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February 09, 2008

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All of which makes me hope that the Florida Democratic Party decides to take advantage of the window before the Pennsylvania election and do a caucus or something here. We could use just that sort of push around here, especially since there's no major statewide race this year, and there's a hideous anti-gay amendment on the ballot. We only need 40% to beat it, but still, that number is hard to overcome without some organization.

I would think that the Democratic nominee would spend a lot of time in Florida (and Michigan for that matter) campaigning post-convention whether there is some make-up primary/caucus or not. Those states will be important in the general and the nominee will want some face time.

The other side of this is that Clinton and Obama will be spending lots of money that could have gone into the general election campaign.

I wonder if that concern about using up resources might apply to campaign organizations also. People have limited energy; volunteers may have limited time. I don't know how all that balances out with the advantages publius lists.

I'm glad McCain is sucking up to the Conservatives. It proves he's an idiot who didn't learn anything from the primaries.

He handily beat two (or more, if you count Gulianni and Thompson) men, any of whom were much more conservative than he was. He got the nod by appealing to the center. Now he's going to reject that approval and show everyone he's just another Republican.

Happy days!

Thanks for framing it like this, since I really hadn't considered it that way.

I was starting to worry that Obama and Clinton were doing so well with fundraising that us micro internet donors might be tapped out for the general election(I certainly can't afford to give much more). However you're right that it's not like it's a waste. They're setting up ground organizations, getting free media coverage, and Republicans and Independents are still seeing their ads even if they are meant for Dem voters.

And when you think about it, how much is coverage can McCain demand when there is an epic primary battle going on? People could have practically forgotten about him by the time the Democratic candidate is chosen.

You know, Publius, you've been dropping little hints about your true identity for years now. Thanks to this post, I was finally able to figure it out!

I feel so . . . blog nerdy.

Oh, and . . . is there a prize or something?

Figuring out inside baseball stuff on blogs is like peeing in a dark suit: A warm spreading feeling that only you are aware of...

ha - nice work detective. and yeah, um, there's a very prestigious award. just send $100 and it can be yours. :)

Waaah- you're not only in Texas, you have an Obama organization. I'm stuck in southern Ohio and as far as I can tell I'm the only democrat in the county. I'm probably going to go have my own road signs printed Monday and plant them around paved roads.

just send $100 and it can be yours.

Remember to get the Social Security and bank account numbers.

publius, I thought you were in DC?

"publius, I thought you were in DC?"

That seems unlikely, unless my grasp of geography is much worse than I thought.

The biggest downside of a serious primary contest is money. The biggest upside is that the race is bringing out millions of people who are already interested enough to go vote for a Democrat many months before the first Tuesday in November. Most of them have never felt that their primary vote was consequential before. That level of interest can't be bad. The party just has to keep it from backfiring once a winner emerges.

That Collin must be smart.

I've been wondering if Obama would benefit from having McCain wrap up the Republican nomination early. My theory is that some of the Independents who might otherwise vote for McCain in a meaningful Republican primary will switch over to the Democratic primary instead, out of boredom with the lack of remaining drama on the R side. After all, if one nomination has already been decided by the time your state comes up, the temptation to jump over to the other side for a chance to put your 25 cents in would be pretty strong, wouldn't it? I know I would probably do that. This would seem to benefit Obama, especially in Open Primary states - does anyone know how many of those are left, and which ones?

I think this could also benefit Obama in the general election, should he win the nomination. Some of those votes may be "sticky" come the general election. That is, having already voted for Obama once in the primaries, some of these voters will be more likely to vote for him in the general election. I'm not trying to impugn the rationality of these voters, rather I'm trying to analyze what would be going on inside my own head were I in the same position. In my experience there is a natural human tendency to post-facto rationalize and justify our decisions (even the ones that were close to being coin flips at the time they were made), which leads to us becoming emotionally invested in the outcome. Selection bias follows, e.g. attacks against the candidate we've already voted for are taken personally because they reflect poorly on our prior decision, and thus the voter ends up bonding with a candidate, even one they were not heavily invested in to begin with. Does anyone else think that this sort of tipping point effect can play a role in voting decisions, or am I just out to lunch here?

Of course Huckabee isn't exactly cooperating with the program right now.

"My theory is that some of the Independents who might otherwise vote for McCain in a meaningful Republican primary will switch over to the Democratic primary instead, out of boredom with the lack of remaining drama on the R side."

That might happen in Wisconsin, Texas, Mississippi, Idaho, and Indiana, but most of the rest of the remaining states are closed primaries, so far as crossing parties: Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Nebraska, Oregon, Kentucky, South Dakota, New Mexico.

That seems unlikely, unless my grasp of geography is much worse than I thought.

I must be misremembering.

publius, drive over here and have a beer with me and Dr. Biobrain! You can take a copy of Austin's zoning laws back to Houston and see if they feel like joining the 20th century.

The biggest downside of a serious primary contest is money.

It's worth noting that Obama's reportedly been building his campaign apparatus parallel to the standard Democratic machine, and he's recruiting a lot of new voters, and both can be expected to carry over to the general election (it's essentially a capital expenditure rather than a marketing cost), so the return-on-investment for primary spending isn't nearly as bad for him.

Gary - thanks for looking that up. So Wisconsin, Texas, Mississippi, and Indiana are still in play as open primaries.

FYI, the Democrats have already voted in Idaho and New Mexico. The NM Democratic caucus (it was really a primary in all but name) was moved up to Super Tuesday this year, but the Republicans are still coming up in June. With luck, all the Democratic ballots might actually be counted by then, so maybe both parties can announce their respective winners at the same time.

I think the NM Dems may have miscalculated in moving up their date - it looks like the late voting states will have a lot more influence this year than anyone bargained for. Unfortunately there was less attention paid to NM (from either campaign) than I expected for a purple state. Aside from the small number of delegates at stake, I think Richardson's presence in the early stages of the race may have had something to do with this, and after he dropped out, NM got lost in the crowd during the scramble leading up to Super Tuesday. It will be harder for the Democratic nominee to beat McCain in November here as a result.

OH is "declare by picking out a ballot" so it's essentially open.

Weirdly, I had a bunch of people in my office in WV convinced to vote for Obama when the R primary was still fluid, but as soon as McCain was settled on, they all (every one of them) switched to Huckabee. As soon as they were sure it wouldn't matter, they broke for the preacher.

Ohio is an open primary. Your registration is just whatever ballot you most recently selected. So someone who is a republican can request a dem ballot or vice versa.

Wow, there's some really interesting little bits hidden in this Telegraph article: " Hillary Clinton's advisers 'in a state of panic'":

The Clinton camp hopes to stop the Obama bandwagon by winning Texas and Ohio primaries on March 4, after which Mrs Clinton is planning to call on party grandees including Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Harry Reid, the party's leader in the Senate, to persuade Mr Obama to stand down.

Clinton aides have privately admitted that Mr Obama would only consider such a move if offered the position of vice presidential running mate, something Mrs Clinton has always been reluctant to consider.

A senior Democrat who has discussed Clinton campaign thinking with a member of her inner circle said: "The Clintons are in a state of panic. She has to win both Texas and Ohio."

...

Clinton aides believe that if Mr Obama does not deliver a knock-out blow before March 4, the advantage will swing back to her and she will argue for a deal in which uncommitted super-delegates unite behind her, to preserve party unity.

And:
Mrs Clinton is also under financial pressure.

She claimed that she received $7.5m in donations after admitting lending her campaign $5m last week.

But the source claimed that her campaign is actually in far worse financial trouble than they are letting on.

That article gives me some interesting thought about what'll happen going forward, so I'm going to make some fearless predictions:

Feb 10: I think expectations for the Clinton campaign going into Maine are too high to warrant a comeback narrative, whereas if Obama wins, that'll hurt. The fact that it's closed helps Clinton, but the fact that it's a caucus has to scare the hell out of Mark Penn. Must-win for Clinton, minimal upside there.

Feb 12: The closed primary in Maryland is Clinton's preferred setup, but apparently Obama's favored there. After NH, I'm doubtful about that. Clinton best shot at reclaiming some momentum is probably picking up MD.

But, Virginia the same day is an open primary, and DC is an Obama lock. Both are Obama's to lose, and if he carries MD too, that'll hurt. This is also probably the day that Obama takes the lead in total delegates, which will be the narrative going forward.

Picking up MD wouldn't be enough to spin a comeback if Obama wins VA and HI, but it would probably be enough to keep Clinton afloat. If Clinton exceeds expectations in Virginia, that'd be big, too.

Feb 19: Wisconsin is a big wildcard. It's a primary, which is good for Clinton, but it's an open primary, it's right in Obama's backyard, and he's already favored there. The unknown variable is the Republican primary on the same day -- a lot will turn on whether McCain has wrapped things up or not. Hard to predict what will happen here -- it's Obama's to lose, but a Clinton upset is not out of the question, and Wisconsin will set the stage for March 4th.

(Obama will also win Hawaii, but that's such a foregone conclusion no one will care.)

March 4th: Super Tuesday, The Sequel! --And strangely, probably more important than Super Tuesday itself. A lot will change in the next few weeks, but Clinton will still probably take Vermont and Rhode Island. If not, it'll only be because the race is already over. But like Hawaii, no one will care.

The threshold question is whether Clinton even manages to hang on this long, or if some other dynamic in the race changes in her favor. She also probably has to do at least something to neutralize some of the momentum that Obama seems likely to build up over the next month. I guarantee that unless there's an upset, you will hear nothing from the Clinton campaign until March 4th except "only Ohio and Texas matter." They really need to convince the public of that in order to even stay in the game. That'll be the major PR battle until then.

I anyone else wondering if all that "count everyone's vote in Michigan and Florida" nonsense will come back to bite the Clinton campaign in the ass once they start arguing that only Ohio and Texas matter? I'm sure it's occurred to the Obama campaign, and that could be devastating -- I'm guessing that the Clinton campaign won't even mention Florida or Michigan before March 5th, and they'll be extra careful not to pull any shenanigans like they did in Nevada, for fear of opening up that can of worms again.


At any rate, if Clinton manages to stay in it up 'til this point, and it does comes down to Ohio and Texas -- well, I'm really, really not convinced of her ability to succeed in either state, even if you bracket the "momentum" question completely.

(I've been enjoying the bullet-point thing lately, so I'm going to do it again.) Problems I see for the Clinton campaign going into TX and OH:

1. Many polls have indeed shown a Clinton lead, but the polling data is old, and if the national trends are any indication, Obama will just keep closing the gap.

2. The California analogy that seems to be the basis of the "Clinton can be competitive in TX and OH" argument seems problematic to me:

(a) The fact that CA, OH, and TX are all 'big' states doesn't really mean much -- in fact, the voting patterns, geography, and urban/rural distributions are about as different as it's possible to be between the three;

(b) Word is that something like 1/4 of CA's primary ballots were absentee, negating Obama's aforementioned ability to close the gap down the stretch, which won't be the case in TX or OH, so that creates something of a wildcard; and

(c) It seems highly unlikely that the Republican race will be competitive enough at that point to siphon off voters as in California, which certainly favors Obama.

3. There's the obvious money issue. Obama has it. Clinton doesn't. This could change, but right now that gap is big and getting bigger.

4. Ohio and Texas both play to some of the Obama campaign's fundamental strengths.

(a) They're purple and red states, respectively, with a ton of rural voters.

(b) Ohio's demographics parallel Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, etc. -- i.e., Midwest states with urban cores surrounded by rural manufacturing communities -- where Obama's wrecked shop so far. Really, he's based every campaign he's run on his ability to connect to white, rural, blue-collar voters, and he's damn good at it. I really can't find any evidence that Hillary is able to compete for these votes, and the urban/rural balance in Ohio is not favorable to her (for the same reasons Kerry lost the state in 2004, really).

(c) I think that Texas will actually be similarly tricky for Obama, most of all because of the large Hispanic population and the fact that most of the Democrats are pretty classic partisans as a result of having to fight tooth-and-nail with Republicans all the time, and Hillary has a clear advantage among both groups.

The additional twist is Texas' weird hybrid caucus system, which -- hell, I live here and I don't even think I understand it, and I'm certainly not going to try to explain it for fear of embarrassing myself. I do know that:

(i) The Obama campaign is already working hard to get their people ready for it;

(ii) There are a lot of rural voters in Texas, which, as mentioned, is a good thing for Obama;

(iii) Texas is huge, so the Obama campaign's organizational abilities and resources potentially make a huge difference;

(iv) The Texas wing of the Democratic party isn't well-organized, and pretty much don't even exist outside of the urban areas, which also works in Obama's favor since he hasn't been relying on the extant Dem machine, and Hillary has;

(v) At the end of the day, winning a bunch of local precincts is the name of the game, and so far the Obama campaign has shown they can do that.


OK, that's about all I got. Time for me to go to bed. I'll come back to this in a month and see how I did.

I'll come back to this in a month and see how I did.

Great stuff, Adam, I do hope you aren't going to be away from ObWi for the month...

Thank you! I've been wondering when someone else will realise that a long campaign brings a number of bonusses to the Democratic party. To be honest, the one I was thinking of was not so much the organisation, but confusing the Republican party as to which target they ought to select. The real Republican crap will only come once they've got a definite target - and the longer this remains open, the less they will have time to introduce.

Virginia also has an open primary. Nevertheless, my impression is that of the Feb 12 primaries (DC, MD, VA), Clinton's best performance will be in Virginia, not Maryland. I haven't seen anyone other than Adam suggest that Maryland is a promising site for a Clinton comeback.

Publius, as a native Texan (who has lived in the Northeast for many years), I have one thing to say about Obama's campaign in Texas. He's got to go to the Rio Grande Valley, at least for a day. That would make such a difference.

Don't know how to contact the campaign, but it seems to me to be key.

My impression is that Adam was working more off voting formats rather than actually poll numbers/votes on the ground. Which is probably a safer way to talk about it, unless you want to get mugged by one side or the other because discussing who is favored in one place becomes tantamount to supporting that candidate.

A few demographic facts I noticed when comparing Texas to its neighbor New Mexico on Census QuickFacts:

Black persons, percent, 2006: 11.9 TX, 2.5 NM
Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, percent, 2006: 35.7 TX, 44.0 NM
Persons 65 years old and over, percent, 2006: 9.9 TX, 12.4 NM
Median household income, 2004: $41,645 TX, $37,838 NM

On all those characteristics, the Texas population is more favorable to Obama, judging by earlier contests. Of course there are lots of other considerations.

Just a quick note from Ohio - Obama supporters were out in force yesterday waving signs on the street corners. I've already gotten a fund-raising call from his campaign. Not a peep from any other candidate.

Javelina, if it's true only he and Kennedy were willing to get out and march with the demonstrators during the immigration walks, they need to make a huge deal out of that, too.

Small data point: we got a call from the MD Obama campaign last night. For my 21 year old daughter. To remind her to vote, and, if she seemed already on board with that, to ask her to volunteer.

I took the call, and thought the young woman making it singularly effective, and the strategy idea pretty good.

In contrast, I got an evening call from the Clinton campaign in my office in DC last week. It (it was a recording) actually hung up when I answered, and then called back about 15 minutes later after I had left. Inviting me to a campaign rally in Virginia. The next day.

Color me unimpressed.

"A lot will change in the next few weeks, but Clinton will still probably take Vermont and Rhode Island."

I'm thinking Vermont liberals are more likely to like Obama than Clinton. Just guessing, to be sure. But my guess is he takes Vermont. Rhode Island I'm less sure about. But, then, it's Rhode Island, so who cares?

The people in RI. One of the things that's attracted me most to the Obama campaign is his acknowledgement that there's a single country, not a bunch of demographically autonomous regions, to preside over. He's fought for every state, not just the convenient ones.

"But, then, it's Rhode Island, so who cares?"

"The people in RI."

I never thought of that!

Actually, it's possible that I wasn't actually trying to insult the population of RI, and was making a joke, you know.

But apparently you thought I must have been serious, so thanks for that serious correction, without which it never would have occurred to me that Rhode Island might actually matter to someone. It's good to know you thought it necessary to seriously point that out to me.

Though, really, it might have been just as well if you hadn't thought I actually was that indifferent, callous, and morally shallow.

It might even have been slightly better. But, oh well.

Hawaii isn't a foregone conclusion. He may be a local boy, but the locals may not know that (one of the early tasks for their S.C. organization: letting people know he's African-American). Clinton has the support of more local politicians, I doubt either of them is flying there for rallies, & I have no idea of the state of organizing. I mean, I didn't know he had an office in Alaska either, so he may be in great shape. But the "second home state" factor in Hawaii isn't nearly as strong as say, Clinton's in Arkansas.

I have some hope for Maine after seeing the crowds in Bangor yesterday. My family briefly lived in Bangor when I was a wee lass--there are a little over 30,000 people in Bangor; 8,000 people show up for a rally?!!? Okay, the state university's nearby in Orono, but even so.

Get a grip, Gary. I was making a point about the country-wide reach of his campaign.

Feel free to use snarky comments- they can be effective and I'd rather have something humorous than not. But don't be suprised when people reply to them.

Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) is endorsing Obama today. That makes all three Democratic House members and Governor Kaine, plus former governor and current Richmond mayor Doug Wilder, as well as half the Democrats in the state senate and a large number in the house of delegates. Senator Webb hasn't taken a position. Of course endorsements can only go so far, but that's an impressive list for Virginia.

"But don't be suprised when people reply to them."

I'm not. But if you wish to acknowledge a joke, it's best to do so. A funny remark in response works well.

If you instead deliver a lecture to someone who made a joke, on the premise that they were serious and not joking, but are instead morally indifferent and needing education that people in Rhode Island count, you're apt to be taken at face value.

So let's try to make our next exchange more pleasant, again, ok?

Katherine -- I live about 70 miles from Bangor. The local paper said 7000 people got into the Auditorium and 3000 were turned away. I can guarantee you that people came from much further away than just Bangor; the Auditorium isn't called "The Mecca" for nothing. I don't say that to quibble, just to emphasize that as far as I can tell, there's a lot of enthusiasm for Obama around the state.

My town's caucus is at 4:00. I'm going for the first time in my life and will try to be both persuasive and peaceful, should those qualities be necessary. :)

Katherine -- I bet everyone in Hawaii who's heard of Barack Obama also knows he attended Punahou. Local media coverage makes a point of highlighting any Hawaii connection they find in national news stories. Hawaii is like the most extended family ever, endlessly circulating gossip about its members, good or bad, weighty or trivial, and they are obsessed with how their local boys fare in the big leagues (i.e., the mainland).

So you see stories in the paper like: "Former Hawaii resident John Doe, who graduated from McKinley High School in 1976, was fired as assistant offensive coordinator for the Mainland University football team yesterday..."

I don't know whether being a former Hawaii resident is enough to guarantee Obama the win, but he is maybe the ultimate "local boy makes good" and I'm pretty sure everyone there has heard about it.

That Collin must be smart.

Yes, yes he is. I know him quite well, and can vouch for that fact.

Thanks for the vote of support, japonicus :)

My impression is that Adam was working more off voting formats rather than actually poll numbers/votes on the ground.

I actually looked at whatever poll numbers I could find, but they're pretty sparse to say the least. They also haven't been at all reliable this season.

Most of my wild conjecturing is based on whatever I know about demographics, the voting histories of the states in the recent elections, the candidates' histories, and their primary formats. Polls, not so much.

I don't know whether being a former Hawaii resident is enough to guarantee Obama the win,

Well, probably not with Iolani guys....

(But you don't think the Punahou boys who stayed around wouldn't talk up the connection? Ah.....)

That Collin must be smart.

Yes, yes he is. I know him quite well, and can vouch for that fact.

I figured it out too! I'm so proud of myself; though I'm baffled as to how he managed to live this long. I mean, the first time publius used his pseudonym was a long time ago. At least it's more plausible than my original theory, though.

Again, publius, come to Austin and hang out with me and Dr. Biobrain (I actually haven't asked him about it -- but we can lobby him). We can talk net neutrality; it'll be a blast, really. No, really -- wait, where are you going? How about Universal Service Fund reforms? Spectrum allocation? Accounting?

The real Republican crap will only come once they've got a definite target - and the longer this remains open, the less they will have time to introduce.

Agreed. But their best move is to push the choice by actively running against the weaker candidate, forcing media attention and particularly stupid or sneaky puniditage to the effect that "this is the person the Rs are afraid of."

Actually, I think this is what a lot of conservative pundits have been doing for over a year w/r/t Clinton, and IMHO that accounts for a lot of her success in appearing inevitable for so long. Fortunately, there is still a good chance it failed.

Actually, I think this is what a lot of conservative pundits have been doing for over a year w/r/t Clinton, and IMHO that accounts for a lot of her success in appearing inevitable for so long. Fortunately, there is still a good chance it failed.

The drool on their chins tends to be a giveaway, I think.

The only trouble with -- to go back to an early comment -- the publicity advantage of the fight is that it keeps people from looking closely enough at the "Corkscrew Express"'s REAL record.

I'm going to make an off-the-wall suggestion. Why don't the Clinton and Obama campaigns issue some joint commercials with the theme "We have our differences but one thing we can agree on is that we're not John McCain. Neither of us ..." with a list from 'supporting the bush Tax cuts' to '100 years of Iraq.'

The idea of hearing the ending "I'm Barack Obama.
"And I'm Hilary Clinton.
"And we BOTH support this message."
would be delightful. AND effective.

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