Saturday, March 22, 2008

Is Utah in play?

(Photo Credit © 2008 Deseret Morning News)

The article's headline is "Utahns getting over Mitt" and talks about how John McCain is getting twice as much support as he did last month. But the poll notes that Obama's and Clinton's support remain unchanged. So all that means is that McCain is solidifying GOP support in the reddest state in the union...and he still only has 54% of the vote.

Of course, this is a dumb poll. Why? Because only one of the two remaining Democrats will be on the ballot in November, so asking people who they will support for president and listing everyone currently running is a waste of time unless you do head-to-head match ups. Another problem with this poll is that they include Nader, who got .38 percent of the vote nationally--compared to .32 percent for the Libertarian candidate, who was not polled here--and .012 here in Utah. And Utah should be prime Nader vote country, where liberals, angry that their vote doesn't count for president due to the Electoral College system, pull the lever for him in protest. So including Nader just takes a percent away from Democrats and or Undecided or Refused.

But look who is McCain's Western States Coordinator--Tim Bridgewater--the guy who twice failed to win a Republican primary in Utah for the right to lose to Jim Matheson. "People have not immediately embraced John McCain. It's taken some time," Bridgewater told the Deseret Morning News. "Utahns are rallying around him in support of his leadership on the war, the economy and the fact that people trust him." I would like to see a poll on Utahns' level of support for the war, which although assuredly higher than the rest of the country, is probably not exactly soaring.

If John McCain can't get more than 54% in Utah when the Democratic/liberal vote is split between Clinton, Obama and Nader, how is Utah not competitive in November? And how crazy is that?

Friday, March 21, 2008

whither John Edwards?

With news this morning that NM Gov. Bill Richardson endorsed Obama this morning, and the Obama campaign is planning on rolling out more endorsements between now and April 22nd's Pennsylvania primary "to create a sense of momentum," one wonders what happened to erstwhile candidate and number one endorsement get ex-Sen. John Edwards.

After Edwards' Iowa slingshot strategy didn't pan out, he completely dropped off the radar after a dissipointing finish in South Carolina, the state of his birth. For a couple weeks, Clinton and Obama tried their best to channel Edwards, and to woo him to their side. After Super Tuesday, however, they largely forgot about that and seemed to tack to the center.

Since neither are able to put the other away, Edwards could still be a kingmaker...or at least an elder statesman. Why wasn't Edwards stepping in when things got nasty between the two in February and March, telling them to be grown-ups, like he did in the debates? Why didn't Edwards take a stand on Florida or Michigan, to force a redo? Or Edwards could have offered to mediate the stalemate between Obama and Clinton in May/June, to avoid a convention floor fight or credentials committee battle.

During the campaign, Edwards showed his neutrality between the two by attacking both, although he did attack Clinton more. However, that was necessary since he was selling himself (this time) as the change-ist candidate and amazingly the first serious woman candidate was the establishment candidate. So why hasn't Edwards done any of those things and why doesn't it seem like he will do any of those things?

To me, the only logical answer is that he doesn't want to piss off the nominee if they win, or the loser if the nominee ends up losing to John McCain. Still, I think Edwards could get whatever cabinet post he wanted (i.e. Sec. of Labor, HHS, AG) in exchange for endorsing whomever it was. And if he went the mediator route, he would be sure not to either Clinton or Obama mad at him. The non-logical answer is that he is pissed off a both for ignoring him post-Super-Tuesday, and he doesn't think either of them would be nearly as good as he would be as president.

But let's face facts, John Edwards is never going to be the Democratic nominee for president. You don't get to run three times, unless you want to be an also-ran. Even Joe Biden learned not to run between 1988 and 2008. So Edwards' options are to be a cabinet level dude in a Democratic administration, run for Governor or Senator of North Carolina next cycle (the filing deadline was March 3rd), or leave politics and become the Al Gore of Poverty (which is something he genuinely seems to care a lot about). So far however, he hasn't made moves to do any of those three.

It must be tough to get very close to being a presidential nominee, especially when it seems like a good year to be a member of your party. It takes a lot of hard work and planning to get even that close, and I understand his disappointment and frustration. He could have made the most of a bad situation, however, he doesn't seem ready to do the necessary things.

And it is too bad. Democrats need a talented politician who has a nose for what the public mood is in their upper echelon.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

meet Oldenburg jr.

In a break from posts about politics, please welcome the newest resident on The Third Avenue:
To answer a few questions you are bound to ask: the due date is late September/early October, no one knows the gender yet (that's it's arm, not a male organ), and I am totally excited. Freaking out, I assume, will come at a later time.

While this will be the first great-grandchild on both sides of my family (and both of our parent's first grandchild), it will be my wife's grandmother's twenty-fifth great-grandchild from one of her 25 grandchildren. I just blew your mind, didn't I?

Anyway, I have been dying to tell my readers for a while but had to get Mrs. Oldenburg's permission first (I redacted her name from the picture) and make sure das Baby (that's German for baby) was alright. On Monday, we saw it moving about on the ultrasound. I could watch that for hours....

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What's the big deal?

There are three stories out today about SL County DA Lohra Miller's purported proclivity to party. [Say that three times fast!] As you can guess from this post's title, I really don't get what Miller did that was so terrible.
[Private investigator Todd Gabler,] who has tracked Salt Lake County District Attorney Lohra Miller for months[,] contends Miller is undermining the credibility of her office.
Gabler said there were some "intervening events" that prompted him to continue looking into the situation.

"The first was that Lohra used her public office as a platform to call her neighbors liars. Had she not done that, the investigation would just have gone away. But we started receiving calls from prospective clients who we had interviewed regarding this case. Basically clients started lining up outside the door — they didn't like being called liars.

"The second reason is that she made a public statement that she believed she was held to a higher standard of scrutiny as a public official, which she certainly is. She made the claim there is no underage drinking in her house," which Gabler said he knew was false, referring to a December 22, 2005 report from the South Jordan Police Department.

"I read the report where both Lohra and Lorenzo and their son told police there had been drinking by minors in their house," Gabler said.

Gabler said techniques used in the investigation, such as going through trash and videotaping the Miller home, were legal and did not invade Miller's privacy.

Further, he said the real underlying issue is not underage drinking or neighborhood complaints, but the integrity of the district attorney's office.
The "lack of integrity" is apparently contradicting a PI's memory of a police report, which might be erroneous and even if true wouldn't be admissible in a court of law.

The Salt Lake City Weekly delves into much more detail that finally gets at what might be wrong about this whole thing...AG Mark Shurtleff's office's investigation into the accusations.
The results of Gabler’s work are striking. They’re also obvious. The documents he examined would have been available to anyone else—had anyone else bothered to ask. No one did.

Lohra Miller did not respond to repeated requests for an interview left with Miller's office assistant and the district attorney office spokesman. City Weekly's messages for her husband Lorenzo Miller, left with the secretary at his law office, on his cell phone and his work email, were not returned. A "Very Thorough Investigation[.]"
In fact, the attorney general's office didn't say it couldn't find anything. In a two-sentence letter that was the Utah attorney general’s entire report, the Attorney general wrote, "Our investigation revealed no basis for criminal charges."

"We looked only at potential violations of state law," says Paul Murphy, spokesman for the attorney general’s office. The attorney general’s investigation was limited to three areas: allegations of unlicensed daycare, underage drinking and drug use.

Murphy says the attorney general, "did a very thorough investigation" into allegations of underage drinking and drug use. "We didn't call any of the neighbors liars," he says. But no one the attorney general's office interviewed was able to provide any concrete evidence against the Millers.
But even here, there doesn't seem to be much there there. No one is saying Miller should be ousted because she is a hypocrite or even provides any solid proof that anything illegal occurred in her home.
KSL News says a video of the surveillance was recently mailed to the Salt Lake City TV station. Gabler says he was trying to prove Miller has lied about purported parties at her home involving minors.
Complaints about the parties were recently investigated by the Utah Attorney General's Office -- and no evidence of criminal activity was found.
KSL News says that interpretations of what the video actually shows are in dispute. Miller says she and her children were out of town during one of the alleged parties filmed.
Now if someone had any solid proof of Miller doing something illegal while urging her DDA's to prosecute others for such illegalities, that would be something. But it seems to be that worse case scenario, her kids were doing dumb things like partying late at night and drinking. Last time I checked, how one parents their children has nothing to do how one heads an office of prosecutors. And really, why should we be so quick to judge her family and parenting skills/choices?

If someone could prove that Miller solicited illegal campaign contributions or fired DDA Kent Morgan for political reasons or failed to prosecute a police officer for a wrongful shooting because of police union endorsements, any of those would be a very serious and troubling issue. And ones that, if true, should cause her to resign.

But right now, all we have an overzealous PI snooping in her trash and filming her house, with nothing really to show for it. The whole thing smacks of neighbors who really don't like her and her family. W ake me up if you have any real news to report. My advice to the Millers would be to move somewhere else, and get a restraining order on this PI.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Change is coming to Utah Politics

You can feel it in the air, and see it in the LG's filings: change...even in Happy Valley.
Democrats aren't the only ones in Utah County disenchanted with the Republican incumbents in the Legislature.
Candidate filing ended Monday, and several Utah County legislative districts have multiple candidates, especially multiple Republican candidates.

Of the 13 district races for the House of Representatives, eight races have more than one Republican, and in the Senate, three of the four races have multiple Republicans.

All of the candidates running think there needs to be change, but several Republican candidates said neighbors and other members of the community asked them to run because they want a positive change in the Legislature and not just the same actions by the same people.

"It was a little over a year ago there was a lot of outcry for a change. ... Everybody has a different complaint," said Jennifer Baptista, a candidate in District 57 who is running against Rep. Craig Frank, R-Pleasant Grove. "They feel they're not being heard, that he's not representing them and they're not happy about his lack of support for the public schools. There's been a lot of discontentment in the area, and it just proves the fact that a lot of people want somebody different."
Lots of people are running against incumbents all over the state. Even a veteran Republican leglislator is fed up with his colleagues. After 10-years in the Utah House (1996-2006), David Hogue is running this time as a Democrat:
"The purpose of the Legislature is to represent the people," Hogue said. "I've been disappointed in the way the Republican leadership has steered and guided legislation that is going away from citizens' rights."
Among his biggest gripes: the school voucher law that was soundly defeated by voters in last November's referendum.
Yet those out-of-touch legislators still haven't gotten the message. "I don't see [anti-voucher] as being all that compelling of a message. Maybe time will tell," said Speaker Greg "20 votes"
Curtis. "Vouchers will not be an issue in anyone's political future," said Sen. Mike Waddops. The voucher issue is "not going to have much impact except for the zealots," predicts Rep. Greg Hughes. Those zealots like 62% of Utahns, who constituted a majority in every county in the state.

But one change to come is the most surprising, no real serious challenger to SL County Mayor Peter Carroon.
The 47-year-old is a field supervisor for Adult Probation and Parole at the Utah Department of Corrections. He lives in Sandy with his wife, Nicia, and five children.

[Michael] Renckert faces a daunting task in taking on Corroon, as the county mayor's poll numbers have remained consistently high throughout his four-year term.

Corroon is the county party's No. 1 target for the 2008 election, Evans said.

"He's not running against Peter Corroon. He's running for Salt Lake County mayor," [Salt Lake County Republican Party Chairman James] Evans said.
That's a telling quote from a guy who declined not to run for the job.

But really, why give away the County Mayor race? He is the third most known and powerful political figure at the local level (behind Sandy's Mayor Tom Dolan and SLC's Mayor Ralph Becker) yet represents more people than any member of Utah's U.S. House Delegation. Every time you go to a public pool in the summer, go to a park, go to Millcreek Canyon, go to a rec center, go to the planetarium, etc. you are using a County service. He could plaster his name and face over all of these services, like Nancy Workman did. If Jim Matheson doesn't run for Governor in 2012, Carroon could and would have a decent shot at winning.

Monday, March 17, 2008

your world in charts

(H/T Erza Klein)

Or, why Hillary Clinton's prospects for winning the nomination are slipping daily.

(graphic by the New York Times)

I am not sure if this chart includes another superdelegate that announced for Obama today, but I am sure it doesn't include the pledged delegate count. This dramatic shift is partly due to Obama's February winning streak, and partly due to the shattering of the "inevitable" talking point, which in turn was shattered by Obama's wins. At this rate, Obama will close the superdelegate gap between him and Clinton, which once stood at over 100, in a matter of weeks.

And with each superdelegate committing, it makes for one less that could go for Clinton. Of course, these people can and do change their minds. Unfortunately for Sen. Clinton, they having been changing their minds from supporting her to supporting Sen. Obama.

The Clinton camp acknowledges that due to the party's pledged delegate allocation rules, she will never be able to make up Obama's lead. And unless Florida and Michigan are somehow counted, she also has no hope of leading in the popular vote. Those two states seem unable to get their act together and decide on what to do.

Some of this, no doubt, is due to Obama supporters (and perhaps even the Obama camp itself) "sabotaging" the decision process in Michigan and Florida. But the legal questions raised by Obama/his supporters are reasonable ones--the Voting Rights Act cannot be taken lightly--and much of the inabilty of these two states is due to the internal conflicts between state party officials, state legislators/legislatures, and state Congressional delegations. Both Obama and Clinton teams seem content in having it both ways. Clinton decries the disenfranchisement of voters while continuing to claim that Michigan's results were fair because Obama chose to take his name off the ballot. Obama says it is up for the states/the DNC to decide how to go forward when both agreed that no plan will happen without the written approval of such a plan by both Obama and Clinton.

If this continues, I doubt a re-do will actually occur in either state and some sort of a compromise regarding delegates will be reached and rubber-stamped by the Rules and Credentials Committees later this summer. If so, advantage Obama, whose people will be in the majority on said committees.

All of this means that Sen. Clinton's path to the nomination requires that Sen. Obama becomes so damages that the party won't want to choose him. And she will have to do the damaging (at best indirectly). How do you think Rev. Wright's months old comments suddenly resurfaced?

And I would like to make one more point about delegates. Of course they are undemocratic, as are caucuses, as is the fact that certain states get to go first. If you go back in the archives, you can see me wailing about the unrepresentiveness of the Iowa Caucuses in 2003 and 2004. But everyone who opted to seek the Democratic nomination for president implicitly agreed to these rules. While it may be politically untenable or really unfair for Michigan and/or Florida voter's choices not to count, the DNC made its ruling and neither Clinton nor Obama's team (nor any other campaign) objected to the DNC's ruling at the time it was made. Nor did anyone at the time protest the way delegates were allocated between and within states, especially the rules in states like Nevada and Texas. It was only the Clinton campaign that complained about these things after-the-fact. And can any Clinton supporter look me in the eyes and honestly tell me that if the roles were reversed she would have made these criticisms? Of course not. Not that Obama wouldn't have tried to make these complaints. But I doubt any of them would have had as much traction coming from him as they have from her.

The rule was, and still is, the first candidate to get 50.1% of the delegates gets the nomination. I welcome any changes to the nomination system that reexamines delegate allocation systems, eleminates caucuses, puts more emphasis on the popular vote, etc. But all of those changes will have to take effect for the 2012 nomination, no matter how terrible the current system is.

Obama's team based their strategy--including getting his name, as well as Edwards' and Biden's, off the Michigan ballot--on those rules. And, let's face it, so did the Clinton's team. And right now, Obama is the odds-on favorite to win the nomination. [This, by the way, is the number one reason why the superdelegates are rapidly trending in Obama's favor]

While I hope that the Democratic Party change its nomination rules for the better as a result of this epic Obama-Clinton race, I don't support changing the basis of choosing a nominee at this point in "the game." Not unless someone invents a time machine.