Dodd on Ending the Primary and the Media’s Role In Prolonging It

Via TRex, my guy Chris Dodd is speaking out with an eye towards resolving the Democratic nominating process.

Look, we’ve got five more months to go before the Democratic convention at the end of August and, candidly, we cannot go five more months with the kind of daily sniping that’s going on and have a candidate emerge in that convention. My hope is that it will be Barack Obama, but if it’s Hillary Clinton, she too will suffer, in my view, from this kind of a campaign that I think is undermining the credibility and the quality of the two candidates that we have. We have two very strong candidates. So I’m worried about this going on endlessly and to a large extent, Linda, the media, a lot of these cable networks, are enjoying this. It’s what is keeping them alive financially. The fact that this thing is going on forever, back and forth every day, all night — I don’t think it’s really helping the candidates or the political institutions.

Asked about the solution to ending the race:

Dodd: Well, the solution is — look, we’ve got a contest coming up in Pennsylvania and one in North Carolina and Indiana very quickly afterwards. In my view, the outcome of those three races will determine — I think the race has been determined, anyway, at this point. I think it’s very difficult to imagine how anyone can believe that Barack Obama can’t be the nominee of the party. I think that’s a foregone conclusion, in my view, at this juncture given where things are.

But certainly over the next couple of weeks, as we get into April, it seems to me then, that the national leadership of this party has to stand up and reach a conclusion. And in the absence of doing that — and that’s not easy, and I realize it’s painful. But the alternatives, allowing this sort of to fester over the months of June, and July and August, I think, are irresponsible. I think you have to make a decision, and hopefully the candidates will respect it and people will rally behind a nominee that, I think, emerges from these contests over the next month. That’s my suggestion. That’s what I would do. [Emphasis added]

Dodd has endorsed Obama and though he’s honest about that support here, I think he’s also recognizing a reality of the numbers that the Clinton campaign has largely resisted. I agree with Dodd that if there is a way for the Democratic Party’s national leaders – Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Chris Van Hollen – to step into the process and bring it to a resolution that gives clarity as to who our nominee is based on the results of the primaries, they do have an obligation to do so and failing to do so would be “irresponsible.” Keep in mind that Dodd was the DNC Chair from 1995-1997, so he knows what he’s asking of the Party’s leadership and I am certain that he does not take this challenge lightly.

I also think Dodd’s media analysis here is incredibly sharp. Here it is again:

the media, a lot of these cable networks, are enjoying this. It’s what is keeping them alive financially. The fact that this thing is going on forever, back and forth every day, all night — I don’t think it’s really helping the candidates or the political institutions.

I don’t recall any elected Democrat putting this sort of argument forward. It sounds more like Digby or Eric Boehlert than, say, the final two candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. If more Democrats had this sort of analysis, what campaigns choose to make issues with each other (such as who must be fired today and who must be denounced) might look different than the way things currently work. Kudos for your sharp analysis Senator Dodd.

No, Not Really

Marc Ambinder asks:

Can you imagine, or envision, a Democratic/Netroots’ based Senate challenge to Clinton in four years?

No, not really. For there to be a primary challenge of Hillary Clinton, there would have to be a Democrat willing to run against her. Hillary Clinton probably has the highest name ID of any Democrat in America not named Bill Clinton. She has near-complete institutional support in the New York State Democratic Party. I think we can safely rule out all current members of the NY House delegation. I’d also guess that any netroots back House challengers this cycle (people like Jon Powers or Eric Massa) would, if they win, not likely challenge her.

Who does that leave? People not holding federal office and vain and/or rich people. I can’t comfortably speak about the vain/rich people (though I doubt the netroots would support Tasini, The Remix), but here are the non-federal office holders that come to mind:

  • Eliot Spitzer: Ha, right.
  • David Patterson: I doubt a Governor would take out a Senator from his own party.
  • Tom Suozzi: I think his future is probably brighter in Albany than in Wshington.
  • Andrew Cuomo: He served in the Clinton administration and I don’t think he’d show that kind of disloyalty.

Not sure who else would be on this list, but perhaps some NY bloggers will weigh in.

The reality is that while some Democrats don’t want Clinton to be President, most New Yorkers (not just Democrats) think she’s a very good Senator. While I don’t always agree with her tactics and I wish she would take a more vocal role in fighting for change within the Senate, I think she generally votes well. She would have to do something along the lines of voting for war with Iran or voting for telecom immunity for me to even consider supporting a primary challenge to her in 2012 – and I don’t see her being so politically blind to do either.

Calls on Clinton Beginning…

I’m sure it’s happened elsewhere before this, but my RSS reader has produced two  calls for Hillary Clinton to drop out, in the interest of her inability to surpass Obama’s pledged delegate lead, likely inability to pass Obama with super delegates, and a desire to focus on defeating John W. McSame.

Bob Cesca is a big Obama supporter, but he makes passing recognition that Clinton won’t be the nominee.

Jesus’ General is a free agent, having endorsed Dodd during the primary, but since been critical of both candidates. He makes a thoughtful, passionate plea for moving forward on a unified front to defeat McCain. Gen. JC Christian writes:

I think Obama should offer Clinton whatever it takes to accept the vice presidential nomination. If she wants health care, give it to her.

And Clinton needs to to take it and strike her deal soon. Her bargaining power is strong now. She can demand concessions that will give her tremendous advantages in 2016. More importantly, she does not want to become the person whose blind ambition gave the White House to McCain. That’s how she will be perceived if she continues to push the superdelegate strategy.

I think we’re going to see more neutral bloggers write posts like this in coming days and weeks, as it becomes clear that the contest is becoming more of a knife fight than a thoughtful discussion of the future of the country. I also think the idea of a unity ticket will be seen as a bandage to heal the wounds inflicted in this primary. I don’t know whether or not that’s necessary – I don’t see either candidates’ supporters bolting in wide numbers at the end of a prolonged nominating process – but I think the unity ticket will continue to get play.

While I would love to see this primary resolved, I think it’s continuation (for now) is fine if (1) it does not continue to devolve into the nastiness that has defined it the last few weeks and (2) both Clinton and Obama regularly focus their attacks on John McCain. I don’t know how likely these scenarios are and the extend to which they’re not realized, I’ll change my willingness to support a long primary.

Answers Needed

Scarecrow at FireDogLake wants Obama and Clinton to answer some important questions before they take office.

1. Given that the Bush/Cheney regime has been the most lawless and destructive of Constitutional safeguards in our lifetimes, what do you intend to do to bring those who flouted the law to justice? If nothing, how do you expect to restore respect for the Constitution and the rule of law and restore confidence in the Department of Justice?

2. On repeated occasions, far too many Democrats have voted in Congress to enable or immunize lawless actions by the Bush/Cheney regime. What would you do as President to restore respect for the Constitution within your own party?

6. How do you intend to pay for the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions and prepare the country to fund the public investments you think vital to our economic interests?

7. How do you propose to change the attitudes and mindset that led us into aggressive wars?

I think the first two questions are likely the most important for the health of our country.  I do not want to have a Democratic administration continue to use the powers the Bush administration has illegally seized simply because Congress has failed to repudiate Bush’s actions. Bush may not have succeeded in expanding the powers of the executive branch to the point of complete dictatorship, but he has undoubtedly moved our country away from the rule of law and from the checks and balances set forth in our Constitution. We need Clinton and Obama to confront these issues before either takes office. Not only would it serve assuage fears I have about the health of our democracy, it would provide a marked contrast with anti-Constitution John W. McCain, who offers only a third term for the Bush administration.

The questions Scarecrow poses on war policy play into the health of our nation as well. War and terrorism was the excuse that has shielded most of the Bush administrations expansions of executive power. The shadow of future aggressive wars still hangs over this country, as we’re seeing with the treatment of Admiral Fallon. Beyond timid promises to end the war in Iraq, Clinton and Obama need to speak directly to how they change conventional wisdom on the US of American power. In Obama’s case, this should stem from an explanation as to how he had the judgment to oppose the war in Iraq and what structural similarities he sees in the country’s attitudes in 2002 and now. In Clinton’s case, she would have to frame an explanation around what she has learned since voting for war in Iraq.

I do not expect answers to these questions to be forthcoming, which is a sad statement on the health of our democracy, our democratic process, and our capacity for thoughtful engagement of challenging, if unpleasant, questions.

Wow: Texas Will Be in Play

Burnt Orange Report brings the good news – Texas will be in play in the general election.

Survey USA has just completed massive nationwide, state-by-state polling of match-ups in the presidential race. While both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would rack up winning scenarios nationally, what is most stunning is that Texas, yes-Texas, is a swing state.

Crosstabs– 600 Registered voters, MoE 4.1%McCain +1 Over Obama
47% John McCain (R)
46% Barack Obama (D)
07% Undecided

McCain +7 Over Clinton
49% John McCain (R)
42% Hillary Clinton (D)
09% Undecided

This is stunning and I believe a large result of us seeing a presidential campaign here in Texas for the first time.

There is a real benefit to having a contested primary go to places where Democrats don’t traditionally have a say in picking the nominee. Texas got to see two candidates up close and evaluate what they were offering. Obviously enough Texans liked what they saw in both candidates to give either a legitimate chance to beat McCain in the general. As I said earlier this week, the large Texas turnout is a great indication that Democrats will force McCain to spend his limited resources on a traditionally very Republican state.

Florida & Michigan

Over at TAPPED, Mark Schmidt has a sensible solution to the Michigan and Florida delegate situation, though it comes from an Obama standpoint. The short version is that Obama should let Florida’s delegates be seated as is in exchange for a new caucus in Michigan. This would give Clinton a gain in delegates that wouldn’t be fatal to Obama’s delegate lead, while removing a cudgel from Clinton’s hand. Like Schmidt, I doubt Clinton would take this deal, as it would clarify the tiny likelihood that she could overcome his pledged delegate lead.

Jason Rosenbaum has more on the DNC’s stance on a potential do-over.

Today’s Pie Fight

The delegate tallying in Texas from Tuesday isn’t even finished and already the Clinton and Obama campaigns have resumed nasty campaigning on a line that will guarantee even more nasty campaigning in coming days and weeks.

I’m with John Aravosis – Clinton was right in 2000 when she criticized Rick Lazio for not releasing his tax returns.
She should release hers now and her campaign should not falsely compare Obama to Ken Starr.

I was pretty ready for this campaign to be over, so the petty attacks and daily smears could be put behind us and we could focus on defeating John W. McCain and electing a Democrat. I don’t want to fixate on Clinton’s tax returns any more than I want to fixate on her campaigns negative attacks on Obama. But as the election continues, I will inevitably engage in the periodic pie fight because this blog is where I write about what I think and not much else.
Hopefully this pie-fight related post will suffice for today and not contribute to the liberal blogosphere’s descent into irrelevancy.

Looking Forward At the Democratic Nomination

It’s the morning after Whatever People Finally Decided To Call It Tuesday. As the polls consistently showed going in, Clinton won Ohio, withstanding late tightening. She also won the Texas popular vote; though many polls showed Obama taking a small lead, it was (as far as I recall seeing) always within the margin of error. Unfortunately for the Clinton fans, while the delegate count is still ongoing, it looks highly unlikely that Clinton will make any noticeable inroads into Obama’s current delegate lead.

Chris Bowers’ run-down of the results, what they mean, and what we should expect moving forward is a sober account of where we stand.

Looks like Clinton will net about 10-15 delegates tonight, along with about 250,000 popular votes. Overall, Obama will now lead by about 600,000 votes, and 145-150 pledged delegates. Toss in superdelegates, and Obama’s lead cut to about 100-110 delegates. Add in Florida, and Obama leads by about 300,000 votes, and about 65-70 delegates. Throw in a Michigan delegate with zero votes for Obama, and Clinton takes an infinitesimal lead in both counts.
This is why Obama is still the favorite. In order to even force a virtual tie, Clinton needs three contingencies to break her way. Obama, by contrast, will probably wipe out Clinton’s March 4th delegate gains in Wyoming (March 8th) and Mississippi (March 11th), leaving the pledged delegate margin heading into Pennsylvania identical to the margin before yesterday’s contests. However, overall March will still be a victory for Obama, as he continues to cut into Clinton’s superdelegate lead. Rumors are that many more are on the way, too. Overall, despite her wins tonight, at the end of March, Clinton will probably be further behind in delegates than at the start of the month.

I also think Bowers is right in the expectation that the two campaigns will increasingly get nasty with each other. We saw the rhetoric and the attacks heat up over the last two weeks. If that’s a preview of coming attractions, then the next seven weeks are going to be very uncomfortable.

I heartily agree with both Steve Soto’s take on what he’d like to see Hillary Clinton doing as the campaign moves forward with regard to shifting attention to John McCain and Big Tent Democrat’s recognition that the best case scenario is one where both candidates follow Soto’s suggestion.

I believe Steve Soto is on to something when he writes:

What if [Hillary Clinton] instead starts attacking McCain and making the case that she is better able to run as a true Democrat against McCain’s strengths and weaknesses than Obama can? What if she draws the contrast with Obama not with personal or character attacks, but with direct arguments that she is a better advocate for progressive causes and concerns against McCain on issues such as the economy, health care, protecting Social Security, tax fairness, the Supreme Court, energy independence, and the environment? In other words, what if she runs more as a Democrat than he does?

I think Steve’s advice is sound, but not just for Clinton, but for Obama as well. Let’s let the candidates demonstrate who the best candidate to run against McCain is BY RUNNING AGAINST JOHN McCAIN AND THE GOP NOW! Don’t just tell us you would be better against McCain and the Republican Party. Show us!

If I’m stuck with a contest race, despite a current set of rules and delegate math that make it highly unlikely that Clinton can secure a nomination before the Democratic Convention, I’d hope that the candidates recognize that they have the opportunity to prove their general election mettle against John W. McCain now. He’s the target for either nominee and the more energy we can put behind legitimizing attack narratives now – he’s a 3rd Bush term in waiting, he’s beholden to lobbyists, he would take us to war with Iran – the easier it will be for our eventual nominee to fight McCain, uncrippled by a prolonged nomination.

The only way I see us avoiding what Bowers thinks will happen between now and Pennsylvania – and realistically the Soto-BTD vision for attacking McCain is something of a pipe dream when the nomination is still up for grabs – is if the nomination is resolved in the short term. Marc Ambinder notes that “Barack Obama will almost certainly win more delegates in Texas than Clinton.” Couple that with the long delegate math and the contingencies identified by Bowers, and Clinton has very slim chances at the nomination. One thing that repeatedly has been coming up in news coverage of the race is the question of how Clinton staffers are thinking about their chances of winning. Ambinder writes:

Again, a Clinton “recovery” and nomination is not impossible. It just isn’t likely. In the gut of many Clinton advisers 48 hours from now may be the sense that the confetti is ephemeral.

If that happens, if upon reflection and sober strategizing the odds are seen as too long, the contingencies that have to happen too many, it’s possible that senior Clinton staff and advisers will turn against the notion of continuing to fight for the nomination. In that case, we might be able to avoid what at minimum could be a seven week version of Andy Capp vs Florrie Capp tumult of dust and fisticuffs (and at maximum, a fight that extends to the Convention floor in early September).

I don’t have a dog in this fight and, right now at least, I don’t want to make any normative judgments about what either candidate should be doing. As I said above, I’d love to see both focus on attacking McCain and not each other, but that’s wishful thinking. I’ll be curious to see the final vote totals and how yesterday actually impacted the state of the race.