Come November there’s the midterm elections in the US, where 36 senate seats will be up for grabs. I’ve consciously held off from blogging about this because predictions have been so volatile for the past year, as well as having being no health care bill passed (which should affect all the close elections quite a bit). But, with less than a year to go and enough emerging trends developing I think I can try my hand now.
With the Senate races, 18 are currently held by the Democrats and the other 18 are held by the Republicans. There’s 10 open seats (maybe 11 depending on the primary race between Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Rick Perry for the governor’s mansion in Texas), of which 9 will be competitive. Where there are incumbents, there are a further 9 close contests. I know I’ll be watching these 18 races with keen eyes.
It’s expected that the Republicans will gain seats. The consensus seems to be at the moment that Democrats will hold, roughly, 53-55 seats when all is done – a loss of 5-7 seats. If things improve significantly, some pundits figure the Democrats to hold 56 seats at a minimum. If things stay the same as the past month, the same pundits expect Democrats to lose 7 seats at a minimum. So the chances that the Democrats jag their 60-seat majority again is very slim.
It should be noted that poll number-crunchers and trend analysts give roughly the same percentage chance of Democrats retaining their 60 seats (7-8%) as they do the Republicans gaining control of the Senate (6-7%) and there being a 50-50 split (6%). SO it’s not the direst of futures for Democrats (for the moment).
What is being forced as interesting is the number of retirees that are causing all these open seats: There will be 4 Democrats retiring, 6 Republicans. With more Republicans leaving than Democrats, you would think the media would make a case that it’s a Republican exodus. Not the case. They are making more hay out of the 4 Democrats, and calling it like it’s rats jumping off a sinking ship. But whatever, it’s not correct nor is it really that important in the narrative.
What I find of more interest is the races where there are incumbents because they not only have a track record for their congressional votes, but they also have an electoral history in their state which gives people like me something to ground initial predictions on. It is also something to compare and contrast against national trends. Let’s take Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) for example. This example will also serve to demonstrate why I hadn’t blogged about Senate races until now.
Blanche Lincoln is the senator from Arkansas, taking office in 1999. She will have served for 2 terms, giving her 12 years experience and ranking her 50th in the line of seniority. While Arkansas is, in general elections, quite a Republican state (it voted for native-son Bill Clinton in ’92 and ’96, and then Southerner Jimmy Carter in ’76, but other than that Republican through-and-through), for state elections it is very Democratic. That is, its Governor Mike Beeb and both US Senators (Lincoln and Mark Pryor) are Democrats, as well as the Democratic party holding supermajorities in the Arkansas General Assembly (their state government made up of the upper and lower house). Further evidence is found in the 2006 local results where Democrats won every state-wide election in a huge sweep. The party continues to hold the majority of all the offices in the state.
Lincoln’s election performance reads like a good campaigner: As representative for Arkansas’ 1st congressional district she won 70% in her first race, then reelection with 53%, then her first run for US Senate at 55% and then reelection with 56%. They aren’t huge margins, but the 13% and 12% are sizeable.
And even with all this, Lincoln’s seat is rated as the second most competitive (after North Dakota, which deserves a post on its own) out of all the races. It ranks ahead of every open seat other than North Dakota. The people doing the ranking have decided that North Dakota is 99% going to flip from the Democrats to the Republicans in November; Lincoln’s seat ranks right behind this. It even out-ranks Harry Reid’s race in Nevada – Reid who is the face of the Democrats in the Senate, near-enough the boss of the Democrats in the Senate, and shouldering much of the blame for the lackluster year that has finished, all in a true swing state.
Now, this time lat year, or 6 months ago, or even 2 months ago, Lincoln wasn’t even rated in the top 10 of races. Even with a vote for a hypothetical health care bill, she still was looking at reelection – not without a fight, but would get there by the numbers. But as the Democratic brand has soured, the health care bill dragged on, the Republicans hitting an up-swing and gaining confidence, Lincoln is no sure thing. In fact, the pollster I visit that has hit Senate election predictions at 100% since 2006 has the seat at ‘leans Republican’ at the moment.
Now none of this is to say that it won’t change. Every predication is made on the now and not a totally hypothetical future. But to say that Lincoln is safe now is totally wrong. If a health care bill gets passed and if bills related to jobs and the economy get passed and if the Democrats improve their image, Lincoln will fall in the ratings and not sweat so much. But there’s no escape for her to go back to her good number prior to 2009.
The particular races I’ll be following are listed below, with the open seats in bold. The open seat in Kansas hasn’t been listed because the Republicans could do a Weekend at Bernie’s with that race and still win. Next to a few I have made some notes, but not all. Maybe I’ll go back as time draws nearer to November and profile those races that don’t have notes (as these are the ‘toss ups’ and the too close to call (at the moment) races).
- California – California would never have made this list even a month ago. But, with Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts, Barbara Boxer might have a bit of a run against the winner of the Republican primary – likely to be Carly Fiorina at the moment. Fiorina might make this a contest because she was formerly the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, VP of AT&T, and was an economic advisor to John McCain. In saying all that, Fiorina was forced out of Hewlett-Packard because, under her watch, the company’s shares lost 60% of their value, and got a $20 million severance package (which wouldn’t play well with current voters losing their jobs). I expect this to be a Democrat retain.
- Connecticut – Chris Dodd is retiring because he was chair of the finance committee when the banks went under, let a bill get through that allowed big bonus to be paid out of bailout money for banks, got an ‘exclusive’ (see: corrupt) deal for his own mortgage, and couldn’t get past 30% in any poll. The Democrat leading the primary polls, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, dominates the general election match-up against any Republican. This all makes for a heavy Democrat retain.
- North Dakota – North Dakota is like Arkansas: Both US senators are Democrats. The retiring Senator Byron Dorgan has come at a bad time: The Democrat’s bench is thin to begin with in ND, and with the current climate they will be hard pressed to get a strong candidate in. There is one hope: Earl Pomeroy, the at-large Representative of ND. But he is likely to not give up his safe reelection for a huge gamble against the incumbent Republican Governor John Hoeven who leads every poll. Republicans will likely win this one.
- New York (Gillibrand) – Kirsten Gillibrand, appointed to replace Hillary Clinton until the next election, is facing a primary challenge (that she should easily win). Come the general election, she should, again, get home but it might be closer than expected with the current problems the Democrats are facing. But her NY counterpart, Chuck Schumer (3rd in the Democratic power listings) has taken her under his wing and will pour every resource he has to keep her in her seat (with his own reelection a guarantee). Expect the Democrats to retain this one.
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
This list isn’t definite. I expect to be making changes as the days draw down, mainly by the way of subtraction. Though there’s the outside chance of a couple of other states making the list (South Dakota and Texas spring to mind). They are outside chances, but still chances none-the-less.
What should the Democrats of the now focus on to give themselves a platform to campaign on come the midterms (and, ultimately, a chance for Obama to get reelected)? I would list it like this:
- Deficit reduction
- Floating a second stimulus package
- Tackle the continuing home foreclosures
- Recouping the ‘bail outs’/ the ‘Wall Street Tax’
- Strengthening/re-regulating the financial sector
- (Attempt to) Tackle big bonuses
- Return small business loans to pre-2008 crisis level
- Health care reform
- Massive PR campaign about the bill
- Strengthen any bill and get it through
- Tort reform
- Gay rights
- Repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
- Commission into gay marriage/civil unions
- National security
- Increase communication among the intelligence community
- ‘Improve’ airline safety through specific bills
- Resolve the Guantanamo Bay fiasco
- ‘Fix’ Afghanistan
- Immigration reform
- Establish the status and conditions of current ‘illegal’ immigrants
- Reform to the immigration procedures
- Establish a strong border policy
- Float some sort of pollution-reduction bill (cap-and-trade perhaps?)
- Begin the framework of some sort of federal-to-state program that deals with pollution and environment conservation
- Administration ‘shake-up’
- Make changes to the financial arm of the administration
- Crack down on lobbyists
- Pursue a line of ‘killing’ the filibuster
- Democratic party ‘shake-up’
- Crack down on lobbyist donations (possibly ban them?)
Points 1 and 2 are populist first and foremost, but essential to returning the US economy to any sort of state of strength. The ‘Wall Street Tax’ is one way to get the bail out money back quickly, but would go down a treat on Main Street, where the middle class and independents are beginning to turn their back on the Democrats. You just need to look at the Obama’s approval levels in the past year. For those in the income bracket of $30,000 to $75,000 they registered a 63% approval to 17% disapproval in February of 2009. In the latest January poll of this year, his numbers are 53% approval to 35% disapproval. More middle class people have made up their mind about Obama’s first year, and more people disapprove of his job.
A tax on those doing it good in this tough time will go down well for those people struggling. A tax on the companies that both caused all this mess and have taken the government for a ride will score well for those looking to blame someone, and might even help shift the blame off the current government towards the banks (who could be tied to the Republican party with some crafty policy making – as explored below).
Republicans are against taxes on people and on businesses – both big and small. By floating taxes, the Republicans will, to a man/woman, oppose it. With some good spin, this could be characterised as obvious siding with banks – the root cause of the problem. “Look what happened when Republicans sided with the banks before? Everyone except the super-rich suffered. Imagine how it would be if they were in power again? They are still siding with the banks in opposition, they will do it if they get in power. Keep the banks out of Congress!” No Republicans are prepared to side with a tax. If there is, they will get attacked savagely from the right in their primary election. The TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party has made their views on compromising/moderate Republicans (they don’t like them, at all).
Health care is on the list, and reasonably high, just to get the damn thing over already! They need to either get it through (with a Republican vote) or push something through with reconciliation followed by a separate bill that will improve and strengthen it that the Republicans can oppose over and over again. If they get something through, the Democrats at least have something to show for and something that they can pledge to defend and strengthen upon reelection.
The health care bill also needs a new public relations manager. The Democrats, thus far, have done a terrible job of explaining it. So few people will be affected by what is before Congress that it’s laughable about the hyperbole. And there’s a big group that are against it: seniors. If you look at Massachusetts numbers from the Brown-Coakley election, Brown won the age group 65-74 at 58% to 38%. This same age group oppose national health insurance at 48% to 28% (with a full 41% saying they ‘strongly oppose’). While that’s a massive margin, note that still 34% who neither oppose or support it! But what is astounding is that even though the current bill will reduce the deficit (as the Senate bill has been scored by the CBO), 66% of those said that the government couldn’t afford to pay for the plan, while 33% said the government could.
Now, clearly, there is some confusing here: 34% have no opinion on the bill, but there’s 66% of people who say it can’t be funded by the government. Wouldn’t you oppose a bill the government couldn’t afford? And 28% say they support national health insurance but 33% say that the government can afford it. So there’s 5% in there that say the government could help insure the entire country, but they don’t want them to do it! Do these people hate poor people or something? It’s possible that that 5% of these people are within the 34% who have no opinion. But if they are it comes back to the fact that …..
….. AFTER ONE YEAR OF MESSING AROUND WITH THIS BILL OVER ONE-THIRD OF PEOPLE STILL HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT IT!
I’ve thrown up a post as to how I would broadcast to the electorate if a bill gets through the House and Senate in its current form (even with reconciliation). You’ll see that just by passing this weakened bill it will give Democrats at least a few strong planks to campaign from.
4, 5, and 7 are to re-excite the base. Clearly, if a Republican can win in Massachusetts then the Democratic base isn’t turning out and (therefore) isn’t nearly excited enough for what’s going on in DC. The latest national polling registers 55% of Republican voters as “very interested” in the upcoming midterm election. Contrast this with just 38% of Democrats. That’s a 17% difference. The Democrats, if they want to win some of the close House and Senate races, need that 117% to be a +17%. Otherwise, they are going to be struggling up a hill.
6 paints the Republicans into a corner with voters. Southern Republicans are opposed to any sort of immigration reform that doesn’t include erecting a massive fence along the borders and patrolling it with guns. But the Northern/industrial Republicans, whose electorates benefit from illegal immigrant labour, are not exactly opposed to reform. This issue splits the GOP down the middle. And GOP-er that supports immigration reforms will immediately get attacked from the right by the extremists of the party as well as the Tea Party. But any Republican that opposes it loses massive votes from the Latino and Hispanic demographic – which the Democrats are quickly taking as their own as elections go by. Imagine a bill that the Democrats float that gives citizenship to current illegal immigrants, or illegal immigrants who have been living and working in the United States for a minimum of 5 years. The first thing that springs to mind: These people are going to remember which party granted them citizenship and the right to vote. It’s a similar scenario to the Civil Rights in a sense: African American voted for Democrats during and immediately after the Movement because the Democrats championed their rights in Congress (for the most part). This is a massive block of voters that might just side with the Democrats straight away and would create a lot of vulnerable border Republican in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California.
So immigration reform: splits the Republicans, gets a lot of voters for the Democrats, and brings seats (and possibly states come 2012) into play. Why isn’t this on the table?
8 and 9 are, again, populist moves. People are not happy with the current adminstration, especially with the economy. Unfortunately, they are calling for blood. Heads need to roll. Not to forget that the current Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner, hasn’t been at all popular or adequate in his role. Have a shake-up and get some better people in there. Then go after lobbyists. Get the public back to hating them: Pin them with the Republicans (not hard: Obama didn’t take a cent from them in the 2008 campaigns), and pin them as trying to destroy health care and looking out for Wall Street. And then make sure that the DSCC and the DCCC aren’t taking lobbyist money for the up-coming midterms to make sure that the Democrats are the ‘common man’s’ party. By voting in a Republican, the voters need to be thinking they are voting in someone looking out for big business. They might as well vote for a lobbyist if they are voting for a Republican. Then just turn attention on the Republican use of the filibuster and pretend to make a move to try and kill it. It’s 90% going to fail in the end, but by continually reminding people that the Republicans used this to try and destroy health care and, in effect, the country it should be outlawed. It denies majority rule, and the majority of the country have voted in the majority. They should get the government they want, not some cronies stand for hours on end waffling on and on to destroy a bill.
That’s my take on the next 10 months or so, how the Democrats should go about with their agenda going into the midterms. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
The VP lists, as they stand in my mind:
1: Charlie Crist
2: Tim Pawlenty
3: Mike Huckabee
4: Rob Portman
5: Sarah Palin
For the Repulicans, Governor or Texas Rick Perry drops off the list of top 5, Governor of Florida Charlie Crist moves up to #1 spot, Governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty makes the #2, Mike Huckabee falls to #3, and Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin moves up to a viable #5. Mitt Romney drops off the list too, and Rob Portman, who came up in the comment discussion, creeps into #4. This is based on some polls, some tactics that I have hypothesised, and some rumours that I’ve been hearing out there.
1: Tim Kaine
2: Bill Richardson
3: Ted Strickland
4: Kathleen Sebelius
5: Jim Webb
For the Democrats, the only change is that Governor of Ohio Ted Strickland moves up to #3. Tim Kaine I still say is #1 because a recent poll came out showing Obama is ahead of McCain in Virginia. If Obama is making grounds in that area of the U.S. – the Appalachia area that Clinton swept – then it would be advantageous to have a candidate from that area to firm up votes. Jim Webb makes the 5 because he is from the same area – though I still consider him to be a bad choice in the light of the 4 ahead of him.
Though saying all that about Kaine, if McCain went with Crist, it would leave Ohio open (because Portman was the only Republican VP option from Ohio), and choosing Strickland would be a better choice to win that state – and an important state it would be. While Crist gets Florida for McCain, Strickland gets Ohio for Obama, and the two cancel each other out. And, with Obama going better in swing states, McCain would really need a state like Ohio to fall to him if he has any chance of winning.
I bumped Ed Rendell from the list because Obama’s numbers in Pennsylvania are firming up there quite well without his support.
Those are the lists I’ll settle on. It will fall like dominoes though, you watch. McCain will settle on a strategy for the election. Then he picks the VP that is best for that – and, from the list, he has many viable options. Then Obama will know what he has to do to win. So he will pick his VP. His top 3 each show a different election tactic to, and each is a viable response to a McCain approach.
It’s going to be very exciting this part.
So I sort of (not really) have a chance to sit down and craft a serious blog post. Go me! And with Obama having unofficially won the Democratic primary, John Edwards endorsing, and Hillary Clinton seemingly maneuvering to try and get on the ticket still, I thought it best to devote this post to Democratic vice president options.
You may remember my post on John McCain and the Republican’s options back here. I stand by it quite solidly. Turning attention the the Democrats, we have an as hotly contested race, if not more so. You see, Barack Obama is in a precarious position. He is campaigning for change, and his best asset is that he hasn’t been ‘tainted’ by D.C. yet. A great skew, and a good leg-up on McCain. But, it brings into question his experience (which he has) and his ability to ‘get things done’. Obama’s V.P. thus could be someone who brings a fair bit of experience to the ticket. Senator Joe Biden, a former primary candidate, is 65 years old and has more foreign policy experience than even John McCain. Biden is the current chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations – and has been 3 times prior for a total of 4 years. He also, interestingly enough, serves on the current committee with Obama, who chairs the subcommittee on European Affairs. Biden has been part of this committee since 1997, which is big experience.
More previous experience? Biden has it. He was chair of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary for 8 years, is the senior senator from Delaware and has held his post for 35 years, and was part of the United States Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control.
And the biggest problem for Biden? That he has all this experience. He is significantly older than Obama, has a bit of a renegade reputation among Democrats, and can be painted as having supported President Bush’s foreign policy decisions in the early stages of the Iraq War. While not true, he has been supportive of some of Bush’s policies, and this is a big lose for Obama who needs to basket McCain and Bush as much as he can. Also, Biden has said he doesn’t want the position.
Wesley Clark, who brings massive military experience, has the problem that he is off-side with a few of the ranking generals in the army currently, that he has no real political experience, and he was an early and vocal advocate of Hillary Clinton’s. Not holding that last bit against him, the first two points mean that he won’t get the job.
Ed Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania, and Evan Bayh, Governor of Indiana, would be two real options if they weren’t, again, early and vocal advocates of Clinton. Bayh was Clinton’s first endorsement. Rendell was her most seen one for a whole month, as the primary race lead into Pennsylvania with no break for a month. While Bayh comes from (generally) Republican Indiana, Rendell comes from one of the most expensive swing states in a general election. Pennsylvania holds 21 electoral college votes, and there are few scenarios that don’t include Pennsylvania, Ohio, or Florida in the path to victory. Rendell would have been a viable option, and probably the frontrunner at the moment if he hadn’t been so gung-ho about backing the “inevitable” candidate. These two fellows also get negative marks because they were surrogate Clinton attackers. If Clinton needed to attack Obama before she started doing it herself, or needed someone to say something controversial that would kill her if she said it, one of these two said it. As a result, these two are probably on the list, but lower than what they might have been should that have waited to watch the election unfold.
John Edwards, who has stated he will not serve as a VP, was always a name that was going to be on the VP list. I, personally, think that it was the most overrated name to get a figure, but it did nonetheless. He had national recognition – something that a vast majority of the other names lacked. He is somewhat (though not overwhelmingly) popular among white, working class voters. He’s a failed VP candidate already, under Kerry, and didn’t prove to be a serious problem for the Republicans to handle during that race in 2004. Similarly, his home state of North Carolina will be in play when it’s Obama vs. McCain because Obama has pulled it into the swing column. Edwards and Kerry lost it by double-digits in 2004, so he isn’t helping much there it looks like. Edwards, like Clinton, has had disagreements with Obama, and attacked him over his health care policy. And on the front of the Iraq War (which Edwards voted for) and military and foreign experience (which Edwards has none of), he contributes nothing, and Obama needs a candidate who does. And, finally, Edwards fails to bring the ‘experience’ to the ticket. Edwards is a senator, like Obama, who only has executive experience as much as a primary run gives you, like Obama. Edwards is probably still on the list, but not a serious chance.
Hillary Clinton … moving one …
And we come to the only serious possibilities. I’ll list them in no particular order first: Kathleen Sebelius, Governor of Kansas; Chet Culver, Governor of Iowa; Tim Kaine, Governor of Virginia; Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico; Jim Webb, Senator from Virginia; Ted Strickland, Governor of Ohio, and; Claire McCaskill, Senator from Missouri. How did I get to these names?
Ever since the endorsement, Bill Richardson‘s name has been thrown about more times than Clinton really. Then polling data started getting released alongside number-crunching from states. And I’ll be honest with you, in an ideal world they are both promising. An Obama/Richardson ticket started polling very well in both red and blue states. And, of all states to come into play, Texas did. There is no way the Republicans can win the White House back without Texas. No way in the world. So when the figure came out that 47% of Texas was either African-American or Hispanic, the state came into play. Why? Because Obama is (shock and awe!) black, and Richardson has Latino heritage. Not only that, but Richardson was polling an ‘Obama number’ (85%+) among Hispanic and Latino voters before he pulled out. The sorts of numbers that were being generated around Texas, with this ticket, was very exciting. It looked like a real chance. Oh, and he is nationally recognisable, having run in the primaries, which is a big plus at the moment.
But let’s be honest here. A party ticket with two ‘minority’ candidates does not stand as good a chance with Obama running with a white man. Richardson, for as great a politician and man as he is, might actually encourage ‘scared’ white voters to vote Republican. Also, Richardson has a tendency to say things he shouldn’t. And, finally, he can be painted as a primary failure for not even winning a single state, hardly any (if any?) delegates, and pulling out after a disappointing performance. Richardson is on the list, and should be, and probably is tied for first spot with …
Tim Kaine. You’ll notice that all bar Richardson have been white men so far. There’s a reason for this: America is ripe for change, but not change shot out a cannon. As disappointing as it is, Obama probably needs a white man to balance the ticket. I hope the U.S. proves me wrong (with either a Hispanic or a woman winning office with a black man), but I don’t think they will. This is where Kaine comes in. He’s got executive experience as governor, is quite popular in his electorate, and he comes from a swing state that will be crucial for a win. Virginia, and 13 electoral college votes, is going to be in the game plan (which I will get to later). He is young at 50, and hasn’t been ‘tainted’ by D.C. either. Thus, he is also a ‘change’ candidate. He is representative of the working class vote that Obama has been struggling with and is a ‘Southern’ politician, and balances out Obama’s Northern-ness.
Problems? He isn’t really know well outside of Virginia or the Potomac area. National recognition is going to be very important for the Democrat’s VP. And while he might be popular in a swing state, there is no guarantee that he will deliver it. His position on abortion might hurt with the Democratic base who, while they will come out in force for a really good ticket, might lag a little here. There was also a rather expensive bungle with an airport in his state, which will come into the focus when the Democrats go hard on McCain’s serious lack of knowledge on the economy. But these things can be rectified (mostly) in a long campaign, like the one we are about to get. So that’s why I expect Tim Kaine to be tied for first with Richardson.
I also want to point out that I’ve been saying Time Kaine for months now, well before other people (other than myself) were even saying Obama would win the nomination. Could I go two-for-two with early calls?
Kathleen Sebelius is someone I’ve umm’d and ahh’d about for a while now. When her name was first brought to my attention (by Mr. Rabbit, no less), Clinton hadn’t gone on her ‘kitchen sink’ attack yet, and her and Obama had a working relationship that could have been turned into a ‘dream ticket’ with a bit of work. So I disregarded her, saying that if Obama was going to run with a women, he might as well run with Clinton. Then Clinton … well … went insane, and Sebelius shot up the list I expect. She’s got executive experience and is another option that isn’t ‘tainted’ by D.C., thus another ‘change’ candidate. She balances out the ticket as a Southern Democrat, coming from Kansas, and is liked well enough (as is Obama here) that it might bring the state into play. Her views on same-sex marriage are good for independent voters, and voters of the swing states.
However, she’s aged 60. Being the change candidate requires to a bit younger I feel. Obama can pull it off, Kaine can (aged 50 next January), Bill Richardson will struggle because he will be 61 next January, and Sebelius will be 60. Now, I’m not being ‘age-ist’ (I am usually, but not at this very moment), but to build the best platform and argument that Obama can get, you have more options with a 50 year old. While coming from a red state, and being able to bring the state into play, it only has 6 electoral votes, and putting her on the ticket doesn’t swing any other states into play. So she might only be worth 6 electoral college votes, rather than someone like Kaine who brings a possible 13+, or Richardson who could bring in 5++.
Claire McCaskill, another possible female candidate, but very slim on experience. She’s a serving senator, but was only sworn in in 2007. She has a purported 20 year political career, but it will be called into question. However, she ranks because she comes from the bellweather state (much like Eden-Monaro), having gone to every president since 1904 except once (in 1956), of Missouri. It has 11 electoral votes, and thus ranks as reasonably important. Another problem though is that she isn’t overwhelmingly popular in her state …
Actually, the more and more I’m reading about her, the more I’m sure she isn’t going to get the spot. Send her to the top of the post, along with the rest of the duds!
Jim Webb is an interesting option. He has good benefits. He’s a white man, but he also has some good executive experience, as well as great military experience. He was U.S Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan for a year, was a Republican until 2006, when he swapped to be a Democrat and won one of Virginia’s senate seats in 2006. He has a long and decorated military service. He speaks out against the Iraq War, and was one of the first public figures to predict a long, drawn out, guerrilla war, rather than the quick victory everyone was expecting. He holds moderate positions, which will appeal to independent voters, and his military service might also swing those moderate Republicans who are looking for change.
Problems: His experience is patchy. He had a run as head of the Navy, and then nothing politically until 2006, and now only has a year and a half’s experience. He wasn’t the most popular Navy chief either. Also, he only just won his senate seat, and in that context, Tim Kaine is a much better option. I don’t think you realise how close that race was – he won by less than half 1%, or 9,329 votes. In a statewide election, that’s next to nothing. And, by all accounts, if his seat went to another election, it would be a hard-fought battle that the Democrats are not guaranteed to win. And the Democrats want all the seats they can get to try and attain the magic 60 seat majority to be able to employ The Cloture Rule. The Democrats really want those 60 seats, and don’t want to risk any especially if they are going to have a Democratic president who wants to push some serious change through the Senate. So running Webb as the VP is not the best move strategically.
Chet Culver, of Iowa, is the last option that I put forward. He comes from Iowa, is reasonably popular in the state, and could deliver it. Now an informed reader might be up in arms that I might give Culver a better chance than Sebelius because his state has 1 whole electoral vote more than Kansas. It’s not just that though. When I sat down one night, long ago, and figured out the sort of race and outcome that I believed would happen, I kept having the race come down to a handful of states every time: Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, and Nevada. Every time I thought out a plan, two or more of these states would decide the entire outcome. Months later, I read that these states (along with Missouri) have been listed as ‘decider states’ – that a combination of three of these will give one candidate the win. This is even after Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania (the big 3 swing states) have been decided one way or the other. I’ll map out my theory in a later post, but suffice to say, if Obama could choose a candidate that could deliver one of these states, he
is two steps in the right direction.
Big problem: Culver has, well, a year and a half’s experience. He was sworn in as governor in 2007. Untainted, young (42 at the swearing in), and a white male just doesn’t make up for no experience. But I have a feeling he will rank in at number 10 on the VP list.
Ted Strickland I haven’t followed much because his name hasn’t been spoken a whole lot. He is very Republican on gun control (he was even endorsed by the NRA!), but is Democratic on abortion, health care, and capital punishment. While white and a man, he will be far from young – 66 in next January. Yet, he is very popular among his state, and has a very long history of experience: A House member for 12 year, and governor for a year and a half. He has good Republican appeal (340 Republican endorsements!), and will swing moderate Republicans looking for a change in a flash. I could write more (quite easily, as he is a very viable candidate), but the clincher for a top 5 finish is that he comes from one of the big three swing states of Ohio. If he could deliver that (and there’s a good chance he might, or would at least keep it competitive if Rob Portman is McCain’s VP (also from Ohio)) then he should be on the ticket.
So in the end, what is my list? Here it is, complete with cross-outs of the candidates who have flat-out said they don’t want the job (Edwards, Biden), who lack experience to do anything for the ticket (Culver, Webb), or were too pro-Clinton (Bayh):
1: Tim Kaine
2: Bill Richardson
3: Kathleen Sebelius
4: Ted Strickland
5: John Edwards
6: Ed Rendell
7: Joe Biden
8: Chet Culver
9: Jim Webb
10: Evan Bayh
I am loathe to leave Rendell there (because he is such a Clintonite), but the fact is he probably does actually round out the top 5 list. I stick with Kaine, acknowledge Richardson, and consider Strickland the dark-horse. But Obama/Kaine 08 are the signs I am predicting we see.
Apologies. This post is awfully constructed, the ‘voice’ isn’t there, and I haven’t done any referencing other than Wiki. I get across everything I want to say, but in a very ugly way. Again, apologies.
Readers here know that ever since the Republican primary race ‘finished up’ (in that John McCain became the presumptive nominee), I focused on the Democratic side of things. Not only because it would prove to be more interesting, but because I genuinely want to see Barack Obama win the primary race, and go on to win the presidential election.
Anyway, when irregularly I’ll rope in some Republican news, but today, this post is all concerned with Republicans. In as much as the same way Al Gore’s name was brought up to create buzz around the impending presidential election, and who would be the running mate of who, another name has been mentioned as to a possible running mate of John McCain. While I still think it’s safe to assume Mike Huckabee is in the first position, and Mitt Romney the 2nd (though this doesn’t mean either are guaranteed the position yet), a new name might have jumped up to the top 5 considerations. The person? Condoleeza Rice.
For a long time, Rice has been dogged by the question of will she run, especially after she got her promotion to Secretary of State, and when Hillary Clinton became front runner in 2005 for the primary race. The idea of woman vs. woman was such a compelling thought that a few books came out, saying that that would be the November race: Rice vs. Clinton. I thought the idea was ludicrous on two levels – first, that the Republicans would nominate a woman; second (and the biggest of the two), that Republicans would nominate a black person.
That idea floated in the pool for a while, until eventually it drowned. Rice regularly said that she had no intention of running. Over and over again, until the idea just died. Then it was given a breath of life when the primary campaigning kicked to life in November/December of 2007, which just prior to, Rice was rated the most powerful person in Washington (by political polling) due to her position, influence, and ability. And, again, she had to keep denying the idea of her running for office. It died down again, but would pop up every now and then. Like in February:
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice … made a rare appearance at the State Department’s press briefing room Friday and talked politics. She told the packed room of reporters that she has no interest in running for Vice President on the 2008 Republican ticket. Instead, she says, her next stop will be California.
“I have always said that the one thing that I have not seen myself doing is running for elected office in the United States,” Rice said. “I didn’t even run for high-school President, Rice joked, “It’s not in my genes.”
Rice added that there are “very good people running for the American people to make their choices. I will be making my choice as a voter and that’s going to be fun after a campaign in 2000 in which I was extremely involved.” Rice says she is not involved at all in this campaign.
It was the same sort of answer, though “It’s not in my genes” was a new line. Anyway, I never got caught up in the idea that it could happen as much as others (though I would actually be very interested in the race if it did happen).
Finally, come April, Dan Senor, a Fox News contributor and of various political associations (all Republican), said that Rice has been, in recent weeks, maybe months, positioning herself to be the pick for vice president on McCain’s ticket. Transcript of Senor’s interview here. Basically, here are the arguments in his theory (edited by me for brevity) from Hannity and Colmes:
SENOR: And I think it’s a very difficult job to campaign for or ask for. I think if she were asked to do it, she would do it. I think the challenge for her, which she recognizes, is that there are some concerns among some conservatives about her being on a ticket. So she’s actually been pretty good recently about reassuring conservatives that she would be there for them and her message and narrative are compelling as far as they’re concerned, and she — and I heard from a number of conservative political leaders in the last couple of weeks, who have met with her, who have seen her speak, and that she felt very reassured by her and want her to run.
HANNITY: Well, you’ve got the Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, that … meet and they are conservatives and she went there.
SENOR: Right. So there’s about 100 or 150 of these conservative political leaders that aren’t — it’s not necessarily foreign policy issues. They deal with economic issues.
HANNITY: Mostly taxes.
SENOR: Mostly taxes, right. Socially political issues, and he organizes meetings every Wednesday. It’s sort of a “who’s who” among some of the political leadership within Washington and they typically have political types come briefed on various policy issues and political issues. She came.
HANNITY: She came. On her own?
SENOR: Well, I.
HANNITY: Was she invited?
SENOR: I presumed they negotiated something. But it’s rare for a secretary of state. You can’t imagine Secretary Baker or Secretary George Schultz or one of these former Republican.
SENOR: There have been a couple of people close to her who have made the case to me in the past that she would be a good vice president. But this is coming — keep on, this is reporting that is coming from conservative political leaders that have met with Secretary Rice, who incidentally think she would be great if she’s on the ticket.
COLMES: Has she told them she wants the job?
SENOR: You would have to ask them.
SENOR: The McCain campaign as some point is going to have to consider, what is the right profile for the ticket? Right? You can go one route, which is the sort of unknown, fresh face, outsider, someone to balance out McCain, balance out his Washington experience, or someone to reinforce all of his years of experience and security.
Anyone who has watched Hannity and Colmes knows that it’s a left-wing host and a right-wing host, talking about political news, and they have guests on through the show. Colmes is the lefty, Hannity is the righty. Colmes was quick to point out that Rice’s office had said Senor has no connection with Rice, and doesn’t know anything about her future plans, that she had repeatedly denied wanting the job, has said she wants to go back to lecturing, and that (most glaringly obvious) it would be McCain hooking up with a President Bush-confidant. Already Democrats are saying that a vote for McCain is another vote for Bush, but with someone from his administration as responsible for his foreign policy mess-ups as Bush himself, then it will be impossible to create distance between a McCain administration, and the Bush administration.
I, for the record, have believed for some time in what Colmes has to say about picking Rice. It would be a gutsy, but quite possibly suicidal decision.
The fallout from this interview began early. Rice coped it first, and she said:
I very much look forward to watching this campaign and voting as a voter. I have a lot of work to do and then I’ll happily go back to Stanford.
Then McCain got the questions. He said, of the rumours that she was maneuvering for the position, that he must have ‘missed those signals’, and:
I think she’s a great American. I think there’s very little that I can say that isn’t anything but the utmost praise for a great American citizen, who served as a role model to so many millions of people in this country and around the world.
Political pundits weighed in on the decision too. I won’t quote them all, just Gloria Borger, CNN political analyst, as a segway:
Obviously, as an instantly recognizable national figure, Condi Rice would have to appear on any vice-presidential list.
And she certainly would add star power to a ticket. The next day, polling data came out that indicated the McCain/Rice ticket would beat a Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton ticket by 3% or 5% respectively in the state of New York! I know it would be presumptive to say this would be the finite outcome, but for any poll to not lean towards the Democrats in New York is quite a shock, especially with Clinton leading the ticket. Witha +/- 4% error rate, and a sampling size of 576 registered New York voters, it was quite a surprise to read this. Any ideas of the Democrats winning the White House back includes the assumption that New York and California don’t even have to be defended, much less brought into question. If any Republican ticket could challenge one of the bluest of blue states, I think the party and the candidate would have second thoughts about saying no to that prospect straight off the bat. CNN carried the story, and it topped the most read article section for quite a few days. It seemed like a popular hypothetical, much like Al Gore getting in on the race too.
Anyway, Rice was then trotted up to the Hill to give evidence on the use of torture by U.S. officials on detainees and prisoners. The documents of discussions tabled by Rice (discussions and meetings that she herself chaired) indicated that the use of torture by Americans has been so thought out as discussed that there is no way to remove Rice, Bush, or the current administration from the pro-torture argument. The specific methods and amount of times CIA agents could use torture as a method of interrogation was approved by Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, former National Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former CIA Director George Tenet, and former Attorney General John Ashcroft. These documents pretty much sealed the fate of Rice not getting the V.P. slot with McCain – McCain is one of the few Republican politicians that genuinely oppose and speak-out against torture. Maybe it’s because he was tortured at the hands of the Vietnamese as a P.O.W.?
Anyway, as much as a great hypothetical race as could be thought up when Rice’s name was in the mix, it seems out of reach now. I know that you should never say never in politics, but this is a very, very, very remote possibility. I don’t expect it or think it will happen. I still think Mike Huckabee is heading McCain’s “list of 20″, with Romney coming in next. The problem for McCain is that he doesn’t have as much free-reign in picking his running mate if he wants to win. He is struggling with his party base still, so he needs someone secure with them. If he himself was sound in getting the hard-right’s vote, he could probably run with a woman or a more moderate. But he really has that ‘outsider’ position saved for himself, so he needs to pick an insider. Tim Pawlenty (Governor of Minnesota), and Charlie Crist (Governor of Florida), both from swing states, are probably up the list too. Pawlenty is currently serving as co-chairman of John McCain’s campaign – so he is positioned well for the slot. So too Crist – he endorsed McCain early, and regularly receives praise from McCain. Rounding out the five would be Governor of Texas Rick Perry. He should be very sound with the party base. Just check out his policy positions. While Texas isn’t a swing state by any shot, this is a candidate who is a sure-fire favourite among conservatives and the sort of person to be set-up for in 4/8 years time, should the Republicans stage the impossible and win. A long shot (though maybe not as long as some might think) is Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin. She’s not as conservative as some of the previous names mentioned, but probably more than McCain. Again, not from a swing state, but a woman, a conservative, a record of cutting government spending, good positions (for her party, and for winning independent voters) on some policies, and young and ‘attractive’ all helps her in getting a mention on the list I would think.
Oh the possibilities. I could go on for some time, but I think my list of 6 (Huckabee, Romney, Pawlenty, Crist, Perry, Palin) is something I’m happy to settle on. If it isn’t one of them, then it’s a wildcard.
As I reported on a while ago, caucus states have regional and state conventions to solidfy who is voting for who at the Democratic National Convention. The caucus voting that occurs is a rough idea of what will happen, but the benefit/detriment of the caucus system is that when the final caucus vote is counted, the race doesn’t stop. The caucus members can, if fact, change their mind*.
What did we see yesterday? The huge Texas regional caucus meetings to decide 67 at-large caucus delegates to report to the D.N.C. in August. Texas, as we know, was is a ‘big’ state, and part of the ‘big’ win that Hillary Clinton picked up on March 4. She only actually won the primary vote, and lost the caucuses. And she only won the primary on the back of a fear ad, and only an ad. The caucus voting that reported back had Obama wining enough delegates in the caucuses to win the state by 1 or so delegates. Nothing huge, but something that was rolled out by the Barack Obama campaign regularly.
It was always going to be a worry what happened next. Would the campaigning that happened in between the voting and the regional meetings change many delegates minds? Apparently it changed some because there has been some shifting in the numbers. The results being sent out now, with only 50% of the caucus regions reporting, is that Obama will end the night with a state-wide lead on Clinton of 5 delegates – the projected outcome for these 67 delegates is a 38 to 29 split to Obama. He is currently running with approximately 60% of the regional caucus votes to Clinton’s 40%.
It’s supposed to have been a crazy time there in Texas – even a fight broke out on one precinct when Clinton supporters tried to get Obama supporters to swap sides. Speaking of swapping sides, I came across a funny story here. Basically, it’s where a guy went to the original caucus vote, and intended to vote for Obama. There weren’t enough people there to get past the threshold to assign Obama delegates that day, so the guy said, with honesty and good intentions, that he’d go to the regional convention and vote for Clinton. He believed that he was locked into this commitment. Give some time, and he receives a call from the Clinton campaign saying that he doesn’t have to vote for the candidate that he said he would on March 4 – that he can swap. And swap he did. He went to the regional convention and voted for Obama instead.
The Clinton campaign is saying that it’s too early to write the math down, but seeings as Obama won the caucus the first time, I expect that the predicted results will ring true and he will win the latest caucus. If anything, it could get better. He originally won the state’s caucus with 56% of the vote, compared to Clinton’s 44%. There’s been an 8% shift in the first 50% of voting – quite a large change for a race that the Clinton campaign says they still have a chance in. If anything, these results make it more obvious that Clinton should get out of the race. She’s lost one of her big states on the delegate count in a race that is all about delegates.
So that’s another good day for Obama. Pennsylvania will get quite a bit of coverage of this I suspect. How, if it will, impact the polls and the voting will be interesting to say the least.
* Actually, all delegates can change their mind, but it would be insane if and primary-pledged delegates did because of the actual voting that occurred by the people.
Many weeks ago, a week before March 4 and its elections, Hillary Clinton released an ad that has come to be known as the ’3am ad’. It was the politics of fear at play again – something we have all come to expect from the Clinton campaign. I found it funny that prior to the ad being released, she was in her crazy-loco mode and was calling for Obama to debate her on the issues, and was saying that Obama was a bad candidate for employing tactics that called her out on actual truths (but she said they were lies). Then she released that ad.
Out of all the ads that have been released in the campaign, that was the worst. It was just bad and pathetic.
Then the news came out: Girl seen in Clinton’s ’3 a.m.’ ad supports Obama.
Yes, one of the little girls in the ad that Clinton is supposed to be ‘protecting’ is an active campaigner for Barack Obama. And has been for some time. Well before she was used as part of stock footage, Casey Knowles was out and about, drumming up votes for Obama, excited at the prospect of being invited to the National Convention for her efforts.
Word quickly spread, and she was on news stations, being interviewed and causing a little bit of an embarrassing problem for Clinton’s campaign team. Then the Obama team caught wind of this news and got hold of Casey to make their own ad. That was way back on March 10.
In between then and now, there were so many great parodies of the ad on YouTube. One concerned with her promise to always wear pantsuits while serving and then playing on the whole fear ad genre, another that plays on the messages that Clinton sends out (that she is like ‘the common person’, and Obama’s message is only a message, not a reality). And the comment threads were a hotbed for some good e-arguments and entertainment (much like I outlined with the Geraldine Ferraro articles).
Finally, today, Obama’s team released the ad they’d been working on. Maybe it was a little late in the scheme of things, but it doesn’t matter a whole lot. The purpose of the ad is to point out another mistake of Clinton’s – another in the long line of this primary campaign. I wasn’t at all surprised when Clinton released this type of ad after saying she was going to ‘throw the kitchen sink’ at Obama. But what I was surprised at was the way Clinton continued to lie about being a serious candidate and a candidate ‘about the issues’, not a textbook example of how to scare your way to victory.
We all know what the results were – the ad won over the Texas primary vote, and Obama had an average day March 4. A lot of pundits say that that ad was how she managed to win the Texas primary. Considering it only aired in Texas, I’d agree with that. However, the effect was short-lived. We also know that Clinton got hammered in the next 2 primaries, and has yet to cut into Obama’s delegate lead. I fully expect another fear-ad and ridiculous attack from Clinton leading into Pennsylvania. It will probably have something to do with trade and jobs, maybe the failing economy. Pennsylvania, being like Ohio (which exit polls said the economy was the biggest issue for them), will be a fight over trade and economy policies. So keep an eye out for that.
You read it correctly: The man that both campaigns were competing for very hard has finally come out and endorsed Barack Obama. Bill Richardson was in the primary race for a while, until he dropped out to do some governing of his state of New Mexico. Without going into detail, I was extremely impressed that the very next day after dropping out, he had started on reworking a whole new health care policy for his state, and within a week it was done. This is a sign of an effective and good politician.
Anyway, Richardson, in a very brave move, came out to endorse Obama over the weekend. People may not know that he was the Secretary of Energy in President Bill Clinton’s terms of service. A lot of people have said that Bill Clinton made Richardson’s career. I think that’s a very unfair statement, but there is a degree of fortune garnered from the position.
I expect that the Clinton campaign team will be furious over this endorsement. As I said, both campaigns were trying hard for the guy. Bill Clinton even went over and watched the Super Bowl with Richardson, and I doubt that the entire night was talk about the New York Giants. So it comes as no real surprise that the Clinton campaign had this to say about the endorsement:
Both candidates have many great endorsers, but the voters, not endorsers, will decide this election, and there are still millions of voters in upcoming contests who want to have their voices heard.
Effectively shrugging it off. The problem with that statement is that is sounds like a campaign that is endorsing a win for the candidate with the most pledged delegates – which the have never done, and will never do.
Someone working with the Clinton campaign often, James Carville (political strategist), had something amusing to say about the endorsement, which is what I think is closer to home in terms of what the Clintons are thinking now:
[Richardson's Obama endorsement] came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver.
In response, Bill Richardson had this to say:
Well, I’m not going to get in the gutter like that. And you know, that’s typical of many of the people around Senator Clinton. They think they have a sense of entitlement to the presidency.
I found that remark quite interesting. To me, it’s not what someone says about people he says he is still “very loyal to”. Part of the reasoning behind his endorsement was that “it shouldn’t just be Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton.” And that makes total sense. Bring in new, fresh ideas. Bring in a new era of politics. Endorse Obama. Makes complete sense.
Now after all this, does it even matter anymore? If Obama had received that nomination in the days before Super Tuesday, I say it would have changed the whole day. I even think the primary race would be over by now if he had. Even if Richardson had endorsed before March 4, it would have changed things up. Texas probably would have gone to Obama, both in the primary and the caucus. The race wouldn’t have ended there, but it would be in its last throws I think.
Being Hispanic himself, the endorsement would have been ideal when there were a significant amount of states at play that had high ‘Latin’ votes, or at least Southern states. Unfortunately, there’s only 2/3 pseudo-Southern states, and the ‘Latin’ vote isn’t as big a force as it was previously.
But it is still an important endorsement. He is a superdelegate, so ring one more up for Obama. Being a governor and a former secretary, he is a high ranking superdelegate and politician, and he no doubt has connections and enough sway over some more superdelegates to pull them into the Obama camp.
Obama has been the centre of attention for a couple of bad weeks of news, what with all the ‘race’ talk. Having Richardson endorse him creates a positive news cycle for him, a bad one for Clinton. Everyone will be looking at the fact that Richardson, who was a former ‘employee’ of Clinton, has turned his back on them and walked the other way. Why didn’t he endorse Mrs. Clinton? Does he think they don’t stand a chance? Does he secretly hate them? What did Obama promise him that was so much better than the scraps Clinton was going to give him? And with all the issue of ‘race’ being thrown around, it can’t possibly hurt Obama to be endorsed by one of the most prominent Latino politicians.
So another good day for Obama.
I reported earlier that Barack Obama had gained just 7 extra delegates from the Iowa caucus convention. That was a premature call from all sources on the ground, as it turns out he has actually gained 9 delegates, and netted 10 in the overall count. How is this possible?
8 (rather than 7) of Edwards’ delegates have come over to Obama now, and in what is perhaps even more stunning news, 1 of Hillary Clinton’s caucus delegates left her for Obama’s team. That Obama won over half of Edwards’ delegates is important, but that single delegate switch sides is even more important. Clinton has, for the past week and some, trashed and tarnished the standing of what people call the ‘small’ states. Those states that don’t have a bazillion delegates attached to the vote – and those states that have given Obama the tentative win, Clinton the loss. She has said that they don’t ‘count’ for much as she has tried to portray Obama as unable to win the ‘big’ states, somehow more important than all else.
The thing is though, a lot of these ‘small’ states run on the caucus system, not primary voting. And while Clinton is going around and speaking ill of these ‘nothing’ caucus states, they are meeting for their state caucus conventions, where the final pledge will come from the delegates. Obama’s strength in Iowa, then subsequent string of victories across the mid-West, and showing in caucuses, with superdelegates, and with taking the lead in the race, has seen the delegates at the Iowa convention move to him. He has landed the first ‘poach’ blow – taking a pledged delegate from Clinton. There’s going to be an argument over whether Obama won that delegate over or whether Clinton’s tirades and antics lost it. Either way, Clinton’s count fell one more. And with Obama’s gaining of 9 delegates, he extended his lead by 10 delegates by the close of the day.
Ohio’s ‘impressive’ win is now, literally, nothing. Anything that she or the media or the ‘people’ thought she gained on March 4 is officially a loss. She lost Texas on the delegate count, Vermont and Rhode Island canceled each other out, and Ohio she had a 7 delegate advantage. Not anymore. In two primaries, it was all for nothing. Funny. March 4 was predicted to be the date of the Clinton ‘comeback’. And when that day ended, it looked like it might just happen. Now, she has actually even fallen further behind since that date. That’s very funny actually.
I could talk a little more about this, and the delegate count, is going to hurt her even more in the eyes of the superdelegates, but that is a post for tomorrow. I want to post it tomorrow to continue my back-to-back days of posting, but I’ll say this about it now:
In it I will outline why I know that Barack Obama will be the Democratic candidate in the November general election.