Tuesday, November 4, 2008

We Did It

"My heart is filled with love for this country."

I've used that phrase in this blog before. That was the final sentence of President-Elect Barack Obama's book The Audacity of Hope, the beautiful pronunciation of ideas and beliefs for a new America laid out before he announced his run for the presidency. I used it when he came through the most difficult primary season ever to become the first black major party nominee for president.

Now, Obama is only 10 weeks away from his historic inauguration as the 44th President of the United States, finally removing the "whites only" sign from the Oval Office. His decisive victory in tonight's election has implications so far reaching that I can't begin to even grasp all of them three hours after capturing the election.

The election took an irreversible turn in Obama's favor around 9:30 tonight when Ohio was called in his favor. That made the McCain path to victory even more narrow than it already had been. It would only be a matter of time before Obama's victory of improbability would be declared. It happened at 11, and after expressions of adulation my thoughts turned to this nation's long suffering black community.

I thought about how the first slave ships touched American shores in 1619. I thought about how this country was founded as a slave-holding republic, and how a compromise was rendered in our original Constitution counting every black man as three-fifths of a person. I thought about how debate over the "peculiar institution" of slavery tore America asunder over the 40 years between the Missouri Compromise and Abraham Lincoln's election. I thought about Elijah Parish Lovejoy, William Lloyd Garrison, Dred Scott, and Frederick Douglass. I thought about how a war was fought in this country over the right to enslave a race. I thought about the racially-charged stories by William Faulkner I've been reading this semester, taught to me by the great-grandson of a slave and the first black professor at my school. I thought about the idiocy of Plessy v. Ferguson and the fight for Brown v. Board of Education. I thought about Jim Crow, the Selma marches, "I have a dream," polling tests, Rosa Parks, and the Voting and Civil Rights Acts.

I thought about all the work done by the millions and millions of nameless, faceless individuals across the races who worked tirelessly through the decades to bring racial equality to a country purporting a belief "that all men are created equal."

And then, at midnight, I watched a black man with a black wife and black children speak to 100,000 onlookers in Chicago as the next man to be President of the United States. The only thought running through my mind at that point was: "My heart is filled with love for this country."

I was overcome with a feeling of community. Earlier in the night Chris Matthews mentioned a "secular communion" we have in this country when it comes to voting, how it's something we as a nation do together. When Obama was declared the victor tonight, it didn't feel like something Obama had done. It felt like something we had done. We had rejected the politics of fear and distraction for the politics of hope and progress. We had told the rest of the world that we were ready for change, turning our place and opinion in the world 180 degrees from where it was yesterday. We, as a people and a democracy, had done this amazing thing.

That might be the thing that has separated Obama from all recent presidential candidates. He wants all of us to take responsibility for what happens in our country, and he made several calls to that effect in his speech tonight, which may have been his best thus far (and that's REALLY saying something). Bush never asked us to do anything except to go shopping after 9/11. I can tell things will be different from Obama. Americans need to feel uplifted, and not embarrassed, by their leaders again. Obama is just what we need in that regard.

It's late, it's been a very emotional day, and I'll have more feelings about what has just transpired very soon. But for now, I feel so privileged to be alive in this country to see this. This is a night that will live in my heart until it stops beating. I'm so excited to see where we'll go as a nation with Obama guiding us. I'm ready to do my part. I'm ready to believe again in the power of good America possesses.

My heart is filled with love for this country. And it always will be.

Election Day Post #1: First Thoughts

The day is finally here. It's about 4:30 here and Durham and the anticipation of those first returns coming in around 7 from Virginia, Georgia and Indiana is becoming unbearable. I've been holding my breath for 14 months, and I don't want to hold it anymore.

Walking around the UNH campus today felt different than just about every other day in my four years here. The tenor was different, the attitudes were different, the conversations were different. The election seemed to be what everyone was talking about. And on every street corner there were volunteers encouraging students to get on buses to go to Oyster River High School to register and vote.

All these volunteers were from the Obama campaign. Every single one of them. Nowhere on campus did I see any volunteers from the McCain campaign doing this. Hell, I don't think I even saw any McCain volunteers all day. There's no question the enthusiasm is squarely on Obama's side, and there's also no question that enthusiasm is paramount amongst the younger generations.

They always said our generation was apathetic, that we didn't care about anything but ourselves. In many ways, the self-indulgence compounded by texting and Facebook and AIM is still significant. But what I saw today around the UNH campus was a taste of an amazing future. This is a future where we won't allow skin-deep differences to get in the way of real progress. I'm hopeful that exit-polling will show a record turnout for younger voters, and it's partly because of us that Obama is in this position.

In short, I've never been more proud of my generation that I was today walking around. We have officially arrived.

OK, I have some brief things that I will be watching as the early parts of the evening. Virginia and Indiana will have their polls close at 7. If there's an early call for Obama in Virginia, and Indiana goes down the the wire, McCain's goose will probably be cooked early. If you don't believe me, check out this post at The 538 from a couple hours ago. The know more about this stuff than I do.

I'm also very intrigued by Georgia. There's been a massive push in black voting registrations and participation that could tilt the results towards not only Obama but Jim Martin in his Senate race against incumbent Saxby Chambliss. The state has been safe Republican for much of the race but I won't rule out an outright Obama win there.

Essentially, if Obama wins both Pennsylvania and Virginia, McCain is not likely to be able to win tonight. That's the most simple thing I can come up with for you.

The most compelling race of the night could potentially be a downballot one. The U.S. Senate race in Minnesota has no favorite and no predictability. Incumbent Norm Coleman and comedian Al Franken will have their vote split by an independent, Dean Barkley. We likely won't know the final result of this election until Wednesday afternoon.

With that, I will leave you to watching the returns. I hope everyone appreciates the history of this night. I will check back in if I feel it right to do so.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Thoughts on the Final Day

OK, I know I lied and didn't come back with a post last night. But here I am with a quick little posting before I head off to TNH for the evening. Here's my game plan for next 48 hours or so: I've got this post, then probably a post when I get back from classes tomorrow around 4, and then I'll post at times that I feel appropriate throughout the evening. I'm not sure if I'll have time to post since I figure I'll be flying around my apartment for upwards of 12 hours, watching multiple TVs, refreshing web pages, and taking and making lots of phone calls. It's going to be sick night, one that I've been waiting a long, long time for.

I've finalized my electoral map, and you can see it here. I think Obama will pull out wins in Ohio and Florida, but I've still got McCain taking Indiana, North Carolina, and the Great Plains states. He won't win NC by more that a 52-48 margain. The only state I really have no idea about is Missouri. I'm throwing it to McCain solely because Obama hasn't been able to carry any significant momentum there in recent weeks. It would not shock me a great deal if either MO or NC went Obama's way. Either way, my map doesn't give McCain much of a shot. Chris Cillizza's final map is the same as mine except that he has McCain winning Ohio and Obama taking Nebraska's 2nd Congressional Disctrict.

Indiana is definitely in play as well. Typically, the first polls to close on Election Day in the U.S. are in Indiana and Kentucky. If you're watching the networks tomorrow night and Indiana gets called for Obama around 8 p.m., it's going to be a tough night for McCain and Republicans all across the board.

Speaking of that, I'll also give you a very brief synopsis on where each of the contested Senatorial races stand heading into this final day of campaigning.

Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico: These are all going to be safe, easy wins for the Democrats tomorrow. All Mark Warner had to do was announce he was running in VA and he would win. The Udall Cousins, Mark and Tom, are also poised to glide to easy victories tomorrow.

Alaska, New Hampshire, Oregon: These next three are a little tougher to gauge, but I feel confident the Democrats will win all three. Ted Stevens wrote his own epitaph by being convicted on seven felonies. John Sununu has never led in any polls against Jeanne Shaheen, and Gordon Smith doesn't have much of a chance in Blue Oregon against Jeff Merkely.

North Carolina: Kay Hagen will unseat Liddy Dole, but it should be close. Dole's horrendous decision to go after Hagen's religiosity has backfired in an unbelievable manner.

Minnesota: Flip a coin on this one. Norm Coleman has taken some hits in recent days, Al Franken looks strong, and independent Dean Barkley could split the vote either way. I'm really excited to see how this goes down tomorrow.

Georgia: Saxby Chambliss and Jim Martin are locked up in a massive tete-a-tete that should come down to the wire. If neither candidate gets to 50 percent, there'll be a run-off in December to decide the winner. I have a feeling that will happen. If this is the potential 60th seat for the Democrats, and it comes down to this run-off...wow. It'll be awesome.

Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi: Likely all to stay with the incumbents. Although I'd love to see McConnell get picked off in Kentucky just to stick it to him.

With that I have to go. What a year it's been. I can't believe it's almost over.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

T-Minus Two Days

I haven't check in recently because, frankly, the end of the longest presidential election campaign ever seems to be drawing to an anti-climactic finish. Unless the pollsters have been completely dead wrong, and as long as people actually show up to vote, Barack Obama should be elected the 44th President of the United States Tuesday night. There's very little in the way of plausible scenarios for John McCain to count on. It's gotten bad enough for McCain that places like Arizona (which happens to be his home state) and Georgia are no longer safe Republican bets.

In short, McCain needs a major Obama catastrophe or an outright miracle to beat Obama in the electoral college. Since no reputable poll has had McCain ahead nationally since the 3rd week of September (and even that was from Republican-biased Zogby), there's no chance Obama loses the popular vote to McCain Tuesday. Repeat: no chance. So a narrow electoral college win or tie (that possiblity is mentioned by Nate Silver on today's polling thread over at The 538) is the only way McCain will be elected barring a game-changer between now and then. I outlined in my last post McCain's painful truths about an electoral college win. Basically, he needs to make up tremendous ground in Pennsylvania, win it, and then win EVERY swing state. No wonder Silver gives him 3.8% chance of winning the election.

Now we already have excellent Washington reporters like Mike Allen postulating the makeup of an Obama Cabinet. I'm not ready to go down that road yet, but I will certainly have a post within a few weeks of my potential Obama Dream Team. I will say this: I would love to see Rahm Emanuel in the post of Chief of Staff (for those "West Wing" buffs out there, Aaron Sorkin based Josh Lyman on a young Emanuel. That gives you some idea of the type of brilliant political mind Emanuel is). But I am preparing myself for the eventuality of an Obama win, and the unbelievable truth that this campaign is coming to an end.

I've been paying close attention to the goings-on of this campaign for the last 14 months. I've witnessed every twist and turn, heard every fact and spin, and experienced the full range of emotions all along, from tremendous joy (right after Obama won the Iowa caucus) to the depths of sadness (the death of Tim Russert). There's part of me that will be glad when it's all over, but the void left by the incredible horse race will be difficult to replace.

We have seen perhaps the greatest individual presidential campaign in history with Barack Obama's unreal rise to a potential electoral blowout Tuesday. When he sewed up the nomination, I remarked that Obama needed to run a perfect campaign to beat Hillary, and he did just that. Well, considering all the mistakes made by John McCain and his campaign of schizophrenia, Obama didn't need to run perfectly to win.

In my opinion, the election hinged on the reactions of the two candidates to the onset of the economic meltdown. In the key moment of the campaign, at the time of our nation's biggest crisis of any type since Hurricane Katrina, Obama appeared cool, composed, and presidential. McCain, on the other hand, appeared frazzled, erratic, and, quite frankly, old. That was where Obama won this thing and McCain lost it.

Anyway, I am still attempting to sort out my feelings about what has happened and what is about to happen. I will try to write something in this space later today (Sunday), Monday, and I'm still trying to figure out what I'll do here for Tuesday. I could do a running diary sort of thing, but I'm not sure I want to spend time away from watching the returns writing. I'll figure it out.

If you haven't voted yet, make sure you figure out some way to do it before or on Tuesday. It's important. I hope that you've learned at least that much from me. Later.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Simple Truth of the Electoral Map

In a moment of epiphany during my Justice and the Political Community class this afternoon, I figured out the electoral map. Yup, I know who's going to win. Lucky for you, I'm not like John McCain knowing the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. I'm actually going to tell you what I came up with.

First, I listed all the states the Obama and McCain are both either going to or are very likely to win. I will do that right here for you with electoral votes for each state in ().

McCain: AK (3), AL (9), AR (6), AZ (10), GA (15), ID (4), KS (6), KY (8), LA (9), MS (6), NE (5), OK (7), SC (8), SD (3), TN (11), TX (34), UT (5), WY (3).

Obama: CA (55), CT (7), DC (3), DE (3), HI (4), IA (7), IL (21), MA (12), MD (10), ME (4), MI (17), MN (10), NJ (15), NY (31), OR (7), RI (4), VT (3), WA (11), WI (10).

The only one of those above states that some might have a dispute with is Minnesota. Take a look at the recent polls. In my opinion the Land of a Thousand Lakes is safe for Obama.

Next let's take a look at the ever-important "lean" states. This has become a shrinking category for both candidates as voters have begun taking sides for good two weeks out of the election.

McCain: ND (3), MT (3), WV (5).

Obama: CO (9), NH (4), NM (5), PA (21).

Again, some might disagree with Colorado and Pennsylvania being added so surely to the Obama column. McCain spent all day today in PA, suggesting that the Republicans will be trying to turn around a sizeable gap in recent statewide polling. As for Colorado, the polls remain tight, but the trend definitely favors Obama.

Before I take a look at the seven true "swing" states remaining, let's add up what each candidates have from their previous categories.

McCain: 163.

Obama: 273.

Well, spank my ass and call me Chuck Todd! We have ourselves a winner. Obama successfully gets to 270 without needing the help of the those seven swing states: FL (27), IN (11), MO (11), NC (15), NV (5), OH (20), and VA (13). It can be reasonably argued that Virginia should be at least an Obama "lean." Pollster even has VA solidly for Obama, with legitmate reason.

So that's it. It's over. McCain might as well pack it in right now. Okay, maybe it's not that cut and dry. Anything can and will happen over the course of the next two weeks, but the general electoral truths that I've just outlined can't be overlooked.

It doesn't seem to be a question of whether Obama is going to win. Since he doesn't very much help from the swing states, it's now become a question of margain.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Campaign With No Purpose

Three weeks to go until the Big Day, less than 24 hours until the final presidential debate of this election cycle, and roughly about an hour before I finish writing this Blue Musings post. I'm not sure what that has to do with the election, I just like sentences that have three parts like that.

Obama has extended his lead nationally over the last few weeks, including a new poll out tonight from CBS and the NY Times show a whopping 14-point lead for the Democrat.

Obama has put away McCain targets in Pennsylvania and Michigan. He's opened up modest leads in Colorado, Ohio, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and our beloved New Hampshire. Things remain very close in Virginia, Missouri, and Nevada, but the flood of Obama support has put Indiana, West Virginia, and North Carolina in play. (Pollster even has North Dakota in the tossup category, but there hasn't been much polling there and I think McCain can rest easy). I'm sure Republicans never thought they'd have to worry about those latter states breaking for Obama this late in the going.

So why has this happened? Why does it appear if the election were held today Obama could potentially take the electoral college by 150 votes? There's several factors to consider.

I remember just a month ago the undecidedes were still making up 10-15% in national polling. Well, it's safe to say a HUGE number of those undecided voters a month ago have broken for Obama, and given the current political climate, it will be extremely difficult for John McCain to lure them away. The aforementioned poll has Obama winning independent voters by 18 points, a truly staggering figure.

While Sarah Palin roused the Republican base, she's done nothing to attract middle-of-the-road voters. I think her interviews and non-performance in the debate have totally disgusted most of the sensible people in the United States. No one, even the most ardent conservatives, can successfully argue that she is qualified to be in a position to be president. Check out the legendary David S. Broder's most recent "Man on the Street" interview column, where he heads to a typically-swing Philly suburb to canvass the masses. Let's just say most of the people he talked to don't really like Palin.

McCain hasn't actually lost the election yet, but Palin is such a bust one has to wonder if the gamble to put her on the ticket may go down as the worst in political history. I never thought I'd see the day when a campaign was dumb enough do put someone on the ticket that would actually lose the election for the party.

However, the biggest reason why Obama is poised to win in three weeks is this: John McCain has overseen the most erratic, schizophrenic, purposeless presidential campaign over the last month that anyone (so it seems) can remember.

It all began with the campaign suspension over the economic crisis (just a week after McCain claimed the "fundamentals of the economy are strong"). McCain went to Washington, didn't help anything get done, and when the dust settled, everyone and their brother blamed the financial chaos on deregulation-loving Republicans in Congress.

McCain has attempted to shift the focus from the issues to Obama's tangential relationship with Bill Ayers, a 1960s-era radical that exactly zero people in Youngstown, Scranton or Albuquerque give a flying fuck about. Voters in both the Broder column and the Times article about today's poll reflect that exact feeling during this time of unrest both at home and abroad. Obama is speaking more about them and McCain is, well, who the hell knows what he's talking about anymore.

Earlier this week McCain seemed to be ready to play nice, saying he'd give up the negative attacks and run a respectful campaign. Today, the campaign released a memo attacking Obama on Ayers. Nothing these guys do make any sense, it seems.

I feel people have watched these unpredictable, erratic happenings from the McCain campaign and have seen a glimpse of a potential McCain presidency. Obama criticized McCain's temperament in his DNC speech, and we all see why now. If McCain were to act in this manner as president, we'd all be screwed. Not that we aren't already.

Obama has represented that steady hand, that calm demeanor needed to do well in a crisis. McCain's been like that, only the exact opposite. With an astronomical 89 percent of Americans believing our country is on the wrong track, people want someone with a different approach and a different attitudes towards finding solutions. That bodes well for Obama.

Americans have turned off the BS factor of the Republican spin machine, and they are ready for change. With three weeks left, I'm ready for history.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Five Weeks Left

It's so hard to believe that this, the longest presidential campaign in history, is nearing an end. In five weeks Americans will head to their polling places and decide on local, state, and national races. Despite my original intention to head home for Election Day, I will instead be voting absentee. I don't believe NH absentee ballots will be available until next week, but if you are a college student registered to vote in the Granite State but won't be able to make home November 4, the absentee process is really, really simple.

First, print off and fill out this form. Then, find out where to mail the form by looking at this list of NH town clerks. Next, dole out the 42 cents for a stamp and put the form in the mail. Your town clerk will mail you a ballot. What's cool about voting absentee is that you can take your time before sending it back to your town of residence. Of course, make sure the ballot you send back is postmarked by November 4. Otherwise, you're ballot won't count and you'll have done all that for nothing.

OK, now that my absentee voting tutorial is out of the way I can get back into the current issues of the day. I don't want to sound overly optimistic, but I don't see much of a way that Barack Obama and Joe Biden lose this election after the events of these past few weeks. John McCain, with his schizophrenic and irresponsible attitude towards the financial crisis (i.e., saying the "fundamentals of our economy are strong" and then "suspending" his campaign and describing recent events as a financial Pearl Harbor within about a week), his inability to control surrogates like Carly Fiorina and Douglas Holtz-Eakin (who unbelievably said McCain was partially responsible the creation of the BlackBerry, a device McCain would have no idea how to operate), his lackluster debate performance, and the absolute joke his VP choice has turned into (more on that later).

McCain's completely botched political stunt last week, which included his petty attempt to postpone Friday's debate, may have provided all of us with a look into how a McCain presidency might look. Senator McCain suspended his campaign last Wednesday, even though his ads continued to run throughout the country, his surrogates made every attempt to portray Obama as an America-hating liberal tree-hugging dope fiend, and had enough time to do an interview with Katie Couric before heading back to Washington to New York. Oh, and in case you hadn't heard, that last bit pissed off a certain late night TV host.

So he went to Washington, sat a huge table in the White House where he apparently said nothing, and went back to Capitol Hill to try and save the day. Well, no deal was struck before Friday afternoon, he "un-suspended" his campaign, whimpered to the debate, looked really old, and then headed back to Washington. McCain spent all day Saturday on the phone with people directly involved in the process. Then, on the campaign trail Monday morning, he accused Obama (who has looked every bit the part of presidential throughout this crisis) of "phoning it in" in terms of trying to get the bailout legislation ready for a vote. Umm, yeah. I suppose we should now start being concerned about McCain's short-term memory.

The rest, as they say, is history. The House voted down the bailout plan by a 228-205 vote, leaving everyone scrambling for a new answer. McCain's campaign then had the gall to blame Obama for failure of the bailout plan, even though ANYONE paying attention to this process knows the deal failed because of the intransigence of House Republicans more concerned about losing their own jobs than figuring out a way to stop a 2nd Great Depression. The three-headed monster of House Republican jackasses of Blunt, Boehner and Cantor, for their part, blamed the failure of the bill on a partisan (yet entirely factual) speech given by Speaker Pelosi before the final vote.

(Quick aside: Are you fucking kidding me? The most important economic legislation since the New Deal was voted down because of a SPEECH BY THE HOUSE SPEAKER??!?!?!? That's beyond reprehensible. And these assholes wonder why voters have flocked away from their party in recent years.)

Anyway, I believe we've seen John McCain's true colors throughout this excursion. The old man just doesn't have the faculties, temperment and judgement to be president at this critical point in history. He decided to stop everything in his campaign so he could come back to Washington and deal with this economic issue (which, as I understand, is the first economic issue McCain has attempted to take a lead on during his entire time in Congress), and he couldn't even stick to his word. His campaign was immediately prepared to blame Obama for the failure of the bill, even though Obama's had literally nothing to do with process thus far (at the insistence of those in his party) and it's not entirely clear if either McCain or Obama would have supported the bill had it passed the House. When McCain's campaign issued their proclamation of blame on Obama, I knew for sure what I'd suspected for a long time:

The McCain campaign is so desperate right now that they will literally say ANYTHING, true or false, to disparage Obama.

I know that's not rocket science, but it should tell you something about McCain. The King of Straight Talk has turned into the King of Bullshit. As Ohio, Viriginia, New Hampshire, Florida, and Missouri slip away, McCain will continue to get even more desperate. I'm almost afraid to see where this will take us over the next five weeks.

Speaking of afraid, I present to you, in her unfettered glory, Mrs. Sarah Palin. I need no words to explain this except to say that former McCain adviser Mike Murphy, former Bush speechwriter David Frum, and conservative columnists Kathleen Parker, George Will and David S. Brooks have all called, in some fashion, for Palin to be removed from the ticket. Unbelievable.

I know I said I didn't want to sound too optimistic, especially in these dark times, but can you blame me?

Monday, September 22, 2008

My Electoral Map

Sorry for the infrequent posts, but between four classes and trying to run the sports section of a college newspaper I haven't had much time to indulge in writing about politics. There have been so many things in recent weeks that I wish I had the opportunity to write about, including the incredible Palin bounce, the financial meltdown, and the resurgence of the Obama campaign last week amongst a cavalcade of McCain blunders. I promise more from here until the election, but posts will likely be abbreviated. I will definitely have something this weekend following Friday night's first presidential debate.

Between now and Election Day I'll also try to update my electoral college map. The Fix has been running a contest on this, you can fill out your own too. As I have been predicting for a while, I believe the popular vote will be razor thin (no more than four points) but I see the electoral college will be a blowout for Obama. I'm holding out hope Obama can pull out Ohio, Virginia, the important states out west, and our beautiful Granite State. Take a look, and see if you agree or disagree, and make your own.

Check out my map here. Later.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Stretch Run

The conventions are over. The debates are right around the corner. And that magical day, November 4, the day that our nation will be forever changed, is in sight.

The stretch run of the 2008 presidential campaign is here.

Thursday night John McCain capped a listless GOP Convention with a similarly listless speech and catapulted us into this next, final phase of the election cycle. This came one day after Sarah Palin delivered one of the nastiest, meanest, most divisive political speeches in modern history. I was shocked by the positive public and media reaction to such a horrible speech. Maybe the media was trying to make up for several days of swarming, shark-like coverage of Palin and her family (I'll get to more of this in a bit), but a good speech was not what I saw on Wednesday night.

What I saw was a commitment to the politics that Barack Obama and Joe Biden have essentially sworn off; a politics of personal attacks that accomplish nothing in the long run. Palin's jab that being a mayor is kind of like being a community organizer except that you have "actual responsibilities" was one of the lowest blows of the entire campaign. The junkyard-dog mentality of the McCain campaign is now seemingly centered around the things Palin will say, and it's obvious she'll say anything to make people believe Obama is Satan incarnate.

It's nice to see the Republican Party that we all know and love come through at this convention.

The Republicans, per Mark Halperin, are going to try and paint Obama as an extreme liberal and somehow use his experience as a community organizer to belittle his overall credentials. Somehow I don't see this working. But it was during these two months that Republicans in 1988 turned Michael Dukakis into an aloof elitiest and in 2004 turned John Kerry into a windsurfing, French-looking weakling, while the Democrats made Bush 41 into an out-of-touch old fart in 1992 themselves. Considering the momentum Obama has shown throughout this election season, and his strong swing state numbers (check out Pollster and click on any state to see the most recent polling information), this may be much harder to do this time. Obama has shown extreme willingness to stand up in the face of these attacks, and that certainly separates him from the losers that have come before.

We can look forward to the debates, the warring surrogates, and the kissing of babies in Ohio, Colorado and New Hampshire. We can look forward to the candidates braving the cold in Michigan and avoiding the sun in New Mexico. We can look forward to outrageous political ads and how state and local races might affect the national election. We can look forward to two intense months of campaigning where every word spoken and every move made by John Sidney McCain III and Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. will have an eye towards the magic number (270) and the magic dates (the November 4 election, and the January 20 inauguration).

The greatest election of our lifetimes is headed to the stretch run. Don't blink until Election Day, you might miss something important.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Barack's Speech and the Palin Shocker

Within the course of just about 15 hours, two incredible events occurred proving the possibilities of the American experience. Last night, a black man accepted the nomination of a major political party and delivered an address with words that will live much longer than any of us. Today, a woman was named the vice presidential choice of the other major political party for the first time in its long history.

As you might imagine, I have strongly different feelings about the particulars of both events. But as someone who loves this country deeply, I can't help but feel privileged to be cognizant of the happenings of the 2008 United States presidential election. This has been the most spellbinding, compelling, and important election season of my lifetime, and these seminal events have set up a 67-day run to November 4 none of us will ever forget.

First, Barack's speech. 38 million Americans saw the greatest moment of Obama's campaign, and one of the greatest moments in American history by extension. While I didn't get a chance to watch and hear the entire thing (the speech was on in the Pub last night but Brotherhood of Groove was far too loud and far too awesome to be drowned out by even Obama), I caught the last 10 minutes or so and then watched highlights of most of the important parts. Obama was poised, composed, clear, concise, and unabashedly tough in the biggest moment of his life. It's almost like we can't expect anything less from Obama when he steps to the microphone. Some have tried to knock Obama for being a great speaker. However, Obama's ability to continually rise to the occasion on the national stage proves the backbone and mettle possessed inside this man's heart.

Obama called on Americans to take responsibility for improving their own welfare in many aspects, a Kennedy-esque message that Democrats seem to have forgotten in recent years. He was very tough on John McCain, essentially calling him "W: Part II," claiming that he "doesn't get" regular Americans and their concerns, and in his most personal attack yet on McCain, called into question his temperament to be Commander in Chief.

As the Obama camp tried to convey in the build-up to this speech in front of almost 85,000 at Mile High, it wasn't a rhetorically beautiful speech meant to reinforce all the things Obama has already stated. This was a new direction for the Illinois Senator, one meant to go right after McCain on his own turf, and call his vast Democratic support base to arms in the battle of change against the status quo. It makes me wonder if spending time with Joe Biden has awakened this bulldog mentality in Obama. If that's the case, and the Democrats are finally ready to grow a pair and show that Republicans are the exact opposite of what America needs to go forward, I feel like my party will be tough to beat nationwide.

The Democratic Convention in Denver was a smashing success overall. I had tears in my eyes Wednesday, following the official vote by acclimation of Barack Obama to be Democratic nominee, when John Lewis told David Gregory that all his 1960s civil rights work had finally paid off. Later, Bill Clinton soothed the party and the nation by saying that his own experience as president proved to him that Obama is ready for the job. And Joe Biden capped the night wonderfully with his typical tough, humorous self and the surprise appearance by Obama brought the house down. After being somewhat underwhelmed by the first two days of the convention, I finished watching the coverage Wednesday night and felt like both my party and I were ready to go and ready to win.

Last night proved that great things can still happen in America. Today, we saw the ascension of another unlikely person to a presidential ticket. At 10:45 this morning I turned on my TV expecting to learn that Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, or Joe Lieberman had become the vice-presidential nominee for John McCain. Instead, by jaw hit the floor to learn that 44-year-old Sarah Palin, just one and one half years into her first term as Alaska's governor, would become the most improbable VP pick in decades.

I have to hand it to McCain and the Republicans. Had the pick been one of the three men I mentioned above, I can't help but feel the media would have talked about it for a few minutes, covered the introduction speech today in Dayton, and then gotten back to covering Obama's speech. However, the Palin stunner has really wiped Obama's speech off the coverage and is stoking people's interest heading into the Republican Convention in St. Paul next week.

I'd heard Palin's name mentioned really only in passing when it came to the Veepstakes. Her youth, inexperience, low national profile and the recent birth of her fifth child seemed to take her out of the running. But McCain saw an opportunity to rock the political world with an out-of-the-box choice, and Palin provided that without shaking most of his policy points.

Palin, who only two years ago was the mayor of a town roughly the size of Wolfeboro, NH, is suddenly thrust on the national stage with not very much time to go before the actual election. She is both fiscally and socially conservative, which satisfies the base of the party and certainly makes many Bush Republicans happy. Her brief time as Alaska's governor gives her the most executive experience of anyone on either major party ticket. She appears, from the brief things I've seen of her, that she has a terrific, vivacious personality that should engage all of us. Plus, even though she's pumped out five kids, she's still kinda hot. Take a look at the Fix and tell me she doesn't look EXACTLY like Tina Fey in her picture there.

But don't get me wrong, this pick for McCain qualifies as a stretch in just about every other area. She has ZERO foreign policy and national security credentials when those seem to be the only issues the Republicans can claim to have any sort of even equal footing with Democrats. When she gets in the debate with Joe Biden, it will border on comical when they have to discuss these issues.

I think a big part of McCain making this decision was to obviously try and scoop up disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters. Well, I can't help but feel that is somewhat of a pipe dream given the wide disparity between the ultra-conservative Palin and Clinton. In Hillary's Tuesday speech, she openly asked her supporters if "they were in it just for me?" She then went on to explain that the best chance those supporters had to realize their dreams was to vote for Barack Obama, because John McCain would not be able to deliver in the same way. While some may be attracted first to this idea of a woman on the ticket, once those former Clinton supporters look into Palin's record they will almost certainly dislike what they see. Politico's Ben Smith just reported on MSNBC that Palin does not support abortion rights for rape victims, which puts her far, far to the right of even John McCain. In the end, I don't see the attempt to attract these women just because there's a woman on the ticket working.

Regardless, having Palin on the ticket was a bold, inspiring move for a party that really needed a shot of life. Obama's speech last night riled up his base and I can't wait to see where he and Biden take their campaign next.

As Tim Russert would say, what a country.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Biden, The DNC and more

I'm sure many of you were wondering where I was when Barack Obama texted and e-mailed the world that he'd selected Delaware Senator Joe Biden to be his running mate. Well, I was in New Jersey for a long weekend of baseball and music. It's now Tuesday so I doubt you need me to really break the Biden news to you. I actually had it on good information that Biden was going to be the pick roughly 24 hours before the announcement was made. I have sources, but like any good journalist, I won't disclose them.

A few weeks back I extolled the virtues of Evan Bayh as Obama's veep choice. A few things happened between then and the weeklong vacation in Hawaii where Obama apparently made up his mind on picking Biden. First off, the conflict between Russia and Georgia made it apparent Obama needed someone with real foreign policy chops to make the American public confident in the Democratic ticket's ability to deal with such issues. There's no better foreign policy voice in the Democratic Party than Biden. Second, there were some rumblings in the press about Bayh's wife having ties to the boards of several large corporations at a time in which large corporations aren't exactly popular. Finally, and maybe most importantly, John McCain has closed a significant gap in national polling based on junkyard dog-style campaigning against Obama. In choosing Biden, Obama decided he needed to fight fire with fire and someone as even-keel as Bayh just wouldn't work.

So the pick is Biden, and he wasted no time on Saturday at his joint appearance with Obama, immediately bashing McCain as offering a third Bush term. This is what I like about Biden, and what I've always liked about him as long as I've been following politics. He's one of the few people in the Democratic Party that could be put in this position and show just as much balls on the Senate floor as he will on the campaign trail. Biden is impassioned about Democratic politics, about his beloved home state of Delaware, about serving and protecting the United States, and his incredible resume speaks volumes about his ability to bring about the change Obama desperately wants. I do feel in many ways the Biden pick is something of a lifetime achievement award for a man who has worked so tirelessly for so many years.

I can't wait for the VP debate on October 2, especially since Biden will almost certainly eviscerate either the bumbling Mitt Romney or the unknown Tim Pawlenty.

Alright, so the glorious week known as the Democratic National Convention began last night. I was still in transit from NJ when much of the action was going on, but I got a chance to see replays of the two big moments of the night. First, Ted Kennedy gave an inspiring, rousing address to the convention that defied his harrowing condition. Then, Michelle Obama assuaged any fears about her readiness to be First Lady by giving a beautiful speech about the difficulties of growing up in Chicago and becoming successful through hard work and determination. I came away from the speech so excited about the possibility of watching her be First Lady for four years. She may be the first First Lady of my lifetime that I've actually liked.

Tonight Mark Warner will deliver the Keynote Address and then Hillary Clinton will again try to unite the party by headlining the night. I am very anxious to see what she says.

That's all for now. I will be returning to school on Sunday so there will definitely be more frequent posts here going forward.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Veepstakes Fever

I'll skip apologizing for not updating this pretty much at all this summer and get right to the point. By the end of this week, both Barack Obama and John McCain could officially announce their choices to be #2 on their respective tickets. With neither candidate willing to take attention away from the Olympics (which start August 8), the time appears to be now for them to make their choices known. Speculation is running rampant right now all over the Beltway and the Blogosphere about who they might be.

A front page story ran in today's Washington Post about the narrowing shortlist for Obama. The article seemed to whittle the list down to four serious contenders: Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, Delaware Senator Joe Biden, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. The latter appears to be the front-runner according to sources close to the vetting committee headed by Eric Holder. Some long shots include former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, current senators Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, Jack Reed, and Republican Chuck Hagel.

This isn't really news if you've been following the Veepstakes like I have. The top four have been mentioned consistently as possibilities ever since Obama secured the nomination last month. And those four occupied the first, second, third and fifth spots on Chris Cillizza's most recent Friday Veepstakes Line (with Reed coming in fourth). What seems to be the most important piece of news is that Kaine is in "serious talks" to become the vice presidential choice of the Democratic Party. For his part, Kaine earlier today denied being seriously involved in the veep process.

For the last few weeks, I have been of the strong belief the perfect veep choice for Obama would be Bayh, the centrist Democrat from a really important battleground state. Unlike all the others being considered for the #2 slot, Bayh not only has a decade of Senate experience but spent eight years prior to that as Indiana's governor. He doesn't rock the boat, he doesn't say stupid things, and he's just boring enough to not cost Obama anything in November.

Bayh was a longtime Clinton supporter during primaries (and some comments he made during that time could come back to haunt both Bayh and Obama if he's the choice) but this pick could be seen as an attempt to bridge the gap between the two wings of the party. His appeal will play well in his native Midwest, the all-important battleground which could swing the election.

From an aesthetic level, Bayh is 52 but looks much younger, and Cillizza and others have mentioned a striking similarity between a potential Obama-Bayh ticket to the youthful 1992 Democratic combo of Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

There are some drawbacks, including Bayh's very vanilla public persona, his lack of a major track record as leading on any issues in the Senate, or how the pick could alienate the more liberal wing of the party. However, I personally feel Bayh is the right choice for Obama if he wants to win in November and take the country in the right direction once he is elected.

McCain's short list appears to be down to three serious contenders: former Massachusetts Governor and current Fascist Mitt Romney, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and former Ohio Congressman Rob Portman. If you have no idea who Rob Portman is, check out Cillizza's breakdown of the case for Portman in today's Fix. To sum it up briefly, Portman is a real party insider and someone those inside the Beltway view as a tremendous rising political star in Washington. On the negative side, I'm sure everyone reading this probably had to click on that link because no one knows who he is and he's best described as a Bushite, which I doubt McCain really wants on his ticket.

So it's between Romney and Pawlenty. If it's between those two, I don't see how he doesn't pick Pawlenty. He's young (47), the governor of a battleground state, has a progressive track record of sound economic change in his home state. After their bitter primary battle, it seems so shocking to me that Romney is being considered. I mean, it seemed like in those debates McCain was just about ready to beat him senseless every time Mitt opened his mouth. So while I think McCain should pick Pawlenty, I'm beginning to think McCain will actually pick Romney solely based on his perceived economic prowess. Of course, we all know Romney's pitfalls, in particular that he's a total phony and a bumbling moron in the public sphere.

If McCain picks Romney, Obama might as well start preparing his inauguration speech now. Evangelicals and moderate Republicans could abandon the GOP by either voting for Obama or staying home on Election Day. And it would feed into the perception that McCain is only going to be in it for one term given Romney's clear ambition to be president as soon as 2012. So as you can see, I'm really hoping McCain picks Romney.

So those are my feelings for the time being. I'll be sure to check back in after the picks are officially announced, whether that's sooner or later.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Obama's Inspiring Ride

The final words of Barack Obama's second book, The Audacity of Hope, describe in one sentence his feelings about the nation that allowed him--as a self-described "skinny kid with a funny name" and product of mixed marriage--to rise up and become a successful political figure. The nine words Obama uses to complete the book that helped launch him onto the national scene must have been paraphrased by many this past week.

"My heart is filled with love for this country."

On Tuesday night, Obama's primary campaign came to a victorious end, securing the requisite number of delegates to claim the Democratic Party nomination, as he did that night in this speech. Not only was his victory speech rousing, inspiring, and spectacularly-crafted, but the sense of history could not be avoided. Here was an African-American man, claiming for all to see that he would be the one, with all the negativity and dismay toward the eight years of the other party's disastrous rule, to take on the destructive nature of the past and push America towards a more promising future.

So many never believed they'd see the day when a person of color would be a major party nominee for the nation's highest office. For the people who lived through the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, for the people who watched police savage the Selma marchers, for the people who saw the promise of the Kennedys and Dr. King taken away forever by the assassin's bullet, the coronation of Barack Obama as the standard bearer of the Democratic Party must have been a sight to behold, regardless of their political persuasion.

We have come to believe in recent years that our political process has become beholden to special interests and shady back room dealings. Only those with money and name recognition can reach the highest levels of government, and when they get there, they don't bother to look after the people who really need the help. They look after the moneyed interests that helped them get elected. What is left behind is an electorate that doesn't trust their leaders, and doesn't expect very much from the in return.

Barack Obama has showed that real grassroots support and an outsider's attitude can help get one to the highest levels of government without needing lobbyists and serious moneyed interests to get there. Obama went up against the most powerful brand name in American Democratic politics, and he beat them. Hillary Clinton ran a spirited but deeply flawed campaign, and in the end she was taken down by Obama's superior organization and the groundswell created by his message of hope, change, and unity amongst all Americans. I've heard Obama's nomination victory over Clinton called the greatest upset in American political history this week (I think James K. Polk would beg to differ), and maybe they're right. All I know is that Obama ran the best political campaign I've ever seen and edged Clinton for the nomination because that's what he had to do to win.

I grew up always believing that anybody in America could become President of the United States. I had lost that faith over the years, but this past week has restored that faith. 50 years after black people had difficulty getting voting rights in the South, while Jim Crow laws still ruled the day and brutal crimes against blacks went largely unpunished, a black man is now the favorite to become president during this turbulent time. Obama is proving that anything can happen in this country, where a man with Obama's skin hue and background can become the leader of the free world. He is the best our country has to offer, and that makes me so very proud to live in this amazing nation.

Like Barack Obama, my heart is filled with love for this country.

A few "houskeeping" items before I go, as Professor Dante Scala would say:

I had been working hard on a Veepstakes post but the work on that has come to a screeching halt as the nomination race concluded so decisively this past week. I'm going to start up working on it again this week and I'd like to have at least the Democratic side posted by next Sunday. I'm trying to be very thorough with my evaluations of each potential candidate, and I'm trying to get through everybody and not just a Top 5 or Top 10. Chris Cilliza is doing some work on this, check out the link for his blog "The Fix" on the right sidebar.

Also, because I'm back home in Bartlett and dealing once again with the barbarism that is dial-up Internet, I'm not going to be on AIM very much except for when I'm at my mother's house. I will try to update both of my blogs as much as I can for the rest of the summer, and I would suggest to those who read my blogs to bookmark them and check frequently if I'm not online. That's the best way to get your Musings/Baseball fix.

I'll leave you with a hilarious link to a website called Things Younger Than John McCain, updated daily with items that are younger than the man hoping to be the oldest President in history. High comedy.


Friday, May 9, 2008

So Close to the End

I would have written about the events of this week sooner, but I just recently got back to my room after several days walking on clouds. Our long national nightmare is about to come to an end. The split that many (including myself) predicted for the May 6 primaries came true, but not in the expected fashion. Barack Obama blew out the North Carolina primary by about 220,000 votes while Hillary Clinton won the Indiana contest by only 15,000, essentially a draw in a contest with over 1.2 million votes. Obama's performances came off a week where his ex-pastor stole most of the headlines, his opposition tried to paint him as an elitist that couldn't gain the support of working families, and his rival tried touting a pandering, irresponsible plan to suspend gas taxes for the summer.

It didn't work. Voters turned off the Clinton spin machine and turned on to the man who will be the Democratic nominee. And I know that Obama will be the nominee because Tim Russert told me so. That particular clip has gotten a lot of play online these last few days, and I was watching him live when he said it. That was the first time I really thought to myself, "Wow, this is finally going to end soon, maybe tomorrow." Obama and his message were able to overcome all the extraneous BS, and voters want this process to end.

Well, as we know, Clinton hasn't stopped, and she has continued campaigning hard in the upcoming states of West Virginia (primary next Tuesday), Oregon and Kentucky (primaries May 20). Instead of running a clean, valedictory campaign, Clinton and her lackeys have continued bitching about Michigan and Florida, playing the race card, and even making ridiculous claims about counting Puerto Rico in the even more ridiculous popular vote metric. At first I thought this was because she badly wants to make something out of her failed campaign and lobby for a spot on the ticket. But after making comments in Oregon today criticizing Obama's health care plan as if this was January, I'm really at a loss for what she's going for.

She now has to gain around 70 percent of all remaining delegates to get to the magic number of 2,025. There's only six contests left, and the most delegates at stake in any of them is 55. It's stupid to assume that when the DNC decides the fate of the Florida and Michigan delegates May 31 they're going to assign those delegates based solely on the votes of those illegal contests. Since Tuesday, Obama has picked up 13 superdelegate endorsements while Clinton has a net gain of 0 (two new endorsements and two defections to Obama). According to our friends at 2008 Democratic Convention Watch, Obama only needs 1.5 more superdelegate endorsements to finally overtake Clinton's once vast lead. Even Rahm Emanuel, the 4th-ranking Democrat in the House and one of Bill Clinton's closest advisers during his presidency, when the Russert route today and called Obama "the presumptive nominee." I'll say that Clinton has every right to stay in this race until someone hits 2,025, or more realistically, the 1,627 majority in pledged delegates that Obama should clinch with a win in Oregon (it's being suggested he will declare victory that night). Clinton is assured to win in WV and KY but there won't be enough delegates to catch up after 5/20.

So I'm still at a loss about what all this means. Besides it being her general right to stay in the race until Obama gets certain majorities, she's definitely doing more damage than good by staying in and raising consistent concerns about his electablity, especially when she disgustingly suggests Obama can't win "white voters." There's no reason to believe that she'll go back on her word of offering 100% support to whomever the Democratic nominee is. When she's in that position this summer and fall, she's going to be the one to try and convince "white voters" to come over to Obama. I wish that was the approach she was taking. Instead she's continuing to try and splinter the party and hurt everyone in the process. If her campaign tries to say that winning most of WV's whopping 28 delegates is a game-changer, then I don't think I'm going to take anything they say seriously until she says the words "Barack Obama will be our next president."

The fighting has already begun between Obama and John McCain, an awesome battle that I'm ready to observe with the greatest of fervor for the next five months. Obama gave a speech today where he never once mentioned Clinton and pointed all his verbal missiles at the man from Arizona. I don't know that we've ever had a campaign where the two major candidates were so different in so many respects. A brash upstart versus the (literally) old guard, a 25-year age discrepancy, and almost entirely different ideas about where the country should go. It goes without saying that the 2008 general election should be an epic battle. Of course, all Obama has to ask people is whether or not they want a third Bush term, because that's what they'd get with McCain. Maybe it won't be so close in the end.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pennsylvania Fallout and Looking Head

Last night Hillary Clinton predictably won the Pennsylvania Democratic primary by a predictable margin of nine percentage points (not the 10 or "double-digit" victory many media outlets have irresponsibly reported since last night). None of us Obama supporters should be upset that he lost, but I'm rather disappointed that he couldn't pull the margin within five to undercut whatever argument Clinton had going forward. Instead, the Clinton campaign has been re-energized and Hillary's public begging for money has apparently worked. The campaign has said the expect to have $10 million raised since last night by the end of tonight. If money was going to be the biggest problem going forward for Hillary, it sure won't be anymore.

I'm going to continue to allow the media to go insane about Obama's loss and ask ad nauseum "Why can't he close the deal? What's wrong with the guy?" Instead, what I'll do is take a reasonable approach to explaining why Pennsylvania was never good for Obama to begin with and why even getting it to nine or ten points was relatively impressive. Let's go bullet-points for this one:
  • The makeup of the state's demographics favored Clinton heavily. Basically everything about the state and particularly the white voters made a Clinton victory a foregone conclusion. There were factors at work here that wouldn't have made it possible for Abraham Lincoln to beat Clinton in this state, let alone the Land of Lincolner. Pennsylvania is the third-oldest state in the country (behind Florida and whatever state John McCain happen to be in), and Clinton has dominated the vote amongst seniors in virtually every contest thus far. Clinton also polls well amongst all women, Catholics, and the white working class, and the results in PA showed her strength there once again. For Obama, the higher-educated and younger voters he's needed to win never materialized in a state where we really couldn't expect them to appear. He cleaned up in Philadelphia and its suburbs but those were the only areas in the entire state that jibed with Obama's strengths.
  • This is something the media has almost entirely ignored in its analysis of this primary: yesterday's contest was a closed Democratic primary. People who wanted to vote in this primary needed to change their party affiliation to Democratic before a certain date last month, otherwise they'd be turned away at the polls. I am saying this because the primary rules shut out independents and disaffected Republicans from participating, and those have been key groups to Obama's success in several primaries to this point. So when the Clinton campaign and some conservatives go on the airwaves and say things like "If Obama can't beat Clinton and connect with the blue-collar voters in this primary, what does that say about his chances against McCain?" just remember this primary was NOT like the general election and Obama has been effective in courting voters needed for success in November. As David Axelrod told NPR today, white working-class voters have voted Republican in significant numbers the last two general elections anyway.
  • Clinton had the backing in Pennsylvania of Governor Ed Rendell and his vast Democratic political machine. It didn't take long once it was discovered that Pennsylvania would have a say in the process for a large majority of local Democratic politicians (including the mayors of both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia) to come to Hillary's side in this race. Rendell is a larger-than-life figure in the Keystone state and his influence likely swayed these politicians to Clinton. By not having this organization advantage, Obama could not have hoped to win.
So I hope these three major factors tell you why Obama lost in Pennsylvania and never had a chance. Even though Obama outspent Clinton on advertising by a significant amount, the factors above could not have been avoided regardless of how much money Obama spent. He didn't spend that much to win, he spent that much to close the 20-point gap between himself and Clinton. In that respect, I believe Obama succeeded. He just didn't succeed enough to knock Clinton out. Still, Clinton will come out of Pennsylvania with only a 14-18 delegate-gain, which will still leave her roughly 150 behind Obama.

Now the candidates are going to be slogging it out for the next two weeks in North Carolina and Indiana. The race in North Carolina is not expected to be competitive; given the high number of blacks and the more upper-class makeup of the states Democratic voters, I'd say Obama should win by 15-20 points and personally I don't see the point in Clinton even bothering to campaign there at all. The true battleground becomes Indiana, the typically-Red home of Dick Lugar and many other prominent conservative politicians. There are advantages here for both Clinton and Obama. Indiana borders Illinois, and much of the TV outlets in the northern part of the state come out of Chicago, meaning they are already very familiar with Obama. The demographics do favor Clinton slightly and she has the support of the uber-popular Indiana moderate Senator Evan Bayh. This sets the stage for what will certainly be a hard-fought two-week battle, and if Obama can win both states and suck the Clinton campaign dry of money, this race may finally end.

But I'm not counting on it.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The "Bitter" Truth

Since it's the weekend, the most recent political firestorm may have been missed by many. On Friday afternoon, a story on liberal blog Huffington Post appeared about comments made by Barack Obama to a group of donors in San Francisco. I'll get more into the context later, but when prompted about the cultural divide in America, Obama said this:

"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Since this story broke, both the Clinton and McCain campaigns have gone heavily on the offensive while there's been some serious explaining by Obama and his surrogates. Clinton has already gone into the full-court press, telling crowds in Indiana that America "doesn't need a president who looks down on them." McCain, predictably, has painted Obama as an "elitist liberal" the same way George Bush tarnished John Kerry in 2004. For his part, Obama really hasn't backed off the comments, only saying that he "didn't say it as well as I should have" and he feels "deep regret" if people found his comments offensive. Check this out to see his full remarks from a rally in Muncie, Indiana Saturday. One can expect this to be the topic of conversation on the Sunday shows and heading into this important final week before the Pennsylvania primary, which includes an ABC debate in Philadelphia Wednesday.

I feel pretty qualified to deal with this topic, since I come from a middle-class background but I've been around people in my life from the top of the economic ladder and the very bottom. As an observer who's taken a long, hard look at his country not just because of this important election but because I'm coming close to heading out into that country on my own, I look at Obama's comments and I see nothing that misses the mark. I'd agree that it's dangerous to equate economic hardships with 2nd Amendment guarantees and religious devotion, but on the face I think Obama was right on in his assessment of what's happening in small towns.

My hometown of Bartlett, New Hampshire and the neighboring villages in the Valley qualify as "small town America" but, interestingly enough, it's one of the few rural places in America that isn't experiencing economic woes. Because of the ample snowfall the Valley had one of its best winters in recent memory, but how high gas prices will affect summer business remains to be seen. While unemployment levels rise all across the country, it can be reasonably stated that in the Valley if you are over the age of 14 and don't have a job it's because you're either 1. an idiot, 2. incredibly lazy, or 3. disabled in some other way.

The quality of that job, however, is always a concern. I think it can also be reasonably stated that because of the makeup of the Valley's economy and its reliance on service jobs, it can be hard for people who aren't in business ownership or management to get by. This is where we see the erosion of the middle class. The purchasing power and personal economic comfort that middle class-members experienced in the Valley 10 or 15 years ago have gone away as their wages have stayed roughly the same. When political candidates talk about restoring the middle class, this is what they mean. While there used to be people at the top, middle and bottom, now there's people at the top and people who used to be in the middle getting sucked into the bottom.

As I said, people in the Valley are lucky because there's no shortage of actual jobs. In places like Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio as Obama spoke of, Americans are losing industrial jobs that, as Obama realistically points out on the campaign trail, aren't coming back. I'll be returning to the Red Parka Pub to work this summer, and I feel pretty safe that my job waiting tables won't be outsourced to New Delhi.

The long and short of this is that Barack Obama is right in his comments, and he shouldn't back off them. People are without a doubt bitter about losing their jobs, the economic downturn, the war in Iraq, and the overall humiliation of George Bush's White House tenure. When these people get bitter, they "cling" to the things they can justify being devoted to, like religion and firearms, and hate things they may not understand or like on the social level. It's not just immigration or trade deals, but things like gay marriage or abortion that they get passionate about. It's not like Obama made these claims up out of thin air. As I mentioned in my last Musing, Obama spend six days getting down and dirty with the rural folks in Pennsylvania. Obama is a gifted listener, and this is what people told him. So when liberal donors in California wanted to know about what goes through the minds of rural Pennsylvanians, he told those donors the truth. He started a dialog about it. He sees it as a problem, and promises to lead the fight to find a solution. The other campaigns, and to a certain extent the media, have misconstrued these comments as being divisive when in my opinion this is yet another example of Obama expressing a deep understanding of the American people that most average politicians miss. The negative controversy of him saying that people in America are "bitter" is not his opinion, it's a statement of fact.

Much like the negative backlash that some gave him after his race speech last month, Barack Obama is being lambasted all across the political landscape for doing what he does best: Telling the truth to get people talking about important issues. He gets criticized for doing what politicians should be doing. Now that's something to be bitter about.

The most disingenuous thing to come out of this is the reaction from Hillary Clinton and her camp (I know, big surprise). They have called Obama's remarks "condescending," "damaging," "small-minded," "elitist," and "out of touch." Worst and most astonishing of all, Hillary seems convinced that people she's met on the campaign trail are not "bitter" about what's happened in America and its direction going forward. How is that possible? Do Clinton campaign lackeys hand out happy pills to everyone in the crowd before her speeches? Does she emit some paranormal scent that makes former factory workers in Indiana and Pennsylvania forget about how much their lives suck whenever they talk to her? And where does she get off calling Obama "elitist" when her tax records show she and Bill made $109 million since they left the White House? Seriously, I want an explanation. How pathetic are the people wearing "I'm Not Bitter!" pins at Hillary rallies today? Is that the best they could think of on short notice? If you hate Hillary as much as I do, see if you can sit through her speech on Obama's comments from Saturday without X-ing out of the window before it ends. Do your worst.

Make no mistake: Obama is definitely in a pickle, and he needs to tread smartly going forward, which I have no doubt he will do. He had been quietly gaining ground on Clinton in recent Pennsylvania polls, with this Zogby poll showing just a 4-point advantage for Clinton with 10 percent still undecided. Many had predicted Obama would be leading in the polls by the end of this coming week, but those predictions must go on hold for now. Clinton is certain to fire up the spin machine even more this week, and luckily there will be a debate Wednesday that is certain to provide Obama with a chance to really talk to people in Pennsylvania about this and other important issues. I believe Hillary will win on April 22 but the margin won't be enough to give her a significant push in delegates.

And if Obama doesn't win, at least he has a Jedi on his side.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Pennsylvania Race

Sorry I haven't been checking in recently, but it's almost like there's so much going on right now I can't even figure out what I should be commenting on. For this post, I'll step away from my continuous Hillary Clinton-bashing to talk about what the contest in Pennsylvania really means. We sit here a bit more than three weeks from the primary that will decide if the Democratic nomination fight lasts a bit longer or if Clinton will finally throw in the towel. It already feels like it's been forever since the Mississippi primary on March 11, and we still have a lot of time left to go before voters make their choice in the Keystone State.

And time is the prime ally of Barack Obama right now. Most recent polls show Clinton roughly 10 points ahead of Obama in PA with nearly the same amount undecided. While it's clear Obama should carry much of the eastern region around Philadelphia, other urban areas, and places like State College, Clinton definitely has an advantage in the western, rural, blue-collar areas. This area is where Obama is concentrating his week-long bus tour. By the looks of this picture, he's really getting into it.

Obama also elected to bring in Iowa campaign organizer to spearhead his PA effort. Obama is definitely hoping to regain some of that magic that put him on the road to this improbable nomination. By getting really getting down into those predominately-white, working class places and trying to intimately understand their issues, he can make better headway with this group who's support he seems to be lacking. This was the strategy that translated into victory back in December and January for Obama, and I don't see any reason why it won't work again. Getting the endorsement of Senator Bob Casey, a man who embodies much of the working class in the state, was a tremendous get for Obama and could possibly translate into more votes for him by itself.

I'm just hoping that Obama doesn't give up trying to win here. I don't think it's a foregone conclusion Clinton will take the contest and Obama's populist appeal should play well statewide. There's no reason why he can't win. The problem is that unless Obama wins the primary outright, there's no way Clinton drops out. I'm really hopeful Obama can put the kabbash on this whole thing so the Dems can start preparing for John McCain this fall.

That's all I've got.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Spitzer Debacle, Veep Talk and More Clinton BS

Let me begin the second-ever Blue Musings post by commenting on the breaking news of today on the potential resignation of Democratic New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. In case you haven't heard, Governor Spitzer was caught through federal wiretapping to have arranged a meeting with a "high-priced" prostitute in D.C. last month. I'm not going to attempt to make jokes at the expense of Spitzer; I'll leave that to Jon Stewart and Jay Leno. What's sad here is that Spitzer had been highly touted throughout his career as being tough on crime, in particular white-collar criminals on Wall Street and organized crime throughout New York. Now we find out that Spitzer is connected to a prostitution ring. Just when we thought there was a chance hypocrisy and underhandedness was taking a backseat in American politics, we have one of the more incongruous scandals to rock American politics in some time. This just shows no matter what politics will be a dirty, hypocritical game regardless of what is trying to be sold to you to the contrary.

With that, this blog entry is off to an optimistic start. Can't you tell that you're just going to LOVE Blue Musings for the next eight months?

Let's turn to more disingenuous material, this time emanating from the Clinton campaign. Over the past couple of days the level of smugness and entitlement over the presidency has hit an all-time high. Both the former First Lady and the potential First Dude have suggested publicly that Barack Obama would be a great V.P., allowing voters to cast ballots for the "dream ticket." This comes following a week of Obama-bashing from the Clinton camp, during which they continued to claim that Obama wasn't ready to be president and their November rival John McCain was much better suited for the job.

Allow me to recap this: one week Obama isn't worthy to carry Hillary's jockstrap in terms of the "commander in chief threshold" (whatever the fuck that is), yet the next week the Clintons seem more than ready to anoint Obama as being the proverbial "one heartbeat away" in a hypothetical Clinton presidency. All this while Clinton is trailing Obama in states won, delegates earned, and popular votes cast. What word would you use to describe this behavior? Desperate? Arrogant? Psychotic? Idiotic? All, or some combination, of the above? Then, to top it all off, Clinton mouthpiece Howard Wolfson told reporters today that Obama isn't ready to be Veep because he hasn't met some other arbitrary experience threshold made up by the Clinton camp. However, Wolfson did say that Obama could reach that threshold by the Denver Convention.

As Smykowski asked in "Office Space," WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?

The Clinton campaign has not only taken to contradicting themselves in this regard, but also displaying an astounding amount of hubris. Anybody with half a brain can see what they're attempting to accomplish here: They want to sway Obama voters and people on the fence towards them by suggesting that Obama would be part of a Clinton presidency. It's nothing more that a crock of shit. It doesn't even matter if Clinton offered Obama the #2 spot, there's no shot he'd accept it in the first place. Does anyone really think Obama would want to wallow in the most useless job in American government while playing second fiddle not to Hillary but Bill? Of course, if Hillary becomes the nominee (which she won't anyway), nobody should realistically expect Hillary to extend the Veep invitation to Obama anyway. And you can bet the farm and all the cows that Obama won't want anything to do with Hillary as his Veep when he's facing off with McCain this fall. That bridge was burned a considerable time ago. Watch Obama's deftly strong response to all this crap here.

So what's the point of all this? It's the Clinton strategy to deceive, misrepresent, and lie in desperation to get to the White House. I'm extremely hopeful the people yet to vote will be smart enough to see through this petty, misleading bullshit and let these raving lunatics go home before they can disrupt the glorious coronation of Barack Obama in Denver this August.

With that, I'm out. I'll be back whenever I damn well please.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Welcome to Blue Musings

I want to welcome everyone to my latest blog, Blue Musings. I have created this blog as an outlet for my feelings, or musings, on the political action in this pivotal year of 2008. I know it probably seems like I'm late to the party but this was really an idea that just came to me. As you all know I keep another blog hosted here on Blogspot that is solely focused on baseball. I'm going to keep updating that as well (at some point I'll be getting to my AL West preview, probably during spring break). I really wanted to start something where I could get my feelings out about what's going on during this election year. I've always felt like I could write just as effectively about politics as sports, but like I mentioned many times on my old blog, the climate of American politics really just made me angry and I never felt the need to anger myself further by writing about it. Now, with George W. Bush set to exit office in 10 months, I'm ready to open myself up again on this topic. I hope very much you will find this blog informative, entertaining, and a good place to keep up on what is going on.

I chose to name this blog Blue Musings because, as many of you know, I am a registered Democrat. I've reached a point in my belief system that I don't really ever see myself voting for a Republican under any circumstances in any race. I blame this primarily on watching Bush and his lackey cohorts ruin America since 2000. People wonder why the campaign for the 2008 presidency started so early; I think it's pretty simple. All people, even Republicans, wanted nothing more than to move on from the hellish reign of Brainless the Second. It has been so funny to me during this election year to watch George Bush become such a non-factor to the American populace. It's almost as if Americans view the three people who could be the next president like they already are president. I never thought I'd ever see something like that, but that speaks to how unpopular the President is.

I guess the appearance of "Yes We Can" in my info is a dead giveaway about whom I am supporting this time around. I don't feel like I should have to defend Barack Obama or the reasons why I voted for him in the New Hampshire primary or why I'll vote for him in the general election (I'll get to my own personal Obama Inevitability argument later on). The most important factor that attracted me to Obama in the weeks leading up to the primary here was his inspirational nature of his candidacy. Republicans and supporters of Hillary Clinton like to call Obama soft on the issues (a complete misnomer if there ever was one), but it seems to be those people are missing out on the biggest aspect of Obama's appeal. There's something to be said for political figure that inspires the masses to be better citizens, to engage in the process, and to improve and CHANGE the timbre of this country. Obama is the only candidate that has that going for him, and it's a fairly short list of people historically who have had that (Jackson, Lincoln, TR, FDR, both the Kennedys and Reagan come to mind).

As for the former First Lady, I can't think of much positive to say about her and the abysmal campaign she has run to this point. A lot of people have been been remarking about her endurance and her toughness for staying in the race. She's lost so many contests, they say, and been lambasted by the media from Day 1, but here she is, still in it. Yeah, right. Because, you know, having tons of money and the last name Clinton doesn't have anything to do with why she's still in. Her wins on March 4 are misleading: she will wind up losing Texas in reality when the caucus results show Obama won more delegates, and she won Ohio by 10 points when she was leading there by about 20 or 25 about a month ago. It broke up an incredible string of 12 straight contest victories for Obama during which he amassed a tremendous pledged delegate advantage and wooed the support of 53 superdelegates. But the wins for Clinton will end up only providing a net gain of four or five delegates, which may have already been wiped out by Obama's decisive Wyoming caucus victory today.

What has been so disturbing is the way Hillary, and her surrogates, have been handling themselves in recent weeks as part of the so-called "kitchen sink" strategy. She has taken every opportunity to disparage the victories and the overall candidacy of her rival. Despite Obama's admirable and superior organization in caucus states, the Clinton camp never fails to describe his victories in these states as unimportant and caucuses themselves as undemocratic (although I don't see her rushing to give back those undemocratically-won delegates from Nevada anytime soon). More recently she has taken to calling out Obama on his perceived lack of experience and has clearly aligned herself with John McCain in that department, so much so that she has suggested McCain would be a much better commander in chief than Obama. She's also said that his entire campaign has been based on one anti-war speech he gave in 2002. This blatantly disrespects Obama's work as a community organizer, a civil rights lawyer and professor, a state legislator and a U.S. Senator. And, worst of all, her "3 AM phone call" ad stooped to something I never thought I'd ever see a Democrat do: fear-mongering.

Henry Clay, who was House Speaker three separate times from 1811 to 1825 and also ran for the presidency on five occasions, once famously declared he would "rather be right than be president." In 2008, Hillary Clinton has proved that she'd very much rather be president than be right. There are no boundaries to her presidential ambitions, and she doesn't care if she destroys her party to realize those ambitions. Even when independent analysis shows she must win a virtually-impossible 63% of remaining delegates to overtake Obama's pledged delegate lead while superdelegates continue to flock to the Land of Lincolner's side, there's no signs that Clinton will get out of the race anytime soon. If Obama can overtake her in Pennsylvania in 45 days (where the Clinton camp has said they are "unbeatable"), would THAT be enough to end this? Or would she bitch and complain that the Florida and Michigan delegates should be seated against the rules of the Democratic National Committee? It will be a happy day when McCain and Obama can finally go head-to-head, but instead we have to go through possibly three more months of this meaningless bullshit. And Hillary Clinton simply doesn't care. It was unfortunate that an Obama foreign policy adviser resigned this week after she called Clinton a "monster" during an interview. It's not unfortunate because she said it. It's unfortunate because she resigned after telling the truth.

Obama is in a tough position. He can either turn negative against Clinton and drag up things like the Ghost of Vince Foster, or he can stay on the message that has got him this far. I hope like hell he sticks with hope and change. He is going to be the Democratic nominee, and, in my opinion, a lock to be the 44th U.S. President.

Check back often. In the words of Hillary, I'm just getting warmed up.