North Carolina, 1990

"You needed that job, and you were the best qualified. But they had to give it to a minority because of a racial quota. Is that really fair?"

So began the infamous "hands" political ad in support of Jesse Helms for U.S. Senate, which emphasized Helms's black opponent (Harvey Gant) and his support for affirmative action by depicting a pair of white working man's hands presumably crumpling up a rejection letter from a prospective employer.

Just for the record, as I have written before, although reasonable people can disagree, I see the 1990 Helms-Gant ad as within the bounds of fair play and acceptable political discourse.

Cut to: North Carolina, 2008

Ironically, eighteen years later, the Tar Heel State is once again hosting a pivotal battle with national ramifications in a contest freighted with racial overtones.

Where Are We in this Contest?

Any honest observer at this point will admit that Hillary Clinton is on a roll and exceeding even the most optimistic expectations regarding her range and capacity as a candidate. Like the most recent Super Bowl champion incarnation of the New York Giants, Mrs. Clinton has peaked at the right moment in the season, playing at the top of her game when it counts the most.

On the other hand, Barack Obama finds himself bereft of momentum with no upswing in sight, (caution: about to switch sports metaphors) desperately trying to run the political version of the old Dean Smith "four corners" offense to preserve his precarious lead.

Nevertheless, even as more and more observers concede that the early Obama magic has all but evaporated, most pundits continue to write that the Democratic Party decision-makers would not dare deny their failing candidate the nomination at this point.


In large part, African Americans are the explanation. Right around 90 percent of African Americans vote Democratic in general elections (no other constituency in America even comes close in terms of fidelity). Moreover, during this primary season, 90-plus percent of African American Democrats have voted for Barack Obama (over the wife of their former hero, Bill Clinton).

Sub-question: why has Barack Obama been so successful in garnering the African American vote?

Frankly, it is much safer NOT to answer that query in our current political climate. For additional evidence concerning the pitfalls of offering impolitic analysis in this regard, see the strange case of that well-known racist, Bill Clinton, who famously suggested it might be akin to the reason so many African Americans voted for Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988.

The main point: the Democratic Party bigheads are intent on stuffing Obama down our throats, regardless of the trend lines, the revelations, the unfolding primary battle, or the growing sense that this forty-six year-old, half-term senator is not quite ready for the Oval Office.

Or, rather, to put it another way, Americans are belatedly realizing that we don't really know this fellow well enough to invest him with the most important and most powerful office in the history of humanity. We liked what we saw at first blush, but now we are seeing "a side" of him that gives us pause. In other words, we have gone from love at first sight to a fairly rational case of cold feet.

No matter, the Democratic Party brass continues to follow a preset script written during headier times.

Has Barack Obama Finally Become the Affirmative Action Candidate of 2008?

To paraphrase the Helms ad: the need for racial transcendence and keeping peace in the Democratic Party coalition suddenly "makes the color of your skin more important than your qualifications."

Frankly, I expect a backlash at some point. I think we may see it in North Carolina on Tuesday, which coudl derail the Obama train (or perhaps not). The fix may be in so deep at this point in the nomination contest that he is impervious even to humiliating defeat.

No matter, the backlash is out there--and it is going to buffet this race in some fashion.

On the other hand, an Obama victory in North Carolina and Indiana puts all this to bed. If he can beat Mrs. Clinton in a fair fight, it will be easy to see him as Tiger Woods (worthy and fabulous) once again.

But barring a clear victory on the field of battle, the elevation of Obama for all the wrong reasons makes for an exceedingly unappealing message.
From the Politico (April 30):

"Capitol Hill insiders say the battle for congressional superdelegates is over, and one Senate supporter of Barack Obama is hinting strongly that he has prevailed over Hillary Rodham Clinton."

Read a little further into the story and one will find that this quasi-breathless lead comes from well-known party sage with no ax to grind (NOT), Senator Claire McCaskill, who, in fact, has a lot riding on an Obama victory.

Ironically, the headline for this story is less splashy and much more informative: "Obama backer predicts victory in Hill war."

One of my smart friends asked today: "Is it Over?"

Another friend in the know confirmed that this story is making the rounds and added on the rumor that "had Obama won PA, [these stealth Obama-supporting superdelegates] would have declared."

MY QUESTION: how much credence do we give these insider counts and/or even the public declarations concerning committed superdelegates?

That is, what are these “committed” delegates really committed to?

These are all unofficial "handshake agreements" (sans the handshaking). You stand up in front of a TV camera and say, "based on my love for country and my desire to ensure a secure future for my young children, I am taking the politically courageous step of endorsing (insert name of person here whom you think is most likely to win)."

But what's to stop the same politician, two weeks or two months from now, from standing up in front of a TV camera and saying, "based on new information, my love of country, and my dedication to a secure future, I am taking the politically courageous step of changing my mind and embracing (insert here the name of the person whom you now think most likely to win)."

I suspect these committed superdelegates are about as committed to Barack Obama as New Jersey Democrats were to Robert Torricelli in September 2002. They are totally and irrevocably committed unless something comes along to shake their commitment.

As for the math, are these numbers driven by the immutable laws of Newtonian physics? Or are they more akin to the Heisenberg Principle, in which the unfolding process of discovery itself creates a level of uncertainty?
Category: Campaign 2008.12
Posted by: Martian Mariner
Both sides of the aisle agree on this one, at least in an election year - McCain and Clinton have both called for a temporary lifting of the national gas tax for the summer driving season. Obama says it's a bad idea, but that may be mostly because Hillary's for it.

Tom Friedman, back to writing at the NYT (finally!) writes today against such a move, calling (again) for an increase in pump prices as a means of providing economic incentive to ditch the SUVs and two-hour commutes. He also calls for increased alternative energy funding, solar in particular, but that's another topic.

So what's it to be, up or down?

Let's look a bit at the actual gas excise tax, first. It's currently at $0.184 per gallon, on all gasoline sold in the U.S. States, of course, add their own taxes. This rate has not increased since 1993! How about other measures in that time? Oil prices have increased dramatically, from $24.36 in 1993(adjusted to 2007 dollars) to just shy of $115 today, after hitting nearly $120 earlier this week. The Consumer Price Index, used to track inflation (or to explain why "I used to go to the movies for a dime", etc.....crazy old-timers) has increased from 143 in 1993 to 211 in 2008 (with 1982 as the 100 standard). In other words, what would have cost $1.43 in 1993 now costs $2.11.

So oil costs more, a dollar doesn't go as far, but the federal tax at the pump hasn't gone up a tenth of a cent.

Sounds like a pretty darn good tax holiday to me.

(We'll save the bids for an increased tax for later...)
Some hopelessly devoted advocates of Barack Obama are busy suggesting this repudiation of Reverend Wright is his "Sister Souljah moment." What a strained comparison. What some members of the Obama Nation won't do for love.

The key difference?

Sister Souljah was a nobody to Bill Clinton (and most of us). The vast majority of voters had never heard of Sister Souljah before Bill Clinton castigated her at a Jesse Jackson conference. Clinton introduced us to Sister Souljah in order to make a point. Neither he nor we had a personal stake in the easily disposable human political prop, ruthlessly manufactured to increase the fortunes of the presumptive Democratic nominee in June of 1992.

How is Reverend Wright completely unlike Sister Souljah?

Obama is inextricably linked to his pastor of twenty years. Wright is the man who brought Obama to Christ, married him and his wife, and baptized his two children.

In the most famous address of his public career, drawing on his extensive knowledge of the real Jeremiah Wright, Obama defended his pastor as a flawed but vital member of his extended spiritual family and emblematic of the black community, praising the Reverend for his commitment to the social gospel, his patriotism, and his intellectual bona fides.

Most importantly, unlike Sister Souljah, thanks to the Reverend himself, we have already developed our own impression of Wright, and it is fundamentally at odds with how Obama previously defended him. Now, however, seeing an unfriendly collective wave taking shape, with unnerving alacrity, Obama suddenly repudiates his previous endorsements, adopting our view and delivering his condemnation with an emotionally charged vigor.

This is all a bit unseemly and way too politician-like for the un-politician.

Rookie Mistake.

But, in fact, Obama's statement yesterday was a tactical error made out of inexperience. The Clintons NEVER would have thrown Wright overboard in that manner. They would have hunkered down and told the press to go to Hell--waiting out the storm. Of course, loyalty to a friend would have had nothing to do with it, they would have understood the images were problematic.

That is, now we roll tape of Obama defending Wright, followed by Obama denouncing Wright.

He's family--and you gotta love family. "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community."

Cut to:

I renounce him. I renounce him. Reverend Wright is a bad man.

It all looks ridiculous. Were you lying then? Or are you lying now?

Obama looks silly and confused. A candidate in the crucial final stages of a nomination canvass cannot afford that kind of crisis in perception.
Category: Campaign 2008.12
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The Good News for Republicans:

The chances of Barack Obama being our next president are in rapid retreat.

The Reverend Wright catastrophe is an avalanche. In the next month, things are only going to get worse for Obama (we can only wait and see how much his press conference today accelerates the descent).

The Bad News for Republicans:

If the Democrats have any sense at all (which is always a big "if"), Barack Obama is probably going to be our next vice president.

The obvious solution to this Democratic Party dilemma has always been a unity ticket. It is only common sense. That obvious answer is coming back into focus for more and more strategic thinkers within the party--and will likely take hold as an idea whose time has come in May and June.

A few months ago this "agent of change" looked like he could "paint the map blue" with his post-partisan, post-racial, flawless charisma. But all that confident generational realignment chatter is gone with the wind (especially after today). Obama is battered and deeply shaken and trying desperately to limp toward the finish line.

What about the Math?

While Obama will end the primaries ahead on pledged delegates, he continues to need a significant bloc of superdelegates to win the nomination. And there is no longer a compelling positive reason for the supers to select Barack Obama as the Democratic standard bearer.

In fact, there is a growing sense that Obama equals big and unnecessary risks in the General Election. Ironically, just as the call for the superdelegates to decide early gains momentum, Obama's precipitous fall threatens to leave him at his lowest point at the most unfortunate and vulnerable time.

Of course, there is a very serious negative reason standing in the way of a Obama humiliation at the hands of the Party elite. They face a potential tsunami of resentment from Obama fanatics (young people and African Americans), if they deny him his duly earned prize.

How to finesse this potential pitfall?

The unity ticket: Clinton and Obama.

For a forty-six-year-old half-term senator running for president, the personal associations were well worth emphasizing. However, Obama can get away with the Rev. Wright (and William Ayres and Tony Rezko) baggage, if he is only running for vice president. Of course, logically, we understand that the VP is merely a heartbeat away from the Oval Office, but traditionally we do not get that worked up about veep associations.

Much more importantly, a Hillary-Barack ticket preserves the energy of the “millennials” and staves off the bitterness from the African American community. Granted, vice president is not big casino, but, if Barack puts his heart into it, he can inspire his followers into a powerful and only slightly blunted enthusiasm.

As for Hillary, she is tough and ready, and she can beat John McCain. It will be close, but the Democrats have always held all the high cards in this cycle. Hillary maintains the shortest path to a November victory of any 2008 candidate. The Democrats tried to get too fancy. It has turned into a looming disaster. Now they need to get back to the fundamentals.

The Question: is it too late for them? Have they blown their advantages with this flight of fancy?

Probably not. Hillary’s obvious problem is that circumstances forced her to chase Barack into the left-wing weeds on Iraq and NAFTA; however, with some work, she ought to be able to maneuver her way back into the middle of the road between now and the fall.

Moreover, to her good, and this is of inestimable value, this nomination contest has made her much more human and appealing. She found a sympathetic identity in all this: a scrappy fighter who never quits and finds some way to win in the end. Also, because of this experience, Team Clinton is leaner, less arrogant, and unlikely to take their next opponent lightly.

Expect a full-court press from the opening tipoff.

One last thought: Bill will be back in form and in favor for the fall. Does anyone doubt that the mainstream media will once again see his brand of political warfare as not only fair game but endearing.

The next month ought to be interesting.
Category: Campaign 2008.12
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
I am not saying the pilot of the straight-talk express planned it this way, but now everybody in America is talking about a small-time local North Carolina campaign ad critical of Barack Obama, his Black Nationalist pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and the Democrats who enable them.

Here is what McCain said about the ad none of us had ever heard of before McCain told us not to watch it:

"We asked them not to run it. I'm sending them an e-mail as we speak, asking them to take it down."

"I don't know why they do it, and obviously I don't control them. But I'm making it very clear, as I have a couple of times in the past, that there's no place for that kind of campaigning -- and the American people don't want it, period," McCain said.

According to the LA Times, "McCain said he had not seen the North Carolina ad, which states that Obama is too extreme and shows footage of the Illinois senator's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., shouting: 'Not God bless America, God damn America.'"

Is he using reverse-psychology on us? If not, I have no idea what McCain is talking about. If, like John McCain, you have not seen the ad (here on YouTube), you may be a bit disappointed, perhaps expecting something more severe.
The upcoming May 6 Indiana primary is make or break, do or die, sudden death, but not just for Clinton—even more so FOR OBAMA!

For the first time in this long campaign, the pressure is finally on Barack Obama. If he does not win Indiana, his nomination chances plummet precipitously.


Since February 19th, the night of the Wisconsin primary (more than two months ago, and the last time Barack was in the news for something positive), Mrs. Clinton has accomplished every task on her seemingly impossible journey back to viability. In the meantime, Obama has struggled, stumbled, and stagnated.

A Review:

Understanding that her opponent was on a tremendous roll after Wisconsin, Mrs. Clinton needed to sweep Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania. She did.

Understanding that the superdelegates would eventually decide this nomination, and understanding that they clearly favored Obama at that moment, she also needed to raise serious doubts about the frontrunner's ability to govern and, more importantly, his ability to win in November. She did.

RIGHT NOW: Obama is bleeding profusely from two gaping holes: Jeremiah Wright (scary anti-American radicalism) and the "clinging to God and guns" comment (unseemly liberal elitism). Even worse, the spectacle of a six-week, highly visible contest in which he spent 30 million dollars to lose to Hillary Clinton by ten points torpedoed his image as a charismatic champion.

Now he is merely a wounded pol trying desperately to hold on to a slim lead and run out the clock.

Can he do it? What does he have left?

The Media and "the Math."

The remaining Obama "fairy tale" is currently powered almost entirely by friendly reporting, advocacy in editorial boards, and vituperative op-eds.

In a political contest, in which the perception is the reality, without question, the best thing to have is the fourth estate. Nevertheless, friendly media does not necessarily guarantee ultimate success (just ask Mike Huckabee).

Hype and hope can only propel a candidate so far. At some point, media darlings have to demonstrate their worthiness in the public arena. At some point, Barack Obama needed to throttle Mrs. Clinton at the ballot box in a momentous showdown state. Of course, the media has helped mightily toward that end by softening her defenses with negative press and templates advantageous to him--but, somewhere along the line, he needed to throw the knock-out punch himself. And he has not.

The clock is ticking. He has one last chance: Indiana. The pressure is on.

What about the Math?

In truth, the math is mostly spin and perception. Mrs. Clinton brilliantly announced yesterday that she was ahead in the popular vote.

Why not?

Who is keeping track of the popular vote anyhow?

Since the gross popular vote has nothing to do with the nomination process, why can't we count Michigan and Florida? People in Michigan and Florida voted. Who says we cannot include them in the official unofficial (and altogether meaningless) tabulation of national votes.

All of that is perception. This is a battle to control the perception.

Genius on the part of Mrs. Clinton, but she must make this assertion stick. Expect her to pound away at it every day in every speech in every venue, all the while aiming her message at a national audience.

Why is this key? What is meaningful about this meaningless statistic?

Once Mrs. Clinton convinces the Democratic Party leaders that she is the safer bet to win in the fall, she must also offer a "moral argument" that allows the superdelegates "cover" to deny the victory to Obama. The "popular vote majority" cancels out the "elected-delegate" plurality. This narrative of rightful Clinton victory empowers the party wise persons to award the nomination to Mrs. Clinton, if they are so inclined.

This is where the media and the math have to come together. She needs to break the wedge of friendly media running interference for Obama.

Can this happen? Surprisingly, yes it can.

Here is the other nagging problem for Obama in regard to his media firewall: his ostensibly trustworthy loyalists in the press corps are fair-weathered friends. The clock is ticking on them as well. They have been watching the same game we have. They too know what he needed to do over the past two months--and they fully understand that he failed miserably.

They are nervous and growing more skittish with each passing day. My sense is that a stampede away from Obama is imminent. If the ladies and gentlemen (mostly gentleman) of the fourth estate take a notion that their fair-haired pal is about to make them look ridiculous, they will abandon him with head-spinning alacrity.

In the blink of an eye, this beloved philosopher king will find himself a reviled and unworthy pretender.

Bottom Line: Indiana may very well prove to be the one and only winner-take-all contest in the Democratic race for nomination.

23/04: Yes She Will

Category: Campaign 2008.12
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Hillary Holds!

With 84 percent of the vote counted (10:23 p.m. CDT), Hillary fluctuates between an eight- and ten-point victory in Pennsylvania. Eight is enough--but ten is especially satisfying.

UPDATED: It’s official. Hillary by Ten.

For some reason the talking heads arbitrarily proclaimed a ten-point margin in the Quaker State as the threshold for viability for Mrs. Clinton—patently ridiculous on its face. Why the underdog must give a ten point handicap to the favorite is beyond me; regardless, overcoming the capricious spread makes the triumph all the more savory.

Hillary is still on the job. She will be back in the office tomorrow relentlessly slogging away, sniffing at the heels of the front runner, dedicated to the proposition that she must win by any means necessary.

Will it matter?

Who knows? The leadership of the Democratic Party seems strangely committed to Obama--regardless of the increasingly apparent perils ahead.

As we know so well, “the math” is still on his side. Awarding the nomination to Hillary Clinton still requires some uncomfortable gymnastics--even as Hillary seems to emerge as the smarter move and safer play.

We said more than two months ago:

The nomination is coming down to the super delegates. If they voted today, they would vote for Obama because he seems unstoppable. The good news for Clinton: they are not voting today. She has time to punch a hole in his balloon.


It will be very tough, but Clinton must sweep the upcoming final big three states [Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania] (very difficult but not impossible). For all that has gone sour in her campaign, Hillary has consistently excelled in these upscale high-stakes contests. Then, most importantly, she must somehow break the "spell" of Obama by casting doubt on him in some way between now and the day of decision.

I have always seen Obama as a big gamble: he could prevail in a huge way ("painting the map blue" as he says). Or we could wake up from our trance midway through the coming fall election season and suddenly look at this guy and say: "what in the hell are we doing?"

Between now and this summer, I can certainly envision a moment in which strategically minded Democratic Party bigwigs entertain grave doubts about Obama's electability. In that scenario, three for the price of one (Obama as VP) may emerge as a much safer bet.

TODAY: Mission So Nearly Accomplished On All Fronts.

The Two Remaining Substantial Obstacles?

1. The Intractable media support for Obama.

2. Even more problematic, the thoroughly unappealing task of telling African-American Democrats and fresh-faced "millennials" that their candidate, who won the pledged-delegate race fair and square, will not be the nominee of their party.

As many have pointed out, the Clintons have only themselves to blame on this count. In actual fact, Obama’s delegate lead is fairly misleading and mostly the result of Team Clinton’s decision not to sweat the small stuff. If the campaign had waged even a half-hearted effort to organize for the presumably small-potatoes out-of-the-way caucuses, all of this would be academic. Hillary would be pivoting for Labor Day and printing up her new business cards for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue right now. Of course, hindsight is 20/20. Who knew all those little contests would add up to the deciding factor?

There have been pleasant surprises for Hillary, however. Although I thought her speech last night was flat and rushed and oddly strained, in general, she has proved infinitely more appealing and more energetic on the campaign trail than anyone could have imagined. She found her identity (the indomitable scrapper) somewhere along the way and, indisputably, emerged as the star of her own show.

As for Bill, he has not been nearly as bad as advertised. He had difficulty adapting to second fiddle--but he has transitioned pretty darn well, all things considered. For the most part, anyone would have been hard-pressed to foresee the curious treatment Clinton-42 would receive from the Obama-worshiping press corps. Imagine a superstar athlete who, accustomed to enjoying favorable calls from the refs throughout his career, faced a series in which the refs suddenly were calling him for fouls he never knew existed. Pretty frustrating. Just desserts we might say--but, hear this, rest assured, if the Clintons make it to the next round, all the old rules will re-apply and the old galloping and slashing Bill will be back in vogue.

One last prediction and/or suggestion: look for Hillary to defend Bill against the next wave of media criticism—whenever that next dustup arrives (perhaps sooner than later). It is time to defend the husband. She has been careful not to wade into his imbroglios with the press and other Democratic gray hairs--but it is time to go on record in support of the old warhorse. My hunch is that the voters are to the point where they think Bill has suffered enough comeuppance and stand ready to forgive and embrace him once again.

This thing is not over—not yet.
Category: Campaign 2008.12
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
After hearing a few snippets from FOX News Sunday and Meet the Press in between other activities, here are a few quick thoughts concerning what I saw and heard:

1. On Meet the Press, "Obama's Chief Strategist David Axelrod squared off against Hillary Clinton's new chief strategist Geoff Garin." I know nearly nothing of Geoff Garin (other than he is a career pollster and Harvard grad, 1975). Evidently, he is a well-liked and knowledgeable political insider, but he was embarrassingly lame in his advocacy of his candidate today. Hillary needed this last-minute shuffle like a hole in the head. I felt sorry for her--and him. I kept wincing and dreading the inevitable post-appearance phone call, hoping that Hillary wouldn't blow her top and erupt all over him once the excruciating exchange finally concluded.

The one bright spot for Garin? He was so inept that Russert took on the role of devil's advocate--but that was small consolation.

All in all, another poor tactical choice on the part of Team Clinton.

2. On FOX News Sunday, Chris Wallace interviewed regular Obama/Clinton surrogates, Dick Durbin and Charles Schumer.

Ordinarily, Schumer wins this match-up on "sound and fury..." alone--but not today. Schumer (and this was true of Garin as well) was too busy denying obvious truths to ever get off the defensive.

"Hillary actually loves the lunatic left-wing activist base of the Democratic Party, regardless of what she might have said when she thought no one was listening at a private fund raiser."

Why shouldn't she be happy with the "nutroots" loonies who have rejected her moderate approach, elevated a half-term senator whom we barely know to one rung from the Democratic nomination, and forced her into advocating policies that would probably doom her candidacy--even if she were to find some way to somehow throw an ultra-miraculous "Hail Mary" to pull this thing out?

What's not to love?

By the way, these nutroots Daily Kos/Huffington Posters overplayed their hand in Connecticut in 2006, losing the election and chasing Joe Lieberman out of the Democratic Party. Do any of the adults in the Party of Jackson worry about recent history repeating itself?

Of course, Hillary meant everything she said about the left-wing nuts--and she is absolutely right. Not only did they ruin her glide-path to the nomination, they have also roiled up a Democratic Party General Election slam dunk.

Good for us. I don't know if all that is enough--but it helps. From a purely strategic point of view, we would much rather face an anti-NAFTA, anti-war Democratic Party than the mid-2007 Hillary Clinton version crafted to assure the heartland on defense and woo hardhats with promises of domestic competence.

The only problem--what if the rendering actually wins?