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Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 07:52:32 AM CST

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland's coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama's administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn't have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can't say I wasn't warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year's political events are welcome in this thread.

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Richardson out--Who should be the new Commerce Secretary?

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jan 04, 2009 at 13:39:46 PM CST

I didn't see this one coming. Bill Richardson has withdrawn from consideration for the Commerce Department job in Barack Obama's cabinet because of a pending FBI investigation. He denies any wrongdoing and will continue to serve as governor of New Mexico. (It's bad luck for Diane Denish, who was set to become that state's first woman governor in a few weeks.)

The Commerce Department is big and oversees a lot of important agencies, like the Census Bureau and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Whom will Obama pick for the Commerce job, and whom should he pick?

UPDATE: Jake Tapper says people on the Obama transition team feel Richardson "was not forthcoming with them about the federal investigation that is looking into whether the governor steered a state contract towards a major financial contributor."

A CNN report suggests Richardson was forced to withdraw his name from consideration.

Reuters speculates about who might replace Richardson.

Discuss :: (7 Comments)

Iowa caucus memories open thread

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Jan 03, 2009 at 13:44:18 PM CST

A year ago tonight, nearly 240,000 Iowans spent a couple of hours in overcrowded rooms during the Democratic precinct caucuses.

Thousands of others came to freezing cold Iowa to knock on doors or make phone calls for their presidential candidate in late December and early January.

Share any memories you have about caucusing or volunteering in this thread.

After the jump I re-posted my account of what happened at my own caucus. I was a precinct captain for Edwards.

There's More... :: (1 Comments, 1489 words in story)

New thread on Obama cabinet appointments and speculation

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 03, 2008 at 15:21:44 PM CST

Barack Obama named Bill Richardson to head the Commerce Department today. Click the link to read Obama's prepared remarks. It's not a top-tier cabinet appointment, but Commerce still oversees a lot of significant government activities, including the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. Click here to view all the bureaus within the Commerce Department.

The Hispanic Caucus in Congress has sent Obama a letter asking him to appoint more Latinos to the cabinet.

Obama has asked Congressman Xavier Becerra of California to accept the position of U.S. trade representative, but Becerra has yet not made a decision. He is the fifth highest ranking Democrat in the U.S. House, and some believe he could become the first Latino Speaker of the House someday if he stays in Congress.

Obama's short list for secretary of labor apparently includes Mary Beth Maxwell, "the founding executive director of American Rights at Work." According to the Wall Street Journal,

Maxwell already had the strong backing of former Rep. David Bonior, who despite repeated attempts to get his name removed from consideration continues to be on the short list of potential labor secretaries. Bonior, 63 years old, says it is time for his generation to turn over power to a new generation, and Maxwell, whose labor-backed organization pushes for expanded collective bargaining rights, is his pick.

Some labor leaders from both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win, a splinter union group led by the Service Employees International Union, back her as a consensus choice, citing her efforts on behalf of legislation to allow unionization at workplaces with the signing of cards, not secret balloting.

The Wall Street Journal says Obama is also vetting Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius for secretary of labor.

I haven't heard much lately about a possible secretary of education or transportation.

Who would you like to see in the cabinet?

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that if nominated and confirmed, Maxwell would become the first openly gay cabinet secretary in this country.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Open thread on Obama's economic team

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Nov 25, 2008 at 09:55:48 AM CST

Apologies for not getting this thread posted yesterday, when President-elect Barack Obama unveiled his economic team.

On the plus side, there are no incompetent hacks in this group. I've heard particularly good things about Peter Orszag's work at the Congressional Budget Office, and he will produce reliable numbers at the Office of Management and Budget.

People I respect speak quite highly of Melody Barnes, who will run Obama's Domestic Policy Council.

Also, it's encouraging that Obama is committed to a major stimulus bill that will focus on infrastructure investments. I'll reserve further judgment until we see more specifics about Obama's plans, because spending $350 billion on stuff worth doing is a lot better than spending $350 billion on boondoggles.

I also agree with Matthew Yglesias that if you're going to throw tens of billions of dollars at the economy, high-speed rail in the Midwest would be an excellent place to start. (UPDATE: Senator John Kerry has introduced a major bill that would promote high-speed rail development across the country.)

On the down side, since I opposed the series of Wall Street bailouts we've been seeing this fall, I'm not thrilled to see Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary and Larry Summers as chief of the National Economic Council. During Bill Clinton's presidency, I wanted economic policy to be more in the direction that Labor Secretary Robert Reich was proposing, but Clinton and now Obama are clearly favoring the approach of Clinton's Treasury Secreatry, Robert Rubin. Almost everyone on Obama economic team has close ties to Rubin.

I think Bill Richardson will do fine at the Commerce Department, but I would have preferred to see him in a different cabinet position.

If you were one of those Obama supporters who claimed during the primaries that he would govern in a much more progressive way than Hillary Clinton, now would be a good time to rethink your views.

Meanwhile, George W. Bush's team is taking care of one troubled financial firm after another. The latest bailout plan, for Citigroup, is a particularly bad deal for taxpayers, according to Paul Krugman (who reluctantly supported the $700 billion bailout package approved before the election).

What do you think about the team Obama is assembling to handle the economy?

UPDATE: The members of the New York Times editorial board are not wild about putting Geithner and Summers in charge:

As treasury secretary in 2000, Mr. Summers championed the law that deregulated derivatives, the financial instruments - a k a toxic assets - that have spread the financial losses from reckless lending around the globe. He refused to heed the critics who warned of dangers to come.

That law, still on the books, reinforced the false belief that markets would self-regulate. And it gave the Bush administration cover to ignore the ever-spiraling risks posed by derivatives and inadequate supervision.

Mr. Summers now will advise a president who has promised to impose rational and essential regulations on chaotic financial markets. What has he learned?

At the New York Fed, Mr. Geithner has been one of the ringmasters of this year's serial bailouts. His involvement includes the as-yet-unexplained flip-flop in September when a read-my-lips, no-new-bailouts policy allowed Lehman Brothers to go under - only to be followed less than two days later by the even costlier bailout of the American International Group and last weekend by the bailout of Citigroup.

It is still unclear what Mr. Geithner and other policy makers knew or did not know - or what they thought they knew but didn't - in arriving at those decisions, including who exactly is on the receiving end of the billions of dollars of taxpayer money now flooding the system.

Confidence in the system will not be restored as long as top officials fail or refuse to fully explain their actions.

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Yet another thread on Obama cabinet appointments (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 00:32:48 AM CST

The more I think about it, the more I think Hillary Clinton should stay in the Senate. However, most analysts are speculating she will accept Barack Obama's offer to become Secretary of State. Here's a roundup of recent coverage on the appointment.

Tom Harkin thinks Hillary will be secretary of state, and he likes the idea:

Harkin said he was confident that former President Bill Clinton would not pose conflicts, as he's agreed to make public the donors to his foundation and clear his travel schedule and speeches with the Obama administration, should his wife become secretary of state.

"If he's willing to do whatever the Obama team and the president wants - and he should understand it, he's a former president - that would be fine," Harkin said.

He also said Obama naming her would be a demonstration of unity to the world. Sen. Clinton and Obama waged an intense, six-month campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination this year.

"I think it would send a good signal to the world if Hillary Clinton were secretary of state," Harkin said. "The signal it sends to the world is we can have big fights politically here in the United States and yet after the election's over, we pull together."

Where does that leave Bill Richardson? I hope he ends up in the cabinet. UPDATE: ragbrai08 has heard rumblings Richardson might become Secretary of the Interior, which would be a decent fit for him.

Kia Franklin of the Drum Major Institute wrote an interesting piece on Eric Holder, the likely attorney general, and where he stands on civil justice issues.

John Crabtree of the Center for Rural Affairs blog offers "A Different View of [Tom] Vilsack," the front-runner to run the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

It is difficult, if not impossible, to predict when, where and from whom leadership will emerge. The book on Tom Vilsack is not complete, and perhaps that is a good thing. He does not get a perfect score on my litmus tests. But, when I disagree with him in the future I will continue to engage him, just as I always have, whether he is a private citizen or the Secretary of Agriculture. And he will engage me, just as he always has.

I hope that, at the end of the day, our next Secretary of Agriculture is the kind of leader that can help create a future for rural America with thriving family farms and ranches and vibrant rural communities. I believe Governor Vilsack can provide that leadership. Perhaps he just might get the chance.

James L. of Swing State Project is concerned that Obama might choose either Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin or Representative Collin Peterson for the USDA job. Both are from Republican-leaning districts that would be hard for a different Democrat to hold.

Obama supposedly was leaning toward offering the Commerce Department position to uber-fundraiser Penny Pritzker, but she withdrew her name from consideration.

Haven't heard much about a possible secretary of transportation. Obama supports greater investment in core infrastructure as well as high-speed rail and public mass transit, so I am hopeful he will put someone with vision in charge of this department. The highway bill comes up for reauthorization in 2009 and is sure to be one of the major battlegrounds in Congress.

Still no word on a Treasury Secretary. Matt Stoller remembered another reason why Larry Summers is wrong for the job.

Most people seem to think Robert Gates will stay on as Defense Secretary. I don't see why Obama can't appoint a Democrat for that position. We have plenty of qualified people in our party. Keeping the Republicans in charge of defense supports their propaganda that the GOP is best for defending the country.

The Mayor of Miami, Manny Diaz, is being considered either for Transportation or for Housing and Urban Development. Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina is not interested in the HUD appointment.

Share your opinions or predictions in the comments.

UPDATE: Why does Obama want to reinforce Republican stereotypes about how they're the only ones who can handle national security? Now General Jim Jones, a supporter of the Iraq War and John McCain, is tipped to run the National Security Agency. That is just crazy. Put some Democrats in charge, please. It's not as if we don't have people who could do this job well. I would not be surprised if Jones undermines Obama in this position.

UPDATE 2: The New York Times says Hillary Clinton will take the Secretary of State job.

Several news outlets are saying Timothy Geithner, about whom I know nothing, will be Obama's Treasury Secretary nominee. Geithner is president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

NBC News says Bill Richardson will be Commerce Secretary. I don't like him nearly so much for that job as I would like him for Secretary of State, Transportation, or Interior. Richardson's a corporate Democrat, judging from his record in the 1990s. He ran the whip to get NAFTA through the House during Bill Clinton's first term.

Still no progressives in Obama's cabinet.

UPDATE 3: My brother, who works in the investment field and is much more of a moderate Democrat than I am, is "sick" about the prospect of Geithner running Treasury. His other comment about Geithner is not printable at this blog.

UPDATE 4: This is from a speech Geithner gave in May 2006:

Credit derivatives have contributed to dramatic changes in the process of credit intermediation, and the benefits of these changes seem compelling. They have made possible substantial improvements in the way credit risk is managed and facilitated a broad distribution of risk outside the banking system. By spreading risk more widely, by making it easier to purchase and sell protection against credit risk and to actively trade credit risk, and by facilitating the participation of a large and very diverse pool of non-bank financial institutions in the business of credit, these changes probably improve the overall efficiency and resiliency of financial markets.

With the advent of credit derivatives, concentrations of credit risk are made easier to mitigate, and diversification made easier to achieve. Credit losses, whether from specific, individual defaults or the more widespread distress that accompanies economic recessions, will be diffused more broadly across institutions with different risk appetite and tolerance, and across geographic borders. Our experience since the introduction of these new instruments-a period that includes a major asset price shock and a global recession-seems to justify the essentially positive judgment we have about the likely benefits of ongoing growth in these markets.

Despite the benefits to financial resilience, the changes in the credit markets that are the subject of your conference have also provoked some concerns and unease, even among those on the frontier of innovation and the most active participants in these markets.

These concerns are based in part on uncertainty-a candid acknowledgment that there is a lot we do not yet know about how these instruments and the increased role of nonbank institutions in these markets will affect how the financial markets are likely to function in conditions of stress.  [...]

Let me conclude by reiterating the fundamental view that the wave of innovation underway in credit derivatives offers substantial benefits to both the efficiency and stability of our financial system.

Hmmm, he didn't seem to have seen any of the current problems coming. Also, he apparently was involved in the bailout negotiations. So it seems like this is a very status quo pick for Obama.

On an even less encouraging note, Obama's leading candidate to run the CIA is a "Bush-Cheney apologist."

That's not exactly "change we can believe in."

UPDATE 5: Two people on Obama's short list would both be highly competent and celebrated by progressives: Representative Raul Grijalva for Interior (he heads the House Progressive Caucus) and former Representative David Bonior for Labor (he has close ties to organized labor).

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

New thread on real and rumored Obama cabinet appointments

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 13:44:05 PM CST

Looks like the Guardian jumped the gun; Hillary Clinton has not accepted the Secretary of State position and is reportedly still weighing Barack Obama's offer.

Apparently Senator Ted Kennedy wants Hillary to lead the efforts to get health care reform through Congress. That's where I'd like to see her as well, though the cynic in me wonders whether Kennedy is primarily trying to clear the path for his friend Senator John Kerry to become secretary of state.

I would be happy with either Kerry or Bill Richardson for that job, but my dream is still Richardson as transportation secretary.

Roll Call reports that former Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle, an early Obama backer, has accepted Obama's offer to run the Health and Human Services department. Daschle will also be the White House "health care czar," and I'm with Matt Stoller:

isn't it weird that cabinet appointments are basically subordinate to White House staff positions?  It's like, when did 'czar' become a laudable title?

Obama is said to have decided on Eric Holder for attorney general. Holder was deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton but supported Obama during the Democratic primaries. He also helped lead Obama's vice-presidential search team. He is still being vetted, but if selected and confirmed, Holder would become the first black U.S. attorney general.

The Ethicurean gets real about who might become secretary of agriculture.

It's notable that no hero of Obama's progressive supporters seems to be in the running for any job. I admit that part of me is amused to watch heads explode among those who really believed Obama would bring transformational change. It's been clear for many months that there was little daylight between Hillary and Obama on policy. Some people bought into the Clinton demonization project a bit too much in the winter and spring.

On the other hand, Pat Buchanan's stopped clock is right about this: Obama should make at least one appointment that will please the "Daily Kos crowd," which did so much for Obama during the primaries. It would be ironic if "the change we need" turned out to be a bunch of former Clinton officials and centrist Congressional leaders, with a few Republicans mixed in.

This is an open thread for any thoughts or predictions about Obama's cabinet appointments.

UPDATE: Ezra Klein is excited by the news about Daschle:

This is huge news, and the clearest evidence yet that Obama means to pursue comprehensive health reform. You don't tap the former Senate Majority Leader to run your health care bureaucracy. That's not his skill set. You tap him to get your health care plan through Congress. You tap him because he understands the parliamentary tricks and has a deep knowledge of the ideologies and incentives of the relevant players. You tap him because you understand that health care reform runs through the Senate. And he accepts because he has been assured that you mean to attempt health care reform.

UPDATE 2: CNN reports that Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, an early Obama backer, will be named Homeland Security secretary. I want her to run against John McCain for Senate in 2010.

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Open thread on Obama cabinet speculation

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Nov 06, 2008 at 11:25:26 AM CST

Who do you think Barack Obama will pick for his cabinet? Post your speculation here.

I predicted before the election that Obama's cabinet would include at least two Republicans but no Democrats who strongly supported Hillary Clinton in the primaries. However, my brother knows someone who knows someone who knows Obama and thinks that Tom Vilsack will be Obama's secretary of agriculture.

The two appointments I'll be watching most closely are attorney general and secretary of transportation. Probably Obama has a long list of people he knows who'd like to be attorney general. I want a strong advocate in that position.

The highway bill is coming up for reauthorization in 2009, and I want the cabinet secretary to push for more balance in our transportation funding, rather than such a huge portion of the federal money going to new road construction. Bill Richardson is my dream candidate for secretary of transportation, but Obama may tap him for secretary of state or some other high-profile job.

UPDATE: I agree with Matt Stoller, Larry Summers would be a bad choice for Treasury secretary.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Open thread: Al Gore and Barack Obama at Invesco Field

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Aug 28, 2008 at 17:53:13 PM CDT

Chatter away about tonight's big events.

I love the Republican whining about Shawn Johnson reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the Democratic convention. She's not giving a political speech, she's saying the pledge! Anyway, the more they complain, the more people will tune in to watch 75,000 Democrats go crazy over the Pledge of Allegiance.

Good for Shawn for taking this step, even though it could very well cost her some endorsements.

UPDATE: Democracy for America is phone-banking tonight (I got a call shortly after 7 pm). Smart move--a whole lot of Democrats are going to be at home in front of their television sets.

Bill Richardson: John McCain may pay hundreds of dollars for his shoes, but we're the ones who will pay for his flip-flops.

SECOND UPDATE: Switched to C-SPAN an hour ago because I couldn't take the inane punditry. Whose idea was it to have a parade of retired generals and ordinary people speak after Al Gore? Gore should have been the last speaker before Obama.

THIRD UPDATE: I was distracted by my kids and didn't realize that Wesley Clark was one of the retired generals who stood on stage, but he was not allowed to say a word. That is atrocious. He is a good speaker, and the Obama campaign is running scared. That's why the right-wing noise machine went after Clark last month--they wanted to make Obama afraid to use him.

FOURTH UPDATE: I only caught the last 15 minutes or so of Obama's speech. I like this excerpt I read from earlier:

And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight. On November 4th, we must stand up and say: "Eight is enough."

Great visuals at the end with a packed stadium going wild. I have no idea what that country song was they played after Obama spoke, though.

Some commenters at Open Left pointed out that the Republicans picked a terrible week to have their convention. Monday is Labor Day, and a lot of Americans will have other things to do besides watch the RNC. Next Thursday is the opening night for the NFL, so McCain will deliver his acceptance speech opposite two nationally televised football games. I look forward to comparing the ratings for the GOP convention to our convention.

FIFTH UPDATE: The full text of Obama's speech (as prepared) is after the jump.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 4617 words in story)

Weekend VP speculation thread

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Aug 02, 2008 at 23:13:21 PM CDT

Either Barack Obama or John McCain may pick a running mate this week, before the Olympics start.

I haven't heard much buzz lately about McCain's choice. My money's still on Mitt Romney, who has a relatively coherent message on economic policy (for a Republican) and can raise a lot of cash.

Word is that Hillary Clinton will address the Democratic National Convention in Denver on the Tuesday night. Since Obama's running mate is expected to speak on Wednesday night, it seems that Hillary is not under serious consideration for VP.

Matt Stoller is still pushing for Wes Clark, and he and other bloggers have started a draft Clark for VP site, but I see no evidence that Clark is even being vetted by Obama's team. They seem to want to avoid picking someone who will be seen as "balancing" any weakness in Obama's resume.

Todd Beeton suspects the Obama team has decided the running mate should have some Washington experience, and he made a fascinating observation at MyDD:

My gut tells me a couple of things. First of all, Barack is not going to pick someone who needs to be introduced to the country. He has enough of an uphill climb introducing himself to the nation, is he really going to pick another unknown quantity for the ticket? So that leaves us with a different list, which, let's say for argument, looks like this: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Wesley Clark, Joe Biden, Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, Sam Nunn.

Among these possible picks, some are known thanks to their extensive Washington, DC resumes (Clinton, Biden, Nunn, Dodd), some are not (Clark, Edwards, Richardson.) So, which list will Obama pick from? You'll recall that in the primary, Barack ran against Washington experience and turned what Hillary thought would be her top selling point into an albatross around her neck with one very effective line: "are we just going to keep sending the same people to Washington and expect a different result?" In other words, if you've spent a lot of time in DC then how can you expect to change it? He could and should be using the same line against McCain, but he's not. The other day I noticed him almost say it at one of his townhalls, but he caught himself. Why? My gut is that he's leaning toward picking a Washington insider for his VP. My guess is it's Biden.

Biden wouldn't be my first choice for VP, but he would be a good fit for Obama in many ways. He's a strong campaigner and could be an effective attack dog. Also, I think he would help Obama with the over-60 voters, where he is relatively weak.

Then again, First Read reports that the press team following Obama will spend 21 hours in South Bend, Indiana from Tuesday evening to Wednesday afternoon. They suspect that Obama might select Indiana Senator Evan Bayh as his running mate there.

Like Biden, Bayh is a Washington insider, but he's also a former governor of a red state. He endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, so that might be a gesture toward uniting the party.

Then again, Obama may just be planning to hold a few campaign events in Indiana because that state could be competitive this year.

Bayh is way too conservative for my taste; for instance, he voted for Bush's tax cuts in 2001. More worrying, we would likely lose his Senate seat if he became vice president, unless Jill Long Thompson pulls off an upset in the Indiana gubernatorial race this year. If Obama wants a Washington insider, I'd prefer Biden.

Many people still expect Obama to choose a different red state governor, either Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas or Tim Kaine of Virginia.

For whatever reason, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson doesn't seem to be on Obama's short list. That's too bad, because I like him a lot more than Kaine, and I think he brings more to the table than Sebelius.

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More VP speculation

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Jul 23, 2008 at 06:48:05 AM CDT

There's a lot of chatter about John McCain picking a running mate very soon to redirect the media's attention from Barack Obama's foreign trip.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's star has fallen because of revelations that she used the levers of state power to try to punish a former brother-in-law. Why do elected officials think they can get away with stuff like this? I suppose the answer is that many do get away with it, but it's still bizarre that she would abuse the power of her office with so much on the line for her.

If McCain wants to pick a woman, Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison seems like the most logical choice.

Earlier this year there was some buzz about former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina as a possible VP choice for McCain, but that must be out of the question now. It was Fiorina's comment about insurance companies covering Viagra but not birth control pills that led to a embarrassing exchange between a reporter and McCain on the same subject. Planned Parenthood Action Fund is using part of that footage in a television ad aimed at women in six states and the Washington, DC area:

If McCain wants a governor, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana or Charlie Crist of Florida seem like the leading options. (UPDATE: Jindal took himself out of the running today.) For reasons I don't understand, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota doesn't seem to be mentioned often anymore.

I find it interesting that I haven't ever seen any suggestion that Mike Huckabee is being considered. He was in Des Moines ten days ago for the Iowa GOP state convention and acted like a team player, urging support for McCain in his speech to Republican delegates. It would seem wise for McCain to at least pretend that he is taking Huckabee seriously, although maybe that would just give Huck's supporters false hopes.

Some pundits are betting on Mitt Romney because of the money his people can raise. Also, his own presidential run makes him more of a seasoned campaigner and known quantity than some of the governors being mentioned.

Not much news on Obama's search for a running mate has emerged lately. It seems prudent for him to wait to see what McCain does and how the public and media react before making a decision.

Bill Richardson made some good comments about McCain's "whining" about not getting an op-ed piece published in the New York Times.

I still find it weird that there's no sign Wes Clark or Joe Biden were even asked to submit information to the committee that is vetting Obama's options.

I would be shocked if Obama were seriously considering Hillary Clinton at this point. I still think she wouldn't be a bad choice for him, but given his small lead over McCain in national tracking polls and some of the key states he lost to Hillary Clinton in the primaries, Obama probably believes he doesn't need her on the ticket. It's obvious he would prefer not to have to deal with the Clintons.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Which presidential candidate had the best celebrity supporters? (w/poll)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri May 23, 2008 at 19:50:11 PM CDT

Ben Smith put up a post about Barack Obama's prominent early supporters, who came on board when he was seen as having little chance of beating Hillary Clinton. Here is his list:

Senator Richard Durbin
Former Majority Leader Tom Daschle
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller
Oprah Winfrey
Iowa Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald
Former Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Gordon Fischer
Ted Sorensen
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine
Alabama Rep. Artur Davis
New Hampshire Rep. Paul Hodes

It's easy to forget now that Gordon Fischer was on the fence between Clinton and Obama for some time last summer. He told the story of how Obama's campaign hooked him in an interview with New Yorker journalist Ryan Lizza:

Obama, who had sometimes seemed to eschew the details of campaigning which Clinton appears to revel in, has become more enmeshed in the state's idiosyncratic politics. Consider the conquest of Gordon Fischer, a former chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party. Every campaign wanted Fischer's endorsement, but the Obama campaign pursued him relentlessly. At a recent lunch at the Des Moines Embassy Club, a restaurant on the forty-first floor of the tallest building in the state, Fischer explained how Obama's Iowa operatives used his closest friends to persuade him to back Obama. One, Lola Velázquez-Aguilú, managed to decorate part of Fischer's house with photographs of Obama that featured thought bubbles asking for Fischer's endorsement. ("Has anyone told you how great you look today?" an image of Obama taped to a mirror said. "So, are you ready to sign a supporter card?") When Obama staffers learned that the late Illinois senator Paul Simon was a hero of Fischer's, they asked Simon's son-in-law, Perry Knop, to call Fischer and make the case for Obama. At one point, Obama himself invited Fischer onto his campaign bus and told him that he had to stay aboard until he agreed to an endorsement. When Fischer insisted that he had to make the decision with his wife, Monica, Obama demanded Monica's cell-phone number, and he called her at once. "Monica, this is Barack Obama," he said when her voice mail came on. "I'm with your husband here, and I'm trying to go ahead and close the deal for him to support my candidacy. . . . Discuss it over with your man. Hopefully we can have you on board." The Fischers were sufficiently impressed to endorse him, two weeks later. "I think the Iowa campaign has been run better than the national campaign," Fischer said.

When I read Lizza's article last November, I showed that passage to my husband, who remarked, "That's actually a really good argument for scrapping the caucuses." I'm sure that wasn't Fischer's intention, though!

But I digress.

Ben Smith's post reminded me that I've been meaning to put up a poll about which candidate had the best celebrity supporters.

For the purposes of this diary, I am focusing on celebrities who publicly endorsed or campaigned for a candidate. Lists of famous donors can be deceiving, since many rich and famous people give large sums to multiple candidates:

Actor Michael Douglas, for example, has contributed to five current and former Democratic presidential candidates. As of Sept. 30, the latest reports available, he had donated the maximum $4,600 $2,300 for the primary campaign and $2,300 for the general election to Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd, and $1,500 to Dennis Kucinich.


Another serial donor in the current election is Paul Newman, who gave the maximum contribution to Obama, Clinton, and Dodd, and $2,300 to Richardson.

Some donors have spread the wealth around but have decided to back one candidate. Barbra Streisand gave $2,300 each to Clinton, Edwards and Obama, and $1,000 to Dodd, but recently endorsed Clinton for president.


Steven Spielberg and Rob Reiner are two other celebrities who donated to multiple presidential candidates four a piece before settling on Clinton. Reiner also shot a spoof video for Clinton's Web site.

Actress Mary Steenburgen gave money to both Edwards and Clinton, but has backed Clinton, a friend for three decades, from the get-go. Steenburgen, a native of Newport, Ark., met the Clintons when Bill Clinton was in his first term as governor of Arkansas.

Last month the Huffington Post published this piece on the top ten celebrities for Clinton and Obama. Here is their list for Obama:

1. Oprah
2. will.i.am
3. the Kennedy women (Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and Maria Shriver)
4. Ben Affleck
5. George Clooney
6. Scarlett Johansson
7. Samuel L. Jackson
8. Chris Rock
9. Robert De Niro
10. Jennifer Aniston

At least I have heard of these people. When I first saw will.i.am's "Yes We Can" video, I swear that the only person I recognized was Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

HuffPo's list of top ten Clinton supporters:

1. Ellen DeGeneres
2. Elton John
3. Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen
4. Jack Nicholson
5. Natalie Portman
6. Mario Lavandeira (I never heard of him, but apparently he is the celebrity blogger Perez Hilton)
7. America Ferrera (star of "Ugly Betty")
8. Magic Johnson
9. Barbra Streisand
10. Eva Longoria Parker (star of "Desperate Housewives")

The list of other famous people who have donated to Obama or Clinton is of course very long. I know that Bruce Springsteen and Tom Hanks are also public Obama supporters. If I've left out celebrities who played an important public role in either candidate's campaign, please let me know in the comments.

John Edwards: A bunch of big Hollywood names donated to his campaign, but most of them did not play any public role, and many also gave money to other Democratic candidates.

I was fortunate enough to see one of the mini-concerts Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne did for Edwards in Iowa last November. They also campaigned for him in New Hampshire. Tim Robbins came to early-voting states to stump for Edwards as well. I heard from a friend who saw Robbins in Des Moines that his first comment to the crowd was, "I'm not Oprah." Ben "Cooter" Jones, former Congressman and star of the tv show "Dukes of Hazzard," also campaigned for Edwards in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

UPDATE: I can't believe I forgot that Madeleine Stowe, Kevin Bacon, and James Denton (of "Desperate Housewives" fame) also came to Iowa to help out Edwards. In addition, Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte endorsed Edwards. Jon Mellencamp not only supported Edwards, he also invited him on stage during a concert in Des Moines.

Bill Richardson: Again, a lot of big Hollywood names maxed out to his campaign, but most of them didn't endorse him. The exception was Martin Sheen, who came to Iowa in December to go out on the stump with Richardson. Sheen endorsed Obama after Richardson dropped out.

Joe Biden: The famous people listed here as his donors mostly contributed to other candidates as well. I cannot recall any celebrities coming to Iowa to campaign with Biden, but please correct me in the comments if I am wrong. He was often accompanied by family members, especially his sons Beau and Hunter. (UPDATE: I forgot that Richard Schiff, who played Toby the communications guy on "The West Wing," came to Iowa to campaign with Biden.)

Chris Dodd: Many of the famous people who donated to his campaign also donated to other candidates. However, it is worth mentioning that singer-songwriter Paul Simon campaigned with Dodd in Iowa last July, and former Democratic Senatorial candidate Ned Lamont campaigned with Dodd in Iowa last November.

Dennis Kucinich: Viggo Mortensen came to New Hampshire to campaign with Kucinich after the candidate was left out of the last presidential debate before that state's primary. Apparently Sean Penn gave Kucinich money during the 2004 campaign.

I am not aware of any celebrity supporters of Mike Gravel.

Click "there's more" to take the poll after the jump.

Discuss :: (9 Comments)

The New Race for Vice-President: Part I

by: American007

Fri Apr 04, 2008 at 10:01:36 AM CDT

A lot has changed since I offered my last predictions on who the next vice president. For starters, both parties are fairly certain of who their nominees will be. Alliances have shifted; political fortunes have risen and fallen. We've seen some early signs of what the general election will bring. Therefore, there's no reason not to start talking vice-presidents. In Part I I'll take a look at possible Obama vice-presidental picks, and in the interest of fairness, I'll look at some McCain picks in Part II. The links are to some YouTube videos that illustrate the person's personality and style.


Heavyweight contenders: 

VA Sen Jim Webb: There's a lot of buzz surrounding Sen. Webb right now, and for good reason. He brings a lot to the table, first and foremost of which is deep military and government experience as a Vietnam vet and fmr Sec. of the Navy. He's a fresh face, from a swing state, and a macho Democrat who personifies change. Plus, what better for a candidate who looks to heal the racial divide than a Vietnam veteran who is happily married to a Vietnamese-American?

BUT, Webb does have a few black eyes. He is often gruff, and could have the possibility of making gaffes on the trail. He also has been married three times and may have skeletons in his closet. Plus, considering a sitting senator hasn't won the presidency since Kennedy--should we run a Senator/Senator ticket?

VA Gov. Tim Kaine: Gov. Kaine was one of the first public officials to jump on the Obama bandwagon...before there was a bandwagon. He's a popular and successful governor of a southern swing state to boot. On top of that, he has a sterling record: missionary in Honduras, graduate of Harvard Law, lawyer specializing in cases of people denied housing based on race or disability and crime-busting mayor and governor who got the state through the Virginia Tech tragedy. On paper, he's perfect.

BUT, he's only been governor for two years, bringing up the experience question. Also, he carries little name recognition outside of Virginia. Further, he's only passable on the stump--not a great orator.

NM Gov. Bill Richardson: Recent convert to the Obama camp, Gov. Richardson has long been touted as vice-president to whoever the nominee would turn out to be. To make a long story short, he's got experience out the wazoo. He's also Latino, offering the potential to make a historic candidacy even more historic. He's also well-known around the country, can be firebreather on the stump and a generally good-humored person with a very fashionable beard.

BUT, a lot of the country has an opinion of him as a political sycophant (as seen best on a pre-Iowa SNL skit). He's also known to make gaffes and is often hit-or-miss when he speaks. Also, it remains to be seen if a Richardson veep run would alienate the Clinton camp, still sore over his defection.

There's More... :: (8 Comments, 347 words in story)

Counterfactual history open thread

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Mar 17, 2008 at 08:42:07 AM CDT

Bleeding Heartland readers, I would be interested in your views on how the Iowa caucuses might have turned out differently.

Let's assume that Barack Obama runs the exact campaign he ran last year in terms of strategy and execution, and has the same monetary resources he had available.

What, if anything, could other candidates have done to beat Obama in Iowa? Keep in mind that both Clinton and Edwards executed their strategies pretty well in Iowa (in my opinion), with
both of them getting more than 70,000 people to stand in their corners on January 3. That "should" have been enough to win, even if turnout had been "only" 50 percent greater than the previous record for Iowa Democrats.

Given the Obama campaign's excellent strategy and execution, as well as their virtually unlimited monetary resources in Iowa, what could other candidates have done to win the Iowa caucuses?

These are examples of the kinds of questions I'm interested in:

Should Hillary have used Bill more, or used him less?

Would it have helped Clinton or Edwards to go negative on Obama?

Were there better methods Clinton could have used to identify and turn out supporters?

Was there anything Richardson could have done in the summer to build on the bump he got from his television commercials in May?

Would Edwards have done better if his stump speech and advertising had focused on different issues?

Should Edwards have spent some money on advertising in the summer, when he slipped behind Clinton in the Iowa polls, rather than keeping his powder dry?

Feel free to post your insights about these and similar questions on this thread.

Alternatively, if you have thoughts you'd rather keep off the record, please e-mail them to me at desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com, or e-mail me your phone number and I will call you to chat. I will keep your views confidential.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Richardson Ends Presidential Bid

by: noneed4thneed

Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 17:01:50 PM CST

Yesterday Bill Richardson announced he was ending his presidential run and dropping out of the race. Richardson was hoping to do well Nevada next week, but was polls weren't favorable. Richardson had nothing to gain to by getting blown out in Nevada. Plus, the New Mexico legislative session is starting up soon and he can get back to his duties as Governor.

Richardson was one of my final 3 choices. Out of all of the candidates, I agreed most with his plan for Iraq. Richardson understands that US troops in Iraq are targets, stuck in the middle of a civil war, and unfortunately are adding fuel to the fire over there. He also was very strong on education issues. He had the strongest position against NCLB, saying the law is unworkable and needed to be tossed out. He pushed for a minimum wage for teachers of $40,000.

In the end, Richardson's campaign was too focused on the issues and lacked an overriding theme. Richardson should have used his background as a diplomat and made diplomacy the them of this campaign. He could have created a vision of bringing people on all sides together to successfully end the war in Iraq, solve immigration, improve education. Instead he focused on his plans to solve these issues.
There's More... :: (6 Comments, 109 words in story)

Seeking more information about the Obama-Richardson deal

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 04, 2008 at 07:52:21 AM CST

I have a lot of questions about the deal struck between the Obama and Richardson campaigns, and I would be grateful to Bleeding Heartland readers who can shed light on any of them.

1. How much initial support did Richardson have last night? The Iowa Democratic Party does not report this information. I would like to hear from as many people as possible about how many people were in Richardson's corner after the first division into preference groups. In my precinct he had 28 out of 293 people, or about 9.6 percent.

2. Was this a one-way deal, or did the Obama campaign promise to instruct its captains to help Richardson become viable where he was close to the threshold?

Obama volunteers out there, did you get any encouragement to help Richardson out at the caucus?

I'm assuming that either this wasn't part of the deal, or Obama volunteers did not follow through, because Richardson only ended up with 2.1 percent of the state delegates. Clearly he fell below the threshold in many, many places.

3. Did the Richardson supporters predominantly go to Obama during the realignment? In my precinct a lot came to Edwards--perhaps even more than the number who went to Obama, though I can't be sure of that. However, a friend who's an Obama precinct captain near Hoover High School told me that in her precinct the Richardson captain brought pretty much the whole group over. Marc Ambinder observed something similar.

If Richardson had 8-10 percent support in a lot of precincts, and this deal really did transfer his supporters overwhelmingly to Obama, that alone accounts for Obama's winning margin.

I would like to hear from as many Iowans as possible about how the Richardson supporters moved during realignment at your caucus. If you don't want to post a comment, please e-mail me at desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com.

4. Was there some kind of falling out recently between Richardson and Clinton? For most of the year people assumed that if Richardson struck any kind of deal, it would be with Hillary. Bill Clinton elevated him from Congress to UN ambassador and later to secretary of energy, and Richardson and the Clintons have a similar outlook on trade and other economic issues.

If any Bleeding Heartland readers were involved in the Clinton or Richardson campaigns and can shed light on this question, please let us know or e-mail me confidentially.

UPDATE: I am hearing more stories from friends all the time. In one neighboring precinct, the Clinton people sent enough supporters to make Richardson viable so that Edwards would not get an extra delegate. In another precinct, the Dodd, Richardson and Biden groups combined were 19 short of viability. Obama's group had more than enough people to send over 19 without losing any of their delegates, but they refused, so most of the Dodd, Richardson and Biden group went over to Edwards.

Discuss :: (10 Comments)

My thoughts on the second-tier candidates in Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Dec 31, 2007 at 19:02:44 PM CST

I've been feeling for months that in December, when undecided Iowans started making up their minds, there would be significant movement toward one of the second-tier candidates. Some politically active Democrats are not satisfied with any of the top-tier candidates and are willing to give underdogs a chance.

This diary is about how Joe Biden, Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd are campaigning in Iowa, how I think they will do on January 3, and how their showing could affect John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

A few other observations related to these candidates' prospects can be found in How the Iowa caucuses work, part 8, which you may not have seen over the weekend.

Much more is after the jump.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 4261 words in story)

Where the Iowa field offices are (final version)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Dec 27, 2007 at 19:35:24 PM CST

cross-posted at Daily Kos and MyDD

A few weeks ago I wrote a diary on where the Democratic presidential candidates have field offices in Iowa.

My purpose was to document the information so that after January 3, we can see whether campaigns with the most field offices did better in the counties where rivals had field organizers and volunteers working without the visibility of an office.

I am publishing a new version of this diary because several campaigns have added more field offices this month. Also, someone at the Iowa Democratic Party informed me of slight adjustments to the number of state delegates awarded by a handful of counties.

More information than you probably wanted to know is after the jump.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 4862 words in story)

Give'em Hell Bill: Richardson Won't Let Media and Other Candidates Ignore Iraq

by: Stephen Cassidy

Sat Dec 22, 2007 at 02:44:11 AM CST

On Bill Richardson's recent push to restore the war in Iraq to the most prominent issue among the Democrats running for President, Chris Bowers writes:

While I know that everyone in American politics is supposed to have some ulterior motive behind everything they do in public, everything in my experience has indicated to me that Richardson's position on Iraq is genuine. Richardson isn't alone, either. The latest CNN poll on Iraq showed public sentiment for total withdrawal sharply rising to 39%, a clear plurality nationwide. Further, residual forces wouldn't even be an issue in the campaign were it not for Richardson. No matter what happens when the voting starts, and no matter what you may think of Richardson otherwise, that is an important contribution to the campaign. And yes, it is one reason not to be cynical about American politics.

Through his campaign stops, press releases, TV ads and postings on blogs, Richardson has been relentless in raising the issue of Iraq and forcing the media and other candidates to not ignore it.
There's More... :: (0 Comments, 1555 words in story)

Bill Richardson: The Blank Check Congress on Iraq

by: Stephen Cassidy

Thu Dec 20, 2007 at 06:03:44 AM CST

We elected a Democratic Congress to stop the war, and it's not happening.  I regret very much that those senators running for president weren't even there to cast their vote, they were out campaigning.  We gave the president $70 billion more to continue this war without any restraint or timetable to reduce the troops – it's basically a blank check.

That's what Bill Richardson said yesterday in New Hampshire.

Will Clinton, Edwards or Obama promptly bring the U.S. occupation of Iraq to end?  None of them have made an iron clad promise to bring our troops home.  Instead, all want to keep their options open and refuse to pledge to bring home all U.S. troops from Iraq by 2013. 
There's More... :: (0 Comments, 628 words in story)
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