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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.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Results of a recent Republican poll

The ajc Political Insider reports on the results of an Insider Advantage poll conducted between March 14-17:

-- Only 46 percent of Georgians approve of the way Bush is doing his job. And 48 percent disapprove.

-- In one version of a November gubernatorial match-up, Perdue gets 48 percent of the vote. Democrat Cathy Cox, the current secretary of state, gets 40 percent. A Zogby poll for the AJC in December gave Perdue a 53-37 lead over Cox.

-- In the alternative version of the November race, Perdue gets 50 percent of the vote. Democrat Mark Taylor, now lieutenant governor, scores 34 percent. The Zogby poll gave Perdue a 56-31 advantage.

-- In a head-to-head primary match-up (the margin of error increases to 6 percent), Cox leads Taylor 42 to 31 percent. (The Zogby poll did not match Cox vs. Taylor.)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Dems must satisfy their base without alienating the rest of the country. Russ Feingold’s censure bid isn’t the smartest way to do that.

Eleanor Clift in Newweek writes:

Republicans finally had something to celebrate this week when Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold called for censuring George W. Bush. Democrats must have a death wish. Just when the momentum was going against the president, Feingold pops up to toss the GOP a life raft. It’s brilliant strategy for him, a dark horse presidential candidate carving out a niche to the left of Hillary Clinton. The junior senator from New York is under attack for being too soft on Bush and the war, and most of the non-Hillarys are to her right. There is a vacuum in the heart of the party’s base that Feingold fills, but at what cost? His censure proposal looks like a stunt, “the equivalent of calling for a filibuster from Davos,” says Marshall Wittmann, a senior fellow with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. To win in ’06, he says, “Democrats need to take the Hippocratic Oath: first, do no harm.”

Just as John Kerry’s belated effort to stop Judge Samuel Alito’s confirmation to the Supreme Court failed to rally his fellow Democrats, Feingold’s move toward censure has been received like a foul odor, sending Democrats scurrying for the exits. Only two of his colleagues, Iowa’s Tom Harkin and California’s Barbara Boxer, signed on as cosponsors. And for good reason. The broader public sees it as political extremism. Just when the Republicans looked like they were coming unhinged, the Democrats serve up a refresher course on why they can’t be trusted with the keys to the country. Nor could it have come at a better time for a Republican Party still battered by bad news in the polls. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC survey, released earlier this week, shows that Bush’s job approval rating at its lowest ever—37 percent—as a majority of Americans lose confidence that the Iraq war will end successfully. The same poll shows a significant uptick in the country’s willingness to accept a Democratic Congress, with 50 percent of those questioned saying they would prefer the party to control Congress. Thirty-seven percent say they want it controlled by Republicans.

The Democrats’ dilemma is how to satisfy a restive and angry base without losing the rest of the country. “If someone proposed stringing up Bush like they did Mussolini, that would have a lot of support in the base of the party, too,” says a Democratic strategist. “But it’s not smart.” Democrats want the November election to be a plebiscite on Bush’s job performance, not a personal vendetta. “Republicans will rally round him if they think it’s a personal attack just like we did with Clinton,” warns the strategist.

Feingold has a reputation for being a principled politician who often takes positions at odds with his party. He didn’t give Senate leader Harry Reid a heads-up about his censure motion, and Democrats were caught off-guard. What the country saw wasn’t pretty, Democrats dodging and weaving and Republicans loving the whole sorry spectacle. With everything souring for the Republicans, the only thing that can rescue them is a foil, and Feingold’s call for censure offered that, at least for now. Conservative radio hosts were raising the specter of impeachment should the Democrats take over the House in November, a call to arms for the otherwise demoralized GOP base.

The joy among Republicans could only be matched in the blogosphere, where liberal Democrats cheered Feingold—a synergy that prompted the DLC's Wittmann to speculate that the right and left are codependent. But the political mixing and matching provide only a brief respite from the real politics that will determine each party’s fortunes in November. Congressional insiders say if the election were held today, the Democrats would capture 18 to 23 seats in the House. They need 15 to regain the majority. Things could get better by November, or worse, depending on your perspective.

There is talk of a possible October surprise to revive the GOP’s standing, and the fact that the biggest military air assault in Iraq since the war began came the day after Bush sank to 33 percent in a Pew poll had some Democrats suspicious. “Is it an attempt to prop up his numbers?” asks the Democratic strategist. “It’s probably not fair to think that, but it shows where we are in this presidency.”

With the war about to enter its fourth year, the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, held a seminar on “Next Steps for U.S. Policy” that featured a keynote address by former national-security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. “I favor a decision by the U.S. to leave Iraq,” Brzezinski declared. “I would ask the Iraqi leaders to ask us to leave,” he explained, adding he would talk with them first privately and “treat them as adults, not colonial wards.” He sees two parallel wars in Iraq, one is the insurgency, which is consolidating and widening, and the other is the growing sectarian violence. “We are engaged in a war of attrition,” he said, and unless the Bush administration puts in 500,000 troops—the number it would take to crush the opposition—U.S. policymakers need to make “a very cold judgment whether staying the course is likely to be more or less damaging to U.S. interests.”

Brzezinski, a hawk during the Carter administration, has emerged as a hero among progressives frustrated by their party’s unwillingness to take a stand. Democrats have been “silent or evasive” on the war, he said, offering no alternative, which is “a form of political desertion.” If Democrats don’t want to talk about censure, they could change the topic in an instant with a credible exit plan from Iraq.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The worst news of the week.

The worst news of the week was reported by Dick Pettys on Wednesday in Georgia InsiderAdvantage:

Three senior Democrats in the Georgia House said Wednesday they remain uncertain whether they will run as Democrats or Republicans when primary qualifying opens next month.

Reps. Richard Royal of Camilla, a 23-year veteran of the House, Butch Parrish of Swainsboro, in his 22nd year, and Mickey Channell of Greensboro, who has served for 14 years, all said they are undecided.

That’s a substantial brain drain from Democrats if the three qualify as Republicans, and the party’s outlook for next year is potentially worsened by planned or expected retirements. Rep. Terry Coleman, D-Eastman, the former speaker, already has said he will not seek re-election.

Royal chaired the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, Parrish headed the banking committee and Channell was chairman of industrial relations as well as the Legislature’s point-man on health care issues and Medicaid.

All three lost their titles and Capitol offices when Republicans took power two years ago but have managed to remain influential because of their expertise.

Coleman, the former Speaker, said it’s probably up to the party whether the three stay or go.

“The people you’re talking about are conservative Democrats and I think their future depends on the willingness of the Democratic Caucus and the Democratic Party to move more toward the center. If the party does and the caucus does, I think they might stay. And if the party doesn’t and the caucus doesn’t move to the center – where they (Channell, Parrish and Royal) are _ they may leave. It’s just that simple," Coleman said.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Democrat to share his victory tips - A preview of the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner

Tonight I was supposed to be at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, after attending the State Committee Meeting Monday afternoon. This got unexpectedly cancelled late Sunday evening. I sure hate missing Sen. Bayh, but the below sure makes his message sound good to me.

From the ajc:

No other Democrat looking at the 2008 presidential campaign can make the boast that Evan Bayh can: He has won five elections in a heavily Republican state by ever-increasing margins of victory. Tonight in Atlanta, the senator from Indiana plans to share with Georgia Democrats his formula for extending that winning streak to the party, in the South as well as in the Midwest.

Bayh was elected to one term as secretary of state of Indiana and two terms as governor and is in his second term in the U.S. Senate. He won re-election in 2004 by a margin of 24 percentage points, even as President Bush was carrying Indiana by an even heftier margin.

"Same day, same voters," Bayh said in an interview in his Senate office late last week to discuss his upcoming speech at the Georgia Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner. "And if we take the same approach, we can win in Georgia, just like we've won in Indiana."

It isn't a revolutionary approach. According to Bayh, all it takes is holding the Democratic base and reaching out to independent voters and to what he describes as "reasonable Republicans" who recognize that "we're all in this together, and we need to make progress."

The biggest problem for Democrats, though, is Democrats themselves, Bayh said.

"Some people vote against the Democratic Party because of the substantive positions we take," he said. "But I think there's a fair number of people who vote against our candidates because of how they perceive the way we express what it is we believe. There's a sense that we're a little condescending, a little elitist. And folks will never vote for you if they think you're looking down your nose at them."

Especially in the South — "and in the Midwest," Bayh added.

Cultural issues such as abortion will remain as divisive as ever, he said, but they don't have to be as explosive as they are now. He noted, for example, that in his last election, he got the support of 45 percent of anti-abortion evangelicals because "I treat people with respect," especially when there is disagreement.

Still, acknowledging differences and seeking common ground with opponents can take Democrats only so far, Bayh conceded. They still have to overcome a big hurdle with voters, one that has plagued them for decades: the sense that they are not as capable or as vigilant as Republicans in matters of national security.

"Being tough and being smart on national security, that's clearly a threshold issue with us," Bayh said. "People need to know they can trust Democrats with their lives. If people don't trust us with their lives, they're unlikely to trust us with anything else."

The next presidential nominee of the Democratic Party is going to have to approach the issue head on, he said. And that nominee is going to have to convince voters of three things: "We know it's a dangerous world, the current administration has done much to undermine our national security, we can do better."

Democratic Group Endorses Plan for More Early Primaries

The New York Times reports:

An influential Democratic committee on Saturday endorsed the idea of adding as many as four state primaries and caucuses to the early presidential nominating season, now dominated by Iowa and New Hampshire.

The goal, they said, was to add more racial, ethnic, regional and economic diversity to the process of choosing a Democratic nominee.

Iowa, whose caucus marks the opening of the nominating season, and New Hampshire, which holds the first primary, have long been criticized as far too homogeneous and atypical to exercise such a powerful influence over the process.

Back-to-back victories in those states can set a candidate on a glide path to the nomination — as they did for Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts in 2004 — before the bigger and more diverse states weigh in.

The voice vote came before the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee. Only the representative from New Hampshire, which has long guarded its place in the calendar, voted against the plan, which was recommended by a party commission in December.

Under the plan, Iowa and New Hampshire would still hold their traditional places as the first caucus and primary. But up to two states would be allowed to hold caucuses after Iowa but before New Hampshire. And one or two other states would be allowed to hold primaries after New Hampshire, but before Feb. 5, the formal start of the season for the rest of the nation. Committee officials said they would seek applications from states interested in these slots.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Democrats' Data Mining Stirs an Intraparty Battle - With Private Effort on Voter Information, Ickes and Soros Challenge Dean and DNC

The Washington Post reports:

A group of well-connected Democrats led by a former top aide to Bill Clinton is raising millions of dollars to start a private firm that plans to compile huge amounts of data on Americans to identify Democratic voters and blunt what has been a clear Republican lead in using technology for political advantage.

The effort by Harold Ickes, a deputy chief of staff in the Clinton White House and an adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), is prompting intense behind-the-scenes debate in Democratic circles. Officials at the Democratic National Committee think that creating a modern database is their job, and they say that a competing for-profit entity could divert energy and money that should instead be invested with the national party.

Ickes and others involved in the effort acknowledge that their activities are in part a vote of no confidence that the DNC under Chairman Howard Dean is ready to compete with Republicans on the technological front. "The Republicans have developed a cadre of people who appreciate databases and know how to use them, and we are way behind the march," said Ickes, whose political technology venture is being backed by financier George Soros.

In the 2003-2004 election cycle, the DNC began building a national voter file, and it proved highly effective in raising money. Because of many technical problems, however, it was not useful to state and local organizations trying to get out the vote.

The pressure on Democrats to begin more aggressive "data mining" in the hunt for votes began after the 2002 midterm elections and intensified after the 2004 presidential contest, when the GOP harnessed data technology to powerful effect.

In 2002, for the first time in recent memory, Republicans ran better get-out-the-vote programs than Democrats. When well done, such drives typically raise a candidate's Election Day performance by two to four percentage points. Democrats have become increasingly fearful that the GOP is capitalizing on high-speed computers and the growing volume of data available from government files and consumer marketing firms -- as well as the party's own surveys -- to better target potential supporters.

The Republican database has allowed the party and its candidates to tailor messages to individual voters and households, using information about the kind of magazines they receive, whether they own guns, the churches they attend, their incomes, their charitable contributions and their voting histories.

Quinn, who will be chief executive of Data Warehouse, [has] hired technology specialists from internet retailer Amazon.com and a Harvard-Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer project.

Quinn had worked on the voter file program under McAuliffe, but Dean brought in his own people after he took over in early 2005.

These included former Dean presidential campaign workers who formed a company called Blue State Digital, now under contract with the DNC.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Democratic candidates for Congress see a variety of Republican vulnerabilities but disagree on what will be a winning formula

The New York Times reports:

[S]cattershot messages reflect what officials in both parties say are vulnerabilities among Republicans on Capitol Hill, as well as President Bush's weakened political condition in this election year.

But they also reflect splits within the party about what it means to be a Democrat — and what a winning Democratic formula will be — after years in which conservative ideas have dominated the national policy debate and helped win elections.

And they complicate the basic strategy being pursued by Democratic leaders in Washington to capture control of Congress: to turn this election into a national referendum on the party in power, much the way Republicans did against Democrats in 1994.

And while Democrats have no shortage of criticism to offer, they have so far not introduced a strategy for governing along the lines of the Republican Party's Contract With America, the 1994 initiative that some Democrats hold up as their model for this year's elections.

"If you're going to run a national campaign," as the Republicans did in 1994, Dr. Jones said, "it's helpful to have a message, not just 'The other guys don't know what they are doing.' If Democrats are using that strategy, I haven't heard that message yet."

Republican leaders, while acknowledging concern about the political environment for their party, said Democrats were paying a price for being out of power and failing to propose their own program of ideas. Representative Thomas M. Reynolds of New York, the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Democrats were throwing things "against the wall to see what will stick."

From the perspective of the country's mood, Democrats could hardly ask for a more hospitable environment, analysts said. There is strong discontent among voters with the way Mr. Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have led the country. Corruption investigations have implicated Republican members of Congress. There is anxiety over the war in Iraq and distress among retirees over the new Medicare prescription drug program.

But Democratic ambitions have run up against a diminished political playing field, narrowed by states' partisan redistricting efforts that have put the vast majority of Congressional seats out of play.

Of 435 House seats, just 32 are in races considered competitive, compared with 110 at this time in 1994, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Of those, 11 are held by Democrats and 21 by Republicans.

"Congress's approval rating is a little flat. . .. " "My self-esteem wants to see it a little higher. But it is what it is. The most important thing is people love their congressman, no matter what."

Of all the differences between now and 1994, perhaps most notable is that 12 years ago, 69 seats held by Democrats were up for grabs at this stage of the election cycle, compared with 21 Republican seats today.

But Amy Walter, an analyst for the Cook Political Report, said that as many as 25 additional Republican seats could become competitive by November. In most of those districts, Ms. Walter said, Democrats have good candidates in place.

Philip A. Klinkner, an associate professor of political science at Hamilton College in New York, said conditions were historically right for the Congressional election to turn on national issues.

"You tend to see it at times when you have really unpopular presidents or really popular presidents," Dr. Klinkner said.

As they try to encourage this development, Democrats have experimented with several themes: corruption in Washington, Medicare, a Republican Congress acting as a rubber stamp for the president, governmental incompetence and what Mr. Emanuel, borrowing a phrase from his former boss at the White House, President Bill Clinton, described as a choice between "change and more of the same."

Democrats pointed out that Republicans did not offer their Contract With America until the final weeks of the 1994 campaign and said that they were planning to offer their own version by summer.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Democratic Leaders Question Whether Dean's Right on the Money

The Washington Post reports:

Democratic congressional leaders aren't happy with the way Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean is spending money. At a private meeting last month, they let him know.

Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) challenged the former Vermont governor during a session in Pelosi's office, according to Democratic sources. The leaders complained about Dean's priorities -- funding organizers for state parties in strongly Republican states such as Mississippi -- rather than targeting states with crucial races this fall.

Neither side was willing to give ground, according to several accounts of the meeting. Dean argued that his strategy is designed to rebuild the party across the country, and that he had pledged to do so when he ran for party chairman. Reid and Pelosi countered that if Democrats squander their opportunities this year, longer-term organizing efforts will not matter much.

Democratic congressional leaders are particularly worried because the Republican National Committee holds a huge financial advantage over the DNC. One congressional Democrat complained that Dean has -- at an alarming rate -- burned through the money the DNC raised, and that Republicans may be able to swamp Democrats in close races with an infusion of RNC money.

In its most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission, the DNC reported raising $50.1 million so far in the 2005-2006 cycle and had $5.8 million cash on hand at the end of last year. The RNC had raised $103 million and had $34 million cash on hand.

Dean has won friends among state party leaders for his efforts to underwrite the hiring of organizers in states where Republicans have been winning in presidential races. Dean campaigned for the DNC chairmanship by pledging to make Democrats competitive in all 50 states, not just in the 16 to 18 presidential battlegrounds. One congressional Democrat responded: "Nobody's suggesting they do 16 states, but not all states are equal."

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bill Clinton and W

Un-Explainer in Chief -- Bill Clinton's gift (and curse) was that he could explain just about anything. George Bush, on the other hand, distrusts public talk.

By Howard Fineman

I first saw Bill Clinton perform at a National Governors Conference 22 years ago in Nashville. I was NEWSWEEK's brand new political correspondent; Clinton was in his second term as "boy governor" of Arkansas. He was carrying Chelsea in his arms as we all played tourist, filing respectfully through Andrew Jackson's Hermitage. I pointed to Clinton and told my wife that I thought he'd be president some day.

Unfortunately, for me and the magazine, I didn't commit that guess to print in the spring of 1984. But it didn't take a seer to understand his talent.

Well, I saw Clinton at another governors association meeting the other day, and I had to agree when a Democrat whispered to me, "You know, if the Constitution allowed it, that guy could get elected again."

Only Elvis could mesmerize a ballroom full of politicians with a lecture on the economics of cooking fast-food French fries. But that's precisely what he did at the governors' gathering here. His riff ("They could cook 'em in olive oil, of course, which would be healthy, but it would be prohibitively expensive....") was part of an hourlong, impromptu aria on the health-care crisis facing the country.

Deeply (almost comically) up to speed on details of the issue, he effortlessly wove the disparate strands—from insurance-industry profits to the chemistry of fat digestion to the history of the Department of Agriculture crop programs—into a comprehensible whole.

That was his gift and his curse: he could explain (almost) anything.

Clinton's performance reminded me of the leadership strengths—and weaknesses—of his baby-boomer successor. George W. Bush is in choppy water over the Dubai ports issue. And he is so, in large part, because, unlike Clinton, he is a man of bullet points, not explanations; of slogans, not systems; of certitude, not complexity.

I've known Bush for a long time and I know that he distrusts talk, at least public talk. He'd rather make a decision—give an order—and then go out and attack a felled tree with a chain saw. He is confident to the point of arrogance when he makes a "tough call." But he objects by nature to the demand that he explain his reasoning or the process behind it.

Why he is this way, I don't quite know. In part, perhaps, it's a sense of entitlement that comes from being a fourth-generation national leader (counting his great-grandfather, Samuel Bush, an Ohio industrialist who founded the National Manufacturers' Association).

Another reason is his father's political saga. Junior hated watching his dad's painfully compulsive need to explain himself in public and vowed: not me. Then there's West Texas, where Bush learned his social Tough Guy ways on the playgrounds of Sam Houston Elementary and San Jacinton Junior High, and then later at the Midland Petroleum Club. The ethic out there is to distrust talkers. You shake hands.

Finally, there is Bush's tongue-tied-in-public nature. He's unsure of himself without a simple script.

It's almost as if Microsoft had George W. Bush in mind when they invented PowerPoint.

The man-of-few-words approach has its virtues, and they matched the moment in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and, for the most part, since. Bush's deep belief in his vision of global democratization, coupled with the eloquence of speeches crafted for state occasions by Michael Gerson, carried the day. Dazed and confused and searching for old verities after the terrorist attacks, I think most Americans found some comfort in Bush the Growling Cowboy.

That time has passed, though. The main reason of course, is that the simple, black-and-white solutions that the president sketched for us in the "war on terror" haven't materialized. Most Americans now consider the war in Iraq to have been a mistake, one that has made us less secure here in what is now called "the homeland." They see his Manichaean clarity not as a comfort, but as a danger—because it underestimates the complexity of the real world. There are many more moving parts to consider in the world than the simple clockwork Bush had described.

So after years of saying how fundamentally simple and stark things were—Good Guys and Bad Guys, Good and Evil, freedom and slavery, light and darkness—the president has suddenly had to concede, or propose, that the Dubai port deal is all about the complexities of the real world, of globalized commerce, of leases and not ownership, of friendly Middle Easterners versus enemy Middle Easterners, of friends who recognize Israel, and friends who don't—and won't, perhaps ever.

The administration will take 45 days to try to describe why the Dubai deal is a good thing for the country. But it'll take an army of explainers to do the trick—and you won't hear the president do it in a prime-time speech.

Suddenly, it's a complicated, gray world out there: the kind that a Bill Clinton would feel at home in, and could explain.

Shipp: Ask almost any Georgian why they might favor Republicans.

Bill Shipp writes:

Ask almost any Georgian why they might favor Republicans. They're likely to say they lean toward the GOP because it is the "conservative" party. Oh? The national Republican administration has run up a record deficit, engaged in a costly and bloody foreign war and declined to enforce federal immigration laws. On the state level, Gov. Sonny Perdue is proposing record-high state borrowing and usurping local control of schools in a half-dozen important management areas. GOP officials are sponsoring creation of new local government entities in a state already overburdened with 159 counties and hundreds of revenue-starved municipalities.

To many old-timers, those Republican efforts smack of out-of-control liberalism.

Democrats have equally serious problems. Their last presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry, might have won the 2004 election - if he had been from this planet. He appeared so far out and so uncertain on important issues that he frightened many otherwise rational Democrats into voting for the re-election of President George W. Bush.

Though Democrats claim to be the party of "all the people," interested in health care and social uplift, the litmus test for serious national Democrats is whether they support abortion rights. For many independent voters, abortion rights are not even on their political monitors.

In some parts of Georgia, "Democrat" has become a code word for "black," thanks in part to the "max black" redistricting efforts of key African-American Democrats such as Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.

As a result, many believe the Democratic Party has abandoned its historic "big tent" role and serves mainly minority interests.