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Nine Possibilities for Time Magazine's "Person of the Year" 2009

(Speculation is always fun on a slow news day. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

It's coming up on the end of the year (believe it or not) and I thought it might be some good, lighthearted holiday discussion to think about who or what might be Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2009.

There are no real requirements for what a Person of the Year can be. It could be anything from a single person (Barack Obama, 2008), a group of people (Bono, Bill and Melinda Gates, 2005), or an abstraction (The Endangered Earth, 1988; You, 2006). The only criterion, since the establishment of the yearly issue in 1927 is that the nominee has “for better or for worse, …has done the most to influence the events of the year.”

That said, here are, in my opinion, the ten most likely contenders (in no particular order).

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Is the Big Lug too big to win? What Gov. Culver can learn from Chris Chrstie.

( - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Is being overweight a political handicap? That's the big question posed by Daniel Engber in a very interesting piece this week at At issue, the contentious Corzine-Christie race in New Jersey and a weighty issue that has developed between the two men. Namely, the issue of weight.

You see, Corzine (D), the incumbent governor, is an average-to-fit 62. He considers himself a “health nut”. He runs marathons. For a man who was very nearly killed in a car accident two years ago, he is in excellent health. 

His opponent, Chris Christie (R), is an obese 47-year old. He considers himself “a Jersey guy, with a Jersey gut”. He jokes about his weight. He says that he has been heavy since his teenage years, and has tried to lose the weight several times, to no avail.

The controversy all started with this ad:

The ad doesn't explicitly mention weight at all. The gist of the ad, rather, is that Christie used his power as U.S. Attorney to get out of some nasty driving tickets. However, instead of the phrase “used his power”, the ad says  “threw his weight around”. In classic attack ad fashion, the ad closes on an unnatural slow-motion image of the opponent–only this time, he's getting out of a car–and well, jiggling.

As you can see, the message is pretty clear. Christie claims this is “character assassination”. Corzine claims that he “…doesn't give a hoot about Mr. Christie's weight.”

Still, the real issue is, is it working? The answer is, very likely yes. As Engber points out, two separate polls by  Public Policy Polling (.pdf) and the New York Times both confirm–independent voters are significantly less likely to vote for an overweight candidate.

And, as Engber tells us, that bias might just be reflected already in the nation's governors. Nate Silver at recently looked at the shape of the nation's governors and found that (in his non-medical, decidedly tongue-in-cheek estimation) only 10 (or 20%) current governors are visibly overweight. (He includes Gov. Culver, who he calls “squarish”, based on this photo.)

Engbert accounts for this disparity (remember that more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight) with the following analysis:

…there's no constituency for a fat politician. Conservatives see excess weight as a sign of moral failing or a breach of personal responsibility. Liberals sneer at the bloated American lifestyle, even while imagining the war on obesity as a fight for social justice.

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Why I Shook Bob Vander Plaats' Hand this Weekend

(I love this kind of event. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

This weekend, I went home to my hometown of Centerville for our big annual Pancake Day festival. Although you've probably never heard of it, and it probably didn't bring in as many guests as the Dave Matthews concert in Des Moines, it's still a pretty big event for the southern part of the state.

The big parade starts with a cannon blast at 1 o'clock sharp, every year. In addition to all the Pancake Day Queen contestants, the local celebrities and the business floats, the parade usually brings a few local politicians or political candidates down every election year. In 2004, when I was still in high school, I marched in the parade with Dave Franker (remember him?). In 2006, Pancake Day marked the first time I had seen Dave Loebsack in person.

This being an odd-numbered year, I wasn't expecting to see any political candidates beyond our statehouse representatives and whoever is running for mayor this year. I was surprised then, to see Bob Vander Plaats round the corner of the parade route, shaking hands.

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Generation Branstad?

I was thinking about something the other day, and I thought I would share it with you. Just some numbers to consider, I'll leave the analysis to you.

62-year old Terry E. Branstad was first elected governor in 1982 and last elected governor in 1994. His last full day in office was January 14, 1999.

On Election Day 2010:

The youngest person to have voted for Branstad in 1982 would be:  46

The youngest person to have voted for Branstad ever would be: 34

The youngest person to have a political opinion of the Branstad administration (assuming political opinions form around age 12-13) would be: 24

The youngest person to have any memory from the Branstad administration (assuming memory forms around age 4 or 5, counting such memories as “that guy with the funny mustache on TV”) would be: 16

The youngest person to have been born during the Branstad administration would be:  11


When Terry Branstad was elected governor in 1982:

Bob Vander Plaats was 19

Chet Culver was 16

Chris Rants was 15

Christian Fong was 5


Chet Culver's job approval rating among 18-34 year olds ***:

Approve: 36%

Disapprove: 54%

Unsure: 10%

* This represents the age group with the lowest percentage approving and the highest percentage disapproving among those surveyed. For comparison, among those aged 35-49, Culver has a 40% approval rating in this poll.

** Survey of 600 persons by SurveyUSA, released 6/18/2009 and available here.

Early Odds on the Republican Race for Governor

(Thanks to American007 for this analysis. Be sure to click "there's more" to read the whole piece. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Today, the right-leaning news aggregator The Bean Walker ran a headline: THE CAMPAIGN KICKS OFF TODAY. The link and reference refer to a GOP fundraiser in Sac County this morning that brought together four likely candidates for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Those men are Rep. (and former Speaker of the House) Chris Rants of Sioux City; 2006 Lt. Governor candidate Bob Vander Plaats of Sioux City;Rep. Rob Roberts of Carroll; and Sen. Jerry Behn of Boone.

While the Republican primary is still months away, this unofficial first step on the long road to the nomination seems a good place to start with some early odds on the eventual winner.

Rep. Chris Rants (R-Sioux City)     3:1

Rants is the Hillary Clinton of this race. He's been a figurehead and a lightning rod within the party for almost a decade. He served as Speaker of the House during the Vilsack years, from 2002 until his party's ouster in 2007. In fact, many within the party still blame him for that defeat–even though 2006 was such a realignment that it would have been hard for the party do much better than it did under any circumstances. Much like Ms. Clinton, Rants is highly polarizing figure who has a reputation for having a “bulldozer” style of leadership, with little time or tact for those who stand in his way. Also, like Hillary, he is going to have to learn to deal with media and pundits who are less than cordial.

(The best analysis of his candidacy comes from this piece in Cityview's Civic Skinny column. It is a must read.)

Rants 2010 candidacy seems based on what Craig Robinson at the Iowa Republican calls “a kinder, gentler Chris Rants”.  According to O. Kay Henderson's liveblog of the Sac County event, Rants primary focus in the campaign is going to be economic and business issues; somewhat of a departure from his rivals. 

Analysis:  Rants is well positioned in the race to become the choice of Republicans who are turned off by Bob Vander Plaats but are hesitant to embrace a less-conservative choice. He also has a fat rolodex of fundraising contacts and a long list of favors to call in. He's in it to win it.



Bob Vander Plaats     3:1

Vander Plaats, the 2006 Lt. Governor candidate and primary candidate in his own right in 2002 and 2006, has been to the political wilderness and back several rimes. His supporters believe, however, that the third time around is the charm.

Borne aloft by the twin archangels of Iowa conservativism Steve Deace and Mike Huckabee, Vander Plaats' “plaatform” is straight-line social conservative. His primary issue thus far is putting an end to same-sex marriage rights as granted by Varnum v. Brien.  However, reactions to his plan to do so by issuing an executive order have been extremely negative outside of his core group of supporters. Many believe that his plan is patently unconstitutional. 

Analysis: Vander Plaats appeals to the basest parts of the Republican base. However, among that segment of the party he enjoys fervent, dedicated support. Unless the more moderate elements of the Republican Party can grasp the reins, Vander Plaats remains a strong contender.



Unknown Moderate     3:1

It's an open secret that there is a sizable contingent of the Republican Party that isn't happy with the current crop of candidates. This shadowy group of mostly moderates, old-money and business Republicans has been candidate shopping lately. Headed by favorite so-con punching bag (and 2002 candidate for Governor) Doug Gross, this faction has been talking to some unconventional potential candidates. Among the names being talked about: Vermeer CEO Mary Andringa, Dubuque University president Jeff Bullock, Generation Iowa Commission vice-chair Christian Fong, Farm Bureau president Craig Lang, Jeff Lamberti, Marianette Miller-Meeks and even Fmr. Gov. Terry Branstad.

The platform for such a candidate is seen through a glass darkly, but is sure to run to to the left of Rants and far to the left of Vander Plaats–a center-right agenda, with an emphasis on economic/budget/tax issues over traditional so-con fare.

Analysis: It remains to be seen who will emerge as the center-right option in this race, although Gross has promised to find a candidate by Septmber. What is certain, however, is that that candidate will enjoy significant financial and institutional support from the faction of the party that doesn't want to see the race wasted on a quixotic Vander Plaats run. In the absence of more information, I give Rants, Vander Plaats and the moderate candidate the same chances.

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Is the Big Lug in big trouble?

(Worth keeping an eye on. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

There's a batch of poll data out from SurveyUSA, and it's bad news for the Big Lug.

Governor Culver doesn't break even in the poll of 600 adults. 47% of voters surveyed said they disapprove of Gov. Culver's performance as governor, with 46% approving, and 7% not sure. 

What's particularly troubling is that Culver only has support from 59% of Democrats surveyed and 41% of self-identified independents. 

Seperate polls found that Sen. Grassley edges out Sen. Harkin as the state's most popular politician. Grassley carried a 71% approval rate, with Harkin ten points behind at 61%. One interesting fact from that set of polling: Grassley has a 66% approval rating among Democrats. 

The Curious Case of Fred P. Hochberg

Is this the face of the next Secretary of Commerce? There is a small but steady drumbeat in the far reaches of the blogosphere that hopes that may be the case.

Mr. Hochberg is the former dean of the Milano School for Management and Urban Policy in New York. Prior to that, he was a board member of the Human Rights Comission and the Port Authority of New York. He also served as President of his family's company, Lillian Vernon–during which time, he turned the small mail-order company into a publicly traded corporate success story.

During the Clinton administration, Hochberg served as deputy administrator for the Small Business Administration. He holds a  BA from NYU and an MBA from Columbia.

However, besides those qualifications, there is one thing that has put Mr. Hochberg on the radar: he's gay.

The Obama cabinet is wonderfully diverse. It has men, women, African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos. It has people of all ages from all parts of the country. It even has Republicans. However, one thing that it does not have–that no cabinet has ever had–is an openly gay member. 

After New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson withdrew his name from consideration for the post, a small but steady drumbeat began to surface on some GLBT blogs suggesting that Hochberg was the man for the job. However, the nomination of NH Sen. Judd Gregg, followed by Hochberg's appointment to head the US Import-Export Bank quickly dashed those hopes.

But, the Gregg debacle has opened new hope for Hochberg's boosters. The belief is that the best way for Obama to redeem himself after nominating the conservative Republican (rated 33% by the Human Rights Commission) is to nominate the moderate-liberal Hochberg (former President of the Human Rights Commission). Hochberg has not been confirmed to serve as Import-Export Bank president, and scuttlebutt is he would serve in the position if asked. 

Will Fred P. Hochberg be nominated to serve as Commerce Secretary? It's admittedly an outside chance in a field crowded with so many highly qualified possibilities. But if Obama wants to add another to his administration's growing list of “firsts”, it remains a curious possibility. 

Nine Predictions for 2009

(The 2008 Bleeding Heartland election prediction champion gets out the crystal ball for the year to come... - promoted by desmoinesdem)

My apologies for not getting this in closer to the actual new year, but you could say that “a day late and a dollar short” has been the theme of the new year so far for me. Or five days short, as the case may be.

In any case, before we start the new political year for real, I thought it might be fun to share our predictions for the new year. Here are nine predictions of mine for two thousand and nine.

1. The state budget is in far worse shape then we think. Expect the fight over the budget to get ugly, quick.

The Iowa state fiscal year runs from July 1 2008 to June 30 2009–right in the heart of the economic meltdown. Given that the estimates for this period are just starting to come in, it's reasonable to assume that the stories we're currently hearing about the “budget crisis” represent only the tip of a much larger iceberg. Likewise, the 1.5% across-the-board cut currently proposed by Gov. Culver isn't going to be nearly enough to solve the crisis. It's going to get ugly and fast.

2. Unemployment will hit 10% by the end of 2009, and recovery will not come until early 2010.

Call me a pessimist, but I think things are going to get much worse before they get better. When you combine the potential failure of the Big 3 (a still unresolved issue, by the way), plus a global manufacturing slowdown, with the fact that up to 25% of retail stores may declare bankrupcy in the next year–you have the recipie for unmitigated economic disaster.  

To complicate matters, I do not expect President Obama's recovery measures to be passed before May of this year. (There are already signs that a long battle is ahead for this bill.) That means that many of the infrastructure projects given funds through the program will miss out on the summer construction window–meaning they likely won't start until Summer 2010. Many other measures, like tax cuts or social programs won't go into effect until 2010 as well…moving the light at the end of the tunnel further and further away.

3. The Big 3 will not survive in their current form. Get ready for the Big 2.

Regardless of whether the auto bailout was the correct move at the time, by the time the big ball drops in 2010–there will no longer be a Big 3 as we know them now. My best guess is that one of the Big 3 automakers (most likely Chrysler) will implode into disorganized bankrupcy. No buyer will be found, and the brand will simply cease to exist. This will spark a crisis that will either lead to the organized bankrupcy/restructuring of the other companies, or government assistance with severe Bob Corker style conditions. 

The good news is that out of the multitude of laid-off engineers and designers, we could see new  and innovative technologies, designs, and companies form. By 2020 we could all be driving solar hybrids designed and built by ex-Big 3 designers who started their own companies.

6. The Supreme Court will rule in favor of same-sex marriage in the case of Varnum v. Brien.

Beware the ides of March rings true in Iowa in 2009. Expect a ruling on the case of Varnum v. Brien to come down with a rulings for several other cases on March 13, the conclusion of the Court's March session. When that happens expect a whirlwind of craziness to descend on the state: national media, a rush of spring weddings, celebrity attention, half-cocked legal challenges, right-wing rants, Fred Phelps-ian protests, legislative blustering, Steve Deace's head exploding, and who knows what else.

I don't think the moon turning to blood, the dead walking the streets, or any other Pat Robertson-style pronouncements will come true…but expect a wild ride.

5. The Republican candidate for Governor will be a serious contender who already holds a major elected office.

The current fight over the RPI chair has a definite and familiar theme: change. Old hacks are out, new hacks are in. While there is a faction of the GOP that clings to BVP like life preserver, the majority of the party is, I think, waiting for someone new to come along.

That someone is either State Auditor David Vaudt, Sec. of Agriculture Bill Northey, or 4th District Congressman Tom Latham.

Vaudt looks to emerge as one of the main faces of opposition to Culver on budget issues, a position he could use to slingshot him to the governorship. Northey is the darling of the Republican Party and, with agricultural issues on the back-burner this year and little to do, may find the Governor's race an attractive prospect. Latham, by all measures a low-importance member of the minority party might decide that its now or never for him. And he has nothing to lose: if he wins, he's the Governor; if he loses, he can run again as the elder-statesman in the dogfight that will be the new 3rd district.

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The Race to Replace Obama II

(Thanks to American007 for putting this together. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Well, with the election of President Barack Obama (I will never get tired of typing that) looking more and more like a certainty, it's time once again to get elbow deep in the muck that is Illinois politics. In this diary, I'll be taking an updated look at possible appointees to Obama's Senate seat.

A quick reminder of the rules at play here. The Constitution states that a congress person must be at least 30, a citizen for at least 9 years prior to entering the Senate, and must live in the state they represent. Beyond that, there are no rules. Governor Rod Blagojevich can appoint whoever he likes to the position, without having to have that pick voted on or vetted by anyone.

So here are my odds on who the pick will be:

2-1: Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL)

Often, when a governor must appoint someone to fill a vacant seat, their first reaction is to fill the seat with someone as close to the genuine article as possible. In that regard, Jackson Jr. is the man for the job. He's an almost universally well-liked Representative from the south side of Chicago. It helps that he's one of Obama's closest allies, having put out fires started by his father several times. Plus, appointing Jackson will help keep the “upstate senator/downstate senator” balance with the downstater Dick Durbin.

In addition, Gov. Blago has to be feeling the pressure to appoint an African-American to the seat, lest the 111th Congress have no African-American senators.

Working against Jackson is the fact that he is disliked by the Daley machine, a powerful contingent that has kept him out of some House committees in the past. The other factor working against Jackson is his father, who has been a thorn in seemingly everybody's sides this election cycle.

5-1: Lisa Madigan (IL Atty. General)

Unlike others, I'm giving much higher odds to Lisa Madigan. Madigan, a rising star in Illinois politics, matches the profile of a serious candidate for the Senate. She's young, liberal, ambitious, well-connected, and wildly popular. Unlike Jackson, she's won a statewide race. Plus, by appointing her, Gov. Blago gets one of his fiercest critics out of his hair, and wins favor with another: Lisa's father, and Speaker of the Illinois House, Mike Madigan. A potential 2 for the price of 1, if you will.

However, Gov. Blago's many political enemies are like the mythical Hydra: cut down one, and two grow in their place. Even if Madigan weren't around to challenge him in 2010, other candidates are ready to step in. Also, the Senate currently has 13 women, but only one African-American.

5-1: Tammy Duckworth (IL Dir. of Veterans Affairs)

One candidate that all the political forces in Illinois can agree on is Tammy Duckworth. She is reportedly well-liked by Durbin, Obama, Rahm Emmanuel and even Gov. Blago. If appointed, she would be first Asian-American women in the Senate (one of three Asian senators in the next congress if appointed), and to my knowledge, the first Iraqi War veteran in the Senate.

The only thing holding her back is the fact that she has never been elected to a public office before. While she came close in 2006, and has served as the appointed Director of Veteran's Affairs, nearly all the other people being considered for the position have at least one publicly elected position in their resume. In addition, Obama may be “saving” Duckworth for a cabinet position, specifically the Secretary of Veteran's Affairs.

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Fantasy Obama Cabinet II

Without putting the cart before the horse too far (we still have to win first), it's as good a time as any to take another look at what a future Obama cabinet might look like. After all, with a President Obama (how I love typing that!) seeming like a virtual certainty, it's time to play Washington's hot new parlor game: Pick a Cabinet!


 A few ground rules to my picks:

I've tried to exclude sitting Senators and Representatives as best I can, since I don't think it's a good idea to steal talent from those areas when equally capable people can be found elsewhere. I also tried to remove candidates who might be looking at running for higher office in 2010, like Kathleen Sebelius and Tom Vilsack. 

I also tried to knock out “rock star” picks, since it's unlikely those people would want to serve in the cabinet, when they have such cool day jobs.

Sec. of State:
John Kerry (sitting MA Sen., '04 Presidential candidate)

There is one major event that has changed what is needed of the Secretary of State: the selection of Joe Biden as VP. Joe Biden, as VP, will carry most of the administration's foreign policy weight and often act as de facto Sec. of State. The biggest requirement of the Sec. of State is now someone who can work well with Joe. John Kerry and Joe Biden have been friends and allies from way back, in a way that other candidates for the job (Bill Richardson, Chuck Hagel, Dick Lugar, Richard Holbrooke, etc.) just can't match.

Sec. of Treasury: Laura Tyson (prof. UC Berkeley, economist, fmr. Council of Economic Advisers chair)

Without a doubt, this is the most critical position in the first Obama cabinet. Laura Tyson fulfills the most important requirements of the job as it stands now. She has gravitas, high qualifications, and isn't hamstrung by excessive ties to Wall Street. However, she does have just enough ties to Wall Street and the government to be effective while still being a new face, which sets her apart from other candidates who are either too academic (Austan Goolsbee) or too Clintonista (Robert Rubin).

Sec. of Defense: Robert Gates (current Sec. of Defense)

It may seem unlikely that Obama would keep anyone on from the current administration, much less someone in a key position like this. But at the same time, it makes sense. Obama is a stated believer in the “team of rivals” style of government, and Gates has done a more than capable job as defense secretary thus far. All indications are that Gates would do a good job executing Obama's exit strategy as well as any other candidate.

And speaking of other candidates, his options are limited. The SecDef must be retired from his/her military role for at least ten years. Given that the last wave of retirees (including Wes Clark and Anthony Zinni) retired at the end of the Clinton administration in 2000, there are few choices. Ret. Gen. Merril McPeak, my former pick, comes to mind–but his age (72) may keep him out of the running.

The most likely scenario involves Gates staying on only until sometime in 2010, when the wave of Clinton retirees will be available to pick from. 

Attorney General: Jennifer Granholm (MI Governor, fmr. MI Atty. Gen.)

It's going to take a strong personality and a capable hand to clean up the Ashcroft/Gonzales mess. Granholm is just that person. Her recent role as Sarah Palin stand-in for Biden's debate prep shows that she is on the campaign radar. Her only obstacle is her dismal approval rating, but politics is full of second careers.

Sec. of the Interior: Tony Knowles (fmr. AK governor, '08 endorser)

Tony Knowles, former Alaska governor would be a solid pick to clean up the problems in the scandal ridden department. The biggest bonus with this pick is that he would be in a strong position to protect ANWR. The fact that this pick would be a thumb in Sarah Palin's eye is just a bonus.

Sec. of Agriculture: Patty Judge (fmr. IA Sec. of Agriculture, IA Lt. Gov.)

I'm sticking by my pick of Patty Judge for this position. She's not perfect by a long shot, but I think she'll be the pick. Tom Vilsack or Kathleen Sebelius would be good picks here, but I think they've got their eyes on Senate seats. Judge is a solid, non-controversial pick that adds some gender balance to the cabinet. Not the best, but not the worst.

Sec. of Commerce: Robert Reich (fmr. Labor Sec.)
Before the Financial Crisis, I had thought of the Secretary of Commerce position as little more than a figurehead position. But now, it seems that it could be one of the major positions in the cabinet. Together with the Sec. of Labor and the Treasury Sec., it could form the “third leg” of the Obama administration's recovery team.

Reich represents a solid pick for any of the three economic cabinet positions, and I have no doubt he'll end up at one of those posts.

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10 Days Out

What Changed?

In short, not much. Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Washington (35 EV) move into “likely Obama”, there they should have been since the word go. This takes Obama from a solid 220 EV to an even better 255 solid EV. 

On the “toss up” front, the news is mixed. Ohio (20 EV) moves from “toss-up” to “lean Obama”, while Florida (27 EV) moves in the opposite direction as McCain closes the gap there. The other “toss-ups” remain more or less the same, showing slow but steady movement toward Obama. For the first time, Obama now leads Indiana (11 EV) by .1%, which, while statistically insignificant, is striking nonetheless. Also striking is the fact that Montana (3 EV) again moves into the “toss up” category, although polling remains scarce. 

Georgia (15 EV) remains the only “lean McCain” state, although the race there continues to tighten. West Virginia (5 EV) continues to be erratic, moving back now into “likely McCain”.

Where they stand:

Obama: Obama continues to improve his standing in the electoral college. However, it appears that the race is tightening somewhat as races usually do close to election day. Bringing Florida back into the fold would do a lot to create the “landslide mandate” many Dems are seeking. 

McCain: There is a ray of hope for McCain, although it is dim and distant. If McCain can get a foothold in Florida and Georgia, and retake Indiana and Missouri, it would go a long way toward creating the impression of a competetive race. Creating that impression could cause some of the fence sitting states to domino into the McCain camp.

Although it's the longest of longshots, 4th and long at the two minute warning, don't count McCain out yet.


According to, their simulation engine shows Obama winning 100%  of the last 1000 simulations, with an average electoral vote of 343 to McCain's 195.

If the election were held today, and  every state voted according to the latest poll average, Obama would win in a BIG landslide–378-160 electoral votes.

If Obama wins North Carolina, Florida, and Indiana, Obama could reach 270 EV by the time the polls close in the Central Time Zone, with Missouri putting him over the top.

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20 Days Out

(Yes, I know it's really 18 and I'm two days late.)

What Changed?

Really, not much has changed. If you look at where things were last week (Obama gaining ground, McCain losing it) this week is just an extension of those trends. With two Presidential debates and the VP debates under the voters' belts (the polls haven't quite caught up to Wednesday's debate yet), the map continues to look very blue, even if some individual states are fluctuating.

Obama holds all last week's “likely” and “lean” states, with Michigan and Pennsylvania (38 EV) moving from “lean Obama” to “likely Obama”. FL, CO, NH and VA (52 EV) move from “toss up” to “lean Obama”.

West Virginia and North Dakota (8 EV) join the toss-up states this week, with McCain leading in WV by 2.8% and in ND by just .5% Of all the current “toss up” states, Obama leads in NV, MO, OH and NC. McCain leads in ND, WV and IN.

In a troubling sign for McCain, Montana moves back into “lean McCain” and for the first time, so does Georgia (18 EV combined).

Where they stand:

Obama:  Start picking out furniture and interviewing for your cabinet members. Only a major scandal or historic national event could derail the O train at this point.

The only question now is this: Does Obama focus on running up the score by campaigning for himself in tossup states and “lean McCain” states, or does he slow down and shift tactics.  He could, for example start holding rallies with (but really for) close congressional candidates, even in strong red or blue states. Or, he could slowly reduce his campaign schedule and start focusing on the transition team as some have suggested.

McCain: It's probably over. If McCain can win four or five of the tossup states  he can potentially avoid the election being called a “landslide”.

However, given what it might take to do that (serious $ and mud slinging), it might benefit McCain to focus on salvaging his reputation by ratcheting down the attack ads and vicious sentiment and running a more honorable and humane campaign. Like Obama, McCain may be able and better served to shift some resources and time to congressional races. 

According to, their simulation engine shows Obama winning 99.5%  of the last 1000 simulations, with an average electoral vote of 340 to McCain's 198.

If the election were held today, and  every state voted according to the latest poll average, Obama would win in a landslide–364-174 electoral votes.

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30 Days Out

What Changed?

After the outbreak of the financial crisis, one presidential debate (polling hasn't quite caught up to the VP debate) and a week of Sarah Palin public humiliation, the national map is looking much, much better for Obama.

EV rich states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota (47 EV) move from “toss-up” to lean Obama. Montana and Louisiana (12 EV), move from “lean McCain” to “likely McCain”. West Virginia, which had been flirting with the “toss-up” category, moves back into “lean McCain”.The toss-up states remain roughly the same otherwise, although it seems one could safely move some around. Obama hasn't led in Missouri since polling began, likewise for McCain in Colorado. 

Nationally, the trend moves from “lean Obama” to “likely Obama”. Obama now stands at his best position since the campaign began, 8 points over McCain in the poll average–50-42.

Where they stand:

Obama: Not much to say this week. It's all good news. If I were him, I'd start picking out furniture for the Oval Office and what tie to wear on inaguration day.

His only bad news isn't that unexpected. Montana and Louisiana, which were little more than icing on the cake, slip comfortably back into McCain territory.

McCain: Titanic, meet iceberg. This has to be McCain's worst week in this campaign to date. The only ray of hope is that McCain as a candidate thrives when his back is against the wall. However, he needs a major “Hail Mary” to get him out of this slump, and honestly, I'm not sure what that could be at this point.

His only bright spot is the potential that the financial crisis will be bumped from the headlines by foreign conflict or terrorism. Either that, or he could pull Osama Bin Laden out of a hat on prime-time. 

According to, their simulation engine shows Obama winning 96.2%  of the last 1000 simulations.

If the election were held today, and  every state voted according to the latest poll average, Obama would win in a landslide–333-205 EV.

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40 Days Out

Well, we're 10 days closer to E-day, so here's an analysis of where the race stands.

What Changed?
The number of “leaner” states has dropped dramatically. Oregon and New Jersey (22 EV together) have moved from “lean Obama” to “likely Obama”; Arizona, North and South Dakota, Texas, Arkansas, and South Carolina (74 EV) move from “lean McCain” to “likely McCain”.

A few states have, however, moved back into toss-up territory.  Minnesota and Pennsylvania moved from “lean Obama” to “toss-up”; Florida, Indiana and North Carolina move out of “lean McCain”. Maine moves from “likely Obama” to “lean Obama”. In a big blow to McCain, West Virginia moves from “likely McCain” to “toss-up” and Louisiana moves from “likely McCain” to “lean McCain”. (More on all this later.)

Nationally, the trend is strongly in favor of Obama. The country as a whole moves from “toss-up” to “lean Obama”, in the wake of polls showing Obama up by as much as 5-8 points over McCain.

However, while this is good news, a disturbing fact remains. If the election were held today, and every state voted exactly as the latest poll suggests, and there were no recounts or lawsuits, the result would be:  a 269-269 tie.

Where they stand:

Obama: Obama has a lot going for him. On a macro level, the continued focus on the national economy only helps him as voters strongly prefer him to McCain on that issue.

On a micro level, I think the best news is in the latest polls out of West Virginia. A poll released by CNN/Time shows McCain over Obama 50-46%, with 4% undecided with a margin of error of 3.5%. This represents a HUGE improvement from polls taken in February which showed Obama in the 30% range. Considering that Bush beat Kerry by 13% there in 2004…this is a big shift. It also bodes well for Obama's chances in southern Pennsylvania and Ohio.

If Obama has a problem area, it seems to be in northern states. McCain is in the lead and gaining in New Hampshire and Montana, and is up 10 points from his low in Maine to pull within 10 points there. McCain is also gaining ground in Washington, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

McCain: McCain lost his mojo (pre-suspension). The bloom seems to be off the Palin pick, and the economy hurts his chances more each day.
If there is a silver lining for McCain, it is that he seems to have locked in the base in several states that were looking a little pink. He reversed downward trends in many states, including Texas, Arizona, South Carolina and the Dakotas. He's also starting to pull away in a few places like Montana, Missouri and New Hampshire.

McCain is losing major ground in the Mid-Atlantic States. He has lost ground this week from Pennsylvania to North Carolina–key states if he hopes to win in November.

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50 Days Out

As of today, it's 50 days until Election Day. Here are some analysis' of where the race stands right now.

MSNBC's First Read Blog:

Obama: 233; McCain: 227; Toss Up: 78

Likely Obama: 172 EV (the usual suspects)

Lean Obama: 61 EV (IA, MN, NM, OR, PA, WA)

Toss Up: 78 EV (CO, MI. NV, NH, OH, VA, WI)

Lean McCain: 67 EV (FL, IN, MO, MT, NC)

Likely McCain: 160 EV (the usual suspects)

Slate Election Scorecard:

Obama: 240; McCain: 227; Toss Up: 68

Likely Obama: 161 EV (the usual suspects, plus IA)

Lean Obama: 79 EV (WA, OR, NM, MN, WI, PA, NJ)

Toss Up: 68 EV (NV, CO, MI, OH, VA, NH, US at large)

Lean McCain: 131 EV (AZ, MT, ND, SD, TX, MO, AR, IN, NC, SC, FL)

Likely McCain: 96 EV (the usual suspects)

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Palin in Wasilla

(Great compilation of a few reasons why Sarah Palin was a gift to Democrats. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

With all this Palin family drama, on top of the charges of sexism being thrown about all over the place…I thought I would offer an analysis of Palin that is completely free of those issues. Just a straight look at her career, facts and the numbers–starting with a look at her time in Wasilla.

Palin in Wasilla: City council 1992-1996; Mayor 1996-2002

About Wasilla:

pop 1990: 4,028

pop. 2000: 5,469

pop. 2007 (est): 9,780 (+66% since 2000)

83.9% White

FY 2007 budget: $9.9m 

Mayor's salary: $68,000

Wasilla average household income (2007 est): $47,900

(Sources: City Data, US Census Bureau, City of Wasilla)

Notable Events during Palin administration:

1996: Palin defeats incumbent mayor John Stein. Palin focuses the campaign on her ideology, her church service, and membership in the NRA. Anti-abortion flyers are circulated. The state Republican Party runs advertisements in the race, which has traditionally been non-partisan. Palin heavily emphasizes that she is a born-again Christian and that, with her, Wasilla will have “its first Christian mayor”.

Sarah comes in with all this ideological stuff, and I was like, ‘Whoa,’ ” said Mr. Stein, who lost the election. “But that got her elected: abortion, gun rights, term limits and the religious born-again thing. I’m not a churchgoing guy, and that was another issue: ‘We will have our first Christian mayor.’ ” “I thought: ‘Holy cow, what’s happening here? Does that mean she thinks I’m Jewish or Islamic?’ ” recalled Mr. Stein, who was raised Lutheran, and later went to work as the administrator for the city of Sitka in southeast Alaska. “The point was that she was a born-again Christian.”(New York Times article, linked below)

1996: Shortly after becoming Mayor, Palin approaches Wasilla city librarian Mary Ellen Emmons about banning some books at the local library. Palin never specifically mentions which book are to be banned. Emmons flatly refuses, and is fired. 

1997: Palin fires police chief Earl Stambaugh. No reason is given. Stambaugh and Emmons are both prominent local Democrats. Stambaugh had headed the police department since its creation in 1993. He is also a 22 year veteran of the Anchorage Police Department.

1997: Over 100 citizens attend a meeting to propose forcing a recall of Mayor Palin. In response, Palin re-instates Emmons (after Emmons agrees to Palin's plan to merge the local museum and library, with budget cuts for both). Stambaugh is not reinstated. The issue of library censorship is not pursued. Palin tells a local paper that the conversations about banning books she has had with local leaders were “rhetorical”.

Ann Kilkenny, a Democrat who said she attended every City Council meeting in Ms. Palin’s first year in office, said Ms. Palin brought up the idea of banning some books at one meeting. “They were somehow morally or socially objectionable to her,” Ms. Kilkenny said.

The librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, pledged to “resist all efforts at censorship,” Ms. Kilkenny recalled. Ms. Palin fired Ms. Emmons shortly after taking office but changed course after residents made a strong show of support. (New York Times article linked below)

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Iowa Arts License Plate

I was reading the Press-Citizen today, and local rabblerowser Donald Baxter hit on a brilliant idea. Why doesn't Iowa have an “arts license plate”? We already have the highly successful REAP plate, a heritage plate, an education plate, and most recently a “share the road” plate that benefits the Iowa Bicycle Coalition. (Just look at all the specialty plates the state already offers!)Iowa should join other states like Florida and California in offering a specialty Arts plate, with the proceeds going toward a central organization like the Iowa Arts Council.

Here is an example design by Mr. Baxter (used with permission). An added bonus is that it makes use of the currently endangered Jackson Pollock painting at the University of Iowa Museum of Art.

Here is a link as well to the original blog post by Mr. Baxter. I think it's a great idea, and if you do as well–it might be worth bringing up to our local candidates.


The Race to Replace Hillary Clinton

With the renewed talk in a “dream ticket”, I thought it might be a good idea to look at who might be stepping into the Hill-ster's old Senate seat should she be movin' on up. (Ed. note–nearly all the news links on this are from the first time this speculation went around, last fall, when the Clinton campaign was on top. Forgive the Spitzer references.)

The rules of the game are slightly different than in Illinois in the case of Sen. Obama. The governor appoints someone to partially fulfill the term of the seat in question with no vote or vetting by the party. That person then holds the seat until 2010, when a special election would be held. Should the same person win, they then serve two more years until 2012–the original end of Sen. Clinton's current term. Therefore, whoever it is better be up for campaigning twice in four years–and winning.

The Magnificent Six:

1. NY Gov David Patterson

    Prior to his ascension to the Governor's office, Patterson was considered the odds on favorite to take the seat. He himself reportedly expressed interest in it on several occasions, both to the media and privately to then-Gov. Eliot “Number 9” Spitzer. If he's still interested in the job, he first must appoint a suitable Lt. Gov to take over his job before Jan. 2009, and then simply sign off on his own promotion. It remains to be seen however, if he can hold his current seat–let alone a Senate position.

2. Fmr. Pres. Bill Clinton

    Let's get this one out of the way early. There is talk that appointing Bill to the senate would solve “the Bill problem”. Some have said that Bill would likely chafe with boredom as the Second Gentleman, and appointment to the Senate would keep him engaged and in power–and he would, by all indications, be a great senator. And there is historical precedent. Both John Adams Quincy and Andrew Johnson both served in the Senate after their terms in office.

3. Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

    As one Kennedy star sets, could another be on the rise? Prominent environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has been quoted as saying “If Hillary left the Senate, I might run for that seat.” However, there is no coronation yet for this dynastic son. He's pro-life and strongly Catholic, which may turn off some voters, also he's inherited the Kennedy family skeleton closet. However, the compelling justice of Kennedy ascending to his slain father's Senate seat may be just what NY voters (and the nation at large) are looking for.

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The Race to Replace Obama

I thought as a nice break from all the primary squabbling, I thought I might spark some discussion about something else: the race to replace Obama. There was a very neat discussion about this on the National Journal's wonderful HotlineTV v-blog the other day, and so I thought I'd share it with everyone.

The problem: Should Obama win the presidency, he'll need someone to fill his seat in the senate. According to this article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it's entirely up to Illinois Governor Blagojevich who he appoints to pick. He doesn't have to specifically pick a Democrat (although he would be certifiably insane not to), or have his pick vetted by anyone. Like much of Illinois politics, anything goes.

The Serious Seven Contenders: 

1. Gov. Rod Blagojevich
    That's right. He can appoint himself. And, there is reason to suggest he just might. The only catch is, he is intensly unpopular…especially in downstate Illinois. Were he to appoint himself, it puts the seat in serious jeopardy in 2010. 

2.  Ill. Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan
    At 41, Ms. Madigan reigns supreme as the post-Obama rising star of the Illinois Democrat Party. Narrowly elected in 2002 with just a hair over 50% of the vote, her stances against some of Gov. Unpronounceable's policies have made her incredibly popular–as well as the Gov's chief rival. (For proof, see her 2006 reelection with 72% of the vote.) As rumor has it, the Gov. might appoint her for no other reason than to get her out of his well-coifed hair. 

3.  Sen. Rahm Emanuel
    A man with serious skills, Sen. Emanuel is nothing if not politically savvy. He's a powerhouse in the House and connected out the wazoo; with those connections, could become a more influential senator than even his predecessor.  And if the decision comes down to who's worked the hardest, it's a lock for Sen. Emanuel.

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What Hillary Wants

I was reading this post by Fmr. Clinton Labor Secretary (and current Obama supporter) Robert Reich that lays out three scenarios for why Hillary is staying in the race. Here are the condensed versions:

1. The Clintons still think they can win.

2. Hillary is positioning herself for a run in 2012 or 2016.

3. Hillary is looking for the best deal from Obama. (I would add the DNC to this deal-making)

Dr. Reich's analysis concludes that it's a mixture of all three, and I agree. I also agree that by this point, most of her motivation has to be coming from the second and third. With that in mind, I want to look at some very specific things she might be negotiating for.

Short Term Goals:

    1. Campaign Debt Relief

     Hillary is in hock by at least $21 million dollars, and she's written off millions of dollars in personal loans. Obama, on the other hand is sitting on over $200 million dollars and a massive donor list. While campaign finance laws mean that he can't simply write her a big Publishers' Clearinghouse sized check–he can fundraise for her and let her in on his donor list. And, as this LA Times article suggests, many Obama supporters would be glad to write Hillary a check if she buries the hatchet. Just as long as she doesn't bury it in Obama's back. 

    2. Seat the Michigan and Florida Delegates

    As Dr. Reich points out, this would be a huge moral victory for Hillary. It would also keep Michigan and Florida happy, avoiding a convention rules fight and sore feelings in the general election. If nothing else, it would allow Hillary the high note on which to end her campaign and change the media message, which otherwise dwell on her “failed campaign”. Not to mention that it would put her in good standing in those state should should she take a run in 2012 (God forbid) or 2016.

    3. A Hand in Choosing Obama's Vice-President

    If Hillary can't be Obama's vice-president (and it's looking like a remote possibility that she can), she more than likely wants to be in on the selection process. If she's positioning herself for a 2012 or 2016 run, she needs to keep her position as the preeminent female Democrat. Obviously it's going to make a political comeback down the road much more difficult if she has to square off against Vice President Kathleen Sebelius in 2016, (or VP candidate Sebelius in 2012). 

    My guess is, she would like to see a VP candidate who is sympathetic to her and appealing to her supporters, as well as (and this is key) someone who would make a backroom pledge to step aside in either 2012 or 2016 should Hillary want to run again.  Evan Bayh, Wes Clark, and Bill Richardson would all fit the bill nicely.


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House District 17: Don't Overlook This Race!

I wanted to draw your attention to a little known house race that I believe has massive implications for the future of our state. 

According to this Iowa Independent article, 23 year old Hillary staffer and newly minted Wartburg graduate Cayla Baresel is running for Iowa House District 17, currently held by Sen. Grassley's grandson, Pat Grassley (more on him later).

I don't wish to plagarize from the Iowa Independent article, but it represents virtually the only press her campaign has gotten to date, and so I will quote just a few paragraphs. I strongly encourage everyone to read the full article.


Having grown up in a single-parent household in Iowa, Baresel says the issues she feels most deeply about are education and health care. Those are followed closely by concerns for the economy and a need for more biofuels technology and environmental issues.

“It was a challenge for my mother, but she did an excellent job [raising my sister and me] and working two jobs most of the time,” Baresel said. “Higher education can sometimes feel as if it is out of reach. It's expensive now and it gets more and more expensive every year. I also know there are people in this district who can't afford health care premiums so they do without insurance. We've got to create more opportunities. We've got to give young Iowans a reason to remain in our state. Those are big concerns not only for the individuals in those situations, but for the district as a whole.”

When the election is said and done, Baresel says she wants the voices and needs of the people to be the driving force in Des Moines.

“I've had the opportunity to hear the stories of the people in Butler and Bremer counties. I've heard what's important to them,” she said. “I know I would represent them and this area well. I know I would be a good representative because I would always represent the people.”


Can the same be said about her opponent, political legacy Pat Grassley?

Pat Grassley was elected to House District 17 in 2006 at the age of 23 (his grandfather was elected to the same district at the age of 24), having inherited longtime Republican Bill Dix's seat in an uncontested primary–the first of many benefits of the Grassley name. 

According to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, in the 2006 election cycle (2005/2006), Pat Grassley raised and spent over $100,000–an unheard of sum for a non-leadership, rural, first-time candidate in a Republican leaning district. His opponent, 22 year old Alek Wipperman, raised and spent less than $15,000…meaning he was out spent more than five to one.

More disconcerting still, are the source of some of those contributions. According to the IEC and this article by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Grassley recieved thousands of dollars of big name, politically connected PAC contributions including:

  • $5000 from Sen. Mitch McConnell's Bluegrass Committee PAC
  • $2000 from Fmr. Sen. Bill Frist's VOLPAC
  • $2000 from Sen. Chuck Hagel's Sandhills PAC
  • $1500 from Sen. Lindsay Graham's Fund for Americas' Future PAC
  • $1000 from Sen. Max Baucus' Glacier PAC
  • $1000 from Fmr. NY Gov. George Pataki's 21st Century Freedom PAC
  • $1000 from the Republican Issues Campaign (RICPAC)

By the end of 2005, Grassley had racked up more than $13,000…meaning that Grassley raised and spent more money from PAC's alone than our challenger raised and spent total.

If that doesn't chill the blood, listen to this quote from Grassley himself in the fore mentioned article from the W-CF Courier.

“My grandpa and I talked, and I said I'd take any money that was legal and with no strings attached,” Pat says. “If people didn't feel confident in me, they wouldn't just sign a check over to me and be linked to me.”

In short, Grassley is the pinnacle of the new generation of big-money Washington conservatives in Iowa, and we need to put up a strong campaign against him now, or face the consequences in the future. We need to send a message that, in Iowa, people rise on their merits–not their political connections.

Don't be fooled: somewhere in the halls of power, a political path is being charted for the younger Grassley. There's no telling where that path lies, but be certain that it runs through the House, Senate or Terrace Hill. As the old doctor's adage goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, and every ounce of effort put into defeating Pat Grassley now will pay off in spades later.

I urge everyone to look into Ms. Baresel once she gets her campaign up and running, and seriously consider contributing. This is one race we can't afford to write off.

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The New Race for Vice-President: Part I

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.

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Advice on a Delegate Dilemma

This may run a bit long so bear with me, please.

After supporting John Edwards in 2004, my mother decided to get really involved this cycle. Of course, being in a small town, they threw her in the deep end right from the start. She worked hard all summer and fall for Edwards and co-captained her small town precinct for him on caucus night. It was a very successful night for her, and Edwards carried the precinct and the county. Some of the precinct old-pros asked her to be an alternate delegate to the county convention and she accepted, not thinking she'd end up having to go.

Well, now she has to go. 

Since John Edwards is out of the running and every delegate on every level counts more than ever now, she doesn't know what to do. She knows that she technically doesn't have any obligation to a specific candidate, but she feels a moral obligation to represent the wishes of the people who caucused in her precinct. 

She feels, on a policy level, that Obama best matches the interests and concerns that brought her personally to Edwards in the first place. Obama as well came in a close second in her precinct. She's also been trying to ask some of the people she coaxed into caucusing who they'd like best, and the majority of them so far are leaning Obama (although several suggest Clinton, and still more suggest an Edwards vote regardless).  She's been reading a mailing from Obama this week, and expects one from Hillary as well. As you know, there's no word from Edwards. I should add that both the Obama and Hillary captains have been quite friendly to her since she was told to report to the convention.

She really wants to do right by the people she worked so hard to bring to caucus and those she's representing and she genuinely is unsure what to do. Should she vote for Edwards, even though he's out of the race? Should she vote for Obama, who seems to be most of the caucus-goers second choice? Should she vote for Hillary? 

I look forward to any advice or suggestions anyone has that I might pass along to her. Also, I'll be down there for spring break, so I'll see if I can't report on it in some fashion.

Hillary Drop-Out Watch

After this interesting exchange at last night's debate (around 2:21), many are starting to wonder if Hillary is preparing to concede the nomination. This insightful New York Times article points to several signs that this moment may have signaled the beginning of the end for camp Clinton.

Plus, the common wisdom suggests that any kind of Michigan/Florida credentials fight would be disastrous for Clinton and the party, and a superdelegate victory might be just as harmful. Other events could conspire to nudge Hillary out of the race as well–a shrinking war chest, an Edwards endorsement of Obama, or another Bill snafu, for example. Add that all up and it looks like bad news Bears all around for Hillary. 

So that raises the question: When will Hillary drop out and concede?

I'm curious to see how everyone thinks this will all play out now that we're definitely in the end-game of the nominating season. What's her exit strategy? Should we even be counting her out at this point?


In a _____ White House...

I've been leafing through The Undecided Voter's Guide to the Next President by Mark Halpernin, and I wanted to share part of that book with you. The most interesting aspect of the book, I think, are the predictions he makes about what the major candidates' time in the White House might look like. To lighten things up, I'll share some of those with you and throw in my own. Please contribute your own predictions!

In a Barack Obama White House:

More young people would feel connected to politics and as a result, more would focus on politics and/or community activism–at least in the short term.

Close attention would be paid to his cabinet nominees, in response to concerns about his experience. The press will also scrutinize how many minorities he appoints to leadership positions.

Obama would enjoy at least a six month to a year press corps honeymoon.

There will be great media interest in any trips he takes abroad.

Michelle Obama will face a choice between being a West Wing first lady (a la Hillary Clinton), or a more reserved East Wing first lady (a la Jackie Kennedy). No matter her choice, women across the country will likely emulate her stylish appearance and habits.

As the youngest presidential children since Caroline and John Kennedy, the Obama daughters would provide adorable photo ops throughout the year. 

Chicago would instantly become the American “it” city. Its fashion, architecture, neighborhoods and foods would be in vogue like no time since the days of Al Capone. This is even more true if they are awarded the 2016 Olympics to boot.

International opinion will be almost unanimously positive. World leaders will scramble for photo ops with the young, energetic U.S. President.

The search will be on for the Republican party to find and groom an energetic, young, popular candidate to run in 2012.

There will likely be at least one attempt on his life within his first term in office.

Since the Obamas are not incredibly wealthy, they would likely utilize Camp David as their primary presidential getaway.


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The History of "Change"

There's a fascinating SlateV video illustrating the history of candidates using the mantle of “change”. It's worth considering that Obama really hasn't invented anything fundamentally new, he's really just adapting an old familiar campaign strategy that's been around for decades and used by both parties.

A few highlights:

1952: Dwight Eisenhower, who the video notes is remembered for being perhaps America's most boring status quo presidents, ran on a platform of change. Specifically, he was running a change campaign against the legacy of an unpopular president, supported ending a mismanaged and unpopular war, stopping government corruption, and lifting a faltering economy. Sound familiar?

1976: Still reeling from the Watergate scandal, both candidates sought to run on a theme of “change”. Jimmy Carter ran as the ultimate change candidate–a fresh Washington outsider, brutally honest, with a campaign based more on big ideas than policy details. Gerald Ford on the other hand, was walking a tightrope. He had to convince the country that although he was the heir of an incredibly unpopular president, he was an independent thinker and had changed. At the same time, he struggled to mollify the party base that to a large part still rallied around their fallen standardbearer. Sound familiar in both cases?

1992: Bill Clinton, the original “Hope” candidate ran against a suddenly unpopular administration, a failing economy, and an increasingly out-of-touch president and opposition party–and based his campaign around the idea that, in his own words, “experience is important,  but it's not everything”. Sound familiar?

2000: Even after an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity, change was in the air. George W. Bush based his first campaign on an uplifting message of spiritual and moral change, arguing that he was a fresh face and a Washington outsider, above the scandals and corruption of both parties, and would transcend partisian bickering and unite a fractured country. Sound familiar?


The Most Dangerous People You Know

With all the excitement over what looks like a probable democrat take-over of the White House (regardless of who the nominee is), and the tantalizing possibility of Democratic control of two branches of government, I wanted to take the time to highlight a few people who I think are the biggest threats to that dream. The worst part? They're all people you know.

Public Enemy #1: The Attack E-mailer

Comic Book Guy

    If Dick Cheney and Darth Vader were to have a baby, their spawn would not even begin to approach the level of evil lurking in the Attack E-mailer's heart. Distorting positions, spreading half-truths and fabricating outright lies is the Attack E-mailer's trade. Already they've managed to circulate the following gems: Obama is a radical Muslim, Obama is unpatriotic, Obama is a racist, Hillary and Obama are socialists, Hillary hates the troops, Hillary is a murderer, and so on and so on. They rely on sadly gullible people, people you know, to unwittingly forward their poison and spread their rumors at home and at the office.

Last Seen: Forwarding a video of a paragliding accident to everyone in your office.

Weakness: Reason.

Public Enemy #2: The Sore Loser

 Moe Sislak

    The Sore Loser is not a bad person. They're just misguided.  The Sore Loser is the person who talks so grandly about “party unity” during the primaries, but immediately turns into a Republican when their candidate doesn't get the nomination. They're all good and worthy candidates, but only one will win the nomination. It may not be the one you like the best, but it's better than the alternative. President Obama, President Clinton or President Edwards all sound a lot better than President McCain, President Romney or, God-forbid, President Huckabee.  Are you really willing to throw away having the White House, the Senate and the House all in Democratic hands just because of something Hillary said in Ft. Dodge? 

Last Seen: Grousing.

Weakness: Love

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Fantasy Cabinet

I thought it was time I got out the 'ol crystal ball once again and took a look at what a potential Clinton or Obama cabinet might look like. I tried to take into account whose been endorsing whom, the atmosphere each White House would likely have, and who'd be appropiate for the job.

Fantasy Clinton Cabinet

A Clinton cabinet would likely be a very diverse, well-connected group. It would likely include some figures from her husband's administration and Washington insiders who've helped her along the way. It would also likely feature more women and minorities than has been the historical average. 

Sec. of State: Joe Biden (DE Senator, '08 candidate)
Sec. of Treasury: Erskine Bowles (fmr. Clinton Chief of Staff, Senate candidate)
Sec. of Defense: Gen.Wesley Clark (fmr. NATO cmdr, '04 candidate)
Attorney General: Jennifer Granholm (MI Gov, fmr. MI Atty. Gen, '08 endorser)
Sec.of the Interior: Gray Davis (fmr. Calif. Gov, '08 endorser)
Sec. of Agriculture: Bob Kerrey (fmr. NE Senator, NE Gov., '08 endorser)
Sec. of Commerce:  Indra Nooyi (CEO, PepsiCo.)
Sec. of Labor: Alexis Herman (Sec. of Labor, 1997-2001)
Sec. of HHS: Dr. Atul Gawande (senior health policy advisor 1992-1993)
Sec. of HUD: Michael Thurmond (GA Labor Commissioner, '08 endorser)
Sec .of Transportation:  Gary Locke (fmr. WA gov. '08 endorser)
Sec. of Energy: Dick Gephardt (fmr. MO Sen, fmr.pres candidate, '08 endorser)
Sec. of Education: Tom Vilsack (fmr. IA gov, '08 endorser)
Sec. of Veterans Affairs: John Dalton (fmr. Sec. of the Navy, '08 advisor)
Sec. of Homeland Security:  Richard Holbrooke (fmr. ambassador, '08 advisor)

I think she will definitly try to bring in Joe Biden in some form, since it would show party unity and he is likely the only one of her fellow '08 candidates still in anything close to good standing with the Clintons. I fully expect her to appoint Tom Vilsack to a cabinet post, even if she didn't win Iowa and Wes Clark if he's not tapped for the vice-precidency. 

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Three early contests, three winners?

As Bill Nye the Science Guy used to say, consider the following:

How would it affect the national race for the nomination were we to have three different winners in the big three early contests?

Consider the following scenario. In the Iowa caucus, John Edwards wins a squeaker of a contest, coming in first over Clinton and Obama–who pull down second and third respectively. The win is a major boost to the Edwards campaign, which gets a boon of positive press coverage and a donor rush. While seen as somewhat of a loss for the Clinton campaign, the press deems Obama the biggest loser of the night for his lackluster third place finish.

Iowa: Edwards

Going into New Hampshire, Edwards sees a small bump of supporters, a large amount of who are Obama defectors and fence sitters. It's not enough to put Edwards up over Obama, but it's enough to give the lead solidly to Clinton. On primary night, it's Clinton who wins a close contest, with Obama second and Edwards a very close third. 

New Hampshire: Clinton

Post New Hampshire, Clinton wins contests in Nevada and Michigan–but neither is the convincing victory the campaign needs and both are largely ignored by the media.

The media and the campaigns place a huge emphasis on South Carolina, looking to crown a winner before Super Tuesday. Obama has spent most of his time post-New Hampshire campaigning in South Carolina, including a few high profile events with Oprah. Edwards has also drawn on resources in his home state of North Carolina and spent a lot of time in the state, while Hillary has been in Nevada. When all is said and done, Obama wins a decisive victory, with Edwards coming in second and Clinton a close third.

South Carolina: Obama

Thus going into Florida and Super Tuesday it's a three way race. Clinton may have the lead on delegates, but that could all change. Not only have the big three early contests all gone to different candidates…but each has come in first once, second once, and last once. 

Nomination: ???

Do you think such a scenario is possible? How would it affect the national race to have the big three early contests (Iowa, NH and SC) go to three different candidates? By having three viable, energized candidates going into Super Tuesday could the stage be set for a convention fight the likes of which we haven't seen for decades? What do you think?

Please bear in mind that this is just a imaginary scenario, not a prediction.

Ten 2008 Predictions

I thought with this year winding down, I'd make some predictions for the year ahead before the caucus craziness got any more out-of-hand. These are just my gut feeling on things, so don't take it too seriously.

1. The Iowa Caucus will show less than 5% difference between the top three Democrat candidates.   

    Everything I know tells me that this is going to be an incredibly close race. For one, I think John Edwards is being under-represented in the polls, due to his strength in the rural counties. Therefore, the caucus can go to any of the top three at this point. I predict the top three candidates will garner between 75-80% of the total, with no more than 5% difference between first and third. 

2. Mike Huckabee will decisively win the Iowa Caucus   

    Everything suggests that nothing can stop the Huck truck at this point. All these past, uh, we'll call them “opinions”, haven't stuck to him in a way that will turn off significant numbers of Iowa caucusgoers. He'll win, and win big.

3. Ron Paul will run as a third-party candidate.

    Ron Paul will have a strong showing in Iowa, New Hampshire, and nationwide. Not strong enough to win any individual state, let alone the nomination, but it will show that there is a big support base for him. I can't say whether he'll sign on with an established third party or start his own, but he will definitely continue the race.

4. Democrats will have solid gains in the House and Senate.

    This one's a gimme. I'm going to say we pick up 4 in the Senate and 6 in the House. Not an Earth-shaking realignment, but solid gains nonetheless.

5. Mike Bloomberg will not run for President.

    Through some backroom dealings, Mike Bloomberg will find himself dissuaded of any notion to run for President in 2008. As a result of this, I wouldn't be surprised to see him pop up in some shape or form down the line in the form of a cabinet nomination or ambassadorship, no matter which party wins.

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Google Trends: Democratic Candidates

( - promoted by noneed4thneed)

Google Trends is a neat little tool created by Google to chart how popular a search term has been over a given length of time–in the standard search, it's a few years' time. The tool then links spikes in search volume to news stories that came out about the time of the spike in public interest in the term. It also tells the top three cities where people are looking for this term. I ran the full names of the top democratic candidates through this tool and I'll share the results with you in no particular order.

Check it out for yourself:

“Hillary Clinton”:
Peaked: Jan 21, 2007
Story: Entered 2008 race
Trending: flat for most of 2007, up since August
Top Three Cities: Washington DC; New York, NY; Boston, MA

“Barack Obama”:
Peaked: July 27, 2004
Story: 2004 Convention Speech
Trending: flat for most of 2007, up sharply this last week
Top Three Cities: Chicago, IL; Washington DC; Austin, TX 

“John Edwards”: 
Peaked:  July 6,2004
Story: Picked as Kerry's running mate
Trending:  Flat
Top Three Cities: Raleigh, NC; Washington DC; Boston, MA

“Bill Richardson”: 
Peaked: Jan 21, 2007
Story: Entered 2008 race
Trending: Flat
Top Three Cities: Santa Fe, NM; Albuquerque, NM; Washington DC

“Joe Biden”:
Peaked: Jan 31, 2007
Story: Entered Race/made controversial comments
Trending: up sharply since August
Top Three Cities: Washington DC; Reston, VA; Philadelphia, PA

“Chris Dodd”:
Peaked: sometime in October 2007
Story: Unknown
Trending: up for the year, down since October's inexplicable peak
Top Three Cities: Meriden, CT; Hartford, CT; Des Moines, IA

For the record, can anyone explain why Dodd would have seen a spike in searches for his name around late October? 

The Other Half of The Ticket: Part 2

Continuing my series of putting odds to things, I thought I'd look at the Republician presidential race. It only seems fair to speculate on the enemy's position while we work on our own…

Again, the scenario I envision is one in which one of the current top three candidates wins the nomination: Giuliani, Romney, or Huckabee. A further stipulation is that whoever wins will not pick any of the other members of the Big Three. So no Rudy/Romney tickets, folks. I had considered Huckabee a top VP candidate, but I'm taking him out of the running since he's sharpening his attacks and becoming a serious contender.

3-1 Fred Thompson The consummate good 'ol boy, Fred is the perfect southern comfort for Guliani or Romney's Yankee personalities. Plus, while Thompson's been slinging a little mud, he hasn't seemed to make any serious enemies yet. His only caveat is that Huckabee doesn't need another down-home southerner on his ticket. Goes best with: Giuliani, Romney

5-1 Charlie Crist Three words. Florida. Florida. Florida. This guy might represent the single biggest “known unknown” in politics today. If he is Veeped, Florida becomes much, much, much harder for a Democrat to win. Yet, the guy is a total enigma–and refuses to tip his hat to any one candidate. Goes best with: Guliani, Romney, Huckabee

7-1 Tim Pawlenty He's the popular Governor of Minnesota and a handsome, young Republican face. He may even deliver Minnesota and put Iowa and Wisconsin in play for the Republicans. However, he has little name recognition as it stands now, and the I-35 collapse happened on his watch–a potential target. Goes best with: Giuliani, Romeny, Huckabee

7-1 Duncan Hunter Strong on immigration, tough on defense. From the sunny state of Cully-for-neea, Hunter would lend credibility to a candidate lacking on these issues. Not to name any names, *cough* Romney *cough*. Plus, “Hunter” would look really good on those signs. Still, he's going nowhere fast in his own race. Goes best with: Giuliani, Romney, Huckabee

10-1 John Boehner He's a fresh face from a swing state. Also, he's been unfailingly loyal to the administration, and Republicans reward loyalty above all else. However, he got a little bit burned on the Foley and Abramoff scandals. Goes best with: Giuliani, Romney

10-1 John McCain War hero. Experienced. Moderate. McCain certainly deserves some recognition from the party after all these years. But his “radical” immigration stance and his “weak” anti-torture stance might turn off key components of the base. Not to mention that he would be the oldest VP ever elected. Goes best with: Huckabee

20-1 John Roberts He's the squeaky clean, likeable and popular Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Going from the Court to the White House is a stretch, but it's not impossible. He just might be the out-of-the-box candidate the party needs. Of course, it is somewhat of a suicide choice. If the ticket would win, they could appoint another moderate republican to the court. If they lose, they lose the White House, the Congress, and the Supreme Court in one year. A big gamble for sure. Goes best with: Giuliani, Romney, Huckabee

1,000,000-1 Ron Paul Ron Paul would never agree to be any of these guys' VP. But if I include him, I can tag this diary “Ron Paul” and maybe someone will read it for a change.

The Other Half of the Ticket: Part 1

With all the attention being given to who's going to be the Democratic nominee for president, I thought I'd continue my series of giving odds for stuff and offer my odds on who will be the Vice Presidental nominee for the Democrats' 2008 ticket.

NOTE: For the purposes of this scenario, one of the top three Democratic contenders wins the nomination. It's just easier for me to form a picture that way. Also, who ever wins the top job doesn't pick one of the other members of the Big Three. So no Clinton/Obama or Obama/Edwards tickets. Sorry.

3-1 Evan Bayh Centrist, Midwesterner, charming, handsome democrat. A former governor, present senator…what's not to love! He has endorsed Hillary, but did it early and quietly enough that it shouldn't stop someone else from picking him up. He balances out everyone except Edwards, who doesn't need a handsome middle aged white man to balance the ticket. Goes best with: Hillary, Obama.

4-1 Wes Clark Washington outsider, tough military image, competent on the stump–he could be perfect. Yet he has no political experience and has been seen hitting the bricks for Hillary. Also he has a perfect job lined up already–Secretary of Defense. Goes best with: Hillary, Obama, Edwards

7-1 Bill Richardson Diplomat? Check. Governor? Latino? Check. Check. Lots of connections? Check. Reliable? Depends. He's got a lot of perks, but he sometimes stumbles on the stump and could end up more trouble than he's worth. Did someone say UN Ambassador? Goes best with: Hillary, Edwards.

10-1 Joe Biden Like an old car, he's got a lot of perks–but high miles. He's also making some very sharp stabs at the competition right now, especially his favorite punching bag, Hillary. He's charming, experienced and he deserves it–but I have to imagine he'd be very high maintenance. And he could always be Secretary of State… Goes best with: Edwards, Obama

10-1 Chris Dodd The dark horse. Or should it be white horse? He's got a nice resume, and knows how to bring the brimstone on the stump. Yet will he want the position? Also, with his presidential campaign going nowhere, will the winning candidate look elsewhere? Goes best with: Edwards, Obama

12-1 Ted Strickland The popular Governor of Ohio, Strickland is an interesting case. He's only been Governor for a year, but he's popular and likeable. Although nobody outside of Ohio's ever heard of him, as Ohio goes, so goes the nation… Goes best with: Hillary, Obama, Edwards

15-1 Jim Webb The ultimate dark horse. The ultimate outsider. He's got a tough resume and image, perfect for a campaign looking to strike a manly, rugged pose. He might put Virginia in play, but he's a major loose cannon. And while he successfully danced around some skeletons in his senate race…the light shines much brighter on a Veep candidate. Goes best with: Hillary, Obama, Edwards.

20-1 Tom Vilsack Tommy Boy is as plain white bread as they come. He's a compitant campaigner and a nice guy, but yawn inducing. Plus, since he's so close to Hillary, it'd be hard to see him getting in elsewhere. Sorry, Tom, this ain't your year. Goes best with: Hillary

50-1 John Kerry He's got name recognition and he's been campaign tested. However, he lost. And the Republicans still have the Swift Boaters on speed dial. Maaaaaybe you better stay in the senate, John. Goes best with: Obama

500-1 Al Gore Been there, done that. Goes best with: Hillary, Obama, Edwards, on a ticket by himself–serving as his own VP, inventing the internet.

Who do you think it will be? Is there anyone I've left out? Would one of the Big Three pick another of the Big Three? 




Time's "Person of the Year"

Time's annual "Person of the Year" issue is coming out soon, and I thought I'd offer my thoughts on who it could be. They have a nine-person pool up for "your vote", but I thought I'd go beyond that.  And I do think it'll be an actual person this time. Here are my odds for who will be named Time's "Person of the Year":

1-1 Al Gore: It's been a great year for Al. Between Live Earth, the Oscar, and the Nobel, he's been everywhere. Not to mention that giving him the honor on would be a snub to President Bush…(who's been awarded twice). Gore would seem the obvious choice.

3-1 Barack Obama Considering his meteoric rise, he's the big story out of American politics this year. His very candidacy has forced America to ask some very profound questions about ourselves as a country and a people. Could he be the new face of America? Yet he still trails in the polls, and Time may want to wait and see what he does in the future.

5-1 Hillary Clinton Like it or not, she's set the tone of the 2008 Election so far. She's the leader of the pack, for now and is a global figure. Yet Time may want to wait. Just like Obama though, if she wins the presidency she'll get the award for sure. And if she does turn out to be the Howard Dean of 2008…they'd look pretty foolish.

10-1 Nicolas Sarkozy The figurehead of Europe's swing to the right, he singlehandedly rebuilt the trans-Atlantic alliance. Time might like to select a world leader and Sarkozy certainly stands out in that area. However, has he had enough global impact to make the cut?

15-1 Steve Jobs As the Time page says, the iPhone was a hit, the iPod has changed the way we live, and Apple stock is up 100% for the year. The Mac Attack is back, but with business in general in a slump, will Time want to celebrate a captain of industry?

25-1 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad This dastardly dictator has certainly made waves in the world this year, and it's worth remembering that Stalin and Hitler both made the cut. But scowling Iranians don't sell magazines. (Or as Stephen Colbert would say Mahmoud Ahmagonnagetajob.

100-1 J.K. Rowling Seriously. Wars across the world, political battles at home, the Al Gore behemoth, and she gets the nod?! Still, Time has made some off the wall choices before. 

Who do you think it will be? Is there some figure I've overlooked? Let's hear your thoughts!