Super Tuesday Remix

Turkana at The Left Coaster has what I think is the most sober assessment of how possible outcomes tomorrow in Ohio and Texas will impact the state of the race. The short version is that Clinton has to win the popular vote in both states (which would presumably give her a delegate win in Ohio and risks a delegate loss in Texas if the popular vote is close), while Obama has to win the popular vote in Texas or Ohio.

A large part of the assessment of how the outcome of tomorrow’s primaries will have on the Democratic nomination will be how it impacts the media narrative. A Clinton popular vote win in Texas that fails to be accompanied by a delegate total win still has the chance of being spun as a justification of Clinton’s continued presence in the race, particularly if she also holds on to win Ohio. While small Clinton victories in Ohio and Texas (say by 5% of the popular vote) are almost certain to not significantly impact Obama’s delegate lead, they would also assure that Clinton has justification for staying in the race in the eyes of those crafting the narratives of this race. Winning both would show Clinton’s continued appeal and success in very large states.

I don’t buy that winning big states by small margins is any meaningful signifier for how Clinton would perform there in the general election – just as I don’t think Obama’s failure to win California or New York had any impact on his ability or likelihood to win there if he is the nominee. But I also don’t doubt that if she wins Ohio and Texas, the Clinton campaign will be pressing the “Obama can’t win big states” narrative very hard.

Given current polling in Ohio and Texas, I think the chances of Obama winning the popular vote in one of these states is very good. We’ll see what happens in the only polls that matter tomorrow.

Things to Come

I think Chris Bowers pretty much nails the likely course of events with the Democratic nomination the rest of the way:

 The decline of a once frontrunning presidential campaign might be the exact opposite of Gandhi’s famous saying: first you think you have won, then they fight you, then they laugh at you, and then they ignore you.  We went through the first phase during the 2007 inevitability your. Iowa through March 4th is the “fighting” stage. If Clinton loses Texas, Vermont and the March 4th delegate count, and also goes on to lose Wyoming and Mississippi, the “laughing” stage might begin at some point in mid-March. We may never reach the “ignore” stage, because we are talking about Hillary Clinton here, but the laughing stage might be painful enough. I think we will know that the presidential campaign is truly over when the likes of Jay Leno and David Letterman start making jokes about Clinton continuing her campaign despite suffering so many losses.

I hope it does not come to this. I hope that, if Clinton suffers a delegate loss on March 4th (let alone fails to win a handy majority of the delegates in play) that her campaign makes moves to shut down in the face of an essentially hopeless situation. In that scenario – where the only chance for a Clinton nomination would depend heavily on superdelegates and Florida and Michigan being granted delegates based on their already-held primaries – Clinton would be continuing on in the face of an almost certain outcome. That could divide the party and waste valuable time that could be better used to focus attention on the general election and defeating John McCain.

Granted, there are still elections to be held this week that could at least on paper grant Clinton an opportunity to make in-roads in Obama’s delegate lead. But the likelihood of that is small and the probable outcome will leave Clinton facing a situation similar to what Bowers has described above. I hope that’s something we can avoid.

Heh, Indeedy

Ben Smith reports on an Obama conference call:

A reporter asked whether Clinton should drop out after Ohio and Texas. Obama adviser Richard Danzig responded:

“I would encourage you on March 5 to call Sen. Clinton at 3 a.m. and ask that question.”

In that case, I’d recommend Clinton combat the snarkiness of Danzig’ss statement by answering using this phone:

Hamburger Phone

At least Clinton will have irony, delicious Juno-inspired irony, if not the Democratic nomination.

Remember When?

I remember when the conventional wisdom was that the Clinton campaign was so filled with experience and talent that they would run the entire race without making a mistake. I’m pretty sure I bought into that CW for a long time.

Today’s Times article on the Clinton campaign’s spending patterns shows that, in fact, they have made some mistakes. That’s not surprising, though, and perhaps it was more surprising that a narrative was built and maintained that the Clinton campaign would be flawless.

Of all the quotes and analysis in the Times piece, I think Jim Jordan, who was the Dodd campaign’s senior strategist, nails the realities of presidential politics best.

“Obviously, some campaigns are more careful and wise with their money than others,” Jim Jordan, a Democratic consultant who ran John Kerry’s presidential campaign until November 2003. “But these budgetary post-mortems tend to follow a familiar pattern; winners are by definition smart, and losers are dumb and wasteful. In truth, campaign budgeting is hard and complicated and three-dimensional and just impossible to understand without the full time-and-place context of the whole race.”

It’s easy to say mistakes were made, but mistakes are only this transparent in hindsight. I’m sure there were critics in the Clinton campaign while these decisions were being made, just as I’m sure there have been dissenters in the Obama campaign while they have charted their course.

100 vs 1,000,000

I’ve tried to stay out of the discussion of the pro-Hillary Clinton 527 that’s recent formed called American Leadership Project. I’m not really interested in accusations of illegal activities made by people who don’t practice in campaign finance law and think the ALP’s existence has the potential to lead to a lot of toxic commentary on the blogs, as we’ve already seen.

That said, I have to give big props to the Obama campaign’s internet department for taking this moment and trying to activate their email list against the big donor fundraising surrounding the ALP. Here’s the full email, sent from Obama campaign manager David Plouffe:

Matthew —

Make a matching donationNews broke yesterday that a few wealthy Clinton supporters are gearing up for a massive spending campaign to boost her chances in the big upcoming contests in Texas and Ohio on March 4th.

The so-called “American Leadership Project” will take unlimited contributions from individuals and is organized the same way as the infamous Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

ABC News reports that this group is seeking 100 Clinton supporters to each give $100,000 to fund its $10 million effort to promote Senator Clinton and “contrast” her positions with Barack Obama’s.

That’s the opposite of how politics should work, and the opposite of how Barack Obama has run this campaign.

The same day this group’s activity was revealed, we announced that nearly 1 million individual people have donated to this campaign.

Stand up against politics-as-usual. Help reach the goal of 1 million donors calling out for change by encouraging a first-time donor to own a piece of this campaign.

If you give as part of our matching program, you will double the gift of a new donor. You can even choose to exchange a note with them about why you are part of this movement.

Make your matching donation now:

Groups like this are forbidden from working primarily for the purpose of electing or defeating a candidate.

Yet here we have a committee that springs up on the eve of an election, promotes a specific candidate, and has no history or apparent purpose of lobbying specific issues outside the benefit to the candidate of these communications.

This raises a number of legal and ethical issues, but more than anything it reveals an attitude towards politics as a game that is played to win at all costs.

Americans are ready for change. We are tired of Swift Boat-style groups and smear campaigns.

Help reach the unprecedented goal of a million voices calling for a new kind of politics and a new kind of leadership.

Make a matching donation now:

I’ll keep you updated as the situation with this group evolves.

Thank you for your support,


David Plouffe
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

I’m very curious to see the sort of response the Obama campaign gets from this email. The existence of the ALP is clearly an incarnation of DC politics as usual. Obama’s email list is primed against this sort of political campaigning and my guess is they will respond very strongly to being asked to be the counter-weight against 100 superdonors for Clinton. I particularly like that the Obama campaign has found a way to fit the push back against the ALP into their already existing effort to reach 1,000,000 unique donors. In this sense, they are asking their email list to reach two goals: the main ask is for them to hit 1,000,000 donors and, more subtly, they’re also telling their list that it will take $10,000,000 to counter the big money influence that’s helping the Clinton campaign.

This is a very smart strategy. I hope the Obama campaign releases the dollar totals raised from this pushback campaign against the big money that’s flowing towards Hillary Clinton.

Battle of the Bad Surrogates

The last 24 hours have brought an example of god-awful surrogate work for both Democratic campaigns. Of note are Lanny Davis for the Clinton campaign and Texas state senator Kirk Watson for the Obama campaign. I’ll let you decide which is worse.First, here’s Watson.

That’s about as unprepared as I’ve ever seen an official surrogate be for a TV interview. If I’m the Obama campaign, I draw up a one page sheet of legislative accomplishments (with senate ethics legislation at the top) and make sure everyone you’d ever even remotely consider putting on TV knows it forwards and backwards. The easiest way to stop the legislative record line of attack from the Clinton campaign (peddled here by Matthews) is to quickly answer the question.

Next, here’s Clinton surrogate Lanny Davis, who compares Hillary’s position in the campaign to Joe Lieberman’s after his primary defeat to Ned Lamont.

Christopher Orr of The Plank writes:

(Unofficial) Clinton flack Lanny Davis just explained on Fox News that Barack Obama is like Ned Lamont (who, whatever you think of him, won that Democratic Senate primary), and Hillary Clinton is like Joe Lieberman (who, whatever you think of him, refused to abide by the primary result, ran and won as an independent with massive GOP support, and has subsequently endorsed John McCain). Lest anyone miss his meaning, Davis noted that he had been a devout Lieberman booster.

Now, I don’t know that there’s any scenario outside of Davis’s Lieberman-addled mind where Hillary Clinton loses the nomination and runs as an independent. The argument Davis is trying to make, I think, is that Clinton has general election appeal to Republicans and independents that Obama doesn’t have. Of course, based on what we’ve seen in open primaries, the opposite is true.

These surrogates are bad for different reasons. I doubt I would have posted either, but the combined weight of surrogate badness here just demanded attention. So – which do you think is worse?

Mark Penn, Vestige of the Past

Fred Gooltz lays out why he voted for Barack Obama. Fred had consulted on social networking strategy for the Edwards campaign, is a savvy messaging consultant, and comments here from time to time. This part of his endorsement stood out to me:

Obama because of Penn

This political movement that I work in has its roots in a bed of deep resentment that took hold of millions of Americans in the 90s. Epitomized by, a pro-censure petition email list that was equally mad at Clinton for being stupid, as it was mad at the media for being willingly played as suckers, as it was mad at the Republicans for being anti-modernity scumbags who were playing with the fate of the nation and toying with the media and punishing Democrats for existing. This is where I come from, politically.

I don’t want to go back there. We had those fights before and we lost them all.

While there’s been a lot of commentary lately about how shoddy Penn’s advice has been for Hillary Clinton, I think this gets at a more elemental reason why he and people like him are bad representatives for the Clinton campaign. The bad advice turns us back towards a sad time for our party. The people who are shaping the future of the Democratic brand are people like Fred, who grew up in the MoveOn era of evolution past Beltway insiderism.

It’s no shock that Penn’s bad advice is turning movementarians off. The question is, are people who aren’t hyper-informed political activists influenced away from Clinton because of this?

Taking The Short View

Josh Marshall points to Clinton pollster, strategist, and alleged smart person, Mark Penn:

“Could we possibly have a nominee who hasn’t won any of the significant states — outside of Illinois? That raises some serious questions about Sen. Obama.”

This is about as short a view as the Clinton campaign can be taking as far as this election goes. It’s almost as if Mark Penn doesn’t know that there’s another thing, determined by people in all fifty states, that takes place after the Democratic Convention that will have some bearing on who the next President is.

Some of Obama’s victories have come from states that have historically gone for the Republican candidate in the general election. But he’s also won a number of swing states, who will likely have a significant role in determining the outcome of the 2008 general election. Of note: Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, and Virginia.

Every state is significant in the Democratic nominating process as every state has delegates that both candidates need. Some of the states are going to be crucial to the prospects of the Democratic nominee. Discounting them now is short-sighted and has the potential to derail Clinton if she succeeds in winning the nomination in spite of Penn’s poor strategic decisions.

Presidential Politics and FISA

I want to take a moment to note that Senator Barack Obama was present and voting in favor of every amendment a majority of Democrats supported today. He did vote for the Specter-Whitehouse substitution amendment and the Feinstein “good faith” decision by the FISC, two amendments that arguably should have been opposed for their damage to the rule of law, but in the grand scheme of things his vote is acceptable.

Senator McCain was present and voting in lock-step with the Republican Party to defeat every amendment that would have improved the bill.

Senator Clinton was not present and did not vote on any amendments, nor cloture.

Today there are primary elections in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC. Senators Obama and McCain left the trail to vote in the Senate today. While I would have been happy if Mr. McCain had decided to continue to campaign, Senator Obama should be praised for coming to the Senate and vote on FISA legislation.

It would have been great to have Senator Obama use his microphone as a presidential candidate to bring attention to the legislative fight. He was not an outspoken critic of the FISA legislation, but he took time to vote the right way on a major primary election day. Good for him.


It should be noted that Senator Obama’s vote was, in the end, not critical to passing or stopping any of these amendments, as none of the amendments we wanted to pass passed and cloture was not stopped.

Update II:

Here’s Senator Obama’s statement on FISA today, via email.

“I am proud to stand with Senator Dodd, Senator Feingold and a grassroots movement of Americans who are refusing to let President Bush put protections for special interests ahead of our security and our liberty. There is no reason why telephone companies should be given blanket immunity to cover violations of the rights of the American people – we must reaffirm that no one in this country is above the law.

We can give our intelligence and law enforcement community the powers they need to track down and take out terrorists without undermining our commitment to the rule of law, or our basic rights and liberties. That is why I am proud to cosponsor several amendments that protect our privacy while making sure we have the power to track down and take out terrorists.

This Administration continues to use a politics of fear to advance a political agenda. It is time for this politics of fear to end. We are trying to protect the American people, not special interests like the telecommunications industry. We are trying to ensure that we don’t sacrifice our liberty in pursuit of security, and it is past time for the Administration to join us in that effort.”

Fair enough. Again it was great to have Obama voting today, but it would have been better to have him as a vocal partner in the fight over the last four and a half months.

Update III:

It’s worth noting that Obama voted against cloture on the SSCI bill, but skipped the vote on final passage. The bill passed handily and the presence of both Clinton and Obama to vote on final passage would not have changed the outcome.