Changes Around Here?

Well, well, well.  There may be some changes around here soon:


Along with the departures of campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle and deputy campaign manager Mike Henry, the Clinton campaign today revealed that two of its long-time online operation leaders are moving on.

"As part of the expansion of our Internet department following a tremendously successful month online, we will be adding 4 new staffers, two of whom will replace Kevin Thurman and Crystal Patterson, who moved on to new positions," said Clinton internet director Peter Daou. "Kevin and Crystal have been valued members of our team and we are grateful to them for their contribution to the campaign."

Thurman had come to the Clinton campaign from Tom Vilsack's brief presidential effort, while Patterson previously worked for Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, who this year endorsed Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

Garance Franke-Ruta - Clinton Reshuffles Online Team Washington Post 12 Feb 08

Ring any bells for any of you?  I wonder what the recommended list is going to look like next week, eh?  Thoughts?  Did you know that the Hillary campaign reported $500k in 'parking' costs for staff?  I wonder where they were parking.

There's more...

Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword

A recent erosion of support for Hillary Clinton in national polling is evident in the following results:

PRINCETON, NJ -- Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are now essentially tied in the Gallup Poll Daily tracking results for Feb. 8-10, with Clinton at 46% and Obama at 44%. Clinton's lead over Obama has eroded over the past five days. The current three-day rolling average is the first to begin to reflect the results of Obama's strong wins in three primary and caucus states Feb. 9, although he was gaining even before those results became known to Democrats.

Clinton and Obama face off again Tuesday in the "Potomac primaries" in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Most observers make Obama the favorite in these three states, suggesting that when we know the results, and they begin to reflect in the Gallup Poll Daily tracking in Wednesday's interviewing, there is the possibility that Obama could gain even more on Clinton.

[...]

Methodology: Gallup is interviewing 1,000 U.S. adults nationwide each day during 2008. The results reported here are based on combined data from Feb. 8-10, 2008, including interviews with 978 Republican and Republican-leaning voters, and 1,279 Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters. For results based on these samples, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Gallup Daily: Tracking Election 2008 Gallup 11 Feb 08

The Clinton campaign strategy has long relied on her advantages of name recognition and arguably the most popular brand in Democratic politics to provide a foundation for her candidacy.  Her consistently favourable, and frankly impressive, national polling has been a cornerstone of this approach.  This advantage may no longer be working for her quite as effectively as it is has for the first ten months of her campaign and it is hard to ramp up enthusiasm with a strategy based on iconic product positioning and long-standing market share when it is challenged by unforeseen performance from a new and dynamically successful competitor.  What new demographics can she mobilise to fend off this strong showing?

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Process vs Policy: Campaign Outreach

A weekly candidate supporter diary for MyDD

It is clear that the Democratic party membership is just about evenly divided, at this time, on their choice for a nominee for the 2008 presidential campaign.  And it is not necessarily a division over policy, with the notable exception of the war in Iraq and US foreign policy in general, which has been discussed elsewhere.  The domestic policy distinctions between the two remaining candidates continue to be parsed and analysed ad infinitum, which is fair enough, but the essence of the differences between the two emerging constituencies do not hinge on 'mandated' vs 'unmandated' health care or Social Security donut holes.  There is a much more fundamental difference in their beliefs and aspirations and it forms the basis for the division which has emerged in this primary election and is reflected in the appeal, and values, of the respective candidacies.


Politics is the art of the possible.

Otto Von Bismarck, remark, Aug. 11, 1867

Otto von Bismark was a consummate politician, whatever one's views on the collateral benefits or damage of a united and nationalistic Germany, his life's work, on the 20th Century.  The quotation cited is the political equivalent of Woody Allen's 'Ninety percent of life is just showing up', hard to argue with and betraying subtler meanings with time and practice.  It has become a touchstone for reality-based leaders and their supporters in their quest to shift the boundaries of legislation, policy and jurisprudence.  And also a justification for proposing limited objectives, accepting partial gains, and satisfaction with incremental victories.  Why wouldn't we strive for single-payer health care that dispensed with two layers of private sector, profit-oriented service providers?  Just ask Otto.  But if politics is the art of the possible the processes with which we conduct our government, both legal and de facto, are the limits within which this art is practised.  

When Hillary talks about change she is talking about authoring and passing new, and arguably important, legislation, and she constantly emphasises her experience with the existing established conventions of government as a strong argument in her favour, but she is clearly referencing the art of politics as we are familiar with it:


'So I am offering 35 years of experience making change and the results to show for it....if you want to know what change each of us will bring about, look at what we've done.'

Senator Hillary Clinton - The Democratic Debate in New Hampshire NYT 5 Jan 08

When Obama talks about change he is talking about re-engineering the context in which this process occurs, not the constitutional aspects, which he understands very well, but the accretions of convention which have surrounded, and often obstruct, the will of the people in electing their leaders, understanding the workings of government, gaining access to information and getting exposure to the decision making which takes place on their behalf:


'Look, I think it's easier to be cynical and just say, "You know what, it can't be done because Washington's designed to resist change." But in fact 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.'

Senator Barack Obama - The Democratic Debate in New Hampshire NYT 5 Jan 08

Many of these conventions have nothing to do with the constitutional process but are yet strongly limiting factors which constrain the 'art of the possible.'  Many of them have more to do with money, and it's step-child, influence, than with the processes of representative democracy as defined by our laws.

There is a wealth of evidence in Senator Obama's proposals to suggest that altering this de facto blueprint of our political machinery informs his candidacy and it is driven by an intention to effect process-oriented change, in office, rather than merely implement a laundry list of specific policies.  His attitudes toward Federally registered lobbyist contributions and public campaign finance, for example, have become apparent as his campaign has unfolded.  Certainly he has a portfolio of specific policies, which have been discussed at length and compared, sometimes unfavourably among progressives, to those of his opponents.  But even in these there is evidence that he assumes that 'process' is the key to their success or failure.  

This series of diaries attempts to explore these aspects of his candidacy and will focus initially on how this is reflected in his campaign to date, rather than proposals for his administration, to illustrate how this paradigm has informed his campaign in ways for which the evidence is already before us.  

This first diary deals with how his campaign has established outreach to supporters and how he has attempted to create the huge constituency he will require to gain the Democratic party nomination for president.

There's more...

Let Them Eat Health Care

Well, Hillary has dropped the other shoe on 'mandates' and suggested she is considering garnishing wages to enforce them:


WASHINGTON - Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday she might be willing to garnish the wages of workers who refuse to buy health insurance to achieve coverage for all Americans.

The New York senator has criticized presidential rival Barack Obama for pushing a health plan that would not require universal coverage. Clinton has not always specified the enforcement measures she would embrace, but when pressed on ABC's "This Week," she said: "I think there are a number of mechanisms" that are possible, including "going after people's wages, automatic enrollment."

Charles Babington - Clinton health plan may mean tapping pay AP 3 Feb 08

'Going after people's wages' seems an unfortunate choice of words from someone who usually chooses them carefully but I do admire her for openly stating the obvious after ducking the question recently at the debate.  This is the electoral downside to the theoretical benefits of mandated health care and she is taking it head on.  It is an admirable statement of principle and I respect her for her integrity and determination on this issue.

One wonders at the timing, it seems an inconvenient moment for her to make this unequivocal case but it will surely draw the admiration of those who strongly back her proposal, of which there are many in the progressive wing of the party.  And at least it gets this aspect of the proposal into the public square.

I am coming to appreciate her integrity in the domestic causes for which her candidacy stands and this is an excellent example of her steadfast support for her policies.  She obviously is willing to shoulder the burden of electoral fall-out on this issue and march on.  Good for her.

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Ethel Kennedy Endorses Obama

Yet another Kennedy endorsement for Senator Obama, this one from RFK's widow, Ethel Kennedy:


"Over these past few years, I've watched Senator Obama inspire Americans from all walks of life to believe in real change and a new sense of hope and possibility. He's a magnetic force, drawing the nation together for the common good and galvanizing us all to help shape our country's future," Kennedy added.

Obama said in a statement he "was humbled to read Mrs. Kennedy's statement. Few people hold such a cherished place in the hearts of Americans, and it's an extraordinary honor to have her support."

Ethel has clearly been impressed with Obama for some time. When Obama was invited in November 2005 to speak at a commemoration of Bobby Kennedy's 80th birthday, she referred to Obama as "our next president."

"I think he feels it. He feels it just like Bobby did," Mrs. Kennedy said in an interview with the Tribune that day, comparing her late husband's quest for social justice to Mr. Obama's. "He has the passion in his heart. He's not selling you. It's just him."

Mike Dorning - Ethel Kennedy, RFK's widow, backs Barack Obama 2 Feb 08

Interestingly, this splits the RFK clan's matriarch from three of her own children in endorsements for this campaign, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, Kathleen Kennedy Tonwnsend and Kerry Kennedy Cuomo all have endorsed Clinton.

C'mon Al, it's now or never.

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Obama Trending Up in Gallup Daily Tracking Poll

Crossposted at OneMillionStrong

Daily tracking polls haven't meant much before now but are hard to resist in these last days headed into Super Tuesday.  The Rasmussen Daily Tracking polls have often been discussed, and dismissed, in diaries and comments here but the Gallup Daily Tracking seems a horse of a different colour.


The latest Democratic numbers show Hillary Clinton with a 43% to 39% advantage over Barack Obama among Democratic voters nationwide. That four-point lead is the narrowest since early January, and it is a continuation of gains by Obama. The impact of John Edwards' exit from the Democratic race is less clear. Wednesday night's numbers (the first with Edwards excluded from the ballot) show no clear indication that either candidate is benefiting disproportionately. Clinton and Obama will debate in California tonight, which could affect Democrats' support for the two candidates going into the weekend before Super Tuesday's primaries and caucuses.

Jeff Jones - Gallup Daily: Tracking Election 2008

It's encouraging for Obama supporters to see Hillary's historic lead eroding just in time for the twenty-two state caucus and primary circus.  The expectations of her finishing the contest there have been largely forgotten and both campaigns seem prepared to fight on after Super Tuesday.  I believe that the remaining high confidence that Hillary will keep Obama at arms length from winning a threatening number of delegates must now be based solely on her performance in certain Congressional Districts and other demographic minutiae which is beyond my ability to comprehend or analyse.

Some thoughts on the Gallup Daily Tracking poll:


Whatever you think of IVR polls -- and the methodology certainly remains controversial in the survey research world -- the Gallup program is distinct from Rasmussen in other ways than the use of live interviewers. According to Newport, the Gallup Daily uses the "same robust methodology" as all other Gallup polls: live interviewers, a random-digit-dial sample, as many as 5 "call-backs" to those not home when they call, cell-phone sampling to reach those in cell-phone only households (something Gallup also introduced to their standard methodology this month) and Spanish speaking interviewers available for when they reach a household in which only Spanish is spoken.

That "call back" procedure may sound excruciatingly wonky, but it is important and a key distinction from the Rasmussen tracking. So far at least, Gallup has used a procedure that dialed each sampled number as many as five times over successive nights if the initial attempts were unsuccessful (that is, if the number was busy or if no one answered the telephone). They structure their calling procedure so that the sample on any given day is equivalent to a sample dialed for many days. Each day has the same mix of attempts (first, second, third and so on).

The Gallup Daily survey design has two critical benefits, according to Newport. First, obviously, it allows us to attempt to monitor the impact of major campaign events on a daily basis, such as the Barack Obama's victory in South Carolina.

Mark Blumenthal - The Gallup Daily www.pollster.com 28 Jan 08

The more conservative www.pollster.com analysis uses an aggregate of conventional national polls and is much less sensitive to daily variations, but the trend is also starting to emerge pretty clearly, if more slowly.

I am having a bit of trouble synthesising the myriad individual state polls, not to mention prediction markets, headed into this crucial period in the campaign.  The daily tracking results, as a trend, seem to show a significant movement for Senator Obama and are possibly starting also to show the influence of John Edwards' decision to drop out of the race. The longer term analysis actually shows a more pronounced trend but a wider spread.  But I am still unsure of what I am seeing here and perplexed on a number of other points and would welcome discussion of the following questions, among others.

Will Obama peak?  Has he already?  Is this trend too late to make serious inroads into Hillary's long-term lead nationally?  Are we at last seeing uncommitteds making up there mind?  Does large numbers of pre-submitted ballots in key states make these results irrelevant?  Why are the state polls still showing Hillary with convincing margins?  We shall soon see the answers to all of these questions.  This is getting very interesting.  What's the verdict folks, is this looking closer all the time or are we just seeing a smokescreen of irrelevant data?

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Obama Reaches 250K Donors in January

Nothing short of amazing.  And just a short time shy of midnight on the eve of a debate that Obama, one-on-one with Hillary, certainly didn't lose.  On a leadership basis he may have even advanced his claim.  Anyhow, accepting that the money game doesn't mean so much in the lead-up to Super Tuesday, the fact that the Obama campaign even thought they could do this should tell us something about the momentum which has been recently established for his candidacy.


We just hit our goal of 250,000 donors in the month of January. Unbelievable...So many things about this campaign have been historic -- and today, we made history again. No other primary campaign has come close to seeing such participation from so many people in such a short period of time.

www.BarackObama.com

Though this is probably not going to make much splash in the press it is noteworthy, coming on the heels of the extraordinary contribution totals.  Personally this tells me that the Super Tuesday races are very much in play.  Your thoughts?

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For a Generation

A candidate supporter diary for MyDD

Beginning in 1792 as a national group of voters supporting Thomas Jefferson the Democratic party has had a long and noble history:


In accord with Jeffersonian philosophy, there was eventually established a party which adopted the following political principles: popular control of government; wide extension of suffrage and the fullest measure of personal liberty consistent with law and order; strict interpretation of the constitution and preservation of the rights of the states; opposition to centralized power in the federal government; religious liberty, free speech and free press.

Encyclopedia Brittanica - Democratic Party (US) VII-186, 1962

From Jefferson's election in 1801 'Democrats' were in almost total control of the presidency for four decades.  The emergence of Andrew Jackson in 1828 established a man of 'the people' in the White House rather than the aristocrats by birth who had held the party in trust, Jackson turned the party over to them.  It's ideological raison d'etre was anti-Federalism and the success was so complete that the Federalist party disbanded in 1812, leaving the commercially motivated Whigs as the opposition.  It is interesting to note that the Democratic party was then known as the Democrat-Republican party.  But there was one compelling and contentious issue which soon faced the party in the 1850's, slavery, and the Democrats, with broad representation in the anti-abolishionist South, ignored or compromised the issue in the interest of unity.  Under Van Buren the Democratic party came more completely under the dominance of the South, which demanded the right to extend slavery into new territories and states as counterbalance to the political influence and economic power of the industrialised North-east.

The 'states rights' platform was emphasised in response to the economic implications of the citizenship and extension of the franchise to slaves.  A progressive movement towards exactly this aim led to the creation of the opposing Republican party in 1854:


The new party was created as an act of defiance against what activists denounced as the Slave Power--the powerful class of slaveholders who were working together to control the federal government and to spread slavery nationwide. The new party emphasized a vision of modernizing higher education, banking, railroads, industry, and cities, while promising free homesteads to farmers. The party initially had its base in the Northeast and Midwest.

Republican Party (United States) - Wikipedia

As abolition became a more broadly popular issue in non-slave states an uneasy tension arose among Democrats, coming to a head at the Democratic convention of 1860 in, of all places, South Carolina, where the slavery issue split the party into Northern and Southern factions.  This disastrous North-South division led to Republican Abraham Lincoln's minority victory in 1860 which he won due to the split in the Democratic vote between two nominees.

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Changing the Game

A weekly candidate supporter diary for MyDD

The resistance to Barack Obama's candidacy in the progressive blogosphere is significant and representative.  The objections to his style and strategy are fundamental and founded on the long-standing perception, for which there is indeed ample evidence, of the political process in the United States as a partisan struggle in which the ends justify the means, no quarter is expected or given and the ideological divisions of the two competing factions are irreconcilable.  How did we get here?:


The Reagan win ushered in both 12 straight years of Republican control of the White House and a conservative era overall. In 1992, Democrat Bill Clinton took back control of the White House for his party, but that didn't stop the broader rise of both conservative sentiment and Republican strength. Two years after Mr. Clinton took office, in 1994, Republicans had one of the most-sweeping midterm elections in the last century, taking an additional 54 seats in the House and 10 in the Senate and winning control of both chambers. Mr. Clinton himself never won a majority of the national vote, and was elected in part by distancing himself from his Democratic party's traditional liberal base.

Gerald F Seib - WSJ An Epochal Battle 2 Jan 08

While that is the view from the 'other side of the hill' it is neither inaccurate nor exaggerated.  The conflict between the 'red' and 'blue' partisans has enlisted the ideological extremes of both factions as the 'base' from which electoral contests are waged, rallying whatever levies can be raised in the electorate to causes which emphasise the divisions between the respective camps.  As a consequence of the narrowly fought presidential conflicts, such as 2000, when the electoral process itself became a disputed issue, the rancour and sense of injustice further hardened the left and success at any cost emboldened their enemies.

But while ideologically divided, when it comes to the national economy and the prosperity of individual citizens, the distinctions seem to have become uncomfortably blurred to the detriment of the standing of both parties with their constituencies:


Since the Reagan era, the heroes of the nation's economic story have been valiant entrepreneurs who "took risks" and "created wealth." This narrative advanced the Republican cause and seeped deeply into the Democratic Party. If Iowa is any indication, there is a new narrative in which the old heroes are cast as the goats of the story and the new heroes are people like "the guy in Orange City." There is a thunder out of Iowa, and it is shaking both parties.

E J Dionne - The New Republic The Populist Surge 31 Dec 07

It is indicative that Huckabee and Obama, unrepresentative of their 'bases' respectively on economic, on the one hand, and partisanship and process issues on the other, are the apparent insurgents in this primary election cycle.  Is the partisan conflict just ideological 'bread and circuses' while power and influence is continuously aggrandised in the hands of an elite which is largely indifferent to the outcome, so long as their position remains unchallenged?  The electorate is apparently beginning to wonder.

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A Totally False Story

I wouldn't have given this little story much attention but it is now the third report of dissent in Hillary's campaign, and it is a doozy.  Also, try to keep track of the sources alleged for this story.  It gets confusing.  The story is framed in the context of Bill's assistance to Hillary's flagging campaign:


"She's in big trouble and he knows it,"a top Democratic operative and Hillary Clinton booster told the Daily News.

Sources familiar with the ex-President's thinking say he doesn't believe his wife's situation is desperate. But he's unhappy with her operation - once hailed as a juggernaut - and concerned she could lose the Democratic nomination without major alterations in strategy and staffing.

Kenneth R Bazinet and Thomas M DeFrank - New York Daily News 12 Dec 07

Generally when leaks like this occur they are either a fake out, the attempt by one faction to gain advantage or the sign of genuine trouble.  In this case it is complicated by the involvement of Bill, who may have his own agendas.  There's trouble, and sources, plural, familiar with the ex-president's thinking give us a hint where this message is coming from, it's from Bill.  But there's more, and from another source:


Another Democrat with close connections to the Clinton campaign describes Bill Clinton as "very engaged and very agitated. He's yelling at [chief strategist] Mark Penn a lot."

I've got to admit a certain amusement in imagining that scene, Penn is not one of my favourites and I'm guessing Bill is pretty expressive.  Not to mention former president.  Ouch.  But there's more.

There's more...

Diaries

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