Sunday, August 31, 2008

Republican Convention Plans Change

On the Eve of Hurricane Gustav's landfall near New Orleans the Republicans have changed Convention plans though the details appear to remain fluid. President Bush and VP Cheney will not appear tomorrow in Minneapolis as planned, and other major speakers like the Governor of Louisiana will not be in attendance either.

The latest reports suggest the convention may only last one day, Presumably to nominate John McCain, and then be postponed to another date. Strategically this may actually have the advantage of giving the Republicans a monster event with monster media coverage much closer to the election than is usual.

Gustav is about to bring flooding and high wind to the Mississipi and Louisiana coastlines and the convention would have been both interrupted for Hurricane news and have been a conspicuous "celebration" in the midst of potentially another major storm tragedy for the Gulf Coast.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Biden v. Palin Round ONE

Wow, the buzz over Sarah Palin is sure a lot bigger than the Biden Buzz was! Did I just say Biden Buzz Wuzz? Yes, I did.

McCain may actually have a challenge (or advantage?) being eclipsed by Palin who may emerge at the "rock star" of that team while Obama keeps his star persona intact with his pick of Joe Biden whose demeanor is unlikely to overshadow that of his running mate the way Palin may overshadow McCain's personality and style.

Sarah Palin's Official Website & Blogs

Almost everybody is asking "Who is Sarah Palin" so I thought I'd provide a list of the best links, including some to her official websites that come from the state of Alaska where she is the Governor.

McCain's Palin pick is certainly successful at focusing attention on her and away from the Democratic Convention and Obama which have completly dominated the US news cycle for the past four days. Unlike Obama's VP Joe Biden, Palin has a very "new and interesting" appeal to the media, though I remain skeptical that Hillary Clinton supporters are likely to change their party allegiances to vote for somebody who is even more conservative than McCain.

Alaska Governor - Sarah Palin's official web site

Sarah Palin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Alaska Governor Bio - Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin Profile by Fred Barnes at Weekly Standard in 2007. Barnes is a conservative pundit who speaks for many Republicans in the conservative wing of the party, and may have been a significant influence in McCain's decision.

Palin at Politico (a critical Palin piece)

Palin at Huffington Post (critical)

Palin from Michelle Malkin (a favorable Palin Piece)

McCain picks Palin as his VP running mate

In a move that seems to have surprised almost everyone, John McCain has picked Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for his Vice Presidential running mate.

The announcement came this morning, strategically undermining a news day that otherwise would have been filled with Democratic Convention imagery making Barack Obama look as much like a rock star as a presidential candidate. The pick also is clearly an attempt to chip away at what appears to be Obama's weakness in appealing to some Hillary Clinton supporters.

Palin is a conservative who is pro-life, favors drilling in Alaska (ironically McCain has opposed this but I think will change his position after the election), and is a strong advocate for gun rights.

The McCain campaign strategy here appears to be an attempt to please the conservative base - many of whom like Palin a lot for her outspoken and conservative ideas about Government - while also appealing to what appears to be a minor backlash among Democrats against Obama for not choosing Hillary Clinton as his running mate.

It's going to be very interesting watching the Biden - Palin debates, though I can't help but think Palin will struggle to show how she can match Biden's foreign policy and military experience. Biden will be hard to swiftboat given his affable nature and non-confrontatational history in the Senate, where Palin's youth, experience, and good looks may hinder her ability to connect with voters.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

McCain to pick Meg Whitman ?

Update: Sarah Palin is the McCain VP Pick

As the Democratic National Convention wraps up tonight with what promises to be a near "rock star" event featuring Barack Obama, John McCain is preparing to announce his pick for Vice Presendential running mate tomorrow at a large rally in Ohio.

President Picker says that McCain will probably pick former EBAY CEO and billionaire Meg Whitman both thanks to her strong economic background in the private sector and the appeal a woman will bring to the ticket for the millions of older women who have suggested they'll either support McCain or not vote at all after their disappointment with the failure of the Hillary Clinton campaign.

For McCain, this is a complex strategy but I think it's a viable one. Polls are showing that many Clinton supporters, especially women, are feeling disaffected. There is arguably no better way to encourage them to either switch to McCain or stay away from the polls than to force them to vote *against* a woman on the ticket. In all of US history there has only been a single woman on a presidential campaign ticket - Geraldine Ferarro with Walter Mondale almost three decades ago.

Will women vote for McCain only because he's got a woman on the ticket? A few will, but more importantly from a strategic point of view the choice of Whitman will help keep the disaffection alive on the Democratic side as a constant reminder to women of Obama's decision that he would *not* place Hillary Clinton on his own ticket, leaving women out of the Presidential power game yet again.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Obama Nominated by Acclamation at Democratic National Convention

(not reporting live from convention)

Barack Obama was just nominated by acclamation after an appeal for that by Senator Hillary Clinton as the New York Delegation prepared to cast their votes.

Party Chair Nancy Pelosi then called for the yes vote and after an enthusiastic yes crowd shout, whe did not wait for any "no" votes to be shouted and quickly concluded the nomination. Rules of order meant that Obama then would officially accept the nomination.

It's day three of the Democratic Convention and there has been little to suggest the powerful levels of discontent in the party a few months ago as Barack Obama narrowly beat out Hillary Clinton for the nomination.

Democratic Convention Day 2

(not blogged from the convention)

Day 2 of the Democratic Convention brought us the much anticipated speech of Hillary Clinton, which to all but the sharpest critics was a very powerful endorsement of both the party ideals and Barack Obama.

After a touching mother and daughter introduction, Senator Clinton gave what I felt was probably the most powerful and the most important speech of her entire career, essentially fully conceding the election to Obama and expressing in no uncertain terms that her supporters should support him now.

Although cynics would say Clinton had no choice here because to fight would have been to lose future party support, I think these relationships are fairly well defined from the outset, and Clinton has known for some time that she'd be backing Obama pretty much as she has for the past several months. The election will not hinge on Clinton support - rather Obama must try to convince the approximately 10% of Clintonians who say they will now support McCain that although Clinton was their choice, Obama is their man now. Given that Clinton and Obama's politics are very similar this is unlikely to be a problem.

Tonight there are likely to be some minor Clinton supporter skirmishes but it will be very hard to stand in the way of what has so far been a very positive and powerful message of support for Obama from all corners of the Democratic Party, including a simply brilliant speech by Michelle Obama on Monday night.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Democratic Convention Day One

As Michelle Obama prepares to address the Democratic National Convention in Denver the pundits are talking about the tone of the convention which so far has been very much a sort of cozy, feel good affair rather than a presentation of the talking points most strategists think the Democrats must hammer home to win the election - points such as economic challenges and the Iraq war.

However it appears to me the strategy is solid, and is to present Obama as a friendly and unifying force rather than a combative one. Appealing to people's desire for change is complicated because many of our natural tendencies
are to keep comfortable with the status quo and view agents of change with great skepticism. This is a natural and functional response and playing off this tendency will form much of the McCain strategy moving forward. Already Fox news and other conservative spokespeople are trying to paint Obama as an unknown force of change - almost as a foreigner rather than a dedicated pubic servant.

Thus I think the counter strategy by the Democrats is to make people feel comfortable with Obama. Look for an almost constant dialog promoting this agenda - Obama as a composed, friendly, stable fellow American who will make the changes many Americans feel are needed in the country.

Michelle Obama's delivery is brilliant so far - she's polished and confident, yet speaking almost conversationally with the very enthusiastic Denver crowd. Her mother and brother's introduction was touching and it is not hard to believe Michelle Obama is herself an exceptional example of the American dream.

John King at CNN is very correctly noting that the idea is to make a connection for people who otherwise see little in common with Obama.

David Gergen "She rescued the evening for the Democrats"

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Obama VP is Joe Biden

In a pick that hasn't generated all that much buzz or press, Barack Obama has picked Delaware Senator Joe Biden as his Presidential running mate. The choice seemed to fly in the face of some conventional wisdom about running mates in that Obama and Biden share a lot of ideology and Biden is unlikely to attract many more southern or moderate voters to the Obama camp.

Near the eve of the Democratic Convention we find Obama and McCain equal in most polls, perhaps in large part because, as CNN polling director Holland has noted:

"The number of Clinton Democrats who say they would vote for McCain has gone up 11 points since June, enough to account for most, although not all, of the support McCain has gained in that time," Holland said.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Obama VP Choice Made - Wed Announcement Probable

Barack Obama is reported to have selected his vice presidential partner during his vacation time in Hawaii, and the announcement is expected to be made by email and probably also twitter and facebook alerts to Obama supporters/subscribers on Wednesday early in the morning.

Kaine, Bayh, and Biden were normally suggested as Obama's top picks, but others are possible as well.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

McCain accidentally names his VP at Saddleback?

John McCain, asked by Rick Warren to cite the three wisest people he knows, quickly named General David Petraeus but then seemed stumped. He named John Lewis - a liberal congressman with whom McCain has less in common than most in politics, and then Meg Whitman, EBAY CEO who is in a key player in the McCain campaign . Given that he's been thinking every day about his VP nominee I'm wondering if he sort of panicked and let slip her name. Whitman is a superb strategic choice for VP given that she'd peel away some of Obama's support from middle aged and older women who have been very frustrated to see Hilary Clinton's failure, and Whitman would reinforce McCain's pro business "economically sophisticated" appeal to moderates.

Saddleback Forum

Barack Obama is taking questions at the Saddleback forum from moderate evangelical Pastor Rick Warren. Warren may emerge as a significant player in the election as his moderate philosophy is appealing to many, and the evangelical vote represents a key electoral block. McCain tends to hold most of that vote and will for the election, but if Warren speaks equally about the qualifications of each candidate it'll be a boon to the Obama campaign, possibly justifying for some evangelicals a vote outside of their normal frame of reference. Alternatively if Warren comes out strongly for McCain we could see a new groundswell of the support McCain has lacked so far - the kind of passionate conservative power block that helped GW Bush in both his presidential campaign victories.

Friday, August 15, 2008

John Edwards stealing the show

As the conventions approach - events that will more clearly than anything shape the coming battle in November for the presidency - it is the John Edwards sex and alleged payola scandal that has grabbed most of the headlines.

Rather than signalling a willingness to undermine the Democratic primary process, I'd suggest that Edwards, having failed to capture a significant shot at winning, tired of the process, leading him to succomb to the moral lapses that are now making headlines.

More significant than the affair - at least in terms of legality and credibility - are what appear to be hush payments. Although I doubt Edwards was involved in these you can make a case he bears more responsibility here than he appears willing to take on.

This episode may be good news for Obama, who has the lead and more than anything simply needs to just keep on keeping on. McCain, on the other hand, needs to either grab the spotlight or shine it on Obama problems. Edwards is keeping that from happening, and thus may have an interesting impact on our attention deficit political process.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Aloha Mr. Kaine?

With Obama sitting in Hawaii deciding on a VP, and Tim Kaine standing to tip the hat in the closest of the "close states", it's looking good for Kaine as the new Obama VP.

The latest "close state" polls at show a dead heat (as in a real tie, not the silly "statistical tie" the media often refers to in very misleading fashion when results lie within error bounds):

Colorado47.345.7Obama +1.6
Missouri45.047.3McCain +2.3
Michigan46.042.8Obama +3.2
Ohio46.045.5Obama +0.5
Florida45.847.0McCain +1.2

Obama's looking pretty strong in this comparison, though it's important to note that flipping a few of the current electoral state results by a few percentages quickly gives the election to McCain. Our crazy Electoral college system, as we (failed to learn) from the 2000 Florida fiasco, puts an enormous amount of value on states that are close. This distorts the campaigns, forcing them to focus attention on swing voters in swing states a lot more than the rest of the population.

The founders intent was to balance things out, but it is unlikely they'd approve of the current situation because state's autonomy is of far less importance in the modern context than it was in the founding days of the USA.

US History

Friday, August 08, 2008

Scratch Edwards out of Veepstakes

Today John Edwards admitted his affair with a filmmaker who (later?) worked for his campaign making commercials.

Edwards' wife Elizabeth's cancer was a significant issue in the campaign and this indiscretion is magnified by the fact that many who admired the courageousness of her campaigning in the midst of a cancer battle will be particularly upset by Edwards' infidelity. Of course campaigns, sex, lies, and videotape are all intertwined in complex ways in American politics so it is possible this matter was already known to Elizabeth, as Bill Clinton's many dalliances were well known to Hillary even as she helped him imply there was little or no foundation to the rumors.

This unsavory story certainly destroys any chance Edwards has of becoming Obama's VP.
Fair or not, stories like this are political suicide.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

What's wrong with Rasmussen?

While most polls show Obama with a lead over McCain, Rasmussen Reports has for some time suggested that McCain is leading in several key states as well as I think overall leading nationally.

Although it's possible Rasmussen is on to something other pollsters are missing, common sense suggests that his results - out of the statistical probability ranges for the other polls - are the result of a polling error.

I want to see their methodology but I'm wondering if the cell phone factor is an issue. Young voters are more likely to support Obama but also *far* less likely to be polled by traditional means, which often exclude cell phone calls. I'm assuming some polls are trying to factor in this complex cell phone variable but assume that factor may create a lot of variability.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Veepstakes at Hardball

Hardball arguably offers the most intense political analysis, and they are sizing up the VP competition as following:

McCain's top 3 in what Harball says is the increasing order of likelihood of winning:

3. Former Rep. Bob Portman
2. Governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty
1. Mitt Romney, Former Governor of Massachusetts.

Although Romney is a good pick for McCain, I think they missed the boat here. Another smart choice is Kay Baily Hutchinson to peel away the Hillary Supporters still reeling from the Obama defeat. As a woman she'd pull more total votes than other VPs, though I'm not clear if that support would come from the necessary states. Still, enough states will be close that the best VP strategy is a powerful *national* support getter.

For Barack Obama:

3. Senator Evan Bayh
2. Tim Kane, VA Governor
1. Joe Biden, Senator from Delaware

I think two senators are weak on a ticket, so it'll be Tim Kane in this group but I think more likely is Wesley Clark, a smart and sharp campaigner who could put to rest any military challenges to the ticket.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

McCain is a Luddite?

I'm not sure if this New York Times characterization of McCain is fair, but certainly Obama has the upper hand in terms of online sophistication.

Ironically it's the McCain campaign that could do wonders with better online activity, since most younger folks are Obama supporters already. ie McCain might peel away support from Obama - something he'll have to do to win in November - by bringing the fight online where views are cheap and support can be fickle.