Thursday, December 20, 2007

Two from Ari Melber (with video)

How bad do you want to win back the White House?
As the primaries finally approach, a growing share of Democratic voters say choosing the most electable candidate is more important than the issues, according to a brand new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. (Voters who prioritize electability are now 45 percent of the Democratic electorate, up 9 points from last month.) Now I think electability is a strategically flawed and morally vapid way to pick the next President. We should vote for leaders, not general election strategies.

But on top of that, it's striking that most Democrats wrongly think that being a primary frontunner means a candidate is most likely to win the general election. Over six out of ten Democrats say Clinton is the most electable, for example, in last week's CBS/New York Times poll. But a battery of national polls suggest John Edwards is the most electable candidate. Average all the head-to-head polls from July until now, and Edwards beats Republicans by an average of 8 points, while Obama averages a 5-point edge and Clinton nets only a 3-point lead. (Some individual polls show larger leads for each candidate, of course, but these are the broader trends.) This sharp YouTube video tells the story quite clearly, complete with a Ben Harper soundtrack. Readers should note that it was produced by the Jed Report blogger, who runs an anti-Hillary site, but the polls are public and the methodology is available.

And I'm not sure what's worse: applying electability to pick the Commander in Chief, or applying it incorrectly.

with video:

Last week, I wrote about Hillaryis44, an anonymous website that relentlessly touts Hillary Clinton and slams her rivals.
Many people think the insidery site is "too professional to simply be a 'fan' site," as MSNBC's Domenico Montanaro explains, but no one has figured out who is behind the HTML. Now another anonymous site is getting feisty as the campaigns hit the homestretch -- but this one is devoutly against Clinton.

HillaryAttacks is a savvy site assailing Clinton for being too eager to "attack" her opponents -- and other countries. "The way to go on offense against Hillary is to talk about the other meaning of the phrase 'Hillary Attacks' -- as in Hillary attacks Iraq or Iran," advises the anonymous author, who says he is a 34-year-old "former politico," and "just a guy in Las Vegas with a blog." Think more politico than Vegas blogger -- the site has the pointed feel of opposition research, with several crisp videos arguing that Clinton is Rovian in her fights with Democrats and Cheney-esque in her rhetoric against Iran. (A professional-quality video posted this weekend even crunches data from 485 general election poll questions.) The site, which has drawn links from DailyKos, Wired and the official Edwards campaign blog, often sounds like a campaign conference call: key points are "top-lined," "right-wing frames" are scorned, and the strategic and moral agenda are one: "Iran is Hillary Clinton's Achilles' heel, both politically and substantively." The end-game is a pragmatic anti-Clinton union:

Even though most Democrats don't support Hillary, she could still win the nomination by dividing her opposition. To make sure that doesn't happen, at some point we may have to switch candidates to make sure Edwards or Obama wins the nomination. For most of us, that day will come sometime between the South Carolina primary (1/26) and Super Tuesday (2/5).

It all sounds like an experienced insider to me, though there's no evidence that the site is connected to any campaign. And of course, citizens have the right to advocate positions anonymously -- a tradition that goes back to The Federalist Papers. The web has simply exploded the opportunities for such activism, which naturally creates more controversies.
This Friday, in fact, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is going to court to defend daTruthSquad, an anonymous blogger who is fighting a New Jersey municipality which tried to reveal his identity by subpoenaing Google's Blogspot service. These free speech fights will increasingly turn on web activism. And EFF's pro-bono work is one cause that the authors of Hillaryis44 and HillaryAttacks clearly agree on.

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