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February 14, 2008

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God, this is depressing. It means that if she manages to get elected she'll screw the psrty over by being incompetent.

And I am not at all sure that our fellow Dems won't do the selffdestructive thing and nominate her. I am not at all sure Obama can win.


Depressing.

When it comes to experience, Barack Obama has an item in his biography that trumps anything in Clinton's. It's not being a legislator. It's not being a community organizer. It's being on the faculty at the University of Chicago as a lecturer on Constitutional Law. To me, this indicates that he has probably thought seriously about the US Constitution.

At this point, that's a very good thing.

As with any other person at the top, the most important decision the President makes is who to appoint as the people beneath them. Anyone want to argue that incompetence at this has not been one of GWBush's major flaws? I have to admit that when I read (in one of these articles, or another recent one on Solis Doyle) that she had begun as Clinton's scheduler, a voice in my head echoed "And Bernie Kerik started as Guiliani's driver".

A revealing post. Thanks. I can't say that I'm surprised by the spoils system/rewarding loyalty in place in the Clinton campaign. But the documentation of it and its results is still utterly depressing.

the NYT story Greene quotes says that the campaign spent "$27,000 for valet parking,

Heh, isn't there some old cliche about history and repetition or something?

But the campaign’s latest reports still show unusual expenditures, such as nearly $500,000 last year for parking costs.

wash po

For some reason, that strikes me as so absurd that it must be some under-the-table pay off. I just don't see how that's possible, that she could be so terrible at money management that she made that same mistake again on...parking?!?

Michael: I know. I was amazed when I read that -- partly because I am myself given to spacing parking meters and ending up with tickets, throwing up my hands after looking for a parking space and heading for expensive lots, etc., so I have some idea how much parking can cost when it is your personal Achilles' heel (I don't do this with everything; it's parking in particular), and: that's a ton of money.

We've known about Hillaryland for a long time. Perhaps we didn't know they were incompetent, but descriptions like "tight-knit", "secretive", and "known for their loyalty" have floated around for a while.

Shouldn't we know better by now? Aren't presidencies run by 'tight-knit', 'loyal', 'secretive' groups disasters? Isn't it obvious that from the outside it is an invisible line between a leader inspiring loyalty (good) and a leader who rewards loyalty above all else? (bad) The best presidents don't need to be tended by flunkies. Lincoln appointed his biggest rivals, and FDR didn't think a policy had been thought through unless his aides were in open combat with each other. Bill Clinton's administration was pretty open and pretty successful. How about that. Hillary's health care initiative was closed and... a failure.

We don't know a lot about Obama. His campaign does not leak much (possibly a bad sign) but he has surrounded himself with a lot of big names unlikely to kowtow to him. Perhaps most promising he is only a few years out of the Illinois legislature.

Suffice to say that we know HRC has a problem, while BHO is a toss of the dice.

good post - I'd like to add a couple of points, which I might turn into a follow-up post myself.

1 - It bothers me that her campaign's raison d'etre is essentially procedural. In other words, the campaign's Great Argument isn't necessarily about reaching a given end, but simply about the MANNER in which nameless end will be efficiently reached.

The dark underside of that is "we will efficiently cut you out of the DC loop if you don't get behind us." Because we're a machine, we're efficient, we're unstoppable, etc.

Even that's accurate, it's still about procedure -- and it's notably lacking on vision.

#2 - If you build your entire campaign on a Wizard of Oz-style appearance of competence, it's pretty easy for the entire foundation to crumble beneath you rather quickly. A campaign director's departure can do that, for instance. Or burning through money at ungodly rates.

What i'm getting at is that it's worse for her to stumble in these particular ways, b/c the ENTIRE PREMISE of her candidacy is that we wouldn't have to worry about these things. Well, for reasons Hilzoy explains, we do. And if she can't do the procedure, and if she's always been shaky on vision, i'm not sure what we're left with.

And getting back to the dark underside, the superdelegates they've bullied are smelling this weakness too. They don't like the Clintons, and if they're not the scary Wizard, then I think they'll start defecting in droves

"It bothers me that her campaign's raison d'etre is essentially procedural."

Everyone who remembers the Dukakis campaign, raise your hand.

In fairness, a major part of the reason for this is that Clinton and Obama's policy differences are relatively few, so so can only do so much with that, and Obama has her beat in the inspirational category, although she's also making what mediocre efforts she can in that direction (Bill is much better at this, although Obama is yet much much better).

So what else is she left with but "I'm more experienced (at somethingorother), I'm allegedly ready, I'm tested, you know me, I know what to do," etc., plus trying to make Obama seem scary?

And, of course, I'mawoman.

What other selling point could she put forward?

I've been off reading TPM, and this strikes me as an incredibly (and needlessly) dumb thing to say:

"“Could we possibly have a nominee who hasn't won any of the significant states -- outside of Illinois?” Chief Strategist Mark Penn said. “That raises some serious questions about Sen. Obama.”"

Honestly: Virginia and Colorado aren't "significant states"? Why not just announce that the nomination should depend on NY and CA alone and have done with it?

Plus, it's hard to square that with this other talking point:

""We don't make distinctions between delegates chosen by million of voters in a primary and those chosen between tens of thousands in caucuses,'' Wolfson said. "And we don't make distinctions when it comes to elected officials'' who vote as superdelegates at the convention.

"We are interested in acquiring delegates, period,'' he added."

In terms of winning the general election, I would think the "significant states" would be Iowa, Missouri, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. Swing three of these to the (D) column and at worst you get an Electoral tie. Clinton did not outperform Obama in any of these by a large margin.

And the latest poll out of Colorado has Obama running 11 points ahead of Clinton vs. McCain (according to TPM's reporting of the 2/13 Rasmussen poll).

Whoa! Hilzoy, did you notice this?

[...] They also said Clinton will likely be within 25 delegates of Obama after voting on March 4, including superdelegates, and they dismissed most states which Obama has won.
Only yesterday it was:
[...] I think in Texas and Ohio, I will do very, very well, and I intend to run very competitive winning campaigns there."
This evening, it's suddenly "...will likely be within 25 delegates of Obama"?

I don't think the 13 pledged delegates of Rhode Island and the 15 of Vermont will be overwhelming the votes of Texas and Ohio, myself.

Those goalposts must be mounted on pickup trucks.

"Honestly: Virginia and Colorado aren't 'significant states'?"

If Missouri, South Carolina, Georgia, Washington, Louisiana, Utah, Maryland, and Connecticut aren't, why not? (I'll give him Delaware, D.C., the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa, which also went for Obama.)

Honestly: Virginia and Colorado aren't "significant states"? Why not just announce that the nomination should depend on NY and CA alone and have done with it?

Even though I'm a full-throated supporter of the 50-state strategy, even accepting the dubious assumptions that go into Mark Penn's electoral math, it's worth noting that VA + CO > OH or PA in electoral votes.

Indeed, if Obama won all of Kerry's states + VA + CO, he wins the election.

Which of Kerry's states couldn't he carry? Someone should put this directly to Penn.

We have

CA
OR
WA
MN
WI
IL
MI
PA
NY
VT
ME
NH
MA
CT
RI
NJ
DE
MD
DC

I see no reason to think he couldn't win every single one of those states, probably quite easily. Maybe McCain could contest PA.

Meanwhile, he'd be the favorite in IA and maybe even Kansas (definitely at least make McCain pour resources into it), while I'd put CO and VA and MO into lean-Obama categories and definitely be competitive in OH. So, that means he has the potential, IMO (conservatively speaking) to add 46 electoral votes in addition to OH, and maybe he could be in jeopardy of losing the 21 electoral votes in PA (hard to say unless we have a contested primary there on 4/22, but this regional breakdown of support suggests Obama could have a big blindspot v Clinton that might not necessarily go to him should he be the nominee in the region)

I think those are conservative guesses at what Obama could do with his whole "we're gonna knock on every door in the country" approach to campaigning.

I'd just add that it seems incredibly politically tone-deaf to dismiss 23 states as insignificant? I mean, if you want a clear contrast between the two campaigns and the real root of Clinton's campaign problems, it's precisely that they're actually willing to write off 23 states as insignificant, presumably because they're either "sure wins" or "sure losses" (except, of course, for Iowa, Missouri, Virginia, Colorado, IMO Kansas, and maybe even Alaska since I understand McCain is unpopular up there w/ conservatives, but hey, who's counting, right?)

I mean, this is why they're losing. Because they wrote off every state except NY, AK, NJ, and CA on Feb 5th...and then wrote off every state after Feb 5th...and wrote everywhere that isn't a major population center...and then got their asses handed to them in contest after contest, whether it's Obama beating them in rural counties in Nevada and, as such, getting more delegates even though they won Clark County and the pop vote...or Obama roping in more delegates on Super-Tuesday in spit of losing the biggest delegate "pies" by keeping those margins close while racking up huge margins in all the smaller states...or investing in infrastructure beyond Feb 5th in advance...

I mean, is there any doubt that Obama and his team just understand how to get votes and win elections better? I think, at this point, the evidence is pretty strong that their approach + their candidate is simply a superior product to head up the Dem ticket, and what's more, that quote suggests Hillary, Penn & Co. still don't get why this is so

It's because every vote and every state counts.

It seems quite clear at this point that Hillary is a very skilled politician and often an inspiring leader. She is not a very good manager, and either she's not aware of it, or she is but can't assess management skill in others.

Many leaders are only mediocre managers, but can build enough momentum that they sweep some managers into their wake who compensate for their weaknesses -- George W. Bush seems a good example of this. He's a horrible manager (and doesn't seem to know it sometimes), but he's surrounded with people who are very good managers and make up for that weakness.

Clinton's momentum is the obvious explanation for how her campaign could run at such a high burn rate without a course correction. Silicon Valley is littered with people who were gods of their professions but failed either because they couldn't manage, didn't think they needed to, or didn't know how to find someone who could.

For example, it seems widely accepted that while Brin and Page are brilliant guys, Google wouldn't have succeeded without Eric Schmidt there to complement them. What Brin and Page deserve kudos for is (a) recognizing what they lacked, and (b) their recognition that Schmidt had the talent to fill the gap.

My take on Hillary is that she has the common blind spot of poor self-assessment. She's a talented politician and a leader -- and she knows it and capitalizes on it -- but keeping Patty Solis Doyle on for that long indicates that Hillary seriously overestimated her own ability to judge talent. It's difficult to tell at this juncture whether Hillary overestimated her own management skills or Doyle's, but one of the two must be true.

The gamble people seem to perceive in Obama is that he, too, might not have sufficiently backed-up his momentum. But at this point, that doesn't appear to be the case, and a brief look at his history and even his own statements (the acknowledgment that he leans on people to help him stay organized, for example, speaks volumes) seems to make that quite plain.

Though it's possible that he has some handler or handlers who have steered him right so far, at this point it's simply not credible to argue that he's not cognizant of management as a logistical issue and able to handle it, personally or by proxy. And in any event, it's even more clear that he's better at it than Hillary.

tomtom: Shouldn't we know better by now? Aren't presidencies run by 'tight-knit', 'loyal', 'secretive' groups disasters? Isn't it obvious that from the outside it is an invisible line between a leader inspiring loyalty (good) and a leader who rewards loyalty above all else? (bad) The best presidents don't need to be tended by flunkies.

That's not a very solid proposition at all. In fact, many if not most successful presidencies and executives tend to be surrounded by trusted decisionmakers, and often those circles are quite closed. The fact that you cite FDR as an counterexample indicates an ignorance of history. (The name "Frankfurter" might ring a bell -- and no, it's not something that you eat.)

The difference between a good leader and a bad leader is not how they get their advice, but whether they know how to get it in. Some require a tight circle, some an open forum, but the important thing is knowing what works for them and why.

This is also one of the few times when I'll disagree with publius, when he says It bothers me that her campaign's raison d'etre is essentially procedural. In other words, the campaign's Great Argument isn't necessarily about reaching a given end, but simply about the MANNER in which nameless end will be efficiently reached.

I don't think that her campaign's strategy was prima facie wrong any more than I think that advisor circles should always be open or closed. Hillary's "inevitability" approach is a sound strategy, in theory, but they just couldn't execute on it. Josh Green's Atlantic piece seems to put that pretty clearly in perspective. In large-scale organization, it's often very hard to assess bad management skills except in hindsight. It continues to happen and always will, but that's selection bias for you.

And hilzoy, I think that in this case the conventional wisdom is correct: Mark Penn really and truly just is a colossal incompetent. By pointing out inconsistencies in what he says, you're assuming that he himself has even the vaguest idea what he's talking about and furthermore has some coherent conceptualization that he's capable of being consistent about, which frankly doesn't seem to me to be the case. There's no 'there' there. Until I see some evidence to the contrary, I am absolutely convinced by this point that he's just a complete twit, and that's really just all there is to it.

"while I'd put CO and VA and MO into lean-Obama categories"

Colorado is an absolute lock for Obama. By a large margin.

It might even go for Clinton.

The Big League

As I said, it's only the fact that Barack Obama is a superb candidate running a superb campaign that is keeping Hillary Rodham Clinton's good campaign from being good enough...
...Brad DeLong

Mark Penn reminds me of how William Gibson wrote his hacker heroes in Neuromancer and his other early stories. Gibson didn't know anything about computers. He did have an excellent ear for dialect, and he captured the rhythm of hacker speech. It worked so well that hackers who felt flattered by their collective portrayal set about making the fantasy real.

Penn doesn't strike me as knowing much about anything. What he has, apparently, is the rhythm of expertise, and he sells that to clients who care more about being so cool as to hire the best-sounding hep cat in town than about getting demonstrable results.

Actually, Gary, I agree with you re: Obama and Colorado, though I have my doubts on it for Clinton. But I was trying to be conservative with my estimations there. My personal opinion is that he could win the state big time.

Anyone else noticing how defensive the Clinton strategists have been? Dismissing small states. Dismissing people's will not have have the thing decided by superdelegates. Arrogantly insisting on seating Michigan even though competitor's names weren't on the ballot. Do they think no one is listening? Do they think none of us care? Have they lost their grip on when you go from being a hard-nosed politician to a pariah bleeding your party?

I think it's rather obvious that Colorado and Virginia are vastly more important than California and New York. We *know* those states are going for the Dems. Does Penn seriously believe that the Republicans are a threat to snatch California? Really?

Penn is just full of hot air. At times, it sounds like he's prescribing what he thinks people ought to be voting for (the small issues that concern a certain class of swing voter) when people are plainly doing something quite different. His frustration has led him to go from descriptive to prescriptive on this. A prescriptive pollster! Imagine!

Bear in mind, a big campaign is like a 500 person corporation. The executive branch is *vastly* larger than that. If you can't the campaign...

I've had this conversation so many times in so many different comments sections, I hope I haven't gone over this stuff here already; I can't remember if I have. Forgive both the length and the absurdly over-the-top permutations and %s and such, this is what I think about when I'm bored.

But I wanted to note that, IMO, at the risk of being presumptuous, the race for the Dem nomination is effectively over, and I'm not sure even Hillary's people realize this. Maybe I'm late to this party and everyone here already knows it, but I've seen plenty of commenters who don't seem to grasp this yet and breathlessly insist that this thing isn't over by a longshot.

It's one thing to say that it's not formally over. But at this point, that's like warning that the following football game isn't over:

45 seconds remain, Team A trails Team B by 11 points, has the ball on their own 40 yard line.

Sure, technically, that game isn't over. Sure, technically, Team A could launch a hail mary successfully, score a 2-point conversion, successfully convert an onsides kick, move the ball down field with a couple quick long throws, and then boot a field goal as time expires in order to get to OT, and then win the toss in OT, drive the length of the field, and kick a short FG to win. Sure, that's theoretically possible, but it requires such absurdly low-probability conditions happening in succession as to defy credulity.

That's the situation, roughly, Hillary now finds herself in. To wit: she currently trails Rock Obama ~136 pledged delegates. In all likelihood, Obama will widen that gap on Feb 19th, so, we can accept that as probable and move on, or posit improbable Hillary outcome [1]: she gains ground on him on Feb 19th.

Let's ignore that though for now (we'll come back to it), and assume he goes into March 4th with a 146 delegate lead. Clinton's improbably necessary condition [2] is to win 60% of the available delegates on March 4th, 222 to Obama's 148, for a net gain of 74. That would cut his lead roughly in half, to 72 pledged delegates. Reasons this is improbable: (a) Texas is designed such that, as long as it is even moderately contested, winning any sort of large advantage is nearly impossible, thanks to its numerous 4-delegate districts (amongst other things), and (b)the relative demographic strengths of Clinton and Obama suggest that Obama is more likely to benefit from delegate apportionment than Hillary, since delegate allocation is based on prior turn-out, and A-A turnout in 2004 and 2006 was high, while Hispanic turn-out in same elections was low. As such, Obama's goals are relatively modest: hit 40% w/ Hispanics to ensure mostly 2-2 splits in their districts, continue to clean up with A-A votes, split or competitively lose the white vote, and he could tie or win the delegate battle. There's also, of course, (c) the added 18,000 caucuses that take place after the primary, for a significant minority of the delegates to be awarded, which will be a great place for Obama to make-up ground on Hillary in Texas.

Aside from Texas, there's also the fact that Clinton has not shown a particularly devastating ability to rack up 60% of delegates in prior contests, which she'll need to do consistently from here on out. She got 59% in NY and 60% in MA, and 63% in Oklahoma and much better in Arkansas. Disregarding her home state margins, and noting the demographic differences (and the fact that Obama will actually contest Texas heavily) that make an OK-like finish very improbable, Clinton would basically have to match her singularly best performance in a contested primary in Texas (and Ohio, for that matter!) in order to make this scenario possible.

And as noted, neither state sets up demographically to make that a particularly likely outcome, and Texas' delegate allocation system makes that further unlikely.

Even then, though, assume only a modest 72 delegate lead for Obama on March 5th. Now, let's look at the rest of the calendar. Our super-delegates that morning would wake up to see a calendar with 12 contests worth a total of 561 delegates. Obama would be favored to win, by my eyes, 5 of those contests, for a total of 198 delegates (Wyoming, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota). That leaves a relatively shallow pool of delegates from which Clinton can draw post-March 4th in order to make up ground on Obama: 363 delegates from 7 contests. In order to end up in a delegate tie with Obama, then, she'd have to execute unlikely event [3]: win 59.9% of the delegates in those states...once again matching her very best performances in contested, non-home states (i.e. Mass). In order to keep it within a couple dozen, she'd need "only" 56.8% of those delegates (we'll call that more-likely-but-still-unlikely event [4]). And that is, of course, assuming Obama does not get a single delegate advantage from the 5 contests he is favored in. Conservatively, we could guess that Rock gets something like 54% of the delegates there to expand his lead by ~17 pledged delegates, meaning the 59.9% delegate share scenario outlined above would only keep her close, not get her a tie.

Unless, of course, unlikely event [1], making gains in Wisconsin and Hawaii, comes to pass, in which case she could tie him by executing, as well, [2] & [3].

And none of these scenarios leads to a Clinton win, which takes me to my next point. Her current strategy is no longer to even win the pledged delegate battle; it's simply to delay the super-delegates from coalescing around Obama as long as possible, in the hopes of getting all the way to the convention while kicking up as much dust as possible to cloud the legitimacy of his lead, either by trying to run up and pass him on the popular vote totals, keeping at the MI/FL debate, complaining about caucuses, etc etc. Their entire strategy is based around the assumption that they won't catch him in pledged delegates. Much like they conceded vast swaths of the country to him already, they are now too effectively conceding the lead in pledged delegates.

Which takes me to unlikely event [5]: her plan rests on the idea that throughout all these incredibly unlikely events, super-delegates would hold off from crowning Obama the victor in order to indulge Hillary's brokered-convention gambit.

That's just not gonna happen. Super-delegates are not numbers-crunchers, so while they might have some vague idea now that Hillary "needs to win big" March 4th or something, it won't be until the clarity of March 5th that they really see the contours this race has already inescapably taken. Looking at those last 12 contests, even on the heels of a big Hillary win, it wouldn't take long to realize that she still simply does not have the pool of favorable states waiting for her beyond that. With Obama still holding a clear lead, it wouldn't take long (prob after Missisippi, when he could push it back up towards 100) to crown him and end the race. The realistic choices are coalesce around Obama while he leads handily, ending the race in early March; or ride it out all the way to the convention while Clinton tries to pull off hail mary after hail mary. I mean, if we said she needed 60+% of the delegates in just one contest, that'd be a huge task knowing Obama is gonna be campaigning hard to keep that from happening. In 9 contests? Maybe I'm just naive, but I can't imagine the party leaders indulging that.

Hillary has to vastly out-perform what can be reasonably expected in order to even stay close to Obama at this point, all in order to get to a brokered convention where enough obfuscation and spin and backroom arm-twisting will get her the super-delegate edge she needs. But all that relies on super-delegates being completely oblivious to this plan as it unfolds, which seems absurd, or them aware of the plan and tacitly approving of it. Much more likely, IMO, is that once the actual situation, and Hillary's plan, become clear, the super-delegates will see that for what it is, stop indulging Hillary, and get behind Obama. And that will be that.

And even more likelier than that is Obama simply grows his margins on the 19th, keeps it relatively close on March 4th, and the same math applies March 5th, only Hillary's threshold #s are that much higher, e.g. if Obama has a 130 delegate edge on March 5th, Hillary would need to win 68% of the votes in her favored states from there on out to tie Obama in pledged delegates. And a 130 delegate edge is not out of the question. His campaign currently pegs him at holding a 136 delegate lead. Add 17 for Feb 19th, and you're looking at 153. Hillary only getting ~23 delegates on March 4th is quite likely...there's a good chance she and Obama simply split Texas, or the margins are very small, thanks to the reasons outlined above. And the gains Hillary is likely to make in RI will likely be mostly mitigated by VT. So 23 delegates would mean winning Ohio by 58%. More likely is her grabbing 55% or so, but maybe getting a slight edge in Texas to make up the rest. That would be a good night...VT and RI wash each other out, Hillary wins both Texas and Ohio by ~55-45, doesn't get a lot out of Texas but does get some out of Ohio, and ends up...needing to win damn near 70% of the delegates in the remaining favorable contests in order to stay competitive.

This is the math the super-delegates will be waking up to on March 5th, whether they realize it or not now. And while I might've made it very boring and inaccessible in this post, it will be impossible to ignore when it's reality in a few short weeks. And you won't have to go through all the permutations to see it; it will be plain as day, looking at the calendar. And that's when the nomination battle effectively ends.

Which is why I'm gonna work my ass off here in Houston to make sure that we dont have a blow-out here. Cause I want to get back to Florida and start work on the General Election campaign :D

i've never lived in NY, but my impression based on other cities i've lived in is that parking is really expensive. is 10k for say each person in a 50 person office for a year in new york totally crazy? not just "a waste of money", but obscene?

Yoyo: her national campaign HQ is in Virginia

...and just to add, in my (limited) experience, campaigns tend to rent spaces w/ parking, or people just walk or take public transportation or park on the street on their own dime.

However, a national HQ I would assume be an office space w/ parking.

"Colorado is an absolute lock for Obama. By a large margin.

It might even go for Clinton. "

yeah, assuming its not a blowout (eg, mccain starts raving more than usual and falls down while doing so), the dark red states that could flip are probably mountain states. I'm liking montana, personally.

And michael is totally right. He even skips the part of how hillary has to hold of voters coalescing on obama (perhaps coincident with her money running out). A few more weeks of mccain starting up his general election campaign, and democrats are going to want to rally around someone. Momentum has been a phantom this year, but it might yet get its day. And this is a separate phenomenon from "in every state thus far obama has campaigned in he's moved up in the polls, what makes the remaining states immune from obamarama?"

Also, this reminds me of when i used to watch sports. Even when my team kept getting farther behind, i'd have an idea in my head how they could totally still win it. They lost, (because if the strategy you spent a week thinking up isn't working, the new 4th quarter one isn't going to be better), and it drove me nuts. It also kind of reminds me of when i'd put off writing an essay until the night before and still have this plan in my head of how i oculd research and write in in 6 hours.

oh.

These last couple weeks have really made me disgusted with Clinton. Svereal quick points.
1> the refvelation of the preference for loyalty over competence (See GWB).
2. The inability to plan for anything going wrong (finance campaign manager admitted there was no plan for Obama being serious contender past Super Tuesday) (See GWB).
3. The basic confession that they are willing to throw away states as unwinnable. (Interesting that Texas will be a state which, if they win, will count as important under that logic.)
4. The arrogance in the Shuster case. To send an open letter to NBC basically demanding his head on a platter over an admitted mistake, though hardly worthy of all this, displays an extremely high level of arrogance and hubris (See GWB).
%. DeLong's report of his time in the 90's with Clinton turn out to be more valid than even he thought. His disclaimer was prior to a lot of the above revelations and I am not sure he would feel the same way today.

I'm guessing that everyone's heard about the Che Flag Incident, by now?

I'm seeing lots of folks interpret that as Obama is a Che-worshipper, which I think is absolutely silly. More likely (meaning: as far as I'm concerned, it's a given) one of his supporters put it there, and he had no idea. I'm guessing it's probably gone, now.

Che Flag Incident

I didn’t see even those on the right taking that too seriously. At least in terms of it being something Obama knew about and/or endorsed. What I mostly saw pointed out was:

1. The reporter did not notice and/or question it.

2. These are the type of people attracted to his campaign.

I’m in agreement with (1). As to (2) – two words: Ron Paul.

These are the type of people attracted to his campaign.

These are a type of people attracted to his campaign.

Che Flag Incident

I would bet there is a substantial overlap in the groups of people who (i) are bleating about the Che flag "incident" (there was at least one Bizarro World post about it); and (ii) think the stars and bars is just hunky-dory.

Excellent analysis, Michael. That's how I see it as well. I do think, though, that in the event of Clinton victories in Ohio and Texas, it's going to start looking kind of murky. I hope you're right that at that point the superdelegates are going to realize that Clinton has no realistic path to the nomination, and will start coalescing, and Clinton either drops out, or stumbles on to defeat in Pennsylvania.

I'm afraid, though, that math is too complicated, and that they will not realize this. I hope it doesn't come to that...

Che, Che, Che
Che, Che, Che.
Che, Che, Che...
Che fools

I'd add to Michael's analogy, "Sure, technically, Team A could launch a hail mary successfully, score a 2-point conversion, successfully convert an onsides kick, move the ball down field with a couple quick long throws, and then boot a field goal as time expires in order to get to OT, and then win the toss in OT, drive the length of the field, and kick a short FG to win."

Team A, by the way, has just had 8 consecutive 3-and-outs.

David Brent for President! (Oh sorry, he's not eligible is he - OK, Michael Scott for you Americans).

Drudge is bleating that a new poll puts Obama up over Clinton nationally 49 to 37.

John--same John from the comments at Matt Yglesias' place?

In the event you described, it would indeed by murky March 5th...but not a week later, after Wyoming and Mississippi restore the race essentially to where it is right now, or close to it. I think at that point, seeing how Hillary's "big wins" netted her, in the long run, no real gains on Obama, they'd start to coalesce before the 6 week slugfest over Pennsylvania. After all, be it'd almost exactly like the situation we're currently in, only with substantially fewer contests to hold and delegates to hand out.

Plus, something else I didn't mention (aside from yoyo's and footballer's insightful comments) is that I think Obama is sitting on a lot of superdelegates who have already seen the light...and he'll start trotting them out one at a time after Wisconsin/Hawaii in order to dominate the news cycles. His campaign's numbers are markedly higher than the publicly declared super-delegates who've endorsed him, and while his post-Feb 5th leaked spreadsheet only had him at 159 supers, I saw a report just the other day saying his campaign is now touting 190, but I certainly don't think we've seen 31 endorsements for him in the past 9 days.

...

And I also think that we're past the point where establishing Hillary's cred as a "fighter" does her any good. I understand that she needs her voters to be motivated to volunteer, donate, get out to the polls, etc, and keep herself from getting asphyxiated by an all-out McCain/Obama contest before she's even conceded, but still, all that granted, I think stories like this one, to the extent they effect anything at all, only hurt her, not help her. And whether or not it changes primary state results, it probably changes national numbers a tick or two, and that wont help with super-delegates.

WASHINGTON -- Hillary Clinton will take the Democratic nomination even if she does not win the popular vote, but persuades enough superdelegates to vote for her at the convention, her campaign advisers say.

The New York senator, who lost three primaries Tuesday night, now lags slightly behind her rival, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, in the delegate count. She is even further behind in "pledged'' delegates, those assigned by virtue of primaries and caucuses.

But Clinton will not concede the race to Obama if he wins a greater number of pledged delegates by the end of the primary season, and will count on the 796 elected officials and party bigwigs to put her over the top, if necessary, said Clinton's communications director, Howard Wolfson.

I don't think this stuff helps her fend off voters coalescing around Obama, as yoyo noted she must do.

Like I said, this is their only path to "victory"...and what a Pyrrhic victory it would be. That, of course, is the last part of that scenario I forgot to include, which is that should she somehow pull all that off, her strategy would, IMO, absolutely decimate turn-out for young voters, African-American voters, and especially drive away white/male Independents. And what worse candidate to face than John McCain if you've alienated white male indies before the general election has even started? It's not like Clinton started out from a position of strength with that demographic, and they think highly of McCain, and Obama is their favorite candidate and they would, I think, largely view his nomination as stolen.

I think the standard GOP base consolidating around stopping Hillary (here in Houston, I'm staying with my aunt and uncle, and my uncle and 2 cousins like McCain, are open to Obama, and refuse to even consider voting for Clinton) + those Indies is enough of a coalition for McCain. It would be interesting though, as Clinton would have a huge advantage with women, but McCain would, I think, neutralize a lot of her support with Hispanics.

She'd have some issues with coalition building facing McCain in the abstract; but in her only path to "victory" I can imagine, she would cripple her GE campaign to the point where I'm not sure a winning coalition is possible.

Great post Hilzoy. I have long felt that Hillary would be a Democratic version of W. in the "loyalty above all" area. And the "35 years experience" claim has always been a complete joke. HLC would be a disaster as President.

check out this story: McCain adviser says he'd quit if it's McCain v Obama.

Drudge is bleating that a new poll puts Obama up over Clinton nationally 49 to 37.

It's Rasmussen. If it's confirmed by the Gallup tracking poll and/or other national polls, all my mathematical permutations would probably be academic/mental masturbation, not that I would complain. If the voters coalesce around him, the supers will follow, and that will be that.

Anecdotally, FWIW, the guy who's couch I slept on in San Fran doesn't vote, says all politicians are corrupt, wasn't that impressed by Obama and seemed to go out of his way to try to be skeptical of him (though he was supportive of my efforts; he's still a good guy). He was down on Obama's chances when I left Feb 6th, and I assured him that he'd be much higher on him in 10 days or so.

he called me up last night to say, "your boy is on quite the run, eh?" When I agreed and did a little gloating about calling the way things unfolded, he surprised the hell out of me, with a hint of excitement in his voice quoted Obama word-for-word (he'd never seen an Obama speech when I was in San Fran, so this must've been the first time he saw Barack in action), trying to adopt an Obama-voice, "we are bringing together Democrats and Independents and Republicans; blacks and whites; Latinos and Asians; small states and big states; Red States and Blue States into a United States of America."

Then he paused and just said, "pretty fucking sweet man."

That’s going to leave a mark. (h/t HA)

Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign manager backs Obama


Another reason for me to like O over C (h/t Insty):

Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan budget watchdog, issued a report on Wednesday that showed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York had obtained $342 million in earmarks last year, nearly four times as much as the total for Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Of course McCain hasn’t requested a single one…

(he'd never seen an Obama speech when I was in San Fran, so this must've been the first time he saw Barack in action

Is it too simplistic to think that this anecdotal event is being repeated everywhere? It was the case for me. As I teetered between Edwards and Obama, the first speech I saw Obama give (this campaign anyway) sealed the deal.

"Of course McCain hasn’t requested a single one…"

I have to say that, no disrespect intended, and present company excepted, I think the conservative blogosphere's fetish with earmarks is inane: it's purely a campaign of distraction, to keep you guys all busy and excited over something that's essentially trivial.

Are some earmarks egregious bad ideas and waste of money? Sure.

But, in fact, only a small percentage of earmarks are that sort of thing. The overwhelming majority are for perfectly sound projects, sought after by local communities.

And earmarks are less than 1% of the federal budget, after all: they're an absolutely trivial piece government spending.

Lastly, they never talk about presidential earmarks.

Basically, I think the folks subscribing to the whole fetishization of earmarks as some sort of major waste in government, and spending a lot of time and energy on campaigning against them, are essentially charging a red cape, while the Republican leadership bull waves it around, and serious issues of waste, like farm subsidies, or tax breaks for hugely profitable international corporations, go unaddressed. It's a con job, and the conservative grass roots have fallen for it.

Here's another bunch of anecdotes of Clinton campaign infighting.

I'm less concerned about infighting (the number of such reports go up any time a campaign is seen as tanking) and more about the big, major strokes of strategy failure. Even f you grant that Clinton ran a good conventional campaign, the response to a change in conditions has to be worrisome; it certainly gives reasons for people to hop off the bus.

More problems for Clinton, and smart Obama planning.

they're an absolutely trivial piece government spending

If I could only get a piece of the action, I'd probably shut up about them.

It's a con job, and the conservative grass roots have fallen for it.

there are probably hundreds of topics which could be described by blog posts ending in that sentence.

Here's Chuck">http://www.obamaiswinning.com/2008/02/lnm2nj0ugvm.html">Chuck Todd on delegate math (YouTube). It's quite interesting, and Todd is very good.

Oh: and Chafee endorses Obama. Good news for the RI primary.

Gee, she values loyalty over competence?

There's been talk about how if Clinton wins she'll be setting up a second dynasty to match the Bushes.

Sounds more like there's just the one.

i have this sneaking feeling a lot of people are going to be saying "well, he never had much of a lead, when you really look at the numbers."

but, i'm sure that's just my pessimism reflex twitching in the unexpected presence of hope.

Adam: Many leaders are only mediocre managers, but can build enough momentum that they sweep some managers into their wake who compensate for their weaknesses -- George W. Bush seems a good example of this. He's a horrible manager (and doesn't seem to know it sometimes), but he's surrounded with people who are very good managers and make up for that weakness.

Don't you mean "people who are very good campaign managers" here?

Redhand, it's HRC.

Michael's math looks about right: Clinton needs to win out in a way that's staggeringly unlikely. I can't see any way this will happen, especially with momentum and especially the way media momentum is.

Gary, I wouldn't be so sure that WI is guaranteed to be in the Democratic column. Kerry won by a razor-thin margin -- close enough that I thought the Republicans had a colorable court case, though not close or contested enough that I thought they would win. The state is swinging blue but the north is still extremely conservative and I don't know what they're going to do come election time. I'm hoping that, between depressed turnout in the smaller cities and the energizing of the big cities (Green Bay, Milwaukee and Madison) that the contest won't be close, but there's no guarantee.

To the main point of the thread, this boils down to something I've thought for a while, and which Mark Penn inadvertently confirmed. A major bone of contention in 2005 (when Howard Dean took control of the DNC) was the 50-state strategy. It was widely derided, particularly on the DLC side of the fence, as being impractical and foolhardy because it contravened the conventional wisdom that you only contested the "battleground states". The verdict from the 2004 election was that conventional wisdom was wrong, though, and the verdict from the 2006 election is that the 50-state strategy is right. In two short years the Democrats went from being considered -- not necessarily correctly, mind, but close enough -- a purely regional party, to one that's national and which further has pushed the Republicans into being a regional party themselves. And this is, in short, why Hillary's getting smoked: Mark Penn (and maybe Hillary) is too invested, or too hidebound, to realize he's using last year's failure of a strategy. I hate to say it, but for that reason alone Hillary deserves to lose.

[I also think Obama deserves to win for many reasons, btw, but that is to me a very different thing.]

I remember another president who valued loyalty and message discipline over competence...

Gary: But, in fact, only a small percentage of earmarks are that sort of thing. The overwhelming majority are for perfectly sound projects, sought after by local communities.

IMO perfectly sound projects sought after by local communities need to be funded by local communities, or the county, or the state. If it’s not part of federal infrastructure it should not be getting federal dollars. Why should you pay taxes in Colorado for a bike trail in Maine for example? YMMV, but it is an issue for me.

$20 billion per year doesn’t go as far as it used to I admit, but think of where else that money could be used. And it’s not even the money as much as the related problems:

-Lack of transparency, slipped in after committee with no oversight.
-Keeps incumbents in office because they bring home the pork.
-Encourages corruption. Company X exists for little reason other than to suck up earmarks but contributes a lot of money to Congressperson Y’s coffers.

I’m not claiming it is a D problem. It’s a primary reason I didn’t vote R in 2006 – because I was so disgusted at Republican’s abuse of the system and Democrats promised to fix it.

cleek - you missed the most important thing though about that poll:

Key point: These polls were taken from Feb. 6th-12th -- before Obama's resounding wins in the Potomac Primary. So whatever momentum he gained then is not reflected in these numbers.

“My opponent makes speeches, my campaign offers solutions.”
-Hillary

Now why would a party that pretends to represent middle class American workers fight for low tariffs and a new plan to give competing illegal immigrant workers 5-year visas?

With the resources that she has at her disposal, the fact that she surrounds herself with weak people speaks to her personal insecurities.

cleek - you missed the most important thing though about that poll

i saw that. but her leads are pretty large, even with BOSHMO's presumed Potomac momentum. he's gonna need some fat mojo to overcome those numbers. but, if he's able to do it, i'd hope HRC'd take the hint and get out of the way.

Anarch

Thanks for the kind words re: my math. Also, I agree about the 50-state strategy and your conclusion. This is what I wrote on that subject over at The CarpetBagger Report [I'm editing it a bit as I re-read it]

You know what, the real worry isn’t that [Penn writing off 22 states as "insignifcant"] is bad spin; it’s that this might not be spin at all, but rather something Penn and the Clinton camp truly believe. As Joe Biden once said, don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.

To wit: they apparently lost many of these states precisely because they diverted their resources away from them towards big states like California, Mass, and NY. What’s more, the Clinton camp, which has been so successful by co-opting local political machines via mayoral endorsements, didn’t have local networks in these regions to go after because, by and large, during her husband’s administration the Democrats were not building political infrastructure in those states. Further, within the states Hillary has decided are significant (again by looking at the amount of resources expended), we see in places like Nevada her relying entirely on the AFSCME to win Clark County for her and getting out-organized and generally handily beaten everywhere else. We see her doing almost no GOTV in SoCal and just letting the patronage machines do it for her. etc ec.

And what does that all suggest? That she doesn’t see those predominantly rural states nor rural areas in populous states as significant. Further, it evinces almost a complete disdain for actually building and expanding Democratic infrastructure for the future, either the GE or beyond. She is quite literally practicing the electoral politics of the “status quo” and “50 +1″, to borrow some political cliches, while Obama is quite literally showing what a “new kind of [electoral] politics” might look like by successfully enacting Howard Dean’s infrastructure- and party-building 50-state strategy.

Which leads me to my last point. There is ample evidence, as noted, that her campaign really thinks that way, at least to a large extent. That you win elections by focusing on a few key states worth large margins, and then win those states by focusing on dense centers of population and using existing Dem infrastructure to make your campaign work.

Which makes me take pause and note that Colorado, Iowa, Missouri and Virginia were all “red” in 2004 and all could easily be blue (and in fact, I would say Obama would be the heavy favorite in 08 to win those states over McCain right now, but Clinton not so much) in the coming election. Those states combined are worth 40 electoral vote, Ohio and Pennsylvania worth a total of 41. What’s more, Obama also could very well put Kansas into play, as he seems right in the mold of a Kathleen Sebelius, has her endorsement, has ties to the state and seems to connect well there. Hillary and Co might not think that’s significant, but throw in KS’s 6 electoral votes, and all of a sudden his "insignificant" states are worth more electorally than Ohio and Pennsylvania. We can see his collection of mid-west states and over-all enormous appeal in the Prairie & Mountain-West regions is very significant, and could literally "change the electoral map".

It just doesn’t seem to me like the Clinton campaign is trying to break the electoral logic or mold of the past 3 campaigns at all; indeed, it seems more like they’re embracing it with gusto, almost like they're trying to rebuke the 50-state strategy. That alone is reason to vote for Obama. That’s not just a minor drawback, it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what it takes to build political majorities, and suggests prioritizing personal achievement over building the party. It takes a lot of resources to build a political machine from the ground up in most of these states, and thus far Clinton has shown us no reason to believe she’d do it in the general or try to do it beyond. Those resources too precious, apparently, to be wasted in all these vast, neglected ("insignificant") swaths of the US that are so ready to vote Democratic in the Fall if we just give them a reason; they’re best focused on “significant” states like CA, NY, FL, and OH.

Yuck.


Michael, this has been really interesting reading. Good data, and good illumination of its possible significance. Much thanks.

Anarch: Don't you mean "people who are very good campaign managers" here?

No, George W. Bush has a lot of different types of psychotically loyal managers around him. You appear to be thinking of Karl Rove. Just off the top of my head, Andy Card (within the inner circle) and James Baker (looking down from Daddy's inner circle like the Wolf in Pulp Fiction) are good examples of guys who certainly strike me as very good managers who are not campaign guys -- at least not to the degree that Rove is.

How did she end up running [activity]? ... because she was loyal, and [a certain someone] valued loyalty more than competence.

Doesn't THAT sound familiar?

her own approach is a lot closer to the current president’s than her supporters might like to admit.

That's why it sounded familiar!

=======================

Why not just announce that the nomination should depend on NY and CA alone and have done with it?

That would work only if they were winner-take-all states. But Obama got 40% of the votes in NY and 43% of the vote (44% of the delegates) in Cali. So it's not like those were huge wins for Clinton, either.

=========================

I'm guessing that everyone's heard about the Che Flag Incident, by now?

Does the Che poster even refer to Che anymore? It seems to me that most people who wear a Che T-shirt or hang a Che flag probably don't know who he is (possibly a fictional character in a musical?). It's beciome like Einstein sticking out his tongue -- a picture which has moved from the individual to the mythic.

From the NYT article, exactly what I was harping on last week:

In Washington State, Cathy Allen, a longtime Democratic strategist working for Mrs. Clinton, said the Clinton campaign had worked hard.

“Our people were there,” Ms. Allen said of caucus day, which was Saturday. “We got more of our people out than ever. They just did more.”

It's the Anti-Rove strategy. Rather than firing up the base, expand and mobilize the center; get new people to the polls; get help in smaller increments (financially and logistically) so you're not as reliant on partisans. This sort of thing has always been considered "good idea, sounds purty, but won't ever really happen" territory. I wouldn't have thought it possible if Obama wasn't so damned good at it.

In almost any other year, Clinton would win the primaries in a walk -- she's turning out the base at an historic rate. The fact that Obama is beating her so resoundingly suggests that a lot of the conventional wisdom about "centrist" politics might have been wrong -- and largely because of some foolish assumptions about how to "campaign to the center." I have a feeling that the difference between Kerry's pandering to those in the middle and Obama's attempt to engage them will be looked back on with befuddlement in years to come.

Anarch has it almost exactly right in focusing this whole issue on the 50-state strategy, I think. The criticisms of that strategy do make sense if the only way you know of to go for the center is "I feel your pain" -- which has been the best that Democrats have been able to muster for some time now -- or "compassionate conservative," which suggests that the Republicans, while a bit better at treating non-partisans as human beings, don't really take it seriously either. To the extent they've been better at it since Reagan, it hasn't been by much, and the general scumminess of the party hasn't helped them much.

What Obama represents for Dean is a vindication of the 50-state strategy; the hope that there really is a silent, frustrated, disenfranchised majority out there waiting to be tapped. And a lot of politicians have assumed that because they couldn't figure out how to tap it, it wasn't there. The center was just too apathetic, young voters don't care, the country is too divided... But what if they're wrong? Is it really that implausible to consider that the incompetents and malcontents that have passed through D.C. throughout the modern political era just might not have had much of a clue? Campaigns have been slow to change despite some pretty radical cultural shifts -- viral marketing, direct mail, segmentation, brand management, trust relationships, long tails, purple cows, decentralized information, blah blah blah. The Democrats didn't even have a decent centralized voter database before Dean. The Republicans were better because of direct mail, but not by much (although they did write some interesting software designed to optimally gerrymander redistricting in Texas -- I've seen it).

Of course, all the resurgent-center talk might end up being too optimistic, or just a transient '08 phenomenon, or it might be that Obama himself is just that good. But I have a feeling that many of those who fawned over Rove's get-out-the-base strategy are going to end up like the people who were scrambling to build bigger forts and bigger battleships up until the tanks and aircraft carriers came rumbling in. "Huh. Now why did that not seem obvious before?"

(Also, in this metaphor, Dean is Rommel, which is kind of morbidly apropos. I was going to say that Hillary would be like the Bismarck before I considered that might be offensive, so instead she can be the Yamato -- Kerry is more of a Bismarck type anyway.)

Crap, the Yamato's still a battleship, so it's actually not less offensive. It's just so much cooler than the Bismarck that I forgot why I was amending my metaphor in the first place.

although they did write some interesting software designed to optimally gerrymander redistricting in Texas -- I've seen it

What do I have to do to get a look?

Crap, the Yamato's still a battleship, so it's actually not less offensive. It's just so much cooler than the Bismarck

Well, duh. Star Blazers!

What do I have to do to get a look?

I guess that sounded more insider-y than it was. OK, explanation:

During the Texas redistricting fiasco, I was a staff editor at the Daily Texan (UT's newspaper) and was doing background research, and ran across a public website of a company that made software designed specifically for gerrymandering political districts. (They didn't use that particular word, but it wasn't really necessary, as I'll explain in a sec.) For the life of me I can't remember their name, but I might be able to find it again if I looked.

It was really surreal to see it just laid out there -- like, they had screenshots and a slick interface and everything, and all these cool demonstrations about how they'd compiled all this demographic info that would let you consolidate hostile voters in such-and-such way and split them in other ways and on and on and on. They had all these super-detailed maps of Texas showing where to draw all the lines (even more impressive to me now, considering what I've learned since about the arcane nature of Texas politics -- which we've been discussing recently).

The site wasn't particularly partisan, but considering the time (redistricting doesn't normally happen mid-decade, and only one side was pushing for it, obviously), and considering that most of their examples were things like splitting up Latino and Black voting blocs to dilute them into larger White blocs, etc... (yes, it was that blatant) -- at any rate, it was pretty clear who their target market was. And they had a hell of a price tag.

I'd surprised if they were around long after that, since their software would in theory only be useful once a decade when the districts are supposed to be drawn (though I suppose it could be repurposed for lots of other purposes), but who knows -- it's almost that time again. I'd love to find that site again. I might go look for it a bit later. It was gold.

It almost sounds like a dream now, but it was definitely there. It was one of the weirdest things I've ever seen.

NPR added fuel to the management fire yesterday , reporting the rental of lists by the Clinton team to a Clinton supporter. There's more smoke than actual fire, but it is an interesting issue that unfortunately does call into question the internal judgment of the campaign generally, and of Solis Doyle in particular.

NPR added fuel to the management fire yesterday , reporting the rental of lists by the Clinton team to a Clinton supporter. There's more smoke than actual fire, but it is an interesting issue that unfortunately does call into question the internal judgment of the campaign generally, and of Solis Doyle in particular.

Another line of attack on Obama, this one a revision of a Republican classic: he's so negative.

This won't fly, either.

Except perhaps with folks like Von, because it exposes the evil way Democrats favor defending themselves from class warfare.

Harris's double post is unfortunate, but I've been surprised the story s/he cites hasn't been getting more blog attention. It concerns privacy, usually a hot issue on the internet and several things about it are weird:

1) They rented the lists to a company that does commercial solicitation; it isn't like the lists were to solicit liberal activism.
2) The money involved was fairly paltry, so it isn't clear why they'd bother - unless it was some sort of a favor to the guy renting the list.
3) Conversely to (2) (I said weird), the guy they rented the list to has given Bill Clinton some undisclosed but huge amount in personal income and also some undisclosed but still huger amount in donations to the Clinton Library, and this rental let him give money to the Hillary campaign, from corporate funds and above the individual limit (on which we assume he's maxed out).
4) Since when are campaigns are allowed to run as businesses, building and selling their assets to fund themselves? What's to stop a candidate from funding their campaign by selling their artwork, or their autograph, at $5,000 or $50,000 a pop to their big donors? Or taking the campaign fund and putting it on the Roulette wheel?
5) Renting the list for commercial solicitation pretty clearly violates their stated privacy policy - for donors to the Presidential campaign. On the other hand, what I've seen suggests it may have been a list of her Senate voters, and I haven't read that campaign's privacy policy. This rental might just be hypocrisy but not direct betrayal.

A quick search doesn't find any commenters saying this, not even Gary, so I feel compelled:

Josh Green, no 'e' on the end.

IMO perfectly sound projects sought after by local communities need to be funded by local communities, or the county, or the state. If it’s not part of federal infrastructure it should not be getting federal dollars.

This is kind of an aside from the overall topic of this thread, but -- IMVHO the correct answer here is "it depends".

Without trying too hard, I can think of a number of things that are particular to specific regions, states, counties, or communities, which might merit federal participation because they, in one way or another, either create value for the nation as a whole, or contribute to broad national goals.

Improvements to ports.
Money to improve schools in poorer states.
Money for basic research, development, or other investment in regionally based agriculture or industries.
Disaster readiness in uniquely disaster-prone areas.

Even your bike trail in Maine might merit federal money as part of an overall initiative to reduce dependence on oil. I bike at least part way to work when it's not too cold, I'd love to see federal money (or money from any source) invested in any and all kinds of non-automotive transportation.

Maybe I'm reading you wrong, but IMO there are lots and lots of reasons that federal money can legitimately be spent on initiatives that are relatively local in their immediate scope.

All of which is kind of a different kettle of fish from what is normally meant by earmarks.

Thanks -

Jim Hightower will endorse Obama. So, apparently, will SEIU.

Cleek upthread referred to the McCAin staffer who says he will quit if Obama gets the nomination because he doesn't want to campaign against him.

The man didn't say this but my assumption is that he would like Obama to win.

One of the participants at my dad's causuc was a republican who was there to support Obama. HHe came righht ouut and said that he wanted the Republicans to lose this year if thhey could lose to Obama.

I know that anecdotes aren't data but thhere are indications of this sort of thinking everywhere. There is a subset of the Republican pary that want's to lose this year if they can lose to Obama.

They don't want to lose to Clinton, however.

And oh, dear God:

"After Super Tuesday, I was surprised to find that a friend of mine, a lifelong Democrat who had been pledging his allegiance to Barack Obama all year, had stepped into the voting booth and suddenly changed is mind. He voted, instead, for Hillary Clinton, and here’s why: he’d watched that video online —you know, the one starring celebrities like will.i.am, Scarlett Johansson and Herbie Hancock—and he thought it made Obama look Hollywood smug, as if supporting him were this year’s version of wearing an AIDS ribbon on your lapel. My friend didn’t want anything to do with the latest chic cause, and he just couldn’t bring himself to pull the lever for the guy who now symbolized the things he liked least about Democratic politics, starting with all those stars who think they know more about America than the people who live in it."

Voters who change their mind because suddenly a candidate is the hip thing? Or because of a video his campaign didn't even make? Gag. A vote isn't a fashion statement, or a sort of lifestyle accessory. It's that sort of thinking that got us George W. Bush, the guy you'd want to have a beer with.

Sigh.

Jim Hightower will endorse Obama.

I am so sold!

I'm also disappointed at Edwards' antics (and Gore's supposed intention to sit this one out, but I guess I can forgive that). It seems painfully clear that Edwards is jockeying for position rather than standing on principle or trying to get a policy concession from either Clinton or Obama, and it strikes me as really dissonant from the tune he was singing on the campaign trail. Not happy at all.

I've been worrying about a backlash against the obama momentum. Dems seem to have a death wish. We've got an obvious winner on our hadnns and look at the sneerinng ahis winning attributes! He's charismatic! He talks abouut hope! He can fill areanas with screaming fans!

On what planet are those qualities bad in a candidate for President?

I tell you what. If we we nomimate Hillary, then, after she loses, I want everyone who voted for her to be banned from further participation in the primaries.

@Michael: A hearty second of Bruce B.'s appreciation of your post from a veteran of the sleep-on-sofas brigade. And thanks for working so hard in Texas; hope you can go home happy.

Party-building pays off at all levels of the ticket, and for years to come. It would really help counterbalance all the disappointments sure to come in an Obama presidency if the campaign did succeed in redrawing the map and exposing the Republican party as a regional entity, representing a serious minority.

The Clinton-McAuliffe approach weakened the grassroots almost fatally. All the more serious since it followed twelve years of Republican dominance.

It's hard to avoid boiling down the two approaches as the difference between operating from fear and operating from hope/confidence.

Your delegate math and the Virginia county-by-county results (reinforced by the map linked in a comment way upthread) have convinced me that an urgent task for local Dems is to begin helping build support for Obama in the rest of the western counties. The coolness to Obama there may be the result of less campaign contact. If not, McCain will be able to exploit our candidate's Appalachian problem.

Jim Hightower will endorse Obama. So, apparently, will SEIU.


John Lewis too.

I've been worrying about a backlash against the obama momentum. Dems seem to have a death wish. We've got an obvious winner on our hadnns and look at the sneerinng ahis winning attributes! He's charismatic! He talks abouut hope! He can fill areanas with screaming fans!

On what planet are those qualities bad in a candidate for President?

FWIW wonkie, I think Obama's quite on top of this, and has been at least since the first time he made the hope-monger joke. You're right that "he's too charismatic!" is a pretty self-defeating argument -- and that for some reason Dems seem to buy these sorts of arguments -- but they can't be ignored, and part of the reason Obama's been successful is that he's good at volleying this sort of attacks. If he wasn't, he wouldn't be as good/charismatic a candidate as he is -- QED.

At some point I think you just have to trust that he'll be able to contend with stuff like this, or not. He has to break down the Dems' traditional "fear of success" in order to win, and the job he's done so far is, I think, about the best we can ask for at this point.

OK, enough Kumbaya. Later all!

Ugh: I just saw that. That's huge, I think. (Well, it's huge to me. I really respect John Lewis.)

wonkie, Adam: It's a long-term project, this party-building thing.

I'm not known as a fan of the Clintons, Sen. or President. But my disagreements with their policies and their politics doesn't make me view the many, many people who support them as enemies.

It's going to be a rough couple of months coming up. Please try not to make them any rougher than they need to be.

Yargh, coming into my building just now, one of the people who works here, a 30-something African-American woman whom I've never spoken to before, said she'd seen me campaigning for Obama at the Metro and was surprised because she hadn't thought I was the type of person who'd get out and do that. I said that yes, I'd felt inspired to do that, and I was happy that we'd had a big win. I was shocked when she responded "Unfortunately" and went on to say that she didn't like any of the candidates because they were all going to sell out America. The only one she'd liked was Tom Tancredo, and it was too bad he was no longer in the race. Everyone else was too friendly to illegal immigrants. I was speechless at that point.

i've been a Democratic party activist since elemenatary school. Literally. I stuffed enevelopes for LBJ. And if my fellow Dems have are irresponisble enough to pick a cowardsly Vichy Democrat like Clinont who can't even campaign effectively over a gift like Obama, then i deserve the right to be madder than hell and to say so to any Hillary supporter I can find on McCain's inaugeration day.

In the meantime, when discussing politidcs with Hillary supporters I am very nice.

Interesting anecdote KC.

Another one. I was speaking to my sister-in-law tonight. She lives in the great northwoods of Wisconsin. I asked who she was going to vote for in the primary. Keep in mind that she and her husband are basically Republicans, although they voted for Kerry in 2004, partially because he is a Vietnam vet and felt the Republicans really dissed the vets and because they really hated Bush.

She mentioned that if they were voting in the Republican primary they would vote for Huckabee, but they really want the Republicans to learn a lesson. Then she mentioned that she is torn but will probably vote for Hillary. Well, 10 minutes later, just by discussing some of the things the Clinton camp has done in the past couple weeks, she will now vote for Obama. Knowing her husband, that is who he will vote for too.

Nell, keep in mind that wonkie is talking about aftre the general election when Clinton loses and we end up with a continuation of the present. Assuming she does. I think she might squeak a victory out, although based on her performance so far, I'm not so sure.

And her latest ads in WI, complaining that Obama won't debate her are just sounding like a person who suddenly realizes she is in trouble and is whining about it.

Well i probably won't ever sound off in real life to a real person.
But i am furious with thhe Clinont supporters now. I wishh one, just one, would give a reality-based sensible reason for supporting her. It is frustrating when a choice is so seriouus that people concoct such patently stupid rationalizations. The ladies at my caucus didn't want to say so byyt basically they like Clinton for being female. Sheesh. Or they preferred her health plaN. pRESIDENTS DON'T WRITE HEALTH PLANNS. If they want her to write a health plan, they should leavbe her in the Senate. Or they said shhe will fight the righht. If she was going to fighht the right, why hasn't she done so yet? Or they think that Obama is going to be lovey-dovey with thhe republicanns. Well better than trying to appease them or cave into them as Hillary did over and over.

Actually I think the love thing between Obama and Republicans is an inndecation that some of them would like to negociate a surrender, but not to Clinton. They don't want to surrender to her because to do so would be to accept responsiblity and admit error. So they want to give up the partisanship to someone other than her.

But whatever. The important thing is thhat they surrender thier partisannship because that's what's good for the country. If they surrender then we won and that's what matters. There is no virtue in continuing to fight when you have the option of winning.

Ok wonkie- I support Clinton. I'd rather see Barack in the white house maybe, but I don't think he can win. The Republicans will get millions of extra racist voters. Larry Wilmore had it right on the daily show last night.

The Republicans will get millions of extra racist voters.

Does that make sense?

I mean, I'm pretty keenly aware of the residual racism present in society, but is there that many active racists that would go out of their way to prevent a black man from getting into office? Isn't it more likely that all these millions of extra racist voters would sit out?

Voters who change their mind because suddenly a candidate is the hip thing? Or because of a video his campaign didn't even make?

This is, though, the only sense in which the "Obama cult" objection makes sense. Obviously Obama's supporters aren't a cult in the literal sense in which Scientology is a cult. Some of them are a cult in more or less the figurative sense in which Macintosh users or heavy Wikipedia editors are a cult: really a fandom. And there are people out there who hate this sort of thing with a burning passion. When anything gets like this, they have to run away or become hostile—they don't want to be one of the sheeple!

It's not just pride; one part of it is a sometimes-useful reflex. In Obama's case, there's a discussion going on over on Making Light about whether it makes sense to be repelled by charismatic speakers. Patrick's initial post proposed it was the same kind of "false economy" you mentioned, in which somebody who's good at being charismatic has to be bad at other things. But many posters responded that, no, charisma inherently made them suspicious, because they didn't like the feeling of getting emotionally carried away in some sort of tidal wave; after all, that sort of thing so often leads to no good. We all remember late 2001/early 2002, what feelings most Americans had and what that led to. It wasn't thanks to a charismatic speaker that that happened, but it was another kind of emotional flood.

I think the revulsion toward enthusiastic movements is mostly this kind of feeling, the worry that you might get snookered by your own emotions if you give in. And it's a valuable feeling. If more people felt that way in 2001/02 we'd be better off today. It doesn't mean, though, that it makes sense to follow it mechanically any more than it makes sense to follow every big fad that comes along. Some of Obama's fans might like him because he's actually a good candidate, just as some Macintosh fans like them because the machines have actual virtues.

In information technology, The Register's modus operandi consists largely of finding figurative cults of this type and poking them with a stick, because it's funny and because it makes readers feel skeptical and smart. This kind of reaction does, however, ignore the ways in which the cult-object might actually be worthy of admiration.

Matt: I can see that in some cases. Generally, my romantic taste is idiosyncratic, but one time I managed to fall for someone everyone else fell for too. (And yes, you know who you are. -- He reads this blog.) I used to joke that when he walked into a room, all the women's hair would point in his direction, like iron shavings to a magnet. It was sort of unnerving.

On the other hand, while falling for someone isn't supposed to reflect an objective judgment of any kind (I mean, other than 'this person is not a monster'), voting for President presumably is. So I can see being suspicious and deciding to think things through more carefully, but not just deciding not to vote for someone because it's the in thing and he's charismatic.

It isn't just charisma, in the sense of "delivers his lines well". Bill Clinton is pretty darn charismatic, as well as a decent present, but his rhetoric has always left me pretty cold.

It's:
1. His writing. His best stuff--I want to write like that. So I can hardly hold it against him. (I did try not to just vote based on that, naturally).

2. He actually seems to have a better regard for the intelligence & decency of the citizens of this country than any presidential candidate I can remember.

"Bill Clinton is pretty darn charismatic, as well as a decent present"

I've heard it said that he is gifted, but never that he's sometimes regifted.

Adam: Just off the top of my head, Andy Card (within the inner circle) and James Baker (looking down from Daddy's inner circle like the Wolf in Pulp Fiction) are good examples of guys who certainly strike me as very good managers who are not campaign guys -- at least not to the degree that Rove is.

See, I don't really. Baker is more of what I'd call a handler -- in fact, Wolf (or The Cleaner, an earlier {and inferior} Keitel role) is a very apt comparison -- which means that he's great as a temporary fixer, but doesn't really have the kind of long-term presence I'd associate with a manager. And I have no opinion of Andy Card at all; near as I can tell, he was essentially a non-entity, an empty suit emasculated by Bush's peculiar brand of insanity. Any managerial skill he might have is, to me, a hypothetical. Though of course I could have simply missed it.

gwangung: Well, duh. Star Blazers!

It's Battleship Yamato, you heathen!

The Republicans will get millions of extra racist voters.

Are these the racist centrists, or the racist Democrats? Because the racist Republicans are likely already voting R.

Um...er...strike centrists, replace with something else that I can't quite come up with right now.

Probably time to turn in for the night.

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Whatnot


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