Friday, January 25, 2008

Democratic primary eve roundup

Left: Senator Barack Obama at Furman University, Tuesday. Photo from Greenville News.


What upsets everyone locally is that candidates fight like hell for our votes during the primaries, then ignore us during the general election, when we are written off as a red state. I remember being in Ohio around Halloween, 2004, and I was shocked to get leafleted three times in one day; it was kinda nice to be in an important battleground state near the end of the game.

Then again, if Obama is the nominee, the large black population of South Carolina might up the ante. Would we become a blue state? COULD IT HAPPEN?

It's certainly fun to contemplate.


As everyone knows, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are at each others' throats, or at least it feels that way. I hate to see Democrats tear each other up during the primary, knowing their words will later be quoted by the Republican nominee.

Nonetheless, Politico's John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei suggest that Obama needs to get rougher:

Imagine if at the next presidential debate Barack Obama — who is agitated about what he calls Bill Clinton’s misleading criticisms — cocked his head, smiled ruefully and, in Reaganesque “there you go again” tones, said something like this to Hillary Clinton: “You know, I admired some aspects of Bill Clinton’s presidency. But let’s recall that it was precisely these sort of too-cute-by-half statements that caused him to be reprimanded by a federal judge and stripped of his law license. Senator, you may want to go back to those days and that style of politics, but I think most Americans are ready to move on.”

Had you forgotten that Bill Clinton voluntarily agreed in the closing hours of his presidency to be disbarred and pay a sizable fine in the fallout from the Monica Lewinsky scandal?

No doubt most Democrats have forgotten — which is testament to both Clintons’ indefatigable talent for framing political debates on their terms, rather than those of their opponents.

Obama’s strategists would probably say that engaging a popular former president in such a direct manner might backfire. But recent days would suggest that Obama’s alternative is also backfiring.

He has wandered into a tactical battle — over who is behind what radio ads or robocalls, or over the correct interpretation of stray quotes — with the best tactical politicians in the business. The Clintons have assembled a team that has thought through plausible defenses to virtually every vulnerability. They turned the practice of fast and forceful response into an art form.
Obama seems reluctant to argue with Hillary or Bill. Obviously, he wants to be seen as 'above' that kind of rancorous politics-as-usual. This is all about his time for a change rhetoric. As Harris and VandeHei argue:
[Obama's] vague, spacious rhetoric hardly indicates he has a coherent critique of the Clinton administration or clear ideas about his own alternative. Here is an area where his appeals to a new style of politics could stand more substance.
Is it just rhetoric, or does he really intend to stay above the fray and remain positive?
Obama, however, has flinched from making his Reagan argument in the way that would be required to convince Democrats — by actually making a case about what the Clintons did and did not do the last time they held executive power.

Hillary Clinton has been the beneficiary of Obama’s failure to engage. She has turned the health care reform debacle of the 1990s into an advantage by talking vaguely about how she “wears the scars” of that effort and has returned older but wiser.

But she has never been pressed on the details of that effort — how it was not simply Republicans and insurance companies but senior officials within the Clinton administration such as Lloyd Bentsen and Donna Shalala who recoiled at the process she ran.

Health care is not the only blemish on her decision-making record.

Obama has never insisted that she explain her record in an area in which she had virtually unchallenged authority — staffing the legal apparatus of the first-term Clinton administration.

Hillary Clinton’s decisions led to the appointment of Bernard Nussbaum as White House counsel (fired after a year), and former Rose Law Firm partner Webster Hubbell as a top Justice Department official (forced to resign and later sent to prison).

These colossal misjudgments about personnel should hardly be the sole basis for judging potential as an executive. But they are more relevant than subjects Obama has raised, such as her service in the 1980s on the board of directors of Wal-Mart.

What’s more, it is almost delinquent of Clinton’s Democratic opponents not to ventilate this history and make Clinton defend it before she faces a general election.

As she taunted Obama the other day, “The Republicans are not going to have any compunctions about asking anybody anything.”

For now, however, it is the Clintons who are on offense and Obama who seems flummoxed in a way that Newt Gingrich would have found familiar. Little wonder that Obama snapped at New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny when he asked, “Are you allowing President Clinton to get in your head?”

A politician who claims he is ready to lead the Democrats into the next decade won’t get there until he figures out how to navigate the most skilled politician of the last decade.
Until very recently, most primary-watchers agreed that Senator Barack Obama had it wrapped up. Now? Totally up for grabs, even the African-American vote. Tuesday, Obama campaigned at Furman University, where Mike Huckabee asked for votes only last week. It was one of the nastiest days of the season, in terms of weather, and he was still able to pack the house quite easily. Hillary left the state earlier in the week to campaign elsewhere, with Bill and Chelsea covering for her. (Obama, of course, has no such powerhouse to campaign for him while he tries to lay groundwork for future primaries.) Short videos here.

Race takes different tone in South Carolina primary
Black voters say issues matter more than skin color
Friday, January 25, 2008

By Ron Barnett
STAFF WRITER, Greenville News
A good measure of how far South Carolina has come in the role race plays in politics is that Barack Obama, while leading in the polls among blacks, is by no means the only choice of black voters, a political scientist who has studied the issue extensively says.

"African-Americans aren't voting as a bloc," said John Simpkins, a professor at the Charleston School of Law who is on sabbatical in New Zealand. "They're making up their minds on the candidates based on the issues and who they feel they align with on the issues."

For example, Greenville County Councilwoman Lottie Gibson, who is black, said she thinks Obama is "a bright young man" but she's endorsing Clinton.

"It ain't about race for me. It's about experience and where we are at this time in life," she said.
For this reason, I have to say, the primary is too close to call. If Hillary's legions of ladies come out to vote, as they did in New Hampshire, the polls (now showing Obama ahead) mean nothing.

Still, I'll go out on a limb and predict Obama wins by a nose.

Left: Hillary Clinton at Furman University's Younts Conference Center, yesterday. Photo from Greenville News


Candidates turn focus to economic issues

Democrats criticize Bush policies' effects on working Americans
Friday, January 25, 2008

By Dan Hoover
STAFF WRITER, Greenville News
The Clintons, Hillary and Bill, dropped the attack rhetoric Thursday as they campaigned furiously throughout South Carolina, while two new polls suggested she and John Edwards are tightening the race with Barack Obama.

After two weeks of increasingly bitter exchanges that culminated in Monday night's verbal bloodletting between Hillary Clinton and Obama in their nationally televised debate from Myrtle Beach, a truce of sorts settled in as the trio shifted the Democratic presidential primary dialogue back to domestic issues.

The Zogby and Clemson University Palmetto polls showed a lessening of Obama's lead and upward movement by Edwards. The Zogby poll indicated some erosion of Obama's black support.

At Furman University, Hillary Clinton told a packed meeting room of nearly 500 people that President Bush is partly to blame for the nation's economic troubles.

"The problem of our economy is not the American people," Clinton said. "Instead, the problem is in part the bankrupt ideals that have governed us over the last seven years. They have rewarded the very few at the expense of the many."

Campaigning along the coast, Obama hosted a roundtable discussion with military veterans in Beaufort that focused on his view of the need for a president with the judgment to keep America safe and the willingness to be held accountable for decisions.

"As a candidate, I know I am running to become commander-in-chief -- to safeguard our security, and to keep our sacred trust with those who serve," the Illinois senator said. "There is no responsibility I take more seriously."

Bill Clinton, who both gave to and got back from Obama, had become the hit man for his wife's campaign when it reached South Carolina where she trails Obama. On Thursday, he sounded a more conciliatory tone during a stop in Lexington.

A Clinton supporter asked that the campaign "stop taking the bait from Obama" and stick to the issues.

The former president called it "pretty good advice. It's probably good advice for me, too," he said.

He said Thursday that it's a lot harder to hear people criticize his wife than it ever was to be the target himself.

"When I was running, I didn't give a rip what anybody said about me. It's weird, you know, but if you love somebody and you think that they'd be good, it's harder."

Edwards, a Seneca native and former North Carolina senator, campaigned through his native Upstate, promoting his local roots and condemning the bipartisan economic stimulus package agreed to in Washington by Bush and congressional leaders of both parties.

It was 30 days too late and misdirected, he told a crowd of about 200 at The Beacon restaurant in Spartanburg.

Trailing in the polls, the wealthy trial lawyer has emphasized his working-class roots and us-vs.-them message with imagery of rapacious corporations, abetted by politicians, growing richer at the expense of everyday working folks.

"You can just guess, among the three of us (candidates), who's the person who first came out with a plan to strengthen the economy in the rural areas of America?" Edwards asked the crowd. "The only candidate who's from rural America."

Two polls released Thursday suggested a closer race and an improving picture for Edwards.

Clemson University's Palmetto Poll showed Obama at 27 percent, Clinton, 20 percent and Edwards, 17 percent. The poll, which had an undecided percentage of 36, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points, putting Clinton and Edwards into a statistical dead heat.

A Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby Poll showed that although Edwards remains in third place in South Carolina, he has gained significantly, while Obama and Clinton have experienced slippage.

The Jan. 21-23 tracking poll showed Edwards at 19 percent, up four points from the Jan. 20-22 survey; Clinton at 24 percent, down one; and Obama at 39 percent, down four points. The poll of 811 likely primary voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

"Obama still has a healthy lead among African-American voters, but lost almost nine points since (Wednesday), dropping from 65 percent to 56 percent support among that group," pollster John Zogby wrote on his Web site.

"Edwards, who registered no support from black voters the day before, picked up five points and Clinton added about two points to reach 18 percent of black support."

Zogby said nearly one in five black voters -- 19 percent -- remained undecided, up a point.

In Columbia, some of Clinton's black legislative supporters said they remain hopeful she will win.

"We're getting signs that people are fluid," state Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Columbia, said at a luncheon for U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and former New York City Mayor David Dinkins. Both were in the state to shore up Clinton's support among blacks.

Jackson predicted that Obama would get more black votes than Clinton, "but I think we're going to hold our own."

In addition to her Furman appearance, Hillary Clinton held a town hall meeting in Anderson, while Bill Clinton made stops in Lexington, Orangeburg, Barnwell and Winnsboro.

Obama campaigned in the Lowcountry.

After visiting Spartanburg, Edwards went to Laurens, Greenwood and Anderson, wrapping up with a rally in Seneca.

Edwards has scheduled a "Young People's Town Hall" meeting at 12:30 p.m. today at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. He also is scheduled to be at Tommy's Ham House in Greenville at 9 a.m.

Clinton will hold a town hall meeting at historically black Benedict College in Columbia at 9 a.m. and will speak at 1:30 p.m. at The Freedom Center in downtown Rock Hill.

Bill Clinton will speak at a 10:15 a.m. event in Spartanburg at the Chapman Cultural Center, then campaign for his wife in Laurens, Beaufort and Charleston.

Obama is scheduled to be at the Clemson outdoor amphitheater at 4:30 p.m.

Clinton's campaign launched a new 60-second radio ad in which the former president describes his wife as a problem-solver with the vision to deal with the nation's economic problems.

"The question is what to do about it," he says. "You've got a great decision to make, but I believe it's Hillary who can help solve these problems. I also know that African Americans have been hit the hardest these last seven years. Who can fix health care, who can fix our economy, who can create new jobs, who can reduce the price of gas at the pump?

"Hillary can. I've known her for 36 years. When it comes to seeing a problem and figuring out how to solve it, she's the best I've ever seen. She's always heard your voice and you'll be heard in the White House."
Edwards campaign commercials focus on his roots here in South Carolina:


Meanwhile, Dennis Kucinich has thrown in the towel, for now. The big question for us cynics? Will his young, beautiful and British globe-trotting Elizabeth stick around, now that the excitement is dying down? Can someone who hangs with Shirley MacLaine, Tim Robbins and other movie stars be satisfied with.... Cleveland?

I think it would make a great reality show.


Bryce said...

u called it again, D~but not by a landslide! i guess nobody expected that? i sure didn't.