "at the absurdity" of the situation.

"Yeah," says Neffinger. "But the postmodern, ironic approach robs from the emotion of the issue."


He talks about Iraq in an earnest, plodding cadence, one word after the other. "It's not the way people talk to one another in a bar," says Neffinger. And there's the bad habit, whenever he says "The problem is" or "Here's the problem," of gesturing towards himself.

But Richardson suddenly gets his groove on the topic of immigration. He swings his fists like a prize fighter, head bobbing with each of his points, and the emotion registers as genuine. "That's the Bill Richardson who can really ignite people's passions," says Kohut. "This is an issue that's right up close to his heart."


He's tall, and -- face it -- people like that. Subconsciously, it suggests strength. His gestures are very strong and determined. But the stern-eagle stare, framed by those fierce black brows, rarely softens. "You don't get the warm Chris Dodd very often," says Neffinger.

If Dodd were a client, says Pendleton, "we would want him to tell a humorous story, something that would warm him up, open up his gestures" -- as Dodd briefly does, moments later, talking about his young daughters.

And, man, slow it down! "His points are good, but things run together," says Pendleton. "Get three points out there instead of four. You want the audience to appreciate it. It's like what they say in jazz -- the space between the notes."


Scolding Clinton for a vote he claimed would lead to war with Iran, Gravel flings an arm in her direction. "You'd think that kind of forceful gesture would convey strength, but we're looking for a steady hand," says Neffinger. "And he's yelling already."


But that's the pitfall for second-tier candidates, desperate to get their voices heard. Kucinich's patter approaches Doddlike velocities as he crams every no-nukes/no-war/go-green talking point into a single answer.

And then, his moment. "You can have a president" who opposed the war, opposed the Patriot Act and supports single-payer health care, Kucinich deadpans. "Or you can have a president who's tall." Ba-da BUM! Suddenly, an assured grin, a sly glance to the side.

"Look at that!" says Neffinger. "This guy is Mr. Cool tonight! He's not straining, the eyebrows are level. . . . If he had a little more gray in his hair, and were like this all the time, he might actually get somewhere."

"What more could Congress do over Iraq?"

The Politico's Jim VandeHei and John Harris got this right.

Galling as it may be to Democrats, Bush still can claim to be acting with more clarity and courage than the congressional majority.

He believes the Iraq war is right and has thrown away things most politicians crave -- approval ratings, and potentially his reputation in history -- to get what he wants.

Democratic leaders believe the war is wrong but have pursued their beliefs with a series of ginger calculations that so far have achieved no substantive changes in policy.

They are acting with the same defensive-mindedness that led many Democrats to swallow deep misgivings and vote five years ago to authorize the war in the first place.

So what could Democrats do?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could force a vote a day over Iraq. She could keep the House in session all night, over weekends and through planned vacations.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could let filibusters run from now till Christmas rather than yield to pro-war Republicans.

Such tactics might or might not be politically sensible, but in their absence, anti-war lawmakers can hardly say they have done everything possible to challenge the war and bring attention to their cause [...]

"Our view is that they are very strong, they have the public's support at their backs, and they need to use that strength," [MoveOn's Eli Parisher] said. "I think the efforts thus far have been good, but not good enough to put the Republicans on the spot about blocking an end to the war."

Specifically, he supports forcing Senate Republicans who are trying to block measures to force Bush's hand on troop withdrawals to back up their filibuster threats in a dramatic showdown on the Senate floor.

"Republicans are effectively filibustering, but no one knows it," he said. "One way to demonstrate what's going on is to make them stand there and read the phone book."

Seriously. Force them to sit there with that filibuster for days. No need for Democrats to speak. Leave the GOP obstructionism front and center. For days.

Let's see if they really have it in them to obstruct change in Iraq if the spotlight is truly on them.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Matthew Yglesias:
Watching the primary campaign, it keeps seeming to me as if Barack Obama is making arguments that, while fairly clear to me, must go over the heads of at least half of political junkies, to say nothing of normal people going about their lives.
Noam Scheiber, meanwhile, remarks on Obama's thinking:

At this point, the thinking in the Obama camp seems to rest on two assumptions. The first is that the press will do the work of deciphering his overly-subtle jabs at Clinton. The second is that Edwards, in moving aggressively to take on Clinton, will drive up his own negatives in addition to hers. But, after tonight, at least one of those assumptions may need revising. Edwards looks perfectly capable of firing shots without suffering much blowback. Elizabeth Edwards maybe onto something yet.

That just seems crazy to me. Readers have no doubt noticed that I like Obama and I like what I think his campaign stands for. But it's ridiculous to expect members of the press -- even sympathetic ones -- to make his arguments for him. If he wants people to vote for him rather than for Hillary Clinton, he needs to spell out some reasons why.

Months ago, the subtly hinting seemed like a clever effort to lay the groundwork for the campaign to come. But now the time has come. Even hard-core observers of the scene are, under the current strategy, essentially put in the position of trying to guess what Team Obama is trying to say.
Howie P.S.: Team Obama says "he still can catch Clinton" while "Obama Draws Thousands to NYC Park." and "Obama Distances Himself From Clinton, on Her Turf" (with video).

"Edwards says he'll accept public financing" (with video) (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Ben Smith has the talking points from the Edwards campaign on this decision. This story on The Politico says "Edwards' acceptance of matching funds a necessity." Markos is not thrilled.

CNN, with video:
ABOARD THE CNN ELECTION EXPRESS, New Hampshire (CNN) -- Former Sen. John Edwards Thursday said he will accept public financing for his presidential campaign, and challenged his chief rivals for the Democratic nomination, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, to follow his lead.
Edwards is the first top-tier Democratic presidential candidate to accept public financing.

"This is not about a money calculation," Edwards told CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley on his way to an event in Durham, New Hampshire. "This is about taking a stand, a principled stand, and I believe in public financing."

Edwards is battling Clinton, Obama and a handful of others for the Democratic party's presidential nomination.

With the third-quarter fundraising deadline just days away, Edwards emphasized he did not arrive at this decision because his Federal Election Commission report will show a drop-off in contributions from donors.

"First of all, I got the money I need to run a serious campaign," he said. "I hope that the other two will join me. As I've said, Sen. Clinton said she is for public financing so she can step forward and show she actually means it." Video Watch Edwards explain his decision to take public funds »

Edwards is the first top-tier Democratic candidate to agree to this funding mechanism, and he noted it will include the primary and general elections. Although he has already begun raising money for the general election, federal law requires him to return those funds if he accepts public funding.

Clinton and Obama have also been raising private funds for the general election, but Obama said he would return the money and accept public funding in the general if the Republican nominee agrees to do the same.

In the race for the GOP presidential nomination, Arizona Sen. John McCain has already said he will accept public financing.

In order to qualify for so-called "matching funds," the public funding program for the primary season, the FEC requires candidates to demonstrate nationwide support by raising $5000 in 20 different states with no individual contribution to exceed $250, a task which poses little difficulty for major candidates like Edwards.

Once qualified, the federal government will match the first $250 from new contributors, provided Edwards adheres to a $50 million national spending limit, as well as spending limits in each state. Candidates may not receive more than about $21 million in matching funds.

Public funding in the general election comes in the form of an $84 million grant given to a major party nominee if the candidate agrees not to raise or spend outside funds.

No general election candidate has ever refused these funds since the program began in 1976, though this year a number of presidential candidates from both parties have indicated they may forego the general election funding.

Edwards also vigorously defended his wife, Elizabeth, who has been critical of Clinton and her policies.

"First of all, I embrace my wife speaking her mind," Edwards said. "She is a strong woman; got her own opinions. She doesn't and should not ask me whether she can express her opinion."

"Does she say some things that are different than what I say? Yeah, of course. We are two different people. We are not the same person. There is nothing unexpected about that. I hope she'll keep speaking her mind."
Howie P.S.: Ben Smith, playing the role of skeptical reporter, has a question:
Will voters believe it's a matter of principle when it's adopted midway through an election campaign, and when convenience and principle seem to line up so neatly?

Edwards has taken a lot of criticism in the press today on a similar theme for drawing a sharp distinction between himself and Hillary on combat missions in Iraq, when he seemed to back combat missions in Iraq a couple of weeks ago. The press is likely, I'd guess, to harp on the fact that so many of his sharply-defined, and defining, positions, from support for universal health-care to opposition to the war, are new, adopted during the off-season or during the campaign.
Smith also brings back a Joe Trippi quote from the Dean campaign days:
"This campaign believes that any Democratic campaign that opted into the matching-funds system has given up on the general election.”

"Clinton (Bill) rips right wing for ‘feigned outrage’ over MoveOn ad." (with video)

Think Progress with video:

In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, President Bill Clinton said there was something “completely disingenuous about the feigned outrage” from conservatives over the MoveOn ad. Clinton noted that many of the same conservatives who expressed outrage had likened Sen. Max Cleland (D-GA) to Osama bin Laden and had smeared Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) war record. He added:

It was just bait and switch. It was just, oh thank goodness, I can take this little word here and ignore what we’ve done in Iraq and what we’re gonna do — and the outrageous way we gained political power by smearing John Kerry.

Watch it

"Highlight Reel--Dartmouth Dem Debate" (video)

Talking Points Memo video, (12:00):
On Wednesday night the Democratic presidential candidates squared off at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire for the first Dem debate of the fall season. Which candidate has the true plan for getting us out of Iraq? Which candidate believes the national army of Iran should be classified as a terrorist organization? And which candidate thinks Rudy Giuliani doesn't know what the heck he's talking about? Find out all the answers and more in today's Highlight Reel episode of TPMtv.

"Democratic Rivals Press Clinton, Courteously" (with video)

WaPo, with video (page one):
HANOVER, N.H., Sept. 26 -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton found herself on the defensive here Wednesday night in a debate in which the Democratic presidential candidates clashed over withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq, the financial future of Social Security and Iran's nuclear threat.

The two-hour debate featured clear differences but few fireworks. Clinton (N.Y.), the front-runner for the nomination, drew steady criticism, but her seven rivals couched their disagreements with respect rather than scorn or sharp words.
The debate came at a moment in the campaign when Clinton has solidified her position as the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination, putting pressure on her opponents to slow her momentum. A new poll in New Hampshire released Tuesday showed Clinton expanding her lead in the Granite State, although the race in Iowa, which will start the nominating process in January, is far more competitive.

After turning in a series of winning performances in previous debates, Clinton appeared less dominant on Wednesday. Her potential vulnerabilities were highlighted either through questions from moderator Tim Russert of NBC News or from responses from her opponents.

Russert pressed her to explain why she would be a good president after failing to win support for health-care reform during her husband's administration and after voting in 2002 to give President Bush authorization to launch a war that is now deeply unpopular.

Clinton defended her efforts to pass health-care reform, saying she had fought a sometimes-lonely battle against special interest forces. But she acknowledged that her new plan for universal care is one crafted from the lessons of that effort.

"There is so much that has happened that people can see with their own eyes now that I believe that we finally have a consensus to do what we should do," she said. But Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware questioned whether she could get the job done, saying Republicans will be more reluctant to compromise with Clinton than with other Democrats.

"I'm not suggesting it's Hillary's fault," he said. "I think it's a reality that it's more difficult, because there's a lot of very good things that come with all the great things that President Clinton did, but there's also a lot of the old stuff that comes back. It's kind of hard."

Sensing some unease over what he had said, Biden quickly added, "When I say old stuff, I'm referring to policy -- policy."

Russert opened the debate by asking Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and former senator John Edwards (N.C.) -- all of whom have supported a timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq, whether they would promise to have all the troops out by January 2013. All three declined to do so.

"We would get combat troops out of Iraq," Obama said. "The only troops that would remain would be those that have to protect U.S. bases and U.S. civilians, as well as to engage in counterterrorism activities in Iraq."

Clinton agreed. "I will drastically reduce our presence there to the mission of protecting our embassy, protecting our civilians," she said, "and making sure that we're carrying out counterterrorism activities there."

Edwards, who has been outspoken in his criticism of the Congress for failing to do more to stop the war, also declined to take the pledge. But he quickly turned the question into a criticism of Clinton, saying she would continue some combat operations long after most troops are out and he would not.

"To me, that's a continuation of the war," he said. "I do not think we should continue combat missions in Iraq."

Clinton sought to clarify her position, saying those combat missions would be aimed at eradicating al-Qaeda in Iraq, but Edwards said, "I believe this war needs to come to an end."

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said he would bring out all the troops within a year, saying "you cannot start the reconciliation of Iraq" before U.S. forces are out and pointedly disagreed with Clinton and Obama.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) said he would "get it done" in his first term, while Biden said he would bring them all home only if there were political reconciliation. If not, he said, American troops should be removed "because they're just fodder."

One of the sharpest exchanges came over a vote in the Senate on Wednesday on a resolution urging President Bush to designate the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group. Clinton supported the measure, Biden and Dodd opposed it. Obama did not vote.

"I am ashamed of you, Hillary, for voting for it," said former senator Mike Gravel of Alaska.

When Clinton defended the vote as something that could lead to sanctions against a group responsible for manufacturing weapons that are being used against U.S. forces in Iraq. But Edwards challenged her for that vote.

"I voted for this war in Iraq, and I was wrong to vote for this war," he said. "And I accept responsibility for that. Senator Clinton also voted for this war. We learned a very different lesson from that. I have no intention of giving George Bush the authority to take the first step on a road to war with Iran."

As the debate turned to domestic policy, the candidates debated how to make the Social Security system solvent. Clinton refused to point to specific remedies -- such as raising above $97,500 the amount of income that is taxed for Social Security, or raising the age that seniors begin drawing benefits -- and instead called for the federal government to return to the "fiscal responsibility" of her husband's administration.

"I think it's important that you cannot give away what you're going to be negotiating over when it comes to Social Security until you make it clear that fiscal responsibility has got to be the premise of the negotiation," Clinton said, saying that outlining where she would be willing to compromise would be akin to "negotiating with yourself."

But Obama said he would put all solutions on the table and that raising the cap on payroll taxes would be his preferred solution. And other candidates concurred. Edwards, striking a note of outrage, said he would tax upper-income earners -- people making above $200,000 a year -- on all of their paychecks, while protecting workers who earn between $97,000 and $200,000 from additional payroll taxes. Biden warned voters that few politicians would be honest about the hard choices ahead. "You're either going to cut benefits or you're going to go ahead and raise taxes," Biden said.

In perhaps the most awkward moment of the debate, Russert asked Clinton whether she would allow an exception to the ban on torture in order to gain knowledge from a terrorist such as Osama bin Laden. She said she would not. "As a matter of policy, it cannot be American policy, period," she said.

Russert informed her that it was her husband -- "William Jefferson Clinton," he said gravely -- who had offered up that very scenario a year earlier. Clinton stopped and paused. Then, she said: "Well, he's not standing here right now." Pressed by Russert on whether the couple has a difference on this issue, Clinton said with a wry smile, "Well, I'll talk to him later."

Wednesday night's debate was held on the campus of Dartmouth College and was one of six candidate forums sanctioned by the Democratic National Committee. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) also participated in the debate, which was aired on MSNBC.
The LA Times story, "Democrats remain united on key issues," comes with short videos of Obama, Clinton, Edwards and Richardson. "Obama, Edwards lead charge against Clinton in debate" is the Baltimore Sun story. georgia10 announces your chance at "live-blogging in the candidate's face" today on the front page of Kos.

"Inslee: Kennedy ‘Got Us To The Moon,’ But ‘Bush’s Energy Policy Wouldn’t Get Us To Cleveland’" (with video)

Think Progress, with video:
On Thursday, President Bush will host a meeting of the world’s major emitters of greenhouse gases where he will push them to accept his misguided framework of “voluntary” reductions.
Bush is using this meeting as an excuse for skipping yesterday’s conference at the United Nations where world leaders met to lay out an aggressive “road map” once the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Yesterday, ThinkProgress spoke with Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA), who sharply criticized Bush’s decision to skip the U.N. meeting and his destructive global warming policies. “Kennedy got us to the moon,” said Inslee. “George Bush’s energy policy wouldn’t get us to Cleveland.” From the interview:

[Bush] has this hallucination that somehow a voluntary system will cause the huge investment we need in high technology to be made. And we simply know that volunteerism is great for PTA bake sales, but they will not reorder the economic system of the world, and move to a clean energy technology. […]

But if we continue down this path of George Bush, with the rose-colored glasses, and he can wave his magic wand and suddenly everyone is going to make this investment. That dog just won’t hunt. And we’ve seen this sort of fictional policies before in his optimism that he was going to sprinkle success over Iraq and it’s the same thing with global warming.

Watch it:

Bush’s chief science adviser, John Marburger, recently said that manmade global warming is an “unequivocal” fact. But as Inslee notes, embracing rhetoric isn’t enough. He added that Bush has basically been reassuring his “friends in the oil and gas industry” that “we accept global warming, but don’t worry friends, we’re not going to actually do anything about it.”

The Bush administration has repeatedly resisted mandatory emission reductions and a cap-and-trade system. At the G-8 summit in June, German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed that countries adopt a 50 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, “but had to settle for compromise language after President Bush made it clear the United States would not agree to it.”

Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wrote to Bush and urged him to support “mandatory national and international limits” on greenhouse gas emissions.


INSLEE: I can’t tell you what’s happening in the recesses of the White House, but what I sense is the White House sort of having a, what I call a “wink-wink” global warming policy. Meaning now we are sort of, we’ll at least rhetorically recognize the science, the overwhelming consensus of the science of global warming, but we just won’t do anything about it.

So telling their friends in the oil and gas industry, “We’ll sort of mouth the words ‘we accept global warming,’ but don’t worry friends, we’re not going to actually do anything about it.” That’s why George Bush has continued to insist on these massive tax breaks for his friends in the oil and gas industry.

That’s why he has refused to accept a cap and trade system. That’s why his administration refuses to put research and development money into the high-tech sources that we need. So it’s a wink and a nod attitude, it won’t get us where we need.

We need what Kennedy did. When Kennedy said we’re going to the moon, he put muscle and meat and some money behind it, and we got to the moon. That’s the kind of leadership we need. Kennedy got us to the moon, George Bush’s energy policy wouldn’t get us to Cleveland.

The President has attempted, and unfortunately been somewhat successful, in getting international efforts to deal with global warming. The reason is, that he has this hallucination that somehow a voluntary system will cause the huge investment we need in high technology to be made. And we simply know that volunteerism is great for PTA bake sales, but they will not reorder the economic system of the world, and move to a clean energy technology.

Right now we need to send signals to the investment community and those signals would be that your investments in solar thermal power, photovoltaic power, wind power, wave power technology, plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel cells. If we send signals to the investment community that there will be binding, legally enforceable measures to make those technologies profitable, we’ll get that investment.

But if we continue down this path of George Bush, with the rose-colored glasses, and he can wave his magic wand and suddenly everyone is going to make this investment. That dog just won’t hunt.

And we’ve seen this sort of fictional policies before in his optimism that he was going to sprinkle success over Iraq and it’s the same thing with global warming.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"VP Speculation: The (Very) Early Jim Webb Edition"

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) is having a very good year for a lowly Senate freshman.
Last week, Webb's proposal to extend home leaves for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan appeared so close to winning the 60 votes needed for passage that the White House and Pentagon brass intervened to claw back GOP defectors. This week, Webb is back on the Senate floor promoting another high-profile Iraq measure, to crack down on U.S. civilian contractors in light of alleged abuses.

Politicians know they're on a hot streak when they start showing up on vice-presidential lists, and sure enough, Webb's name has somehow become part of the Democratic mix. It's no big surprise. A political newcomer with strong military credentials, he beat would-be GOP presidential candidate George Allen in the biggest Senate upset of 2006. His approval ratings remain high, and his steady, pragmatic voice in the Iraq debate has only helped to fuel the speculation.

Shrewdly, Webb has cooked up a convincing non-committal response that should keep interest raging for months to come. "I don't know how to answer this question," the senator said, chuckling. "This is like the conundurm, there's no good answer. I'm not in any way actively interested in doing that. I'm really getting my feet on the ground here. We're making a difference. And also, nobody is asking me about it either. There's no way that I'm out here asking to have that position."
Howie P.S.: Ben Smith who is live-blogging the debate right now in New Hampshire, says Webb is "fully in the Obama veepstakes."

"The Front-Runner"

Eli Sanders (The Stranger):
In This Washington, It's Obama--The new conventional wisdom among the D.C. press corps is that Hillary Clinton has emerged as the front-runner to win the Democratic presidential nomination. Why? The quality of her campaign, her strong showing at the Democratic debates, the positive reception for her recent health-care plan, and, as always, the polls. National polls consistently show Clinton ahead of her Democratic rivals, and, more importantly, polls in New Hampshire, one of the earliest primary states, have shown Clinton with a comfortable lead. The sense of Clinton being in first position was reinforced on September 23, when she hit five political talk shows in one Sunday morning, and then on September 24, when word came that President Bush had weighed in on Clinton's seemingly invincibility. "I believe our candidate can beat her, but it's going to be a tough race," Bush told a reporter for the Washington Examiner, after indicating that he thought Clinton would get the nod from Democratic primary voters.
As usual, however, things are much different in this Washington. Here, Barack Obama seems to be the front-runner, at least in terms of money and grassroots excitement. Obama has raised just over $740,000 in Washington for his presidential run, nearly three times as much as Clinton, who's taken in about $263,000 from this state (and considerably more than John Edwards, who has just over $399,000 from Washingtonians). With a large network of antiwar former Deaniacs behind him, Obama also has considerably more grassroots cred here than his two main rivals.

"There's something going on in Washington," says Peter Masundire, 47, a health-care consultant from South Seattle who acts as communications coordinator for Washington for Obama, an organization that operates independent of Obama's official campaign. Masundire says the number one thing pushing people in this state into the Obama camp is the Iraq war. "Obama was right on the Iraq war before it started," he told me. "So that resonates with a lot of Washington voters."

The national Obama campaign has taken notice. Jen Psaki, spokesperson for Obama, praised the "amazing grassroots energy and organization" in this state, but, no doubt because Washington's Democratic Caucuses come so late as to be almost irrelevant, Psaki also sought to paint the energy here as part of a broader trend that Clinton watchers aren't noticing. "We have this going on in a lot of parts of the country," Psaki told me over the phone from New York on September 25, where she was preparing to help with an event in Brooklyn marking the fifth anniversary of Obama's 2002 speech opposing the Iraq war authorization—that's the much-discussed speech in which Obama correctly warned that the war could lead to "a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences."

It will be interesting to see whether Psaki is right that the pro-Obama energy in Washington is mirrored nationwide, but it's also interesting to wonder why it's so particularly strong here right now. Like Masundire, Psaki told me it's all about the war. "Also," she said, it's "the fact that he really is a fresh and new voice. People are really looking for a change in leadership. He's really the one candidate who can bring that about."

King County Executive Ron Sims, who recently endorsed Clinton and signed on as her campaign cochair for this state, wouldn't bite on the question of why Obama's been doing so well in Washington. Instead, Sims simply repeated one pro-Clinton talking point: "Any poll that's been done shows that she's ahead, even here." I asked: What about Obama's money momentum in Washington? Sims: "The fact is, Senator Clinton leads in the polls in this state." I asked: What about Obama's strong grassroots support here? Sims: "Senator Clinton is the poll leader here."

Knowing that there have been few polls of Washington State voters on the Democratic primary slate, I asked Sims what "polls" he was referring to. He had only one: a SurveyUSA poll from May showing Clinton at 38 percent, Obama at 30 percent, and Edwards at 19 percent.

A four-month-old poll is hardly a definitive rebuttal to the sense that Obama has become Washington's man. And in any case, Masundire told me that he believes any poll focused on likely Democratic primary voters (that is, people who have voted in Democratic primaries in the past) is going to miss a lot of Obama support. Among the Obama enthusiasts, here and around the country, who Masundire believes are going uncounted: young new voters, people who only have cell phones (and thus aren't on pollsters' call lists), and people who haven't voted in recent elections but will vote next year because of Obama.

Speaking of the D.C. prognosticators and their designation of Clinton as the front-runner, Masundire told me: "I think when the primaries come, they are really going to be surprised."

"Kyl-Lieberman Iran Amendment Passes By Huge Margin" (UPDATED)

UPDATE: TPM's Election Central has the full roll call vote as well as an explanation (in the comments) for Obama's absence:
Obama is in New Hampshire trying to become our next President. Majority Leader Reid said last night that there would be no vote on this amendment in the near future, so Senator Obama had no reason to expect that this vote would be happening today. The announcement that the amendment would come up for a vote today didn't happen until 12:30pm. What was Senator Obama supposed to do, hop on a private jet and fly straight back to the Capitol? It's not like his vote would've changed the outcome.

Talking Points Memo (Election Central):
The Kyl-Lieberman Iran amendment -- which ratchets up the confrontation with Iran by calling for the designation of its Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization responsible for killing U.S. troops -- just passed overwhelmingly, 76-22.

Of the Dem Presidential candidates, Hillary voted for the measure, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd opposed it, and Barack Obama missed the vote. On the GOP side, John McCain missed the vote.

The bill's backers had tried to mollify its critics by taking out some of its most incendiary language, particularly the idea that "it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies."

Also removed from the measure was a provision "to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments" in support of the above.

One leading critic, Jim Webb, however, still opposed the bill because it designates the Iran guard a terrorist organization. Nonetheless, it was able to pass overwhelmingly.

We'll bring you the exact language of the amendment when it's available.

Late Update: You can read a copy of the actual legislation here in our TPM Document Collection.

Also added to the final version was this conciliatory-sounding language:

"Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated on September 16, 2007 that "I think that the administration believes at this point that continuing to try and deal with the Iranian threat, the Iranian challenge, through diplomatic and economic means is by the preferable approach. That the one we are using. We always say all options are on the table, but clearly, the diplomatic and economic approach is the one that we are pursuing."

In the end, though, the amendment says this:

"the United States should designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization...and place the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


UPDATE: Jim Webb calls it Dick Cheney’s fondest pipe dream," with video and then Harry Reid announces "Lieberman-Kyl amendment being revised."

From the People's Email Network via Leo Henton:

In case you thought it was just an aberrant moment of lunacy last week when
Lieberman pressed General Petraeus for an attack on Iran, just before the
weekend he introduced an amendment to the defense bill to authorize exactly
No, we are not kidding. He has drafted language that any impartial observer would interpret as a DECLARATION OF WAR against Iran, and he is pressing for a vote as fast as possible: ACTION PAGE

Here is the language from the amendment:

(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;

(4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and
military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies.

The policy of the U.S should be to "combat" Iran with "all" "military instruments"?!? You can be absolutely certain that those are the ONLY words Dick
Cheney and George Bush will see or care about.


We need every warm body we can muster to call and email their senators RIGHT NOW, before they pull another fast one and sneak this one through in the dead of the night. Call them toll free at 800 828-0498, 800 614 2803 or 866 340 9281, and the submit the action form below to make sure your message gets through.

Just yesterday, Newsweek reported that Cheney had recently made overtures to Israel to get them to launch an attack against Iran, to try to provoke an all
out conflagration. It seems every day there is a new story leaked about their aggressive preparations for The Debacle, Part 2. And just as in the lead up to
the Iraq invasion, they will keep lying, lying and lie some more about their intentions until they've shot off every cruise missile in the military inventory.

We need your voice, and the voices of everyone else you know, and we them now. We need to absolutely flood the Capitol with phone calls and email. Please
believe your voice counts. Please believe that when enough of us raise our voices together at one time they do have an impact.

Cheney and his minions are absolutely not going to st op pushing for an even
bigger disaster unless we stop them by speaking out with a louder voice. So we cannot let up ourselves even for an instant.

"Union's non-choice is loss for Edwards, gain for Obama "

Lynn Sweet (Chicago Sun-Times):
CARBONDALE, Ill. -- After an eight-hour board meeting in Chicago on Monday, the executive board of the Service Employees International Union decided not to endorse for now in the Democratic primary. The executive board will revisit an endorsement on Oct. 8, after the third-quarter fund-raising totals are in.
This is a big setback for White House hopeful former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), who has been working the SEIU leaders (first, second and third tier) for years. This is very good news for rival Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who now has bought time to persuade SEIU leaders that he is the most politically viable contender.

I'm told the leaders of the SEIU -- one of the most politically active unions in the nation -- want to make an endorsement. And there are elements within the leadership who want to stop Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who is the frontrunner in most polls -- national and in the four early primary states.

I'm told the executive board never even took a vote. That's all bad news for the Edwards forces, who hoped to lock in the SEIU endorsement last week, after the top Dem contenders addressed their political conference in Washington. But SEIU chief Andy Stern and SEIU chief politico Anna Burger said the executive board needed to hear more from the top strategists for the campaigns. Team Obama sent strategist David Axelrod and campaign manager David Plouffe.

Obama delivered a stemwinder last week at the conference. I wrote last week he faced an uphill battle getting the union's backing. By slowing down the process on Monday, he's leveling the hill.

Presumably, Obama will have a strong third-quarter fund-raising showing. The books close Sept. 30 and Edwards will be lucky to have $8 million. Obama and Clinton should be reporting at least $20 million in third-quarter results.

Today, Change-to-Win, a labor federation of which the SEIU is a member, meets in Chicago. No endorsement is expected.

Monday, September 24, 2007

"Not One More Dime – Not One More Life"

Chad Shue (The Left Shue):

So the next (continuing?) round of blood money requests begins on Wednesday. On that day, according to the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates will present a request for nearly $50 BILLION for the continuing occupation of Iraq to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
What makes this request so special is that it will coming less than one month before the same body will be tasked with another request for some $147 BILLION as part of the 1st Qtr 2008 Defense Appropriations Bill. That’s right, in less than 30 days the Democratic led Congress will be asked to authorize over $200 BILLION for an occupation of Iraq that the majority of Americans want brought to an end sooner rather than later.

While I am no longer convinced that we have much influence over how our elected officials vote, I am passing along the link to the membership list for the Senate Appropriations Committee as well as the link for Sen. Patty Murray who sits on that committee. Please let these folks know that we know there is already enough money in the pipeline to bring our troops home safely. Any additional funds allocated by the congress will only add to the body count. When the argument comes back that “we need 60 votes.” let them know that we know, as the majority party, the Democrats control what bills come to floor and which ones languish in committee. If the leadership fails to lead then it will only take 41 senators to filibuster any spending bill that comes out of the committee. And to be clear, the time for “timelines” has passed. There can be no doubt that anything with a timeline will be vetoed; and we know what happens when that happens. No, if you want to see this travesty brought to an end, you must demand:

Not One More Dime – Not One More Life

Chad (The Left) Shue

"Richardson and the bloggers on Iraq" (with video)

Ben Smith, with video (04:29):
The guys at OpenLeft, among others, worked on and appear in this Bill Richardson Web ad, which draws sharp contrasts between him and each of his five leading rivals.
"Bill Richardson is the only major Democratic candidate with a plan to withdraw all the American troops from Iraq," the announcer says.

The ad represents, in part, the frustration of some on the anti-war left that leading Democrats favor a gradual withdrawal. And leading bloggers' throwing in their lots with Richardson -- or at least with the issue of the war -- gives him as plausible a claim on being the "Netroots candidate."

Here's Chris Bowers on the ad:

I am thrilled to be working with Bill Richardson on this issue. While this ad is not an official endorsement of Bill Richardson's candidacy, it is an endorsement of his no residual forces plan for Iraq. It is an endorsement of his leadership on the issue. It is an endorsement of the need for a public debate on how many troops Democrats plan to leave in Iraq, what those troops will do, and how long they will stay in Iraq. Every Democrat should be aware of all candidate plans for residual forces in Iraq before they decide who to support in the primaries.

Just because a candidate says he or she will end American military involvement in the war in Iraq does not mean that he or she is actually proposing to end American military involvement in the war in Iraq.

"Yahoo News Democratic Mashup and Debate" (videos)

Yahoo News, with videos:
Welcome to the first online debate. Charlie Rose interviews the candidates, but you get to compare them. Step 1, pick as many candidates as you want; Step 2, pick one issue. Then, watch your mashup.
Howie P.S.: Today's Seattle P-I joins me in tardy coverage, "Internet debate attracts over 1M viewers."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"In Iowa, Democratic race still contested"

Miami Herald:
Sen. Hillary Clinton holds a commanding lead in most national polls and early voting states, but in Iowa, she is in a three-person contest.--INDIANOLA, Iowa --Democrats enter the fall campaign with one question hanging over their party: Can anyone catch Hillary Clinton?

The New York senator has combined the party's most popular brand name with a muscular, disciplined campaign to take a commanding position almost everywhere. She has opened double-digit leads over her nearest rivals in national polls, as well as in early voting states such as New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and California. If she runs the tables there, the nomination almost certainly will be hers.
Yet in Iowa, the state that will kick off the voting in precinct caucuses one night in January, she is still in a three-person race with former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

And history suggests that anything can happen there in the final weeks as more voters tune in. At this stage four years ago, Howard Dean led in the Iowa polls, only to collapse as voting neared, and John Kerry trailed in a distant third place, only to go on to win Iowa and the nomination.

''This thing is just starting,'' said Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware. ``It's like the gun just went off.''

While Biden and his rivals clash over who has the better plan to get out of Iraq or who would do more on healthcare, Iowa voters tend to see the top candidates as similar on the hot-button issues.

Rather than making their voting decisions on issues, then, voters are signaling in interviews that they're more interested in whether a candidate could win the general election and how he or she would govern -- an approach that could decide whom they support and whom they reject in coming weeks.


Most Iowa Democrats interviewed at random in recent days like or admire Clinton. Many think her experience in Washington as a first lady and senator would give her an edge in pushing the Democratic agenda through Congress and into law.

''She has the experience and knows what it takes to get things done. She is the best chance we have to get universal healthcare,'' said Cindy Forbes of Urbandale, a suburb of Des Moines.

Reminded that Clinton failed to enact healthcare as first lady, Forbes said that was a plus, not a minus, because it gave her valuable experience in the Washington power game.

But some Iowa Democrats harbor doubts about whether Clinton's political baggage -- rekindled by the recent turmoil over a major contributor -- would cost them the general election.

''I'm scared of Hillary. I'm scared she'll bring out all the critics again, all the talk about all the scandal and all that,'' said Bob McNertney of Sioux City. ``But I do think she'll win the nomination. She looks unstoppable.''

Many are also drawn to Obama and his lofty appeal to more civil politics.

''I love listening to him speak,'' said Sandra Johnson, a factory worker from Thompson, a small town near the Minnesota border.

``This is the third time I've heard him. He makes you feel like things really could change.''

Though Obama's been in the Senate for only three years, Johnson thinks that gives him a fresh, less jaded approach. ``Maybe we need someone who hasn't been in there to shake things up.''

But a lot of people think he's too inexperienced to be president.

''It's not his time,'' said Cindy Forbes of Urbandale, a suburb of Des Moines. ``He's not experienced enough. He'll be president someday, but not now.''

And many prefer Edwards and his ''give-'em-hell'' populism. They're eager to fight the Republicans and big business at every opportunity, especially as they watch the Democratic Congress fail to stand up to President Bush and end the war.

''He can bring the Democratic Party back to its roots, for the people, not the D.C. elites,'' said Lauri Lumm-Usher of Marion, a suburb of Cedar Rapids.

Compromising with corporate America in the Clinton-led 1990s hurt working Americans on issues from healthcare to trade, she said. Edwards would reverse that.


Yet some Democratic voters are weary of Edwards' talk about his humble roots, a message undercut by a $400 haircut and a 28,000-square-foot home.

''I liked him until he said he was a son of a mill worker and rose from nothing,'' said Dann Johnson, a farmer from Thompson and Sandra Johnson's husband. ``That was like saying a mill worker is nothing. That really turned me off.''

Finally, all tend to like Biden and rest of the field -- Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.

But few Iowa Democrats think any of them can win the nomination.

"Clinton Solidifies Edge as Rivals Take a Tougher Line"

NY Times:
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has consolidated her early lead in the Democratic presidential contest, showing steady strength as the candidates head toward the first voting early next year.
She has been challenged for fund-raising supremacy and news media attention by Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. Former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina beat her to the punch in introducing big policy proposals. But nothing that her main rivals have done has so far has derailed Mrs. Clinton, leading them to begin rolling out aggressive new strategies aimed primarily at her, including courting black voters in South Carolina and stepping up attacks.

She has maintained solid leads in most national polls. And while polls in early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire are of limited value in predicting the outcome, they too show her more than holding her own entering the period in which primary voters begin to make up their minds.

“I think they’ve run a great campaign,” David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, said of Mrs. Clinton, of New York. “She’s been a very disciplined candidate. They’ve been deft in trying to get ahead of this tidal wave of people out there who really want change. They are doing the best they can with it.”

But Mr. Axelrod, pointing to what he saw as Mrs. Clinton’s foremost vulnerability, said: “The question is ultimately, Is she credible — whether people buy her as an agent of change in Washington. If they do, she’ll do well.”

A senior adviser to Mr. Edwards, Joe Trippi, said: “You used to be able to say the front-runners — her and Obama — but I don’t think that’s the case anymore. It’s pretty clear that she has sort of pulled away.”

Mr. Obama is moving to deal directly with what his advisers said continued to be his weaker flank — concerns about his experience — with a burst of television advertisements that began this week in Iowa and will continue next week in New Hampshire. Mr. Edwards, trying to shake things up in a race where most of the attention has been focused on Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama, has started what aides say will be an escalating series of attacks on Mrs. Clinton.

Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards face tough decisions in the weeks ahead.

They see the same path to victory — which includes turning the contest into a two-person race with Mrs. Clinton — but are concerned that attacks on one another would only end up helping her.

Mr. Obama’s decision to address the experience issue so directly came despite the concern of some associates about inviting new attention to a weakness. And Mr. Edwards’s decision to tackle Mrs. Clinton could have the unintended effect of helping Mr. Obama in states like Iowa, where caucus voters often recoil at the sight of two-candidate spats.

There is almost daily evidence that the Democratic presidential campaign has moved into a lively new phase in which campaigns are not passing up any opportunities to win over voters.

Mr. Obama’s aides are organizing black hair salon owners in South Carolina, a deep-seated social network that advisers said would be critical to pushing a historic black turnout that Mr. Obama hopes can deliver him victory there. In Iowa, the Obama campaign is signing up high school students who will be old enough to vote in the general election and can participate in caucuses.

Mrs. Clinton, after winning a burst of attention by rolling out a detailed health care plan this week, is planning similar speeches in the weeks ahead on education and energy. Mr. Edwards, who campaigned in all 99 Iowa counties in 2004, hit his 76th county on Friday as he made his way across the state to see if the people who supported him in 2004 were still with him.

The three leading contenders have also adopted decidedly different views of how the race will play out. Mrs. Clinton’s advisers argued that it would probably end on Feb. 5 when about 20 states vote. Though only 50 percent of the delegates will be selected by that day, the Clinton advisers suggested that one candidate would be so far ahead that there would be huge pressure on the other Democrats to rally around the leader.

Mr. Obama has begun preparing for a much more protracted campaign, arguing that it will be in effect a hunt for delegates that could last well into the spring. To that end, he is competing in some unlikely places — New York, for example, where he is holding a rally in Washington Square Park on Thursday — because under Democratic rules, delegates are allocated to candidates based on the percentage of votes they win.

And Mr. Edwards is looking for a victory in Iowa to bounce him to victory in New Hampshire, drawing a shot of attention and contributions that his aides argued would allow him to sweep through the Feb. 5 states.

But if there is one dominant sentiment in the Obama and Edwards camps these days, it is concern that Mrs. Clinton continues to do so well. On Friday, Mr. Obama released a television advertisement in which he talked about the lessons he learned about health care from the death of his mother, the kind of emotional personal anecdote that candidates normally hold back until the end.

Though these three candidates have dominated the race, there are signs that Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has made inroads. Other candidates — in particular, Senators Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut — are seen as far less likely to win any primaries. But they could affect the tone of the race based on the issues they press and if they choose to try to take on one of the leading candidates.

Although polls at this point in a campaign are notoriously unpredictable, the fact that Mrs. Clinton is leading in many of them is clearly influencing the way candidates, and the news media, view the race. And Mrs. Clinton is trying to use her standing to overcome a perceived obstacle: that she is tarnished by her White House years and cannot win a general election.

These same polls stirred some concern among Mr. Obama’s supporters that he has not yet capitalized on the early excitement that surrounded his campaign.

“It would have been nice if he had taken the lead during the summer and increased the lead going into the fall, but in realistic terms, this is as good as it can get,” said Tom Miller, the Iowa attorney general, who is a supporter of Mr. Obama. He added, “The key was to get the burst, stabilize it and make a run in the end.”

Mr. Axelrod said that Mr. Obama’s campaign had made a deliberate decision to hold off the bulk of its advertising money until now, when more people are paying attention, and that he was not concerned about polls or perceptions. Mr. Obama spent $1.5 million on television advertisements in Iowa, a substantial amount that Iowa Democrats said has not appeared to improve his standing significantly.

And some of Mr. Obama’s advisers said Mrs. Clinton had done a far better job in dealing with one of her biggest tasks — trying to present herself as a candidate of change, notwithstanding her 15 years in Washington — than Mr. Obama had with the experience question. In the final week of August, Mr. Obama expressed frustration to some of his close associates at the course of his campaign, saying he felt his message was adrift, and personally took to rewriting some of the basic themes.

“I was confused initially on this whole experience argument,” he told supporters here recently, “because I’ve been in public service for 20 years as a community organizer, as a civil rights attorney, as a law professor, as a state senator, as a United States senator. And so I was a little puzzled, but I came to realize what they really mean by this argument is that I haven’t gotten enough seasoning in Washington.”

Reflecting his successful fund-raising, Mr. Obama has spent millions to build a field operation in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, and has enough money to build organizations in other states.

“We wouldn’t be putting staff in Colorado and California if we weren’t comfortable with our financial picture,” said David Plouffe, the Obama campaign manager. In Iowa alone, the Obama campaign is preparing to open its 31st field office, which is more than Mr. Edwards or Mrs. Clinton have.

“They are doing the fundamental organizational building that Dean overlooked,” said John Norris, an Obama supporter in Iowa, who managed John Kerry’s winning caucus campaign over Howard Dean four years ago. But the Democrats have all shied away from sustained attacks on one another. Mr. Axelrod, who was a senior adviser to Mr. Edwards in 2004, said he had learned the pitfalls of attacks in a field of multiple candidates.

“This history of these things is you can’t treat the process, to borrow Obama’s phrase, like a game of bumper cars,” he said. “You bump someone, you never know who else might drive past you.”
Howie P.S.: Christy Hardin Smith comments,
a pseudo-behind-the-scenes as they want you to see them anyway glimpse into some of the campaign back and forth between the Clinton, Obama and Edwards camps.
The Hill says "Clinton faces huge test on Sunday," casting her appearance on five Sunday talk shows as possibly a "defining day in her run for the White House." Guests (Rob Thomas, comedienne Janeane Garofalo and author Salman Rushdie) on Bill Maher's show discuss those who "don't speak out when it can affect their career." Ben Smith is almost live-blogging all her appearances this morning.