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Cracker Squire


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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Michael Thurmond running for Lt. Gov.?

According to Bill Shipp's InsiderAdvantage Georgia, state Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond says he will decide after the holidays whether to jump into the lieutenant governor's race.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

File this under the truth, and nothing but the truth - Don't Be Fooled by Bush Polls, Democratic Council Warns

From The Washington Post:

Rising public frustration with the Iraq war and low approval ratings for President Bush look to many Democrats like an opportunity for big gains with voters in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

But two of the party's top strategists say this opportunity may be something else: a trap.

Al From, president of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, and pollster Mark Penn wrote a strategy memo to DLC supporters last week warning party leaders not to use Bush's problems as an invitation to call for an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, or generally to steer a more liberal course that could alienate the middle-of-the-road voters the party needs.

"It is important for Democrats to understand that despite Bush's decline, America remains a moderate to conservative country -- particularly on economic and security measures," the two wrote. While a poll taken by Penn for the DLC showed voters opposing the Iraq war 54 to 44 percent, they warned that "Democratic leaders could be playing with political dynamite if they call for an immediate pullout of American troops."

The memo is the latest illustration of deep divisions among Democrats over the right stance on Iraq -- on policy and political grounds. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who supports a rapid withdrawal starting now, has estimated that half the Democratic caucus agrees with her.

From and Penn said the most defensible ground for Democrats is a middle path: rejecting deadlines for troop withdrawal but endorsing "clear benchmarks" to measure progress and hold Bush accountable for the results.

The DLC has been arguing since its inception 20 years ago that the party needs to transcend its liberal activists and traditional interest groups to be electable nationally, a message that has rarely varied with any new issue or circumstance. From and Penn say the latest evidence still supports them.

In Penn's survey, 13 percent of voters said they would favor a "liberal Democrat" for president, and 43 percent of independent voters said they regard the party as "too liberal." Forty-two percent of these unaligned voters also said they perceive the party as becoming more liberal.

While the problems of Bush and Republicans have "opened the door" for Democrats, Penn and From wrote, to take advantage of this "Democrats need to capture the vital center and bring an abrupt halt to what voters see as the party's drift to the left."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Clinton vs. Warner - Will the Virginia governor slow Hillary’s march toward the Democratic nomination?

Eleanor Clift writes in Newsweek:

If Hillary Clinton had asked my advice, I would have told her that cosponsoring a bill to make flag burning a crime is one step too far on her journey to the middle. Obviously, she feels strong enough in her appeal to Democrats that she can afford her Sister Souljah moment without endangering her core support.

Clinton learned a valuable lesson during the ’92 presidential race when her husband took on the black rapper for her lyrics, an act of defiance against his party’s entrenched liberal base. Given her history, it makes political sense for Hillary to send cultural signals that she’s much more conservative than her caricature. Still, her tap dance toward the right carries a cost.

It may not be determinative, but she’s got to figure into her calculations an almost certain challenge from the left. Hillary’s pandering on the flag is an open invitation for Al Gore to call MoveOn.org, a ready base of progressive support for the former veep should he decide to enter the race. Gore could be formidable as the vessel for antiwar sentiment in the primaries.

It’s not just the left-right thing that could slow Hillary’s march to the nomination. It’s the transparency of what she’s doing that has even her biggest fans worried. It doesn’t look authentic. If primary voters conclude they need a Red State friendly candidate, Virginia Gov. Mark Warner is the real thing. Why settle for Red State-lite Hillary? Warner is already where he needs to be on the right, and he’s inching to the left, an easier task all around. Warner’s commutation of the death sentence of a convicted killer earlier this month won plaudits from everybody. It was the right move substantively and politically—substantively because a court clerk had destroyed DNA evidence that in theory could have established innocence, politically because it allows Warner to present himself in a more nuanced way to liberal primary voters.

If there’s a formula for electing a Democrat president, Warner is the latest iteration. Like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, he’s a son of the South, although by way of Indiana, Illinois and Connecticut. Warner was not born in Virginia, but his cultural adaptation has been flawless. While national Democrats championed gun control, Warner actually loosened gun laws in Virginia. Fresh from helping elect a Democrat as his successor, Warner was a guest speaker at the Gridiron winter dinner in Washington last weekend, along with Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham. The annual event is an occasion for journalists to size up political talent and for politicians to show they have a sense of humor. Graham, a natural raconteur, got everybody laughing when he remarked that if he lasts as long as his predecessor, the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, his future wife will be born next year. Warner’s introducer joked that the only thing you can’t do with a gun in Virginia is fire it in a library without a silencer.

Warner is an appealing figure in a Jimmy Stewart kind of way—boyishly lanky with a toothy smile that he good-naturedly complained one journalist likened to “mah-jongg tiles.” He made a lot of money in cell phones before going into politics and noted that every time others hear that annoying ring in public places, he hears k-ching, k-ching. Warner is a political novice compared to Hillary, but he’s shown a deft feel for the cultural obstacles that trip up Democrats. A key to his winning the governor’s race four years ago was his sponsorship of a team in the NASCAR Truck Series. It would have been a bit much to present himself as a devotee of stock-car racing, but he let NASCAR fans know he respected their culture. He did not venture beyond the line of authenticity, and it paid off.

The leading liberal blog, Daily Kos, says forget Hillary: “Warner is the one to watch.” It must drive Hillary bats to watch Warner glide seamlessly left while her lurches to the right are cast as opportunism. Hillary risks running the last campaign, or rather four campaigns ago, when candidate Bill Clinton interrupted his travels to go home to Arkansas and preside over the execution of a mentally retarded inmate whose last wish was to save his dessert for later. Warner’s political needs are different than Clinton’s were in ’92, but Warner is also operating in a changed environment when it comes to capital punishment.

The death penalty is under assault because of technology and the use of DNA evidence, along with growing moral qualms about the way it is applied. Warner’s successor in Virginia, Tim Kaine, turned his opposition to the death penalty into a plus. Warner can have it both ways; he presided over 11 executions in his four years as governor, so he’s no wuss. His challenge is to demonstrate expertise in national security, which he doesn’t have. Democrats want to win, and they’ll abandon Hillary in a New York minute if they think there’s a new more competitive model coming on line.

2006 Looms as a Test Of National vs. Local Issues

The Washington Post reports:

"All politics is local," the late House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) liked to say. He should have added, "except when it isn't."

As both major parties gear up for the 2006 midterm elections, a crucial strategic divide is emerging in the battle for the House. Democrats -- led by Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- are insisting that national issues such as the war in Iraq, corruption in Congress and President Bush's approval ratings will be dominant in voters' minds next year. Republicans insist recent history shows that local issues, not national waves, determine who wins.

Who's right? That won't be known until next November, but both sides are busy marshaling their arguments for a campaign likely to be watched closely as political scientists and operatives study the effectiveness of "nationalizing" midterm elections.

The Democratic view is summed up by a memo that Emanuel distributed to colleagues earlier this month, offering his marching orders for the midterms.

He thinks two words will doom GOP incumbents: "rubber stamp." He wants Democratic candidates to make their opponents pay for being consistent backers of President Bush's agenda over his first 4 1/2 years. Bush's low national approval ratings, by these lights, leave anyone identified with him in a precarious position.

"The DCCC 'rubber stamp' message is also a strategic lynch pin in our goal to nationalize the elections," writes Emanuel. "A nationalized election labeling Republicans as rubber stamps and Democrats as agents of change is absolutely key to our success in 2006."

Democrats recently released a study showing that congressional Republicans have voted with the president at a higher rate than any majority party in the past 25 years. The DCCC also funded radio ads last month seeking to paint three Ohio Republicans -- Reps. Deborah Pryce, Steven C. LaTourette and Steve Chabot -- as lockstep supporters of Bush.

To hear Emanuel tell it, Republicans have two choices: adopt a national message of their own to blunt what Democrats are doing, or say, "We don't know George Bush, never met him."

Count the National Republican Congressional Committee's communications director, Carl Forti, as unconvinced by Emanuel's reasoning.

"Mr. Emanuel is spinning more than when he was a ballerina," Forti cracked, a reference to the Illinois congressman's training as a dancer.
To Forti, nationalized elections are so last decade; he noted that the last time a party tried to push a national theme was in 1998 when House Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich (Ga.) as speaker, cast the election as a referendum on the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. That strategy "failed miserably," said Forti; Democrats picked up five House seats.

Forti cited what is for GOP operatives becoming a familiar refrain: House members do not lose races because of something that another politician may or may not have done. "People don't go into a voting booth to pull a lever for Bush or anti-Bush or Republican versus Democrat," he said. "They go into the voting booth to vote for a person."

Are recent negative comments by Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean as well as Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) regarding the war in Iraq demoralizing U.S. troops and emboldening the enemy? The Republican National Committee seems to thinks so.

An Internet ad (read: video news release designed to gin up the party's base) released late last week by the RNC casts remarks by Dean, Boxer and Kerry as evidence that the Democratic plan for Iraq is "retreat and defeat."

A white flag waves over an image of Dean as he says that "the idea we are going to win this war is an idea, unfortunately, that is just plain wrong." More white-flag waving accompanies Boxer's call for a withdrawal of troops beginning after Thursday's Iraqi parliamentary elections and Kerry's assertion that U.S. troops are unnecessarily going into "the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids, children, women."

An on-screen billboard, which, as the camera pans back, is being read by a soldier scolds: "Our soldiers are watching, and our enemies are too. Message to Democrats . . . retreat and defeat is not an option."

"If personal attacks helped us fight terrorism, Osama bin Laden would be dead right now instead of recruiting new terrorists," DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney said.


I cringed when I heard what Dean had said last week. The man's job description does not include being the party's spokesman and giving the Republicans something to throw back in our collective face and take the national focus off of President Bush and his screwups and problems as we go into 2006.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Shipp: Primary could doom Democrats in Georgia's governor's race

Bill Shipp writes:

Morton Brilliant sounds like the name of a superhero in a comic book designed for brainy kids.

In real life, Morton Brilliant manages Cathy Cox's campaign for governor. Whether the nationally known Democratic consultant can live up to his name is about to be tested.

Rick Dent, a veteran of both Democratic and Republican campaigns, handles Mark Taylor's campaign chores.

Dent and Brilliant face the daunting task of directing their candidates' strategies for the party primary to determine Gov. Sonny Perdue's challenger in the 2006 election.

On paper, either Democratic candidate appears to have a fighting chance of unseating the state's first modern-era Republican governor. Polls suggest any statewide Democratic candidate, regardless of competence or qualifications, has 40 percent of the vote safely in tow when the polls open. The Democratic nominee's foremost challenge is finding the additional 5 percent needed for a winning plurality.

In reality, the political variables are so numerous that either Cox or Taylor must be considered a long shot against a passive incumbent.

A vicious primary battle could leave the Democratic candidate so battered and discredited that the party's nomination would not be worth having. Gov. Perdue, presently unopposed in the primary, could waltz to a second term in the Nov. 7, 2006, election.

State Democratic chairman Bobby Kahn says, predictably, that unity will prevail after the primary. "Mark's supporters will help Cathy, and Cathy's people will go for Mark, depending on who wins the primary. Democrats are unified in their dedication to defeating Perdue," Kahn contends.

Both Democrats are raising hefty campaign war chests, which mean the airwaves will be loaded with Cox and Taylor commercials next spring. The runners are noted for waging effective media campaigns.

However, the first skirmish may be fought beyond the TV lights.
Successfully wooing African-American leaders to influence the black vote is the key to a Democratic primary victory. Black voters are expected to account for slightly more than 50 percent of the ballots in the Democratic primary on July 18, 2006.

Cox has gained the endorsement of legendary UGA football star Herschel Walker, who has wide appeal among whites as well as blacks.

Taylor counts among his enthusiastic supporters former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and, perhaps more important, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.

Though the controversial McKinney is widely disliked in the conservative white community, she has shown an almost magical touch in turning out the black vote, especially in densely populated south DeKalb County.

McKinney's turnout talents were crucial to Gov. Zell Miller's election victories in the 1990s. Without McKinney's help with DeKalb County voters, the Georgia lottery referendum - Miller's main campaign theme - would have failed in 1992.

Watching Taylor and Cox maneuver to sew up the black vote, without alienating white supporters, should be fascinating.

Then there's the immigration problem. How will the candidates treat that potential bombshell in their primary campaigns? Nonaligned pollsters say illegal immigration is an issue that resonates across racial and political lines. Just about everybody wants something done about it.

Ranking Republicans stand accused of permitting and even encouraging illegal immigration to help their big-business allies. Nevertheless, some Democrats (and local Republicans, too) are loath to join the anti-immigration cause. They are fearful the issue, especially at the state level, may morph into a magnet for extremists.

Taylor and Cox will have to walk a fine line to prevent immigration from becoming a lose-lose campaign issue.

Supporters of both candidates find perverse hope in the Democratic ballot numbers from the 2004 election, when their party fielded the weakest slate of candidates in memory. Wishy-washy Sen. John Kerry won 41 percent of the Georgia vote against President Bush. In the race for the U.S. Senate, Denise Majette, claiming to receive political advice directly from God, managed to win four out of 10 ballots (1.3 million votes) against Johnny Isakson, a well-known and popular Republican.

Next year, state Democrats believe they can recapture the governor's seat by attracting angry independent voters and even some disillusioned Republicans - if Morton Brilliant and Rick Dent can help Cox and Taylor avoid mutual destruction in the midsummer primary.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Times-Herald of Newnan, Coweta County writes: Cox winning over Republican voters

From The Times Herald:

Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox, a Democrat, brought her campaign for governor to Coweta County this week for a fund-raiser reception.

A Democrat raising money in Republican territory? Yes, indeed. Some strong local Republicans, including former Republican state lawmakers Donna Brooks and Neal Shepard, were among those who were hosts for the event. Both praised Cox and said they thought she would make a good governor.

Cox is expected to do battle with Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor in the Democratic Primary next year. The winner of that battle will take on Gov. Sonny Perdue, who will be seeking a second term in office.

If Cox beats Taylor, and we think she will, we suspect there may be a lot of Republicans who will find the woman from Bainbridge, Ga., a better choice than Perdue.

Even at the Cox fund-raiser, negative comments about the Perdue administration were plentiful.

Shepard said he was excited when Perdue was elected but has since been disappointed.

Coweta Commissioner Leigh Schlumper took a jab at Perdue: "We don't always need a lot of the governor's time down here, but we'd at least like to get in to see him for a few minutes from time to time. Let me just say our access has been very limited. I think we will do much better with Cathy Cox."

We've heard others -- both locally and around the state -- expressing greater disappointment with Perdue.

It's still a long time until next November's general election for governor. But we sense Cathy Cox is already courting and winning over some Georgia Republican voters.

Bill Clinton on Iraq.

The Washington Post reports in an article entitled "Democrats Find Iraq Alternative Is Elusive - Party's Elite Differ on How to Shift U.S. Policy:"

The uncertainty among Democrats is reflected by the most prominent former policymaker of all -- Bill Clinton. In an interview on CNN last week, he used words that suggested strong disagreement with the administration: "I didn't agree with what was done when it was done, but we are where we are."

But he was vague on his proposed remedy. "We don't want to set a fixed timetable if that led to chaos" and a terrorist haven in the Middle East, he said. But he added, "It seems to me the best thing to do is to heed the wishes of all the leaders of Iraq . . . who say they want us to draw down our forces."