Friday, February 08, 2008

a three-legged stool

For some reason, Republican candidates and other conservatives have consistantly talked about their party as being a stool made of three legs: economic conservatives (tax cuts are a panacea and social darwinism), foreign policy conservatives (Iraq went so well, let's bomb Iran too), and social conservatives (pro-life, anti-gay, culture warrior). Each of the three candidates remaining before Super Tuesday represented these "legs" --Romney is first and foremost a economic conservative, wanting tax cuts for the rich and spending cuts on social programs; McCain is the neocon: author of the surge and ur-supporter of the Iraq war, his key senatorial endorsees are Iraq war cheerleaders Linsay Graham and Joe Lieberman; and Huckabee is the social ordianed Baptist minister no less. Now there was overlap, Romney lead on the issue of Gay Marriage when his state's supreme court legalized it and McCain has supported tax cuts in the past.

This weekend's Conservative PAC meeting in DC (CPAC) really shows the possiblity that the Republican party's base would rather be right than win. John McCain got booed, Romney was begged not to quit, and Ann Coulter tried to garner attention by claiming to support Hillary Clinton over McCain (her books didn't sell this year at CPAC though).

John McCain's speech was well recieved, but conservatives feel about him the way Democrats feel about Joe Lieberman--betrayed. It appears that while Clinton and Obama campaign for at least another month, McCain is going to have to assusage conservative fears by promising to do very conservative things very explicitly. It is another month that John McCain can't fundraise and organize his team for the fall, and another month he can't attack the Democratic nominee because there is basically a 50-50 chance either one of them could win.

It is up to the RNC and 527s to start hitting Obama and Clinton hard for him, but given his campaign finance reform stance, he can't really let the 527s to that for him, so that leaves the Party. Then he has the problem of tarnishing his "Maverick" image that gives him good numbers among swing voters. The more he has to shout "I'm just like George Bush!" from the hilltops, the more problematic it is for him.

Meanwhile, Democratic 527s can start attacking McCain now and Clinton and Obama will have a reasonable case to be made that they had nothing to do with it. They can show pictures of McCain hugging Bush, and Bush and McCain celebrating his birthday while New Orleans drowned. Democrats are clearly going to try to merge McCain into Bush, while McCain feels the need to do the same to shore up his base.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

money can't buy you love

Another money and politics post, this time on the folly of believing money alone can save a doomed candidate.

One of the most spectacular falls in all of presidential politics has to be Rudy. He spent $50M and got one delegate. And remember, as late as December, he had big leads in many big states and a national polling edge, and had raised more money than Romney (more on him in a second). Yet the more people saw him, the less people liked him. He got Joe Lieberman like support...despite big time endorsers. And in the end it wasn't his history of liberal positions on issues that spooked Republican primary voters, it was his meglomania and grating personality that did it.

The second biggest waste of money thus far was Willard Mitt Romney. He spent slightly over $1M per a delegate, and dropped out a few minutes ago. Romney won only two contested states--Michigan and Massachusetts. And both were only nominally contested by John McCain (and both of which Romney had spent nearly half his life in and a guy named Romney had been governor) All of the rest of his victories came in caucuses or straw polls where his money and lack of attention by the big boys allowed him to win big. Granted, he got close in Florida and Missouri and if he had won those (and Iowa and New Hampshire) he would have been the presumptive nominee. But he didn't, McCain won Missouri and Florida and New Hampshire (and lots of other big Blue States), so he is the GOP nominee to be.

Oh and Ron Paul raised a lot of money, but he can't seem to break out his 11% support box. Now his 11% are very ferverent and organized, and he certainly is no Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel, but he sure hasn't won a single state with all those millions.

So keep that in mind when you hear that Obama raised over $7M since Super Tuesday and Clinton raised over $4M (plus the $5M loan). Or that some Clinton staffers are "voluntarily" going without pay. Money isn't everything, delegates are everything.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

mo' money, mo' problems

(Image by Demtri Martin)

As of December 31, 2007, Hillary Clinton had raised over $118M, but had spent about $80M....Barack Obama during the same period raised about $104M and spent $85M. We won't know the Q1 numbers for 2008 for a while, but we do know that Sen. Obama raised $32M in January while Sen. Clinton raised $13.5M during that same period. And given how expensive it was to run 21 simultanious campaigns, many in huge media markets it seems her money is all spent.
her campaign has just confirmed that she’d already lent her coffers $5 million of her own money in late January.
Her advisers says she’s considering another loan because money is tight now.
With that, she sent out an email asking her supporters to give $3M in 3 days on the heals of her wins in CA, NY, NJ, etc. Both the Clintons and the Obama are very recently rich...and both made their money off book royalties on books they wrote (or got noticed) in the 2000s. Of course, Bill also used to get paid hundreds of thousands to make a speech somewhere.

It seems though that Hillary is in dire financial straights, despite having more money to spend going into 2008 than Barack did.

John McCain is is a similarly tight money struggle, but his troubles are more complex and entangled. He raised $42M in 2007, but spent $39M and has something like $4M in debts, which were secured via a loan on his fundraising list, a life insurance policy (because he is 71 years old), but not the $5.8M he is to theorically recieve in March from the FEC. The trouble is, he doesn't want those matching funds any more. Why not? Because campaigns that accept public financing can only spend $52M overall in the primaries, which has might have already passed. The trouble for him is, the FEC doesn't have a quorum to run on is request to withdraw from public financing in the primaries and the limitations that come with it. Why doesn't the FEC have a quorum, Sen. Min. Leader Mitch McConnell demanded a vote on all 4 nominees in a block because one of the nominees is controversal--and blocked by Sen. Obama. Sen. McConnell--an avid oponent of McCain-Feingold--is pleased by the incapacitation of the FEC.

There is some debate whether he can get out of the system once he asked for money. ex-Commissioner Michael Toner thinks yes, but most election law experts think it will be a close call. Plus, there is the appearance problem of having the most famous advocate of campaign finance reform seaking to weazle out of system he helped create. To be fair, McCain has advocated for higher spending limits to make a public funding system more viable. But the trouble is, that critical distinction might get lost in the coverage/perception.

All of which has got the Sens. McCain and Clinton singing:
I don't know what, they want from me
It's like the more money we come across
The more problems we see

Rest In Peace Biggie Smalls

Ash Wednesday

After yesterday's Shove Tuesday, we now face the inevitable let down of Ash Wednesday. No more electoral pancakes like this in a long time. And speaking of ashes, it is clear one candidate had a really bad night: Mitt Romney.

The Republican race is clearing up. Conservatives aren't sold on McCain, but they are sure that they don't like Romney. Huckabee still has allure to voters in the South and almost pulled out a massive upset in Missouri, which would have revived his campaign big time had he pulled it off. While McCain has a commanding lead, he also has not closed the deal. He still needs to convince conservatives that he will hew the line if he becomes president. So look for him to talk a lot about judges, tax cuts, abortion, and cutting spending. Also, Huckabee might have played himself onto the ticket as a VP. McCain will need to pick a conservative, one that is a proven vote getter. He might want to pick a Sam Brownback, but clearly Huckabee is a much better campaigner and speaker than Sen. Brownback.

On the Democratic side, it is a virtual tie. Obama's folks will talk about winning more states (and, according to their estimates, more delegates) than Clinton, however, she still holds a narrow ( >100) lead in delegates when you include Super Delegates and even more if you count Michigan and Florida. Clinton's people will talk about how Obama won (except for Missouri) zero big states--Michigan, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and California all went her way. Moreover, they will point out that Obama is like the Democratic version of McCain--winning states that are in all likelihood not going to be in their party's column in November (for Obama, that is Idaho, Alaska, Utah, Kansas, North Dakota, South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia; for McCain its New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, and California). However, unlike the Republicans, Democrats are very pleased with their choices (71-72 would be very happy with either Obama or Hillary, even if they supported the other), so I don't think Obama's lack of winning California and New York is going to mean he will lose those states to McCain. However, maybe Obama has a case that he can make some red states closer (and maybe flip a some) and that he would be better for down ticket Democrats in states like Utah.

But neither Obama nor Hillary landed a knockout punch tonight. The only real surprise was Missouri...but even there, Obama had newly elected Sen. Claire McCaskill. Barack closed the gap in many states where he was far behind, but not enough to take the states, even when he had high profile endorsements and rallies. See Mass., NJ, AZ, and California. In states where there is early voting, Obama's surges are negated due to Hillary Clinton's superior absentee ballot operation. See California and Florida.

So who is ahead, who will win the Democratic nomination? Your guess is as good as mine. It seems Obama will have a good week coming up with Washington, Nebraska, and Louisiana in 3 days. The first two because they are caucuses, which he seems to always win, and the second because of the large African-American population. Sunday features the Maine caucuses, which also should be an Obama win. Then Tuesday is the Potomac Primary--VA, MD, and DC--where large African-American populations combined with big rallies in DC also look good for Obama to win those states. On the 19th, there are three more contests that favor Obama: Hawaii caucuses, Washington and Wisconsin primaries. Obama should crush Hillary in his home state of Hawaii, and he is up in Washington state. I don't know about Wisconsin but Obama has done well in Midwestern states thus far (IL, IA, MO, KS) and the Badger State is drivable from Chicago where he must have a large base of volunteers. And I think he has to win all or nearly all of these states to have any chance of settling this prior to the convention.

Because after that is another mini-Super Tuesday where he will not do too well. Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and Rhode Island are March 4th. My Obama-supporting friend who ran the Democratic parties GOTV in Rhode Island doubts Obama has a shot there. Vermont he has a chance, and maybe Ohio, but Texas looks problematic for him with the large Latino population and the general problem he has in big states. Obama needs to win these states as well to really knock Clinton out. While he won't have won the necessary delegates, there could be pressure for her to drop out if he wins all of February and early March...along with his growing financial edge. Both candidates strategies thus far have worked to a degree but they haven't been able to knock the other out of the picture. And baring an unlikely sweep like I outlined above, it is not going to happen.

Anyway, enjoy Lent, and congrats to Obama and Romney organizers in Utah. Oh and what is the deal with New Mexico's primary? Did bizzaro Bill Richardson told them to hold up the results so he could endorse Clinton or Obama?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Megatron Tuesday

(title idea courtesy of Erza Klein, image from Wikipedia)

Rather than trying to predict this time, since it seems the polls are all over the place, I am going to give you some anecdotes to give this historic day some flavor.

Today, my wife got up at 5:30 a.m. to opening up our polling place. That's right, ours will be open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. meaning she was there from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. Her job is to make sure those touch screen voting machines work and that people know how to use them. I have asked her to tell me how many times she has to replace the paper rolls (our machines have an auditable paper ballot verification)--each roll contains approximately 250 votes. She told me that Mayor Ralph Becker already voted there this morning, which makes sense since his public schedule starts at 8 a.m. I wonder who he voted for, some of his endorsees--Sen. Scott McCoy and Pete Ashdown--have endorsed Obama, so I guess that is as good a guess as any.

I got up about two hours later and took our little McCain supporter on a walk to our polling place. It was about 15-20 degrees outside. My wife and her co-workers for the day said I could bring him in and she got to show off our dog to her new friends while I voted. Turnout was extremely light when I got there, around 8:15. To my surprise, I was listed as "unaffiliated" so I am going to have find out from Sherrie Swenson's people if I have to re-register my party affilation every time or what. Balloting was pretty simple, but none of the also-rans are off the ballot. This puts Obama at a disadvantage because his name is way down on the list, since it is alphabetical, whereas Hillary Clinton is listed towards the top. Tom Tancredo had a notice in the polling area that he dropped out, but I guess his name was still on there.

Anyway, as I left, a man from the New York Times approached me. It wasn't an exit poll per se, but more of a "gee, our website has much more features than just the print newspaper digitized" feel to it. Using a fancy pocket recorder he asked my name, my age, my occupation, what issue was most important to me, and why I voted the way I did. Since I said foreign policy/Iraq, he asked me how long troops should be in there, if I favored a timetable etc. After that, he asked if he could take my picture. Too bad I had my glasses on and was tired and wearing a hat...and that my dog wasn't in the pic (he was in my arms). My best guess is that the picture and sound clip might end up here. But really I have no clue.

Still, it is so great to have national papers care about what Utahns think without the standard "Mormons think" story. Speaking of which, I think it is very cool that President Monson picked a German dude to be in his second counselor. As someone who had a host father also named Dieter, it is nice. Also, it is a good way to show that the Church is international, and not just some Utahn or American religion.

Monday, February 04, 2008

digging out Monday

Yesterday, I went up to my parents house to watch the Big Game. Unless you were living under a rock, you know what happened and don't need the Trib's "Cliff Notes." While I was shocked and dissipointed (what happened to the immortal perfection of Brady in the playoffs? It is like the Mannings stole it from him two years running) that my Pats managed to lose, those Giants really deserved it. Anyway, what I was most annoyed with, besides sights of Payton cheering in the luxury box, was being snowed in. My parents live up Emigration Canyon and wasn't planning on spending the night.

Of course my wife wisely forced me to pack an overnight bag before we left, but I wasn't too thorough with it and left a few items at home. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep and was not thrilled with the prospect of clearing off my car and helping shovel the driveway. I don't know about you, but I am getting really tired of this every other day snow storm we have been having for the last month.

Finally, Dan Jones did a poll on the presidential primaries in Utah. Unlike what most national bloggers thought, I knew Obama would be up (due to his staffing and money comitments in the state)...but not 53-29. Of course, all of the news outlets led with the non-story that Romney was getting a dictator-sized victory in the GOP side (84-4 against McCain). Why bury the lede? Mrs. Clinton had a lead with 50-something percent of the vote just a month or so ago.

While Super Tuesday should be fun to watch across the board, the most interesting part of the night will be when California is called. Obama and Romney seem to be doing some last minute surging, but will it be enough to overcome early voting? If either or both of them win CA, it is going to be the story and overshaddow the delegate count story which is somehow much harder for the press to do (because it involves counting and research?) If Obama wins New Jersey and or Connecticut earlier tomorrow night, we know that California could be close and or Clinton could be in for a long night.

Currently, the expectation is that Clinton and Obama stay close (~100 delegate-advantage for Clinton) and that McCain blows away Romney. But if Cali changes it mind, the whole race could be turned on its head, because Momentum could finally show up in this nomination race on both sides.

I predict another round of record turn out. I saw a poll that said 47-43 people thought the Super Bowl was a bigger story than the elections. The fact that the elections are within the margin of error is amazing for America. This also bodes well for higher turnout in November. We might get back to 1960s levels or something.