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John Edwards

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Rosen: Stop me before I blog again!

“How absurd is that? Let us count the ways. First, even when the most establishment ‘journalists’ such as Rosen get caught engaging in patently irresponsible behavior, they still find a way to blame blogs rather than themselves (I thought I was just blogging, and reckless gossip is what bloggers do.) It wasn’t blogs that “reported” Saddam Hussein’s acquisition of scary aluminum tubes for nuclear weapons or that Iraq was behind the anthrax attacks; it wasn’t blogs that glorified Jessica Lynch’s nonexistent heroic firefight with Iraqi goons; it wasn’t blogs that turned John Edwards into The Breck Girl and John Kerry into a “French-looking” weakling; and it wasn’t blogs that presented retired military generals who were participating in a Pentagon propaganda program and saddled with countless undisclosed conflicts as ‘independent analysts.’

Call it the State of Play fallacy: After TNR’s Jeffrey Rosen blames “blogging” for the obviously poor quality of his recent Sotomayor hit piece — and vows never to blog again — Salon‘s inimitable Glenn Greenwald sets the record straight about what can and can’t be pinned on bloggers. “Despite his efforts to blame ‘blogging’ for what he did, Rosen didn’t use journalistically reckless methods to smear Sotomayor’s intellect because of some inherent attribute of the medium. Instead, he did that because…that’s how the establishment media typically functions: ‘background reporting from people with various axes to grind, i.e. standard Washington reporting.’” (And, for what it’s worth, Rosen’s original article was hardly what you’d call blogging anyway — it was just a lengthy piece that ran online.)

Grandson of a Millworker?

“[I]t is inadequate to say to the people who believed in me that I am sorry…I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic. If you want to beat me up — feel free. You cannot beat me up more than I have already beaten up myself.So…Edwards. To be honest, I can’t say I’m surprised by this revelation — When the story first broke back in December, it just seem too detailed to be completely implausible, and I figured it was only a matter of time before the Enquirer closed the deal.

That being said, it seems clear we Dems clearly dodged a bullet by not backing Edwards’ candidacy, and he really shouldn’t have played roulette with us by trying to keep this under wraps. (Then again, diehard Clinton flak Howard Wolfson seems to think Edwards’ silence gave the nomination to Obama, which may or may not be true, so maybe he had an important part to play nonetheless.) I don’t think revelations of an affair would’ve necessarily been a ticket-killer this year, particularly given the shadier turns of McCain’s personal life. But it would’ve put us at an enormous disadvantage out of the box, honesty and character-wise, for no good reason whatsoever. (And, by the way, amiable southern white male narcissist who can’t keep it in his pants? Been there, done that.)

Team Obama Waxing.

Another day of endorsements for Sen. Obama: In today’s batch so far, we have the inimitable Rep. Henry Waxman (CA), Reps. Jim McDermott (WA) and Howard Berman (CA), and DNC member Larry Cohen (DC).

In addition, yesterday’s Edwards endorsement brings in 6 of Edwards’ pledged 19 delegates (so far), as well as the endorsement of the United Steelworkers. For those playing at home, the Thursday count thus far: Obama +10.

Update: It now looks like eight Edwards delegates have defected, and word is a recanvass in NC has given one of Clinton’s delegates to Obama. So, today’s new count: Obama +13, Clinton -1.

Obama gets SEC’ers, NARAL…and a Millworker’s Son.

While I’ve been packing things today, a few more key endorsements: First up, three former SEC heads back Obama. “‘Each of us has been committed to prudent economic policy and effective financial regulation for many years,’ they said in a joint statement along with former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, also an Obama supporter. ‘We believe Senator Obama can provide the positive leadership and judgment needed to take us to a stronger and more secure economic future.’

Then, much to the consternation of Emily’s List, NARAL gets behind the senator: “Today, we are proud to put our organization’s grassroots and political support behind the pro-choice candidate whom we believe will secure the Democratic nomination and advance to the general election. That candidate is Sen. Obama.

And, tonight in Grand Rapids, it looks like John Edwards will come off the fence at last and officially endorse Obama. (Edwards is not a super, but he does still have 19 pledged delegates credited to him.) Well, it’d have been nice to see this a few months ago, of course, and now that People pledge just looks ridiculous. But, hey, better late than never.

Update:: Hmm. No sign of Elizabeth. Also, Edwards’ best line tonight (although the crowd didn’t seem to get it): “I still want my jet-ski.”

Appalachian Sting. | Childers of the Revolution.

As expected, Sen. Clinton wins the Mountain State handily, taking West Virginia 67%-26%, with 7% For Edwards. (Her main key to victory: The 71% of the WV electorate without a college degree broke for her 71%-29%.) But, alas for Sen. Clinton’s hopes for a miracle comeback, this is basically the equivalent of a garbagetime touchdown. And, worse still for Team Clinton, a new poll has Sen. Obama up 20 in the significantly larger state of Oregon, and the supers continue to move toward the presumptive nominee regardless. Today’s haul thus far: Obama +3.5. (Rep. Pete Visclosky (IN), DNC member Awais Kaleel, OK State Senator Mike Morgan, WI State Sen. Lena Taylor, and Dem Abroad Christine Marques against a Tennessee UAD for Clinton.)

The night’s big political news, however, happened down in Mississippi. In an upset that has stunned and demoralized the RNC, Democrat Travis Childers wins a special election going away, 54-46%, in a strong-conservative district that voted 62-37% for Dubya in 2004. Childers is not only the third Dem to win a safe-GOP district in recent months (following Bill Foster in IL and Don Cazayoux in LA), he was also explicitly painted as an elitist pro-Wright, prObama Dem by the Mississippi GOP. So how’s that for an electability argument? (To be fair, Dick Cheney also showed up to stump for Childers’ opponent…that might’ve helped us too.)

With all due respect to the Magnolia State, if the Republicans’ tired culture-war strategy didn’t play in the most conservative parts of Ole Miss, it’s not going to play anywhere this year…not even in West Virginia.

The Edwardses Punt.

“Elizabeth Edwards likes Hillary Clinton’s plan for universal health insurance. Husband John Edwards doesn’t much care for Clinton’s ‘old politics.’ So goes the his-and-her debate in the Edwards household.In a new interview with People magazine, John and Elizabeth Edwards announce they’re staying neutral. “Bottom line: the couple said they will not endorse either remaining candidate, saving their political capital for their own causes – his, fighting poverty; hers, fighting for universal health care.

To which I feel compelled to ask: What political capital? Let me get this straight. On the one hand, we have Barack Obama, the “change” candidate who has had the nomination in the bag, mathematically speaking, for several months now. On the other, we have Hillary Clinton, the candidate whose campaign Edwards himself memorably deemed “the forces of status quo,” and who has left no GOP tactic untried to hack and slash a path to the nomination. And the Edwardses are neutral? That’s not statesmanship. That is political cowardice, pure and simple.

I mean, this isn’t a huge surprise: It’s been an open secret for awhile that the Edwardses would likely stay neutral, partly (if not mainly) on account of Elizabeth’s personal issues with the Obama candidacy. Still, I thought they’d eventually rise above their pique and get on board with the “change” they’d espoused for months and months on end. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve personally defended Edwards (usually from the children of doctors, who’ve been indoctrinated with the idea that malpractice lawsuits rank just below genocide on the list of Crimes Against Humanity, and thus that Edwards is merely some kind of rank profiteer living off their dear parents’ hard work.) I applauded his candidacy in 2008, and even voted for the guy in 2004. But, really, this is the kiss-off: If they still can’t manage to bring themselves off the fence at this late hour, I just can’t take either of them seriously anymore as leaders or progressives. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

The Wages of Fear.

“Clinton is viewed as ‘honest and trustworthy’ by just 39 percent of Americans, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, compared with 52 percent in May 2006. Nearly six in 10 said in the new poll that she is not honest and trustworthy.” Who’s bitter now? A new poll finds that a solid majority of voters now believes Sen. Clinton is dishonest. “And now, compared with Obama, Clinton has a deep trust deficit among Democrats, trailing him by 23 points as the more honest, an area on which she once led both Obama and John Edwards.” In other words, all the shenanigans of the past few months seem to have made her unelectable. Oops.

Edwards Watch: Iffy. | No Gore ticket, period.

While Edwards donors have broken for Obama 2-1, current rumor has it that Edwards himself is inclined toward Clinton, mainly on account of his wife, Elizabeth. “‘She feels her husband should have been the man in the center of the presidential sweepstakes, rather than Obama,’ a source said.

Well, if that’s true, it’s a remarkably petty reason to back the establishment candidate. Still, sour grapes or no, it’s hard to imagine Edwards coming out for Clinton at this late date anyway. Why would he obliterate all of his outsider-reformer cachet in one fell swoop, just to back a horse that’s already lost? If he endorses Clinton now, not only is his credibility in many circles effectively reduced to zero, but he’d be needlessly prolonging a primary battle that the rest of the party is trying to end ASAP. So, if anything, I expect he’ll remain neutral at this point.

Meanwhile, Al Gore reaffirmed he’s staying out of it for now, despite calls among some for him to break the deadlock: “‘What have we got, five months left?’ Gore told the Associated Press…’I think it’s going to resolve itself, but we’ll see.’” Well, it’s more like three months, if we go by the Dean standard. Still, I can’t say I’m surprised that Gore’s letting things shake out.

Which reminds me: There’s been some loose talk recently, most notably by TIME’s Joe Klein and Rep. Tim Mahoney, that the Dems could rally around Al Gore on top of a compromise ticket, a la John W. Davis in 1924. Now, maybe I’m in the minority these days in remembering that Al Gore was a thoroughly crappy candidate in 2000, one who — despite unprecedented economic good times — couldn’t even beat a congenial idiot like Dubya back in the day. Nonetheless, this notion of putting Al Gore atop the ticket is the Mother of all Dumb Ideas, redolent of the blatantly undemocratic, smoke-filled rooms of yesteryear, and if it happens, I’m walking. In fact, I’d rather have Sen. Clinton be our standard-bearer than Al Gore: At least, she actually procured a sizable number of votes this cycle.

Thank You, Iowa…Again.

At the Iowa county conventions today, as a result of Edwards and other candidate delegates switching their support, Sen. Obama picked up six additional delegates on Clinton (or, to be more exact, 7 to her 1.) “Edwards dropped 8 delegates to 6. Those six will be up for grabs, perhaps, at the Iowa Democratic Party state convention in June.Update: Reports emerge that Obama’s Iowa take today could be seven delegates, or even as many as nine. That’s an Ohio-sized haul. Update 2: We’re going to need a bigger boat: Now, it’s Obama +10. Update: Also, +3 in California.

The Heads Convene.

“At a private dinner that Mr. Edwards, a former senator, held at his home last Saturday for a dozen close friends, he said he had spoken recently with Mr. Gore about the benefits of neutrality, someone who was at the dinner said…Mr. Edwards said he intended to remain on the fence for the time being, the person said.” It looks possible no more major endorsements will be in the offing for either Democratic candidate. Perhaps noticing the daunting math that faces Sen. Clinton’s campaign, the big undeclared Dems seem to be envisioning themselves instead as much-needed brokers of the peace. “A number of senior Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and three candidates who have dropped out of the 2008 race, former Senator John Edwards and Senators Christopher J. Dodd and Joseph R. Biden Jr., have spoken with Mr. Gore in recent days. None have endorsed a candidate, although Ms. Pelosi made comments on Friday that were widely seen as supportive of Mr. Obama when it came to the process the party should use to make its choice of candidate.

Wisconsin Battle Stations.

Two senior Clinton advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the race candidly, said the campaign feels the New York senator needs to quickly change the dynamic by forcing Obama into a poor debate performance, going negative or encouraging the media to attack Obama. They’re grasping at straws, but the advisers said they can’t see any other way that her campaign will be sustainable after losing 10 in a row.Last night was grand, but there’ll be no resting on laurels just yet. The Clinton campaign redoubles its efforts in Wisconsin, putting out a new ad attacking Obama for the debate schedule. (Of course, allegations of debate-ducking is usually the last province of the also-ran. TNR, for example, dug up this campaign ad by NY Dem Jonathan Tasini attacking Sen. Clinton for…refusing to debate.) Update: A new Obama ad responds with class.

In the meantime, AP’s Ron Fournier argues that many of the superdelegates are more than ready to balk the Clintons: “Some are folks who owe the Clintons a favor but still feel betrayed or taken for granted. Could that be why Bill Richardson, a former U.N. secretary and energy secretary in the Clinton administration, refused to endorse her even after an angry call from the former president? ‘What,’ Bill Clinton reportedly asked Richardson, ‘isn’t two Cabinet posts enough?’

But if not Richardson, what of Edwards? While Sen. Obama delves into rhetorical Edwards/Feingold country (in Sen. Feingold’s hometown of Janesville, WI, no less), ABC News suggests the Senator from North Carolina might be leaning towards endorsing Clinton at this point. That’d be a surprise, to say the least.

More Endorsements, and the Big Three.

‘Sen. Obama has been talking about hope and change and improving the morale of this country,’ Mr. Anchia said. ‘Gen. Patton once said that 80 percent of leadership is improving morale. And right now the country is in a pretty demoralized state and looking to get out of it, and I think Sen. Obama has the most compelling message there.’” More recent Obama endorsements of note: Rep. Rafael Anchia (representing Dallas), Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (representing the San Antonio area), and Northern Virginia Rep. James Moran (this last one, it seems, might actually hurt Obama.) Sen. Obama also seems to have made fans across the aisle in former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former Senator Lincoln Chafee. Meanwhile, checking in on the Big Three of remaining endorsements (that is, presuming Speaker Pelosi stays neutral until a candidate is decided):

Al Gore: Every few days a rumor circulates from the Clinton campaign side that Al Gore is set to endorse Obama. But, despite “unbelievable” animus reported between the Clintons and Gores, no word from the Nobel Prize-winner yet. Presumably, he’s waiting because either [a] he doesn’t want to endanger his post-partisan cachet or [b] he senses the Democratic Party might need people who seem above the fray to broker a pre-convention deal. Either way, it doesn’t seem like he’ll be getting involved anytime soon. Update: CNN reconfirms: Gore sources say he’s staying out of it.

John Edwards: Here’s where a lot of the attention seems to be at the moment, given that a Thursday meeting between Clinton and Edwards leaked, and a planned Obama-Edwards meeting today was postponed. At the moment, media speculation seems to be that Edwards’ endorsement is truly up for grabs, although as I said here, given his previous statements about Clinton’s “status quo” campaign, I’d think he’d have to be leaning toward Obama (or risk losing quite a bit of credibility.) In their report on the Clinton-Edwards meet, CNN said that two friends of Elizabeth Edwards said she preferred Obama. If that’s true, that would seem to clinch it, but one never knows, and now “sources close to the Edwards family flatly deny that she favors one candidate over the other.

Russ Feingold: Sen. Feingold, whose endorsement may well carry more weight than that of Edwards (particularly in upcoming Wisconsin) has said he’s planning to endorse after the Feb. 19 primary. He’s previously been very critical of Edwards, and some see that playing a role in the Obama-Edwards discussions at the moment. Again, given the previous dust-ups between Feingold and Clinton, I’d think the Wisconsin Senator would be leaning Obama. But he’s spent a lot of time with both candidates, and he doesn’t look to be moving off the fence before the 19th, after which he may likely just follow the choice of his state.

In short, now that we’re past Super Tuesday, it seems the Big Guns mainly want to see how things will play out. Update: The Man Who Fell to Earth? Greg Sargent’s sources say Sen. Clinton is about to pick up a decently important endorsement in former Ohio Senator John Glenn. Hmm, that’s too bad. I’d have liked to have Sen. Glenn in our corner. Ah well, godspeed regardless.

The Streams Converge?

‘Barack Obama, like John Edwards, is redefining what is possible and in so doing he’s changing us, each one of us,’ she said in a letter released by Obama’s campaign. ‘Many who had given up on politics are re-engaging. Many who had grown tolerant of the intolerable are now ready to demand more – and not just from themselves but others. And many who had given up believing that the ideals of equality, dignity and justice would ever again be as politically important as money and power, now believe again.’” Former NARAL president Kate Michelman moves from Edwards to Obama (as, it seems, have many high-profile Edwards backers.)

Edwards is Out.

“It’s hard to speak out for change when you feel like your voice is not being heard. But I do hear it. We hear it. This Democratic Party hears you. We hear you once again.

And we will lift you up with our dream of what’s possible: one America — one America that works for everybody; one America where struggling towns and factories come back to life, because we finally transformed our economy by ending our dependence on oil; one America where the men who work the late shift and the women who get up at dawn to drive a two-hour commute and the young person who closes the store to save for college, they will be honored for that work; one America where no child will go to bed hungry, because we will finally end the moral shame of 37 million people living in poverty; one America where every single man, woman and child in this country has health care; one America with one public school system that works for all of our children; one America that finally brings this war in Iraq to an end and brings our servicemembers home with the hero’s welcome that they have earned and that they deserve.

Today, I am suspending my campaign for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. But I want to say this to everyone: with Elizabeth, with my family, with my friends, with all of you and all of your support, this son of a mill worker is going to be just fine. Our job now is to make certain that America will be fine.

Senator John Edwards calls it quits. [Transcript, Obama response, Clinton response.] As I’ve said a few times now, Edwards has run a quality campaign focusing on the important and neglected issue of poverty’s persistence, and he should be applauded for it. And, if nothing else, he’d make a great attorney general in the next Democratic administration. And, now, there are two

While he left the race on his own terms this morning, my guess is Senator Edwards will endorse Obama sometime in the relatively near future (although perhaps after Super Tuesday.) Even if calling Clinton “the candidate of the status quo” in the New Hampshire debate a few weeks ago didn’t telegraph his preference, I’m guessing Clinton’s anti-Edwards robo-calls in South Carolina probably rankled. (And Edwards campaign manager Joe Trippi is on the record as no friend of Mark Penn.) So, let’s hope he comes out for Senator Obama sometime relatively soon.

That being said, I’m not sold at all on the notion that Edwards supporters will now drift into the Obama camp. True, a sizable amount of Edwards voters are likely anti-Clinton votes. But, I’m guessing an equally sizable number were drawn to Edwards’ “I’m a fighter” message, in which case they might prefer Clinton’s recent pit bull tactics over Obama’s message of unity. And, of course, Edwards’ base was mostly white working-class and rural voters, and — while Obama did well with this demographic in Nevada — thus far said group has leaned toward Clinton. So, it’s an open question.

If nothing else, though, a 2-person race should help to mitigate the Florida-Michigan delegate issue. And it should make tomorrow’s debate that much more interesting…

MI and FL: The Broker States?

“What has not been widely reported or discussed is how this decision by the Democratic Party changes the dynamics of the nomination process. They have reduced the total number of available delegates by 341 from 4049 to 3708. If they keep the required magic number of delegates to win the nomination at 2025 (50% +1), they have effectively required a successful candidate to garner 55% of the available delegates to win the nomination (2025/3708).

Uh oh…A commenter over at Salon explains why the Michigan-Florida delegate issue might not go away anytime soon. Indeed, it may ensure — and determine the fate of — a brokered convention. “As explained above, in the democratic race, Edwards is siphoning off enough delegates to prevent either Barack or Clinton to sew up the nomination. The 341 unseated delegates from Michigan and Florida (8% of the total delegates) strengthen this effect considerably. The combined total of Edwards and the unseated delegates from Michigan and Florida is roughly 22% of all delegates leaving only 78% for Clinton and Obama to split. The loser will have to fall to 28% to leave 50% remaining for the winner.

If this math is correct, and the race stays close in the weeks after Super Tuesday, it sounds like Michigan and Florida may well have to schedule do-overs. Or there’ll be blood on the floor at the convention, no matter how the MI-FL controversy shakes out. Update: This math, of course, is now moot…for obvious reasons.

Oh, Carolina!

In South Carolina, Barack Obama wins in a rout, beating Hillary Clinton by 28 points and winning more votes than Clinton and Edwards combined. (And, as Andrew Sullivan noted tonight, Obama also scored more Palmetto votes than McCain and Huckabee combined…something to consider for the general election.) Some of the interesting numbers:

  • Aside from Horry County (a.k.a. Myrtle Beach), which went for Hillary Clinton, and Seneca County, where John Edwards was born, Barack Obama won the entire state — 44 of 46 counties (including Florence, where I grew up…this makes me quite happy.)

  • Obama won the African-American vote — both male and female — by 4 to 1. However, he also won 1 in 4 white votes — considerably higher than anticipated. (Clinton won 1 in 3 white votes, the rest went to the local native, Edwards.)

  • Obama — and this accords with my understanding of the South — won the white youth vote big. (52% to 27% for Clinton and 21% of Edwards.) White voters over 60, however, went 42% each for Clinton and Edwards, with only 15% for Obama. Sadly, the generation gap — among whites — persists.

  • White men went 45% for Edwards, but otherwise split evenly between Clinton and Obama (28%-27%) White women, unsurprisingly, went for Clinton: 42% to Edwards’ 35% to Obama’s 22%.

    So now, we move to Super Tuesday, and the main demographic problem facing Senator Obama — the generation gap among whites — remains. (How the generation that coined the termDon’t trust anyone over 30” became so distrustful of Obama’s Kennedyesque appeal remains, frankly, more than a little depressing.)

    But, hope remains, while the company is true. I’ve been volunteering at Obama events over the past week and expect to continue to do so over the next nine days. Let’s each of us do what we can. The stakes are too high not to give it our all…And, if South Carolina is any indication, the times are definitely a-changin’.

  • The Gloves Come Off.

    “I understand that most viewers want to know, how am I going to get helped in terms of paying my health care? How am I going to get help being able to go to college? All those things are important. But what’s also important that people are not just willing to say anything to get elected. And that’s what I have tried to do in this campaign, is try to maintain a certain credibility.I don’t mind having policy debates with Senator Clinton or Senator Edwards. But what I don’t enjoy is spending the week or two weeks or the last month having to answer to these kinds of criticisms that are not factually accurate.

    The faux bonhomie of Nevada’s roundtable well behind them, the Democratic candidates started throwing haymakers in tonight’s lively South Carolina debate. [Transcript.] Unlike the last two meetings, I’m not going spend a lot of time on a full-fledged summary, since — when it gets this heated onstage — I don’t think it’s particularly useful. Judging from the comment threads at the various political sites, people will see what they want to see. Clinton supporters are coming out of the woodwork to say she won the night. Well, that was definitely not my impression.

    For my part, I was glad to see Barack Obama strongly counter Clinton’s continued distortions in the first hour, and finally push back on Clinton’s dubious “35 years of change” line (including, as it does, twelve years at the Rose Law Firm, which has been billed as Arkansas’ “ultimate establishment law firm.”) And he did a great job in the seated second hour of reasserting his positives — the funny and gracious “first black president” answer, for example — while staying on message.

    Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was at her evasive, misleading, Rovian worst. She did ok on the first question, about the economic stimulus package, but went rapidly downhill thereafter. Rather than running on her own record, She repeated her distortions about Reagan. She repeated her husband’s distortions about Obama’s stance on Iraq. She tried (and failed) to turn Obama’s present votes in the Illinois Senate into a vote for sexual abuse. And she like her husband — basically accused Obama (wrongly) of being Clintonian. (“[I]t is very difficult having a straight-up debate with you, because you never take responsibility for any vote, and that has been a pattern.“)

    Clinton also tried to inject the Rezko story into the debate. For those not following, Tony Rezko is a clearly shady Chicago businessmen with whom Obama had dealings with as a state legislator, and an iffy-looking land deal thereafter. An error in judgment, to be sure, and one he’s apologized for (even though it looks like there’s no there there.) Now it’s a fair thing to bring up, as Obama himself admitted. But,to be honest, Rezko is really not a road Hillary Clinton wants to go down. For one, you’d think the Clintons — of all people — would try to avoid insinuating corruption-by-association when it comes to land deals. For another, do Norman Hsu, Marc Rich, and Johnny Chung ring a bell? Shady operators in the margins are and have been the Clintons’ forte.

    But I digress. Once the fur started to fly, John Edwards got plugged into the “above the fray” role by default, which may have helped him out among undecideds, I guess. Still, I was glad to see he directed attacks at both Obama and Clinton as he felt warranted, which should prevent another embarrassing post-debate spin along the lines of “the men were picking on me.” But you never know. After all the outrageous displays of intellectual dishonesty from the Clinton camp, both tonight and over the past few weeks, I’d put nothing past them at this point.

    Nevada: The House Wins…or does it?

    CNN projects that Hillary Clinton has won the Nevada caucus. (At 90% and counting, we’re at Clinton 51%, Obama 45%, Edwards 4%(!))

    Sigh. Well, to be honest, I don’t feel all that bad about this loss. I mean, Nevada would have been a great pick-up for Obama, but if he wins my home state of South Carolina next weekend — which is favorable terrain — we’re still going into February 5 with a 2-2 split. And given that things seem to have been shaking this way in past days, I’m heartened to see Obama managed to keep it relatively close against Clinton. Besides, while Senator Obama was apparently a star in Reno (Obama 46% — Clinton 31%), he lost big in heavily-populated Clark County (Clinton 55% — Obama 35%), which is usually most people’s experience in Vegas. So be it.

    The biggest surprise here, frankly, is the Edwards collapse. Less than 5%? Still, I wouldn’t expect him to make any big moves until after South Carolina, if at all.

    Looking at the CNN entrance poll numbers, the demographic breakdown remains very troubling. For one, the gender gap continues (Women: Clinton 52%, Obama 35%; White Women: Clinton 57%, Obama 28%.) For another, it looks like the Clinton-Obama generation gap has grown even worse. Note these dismaying stats:

    Voters 18-29: Obama 57%, Clinton 30%
    Voters 30-44: Obama 42%, Clinton 37%
    Voters 45-59: Clinton 46%, Obama 39%
    Voters 60+: Clinton 61%, Obama 28%

    Voters under 45: Obama 48%, Clinton 34%
    Voters over 45: Clinton 54%, Obama 33%

    The affiliations:

    Democrats: Clinton 51%, Obama 36%
    Independents: Obama 46%, Clinton 35%

    And then you get the race breakdown:

    Whites: Clinton 52%, Obama 31%
    African Americans: Obama 79%, Clinton 16%
    Hispanics: Clinton 64%, Obama 23%

    So — right now — it looks to be young people, independents, and African-Americans for Obama, with old people, Latinos, and white women for Clinton. Perhaps most notably, voters under 30 are breaking 2-1 for Obama, while voters over 60 are breaking 2-1 for Clinton. If that dynamic holds, it obviously favors Clinton in this primary season. (Although, if and when those young voters justifiably decide to turn against the process and stay home should Clinton win, given her campaign’s scummy tactics, it’s all around bad for the Democrats.)

    Speaking of which, whatever the demographic breakdown, I have to think the Clinton campaign’s lowball maneuvering will redound badly against them as we move forward. Even notwithstanding last weeks’ race card wallowing and Giuliani-ish grandstanding, we now have attempts at voter suppression, more false mailers, blatant lying about Obama’s record, Yucca and otherwise, union-busting rhetoric, and even anti-Obama robo-calls. If we Dems aren’t going to take a stand against this sort of Rovian garbage within our own party, then we’ve absolutely no business bitching about similar behavior by the GOP.

    On to South Carolina.

    Update: Hmm, well that‘s interesting. After all is said and done, it seems Barack Obama actually won the Nevada delegate count, 13-12. “The math turns out to be a bit confusing, but the shorthand is this: The more populous Clark County, which Clinton won, awarded a even number of delegates, and Clinton and Obama split those down the middle. Meanwhile, the more rural areas, which Obama won, awarded an odd number of delegates, which gave Obama the edge. ‘We showed real strength statewide,’ campaign manager David Plouffe said in the call.” Well, ok then. That’s a nice gift, but the demographic concerns remain.

    Update 2: How bad was the situation on the ground? Bad enough that Obama campaign manager David Plouffe is going on the record about it. At this point, widespread malfeasance by the Clinton campaign sounds eminently plausible.(And what the heck was Bill doing?)

    The Meaning of Reagan.

    If you haven’t been following the recent flap about Ronald Reagan among the Democrats, I’ve been covering it in the comment thread here. Basically, the point Obama was making to the Reno Gazette-Journal, which Clinton and Edwards have both since jumped on, is this: For all his lousy policies — and Obama has said before they were lousy — Ronald Reagan was without a doubt a paradigm-changing candidate in 1980. In that election, he encouraged many “Reagan Democrats” to switch parties to back his candidacy, thus forging a new coalition which enabled right-wingers not only to win most presidential elections since but to pass legislation that is more conservative than the mainstream. Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, on the other hand, was not paradigm-changing. He won a plurality of votes in a three-way race and, by 1994, was already on the defensive again.

    So, in 2008, the Democrats can back a possible paradigm-changer such as Barack Obama, a candidate with considerable independent and crossover appeal who might well be able to forge a new progressive governing coalition (as Reagan did for the Right.) Or we can back a polarizing figure such as Senator Clinton, one whom almost half the country is already dead set against and who rests her appeal on repeating the same cautious, poll-tested GOP-lite centrism we had under eight years of her husband…assuming, of course, she can eke out a victory over John McCain or his ilk anyway. (And there’s John Edwards too, of course: While that’s definitely more of an open question, I made my Obama-over-Edwards case here.)

    As I said in the comment thread linked above, when it comes to a choice between Clinton or Obama, it would seem a no-brainer, particularly when you factor in her campaign’s tactics of late.

    Update: To help put the Clintons’ attacks today in perspective, a December 22 press release from Hillary Clinton lists Reagan among her “favorite presidents.” Oops.

    Back from the Brink.

    Despite the best efforts of Tim Russert, who asked rinky-dink meta-questions about the past week for most of the first segment, the Democratic debate in Los Vegas was a pause for breath tonight, with Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton all going out of their way to dial back the heat and try to bridge the identity politics chasms that have yawned open of late. As such, with all three candidates on their best behavior and looking to avoid direct confrontations that might get nasty, it was the type of debate that made the party and all three contenders look good, but also probably didn’t change very many votes.

    From where I sat — and this will surprise exactly no one — I thought Barack Obama came off the best of the three. He seemed gracious in his call to move past last week’s racial firestorm and deflected the — many — attempts by Russert to re-inject race into the debate. He offered the only funny moments of the evening (Brian Williams thinking he was in LA notwithstanding) and seemed convincing and natural. And, perhaps most importantly, he displayed a command of policy specifics and a capacity for nuance, which once again belies the argument that he’s just a oratorical Hope machine. He seemed, in a word, presidential. (Although I do wish, when asked when he’d first decided to run for president, he’d simply said “kindergarten.”)

    John Edwards was as good and on-message as always, but it didn’t seem like he managed to do anything tonight that would be a game-changer. (Then again, in an atmosphere of such explicit convivality as tonight, Edwards’ central message — I will fight for you! — didn’t have much of a chance to gain traction anyway. That being said, he did manage to trump Clinton’s dubious “35 years of experience” claim by announcing that “for 54 years I’ve been fighting with every fiber of my being.” 54 years of fighting? Hey, let’s not forget those nine months in the womb, there.) Edwards also brought up one of the first campaign finance questions we’ve heard in awhile — one in which Obama announced he’d ultimately be for public financing, which made me happy — but due to the moderators not seeming to understand their own rules, it never got around to Senator Clinton, where it was likely — and should have been — directed.

    Hillary Clinton came across better tonight than she did in New Hampshire, and, to her credit, she also did her part to uphold the truce (at least in public.) But — again, not a shocker here — I still found her dismayingly evasive on several questions: on Robert Johnson (do you believe his ridiculous clarification or do you think his comments were “out of bounds”?), on whether her opponents were qualified (she couldn’t just say yes?), on the bankruptcy bill (you voted for it in 2001 but was glad it didn’t pass?), and of course, on the politics of fear question, to take a few examples. But, as always, she had done her homework, she smartly went after Dubya a few times, and she had the talking points ready to attack on the Yucca Mountain question. (Without meaning to dismiss the important issue at hand, it’s safe to say “Yucca” is apparently Nevadan for “ethanol.”)

    So, at any rate, I’d say Obama came off the best tonight, but Edwards and Clinton were both solid as well. (And I would presume supporters of the other two candidates would say the same, with perhaps the names rearranged.) More than anything, tonight was a chance for tempers to cool and for the party to show it was ready — despite the best efforts of Mr. Russert — to discuss matters of substance again. Still, with Nevada this Saturday and South Carolina right around the corner, I wouldn’t expect the next debate to be so congenial.

    Clinton’s Detroit Hustle.

    Sigh…what manner of shadiness is this? As with the Nevada caucus lawsuit, it now seems Senator Hillary Clinton’s campaign is threatening to change the rules in Michigan. Last September, when Michigan and Florida tried to jump the gun on their primary process, all major candidates — including Clinton — pledged not to campaign there, and the DNC later stripped both states of their delegates. In accordance with the pledge, Barack Obama and John Edwards removed their names from the ballot (as did Joe Biden and Bill Richardson)…but Hillary Clinton did not. And so, today Michigan voters had the chance to vote Clinton or “Uncommitted” in a theoretically meaningless primary.

    But now Senator Clinton seems to be looking to alter the deal. (Pray she doesn’t alter it any further.) From Salon‘s Tim Grieve: The Clinton camp now “seems to be hinting that it may fight to have delegates from Michigan and Florida seated at the convention after all. ‘The people of Michigan and Florida have just as much of a right to have their voices heard as anyone else. It is disappointing to hear a major Democratic presidential candidate tell the voters of any state that their voices aren’t important…Sen. Clinton intends to be president for all fifty states.‘” Once again, when in doubt, change the rules. One hopes the DNC stands firm on this issue, or this convention could get nasty.

    Update: Speaking of the Nevada caucus lawsuit, President Clinton embarrasses himself further by vocally backing the attempt to remove casino caucus areas. Said the president: “Why ‘make a special rule only for these workers. For the rest of you other workers, tough luck. I think the rules ought to be the same for everyone,’ he said.I repeat: “Going back to last spring, every presidential campaign was involved in setting up the unusual casino caucus sites while state party officials and the Democratic National Committee ironed out the details.” Where was this outrage in the many months before the Culinary Union’s endorsement of Obama? Unbelievable. Update 2: Clinton also referred to Obama as the “establishment” candidate (in this union case) who’d only provide the “feeling of change.” Sigh…I’m getting the feeling of more of the same.

    Update 3: Some angry teachers respond to the suit filed by their union: “These at-large locations were approved back in March of 2007, and no one raised any concerns about them for nearly a year…This lawsuit is all about politics…[T]hey’re using our union to stop Nevadans from caucusing for Senator Obama.” Meanwhile, the DNC files a motion to intervene on behalf of the State Party (i.e. against the suit), and Sen. Reid remains conspicuously silent. Update 4: Bill Clinton angrily backs the suit again…while offering misleading statements about it. (The problem with the “five times”…uh, obfuscation…is explained here.)

    You’re biased! No, really, you are.

    “If you are unprepared to encounter interpretations that you might find objectionable, please do not proceed further…I am aware of the possibility of encountering interpretations of my IAT performance with which I may not agree. Knowing this, I wish to proceed with either the Democratic Candidates task or the Republican Candidates task. As the 2008 Democratic primary season degenerates into a Clintonian morass of identity politics and invective, now seems as good a time as any to test your own internal bias with an Implicit Association Test. (For more info, Slate’s Jay Dixit covered the test and it social implications a few years ago.)

    As for me, I took it three times. At first, my reptile-brain displayed a bias for Hillary Clinton, with Barack Obama and John Edwards exactly tied below her, and Bill Richardson lagging considerably behind. (My apologies, Governor Richardson. I think it might be because you look older than the rest of the candidates. At least, I hope that’s the reason.) The second time I took it involved just the candidate’s names, and it was completely inconclusive — all four were tied exactly in the center of the chart. The third time — perhaps because I was growing more used to the interface — Barack Obama was up high, followed by Edwards, followed by Clinton followed by Richardson.

    Edwards Steps In.

    “‘As someone who grew up in the segregated South, I feel an enormous amount of pride when I see the success that Senator Barack Obama is having in this campaign,’ said Edwards. He then added, with a laugh: ‘Some days I wish he was having a little less success.” In South Carolina, John Edwards gives his take on recent events. ““I must say I was troubled recently to see a suggestion that real change that came not through the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King but through a Washington politician. I fundamentally disagree with that…Those who believe that real change starts with Washington politicians have been in Washington too long and are living a fairy tale.

    The Forgotten Man.

    “Edwards is someone who never stops thinking about strategy — and he has a remarkable ability to step out of the moment and analyze the state of play with a clear eye. That tells me he is thinking about what happens after South Carolina. If he concludes he cannot be the nominee, what will he conclude about the role he wants to play — if any — to influence the eventual outcome?” For all the political coverage of Senators Obama and Clinton here as everywhere, the WP’s Dan Balz reminds us, there’s still one, even election-deciding wild card that’s being mostly overlooked: John Edwards. “In a largely two-person race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, it’s clear where Edwards’s sentiments lie. If he can’t be the nominee, he strongly prefers Obama to Clinton.” I believe that too, and on its face one would think a lot of Edwards voters would be more sympathetic to Obama as well. But that might very well be mistaken: Some analyses of the New Hampshire vote have Edwards’ attrition in support, particularly among women, putting Clinton over the top there. It’s not a given by any means that Edwards voters would next vote Obama.

    At any rate, I agree with Balz that Edwards will see how he does in South Carolina, virtually his home state (next to NC, where he’s now polling third), before making any decisions. And regardless, whatever Edwards may decide, I’m not going to begrudge him his staying in the race for as long as he wants, even if he stays until the convention and even if he costs Obama in the end. He’s a good candidate with a stirring populist message, he has stayed above the board in his campaign strategy, and, in any case, nobody should tell him he needs to get out of the race if he doesn’t so desire. His votes and his supporters are his own.

    Curb Your Enthusiasm, Awaken Your Fear.

    You heard it here first: Barack Obama’s campaign has abandoned its message of hope, and, with Larry David, is now waging the politics of fear: “David is…quoted threatening the Dartmouth students who are undecided between Obama and Edwards. ‘Okay, alright,’ he said. ‘If you don’t vote for Obama, I’m never doing the show again.’” Sigh, it’s a sad day…no wonder Cheryl left him. Still, don’t say you weren’t warned.

    Which reminds me, in case you missed Senator Clinton’s Hail-Mary Giuliani-ism of Monday, Ted of The Late Adopter posted it in an earlier comment thread. Said the Senator, speaking of Gordon Brown: “I don’t think it was by accident that Al Qaeda decided to test the new prime minister. They watch our elections as closely as we do, maybe more closely than some of our fellow citizens do…Let’s not forget you’re hiring a president not just to do what a candidate says during the election, you want a president to be there when the chips are down.” Hard to call that a message of change. In fact, take out that weird stab at “our fellow citizens” who haven’t swarmed to Clinton’s candidacy, and it sounds like all the usual terror terror terror garbage we’ve been hearing from the GOP for years.

    Buddy Systems and Reverse Muskies.

    “I was laughing because you know in that debate, obviously Sen. Edwards and Sen. Obama were kind of in the buddy system on the stage.” Having “found her voice” in yesterday’s surprising comeback in New Hampshire, and with the politics of gender clearly coming up aces, Senator Clinton continues with the new winning theme. Buddy system? Sigh…It doesn’t exactly put the b in subtle, does it? Well, this approach seemed to backfire with the “six guys against one strong woman” debate spin of a few months ago. And I can’t say I much prefer Clinton, the skewerer of false hopes and purveyor of the “reality check.” Still, one hopes these blatant appeals to identity politics get dropped relatively soon, and that the Obama campaign doesn’t get caught up in the same game in South Carolina. It’s usually a depressing and polarizing business.

    In another interview with FOX News today, Senator Clinton gave her own view of the Reverse Muskie. (By the way, how dismaying is it that this random moment of lip-quavering ended up being the defining moment of New Hampshire 2008? Now we’ll have to relive this bizarre non-story every four years. And it wasn’t even Clinton’s first semi-tear of the campaign — That was on Day 1 of the The Hillary I Know campaign retooling, back in December. It’s a strange world sometimes.)

    In any event, her take on the moment: “Maybe I have liberated us to actually let women be human beings in public.” Um…ok, a few things here. First, in keeping with XX Factor’s Rachael Larimore’s recent observation that “Obama is the ‘we’ candidate; Hillary is the ‘me’ candidate,” this is a remarkably self-aggrandizing I-statement. (Let’s see, there’s Seneca Falls, the Nineteenth Amendment, ERA, The Feminine Mystique, the founding of NOW…and the Reverse Muskie? One of these things does not belong.) Second, it must be said: “Liberated” — a word with special import for the older women voters who put Clinton over the top in New Hampshire — seems all too likely to be another unnuanced stab at the dog-whistle, niche politicking that inspired “buddy system.” Third, it would seem the general consensus — not just from the invidious mainstream media but from Clinton supporters too — that, far from smashing down a previously impenetrable social barrier by showing emotion, Senator Clinton just did what everyone’s wanted her to do all along. Part of the reason for Barack Obama’s wide-ranging appeal, and that of John McCain on the GOP side, is that they almost always seem like human beings in public. I really don’t think this is simply because they’re afforded more luxury in the public eye as men. (Case in point, the late Ann Richards.)

    By the way, to the men out there: If y’all are feeling left out of the moment, fear not: Chris Matthews may have set us back several generations, but Mitt Romney’s been out there carrying the torch for our own public humanity (as it seems to be defined these days.) Although, thus far — in Iowa and New Hampshire at least — he has not been greeted as a liberator.

    Update: “No woman is illegal“? Oh, please. That doesn’t even make any sense.

    Manchester Divided.

    So, the debates.

    Of course, every big show has an opening act, and the undercard tonight was the Republicans. I realize I’ve been slipping on the GOP coverage around these parts of late, and I apologize…I promise to catch up once the Dem side quiets down (As a show of good faith: hey, look! Romney won Cheney country.) Still, part of the reason I’ve been losing interest in the GOP’s internecine disputes this cycle is because — even notwithstanding the moldering albatross that is Dubya — their candidates are all so lousy, and everyone knows it. (The Iowa attendance numbers, where the Dems outnumbered Republicans 2-1, tell most of the story.) Still, my main impressions of the GOP side tonight were thus:

  • Nobody likes Mitt Romney. At various points Huckabee, McCain, Thompson, and Giuliani were all cracking wise about his flip-flopping and such, and he’s not even the frontrunner anymore. (McCain’s up six.) I guess the rationale is a poor Romney showing in New Hampshire might knock him out early. That, and he’s been throwing his money around in negative ads. Either way, Romney was the primary punching bag for the majority of the debate.
  • Fred Thompson seemed older, more slothful, and less presidential than I remember him. His lazy contributions basically involved making fun of Ron Paul every so often. No wonder he hasn’t been catching fire.
  • Speaking of Ron Paul, he had the gleam of a true believer about him (the vaguely Gandalfian looks help), and it’d have been nice to see his brand of old-school, Robert Taft conservatism get a fairer hearing from his opponents, just so its more frightening aspects could be exposed. (Paul’s libertarianism sounds refreshingly anti-imperialistic on the foreign policy side. But on the domestic front, it’d mean the Gilded Age all over again.) Still, I can see why he’s drawing so many disgruntled young Republicans to his standard. And at least he’s trafficking in the realm of ideas.
  • Perhaps the trail is getting to him, but John McCain seemed like he was on autopilot all night. Still, as George Stephanopoulos noted in the post-game, he spent the night touting his conservative bona fides rather than his maverick cred, which will hopefully pay dividends for Obama among undecided independents.
  • Rudy Giuliani stayed in typical 9/11 9/11 9/11 form, with the aid of Ron Paul’s speaking of uncomfortable truths about our overseas involvements. Still, it seemed clear he’s just biding his time until Florida. He barely went after frontrunner (and his most obvious rival) John McCain at all.
  • I actually thought Mike Huckabee displayed some impressive kung-fu, for the most part. I still think he’s fundamentally unelectable (From his son’s Frist-like murdering of a stray dog to the horrible Wayne Dumond case to the AIDS quarantines, Gov. Huckaboom’s closet has more skeletons than Undercity.) Still, given his evangelical backing, his aw shucks delivery, and his wilier-than-you’d-first-expect responses, I could see him causing serious problems for his GOP competitors, and he gave the best answer to WMUR announcer Scott Spradling’s Obama question.
  • Speaking of which — yes, in case you missed it, the Republican field was asked how they’d run against Senator Obama should he be the Democratic nominee. (Remember the earlier claims that Clinton was being treated unfairly in the Russert debate? Well, Obama got the exact same frontrunner treatment from Gibson and Spradling tonight in both debates, and, by and large, he handled it fine.) Anyway, in case you’re wondering, Huckabee and Paul praised the Obama phenomenon, Romney tried to claim the mantle of change for himself, McCain touted his own experience, Thompson muttered some stale two-decade old tripe about “liberals,” and Giuliani brought up…wait for it, wait for it…national security. (Obama’s later response to all this: “I was going back and forth between the Republicans and football…[But] you know, we’ve seen this movie before. We know the Republican playbook.“) The point being, none of these guys seemed to have anything close to an answer yet for the Obama phenomenon. (All they wanted to do was voice their tried-and-tested soundbites about Hillarycare.) Which brings us to:

    The Democrats. First off, I should say — and I’m sure it’s obvious by now anyway, judging by the content here the past few days — that I watched the debate not only as an Obama partisan but as someone profoundly irritated by Sen. Clinton for her lowball maneuvers of recent days. So, grab that shaker of salt and let’s proceed…

  • I thought Barack Obama did a solid job overall, and was strongest in the first half of the debate. He seemed knowledgable, thoughtful, decisive, and, most importantly, electable. He showed an ability to discuss specifics about the issues on the table, kept his larger narrative about hope and change intact, and made no serious blunders that would impede his post-Iowa momentum, which is all he really had to do. Obama scored his best response to Senator Clinton’s blunderbuss offense early on, when he calmly explained the differences between their two health plans and put the lie to her flip-flopping charges coolly and succinctly. For the most part, though, and as the evening progressed, he exercised his frontrunner privilege and stayed above the fray. Of course, he was aided in this strategy by… (Cue “Aunt Jackie“: “If that’s your man, then tag him in….“)
  • John Edwards, who performed just as well as he usually does. Clearly, the Edwards team made the tactical decision to try and knock out Clinton now and get it to a race between he and Obama. Thus: “‘Any time you speak out powerfully for change, the forces of status quo attack. He [Obama] believes deeply in change, and I believe deeply in change. And any time you’re fighting for that, I mean, I didn’t hear these kinds of attacks from Senator Clinton when she was ahead.‘” (The NYT is casting this as “Two Rivals Go After Defiant Clinton,” but that’s not in fact correct. Clinton went after Obama, expecting help from Edwards, who instead returned fire at Clinton. At that point, Clinton boiled over and Obama — recognizing Edwards would be an ally for the night rather than an adversary — magnanimously withdrew from the field. He didn’t “go after” anybody, and, as the frontrunner, why should he?)

    At any rate, Edwards’ decision to go after Clinton rather than Obama may seem like “ganging up,” but I can see the sense of it. For one, it’s clear to all now that Obama’s tapped in to a yearning for change that transcends the usual political categories, and, Edwards has decided he might be able to win the populism versus progressivism discussion between two “change” candidates if Clinton’s out of the picture. (It’d be a fascinating debate.) For another, I’ve been reading a lot of online coverage about the election post-Iowa, and it seems pretty clear that Edwards supporters are livid that he’s still considered the forgotten man in the race. Given that he bested Clinton in Iowa and is still being treated as an also-ran, he has a legitimate axe to grind with her.

  • Bill Richardson was there too.

  • Her back to the wall, Hillary Clinton was more combative than we’ve seen in any previous debate, calling Obama a flip-flopper right out of the box and not letting up much thereafter. (Obama’s jujitsu was solid, though, and he deftly deflected most of her attacks with specifics and a smile, until Edwards took over the fight. His only misstep may have been not playing along nicely enough with Clinton’s “I’m just a girl” act, although given everything Clinton’s been throwing at him in recent days, I’d say it’s a forgivable sin.)

    The Senator’s attack-mode, to my admittedly jaundiced eye, was unseemly. For one, this was the first time I can remember Clinton playing the “first woman president” card so flagrantly, and it reeked of desperation. (To his credit, Obama didn’t feel the need to return the wallowing in identity politics.) For another, her anger blazed through at certain moments, particularly after Edwards showed he wasn’t going to be her friend tonight, and I doubt it played very well to New Hampshire’s undecided. (But again, I’m not a good judge of this sort of thing by now. Lines like “We don’t need to be raising the false hopes of our country about what can be delivered” just drive me to distraction.)

    Speaking of which, one of the more intriguing volleys between Clinton and Obama happened late in the game, when Clinton once again tried to push the “false prophet” angle against Obama. Said Clinton: “So you know, words are not actions. And as beautifully presented and passionately felt as they are, they are not action. What we’ve got to do is translate talk into action and feeling into reality.” Obama’s response: “There have been periods of time in our history where a president inspired the American people to do better. And I think we’re in one of those moments right now. I think the American people are hungry for something different and can be mobilized around big changes; not incremental changes, not small changes…The truth is actually words do inspire. Words do help people get involved. Don’t discount that power, because when the American people are determined that something is going to happen, then it happens. And if they are disaffected and cynical and fearful and told that it can’t be done, then it doesn’t. I’m running for president because I want to tell them, yes, we can. And that’s why I think they’re responding in such large numbers.” That sums up a good deal of Obama’s oratorical appeal, and explains why Clinton, no matter what she says to the contrary, could never be the candidate of change. She just doesn’t get it. As I said in my progressivism post of a few weeks ago: Without vision, the people perish. America’s left is plumb sick of the poll-driven, over-triangulated brand of GOP-lite policy wonk Clinton represents. Put aside the V-Chips and school uniforms: We are looking to dream big again.

  • Thank You, Iowa: The Obama Bounce?

    Rasmussen has the first post-Iowa NH poll out for consumption, and Barack Obama has leapt up to ten over Hillary Clinton in the Granite State. “Rasmussen Reports, in a telephone survey of 510 likely Democratic voters on Friday, found 37 percent backing Barack Obama, 27 percent for Clinton, 19 percent for John Edwards and 8 percent for Bill Richardson…The poll’s admitted margin of error is 4.5 percent.” (Give me a second while I stifle a mighty Yawp! to the heavens.) Keep in mind, though, that late rush polls like this are more likely to have problems (particularly when done on a Friday), And, of course, there’s a debate tonight on ABC: Republicans at 7pm, Democrats at 8:45. Update: Don’t break out the champagne just yet. A new CNN/WMUR poll has Clinton and Obama tied at 33%. Hmm. I preferred the first one. Update 2: Two more post-Iowa polls: One Concord Monitor, has Obama up 1, 34% to 33%. The other, American Research Group, has Obama up 12, 38% to 26%.

    Update 3: What a difference a day makes. As of Sunday night, new polls have Obama up 10 (CNN-WMUR), up 12 (Rasmussen), and up 13 (USAT-Gallup). Looking pretty solid…let’s drive this thing home.

    Obama’s Iowa, By the Numbers.

    This feels good. It’s just like I imagined it when I was talking to my Kindergarten teacher.” As the focus now moves to New Hampshire in four days (here’s a good historical overview of the Iowa-to-NH bounce), some interesting facts about Obama’s resounding victory in the Iowa Caucus last night:

  • 239,000 Dems caucused last night, shattering the previous attendance record of 124,000 in 2004. (2000 saw 61,000 Dems in attendance.) “Iowa Democrats outnumbered their Republican counterparts by an almost two-to-one margin.
  • First-timers came out in droves. “First-time caucus goers, who accounted for 57 percent of Democratic participants, favored Obama, 41 percent, over Clinton, 29 percent, or Edwards, 18 percent. Among repeat attenders, Edwards led slightly.
  • About 93% of the Iowa caucusgoers were white. “Obama…won whites, by a six-point margin, 33-27 percent over Clinton…Obama won blacks in Iowa with 72 percent support, his single best group.
  • The gender gap seen in early polls did not emerge last night: In fact, “In Iowa, Obama beat Clinton by 35 percent to 30 percent among women. He did better still among men, with 35 percent support, to 24 percent for Edwards and 23 percent for Clinton.
  • The generational gap, on the other hand, was rather stark. “Among all caucus-goers under age 45, a smashing 50 percent supported Obama, compared with just 17 percent for Edwards and 16 percent for Clinton. Among those under 30, Obama went even higher, to 57 percent. Among seniors, by contrast — nearly a quarter of participants — it was Clinton 45 percent, Edwards 22, Obama 18.” “‘This is as big a generation gap as I’ve ever seen in politics,’ said CNN’s Bill Schneider.
  • Obama also won by a very sizable margin among independents, about a fifth of caucus goers, with 41 percent support to Edwards’ 23 percent and Clinton’s 17 percent.
  • Data suggests that “second-choice voters” actually went for Edwards, meaning Obama won handily with his “first-choice” support.
  • A big basketball fan, Sen. Obama spent an hour caucus morning playing a pick-up game with friends. It took awhile longer than I’d once hoped, but we may finally get that hoop at the White House…

  • IA-Day | GitM for Obama.

    An Early Round Knockout…

    …or a new Democratic Frontrunner?

    Barring a split decision of some kind, we should have our first real sense of how Election 2008 will all shake out by late this evening. Obviously, it seems somewhat bizarre to choose our two presidential candidates — a full eleven months before Election Day — solely by who can best navigate the byzantine complexities of the Iowa caucus system. But the cycle being as accelerated as it is, and with money, name recognition, and the post-Iowa press bounce playing the roles that they do, it’s hard to see any other Democratic candidate gaining enough traction between now and Super Duper Tuesday (February 5) to stop Senator Clinton should she win tonight. And — given her high negatives — it’s almost as hard to envision how Clinton might be able to come back should she definitively lose Iowa and New Hampshire to Obama or Edwards. So, with that mind, it’s seems like the last, best time to write up an primary endorsement. Now, as long-time readers might remember, I threw myself behind Bill Bradley in 2000 and tepidly endorsed Howard Dean in 2004, so the track record around here isn’t too good. But, hope springs eternal, so regarding 2008…

    THE REST OF THE FIELD:

    Even if it is a bit unfair, the fact that no other candidate besides the top three is breaking the 15% viability threshold in the polls helps facilitate clumping them together like this. Still, in a perfect world, CHRIS DODD in particular would merit a closer look from voters. An experienced Senate progressive who’s stressed the importance of universal service, Dodd would likely make a fine president. But, for whatever reason, Dodd never established the media presence to be a true contender in 2008, and he goes down as the top of the second tier.

    Senator JOE BIDEN has run a much better campaign than I ever expected, particularly given his dismal performance during the Alito hearings and his “clean and articulate” flub out of the gate. Indeed, Biden has shown a nuanced understanding of global issues and an impressive command over the foreign policy domain, and he has distinguished himself in debates with wit and (surprisingly enough) brevity. If he is inclined to take the job, I expect he’d make a fine Secretary of State in the next Democratic administration (although he may face some competition from the likes of Richard Holbrooke, particularly if Clinton wins the nomination.)

    His considerable record notwithstanding, BILL RICHARDSON has never made a positive impression on me this election cycle. He has scowled his way through debates (when he wasn’t capitulating to Clinton), he’s shown himself to be a practitioner of the Dubya Fratboy school of leadership (nicknames, backslapping, etc.), and I’ve yet to hear anything from him that seems even remotely inspiring. In a way, he’s been the Fred Thompson of the Democratic side — the theoretical Dark Horse candidate who’s been a total non-starter. At any rate, the fact that the New Mexico Governor can’t even break the top three in nearby Nevada suggests his presidential bid isn’t long for this world. (For what it’s worth, he’s apparently asked his supporters to back Obama in the caucuses.)

    As in the 2004 cycle, DENNIS KUCINICH has been a breath of fresh air on stage — he’s the one (semi-viable) candidate who unabashedly refuses to join his colleagues in the protective camouflage of GOP-lite centrism. (This is no small feat given how reflexive this knee-jerk “triangulating” tendency has become among Dems in recent years.) Still, even he recognizes that Iowa will not be kind to him, and has also asked his supporters to vote Obama. So, (MIKE GRAVEL notwithstanding, I suppose, although, despite his impressive record of service, he never seemed much more than a novelty act), that leaves the Big Three:

    HILLARY CLINTON:

    Senator Clinton is a smart, tough, and formidable leader, and although the presidential merits of her experience as First Lady has lately been called more into question, no one can deny that she’s a battle-tested veteran of the partisan wars of the 1990s, or that she’s the candidate most accustomed to the vicissitudes of the GOP attack machine. She’d make a very good president, particularly compared to George W. Bush and any Republican running.

    Still, I’ve already described my major concerns about Clinton’s candidacy here, here, and particularly here, so if you’ll permit me to quote from that last entry, my issues are thus: “[1] She’s thoroughly lousy on campaign finance reform, to my mind the issue that bears on virtually all others; [2] she apparently didn’t have the wherewithal or leadership instincts to realize the Iraq war was a terrible idea in 2003 (it didn’t take all that much to figure it out, particularly when you figure how much more information Clinton had access to than we did); [3] her view of centrism is apparently to act like Joe Lieberman every so often; and [4] most of the nation has already decided for various reasons that they don’t like her.” Once you factor in her unseemly corporate backers, her woeful view of human rights versus national security, her recent campaign missteps and tribulations, and the dynasty issue to that list, I find it hard to get very enthused about Senator Clinton’s candidacy.

    If 2004 taught us anything, it’s that the electability issue is a bit of a canard. We picked John Kerry because we believed he was more “electable” than Howard Dean, and that may have even been true. But can anyone name a single state that Kerry won in the general election that Dean wouldn’t also have carried? All that being said, given her very strong negatives, I do think Senator Clinton is not only the least “electable” of the Big Three, but the only candidate — in either party — who could manage to reunite the fractured GOP this cycle. It may not be her fault, but she will invariably bring out the wingnuts in force to vote against her. I’d even go so far as to say that the GOP is banking on Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. It’s the best possible outcome for them, and they know it.

    And given that the leadership Clinton offers is the same unambitious and uninspiring blend of triangulated-to-death DLC centrism practiced by her husband, why even take the chance? This is not to say Bill Clinton was a bad president, not at all. Given the times he was working in and the low-down, unprincipled miscreants he was often forced to contend with, you could even say he accomplished amazing things, once he got his sea legs. Still, we are now at a moment when the Republican party is in rout. The conservative movement which began in 1964, coalesced during the 70′s and 80′s, and gave us the likes of Reagan, Gingrich, and Bush has now — at long last — been thoroughly discredited. Our nation has paid a heavy price for this realization, in both blood and treasure. Now more than ever, it is time for Democrats to shake off the protective camouflage and step into the sunlight. Put simply, it is time for change.

    JOHN EDWARDS:

    John Edwards is a candidate I’ve always thought highly of and, indeed, I voted for him in the NY primary in 2004. While he got off to a shaky start this cycle, Edwards — arguably the candidate with the most to win or lose today — has improved considerably over the past few months. In fact, I probably agreed with him more than any other candidate onstage in most of the debates. He was often the only person to suggest that the current system is fundamentally broken, and that stronger lobbying and campaign finance laws are needed to cleanse the taint of money from our political process and to make it responsive again to the needs and aspirations of everyday voters. As I said in the two long posts on progressivism several weeks ago, I agree — as many progressives did a century ago — that the unchecked influence of vast sums of money in Washington is arguably the central political problem facing our republic. Countless terrible decisions made by this administration, and by their Democratic counterparts in Congress, flow directly from the sad fact that dollars speak louder than people. And all the 12-point policy proposals in the world on health care, taxes, education, whathaveyou, won’t change a thing until this underlying problem is recognized and rectified. To my mind, Edwards should be applauded for ringing the alarm bell loudly and strongly. (Not for nothing has Ralph Nader endorsed him.) If this argument carries Edwards all the way to the presidency, the result would almost assuredly be good for the country.

    That being said, if I were caucusing in Iowa today, I would not be voting for John Edwards. Not because of any fault of Edwards — he’s my strong second choice — but rather because I think there is one other candidate out there who shows more progressive potential. More on him in a moment, but, before I switch topics, here’s the rub. As much as I admire Edwards for articulating the problem before us, I don’t actually agree all that much with his solution to that problem. Put simply, Edwards is sounding the chord of populism, and populism is not progressivism. Populism speaks in a language of class, of insiders and outsiders, of haves and have-nots. Populism is often characterized by free-floating anger towards an elite “insider” cadre of some sort, and, while it’s reductionist to group everyone together like this, populism has worked as well for Tom Watson and Huey Long as it has for Joe McCarthy and Ronald Reagan. It’s a blunt instrument that despises elites of any kind and relies on and perpetuates an us-versus-them mentality among Americans. From everything I’ve seen of him in the debates and otherwise, John Edwards isn’t really using the inclusive language of progressive citizenship to make his case. He’s wielding the often divisive cudgel of populism. Now, if I have to pick a side, I’m obviously with the people against the oligarchs. And if this is the only way America will wake up and recognize the stench of legalized corruption, so be it. But I still think this nation will embrace civic progressivism along the lines I recently discussed, given the right leadership…

    BARACK OBAMA:

    If Edwards has been articulating the key progressive problem — corruption in government — then Barack Obama embodies the key progressive solution. Like no other candidate we’ve seen on the Left in nearly a half-century, Obama has the potential to restore Americans’ faith in government and bring people back into the political process. Many skeptics among the punditry have derided Obama as a “hopemonger,” but, to my mind, his optimistic appeal shouldn’t be taken lightly. In a country where less than half of us vote anymore, anything that encourages people who have felt disenfranchised to look anew at or become enthused about our common citizenship is a godsend. In short, Obama — young, thoughtful, intelligent, charismatic — seems the only candidate with the potential to spark a true progressive revival. True, Obama isn’t quite speaking the language of progressivism yet. But he’s been veering closer to it than either Clinton or Edwards (Note, for example, the line quoted in his stump speech at the link above: “Americans all across the country are hungry for — desperate for — a new type of politics. Something different. A politics focused not on what divides us but on our common values and our common ideals.” This argument that we are one people, all in it together and bound together as citizens by our commonalities, is the very warp and woof of civic progressivism.)

    What goes for the nation goes for the globe. As Andrew Sullivan noted in his endorsement of Obama back in November, an Obama presidency single-handedly “rebrands” the United States in the eyes of the world. No other candidate running suggests so immediately and profoundly that we live by the democratic ideals we espouse, that we are a nation of diversity committed to individual flourishing, and that America is a land where anyone and everyone has the opportunity to rise to their full potential.

    This holds true for our enemies as much as our friends (many of whom will be glad to see anyone but Dubya in the Oval Office.) As Sullivan put it, “Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man — Barack Hussein Obama — is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.

    Progressive potential and global symbolism aside, Obama has shown himself to possess the requisite talents needed to make an excellent president. As we all know, he was the only major candidate with the judgment to speak out against the Iraq War from the start. In debates, he’s proven himself light on his feet and displayed a quick, voracious mind. (As Slate‘s Michael Kinsley put it, “When I hear him discussing some issue, I hear intelligence and reflection and almost a joy in thinking it through.“) During his tenure in the Senate, he’s shown a pronounced ability to work with people across the aisle, and counts among his friends and working partners such paleolithic conservatives as Sam Brownback and Tom Coburn. His Dreams from My Father testifies to a life of travel and experience that would serve him well in the Oval Office. And, unlike Senator Clinton, Obama has been a friend to campaign finance and lobbying reform, which remains crucial to any real change happening in the next four-to-eight years.

    Now, obviously there are some lacunae surrounding Obama. He is a young man, and relatively new to national politics. He has admittedly been vague at times, and could have done considerably more these past few months, when given the nation’s ear, to highlight the issues he finds important. There’s a possibility — maybe even a strong possibility — that he’ll end up a Tommy Carcetti-like president: a well-meaning reformer outmatched and buffeted to and fro by the entrenched forces arrayed against him. After nearly eight years of Dubya, Washington is pretty screwed up these days, and I’m not naive enough to think any one politician can undo all the damage that’s been wrought in recent years. Still, given the Democratic field, my money’s on Barack Obama. He has the potential to be a very special candidate — the kind that comes around only once or twice a generation — and I hope this evening sees the first of many successes for his campaign.

    GitM votes Obama.

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