Monday, December 31, 2007

Michael Bloomberg to enter the Presidential race ! ?

New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg's staff has been preparing for a possible presidential run on a third party ticket. This could be a very significant development given the ambivalence towards the frontrunners in both parties. Bloomberg is a Democrat but as a billionaire businessman would also have appeal to many Republicans, so his effect on the ultimate outcome is hard to predict and, unlike Ross Perot, Bloomberg arguably has a higher quotient of personal+professional appeal than Clinton, Obama, Giuliani, or Romney.

President Picker is waiting for more information on the possible Bloomberg candidacy, but at the very least this is a potentially destabilizing development for both parties. If more than two fo the current frontrunners appear to falter without a surge by the competition, look for Bloomberg to jump in to the Presidential race as a third party candidate.

Hey, I bet Donny Deutsch knows if Bloomberg will run and I'm hoping to meet him at CES Las Vegas. Deutsch's masterful advertising expertise helped bring Bill Clinton to power, and clearly marketing is a key skill for a presidential team so it wouldn't surprise me if Donny's already been contacted by the Bloomberg staff for ideas and thoughts on the possibility of a Bloomberg run.

Romney leads Republicans in latest Iowa poll

Mitt Romney now shows as the likely winner in Iowa, four points up on Huckabee according to the latest MSNBC McClatchy poll some 4 days before the caucuses. For Republicans the polls are more relevant becuase the caucus process does not involve "speaking up" for your candidate or switching support as does the Democratic caucus procedure which is more likely to shake things up.

Iowa Democrats effectively tied

Well, despite what I noted earlier about the mistaken impressions about "statistical ties" the latest MSNBC poll shows Edwards 24%, Clinton 23%, and Obama 22%. This result is *so close* that even though if this was your only source you'd want to bet on Edwards, it now appears that Iowa Democrats are pretty much tied, especially given the fact that averaging of the polls - probably a more effective measure than any single poll - now will give Edwards a boost from this top showing.

President Picker still thinks Clinton will win due to the football game advantage and Bill Clinton master strategics that we think are not properly reflected in the polls, though I have not researched the polling questions. In fact if the polls *do* reflect some apathy all bets could be off in a very close race where you may see higher-than-anticipated participation and guys skipping the game to go support their candidate.

In fact one wonders if Richardson and Biden may be negotiating behind the scenes right now for a VP slot. They will each have caucus people who will need to "switch candidates" due to the 15% caucus support threshold. Thus if they asked their supporters at the last minute to move to any of the top three it could be enough to swing the result, and the stakes in Iowa are high enough for Obama, Clinton, and Edwards that any of them might agree.

Desmoines, Iowa - Presidential tourism in action

The Desmoines Register, which I think is Iowa's main newspaper, has a neat piece showcasing tourism in Desmoines where many of the campaigns have a rather large prescence, and the election mania is reaching it's peak as the presidential caucuses loom.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Iowa Republican Race: Romney vs Huckabee

Recent surges for Mike Huckabee make him a real contender in Iowa, and president picker now thinks Huckabee could even win Iowa although Romney will certainly be close. We continue to predict a Romney win in Iowa.

Recent polls show Romney and Huckabee neck and neck, each with about 30% in Iowa. McCain's weak Iowa showing reflects the problems with a system that puts so much emphasis on Iowa, where (stupid and foolish) heavy subsidies for Ethanol are popular. McCain, much to his credit, has opposed these subsidies and lost a lot of votes for doing that. McCain is now a frontrunner in New Hampshire - a state he won against GW Bush in the 2000 race.

Unlike the democratic caucus process Iowa's Republican race uses a ballot process, thus the polls are more relevant because people will not have to "stand up and argue" for their candidate as they do in the Democratic caucuses.

President Picker predicts that Huckabee's popularity will soon fade with a poor New Hampshire showing and increasingly public scrutiny.

President Picker Predictions: Look for a small Romney victory in Iowa and a McCain win in New Hampshire, Giuliani continues to fade as will Huckabee. McCain cash problems will hurt him in South Carolina. Thompson drops out after South Carolina or even New Hampshire.

Iowa Democrats - Clinton, Obama, Edwards almost a dead heat?

Real Clear Politics has a great examination of recent Iowa polling, and averages the latest information to get these numbers:

Clinton 28.4
Obama 26.4
Edwards 25.8

Averaging has some challenges but probably paints a better picture than any individual polling effort. By this measure the race is pretty much a dead heat (though I HATE ther terms "statistical dead heat" because it misleads people into thinking there is no difference between different numbers. There is a difference. When two numbers are within the polls margin of error it still means the top person is "more likely" to win, but suggests far more uncertainty than if the numbers are outside of the margin of error.

For example Richardson with under 10% has virtually no chance of an Iowa top 3 placement, but any of the top 3 could win this race.

However, I continue to believe Clinton will win due to superior organization and strategy and the football game which will affect men more than women and thus Clinton's popularity among Iowa women will be enhanced, but the game is not likely to be fully reflected in polls.

Prediction: Clinton Wins Iowa and also New Hampshire.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Into the Iowa Home Stretch

The Iowa Caucuses are only about a week away, and it is by no means clear who will win Iowa, let alone how that will affect the longer term prospects of the winners and losers.

On the Republican side of the race McCain is showing signs of life in Iowa and New Hampshire, and in National polls. If he topples the "front runners" Romney and Giuliani it'll breath some life into a campaign that had been slowed considerably by challenges in organization and funding.

Still, President Picker predicts a Romney win in Iowa by a modest percentage and then a stronger win in New Hampshire, consolidating Romney as the Republican Front Runner and seeing more drop outs - probably Thompson first after predicted bad showings in the first two states.

Democrats are also hard to call, but we think Obama's latest surge has been mostly a product of big spending and Oprah appearances and his hard core support may fade when push comes to shove comes to the complex caucus process. In fact I think it's possible we'll see Obama support higher in number than Clinton's but still a caucus loss due to inferior organization and strategy or even some last minute bombshells that will weaken Obama support.

Clinton has one of the great political masterminds of the 20th century on her team, and it's unlikely the Clinton campaign will botch their broad based Iowa support and organization. Likewise Edwards has been through this before with good results, so his organization may outperform his actual support.

Of course even the weather can play a huge role in Iowa, as will the football game which gives Clinton a nice edge demographically as she has more female voters and they are less likely to stay home and watch the game. Stormy? Clinton wins handily due to organization and football. Perfect Weather? Obama has a shot. Edwards....second.

In Memoriam: Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto, Pakistani moderate and champion of democracy, is yet another reminder of the instability in so many parts of our challenged world. Bhutto’s assassination, and the ongoing attacks on General Musharaff, bring that possibility closer as Pakistan’s hopes for a quality democracy drift again into the shadows.

India and Pakistan have been very antagonistic towards each other since Pakistan’s fiery birth soon after Indian independence from Britain. Disputes over the Kashmir region, claimed by both countries, flare up regularly.

Instability favors the extremists and those who support them, and takes us away from the democracy that most people favor as the best way to bring justice and prosperity to all.

Bhutto stood for democracy, and died for democracy. Even in our much safer society our prominent elected officials and candidates risk their lives in the pursuit of the democratic dream. We should respect them all for taking this risk in the name of our freedoms.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

New Hampshire Concord Monitor Newspaper: Romney need not apply for President.

The Concord Monitor , in a rambling, scathing editorial written by "monitor staff", suggests that Mitt Romney is basically a "fake" and should not be President. The ranting critique of Romney seemed odd to me coming as it does from a liberal paper that one would think would be at least mildly supportive of Romney's history of mild Republicanism rather than the more right wing forms it claims (correctly) he's catering to as the campaign heats up. Almost bizarre is the Monitor's description of what they see as a litany of Romney defeciencies:

... athletic build, ramrod posture, Reaganesque hair, a charismatic speaking style and a crisp dark suit. You'd add a beautiful wife and family, a wildly successful business career and just enough executive government experience. You'd pour in some old GOP bromides - spending cuts and lower taxes ...

So let me get this straight Monitor staff: Republicans need a scrawny bald guy with bad posture in an ill-fitting light colored suit. He should speak poorly, have an ugly wife, and ugly children. He should have failed in business and have huge amounts of government experience, and favor more spending and higher taxes.


Frankly, I think the editorial is more conspicuous than Romney's newfound conservatism, it reads more like a paper trying to derail the person who is arguably most likely to win the general election than as a real statement of the paper's sensibilities. Failing to disclose their likely preference for the Democratic nominee smells wrong to me given how critical they seem to be of Romney's "past liberalism"

C'mon Concord Monitor - Romney's conservative focus is like Hilary's hawkish sensibilities or Edwards populist ones. These are simply good campaign strategy - play your weaknesses as strengths and draw in people near the middle. Most of these candidates (Obama as possible exception), have legislative records we can examine and there is little reason they will diverge significantly from past voting.

Romney may or may not be suited for the job of president, but the Monitor's weak and self-serving editorial is hardly a guide to his qualifications or lack of them.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Giuliani released from MO hospital and is OK, Tancredo drops out of race.

Rudy Giuliani was hospitalized yesterday with flu-like symptoms. He's been released from the Missouri hospital and CNN is reporting he has a "clean bill of health", but they don't seem to have much information.

Although there is no reason to believe Giuliani's problems have anything to do with his past cancer, it's clear that health issues could impact this election more than most. John Edwards wife had cancer as did Giuliani, and it is reasonable to wonder what effect a health flare-up would have on these campaigns.

Tancredo leaves Republican field

Tom Tancredo, dead last in the polls, will drop out of the race today. It's not official yet but will happen during the press conference he'll hold before Thursday afternoon.

Tancredo's strong anti-illegal immigration message did not appear to resonate with voters.

Meanwhile, Republicans continue to vigorously court New Hampshire voters. Iowa is more a Democratic battleground although both states could provide a huge boost to winners in terms of support as well as the mother's milk of politics - cash.

Donny Deutsch on Christmas Ads

Advertising expert Donny Deutsch was hard on most of the Christmas campaign advertising, suggesting much of it is a waste of time or not really "on message" for the candidates.

I agreed with some of Deutsch's analyses but disagreed with his criticism of the Obama ad, which I'd argue is simply brilliant. Giuliani ridiculously offers off camera people fruitcakes and sits beside a fake santa. Edwards simply offers a short campaign pitch. Clinton is wrapping presents like "National Pre-K" and "Health Care". Not terrible, but smells insincere which is a key Clinton challenge.

The two "stand out" ads are that of Huckabee, which somewhat spookily features a shelf filmed to look like a cross behind the candidate - almost as if they are sending a secret signal to the minions waiting in the wings for a messianic candidate. Deutsch stopped just short of calling this ad out as a dangerous sign of trends in American politics, but indicated he was alarmed by this type of symbolism.

The great ad is Obama's. His picture perfect family sits beside a tree as Michelle wishes everybody well. Obama then suggests it's time to come together rather than apart, and his family almost frames this concept in a greeting card way with the daughters wishing us all happy holidays. Schmalzy? Maybe, but this ad is a brilliant example of reaching the people you want in the way they want to be reached. Obama needs women to vote for him, not Hilary. This is a huge challenge that his campaign is meeting masterfully with Oprah and ads like this.

Republican New Hampshire - Romney v McCain

Mitt Romney has a substantial lead in New Hampshire according to the NBC Wall Street Journal poll results discussed today on Chris Mathews Hardball. As we predicted some time ago Romney is the Republican to watch and the man to beat, as Giuliani's lead dwindles in the face of closer public scrutiny.

Likewise on the Democrat side Clinton maintains a sizable lead in New Hampshire although Obama now leads in Iowa 33% to 29% for Clinton.

President Picker is skeptical of the Iowa poll results showing an Obama lead. Although he may win, we still predict a Clinton Victory, feeling that support for Obama will prove "softer" than support for Clinton. Iowa Caucusing requires a substantial committment from supporters and it's not at all clear that Obama's new campaign troops will be as enthusiastic on caucus night as they have been attending Obama pep rallies with Oprah.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Yahoo Political Dashboard

Webguild reports that the The Yahoo Political Dashboard is up and running, though Reshma notes several caveats in how you'd want to interpret this data.

The Yahoo Dashboard is very nicely done visually, and allows a lot of key comparisons quickly. The money raised column may be the most relevant in terms of the prospects of these candidates as we kick the primary season into gear in early January. Why? Campaigning in small states like Iowa and New Hampshire is not expensive, but in California and New York you need tens of millions to sway those pesky undecided voters who arguably are the key voters who determine the outcome in our market-driven elections system.

The following candidates won't have money problems if they can perform OK in the early primaries: Clinton, Obama, Romney, Giuliani, Edwards. I'd say McCain and Huckabee are at great risk regardless of performance because they'll need cash to continue, and unless they have huge showing early on I predict people will try to "bet on a winner" and donations will continue to flow to the frontrunners. Look for Romney and Edwards to fund their own campaigns heavily if their prospects look good. President Picker still predicts that Romney will win the Republican Nomination and Clinton the Democrat, but we acknowledge the Iowa and New Hampshire races have become closer than we thought they would be. Obama's strategy is almost flawless so far - he's taken a high road on the campaign which has made Clinton look petty and mean - the latter a key attribute her campaign is trying to counter even as it struggles to fine Obama's Achilles heel.

Ironically the Clinton campaign's new advertising is designed to make people feel more "warm and fuzzy" towards Clinton. I see this as a strategic error. Everybody knows she is a tough and seasoned politically and has a hard and intense personality. Suggesting otherwise appears deceptive because it is, and also because media are viewing this approach skeptically - skepticism that rubs off on viewers. These are not attributes the campaign should be diminishing, rather they should be promoting her as a potentially "tough as nails" negotiator and commander in chief. Obama's campaign has recognized correctly that their goal is almost the opposite - make him kind, gentle, and accessible to the indecisive female voters who otherwise would have gone for Clinton on the basis of gender.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Lieberman endorses McCain

John McCain got a needed campaign boost with a Joe Lieberman endorsement, another from the Boston Globe, and a third from the DeMoines register.

McCain has been lagging in the polls despite his 2000 victory over GW Bush in the New Hampshire primary.

Meanwhile Barack Obama, now the Democratic frontrunner, and Mitt Romney are talking religion and politics more than they'd probably like to. Obama is defending himself against what appear to be Clinton campaign suggestions challenging his Christian roots, while Romney was heavily blasted by NBC's Tim Russert for his long support of questionable Mormon church policies.

Although negative attacks are just political business as usual, I'm disappointed that journalists like Russert and TV news are so quickly picking up and running with these irrelevancies. Religion is relevant to the character debate, and in the case of Huckabee, a minister, it would be good to clarify some allegiances, but I think suggestions that people can't separate religion and state are questionable in the case of all these candidates. Far more relevant are questions about governance and policy. Is it too much to expect more about that?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Iowa likes Obama

FOX just announced results from today's Iowa poll by an Iowa newspaper showing Obama with aa 9 point lead over Clinton. Although clearly Obama's doing very well in Iowa and appears to be gaining ground in New Hampshire, I remain skeptical that he can overturn the Clinton machine in the broader election, though certainly it's possible.

Obama is spending more in Iowa right now on advertising - I think about 450k weekly vs Clinton's 350k and his teams appear to be working harder. I think a decision was made some time back that Iowa was *the* key Obama priority, and that strategy may lead to an Iowa victory but will leave the campaign challenged in the big states. That said, Obama is on a tear and he could ride this to victory.

On the Republican side Huckabee announced that political mastermind Ed Rollins will take over the Huckabee campaign. Rollins was behind Ronald Reagan's victories and will bring a high level of sophistication to the Huckabee effort. Look for Romney v Huckabee with Giuliani fading and the rest of the pack out within a few months.

Kindergarten Drug Dealing rock the Democratic primary?

The Clinton campaign's desparate attempts to tarnish Obama with comments he has made about drug use and Kindergarten appear to be backfiring badly in the press and probably among voters, though it remains to be seen if the drug admissions by Obama in his biography may have some negative traction, especially in light of the huge Baseball steroid stories now swirling in the press.

The Clinton adviser that brought up the drug issues has resigned in what Chris Mathews of CNBC claims is a classic act of dishing the dirt, falling on your sword, and getting rehired later.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Democratic Debate in Iowa

The Democratic Iowa debate - the last before the caucuses - wrapped up without any major gaffes, though the focus groups seemed to be much more favorable to Obama and Edwards than Hilary Clinton.

Clinton certainly did not stand out the way she had in earlier debates, and as is often the case new "frontrunner" Obama seemed more poised and confident than he had in the earlier encounters.

Compared to the Republicans the democratic crew was downright sympathetic to each other. When the moderator asked a pointed question about Biden and some comments that could have been interpreted as prejudiced, Obama chimed in with an unqualified endorsement of Biden's history as a strongly pro civil rights candidate. Although I don't think it was contrived, I think this played very well with the audience.

Edwards continued to hammer home his populist notion that the rich and powerful are now in control and need to be taken out of control.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Iowa Republican Debate

The Iowa Republican debate used a really intriguing audience meter that allowed you to guage the audience reaction in real time during the debate. I'm not at all convinced this is a "good" idea, but it sure was interesting.

The large debate fields are nice in terms of bringing in voices that might normally be stifled, but they really diminish the ability of the candidates to rise above sound bytes. That said, polls are fickle and it would be very questionable to deny any candidate with any viability the right to speak.

Alan Keyes sort of clawed his way into a few questions, accusing the moderator of ignoring him which she did appear to do at first. Keyes audience meter pretty much hit the floor when he first spoke but rose later during a passionate plea for more religion in education.

My take overall was that this debate will consolidate Romney and Huckabee as front runners in Iowa. Giuliani is becoming something of a wild card in the race as the national leader who appears to be in decline. His performace was steady but didn't seem to rise to the level of Huckabee, who is probably the most appealing public speaker in the Republican bunch.


Giuliani: "Give the death penalty to the death tax"

Huckabee: Health Care reform: "kill the snake"

Romney: "We don't have to run a deficit" "Let the programs that don't work go", he's in favor of the "no child left behind" program. Higher pay for teachers.

McCain: No good conservative can support extensive subsidies. "Climate Change is real".

Tancredo: "Follow the constitution of this country" "Today we do far too many things.." "Nafta's been a disaster for many places...."

Thompson: We need to tell [rich] people we can't afford their medicare. ".... focus on preserving the tax cuts of 01 and 03". Nafta has helped USA as much as it has helped Mexico.

Hunter: "Nafta is a bad business deal"

Republican Debate in Iowa

In a few moments the Republicans will begin the Iowa debate, which comes at a critical time as attention is far more focused on the election and the race has tightened considerably in the polls, with Giuliani and Thompson, former presumptive frontrunners, quickly losing ground to Romney and Huckabee who appear likely to do well in Iowa.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Huckabee v Obama? Who'd have thunk it?

Despite our suggestions that Clinton and Romney are the presumptive nominees for the big matchup in November of 2008, Huckabee and Obama are surging in the national and state polls, giving each a decent shot at their party's nomination.

Morton Kondrake suggests Huckabee's appeal is as a "compassionate conservative", but suggests he does not have the money or organization for a likely win. Of course people tend to flock to popularity so money and support are already flowing to him. Obama already has an excellent organization and financing machine in place, and this week's Oprah extravaganzas, combined with his improving showing in the Iowa and NH polling, give him a real shot at the nomination.

Predictions? We are still saying Hilary v Romney in general election, but his is American politics and anything - and that means pretty much anything - can change the tide of history almost overnight.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Oprah & Obama

Oprah's on the stump with Barack Obama and today drew the biggest crowd so far in the race as some 30,000 people came to see Oprah and hear Obama talk about Obama's vision for the future and reference Martin Luther King's dreams for America.

Although I remain skeptical that Oprah can actually swing more than a handful of voters it is possible she could be a key factor in the race either by swaying more votes than most expect or by tipping tight races in favor of Obama.

Although it is probable Iowa will be a close race it it not clear who will make it all the way to the key big state primaries.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mitt Romney Religion Speech

Here is the transcript of the Mitt Romney Speech on his religious beliefs and how they affect his politics. This transcript provided by the Mitt Romney website:

"Faith In America" Remarks As Prepared For Delivery The George Bush Presidential Library College Station, Texas December 6, 2007

"Thank you, Mr. President, for your kind introduction. "It is an honor to be here today. This is an inspiring place because of you and the First Lady and because of the film exhibited across the way in the Presidential library. For those who have not seen it, it shows the President as a young pilot, shot down during the Second World War, being rescued from his life-raft by the crew of an American submarine. It is a moving reminder that when America has faced challenge and peril, Americans rise to the occasion, willing to risk their very lives to defend freedom and preserve our nation. We are in your debt. Thank you, Mr. President. "Mr. President, your generation rose to the occasion, first to defeat Fascism and then to vanquish the Soviet Union. You left us, your children, a free and strong America. It is why we call yours the greatest generation. It is now my generation's turn. How we respond to today's challenges will define our generation. And it will determine what kind of America we will leave our children, and theirs. "America faces a new generation of challenges. Radical violent Islam seeks to destroy us. An emerging China endeavors to surpass our economic leadership. And we are troubled at home by government overspending, overuse of foreign oil, and the breakdown of the family. "Over the last year, we have embarked on a national debate on how best to preserve American leadership. Today, I wish to address a topic which I believe is fundamental to America's greatness: our religious liberty. I will also offer perspectives on how my own faith would inform my Presidency, if I were elected. "There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds with the nation's founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom. In John Adams' words: 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion... Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.' "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone. "Given our grand tradition of religious tolerance and liberty, some wonder whether there are any questions regarding an aspiring candidate's religion that are appropriate. I believe there are. And I will answer them today. "Almost 50 years ago another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for President, not a Catholic running for President. Like him, I am an American running for President. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith. "Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin. "As Governor, I tried to do the right as best I knew it, serving the law and answering to the Constitution. I did not confuse the particular teachings of my church with the obligations of the office and of the Constitution – and of course, I would not do so as President. I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law. "As a young man, Lincoln described what he called America's 'political religion' – the commitment to defend the rule of law and the Constitution. When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your President, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A President must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States. "There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers – I will be true to them and to my beliefs. "Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it. But I think they underestimate the American people. Americans do not respect believers of convenience. Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world. "There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church's beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree. "There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes President he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths. "I believe that every faith I have encountered draws its adherents closer to God. And in every faith I have come to know, there are features I wish were in my own: I love the profound ceremony of the Catholic Mass, the approachability of God in the prayers of the Evangelicals, the tenderness of spirit among the Pentecostals, the confident independence of the Lutherans, the ancient traditions of the Jews, unchanged through the ages, and the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims. As I travel across the country and see our towns and cities, I am always moved by the many houses of worship with their steeples, all pointing to heaven, reminding us of the source of life's blessings. "It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it's usually a sound rule to focus on the latter – on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people. "We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong. "The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust. "We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders – in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.' "Nor would I separate us from our religious heritage. Perhaps the most important question to ask a person of faith who seeks a political office, is this: does he share these American values: the equality of human kind, the obligation to serve one another, and a steadfast commitment to liberty? "They are not unique to any one denomination. They belong to the great moral inheritance we hold in common. They are the firm ground on which Americans of different faiths meet and stand as a nation, united. "We believe that every single human being is a child of God – we are all part of the human family. The conviction of the inherent and inalienable worth of every life is still the most revolutionary political proposition ever advanced. John Adams put it that we are 'thrown into the world all equal and alike.' "The consequence of our common humanity is our responsibility to one another, to our fellow Americans foremost, but also to every child of God. It is an obligation which is fulfilled by Americans every day, here and across the globe, without regard to creed or race or nationality. "Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government. No people in the history of the world have sacrificed as much for liberty. The lives of hundreds of thousands of America's sons and daughters were laid down during the last century to preserve freedom, for us and for freedom loving people throughout the world. America took nothing from that Century's terrible wars – no land from Germany or Japan or Korea; no treasure; no oath of fealty. America's resolve in the defense of liberty has been tested time and again. It has not been found wanting, nor must it ever be. America must never falter in holding high the banner of freedom. "These American values, this great moral heritage, is shared and lived in my religion as it is in yours. I was taught in my home to honor God and love my neighbor. I saw my father march with Martin Luther King. I saw my parents provide compassionate care to others, in personal ways to people nearby, and in just as consequential ways in leading national volunteer movements. I am moved by the Lord's words: 'For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me...' "My faith is grounded on these truths. You can witness them in Ann and my marriage and in our family. We are a long way from perfect and we have surely stumbled along the way, but our aspirations, our values, are the self-same as those from the other faiths that stand upon this common foundation. And these convictions will indeed inform my presidency. "Today's generations of Americans have always known religious liberty. Perhaps we forget the long and arduous path our nation's forbearers took to achieve it. They came here from England to seek freedom of religion. But upon finding it for themselves, they at first denied it to others. Because of their diverse beliefs, Ann Hutchinson was exiled from Massachusetts Bay, a banished Roger Williams founded Rhode Island, and two centuries later, Brigham Young set out for the West. Americans were unable to accommodate their commitment to their own faith with an appreciation for the convictions of others to different faiths. In this, they were very much like those of the European nations they had left. "It was in Philadelphia that our founding fathers defined a revolutionary vision of liberty, grounded on self evident truths about the equality of all, and the inalienable rights with which each is endowed by his Creator. "We cherish these sacred rights, and secure them in our Constitutional order. Foremost do we protect religious liberty, not as a matter of policy but as a matter of right. There will be no established church, and we are guaranteed the free exercise of our religion. "I'm not sure that we fully appreciate the profound implications of our tradition of religious liberty. I have visited many of the magnificent cathedrals in Europe. They are so inspired ... so grand ... so empty. Raised up over generations, long ago, so many of the cathedrals now stand as the postcard backdrop to societies just too busy or too 'enlightened' to venture inside and kneel in prayer. The establishment of state religions in Europe did no favor to Europe's churches. And though you will find many people of strong faith there, the churches themselves seem to be withering away. "Infinitely worse is the other extreme, the creed of conversion by conquest: violent Jihad, murder as martyrdom... killing Christians, Jews, and Muslims with equal indifference. These radical Islamists do their preaching not by reason or example, but in the coercion of minds and the shedding of blood. We face no greater danger today than theocratic tyranny, and the boundless suffering these states and groups could inflict if given the chance. "The diversity of our cultural expression, and the vibrancy of our religious dialogue, has kept America in the forefront of civilized nations even as others regard religious freedom as something to be destroyed. "In such a world, we can be deeply thankful that we live in a land where reason and religion are friends and allies in the cause of liberty, joined against the evils and dangers of the day. And you can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: we do not insist on a single strain of religion – rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith. "Recall the early days of the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia, during the fall of 1774. With Boston occupied by British troops, there were rumors of imminent hostilities and fears of an impending war. In this time of peril, someone suggested that they pray. But there were objections. 'They were too divided in religious sentiments', what with Episcopalians and Quakers, Anabaptists and Congregationalists, Presbyterians and Catholics. "Then Sam Adams rose, and said he would hear a prayer from anyone of piety and good character, as long as they were a patriot. "And so together they prayed, and together they fought, and together, by the grace of God ... they founded this great nation. "In that spirit, let us give thanks to the divine 'author of liberty.' And together, let us pray that this land may always be blessed, 'with freedom's holy light.' "God bless the United States of America."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Chris Mathews: Clinton in trouble, attacking kindergarten comments by Obama

As much as I enjoy Chris Mathews and Hardball, he's really full of a lot of crap these days, I think in no small part because of his frustration that the Clinton campaign has so effectively managed his beloved free and reckless press sensibilities.

Yesterday on Hardball Chris foolishly suggested that Clinton's numbers were in "free fall" since her poor performance in an earlier debate regarding immigration. Also that this is why she was slinging some dirt on Obama, suggesting he said something in his foreign kindergarten. Again obviously this was not Clinton gasping for some poll air, rather floating a test balloon to see how negative stuff will gain traction against Obama. Given that it's not working well look for this type of petty attack to stop for the next few weeks, only to return in full force if Clinton is not leading in Iowa 2 weeks out.

She may have dropped a bit, but hardly a free fall Chris, and the main reason for the Iowa surge by Obama is ... obviously ... the fact this is almost make or break for his campaign! Hilary is running a national campaign already, and has done it very effectively. Obama is running an Iowa campaign and he's done that very effectively. However his numbers nationally and in New Hampshire suggest no staying power even with an Iowa win. He'll get a buzz boost if he wins Iowa, and this could lead to a NH victory or great showing which would could *concievably* make him nationally competitive, but this is unlikely.

Prediction: Clinton will come on strong in Iowa in last few weeks, and will win by 5-10%. She'll handily win N.H., and the race will largely be over as soon as it began. Obama has a shot at VP though his views are so compatible with Clinton's I'm not clear he'll be part of the strategy.

Romney on religion

Tomorrow's speech by Mitt Romney on his religious views will be a very significant event in the republican primary (I'd say speech about Romney's "Mormon religious views", but I bet Romney himself will only say the word "Mormon" a few times).

Look for Romney to do this:

Very gently outline Mormon beliefs, stressing their Christian basis and general compatibility with mainstream Protestantism.

Very powerfully suggest how important faith and religion are to his life, stressing things shared by Christians rather than the Mormon items.

Wrap up with suggestions that his views are "just like" the views of mainstream Christian Protestants and Catholics.

Mention Jesus several times and Joseph Smith no more than once.

Many are comparing this to JFK's speech abut his Catholic heritage not being a threat to America, but I think this is probably misguided because times have changed so much in the past 47 American years of elections.

Unless Romney fails miserably with his delivery or gets off point, I think he'll put the religious issues to rest until the general election. Why?

* Mormonism is not a radical religion, rather more of an offshoot of Christianity. Aside from some quirky sect views mainstream Christians won't be as threatened by this as many now suggest.

* Religion is NOT as powerful a force for Republicans as many have suggested. Although Karl Rove and other brilliant manipulations of the religious right wing helped in elections it is not at all clear they changed outcomes, because religious right wing folks are very likely to vote conservative Republican and very likely to vote. Will they vote for Romney? I think yes, because they'll see that he's the best shot against Hilary Clinton. In this sense Huckabee may post a challenge for Romney as he'll draw the votes that Romney would have won over Giuliani.

A master stroke for Romney would pull Huckabee into his campaign immediately as his prospective VP. Very unusual move, but I Huckabee simply does not have the cash to win and this combination would allay many concerns about Romney's religion and sincerity. Also, Huckabee with cash would have a good shot at winning the whole thing. Huckabee plus Romney would be unbeatable in Republican Primary and then could play the national election as a "moderate to liberal Romney" with a "true conservative Huckabee" unifying theme. This would challenge Clinton to also pick a very powerful VP - probably Obama - and we'd see one of the most ideologically contrasted elections in some time.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Giuliani in trouble. Big trouble

Rudy Giuliani's campaign is in *very big* trouble. It's not really because of the recent allegations that he abused spending in New York City to cover his mistress' (now wife's) security during his affair. It is because he's simply not the kind of candidate Republicans can back very enthusiastically.

Giuliani has a personally very checkered past, he's pro-choice, and he's kind of squirrely in the personality department. Reagan represented the "ideal" candidate for the Republican set of sensibilities. Handsome and imposing but also jovial and "old boy network", no-nonsense with his conservative policies, somewhat polished but not brilliant.

So, who gains from this? Huckabee. It's Huckabee v Romney now, and even though I earlier suggested Romney was "in" I think Huckabee has a shot at this if he can quickly assemble a *substantial* war chest. In America you can't buy elections, as Ross Perot's bottomless money potential only got him so far. But without much campaign cash you will lose. Period.