Monday, December 31, 2007

Video: Barack Obama Answers Question - “Why You Instead of John Edwards?”

Think On These Things: video, (03:41):

Happy New Year from howieinseattle (Updated)

UPDATE: New Iowa Poll: Obama widens lead over Clinton---Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has widened his lead in Iowa over Hillary Clinton and John Edwards heading into Thursday's nominating caucuses, according to The Des Moines Register's final Iowa Poll before the 2008 nominating contests.

Obama's rise is the result in part of a dramatic influx of first-time caucusgoers, including a sizable bloc of political independents. Both groups prefer the Illinois senator in what has been a very competitive campaign.
Howie P.S.: icebergslim's diary on Kos starts the Obama celebration tonight.

I am waiting for the final pre-caucus Iowa Poll results from the Des Moines Register. This poll is reputedly the most accurate predictor of what place each candidate will finish, but not necessarily the margins between them. It will be available online here after 9pm CST, which I believe is 7pm PST. I should still be functional at that hour and will post and distribute.


Ari Melber (The Nation):
Barack Obama is drawing huge crowds in his final swing through Iowa, while his field organizers are ramping up what could be the largest mobilization program in the history of the caucuses.
On Sunday night, Obama spoke to a packed gym on the South Side of Des Moines, a working class neighborhood in Iowa's largest county, which John Edwards won with about 8,000 caucus votes in 2004. "I'm the only candidate in this race who has actually passed laws to take away the power of the special interests and the lobbyists," Obama declared to the cheering crowd. His down-tempo stump speech presents voters with a temperamental spectrum: Edwards lurches to the angry left; Clinton gravitates towards Beltway accommodation; but only Obama stands for a practical idealism that can inspire and deliver.

Yet with four days to go, even the king of anti-politics cannot avoid talking tactics. Obama's speeches are now studded with appeals to electability. In a strategy powerpoint released on Monday, Obama's aides claim he is more electable than Clinton and better funded than Edwards. The document also implies that reporters should discount Edwards for accepting public financing, despite Obama's pledge to do the same in a general election (if the Republican nominee agrees). David Axelrod, the campaign's chief strategist, defended the emphasis on electability in the homestretch. "I don't think electability is a Beltway concern, electability is the concern of every Democrat," he told The Nation on Sunday. "The fact that [Obama] doesn't bring the baggage of some of the other candidates to a general election enhances our ability to win, and that's very important," he added.

Unlike traditional voter turnout, caucus attendance is not necessarily tied to spending, field organizers or crowd size, as Howard Dean saw in 2004. But Obama has drawn huge crowds at events in several Iowa towns in the past week, far outpacing Edwards and Clinton, including over 500 people in Nevada, Davenport and Mason City. The campaign says it drew an astounding 600 people to a recent event in Carroll -- a tiny town where only 649 people caucused in 2004. Obama has over 200 field officers deployed in 37 field offices across the state; the Des Moines office was buzzing well past midnight on Sunday night. Organizers are distributing a detailed, 16-page confidential strategy packet for precinct captains, advising on everything from how to count delegates to "persuasion talking points" tailored to supporters of other candidates. Democrats who caucus for non-viable candidates – falling short of 15 percent in a precinct – get to vote in a second round, which can tip the entire caucus. As a former organizer, Obama is already making a pitch for those crucial second choice votes. He is now telling Iowans if they are "embarrassed" about their commitment to another candidate, "then make me your second choice."

"Live from Iowa - Join the Call"

Jim Dean, Democracy for America:
All year, we've been working hard to make sure that the Democratic nominee is progressive. With the Iowa caucus on Thursday and the New Hampshire primary only a few days later, there's no better time to find out how the DFA Unite for a Progressive President campaign is working on the ground in Iowa.
Please join me for a nationwide conference call Wednesday night, January 2, starting at 8pm central time.

Live from Iowa with Jim Dean
National Link-Up Conference Call
8pm to 8:30pm Central Time

Call-In Number: (646) 200-0620

Or listen live on the net at:

I'll be in Davenport Iowa, joining DFA members at their January Link-Up. You can call in from your local group's January Link-Up, call in from home, or listen live on the net.

We'll hear directly from local DFA members about the momentum on the ground for Kucinich, Edwards, and Obama. DFA Unite Caucus Captains will update us on the campaign at their caucus location. We'll even read some of the Unite letters local members received from DFA members nationwide.

This will be a fun call on the eve of the first election of 2008. This is what a national community is all about. I hope you can join us.

Thank you for everything you do.


Jim Dean

"Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell Endorses Clinton"
Cantwell is 10th Senator To Back Hillary; By Far, More Senators Support Clinton Than Any Other Democratic Candidate

Hillary Clinton picked up her 10th U.S. Senate endorsement today, by far the most of any Democratic presidential candidate.

Washington Senator Maria Cantwell was the latest to announce her support for Hillary, citing her ability to deliver real solutions to America’s problems.
"Hillary is ready to address our energy challenges on day one with a bold, comprehensive plan to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and move America toward a renewable energy future," Senator Cantwell said.

Reelected in 2006, Sen. Cantwell has championed the development of clean, alternative fuels, and led the effort to stop drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The fact that 10 U.S. senators have endorsed Hillary in the midst of a heated primary race speaks volumes—they know that she is ready to lead this country on Day One and is the most electable Democrat in the field.

"I’m honored to have such strong support from my colleagues across the country,” Clinton said. “They have concluded that I would be the best president and the Democrat most likely to be elected in 2008."

Hillary’s support comes from every corner of America and represents the diversity of our nation, including red state Senators Evan Bayh of Indiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

Clinton has 77 congressional endorsements, more than double any other presidential candidate. They include some of the most vocal opponents of the Iraq war.

"After a Son’s Death, a Shared Mission in Politics"

NY Times:
In an instant, a world in which everything seemed right suddenly seemed all wrong. John and Elizabeth Edwards’s 16-year-old son, Wade, their first-born, was dead, with nothing to blame but the gust of wind that had flipped his car off a wide-open road.
As the couple walked down the aisle of the church for his funeral, they braced each other, friends recalled, as if they could not stand alone.

In the bleak months that followed, the Edwardses looked for ways to keep Wade’s name alive, taking comfort even in seeing it printed on credit-card offers that arrived in the mail. Determined to honor their son publicly and fill their life with meaning, they created a learning center named after him. They chose to have more children. And they decided Mr. Edwards would enter politics, a path that took him first to the United States Senate and now to his second run for the presidency.

The campaign is a shared mission. Elizabeth Edwards is her husband’s most trusted adviser, his chief provocateur and his most popular surrogate, mobbed at campaign stops by people who admire her struggle against breast cancer and share stories of children lost. She describes the presidency as not just his quest, but hers, too.

Her visibility and their decision to continue with the campaign despite learning in March that her cancer was incurable has put the Edwardses’ marriage on display like no other in this presidential race. From afar, Americans have wondered at their bond or questioned their values, cheered them on or condemned them. Some people assumed they were in denial, others accused them of an ambition that knew no bounds.

But to the Edwardses, their decision simply showed a sense of purpose and a lesson learned a decade ago from crushing pain: If you can’t control life, you can at least embrace it more urgently.

“We’ve been through the worst a couple can go through,” Mr. Edwards said in an interview. “So long as there’s something you can do that’s positive, there’s a chance. As long as there’s a chance, there’s something to hold on to.”

The desire, even the need, to push forward has come to define them. “Every married couple has a history, but they have the force of this gigantic history,” said Glenn Bergenfield, a friend since law school. “They’re both fighter pilots. You keep going. The important thing is the mission, the important thing is to keep going.”

When Opposites Attract

Arriving at the University of North Carolina law school in 1974, Johnny Edwards had all the upbeat confidence of a small-town football star. But he had working-class roots and had barely spent time in any city, and he was intimidated by his more worldly classmates — none more so than Elizabeth Anania, who sat a few rows in front of him in their civil-procedure class. She had “the blackest hair and fine light blue eyes,” he later wrote in his memoir.

Four years his senior, Ms. Anania was the daughter of a Navy pilot and had lived all over the United States and in Japan. Friends described the dinner table at the Anania household as the kind of intellectual forum where you learned to speak up or keep your head down. Moving every year or so had taught her to adapt fast.

“She was like the mayor of our little town,” Mr. Bergenfield recalled, organizing sports teams, fixing up couples, making friends for those too shy to do it themselves. “She was dazzling, beautiful and unafraid in class.”

She thought she had nothing in common with Mr. Edwards — “we listened to different music, we read different books,” she said. Still, Mr. Bergenfield recalled, “there was something in her mind about him. He was a little puzzling to her.”

For their first date, Mr. Edwards took her dancing at a local Holiday Inn — not, to her, a promising start. But his good-night kiss to her forehead touched her with its tenderness and restraint. She never dated anyone else again.

Thirty years after their wedding, they still have different tastes: she’s more poetry, he’s more Grisham, she’s more C-Span, he’s more ESPN. When a cable movie channel asked politicians to talk about their favorite movies in 2004, it was her idea to say “Dr. Strangelove,” Stanley Kubrick’s black comedy about nuclear holocaust, though Mr. Edwards had not seen it. But they complement one another: she obsesses over details, he sees the broad themes. He rallies a crowd, she learns the name of everyone in it.

And Mrs. Edwards, now 58, is her husband’s fiercest defender. An insomniac, she reads blogs and articles assiduously to see what people are saying about him, posting her rebuttals in the early morning hours. In campaign appearances this fall, she was still taking exception to a largely flattering profile of Mr. Edwards — headlined “The Accidental Populist” — that ran in The New Republic in January.

She plays bad cop to his good if she thinks the people working for him are not serving his best interests. His Senate staff joked that if he hated you but she loved you, you were fine, but if she hated you, no amount of love from the boss would be enough.

Mrs. Edwards plays down her role: “Somebody’s wife,” she calls herself in campaign appearances. But her popularity, and the reluctance of rival campaigns to respond to her comments because of her disease, has allowed her to say things that her husband — or any candidate — could not. Frustrated with the overwhelming news media interest in two Democratic rivals, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, she told one interviewer, “We can’t make John black, we can’t make him a woman.”

She was quoted at a luncheon sponsored by Ladies’ Home Journal saying that her choice to spend time with her children rather than practice law had made her happier than Mrs. Clinton — “I’m more joyful than she is” — then later criticized Mrs. Clinton for not being a vocal enough advocate for women.

Mr. Edwards says his wife cuts through “the fluff” in politics. “I trust her more than I trust anybody in the world,” he said. “She’s herself, and fearless. I don’t think she’s intimidated by or afraid of anything.”

For her part, Mrs. Edwards says that watching her husband as a candidate takes her back to their earliest days together: “It does sometimes remind me of when I first saw him, first listened to him talk about possibilities, and how completely charmed I was by his story and by his optimism.”

While she can be mercurial, he is grounding. “John brings a steadiness and a calm and a strength,” said Gwynn Winstead, a friend and neighbor who led the bereavement group the Edwardses attended after their son’s death. “And I don’t mean Elizabeth doesn’t have those things, but he gives them to her.”

He has immersed himself in the details of her medical care, much as he used to master the manuals of medical instruments that were at issue in his malpractice cases. Jennifer M. Palmieri, a former campaign adviser who is close to Mrs. Edwards, recalled accompanying her to a recent doctor’s appointment when her husband could not attend. As Mr. Edwards, on speakerphone, quizzed the doctor and then summed up the conclusions, Mrs. Edwards turned to Ms. Palmieri and said, “Now do you see why I don’t worry?”

A Dark Day: April 4, 1996

Politics did not interest the two young lawyers at the start of their careers. Mr. Edwards did not even vote in some elections, and they had intended to raise children and make a good living practicing law.

They embraced parenthood with near professionalism. They held weekly meetings with Wade and Cate, two years younger. Every year they invited hundreds of friends to a Christmas party at their house in Raleigh, with Mrs. Edwards cooking and dozens of children playing upstairs.

Mr. Edwards coached soccer, and his wife assisted, making sure every player had enough time on the field. She arranged her schedule as a bankruptcy lawyer to spend more time with her children in the afternoons. She sewed Halloween costumes for them and their friends.

Everything changed on April 4, 1996.

Mr. and Mrs. Edwards and Cate were packing to spend Easter at their beach house on the North Carolina shore. Wade, a high school junior, had driven ahead with some friends. When Mrs. Edwards saw the trooper at the door, she knew instantly something was wrong.

“Tell me he’s alive,” she pleaded. But her son was dead.

His Jeep Grand Cherokee had fishtailed, then flipped, on a wind-whipped stretch of Interstate 40. He had not been drinking or speeding, and had been wearing a seat belt. The crash killed him instantly. The boy in the car with him escaped with minor injuries.

Wade was an honor student and an athlete, recalled as the boy other parents relied on to drive their children home from parties, the kid who left the popular table to eat lunch with someone sitting alone. And in the quiet after the funeral, his parents despaired.

Mrs. Edwards collapsed in a grocery aisle at the sight of his favorite soda, so her friends took over shopping for a while. Mr. Edwards stopped running because all his routes passed places that reminded him of Wade; friends finally found a forest where father and son had never gone. Both stopped working, and Cate pushed two chairs together in her parents’ bedroom and slept there for two years, until she was 16.

Mr. and Mrs. Edwards grieved in different ways. She read the books on Wade’s senior year reading list aloud at his grave. She spent sleepless hours in online bereavement groups, seeking and offering solace. Feeling overwhelmed at restaurants, she would retreat to the restroom to run her fingers over a photograph of her boy. When she met strangers, she would tell them about him.

Mr. Edwards was quieter, friends recalled. The accident had shaken his guiding belief that if you worked hard and did things right, everything would work out. Such faith did not account for the unexpected death of a child.

Many marriages do not endure such a loss, but their ordeal drew the Edwardses closer.

“I often say two wet noodles can’t hold each other up, but John and Elizabeth were really able to grieve very personally and yet together,” Ms. Winstead said. “While each of them struggled, I don’t think their relationship ever struggled.”

Mr. Edwards said, “We clung to each other, and we got through it together.”

And together, they pushed forward, as they described it, “to parent Wade’s memory.”

They began planning a computer lab next to Wade’s high school. It seemed a fitting tribute; Wade had thought it unfair that many students did not have computers, when teachers gave extra points for papers that were typed instead of handwritten. Six months later — after hiring staff members, raising money and buying and renovating a building — the Wade Edwards Learning Lab opened.

Mr. Edwards went back to work. And, after asking Cate’s blessing to have more children, Mrs. Edwards, then 46, began giving herself hormone shots. The birth of Emma Claire Edwards, almost exactly two years after Wade’s death, would be a turning point. “That was really good for my parents, to be able to have love for another child again,” Cate said.

Mr. Edwards had just won the Democratic primary for the Senate. A few weeks before Wade’s death, the boy and his parents went to Washington because he had won a Voice of America essay contest. They had been given a tour of the White House by Mrs. Clinton and had met Senator Jesse Helms, the North Carolina Republican. Wade had remarked how good his father would be as a senator.

Friends say Mr. Edwards probably would have gone into politics even if Wade had lived. But his death provided a catalyst.

“When Wade died, I think John examined life and came to the conclusion that he wanted to try to paint with a broader brush and try to change the world not one family at a time, not one person at a time, but in bigger ways that would have more permanent and lasting effects,” said David Kirby, Mr. Edwards’s former law partner. “He sees what he does in his political career as a way to honor his son.”

An Open-Door Outlook

While some political families try to erect barriers between their personal and public lives, the Edwardses have actively torn them down. Mr. Edwards’s Senate staff learned a cardinal rule at the couple’s house: don’t knock, just come right in. “We don’t fight, we don’t walk around naked,” Mrs. Edwards explained to one staff member. “You don’t have to worry about walking in on something.”

When Mrs. Edwards learned that her cancer had returned and was treatable but not curable, she panicked, she wrote in her memoir, “at the thought that this cancer might take him out of the race.” She recalled turning to her husband and saying, “I want to see the children, and I want you to continue the campaign.”

Dealing simultaneously with cancer, two young children (the Edwardses have taken Emma Claire, 9, and Jack, 7, on the campaign trail and are home schooling them) and a presidential candidacy could strain many marriages. But friends and relatives say the couple seem determined to go on, no matter how demanding it can be.

Ms. Palmieri, who traveled with Mrs. Edwards the week after the announcement in March, said, “The first few days, it was, we’re going to go out and fight this every day. The fifth day, it’s we have to go out and fight this every day. It’s a hard place to live when you feel the pressure to live every day to the fullest.”

This fall, an NPR interviewer asked whether Mr. Edwards would be able to focus on the presidency if his wife’s illness took a turn for the worse. “If,” Mrs. Edwards interrupted, then recalled how Mr. Edwards had responded after Wade died. “He didn’t pull the covers over his head,” she said. “He can do more than one thing at one time, even when one of the things is incredibly devastating.”

In past campaigns, Mr. Edwards declined to talk about Wade, not wanting to appear to be exploiting his son’s death for political gain. Now, toughness in tragedy has become a central theme of his candidacy. An Edwards campaign television advertisement called “30 Years” featured Mrs. Edwards speaking into the camera about her husband’s strength: “It’s unbelievably important that in our president we have someone who can stare the worst in the face, and not blink.”

Mrs. Edwards’s illness has given the campaign more purpose, friends say. “I don’t think he’s running for Elizabeth, but it’s just, you have more urgency, a little more drive,” Mr. Kirby said.

The couple was taken aback by the criticism that followed their announcement that he would stay in the race. “Maybe It’s Time for Candidate to Be a Husband,” scolded one headline. Said another: “Don’t Do It, John Edwards.”

But the Edwardses say there was never really much question about what they would do. Their son’s death had taught them that they could control only a limited number of things in life, Mrs. Edwards said. “It made it harder for people on the outside to understand, but we didn’t have to walk through the same fire.”

In the hospital room after her diagnosis, Mr. Edwards had asked his wife to marry him again. They renewed their bond on July 30, their 30th anniversary, standing in their backyard before a small group of friends and relatives.

They wrote their own vows, describing what they meant to each other, how fused their lives had become. As Mr. Edwards started to speak his, he had to stop, overwhelmed with emotion. He paused for a long time, never taking his eyes off his wife.

"Obama Fires Back at Edwards" (with video)

Chris Cillizza (WaPo's The Fix), with video (01:49):
INDIANOLA, Iowa -- Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) directly confronted the idea -- pushed by former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) -- that he is "too nice" to bring about change in Washington, dismissing what he called "hot air" and "rhetoric."
"The argument goes that the only way to bring about change is to be angry," said Obama at an event in a church hall here tonight. He quickly added: "I don't need lectures about how to bring about change because I have been doing it all my life."

Less than twelve hours earlier at a rally in Boone, Iowa, Edwards called the idea of sitting down to negotiate with special interests to solve the nation's problems a "complete fantasy", adding: "You can't nice these people to death." [Watch the Video]

Neither man mentioned the other by name when delivering the rhetorical jabs, although it was crystal clear to whom they were referring.

The back and forth between the two men is simply the latest volley in an increasingly nasty battle for the segment of undecided voters who have ruled out Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) as an option.

Obama's strategists long believed that Edwards would fade as the caucuses drew closer, ceding the anti-Clinton vote to the Illinois Senator. That has not happened; in fact, just the reverse is true -- Edwards appears to be gaining strength in recent Iowa polls. (Take a look at the slew of Iowa polls out in the last few days; Edwards is tied for the lead in two.)

Edwards' continued strength has forced the Obama campaign to fight with the former North Carolina Senator over how each will bring about change.

At the heart of the dispute between the two candidates is what kind of approach is the right one to make change real. Edwards casts himself as a skilled, effective and willing fighter for the middle class; he told a story earlier in the day how his father told him as a boy to never start a fight but if one started to "never walk away."

Obama, on the other hand, has a far more conciliatory approach -- pointing to his years of bringing people together to create change both inside (and, more importantly, outside) the political process. "There's no shortage of anger in Washington," said Obama. "We don't need more heat, we need more light."

The philosophical differences between the two men are clear and palpable. Which approach will win over voters in Iowa?

We've long written that Edwards' anger (strong conviction, his campaign calls it) is a dangerous game. Voters tend not to like their presidents angry, preferring candidates who appear above-the-fray and always looking at the big picture. That conventional wisdom would suggest that it is Obama's change argument that will prove more compelling to undecided caucus goers.

And yet, the anger and resentment within the Democratic base -- caused and fomented by the Bush Administration -- is at historic highs. Progressive voters, are quite frankly, mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. One of Edwards' biggest applause lines of the day was a scathing indictment against Bush's record on science; "George Bush is the most anti-science president in American history," said Edwards to roars from the assembled crowd.

The question is whether that anger aimed at the Bush Administration has fundamentally altered the thinking of members of the Democratic base. Do they want someone who offers a raised fist or someone who offers a handshake? The answer will be clearer by the end of Thursday night.

"Iowa Democrats look to pick a winner"

LA Times:
Is the candidate electable come November? That's the prime question as the courtship phase ends and the time to commit nears.--KNOXVILLE, IOWA — As the front-running Democratic presidential hopefuls barnstorm this snowy state in the final days before the caucuses, Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John Edwards agree on at least one thing: Voters should choose the candidate who will be most electable in November.
But they disagree, naturally, on who fits the bill.

Clinton and her supporters say she's been battle-tested by the "Republican attack machine," during her eight years in the White House and two successful Senate runs. Edwards touts his experience as the party's vice presidential candidate in 2004 and his appeal to rural America. Obama points to his promise to unite the country. And both men cite polls.

"The latest polls show I am the only Democrat who is beating every single Republican in a head-to-head matchup," Illinois Sen. Obama said in a packed middle school auditorium. "I beat Romney. I beat Thompson. I beat Huckabee. They didn't poll what I'm doing against Ron Paul, but I'm going to beat him too."

The state's first-in-the-nation caucuses are Thursday, and as the virtually tied Democrats deliver their closing arguments, the ability to triumph in November is a constant thread.

"Every election there's a certain cycle. It's all about fundraising up front, but in the end it all comes down to electability," said Jano Cabrera, a Democratic strategist who worked in the presidential campaigns of Al Gore in 2000 and Joe Lieberman in 2004. "Electability has a way of shifting the sands under a candidate's feet."

It's also a prime concern to the state's Democratic electorate, frustrated by seven years of the Bush administration.

Undecided voter Molly Shedek, 27, of Cedar Rapids appreciates Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd's resume, but she doubts she'll caucus for him.

"I don't think he's as electable as the front-runners, and I want a Democrat in office in 2008," said the high school English teacher, who went to see Clinton in Vinton on Sunday. "That is really important to me."

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) played the electability card in 2004, and many believe it catapulted him to a surprise first-place finish in Iowa that year. Democrats Bill Bradley in 2000 and Howard Dean in 2004 suffered because of their perceived lack of electability, Cabrera said.

"The primary process is about dating. As the vote gets closer, you begin to wonder, Can this person win? It's like when you're getting close to walking down the aisle with someone," he said. "That explains why Bradley was as hot as he was initially, why Dean flared as hot as he did, but ultimately why people went with establishment candidates like Gore and Kerry."

Sen. Clinton of New York is arguing that a combination of experience and electability make her the best candidate for the Democratic nod. She campaigned across eastern Iowa on Saturday with Ohio's Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, who said he endorsed her because she could win.

"I can tell you as governor of the state of Ohio, the state that may be the single most important battleground state in this country, I'm endorsing Sen. Clinton because she's the one who can win November the 4th, 2008," he told a crowd of hundreds spilling out of a Dubuque ballroom. "She is the most vetted candidate ever. [Republicans] have tried millions of dollars and years of effort to undermine her and to defeat her and to destroy her and yet she has won two landslide elections to be New York's United States senator."

Obama has countered that Clinton is a polarizing figure.

"We are less likely to win an election that starts off with half the country not wanting to vote for that candidate," he told CNN.

He tells voters his ability to unite people of differing backgrounds and political persuasions makes him electable.

In one of his best-received bits of campaign trail shtick, Obama often drops his voice to a very loud stage whisper and recounts rope-line conversations he has with wary voters.

" 'I'm a Republican, and I'm going to vote for you,' " he quotes the surreptitious voters. " 'Thank you,' I tell them, 'but why are we whispering?' "

He told the supportive crowd of several hundred in Knoxville that he hears as much frustration with the country's status quo from Republicans and independents as he does from Democrats. Reaching out to disaffected voters, he said, is the best way to make change. It is also, he said, "how you win elections."

While Obama relies on a Dec. 12-14 Zogby poll to argue he's the most electable, former North Carolina Sen. Edwards notes a Dec. 6-9 CNN poll that indicated Edwards was the sole Democrat who would beat Republican presidential hopefuls Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Mitt Romney and Rudolph W. Giuliani in head-to-head match-ups. Edwards also peppers his populist rhetoric with references to his rural roots and ability to appeal to voters in red states.

"The one candidate that beats every Republican is me, and that's not unimportant," he said Thursday at an Amvets meeting hall in Waverly. "We're going to have a fight on our hands between now and next November, and we better send someone into that fight who knows what they're doing, who's been through it, who's tough, who's seasoned."

Dan Schultice, 36, was leaning toward Edwards when he walked into the Newton Senior High School gym Sunday to hear Obama speak. He walked out leaning toward Obama.

"I really like the way he talks about mending things between the two parties," he said. "He's better at that than John Edwards. He might be able to bring moderate Republicans to his side. He's very electable."

He added: "It's important to have somebody that's able to win."

"What Gore, Clinton and Democrats Can Learn from Benazir Bhutto"

Brent Budowsky (The Hill's Pundit Blog):
Benazir Bhutto was no angel, but she was a believer in democracy who gave her life for her country, retuning to Pakistan knowing she would probably give her life for her country.

By contrast, Democrats in Washington have a life crisis, consult an army of pollsters, and have trouble taking clear leadership stands on war and peace because members of a Congress with record unpopularity might lose another point or two in the polls.
Our discredited politics in America has become a sad Kabuki dance of insiders congratulating and protecting each other, of pollsters and pundits uttering sweet nothings into the ears of politicians too fearful and self-indulgent to take even minimal risks for the higher values of our country.

Benazir Bhutto gives her life. Democrats in Washington cannot risk a point in the polls. Republicans in Washington cannot summon the courage to speak out against a president and war that many of them privately, silently, believe is a disaster for our country.

Meanwhile young heroes give their lives in this unwise war our insiders sent them to fight from the safety of their focus groups and polls and their smugness while they dispense their wisdom caked in makeup from the safety of their television studios.

Give Al Gore credit for elevating the debate about climate change, but at a moment that our country, under George Bush, sabotaged the Bali summit, why isn’t Al Gore running for president?

Never have the man and the moment come together so perfectly as Al Gore for President in 2008. Never has any potential candidate been so clearly the heir to Roosevelt and Kennedy, never has any potential candidate so clearly embodied change when change is needed, and experience when experience is needed, as Al Gore for President in 2008.

Having supported Gore through campaigns and governance over a generation, words cannot express my disappointment, my sadness and to some degree my outrage that Al Gore had better things to do than be leader of the free world.

Movies and books can be important, and even great; making money through venture capital for worthy businesses is fine; awards, honors, prizes and standing ovations are wonderful — but they are marginal compared to the leadership of the free world, by America, in our times.

Does Al Gore, or anyone, seriously believe that any presidential candidate, in either party, is even remotely as committed to the battle to save the Earth from the planetary emergency as Gore? If the world is truly in danger of extinction unless major changes are made within the term of the next president, isn’t there some higher obligation to hold the one office that can lead the nation and the world toward those changes?

My hope is that Gore at least makes a major endorsement for change in the coming hours, but the real shame is that our strongest leader does not lead where it matters the most, and the voice of both experience and change is silenced on the most important debate about the future of our nation and the world.

Benazir Bhutto gave her life for her country; Democrats so often lack the courage of their convictions to risk even a few points in the polls; and Al Gore racks up the prizes and awards, no doubt deserved, but sadly silenced when the man who should have been leader of the free world had higher priorities.

Benazir Bhutto’s murder is a moment of outrage and sadness, of crisis and shock, but it is also a reminder of the power of hope, of the higher purpose of patriotism and of the higher truth that one woman can make a difference, if she gives enough of a damn to try and puts everything on the line for the cause she believes in and the country she loves.

Good-bye, Benazir. You may be gone, but you will be remembered and honored. Perhaps some day in the land that gave us Washington and Lincoln, some heroic leader will emerge once again, inspired by your courage and your example, and rise above the mediocrity and timidity of our times, as you did in yours.
Howie P.S.: The USA is not Pakistan and Al Gore is not Benazir Bhutto, and that is not meant as a criticism of the Goreacle. Not all Democrats are triangulating, poll-driven, cautious careerists. But still, one wishes there was a little patriotic idealism in our political life.

"Student volunteers descend on Iowa" (with slideshow)

Politically engaged college students are forgoing their coveted winter breaks to brave the frigid terrain of Iowa.Young people enthusiastic about their candidate, or in some cases just the democratic process generally, are descending on Iowa in droves to volunteer and observe.
Some, obviously, are directly volunteering for candidates. Others are students at Iowa colleges who grew up out of state and are coming back just to caucus. And a few are there to learn about the process.

All campaigns are welcoming volunteers. Some, like the John Edwards campaign, have made volunteering a simple matter of signing up online. But Barack Obama’s campaign was so deluged with out-of-state volunteers that they have decided to limit the number who may come.

One Obama supporter who did not make the cut was Rachel Lauter, 23, of Brooklyn, New York. Lauter is active in Brooklyn for Barack, a coalition of Obama supporters in the borough.

The group had arranged to travel to Iowa to volunteer in the weeks leading up to the caucuses through Obama’s New York office. But, on the day Lauter was planning to buy her plane ticket, they were told that Iowa had more than enough volunteers already. Instead, they were encouraged to focus their energies on the Northeast and, in particular, on New Hampshire.

While many Obama-supporting Brooklynites are already planning to go to New Hampshire, Lauter is waiting to see how the caucuses go for Obama before deciding if she will go there herself.

One young woman, who is able to volunteer in Iowa, even though she is lukewarm on the candidate she will work for, is Elizabeth Bennett, 21, senior at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Bennett will be volunteering for Mike Huckabee.

Bennett, who also volunteered for President Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004, says that she has been following the election closely. But, she says, “I haven’t found one candidate to be passionate about. I think a lot of Republicans have felt that way.”

However when she saw that the Vanderbilt office of active citizenship and service was offering a road trip to Iowa for the caucuses, she thought, “what an amazing opportunity.” The bus will leave on New Year's Day at 12:01 am, and arrive in Des Moines around noon after the long haul from Tennessee. Each of the 60 students who signed up will then volunteer for a campaign until caucus night, when the group will watch a caucus en masse.

Bennett chose to volunteer for Huckabee, even though she is not entirely sold on him herself, because he shares her socially conservative views.

To prepare for the trip the group held a mock caucus on campus on December 5th, which Bennett said was “very true to form,” because the Clinton and Obama supporters argued about health care.

Closer to caucus day the college towns of Iowa will see a return of many college students who grew up out of state and went home for the holidays. Colleges with large out-of-state populations, like Iowa State University and Grinnell College, will make some facilities available for students to stay in on caucus night. Other students, who live off campus, will come back to their apartments.

Alec Schierenbeck, 20, a junior at Grinnell who is president of the Iowa College Democrats, is predicting a strong student turnout at Grinnell. He says 150 students have signed up to spend caucus night in the gymnasium, and he knows several students who live off-campus who plan to caucus as well.

On the other hand, not all indicators are so positive. Young Voter PAC, a Democratic youth voter-mobilization organization, has offered transportation subsidies to Iowa college students from out of state who want to caucus for the Democrats but for whom the cost might be an issue. Young Voter PAC has put up ads on Facebook, Google ads and the Des Moines Register website, in addition to blasting a list of 58,000 18-35-year-old registered Democrats in Iowa with text messages and emails.

Jane Fleming Kleeb, Young Voter PAC’s executive director, said she was disappointed that very few students took them up on their offer at first. But, noting college students’ famous tendency to procrastinate, she said it is encouraging that most of the 84 applications have come in since Friday, suggesting that many more may soon follow.

John Edwards on "Face the Nation" 12.30.2007 (with video)

CBS News, with video (11:43):
Fmr. Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) is in a close race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Bob Schieffer speaks with Edwards about his campaign and the recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

"Video: Barack Obama on Meet The Press - December 30, 2007" (Updated)

UPDATE: I found the full interview, (Part 1 and Part 2):
Think On These Things, video:
Part 1

Part 2

  • Watch the clip where Obama outlines why he is prepared to lead the country here.
  • Watch the clip where Obama discusses the situation in Pakistan and its influence on America here.

"McCain losing votes to Obama in N.H."

LA Times:
NASHUA, N.H. -- Like many New Hampshire voters, Dave Montgomery considers himself a dyed-in-the-wool independent -- which in this state means he can vote in either the Republican or Democratic presidential primary when he goes to the polls Jan. 8.

This year, the semi-retired school bus driver from Milford finds himself torn between two candidates, one from each party: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).
Montgomery likes McCain, he said, because "he seems to be enough of a rebel." He likes Obama for pretty much the same reason -- because he seems to be "his own man."

"I think either one of them could do the job," he said.

Independents like Montgomery may be the decisive factor for both major parties when New Hampshire holds the nation's first primary next week, hot on the heel's of Iowa's caucuses on Thursday. And the choices these nonaligned New Hampshire voters make almost assuredly will shape the nation's later primary races.

"This big group in the middle . . . has a chance to really transform the election," said Tom Rath, a veteran New Hampshire Republican strategist who is advising former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.). Describing the efforts to woo independents, he added: "It's more like a general election here."

If Obama bests national front runner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), he probably will owe his New Hampshire victory to independents, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll suggested last week.

Among the state's registered Democrats, the survey found Clinton led Obama, 35% to 28%. But among independents who plan to vote in the Democratic primary, Obama led, 37% to 24% -- turning the contest into a virtual tie.

In a sense, a win for Obama would be a mirror image of McCain's primary victory in 2000, when he derailed GOP front- runner George W. Bush, largely because New Hampshire independents flocked to his side. Bush went on to win the nomination by rallying party regulars in later primaries -- a strategy Clinton no doubt would pursue.

And Obama's strength among independents now looms as a problem for McCain.

The Republican's campaign, after struggling mightily this year, has regained some of its footing and is hoping a New Hampshire win could propel him to success in later primaries. But he may fall short in the Granite State, in part because so many independents are choosing Obama.

The Times/Bloomberg poll found that among New Hampshire independents who have chosen the party primary in which they will cast a ballot, 61% said they planned to vote in the Democratic race, 39% in the GOP contest. And among those who have decided whom they will support, more than twice as many said they planned to back Obama, compared to McCain.

These voters include retiree Stephen Winship, 88, who plans to vote for Obama.

Winship said he supported McCain eight years ago "because he was candid," but won't do so now, in part because he disagrees with him over the Iraq war. McCain "has a conservative frame of mind and military background, so I think he would very much like to see this succeed," Winship said. "I think we need to get out."

Winship's shift reflects a broader trend among New Hampshire independents: Over the last eight years, they have drifted to the left.

On major issues, the Times/Bloomberg poll found that the state's independents tended to agree with Democrats more than with Republicans. For instance, asked to name the issues they considered top priorities, independents most frequently cited Iraq, healthcare and the economy -- the same ones that dominated among Democrats. The state's Republicans, by contrast, cited illegal immigration and national security first, followed by the economy and Iraq.

On Iraq, 74% of independents said they favored withdrawing U.S. troops within a year -- a view shared by 98% of Democrats, but just 33% of Republicans.

Independents often have had an outsized effect in New Hampshire's presidential primaries. In 1992, they bolstered Republican Patrick J. Buchanan to a strong second place that embarrassed President George H.W. Bush. And in 1996, they were key to Buchanan edging then-Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), the front-runner who went on to claim the GOP nomination.

The more pronounced Democratic tilt among the state's independents surfaced in 2004, when they helped the party's presidential candidate, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, carry New Hampshire's electoral votes in the general election.

The change was more marked in what Republicans here call "the 2006 tsunami" that saw Democrats capture both houses of the New Hampshire Legislature for the first time in 132 years and sweep out two incumbent GOP members of Congress.

Obama and McCain, as they have courted New Hampshire independents of late, are acutely aware that they are competing not only with rivals in their own parties, but with each other.

One of Obama's final New Hampshire stops before focusing on Iowa was in Exeter, which claims to be the birthplace of the Republican Party. He met with a small group of undeclared voters and clearly sought to touch on themes that would appeal to them.

"My goal is to campaign in a way that taps into independents, that taps into common sense and pragmatism, that doesn't demonize anybody out there," he said. "In that way I hope I can create a working majority for change."

McCain frequently highlights his ability to work with a Democratic majority in Congress, a message more pleasing to centrists than partisan Republicans.

At a recent visit to a high-tech company in Salem -- shortly after McCain was endorsed by Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a Democrat-turned-independent -- he bragged that he could march into the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and say, "Harry, let's sit down and fix Social Security."

McCain told reporters after the event that he sensed "some movement" among independents, but acknowledged that he was not sure whether it was "wishful thinking or reality."

His advisors acknowledge that independents, despite his courtship, are unlikely to flock to the current McCain campaign in the massive numbers that marked the 2000 vote. But the McCain camp can live with that.

"The last time, when [undeclared voters] moved as a pack, it meant we won by 19 [percentage] points," said McCain advisor Charles Black. "We just want to win by one point."

In conversations with voters, it is clear that McCain's strong support for an open-ended commitment of U.S. troops to Iraq has alienated some independents.

Power company lineman Brad Soucie, 32, of Canterbury said he would have been "a McCain man, no questions asked," in another election year. "I just think with McCain, there might be a little too much more of the same. . . . The big chest, kind of world-police mentality," said Soucie, a relative newcomer to the state who had not decided on a candidate.

For others, the Democratic field is more exciting.

Carol Walker Aten, who heads an Exeter nonprofit, says she still admires McCain's independence, which drew her to him in 2000. But she had narrowed her choice to Democrats Obama and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. "We really need a change," she said.

Indra Edmonds, 40, a stay-at-home mom who voted for McCain in 2000, said, "He's not the same person" now.

"He struck me as the guy out to meet America on his bus the first time around," said Edmonds, who lives in Strafford. "This time around, he's using different tactics. He doesn't seem as enthusiastic and fresh."

She backs Obama, saying he's "younger, he's still more positive and he hasn't been there so long that he's bitter or negative."

She said she devoured Obama's book, "The Audacity of Hope," as she had McCain's autobiography -- and found similarities between the two. "I like their character; they're not big-government people," she said.

Though she was not budging from Obama, she added that, when the New Hampshire primary is over, "if it comes down to McCain versus a different Democrat, I'm back with McCain."
Howie P.S.: H/t to Mr. Smith.

"Ready to Lead on Day One?"

Susan Rice (Huffington Post):
Senator Clinton today (12/26) launched her campaign's closing argument based on the theme "Big Challenges, Real Solutions: Time to Pick a President." Her message is that only she has the experience and the readiness to lead on Day One. Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd and Governor Bill Richardson could justifiably take issue with this message.
But, it is not directed not at them. Her target, rather, is Barack Obama whom Bill Clinton deemed a "roll of the dice," his own far lesser foreign policy experience as a presidential candidate notwithstanding.

Is Senator Clinton really better suited than Senator Obama to lead on Day One?

Clinton argues her years as First Lady give her unprecedented insight into foreign policy and governing. But what would she do as president on Day One and thereafter?

So far, Senator Clinton has said she would convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff to draft a plan to start withdrawing our forces from Iraq within 60 days and send her husband and a suitably senior Republican (TBD after George H.W. Bush and Colin Powell demurred) on a listening tour of the world.

Beyond these statements, we know relatively little about whether, on foreign policy, Senator Clinton in fact has "real solutions" to our "big challenges."

Senator Clinton is right about this: President Bush will leave behind an unprecedented mess. An ill-conceived and disastrous war in Iraq, an emboldened Iran, a reconstituted and more diffuse Al Qaeda 2.0, frayed alliances, damaged international institutions, an over-stressed military, a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, a coddled Pakistani leader on the precipice, accelerating climate change, democracy demagogued, China rising without much attention much less constraint, Russia growing more autocratic and provocative, going on five years of genocide in Darfur, and the moral detritus of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, torture, the abuse of habeas corpus and warrantless wiretaps.

The next American president will have a serious job to do to clean up this mess.

He or she will need exceptional judgment, vision and energy to do so. He or she will need to be unbound by conventional wisdom and unfettered by the need to defend the successes and to obscure the failures of any previous administration.

He or she will also need concrete, credible and bold policy prescriptions for how to tackle these pressing problems and be open with the American people about those policies while still a candidate, so that the voters can elect a president with a clear mandate to govern.

Senator Obama has been comprehensive and exhaustive over the course of the campaign in laying out his foreign policy. Voters don't have to guess what he will do on these issues. They just need to listen and read.

Barack Obama has outlined his vision of American leadership and his approach to national security policy in major speeches delivered in April, October, and December as well as in his article in Foreign Affairs. He understands that, in the 21st Century, America's security and prosperity is inextricably linked to the security and well-being of people in far-flung parts of the world.

Obama, however, has gone beyond broad vision to share with voters detailed plans:

Having opposed the Iraq war from the start, Obama was the first major candidate to set forth a comprehensive plan to redeploy our forces safely and press Iraqis to achieve the necessary political progress. His Iraq War De-escalation Act introduced in January 2007 was embraced by the Senate Democratic leadership in the Senate and remains the basis for their primary legislative vehicle to end the war.

In September 2007, Obama elaborated his Iraq strategy, making clear that he would plan to withdraw combat forces at the responsible pace of one to two brigades a month, with the aim of having all of our combat brigades out within 16 months. Obama has been very specific about the means to achieve political reconciliation as well as the economic and humanitarian steps he would take to avert a worst-case scenario in Iraq and to build the kind of political consensus that's essential to end the conflict. Obama was also very clear that he would leave no permanent bases in Iraq. To the extent that that there will be a need for a small residual presence for a period of time, it would be focused on protecting our embassy and our civilian operations, and on targeting al Qaeda operatives inside Iraq.

On a range of other pressing national security issues, Obama has been specific about how he would govern on Day One:

From counter terrorism, Iran, the Middle East, revitalizing and modernizing America's Armed Forces, supporting America's veterans, reversing climate change and achieving energy security, and reducing the nuclear threat and the risk of proliferation of WMD to tackling poverty, underdevelopment and supporting democracy, combating HIV/AIDS, Obama has been very direct, detailed and comprehensive about his "real solutions" to "big challenges."

Like all the major candidates, Senator Clinton laid out in broad strokes her foreign policy approach inForeign Affairs. This followed a general speech she delivered in June at the Center for a New American Security.

But with the recent exceptions of energy and climate change and HIV/AIDS, she has revealed little during the campaign about how precisely she would tackle pressing national security challenges.

On counter-terrorism, she has said virtually nothing as a presidential candidate.

On Iraq, until the week before Christmas, Senator Clinton declined to specify a timeline for withdrawal of US forces. Then, finally, she embraced Obama's timeline of one to two combat brigades a month. However, she remains ambiguous about permanent bases, signaling in Foreign Affairs there may be a need for some in Kurdistan. She has said on the one hand that she would not act to stop a potential genocide in Iraq but on the other that she would leave behind a presumably larger residual that would have broad responsibilities, including going after other terrorist organizations elsewhere in the region. It is not clear if she means Hezbollah or Hamas, but Senator Clinton leaves the door open to doing more than going after al Qaeda.

On Iran, we know Senator Clinton supported Kyl-Lieberman and condemns Obama's readiness to conduct direct and unconditional diplomacy with Iran, obviously after due preparation, at the Presidential level. Beyond saying she opposes a "rush to war" (the same language she used on Iraq) and favors robust diplomacy, we don't know what precisely Senator Clinton would do about Iran on Day One or thereafter.

Thus, on many of the major foreign policy issues of the day, Senator Clinton is, in effect, asking us to take on faith that she has the right policy approaches because, as she asserts, she has the experience to lead.

She may be right, but that is what Bill Clinton might more aptly call a "roll of the dice."

Equally important as electing a president with the right policies is choosing one who starting on Day One can unify our divided nation so that we can tackle pressing domestic and global challenges. To be strong, we must be unified. Without unity, our nation must confront challenges and threats with one hand tied behind our back. Unity requires more than a governing mandate but also the vision and the wisdom to heal rather than to polarize. Poll after poll shows Senator Obama is the Democrat best positioned to win a substantial victory over the Republican nominee and to do so with significant support from Independents and Republicans, in part because he carries none of the baggage of our bitterly partisan present and past and has made unity, healing and hope the hallmarks of his leadership.

Finally, when a new president takes office in January 2009, he or she will have a brief window of opportunity to change the current dismal state of America's relations with friends and foes alike. The world will give us a fleeting fresh look. Whether we can capitalize on this opportunity to garner the good will and cooperation of peoples and nations in all corners of the world could determine America's fate as a 21st century world leader. It is an opportunity that we must recognize may not come again.

At a critical moment, when America needs to show new policies and a new face to the world, who better than Barack Obama's?

"Getting the Vote Out in Iowa" (video)

NY Times, video (03:09):
The Democrats are mounting the most ambitious and costly effort in the history of the Iowa caucuses.

"Top Democrats Reticent on Primary Choices"

The silence is deafening. So many prominent politicians, particularly Democrats, have refrained from endorsing a presidential candidate. Are they drowning in a sea of good options, or terrified of making the wrong call?

Either way, the absence of these major voices is one of the more remarkable features of the 2008 campaign and may be contributing to the closely contested battles on both sides in Iowa, with the caucuses less than a week away.

Among the missing . . .
Former nominees

Al Gore: What time zone is the Nobel Prize-winning environmental crusader in today? After endorsing Howard Dean in the 2004 race and watching his candidacy go down in flames, he may not be eager to get involved again.

John Kerry: No one seems to have a clue which way the 2004 Democratic caucus winner may be leaning, although former running-mate John Edwards is definitely not on the list.

Local heroes

Sen. Tom Harkin: His wife, Ruth, a political player in her own right, is a staunch Clinton supporter, but Iowa's senior Democrat is lying low.

Sen. Chuck Grassley: The GOP icon declared long ago that the Republican field was simply too muddled to pick sides, and that he probably would sit out this cycle. Allies say that's not likely to change.

Liberal icons

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy: With so many Senate colleagues running, it's like picking which child you love best.

Sen. Russ Feingold: A hero to the antiwar left, but has his own presidential ambitions to protect.

The truly torn

Rep. Rahm Emanuel: He worked for President Clinton, but Barack Obama is a close friend and a fellow Chicagoan. What's an Illinois Democrat to do? Flee to Brazil until mid-January and pray it's over when you return. Seriously.

"Edwards to pull an all nighter--says he's restless for change"

Political Radar (ABC News political blog):
Democratic hopeful John Edwards is turning his sprint to the finish line into a marathon. Beginning January 1st Edwards will campaign for 36 hours straight leading up to the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd.

"I’m looking forward to meeting with Iowans across the state over the 36 hours who are as restless as I am for change," said Edwards.

The 36-hour push is being billed as the "Marathon for the Middle Class," where Edwards is scheduled to outline 36 ideas to strengthen the middle class.

Edwards will stop in 15 counties and wind up his epic all nighter with a rally in Des Moines with singer and supporter John Mellencamp.

Obama's final Iowa arguments

Chris Cillizza's "The Fix" (WaPo):
For much of the last week, Barack Obama has alleged that the series of independent organizations spending money on behalf of his main Democratic rivals in Iowa raise real questions about those candidates' commitment to serious reform of the political process.
Today (Saturday), Obama campaign manager David Plouffe put out a memo arguing that "this unprecedented level of outside spending could impact the outcome in Iowa and New Hampshire, and we believe voters in these states deserve to know exactly how much is being spent, where it's coming from, and who's benefiting."

According to the Obama memo, two pro-John Edwards groups -- the beneficently named Working 4 Working Americans and the Alliance for a New America -- have spent nearly $2.1 million on direct mail, radio and television ads. Three groups promoting Hillary Rodham Clinton's candidacy -- the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the American Federation of Teachers and EMILY's List -- have dropped $2.6 million, including, according to the memo, $309,000 against Obama.

While assuring supporters that the Obama campaign has the "financial and organizational resources to compete aggressively in all four early states and through February 5th," Plouffe adds: "There is no doubt that the size of the spending and its underhanded nature deserve further scrutiny."

Given the amount of time the Obama campaign has spent on highlighting the outside spending on behalf of other groups and the ties that one of these groups has to a former Edwards senior aide (Nick Baldick is advising the Alliance as first reported in the Sunday Fix), they clearly believe this is a winning issue for them.

But is it?

In The Fix's experiences covering campaigns, it is the exception -- not the rule -- that the source of funds for so-called "independent expenditure" ads actually winds up making a difference in a race. The truth of the matter is that average voters simply do not follow elections that closely and much of the back and forth is lost on them -- aided by the complexity of campaign finance laws.

Ask yourself this question: Does the average Iowa voters know what a "527" is? Can they differentiate that from a 501(c)(4)? We're guessing the answer to both questions is no. Do voters have a sense that massive sums of money are being spent on this election in Iowa? Absolutely. Do they know the intricacies of whose spending for whom and why? Probably not.

Obama's campaign clearly believes this presidential race is different. And there is some evidence to suggest they are correct. Because of the amount of money being spent, voters are much more educated about the process than they would typically be if it was a House or Senate race. Poll after poll shows voters are following this election more closely than any one in modern history, and in Iowa in particular voters tend to know far more about the ins and out of a campaign due to their quadrennial role in picking the president.

The final factor that could make the caucuses the exception to the rule, where the Obama and Edwards campaigns' efforts to paint their man as a true reformer who can bring about real change in the status quo, will actually pay off. As the race has entered its final week, Obama and Edwards have battled hard for the mantle of reform, and Obama sees the outside money being spent on Edwards's behalf as a way to tip undecided voters his way.

It's a major gamble, however, to spend precious time in the few remaining days of the campaign talking about the origins of campaign cash -- a topic that usually glazes over the eyes of the average voter.
Obama and his campaign team have proved us wrong before and, if he winds up on top on Jan. 3, they'll have done it again.
The Swamp (Chicago Tribune's political blog):
Obama questions Edwards' credibility as a populist--KEOKUK, Iowa—In the closing weeks of the campaign, Barack Obama has concentrated more on winning over voters wavering between him and John Edwards. On Saturday, Obama grew more pointed in criticism of Edwards as the Illinois senator argued he is the best-equipped agent of change in rallies in small towns across southeastern Iowa.
Obama suggested that the moderate, sunny campaign Edwards waged unsuccessfully for president four years ago undercuts the credibility of the populist campaign he is now waging as a fighter of moneyed special interests.

“Part of the problem John would have in the general election is that the issues he is taking on now are not the issues or the things that he said four years ago, which always causes problems in general elections,” Obama said at a rally in an elementary school gymnasium in Keokuk, Iowa.

Campaigning in Washington, Iowa, Edwards announced that he would bar anyone who has done lobbying work for a corporation or a foreign government from working in his White House. Edwards spokesman Eric Schultz said the ban would apply for lobbying work going back up to five years.

“We will not replace corporate Republicans with corporate Democrats,” Edwards said.

As part of an ethics plan Obama released earlier in the year, he has proposed more limited restrictions on hiring former lobbyists for his White House. Obama has said he would ban White House staff who have lobbied in the prior two years from doing work on regulations or contracts relating to the industries they had represented.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton derided Edwards’ proposal as a last-minute ploy in a statement e-mailed to reporters.

“Early in this campaign, Barack Obama introduced the furthest-reaching lobbying reform proposal of any candidate in this race, and we appreciate that John Edwards is now following his lead," Burton said.
"The truth is, in his six years as a U.S. Senator, John Edwards did not propose or accomplish a single thing to reduce the power of lobbyists while Barack Obama passed the most sweeping lobbying reform since Watergate."
First Read (MSNBC):
Obama says he's the most electable Democrat--FORT MADISON, IA -- Obama pushed his electability argument a step further at his second stop here today, highlighting Clinton's unfavorable ratings -- while claiming that he could win enough Republican support to create a coalition for governing if he were to win the presidency.

"There's one Democrat who beats every Republican potential opponent, and that's me. I beat Giuliani, I beat McCain, I beat Thompson, I beat Huckabee -- I beat whoever else they are planning to throw at me," he said.

Obama added, "And the reason that I beat them all -- and Hillary doesn't and Edwards doesn't -- is because I get more support from independents and I even get some Republican support, despite the fact that I've got the most progressive track record on many issues of any of the candidates."

Obama went a step further, contrasting his favorability ratings with Hillary Clinton's unfavorable ones nationally and played on the fears of Democrats that the election in 2008 could be a repeat of the one in 2004.

Obama paused before he drew his contrast, conscious of how his words would come off. "We can't win an election with a candidate... Let me say it this way, because I want to be fair…" He went on to say, "We are less likely to win an election that starts off with half the country not wanting to vote for that candidate." And in what seemed to be a dig at Edwards, he said, "We are less likely also to win an election with somebody who had one set of positions four years ago and has almost entirely different positions four years later. We've been through that."

In the most recent national NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, both Obama and Clinton bested their potential GOP rivals, yet Obama did so by larger margins than Clinton did. Clinton also had net-negative favorability rating in the survey.

Making a reference to the attacks leveled against Senator John Kerry in 2004 for being a flip-flopper, Obama added, "It's a problem, and so if you are concerned with electability having somebody who has been consistent, who has opposed the war from the start so the opponent cant say he was for the war just like I was." (Of course, Obama's rivals would likely point to his own changes on issues -- like the death penalty, gun control, and health care -- from the 1990s.)

At his next town hall in Keokuk, Obama appeared more comfortable making clearer distinctions, singling out Edwards and Clinton by name. "Part of the problem John would have in a general election is the issues he's taken on now are not the issues or the things that he said four years ago, which always causes problems in general elections," Obama said of Edwards, referring to his vote for the bankruptcy bill and the trade deal with China.

Regarding Clinton, he said, "And Senator Clinton doesn't beat all five of them because you start off with half of the country not wanting to vote for her."

Though the conventional wisdom in Iowa is that a candidate tries to stay above the fray in the week leading up the caucuses, Obama's willingness to target the other candidates in the race may reflect the incredibly tight race in Iowa and recent polls that show both Edwards and Clinton rising in recent weeks.

A spokesman for a rival campaign said of Obama's attacks, "The Los Angeles Times [poll] was the second in a week to show him sinking to third place in Iowa. Is it mere coincidence that he's going negative or turning up the heat and retooling his stump speech as his numbers began to sink?"

To stress its electability argument, Obama's campaign released a series of poll numbers that showed him leading Republicans in a two-way race in a general election.

But even Obama acknowledged that for a progressive Democrats to win wide margins among conservative Republicans may be a pipe dream. "I understand that there are going to be Republican operatives that don't want to know what I'm going to say. I'm not trying to persuade Rush Limbaugh that I'm going to be a good president; you know I know he's not voting for me. I'm not trying to you know persuade the chief lobbyist for Exxon mobile about why we need to free ourselves from the dependence on foreign oil. He's not going to be persuaded," Obama said.

In talking about the power of hope, Obama also stepped outside of himself to take a look at his own candidacy in which his race could be a handicap if he were to run as the first African-American president.

"I'm a black guy running for president named Barack Obama. I must be hopeful."

"How Kucinich Supporters Could Help Stop Hillary"

Paul Loeb (Huffington Post):
I know Kucinich supporters don't like Hillary Clinton. When I write about her, they respond, again and again. "She's a bought and paid corporatist." "She backed the Iraq war from the beginning." "She supported the regressive bankruptcy bill." In fact, many say, "If she's nominated I'm staying home." Or. "If Hillary gets the nomination, I'll change my registration to Independent and vote third party."
So think about how you'd feel if the headlines after the early caucuses and primaries read "Hillary places third," and you were part of that process. Imagine if those losses helped stop her nomination, the party ended up with either Barack Obama or John Edwards as the nominee, and one of the two became America's president. I suspect you'd feel a whole lot better than having Hillary as president. And way better than our enacting Bush revisited through her losing to Guiliani, Huckabee, Romney, Thompson, or even the reborn John McCain, who's not only promoted the Iraq war since before it happened, but even got caught on video singing "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran" to the words of the classic Beach Boys song, as if war with Iran were some kind of joke. I'm sure you'd rather see Edwards or Obama than any of these.

But of course you'd rather have Kucinich. He's the most progressive, you say, and that's true. He opposed the war from the beginning and even organized Congress against it. He's got a great platform, and is strong on every issue, the antithesis of a corporate tool.

But he's also not going to be the nominee. No one has come from polling one or two percent at this late date to capture the presidency. No Congressman has won since James Garfield. There are just too many other candidates at this point with too much support, momentum, and money. If Kucinich hasn't captured America's imagination enough so far, there's just not time for this to happen fast enough to win. I also think his message plays better with already committed progressive audiences than with those less political, one reason it hasn't resonated more in the polls. And my guess is that America's just not ready for a vegan, which while it shouldn't make any difference, offers prime fodder for the Karl Rove types about how he's so out of the mainstream he's going to try to take away people's macaroni and cheese.

So if Kucinich can't win, supporting him in the key early races means valuing a symbolic educational campaign over one that has the capacity to actually affect who is nominated. I think Kucinich people can make a difference, and that the tradeoffs are worth it to support Edwards or Obama.

Right now Clinton, Obama, and Edwards are all running virtually neck-and-neck in the Iowa polls. Any of them could win. Any could come in third. In the latest averages, they're within five percentage points of each other, between 25% & 30%. Whatever the outcome, it's going to set the tone for subsequent momentum, media coverage, money, and everything else that makes such a critical difference in who wins. Because the primary and caucus schedule is so compressed, and quite possibly over by mid-February, whoever emerges from those first few primaries with major momentum will likely be the nominee.

So how could Kucinich supporters, with their candidate polling at 1%-2%, even make a difference? First, because it's a caucus system, this favors groups that are organized and enthusiastic. Only 125,000 people attended Iowa's Democratic caucuses last round, but they sank Howard Dean's candidacy when he was the clear favorite going in. If Kucinich supporters could get out 12,500 people that's 10% of the vote, if 6250, 5%. Neither would be enough to qualify under the 15% threshold for representation, but if they could account for even just a few points difference in how the delegates are allocated, that might shift who comes first among the three leading Democrats. It might make the difference between Hillary being the nominee and Edwards or Obama.

A bit more on Hillary's dangers: I've written about her potential to shatter the Democratic coalition and bring about a Republican resurgence even if she gets in. Recent polls actually show her losing or in a dead heat with McCain, Giuliani, and in some polls, Romney and Huckabee, Even if she does get in, progressives are likely to be fighting her on half the initiatives she proposes. She also spent more money in 2006 than in all but one Senate campaign in America's history--to win a race she could have won in her pajamas, and at a time when shifting dollars to other Democratic campaigns would likely have gained a few more seats.

So are Edwards or Obama any better? I'd say Edwards is a whole lot more progressive now than in 2004--sometimes major life crises will do that to you. But even back then, he was progressive enough that the Kucinich campaign instructed its supporters to team up with those of Edwards and tip each other over the Iowa vote thresholds wherever possible. Edwards isn't perfect, but I've seen him go into a room of trade union activists and lead not just with economic justice issues where he knows he's going to get a strong reception, but with the Iraq war and global warming--the opposite of pandering to his audience. I've also seen him use scarce campaign money to run ads asking Congress to stand up to Bush on the war. And he was the first of the three major candidates to have a strong and comprehensive global warming plan, and the first to have some comprehensive universal health care plan. He's spent a lot of time addressing issues like poverty that are hardly political winners. And yes, he's a bit wealthy for my tastes, but at least he made his money fighting major corporations. He's speaking out enough about their power on the campaign trail, that this makes him my first choice, though Obama also has a lot that's attractive. In contrast with Hillary, neither of them are taking money from corporate lobbyists, and neither voted for the awful Kyl-Lieberman amendment on Iran.

Obama's also got some pretty progressive history. He spoke out against the war before it started, and has continued to do so, even if I would have liked his voice a little louder. Both he and Edwards are clear that it is unacceptable to keep American bases in Iraq, while Hillary Clinton has equivocated. Equally important, Obama began as a community organizer, working in low-income communities, then returned to represent social justice advocates after his graduation from Harvard Law School, foregoing far more lucrative opportunities. Obama's also watched his mother spend her last months while dying of cancer having to read through the fine print on the forms of an insurance company that was trying to drop her coverage. That's an experience that could resonate with America. Finally both Obama and Edwards talk explicitly about the links between past movements for justice, and the need to build their successors in the present--while Clinton, I believe, sees current activists mostly as a troublesome threat. To me those are significant differences.

It also matters that both Edwards and Obama also beat the Republican candidates in most major polls. That's important if for no other reason than because one more Supreme Court Justice like Alito or Roberts, and we'll spend the next thirty years with courts that would have make Mussolini proud. And because the Republicans will do little or nothing on the most critical threat of global warming (even John McCain recently absented himself when his vote could have broken the Republican filibuster on the most progressive energy bill in 30 years). And because pallid as the Democrats can be, and they can be pallid, they won't appoint people like the National Labor Relations Board officials who have been busily reclassifying nurses as supervisors so they can't join a union, and prohibiting the use of workplace emails for union-related concerns. So winnability matters as well.

Over the next six weeks you're going to have a choice. You can vote for Kucinich in your primaries and caucuses, make a symbolic point, and maybe give him a shade more clout to stay in the race. But whether he gets 1% or 5%, his presence when they're done is going to be minimal, and his coverage negligible as well. Your other choice is to do what you can to try to make Edwards or Obama the nominee, and potentially help tip the balance in who ends up president. To me, that's the greater political impact.

John Edwards on "Face the Nation"

If you live in Seattle, you've got plenty of time to get ready because FTN airs in Seattle this weekend at 12:30am Monday morning on KIRO TV7.

Barack Obama on "Meet the Press" this morning

Barack Obama is on the second half hour of "Meet the Press" today, airing in Seattle @ 6am on KING5 and at 10am KONG16. Check your local listings. I prefer to call this show "Meet Tim Russert."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

"Before Voting Begins, Clinton Leads"

ABC News:
With only six days left before the Iowa caucuses and the race to the Democratic nomination well under way, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is leading in the important battle for the so-called "super delegates."

Throughout the year states jockeyed fiercely to position their primaries and caucuses earlier in the year to play a more significant role in the nominating process.

But even with a bunched-up early primary season, a candidate still needs to accumulate delegates to win the Democratic nomination.

Delegate Race

In order to win the Democratic nomination, a candidate needs to secure 2,026 delegates out of a total of 4,050.

As of today, Clinton has amassed 69 more delegates than her nearest competitor, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, according to an ABC News survey of Democratic super delegates.

Clinton has support from 158 super delegates, Obama has 89 and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards comes in with 26. (Full chart last page).
More than three-quarters of the total delegates are awarded based on a state's primary or caucus results, but there are also unpledged free agents, so called super delegates who are up for grabs.

This election year there are 797 unpledged super delegates who can pick a candidate regardless of the result of their state's primary or caucus.

Super Delegates

Democratic super delegates are state party leaders, national party leaders and former Democratic presidents who are free to vote for any candidate they choose even before their own state primary or caucus.

Super delegates can select whichever candidate they wish for the nomination and they are not bound to their candidate until the convention.

These delegates can change their mind as many times as they want before states even begin voting and one candidate emerges as the nominees.

A similar survey of super delegates by ABC News in 2004 found Howard Dean leading in the super delegate count before the Iowa caucuses.

Yet when John Kerry emerged as the winner there and began his run to the nomination, super delegates began to jump off the Dean ship and throw their support to Kerry.

Clinton enjoys considerable support from her home state of New York. She has received commitments from 41 of the 49 super delegates there, giving her a solid base before she even leaves the Empire State.

Obama has similar support from his home state of Illinois, securing commitments from 24 of the state's 32 super delegates.

Methodology: ABC News' Political Unit contacted approximately 93 percent of the super delegates by e-mail or telephone.

Some delegates contacted by ABC News had not yet made up their mind on their endorsement and some have no plans to endorse before voting begins.

Super delegates who reported to ABC News that they are firmly committed to a candidate and whose support the campaign is aware of, were added to that candidate's tally.

ABC News also checked and included all explicit public announcements of support made by any super delegate.

We also reached out to the delegate trackers in each campaign to determine whether our count is similar to their count.

Because super delegates are unpledged, they are under no obligation to state their preferences publicly before the convention. Counting super delegates is an inexact science, but this is the best estimate of the current state of play according to the super delegate responses we've received.


Clinton 158

Obama 89

Edwards 26

Richardson 20

Dodd 15

Biden 8

Kucinich 1

Gravel 0