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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.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Marshall: “If it turns out one of them is an ax murderer or something like that I’ll make a choice. Otherwise, I don’t think I need to get involved."

Tom Crawford of Capitol Impact has his weekly column entitled "It Could Be a Race After All." In his column he writes:

By campaigning in Georgia and driving up turnout among African-American voters, Obama could also help other Democratic candidates on the ballot even if he does not win the state himself. There are two down-ballot races that could be affected by this: the congressional battles involving Democrats Jim Marshall of Macon and John Barrow of Savannah (assuming that Barrow is able to fend off Democratic primary challenger Regina Thomas).

Marshall and Barrow are trying to hang onto congressional seats in conservative districts with substantial numbers of Republican voters. A strong effort by the Obama campaign could help them enormously in defending those seats.

I am curious how my friend Jim Marshall would react to this observation. Unlike Barrow who was on the Obama bandwagon early and was rewarded by an an unusual endorsement from Obama in a contested primary election (see story), Marshall, you recall, has said he does not need to get involved in the Obama-McCain contest (see this story and this story).

Marshall is playing it safe, worrying about his own re-election, and saying things like he admires both Obama and McCain.

And as noted in the above first linked story on this matter, Marshall’s lack of involvement in presidential politics could go even deeper than just saying he feels no obligaton to state a preference. Recently Marshall's spokesman said it was yet to be determined whether Marshall would go to Denver for the Democratic National Convention. (If this occurs, it will be history repeating itself. Former Georgia governor and U.S. senator Herman Talmadge habitually scheduled alleged fishing trips that conflicted with Democratic conventions in order to avoid public association with people the folks at home deemed questionable (think, for example, George McGovern in 1972).)

In Barrow's district blacks make up more than 40 percent of registered voters, mainly in urban areas around Savannah and Augusta. Without question this statistic contributed to Barrow's early endorsement of Obama in February.

But Marshall's district is less than one-third black, and he needs the support of white Republicans to win, including votes from the military community around Robins Air Force Base.

So, back to Tom Crawford's comment that a "strong effort by the Obama campaign could help" Marshall. Would it, or might Marshall be concerned about how his working-class white constituents will react to a black presidential candidate.

One thing is for sure. Marshall being a fence-sitter boils down to political necessity. As evidenced by his last election where he won by about 1,800 votes, he could once again be a vulnerable Democrat in a conservative-leaning district who must justifiably take pains to avoid aligning himself closely with the national party and being linked to Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi and Jeremiah Wright.

As in his prior campaigns, I for one wish him well.

Great stuff: A New Political Geography -- Role Reversals in Virginia and West Virginia Reflect National Shifts

From The Washington Post:

When Sen. Barack Obama chose the Nissan Pavilion in the outer suburbs of Northern Virginia to kick off his general-election campaign, one of the 10,000 supporters there was David Bruzas, who recently moved to the fastest-growing part of a state that is moving rapidly away from its Republican past.

"Being in this area has made me a lot more politically in tune with what's going on," said Bruzas, 27, a systems engineer from Illinois who moved to Fairfax County to work for Cisco Systems in 2005. "And I identify with Obama."

Only a few hours west on Route 50, in the old railroad town of Grafton, W.Va., the political world is spinning in the other direction. West Virginia, traditionally Democratic, was one of only six states that voted for Jimmy Carter in 1980 and one of 10 that voted for Michael Dukakis in 1988, but in recent years it went twice for George W. Bush, and Obama's prospects there are poor.

The emerging political reversals of the two Virginias are part of a national shift that has been underway for at least a decade and is expected to reveal itself more clearly than ever this November. As the gap grows between places that are prospering and those that are not, Democrats are strengthening their hold in major metropolitan areas, particularly in places faring well in the technology-driven economy.

In 1976, Republican Gerald R. Ford won 10 of the 12 states with the highest per-capita income but lost the election; in 2004, John F. Kerry did the same for the Democrats. The two states won by Republicans? Virginia and Colorado, Obama's top targets, though victory is far from assured, given that vast parts of both remain strongly conservative.

Republicans, meanwhile, are consolidating their hold in rural areas and small cities, while making inroads in struggling Appalachian and Rust Belt regions that were a core of the Democratic base.

The trend generally bodes well for Democrats. Major metro areas are growing faster than the country as a whole, the party's strength with young voters promises a lasting edge, and well-off, highly educated urban voters are valuable campaign contributors in the Internet age. The weak economy and soaring gas prices could accelerate the shift if more Americans move closer to urban hubs in search of good jobs and shorter commutes.

But the Democrats' ascendance in prosperous areas leaves them with weak spots in key swing states such as Ohio. And it presents questions about their identity: The party that fought for the little guy against the party of the wealthy has, while still representing racial minorities, increasingly become defined by the metropolitan middle and upper-middle class.

Theorists have spent years debating what is behind the shift, but they generally agree that the parties are in a cycle in which each plays to its emerging strengths. By pressing issues such as gun rights and same-sex marriage, Republicans tightened their grip on the South and snared such states as West Virginia, but lost many business-minded voters and alienated areas such as Fairfax County, where one in seven Virginians live.

In elevating coastal liberals including Kerry (Mass.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) as party standard-bearers, Democrats advanced in their strongholds -- Kerry did better in big cities in 2004 than Al Gore had in 2000, while faring worse overall.

The gap first became apparent in the red-blue map of the 2000 election, but this year's version could represent an even more radical realization of the divide. The Bush presidency has widened the gap, as many suburban voters deserted the Republican Party in the 2006 congressional elections. And it would be hard to find a pair better positioned to clarify the split, and show which segment holds sway in 2008, than Obama and Sen. John McCain.

Obama, 46, offers himself as someone who can transcend the red-blue divides of the past decade. But the biracial senator from Illinois epitomizes the new Democratic coalition, with his years living abroad and in big cities, his intellectualism and his urbane flair, and his campaign's lofty rhetoric and Internet savvy.

McCain, 71, lacks Bush's ties with evangelical Christians, yet the Republican from Arizona still embodies a more traditional America, with his wartime heroism, his mantra of service over individualism and his admittedly limited technological literacy.

Obama recently greeted his wife with a fist-bump; McCain said he was vetting possible running mates with "a Google."

'A Realignment'

The transformation goes beyond politics. As the distance between the rich and the poor grows, so too does the gap between regions. In places such as Northern Virginia, success has fed on itself, as firms seek educated workers and proximity to rivals and clients, and people with college degrees flock to the opportunities. Such areas are also seeing a surge in foreign-born residents, who favor Democrats.

In places such as West Virginia, manufacturing and mining have been decimated by automation and foreign competition, and hopes for reinvention are undermined by the stream of young people leaving. "There is a realignment going on here. It's a long-term shift that has to do with the economic decline in some areas in the modern economy," said Larry Bartels, a political scientist at Princeton University.

At the same time, like-minded voters are clustering together, making the split shaped more by culture and region than by class. The most Republican area of West Virginia is its eastern panhandle, where Washington area workers have fled Northern Virginia's high costs of living and more liberal bent.

"Democratic areas are sopping up people with BA degrees; Republican areas are sopping up white people without degrees. Church membership is declining in Democratic areas and increasing in red counties," said Bill Bishop, author of "The Big Sort." "There are all these things telling people they should be around people like themselves. And every four years, this has political consequences."

Overall, the most wealthy are still more likely to vote for GOP candidates, particularly in red states, where it is the rich, not the working class, who are most reliably Republican. The split is more evident in education and vocation, with professionals and voters with post-graduate degrees trending Democratic.

But in general, where economic dynamism is concentrated, Democrats are gaining. Bishop found that Gore and Kerry did much better in the 21 metro areas that produced the most new patents than in less tech-oriented cities. Virginia Tech demographer Robert E. Lang found that Kerry did better in the 20 metro areas most linked to the global economy -- based on business networks, shipping and airport activity -- than in metro areas as a whole.

Affluent suburbs that were once solidly Republican have edged toward a split or turned Democratic, threatening to put big states out of the GOP's reach for good: Bergen County, N.J., and New York's Long Island; the "collar" counties outside Chicago; Montgomery and Bucks counties outside Philadelphia.

Now, the trend is hitting in swing states and ones Republicans long counted as safe, in places such as southern New Hampshire, North Carolina's Research Triangle, suburban St. Louis County and even Colorado's Douglas County, a booming Denver suburb that is still Republican but seeing more Democrats moving in from Southern California.

Meanwhile, Republicans have made gains in the Democrats' New Deal base -- places such as West Virginia, western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. In the 2004 election, Bush won outlying exurbs with the fastest rate of population growth, though those areas have gained fewer voters than the closer-in suburbs where Democrats dominate.

"The trend is clear: The Democrats have a firewall in the metropolis, and it is increasingly moving outside the beltways," Lang said.

West Virginia's Red Trend

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) argued that Democrats should nominate her because she could win states such as West Virginia, but in settling on Obama, the party has taken a bet on its future. Obama barely campaigned in West Virginia, lost it by 41 points and will probably spend little time campaigning there.

Leading Democrats in West Virginia lament Obama's lack of effort, contrasting it with the campaign of John F. Kennedy, who, like Obama, faced hurdles as a minority in West Virginia -- in Kennedy's case, as a Roman Catholic -- but set out to win the 1960 primary there.

But the West Virginia of 1960 was different politically, with gratitude for the New Deal still running high. The state has made strides, but it remains among the poorest and oldest.

Democrats still control state government and all but one of the state's seats in Congress, and registered Democrats outnumber Republicans. But the state voted for Bush by six points over Gore and 13 points over Kerry. Its pro-Democrat unions have declined.

Since 2000, an argument has raged over why voters in West Virginia and elsewhere have voted against Democrats who offered health-care and tax plans that favor them. In his 2004 book "What's the Matter with Kansas?", Thomas Frank argued that Republicans have used social issues such as abortion to win poorer voters.

Bartels, at Princeton, disputed Frank with data showing that higher-income voters are more likely than poorer ones to cite issues such as abortion. Outside the South, low-income whites have stayed loyal to Democrats, he said.

Political scientists Ruy Teixeira and Alan Abramowitz countered by showing that working-class white voters -- whom they define more broadly than Bartels -- have been deserting the Democrats for years. This has hurt the party, they say, but will matter less as that group dwindles as a share of the electorate.

In West Virginia, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, the only Republican in the state's congressional delegation, said it was simple: As national Democrats focused on a cosmopolitan constituency, her party made clear that it understood West Virginia's culture.

The Democrats "do appeal more to an upper-middle-class, higher-educated, faster-moving kind of voter," she said. "Voters here are still waking up in the morning saying, 'I want to make sure my kids get fed and that someone's not trading away my constitutional rights.' "

Gov. Joe Manchin III (D) gives a similar diagnosis, saying that he has to convince West Virginians that national Democrats would not be able to take away gun rights, even if they wanted to -- and that he has to persuade his party to give his state another look. "I've encouraged Barack. I say, 'Please come back to West Virginia and sit down and talk to people so they'll get to know you.' "

In Grafton, residents agree that the national Democratic Party now represents a part of the country that has moved beyond them. The town of 5,500 was once a vibrant place with a strong link to cities: The railroad passed through after crossing the Cumberland Gap, with one line continuing to Columbus and one to Cincinnati. At its peak, it employed 3,000 to maintain engines. A whole economy, including a seven-story hotel, sprang up around it.

But the passenger trains stopped running in the 1970s, and the diesel engines that still rumble through, hauling coal, are maintained elsewhere. The few companies left include a sheet-glass firm and a maker of the adhesive on no-lick stamps. The Beaux Arts train station is a museum, and the hotel looms empty.

Keith Thompson's father was a cabbie at the station, and his father-in-law was a train inspector, but Thompson, 52, works in Morgantown, 25 miles away, delivering uniforms to coal miners and car mechanics. He has voted Republican for years, fed up with West Virginia Democrats who he thinks have crippled the state with taxes, regulation and welfare, and national Democrats who he thinks want to take away his semiautomatic rifles.

For Whitehair, the highway worker, the turning point in 2000 was the Democrats' fight to save the northern spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest. He will vote Republican again because McCain was a Vietnam POW. Also, he "heard Obama was a Muslim" -- a false rumor.

Whitehair said Grafton has suffered in the past decade, but he put much of the blame on Democratic "career politicians" representing the state rather than on President Bush. "You'd have to find fault with all of them," he said.

Virginia Becoming Blue

In Northern Virginia, it is the Republicans looking for answers. The region has boomed, adding 300,000 people in the first half of the decade. With Kerry having claimed Fairfax County in 2004, Obama will push outward, trying to duplicate the success of Democratic Sen. James Webb and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine in Loudoun and Prince William counties, where growth is tinged with anxiety over the housing crash and gas prices.

Some local Republicans play down the shift. State Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II says the region has become more Democratic because many residents work for the government or government contractors, and have a "pro-bigger-government leaning." State Del. David B. Albo argues it is not the highly educated who have turned Fairfax blue. "My bet is that it's those who are on food stamps and government services who tend to be more Democratic," he said.

Vince Callahan isn't so sure. "It's a permanent trend," said Callahan, who gave up the last General Assembly seat held by a Republican inside the Beltway last year. "You have a very sophisticated electorate here that doesn't like the narrow focus of the Republican Party."

Among those the GOP has lost is Margaret Volpe, 64, a Navy employee who moved to Centreville from Indiana with her husband 20 years ago. After voting mostly Republican for years, she switched to Kerry in 2004. She thought the war in Iraq "was not something we needed to do." And health care mattered more to her after she was diagnosed with breast cancer 13 years ago, got involved in advocacy work and became "very aware of people who don't have coverage."

Then there's Bruzas, the systems engineer, who waited for the Obama rally with a copy of Newsweek. A graduate of Purdue University, he left Indiana as fast as he could, did a stint in Raleigh, N.C., then came to Fairfax.

He grew up in a Republican home and used to be apathetic about politics. But he was bothered to find on a recent trip to Europe that people there had a darker view of his country than when he visited in the late 1990s. He didn't like the Bush administration's penchant for secrecy. He started reading political blogs. And he decided to come to the rally, which was easy to do because his job is "flexible, so I was working at home and cut out early."

So flexible, he may move soon, to try another place. It wouldn't be hard, since Cisco has branches everywhere. Or rather: in every major metro area, where, chances are, Bruzas's politics would be right at home.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

We are the ones who need a better-functioning democracy — more than the Iraqis and Afghans. It is our political system that is not working.

Tom Friedman writes in The New York Times:

I do not believe nation-building in Iraq is going to be the issue come November — whether things get better there or worse. If they get better, we’ll ignore Iraq more; if they get worse, the next president will be under pressure to get out quicker. I think nation-building in America is going to be the issue.

It’s the state of America now that is the most gripping source of anxiety for Americans, not Al Qaeda or Iraq. Anyone who thinks they are going to win this election playing the Iraq or the terrorism card — one way or another — is, in my view, seriously deluded. Things have changed.

My fellow Americans: We are a country in debt and in decline — not terminal, not irreversible, but in decline. Our political system seems incapable of producing long-range answers to big problems or big opportunities. We are the ones who need a better-functioning democracy — more than the Iraqis and Afghans. We are the ones in need of nation-building. It is our political system that is not working.

I continue to be appalled at the gap between what is clearly going to be the next great global industry — renewable energy and clean power — and the inability of Congress and the administration to put in place the bold policies we need to ensure that America leads that industry.

“America and its political leaders, after two decades of failing to come together to solve big problems, seem to have lost faith in their ability to do so,” Wall Street Journal columnist Gerald Seib noted last week. “A political system that expects failure doesn’t try very hard to produce anything else.”

We used to try harder and do better. After Sputnik, we came together as a nation and responded with a technology, infrastructure and education surge, notes Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International. After the 1973 oil crisis, we came together and made dramatic improvements in energy efficiency. After Social Security became imperiled in the early 1980s, we came together and fixed it for that moment. “But today,” added Hormats, “the political system seems incapable of producing a critical mass to support any kind of serious long-term reform.”

If the old saying — that “as General Motors goes, so goes America” — is true, then folks, we’re in a lot of trouble. General Motors’s stock-market value now stands at just $6.47 billion, compared with Toyota’s $162.6 billion. On top of it, G.M. shares sank to a 34-year low last week.

That’s us. We’re at a 34-year low. And digging out of this hole is what the next election has to be about and is going to be about — even if it is interrupted by a terrorist attack or an outbreak of war or peace in Iraq. We need nation-building at home, and we cannot wait another year to get started. Vote for the candidate who you think will do that best. Nothing else matters.

Phil Gramm: Republicans didn't live up to what they promised to do. Power corrupted them. They spent lots of money and tried to buy votes.

Some excerpts from an article in The Wall Street Journal about John McCain's would-be Treasury secretary who is on a small-goverment mission:

"They didn't live up to what they promised to do. Power corrupted them. They spent lots of money and tried to buy votes. Republicans concluded that they could make voters love them by governing the way Democrats did."

So says former Texas senator and current John McCain economics adviser Phil Gramm.

When he rode off into the political sunset in 2002 for a high-rolling investment banking job at UBS, there was joy among many of his liberal colleagues on Capitol Hill. For two decades the man who came to be called "Dr. No" had earned a reputation as a one-man wrecking crew of big-government legislative priorities. "I consider defeating Hillary health care as one of my greatest accomplishments," he says.

A look at the record confirms that Mr. Gramm played a decisive role in nearly every fiscal conservative victory in the 1980s and '90s – from the Reagan budget and tax cuts to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley banking reforms of the late 1990s.

U.S. Sounds Afghan Alarm -- The turnaround poses a dilemma for Bush, who had counted Afghanistan as the pinnacle of his success in the war on terror.

From The Wall Street Journal:

In a remarkable shift, Afghanistan, where U.S. officials were once confident of victory, is now rivaling Iraq as the biggest cause of concern for American policymakers.

According to a new Pentagon report, Taliban militants have regrouped after their initial fall from power and "coalesced into a resilient insurgency." The report paints a grim picture of the conflict, concluding that Afghanistan's security conditions have deteriorated sharply while the fledgling national government in Kabul remains incapable of extending its reach throughout the country or taking effective counternarcotics measures.

The turnaround poses a dilemma for the Bush administration, which had counted Afghanistan as the pinnacle of its success in the war on terror. U.S. commanders say they need more forces, but they can only be provided through withdrawing troops from Iraq. As a result, the administration may have to choose between accepting a smaller U.S. presence in Iraq or facing the prospect of turmoil in Afghanistan.

U.S. combat fatalities in Afghanistan are increasing. The country is now more dangerous for American forces than Iraq.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Some words of wisdom from Tom Friedman -- When it comes to Iraq, most Americans really want to leave, but they still don’t want to lose.

Tom Friedman (on June 18, 2008) writes in The New York Times:

[W]hat we do next in Iraq . . . is going to be a really hard call — one that will require sorting through three conflicting political realities.

The first is the mood of the American public, which has rendered a judgment that the price we have paid in Iraq over the last five years far, far exceeds what has been achieved there to date. Therefore, whoever wins the presidency — John McCain or Barack Obama — will take office knowing that the American people will not tolerate another four years dominated by an open-ended commitment to Iraq.

But the second is the reality on the ground in Iraq, which is no longer an unremitting horror story. Clearly, the surge has helped to dampen the internal conflict. Clearly, the Iraqi Army is performing better. Clearly, Iraq’s Prime Minister Maliki, by cracking down on rogue Shiite groups from his own community, has established himself as more of a national leader. Clearly, the Sunnis have decided to take part in the coming parliamentary elections. Clearly, Kurdistan continues to operate as an island of decency and free markets. Clearly, Al Qaeda in Iraq has been hurt. Clearly, some Arab countries are coming to terms with the changes there by reopening embassies in Baghdad.

The third reality, though, is the fact that the reconciliation process inside Iraq — almost five years after our invasion — still has not reached a point where Iraq’s stability is self-sustaining. And Tuesday’s bombing in Baghdad, which killed more than 50 people at a bus stop in a Shiite neighborhood, only underscores that. The U.S. military is still needed as referee. It still is not clear that Iraq is a country that can be held together by anything other than an iron fist. It’s still not clear that its government is anything more than a collection of sectarian fiefs.

It is this volatile swirl that will likely greet the next president: the deep desire of the U.S. public to be finished with Iraq because of the huge costs; the glimmer of hope that a decent outcome, one that might redeem some of those costs, is still possible; and the fact that Iraq still has not cohered as a country yet.

If McCain is the next commander in chief, the U.S. military will tell him on day one that we can’t stay in Iraq at the present troop levels indefinitely because the cost to our armed forces is becoming unbearable; if it is Obama, the Iraqis will tell him on day one that we can’t leave Iraq precipitously because it will explode.

It would be a huge mistake for McCain to give up his goal of salvaging something in Iraq. But it would also be a big mistake to assume that the public would tolerate another president’s open-ended commitment there. Similarly, it would be a huge mistake for Obama to now give up his commitment to a phased withdrawal. That is very important leverage on the Iraqis. But it would also be a big mistake not to give Iraq a fresh look and ask: can something decent still be salvaged there at an acceptable cost — something that can still serve our interests, do right by Iraqis and maybe put in place the seeds of an open society that will pay long-term benefits?

“When it comes to Iraq, most Americans really want to leave, but they still don’t want to lose,” argues Michael Mandelbaum, author of “Democracy’s Good Name.” Navigating these conflicting moods and trends on the ground in Iraq is going to be one of the most excruciatingly difficult challenges ever handed from one president to another.

Second Thoughts on Pulling the Guard From the Border

From The New York Times:

Soon [2,600 members] of the National Guard in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas where they are helping to secure the border with Mexico as part of a two-year mission called Operation Jump Start.

Phased down from a peak of more than 6,000 Guard members, the mission is scheduled to end July 15, although a smattering of Guard personnel are expected to remain or return as part of longstanding cooperation with the Border Patrol.

Here, they have built or shored up roads to give federal agents speedier access to the hilly and rocky terrain. They have fixed trucks and monitored cameras and sensors and stood guard in the wilderness, facilitating thousands of arrests by directing agents to illegal border crossers.

But just as Guard members pack up and bid farewell to the desert, an effort is intensifying to have them stay put. The Border Patrol has given the Guard credit for helping to deter and detect illegal crossings, so much so that the governors of the four border states and federal lawmakers now wonder aloud, Why stop now?

[Gov. Janet Napolitano, Democrat of Arizona, and the other governors say the Guard should stay while the Border Patrol continues a hiring frenzy toward meeting a goal of about 18,000 agents by the end of the year, double its size from 2001. It now stands at 16,471, about 5,000 more than two years ago, and the governors, as well as members of Congress, have expressed doubt that the agency will put enough agents in the field to meet its target.

[T]he much-anticipated virtual fence, a suite of cameras, radars and other technology intended to enhance around-the-clock surveillance of the border, has been plagued with delays and glitches, although domestic security officials say it is getting back on track.

6-Term Congressman Loses Republican Primary in Utah -- Opponent Campaigned Against Him As Not Being Tough Enough on Immigration

From The New York Times:

Representative Chris Cannon, one of the most conservative members of Congress, has lost his bid for a seventh term, defeated in a Republican primary that focused on whether he was conservative enough for Utah’s Third District.

Mr. Cannon became the third incumbent congressman to lose a primary this year, after Wayne T. Gilchrest, a Republican, and Albert R. Wynn, a Democrat, both of Maryland.

The American Conservative Union had said that Mr. Cannon was nearly perfect on its issues in 2007, scoring 96 percent. But Mr. Chaffetz repeatedly attacked him as insufficiently conservative, especially on immigration.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Many GOP leaders are concerned about whether McCain & Company are not up to the task at hand.

A week or so ago there was a good article in The Washington Post or The New York Times, the former I believe, about how many GOP leaders question whether McCain and his staff are not up to the task at hand. I wish I had done a post on it to refer back to.

The below link is to a new ad that the AJC's Political Insider reports McCain's campaign will be running nationally on cable networks and on local channels in select states, including Georgia on cable.

I know the campaign season has just begun, but if this is what we should expect from McCain & Company, I understand the GOP leaders' concerns. This early ad -- and realizing that ads will become hard hitting and negative in the future -- strikes me as being almost generic, off the shelf. Almost a waste of money, which at this point his campaign cannot afford to do.

The ad is this at this YouTube link.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

On Obama's Coattails, an Uninvited Rider

From The Washington Post:

Just a month ago, Republican strategists were trying to closely link Democratic House candidates to Sen. Barack Obama, convinced that in certain parts of the country Obama would drag candidates from his own party down to defeat.

This week, a Republican senator, Gordon Smith of Oregon, offered a much different assessment of Obama's coattail effect: He included words of praise from Obama as part of an ad promoting his own reelection.

160 Arrested in Immigration Raid at a Houston Plant

From The New York Times:

Federal immigration agents arrested 160 employees on Wednesday in a raid on a used clothing and rag exporting plant.

The authorities said it was the largest workplace raid ever here. Most of those arrested were from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras . . . .

It was the second major raid in Houston in just over two months.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tom Friedman: In Iraq Al Qaeda and Iran both went too far as extremists usually do.

Tom Friedman writes in The New York Times:

What seems to have happened in Iraq in the last few months is that the Iraqi mainstream has finally done some liberating of itself. With the help of the troop surge ordered by President Bush, the mainstream Sunni tribes have liberated themselves from the grip of Al Qaeda in their provinces. And the Shiite mainstream — represented by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the Iraqi Army — liberated Basra, Amara and Sadr City in Baghdad from both Mahdi Army militiamen and pro-Iranian death squads.

Al Qaeda and Iran both went too far. I’ve always believed that there is only one good thing about extremists: They don’t know when to stop. Al Qaeda in Iraq went on murderous rampages against any Sunnis who opposed them, severing heads, forcing marriages, mowing down tribal leaders and slaughtering Shiites by the hundreds. Meanwhile, pro-Iranian Shiite extremists tried to impose a Taliban-like order in Basra and Baghdad — from head scarves to bans on liquor — on what is still a mostly secular-oriented Shiite majority.

Eventually, this Muslim-on-Muslim oppression seemed to spark the “we’re-not-going-to-take-this-anymore” rage, which prompted both the Sunni and Shiite mainstreams to liberate themselves from their own extremists and, in so doing, actually take ownership of their own country.

These parallel wars of self-liberation still don’t amount to a single national unity movement. Civil war could still be in Iraq’s future. . . . Iraq is miles away from being healthy. And now that Iraq’s Shiite and Sunni communities are taking more responsibility for their own country, you are also going to see an intense power struggle over who dominates within each community. With oil dollars piling up, there is a lot more to fight for.

But if we’re lucky, this struggle will play out primarily in the political arena. If we’re not lucky? Well, let’s just hope we’re lucky.

Muslim Voters Detect a Snub From Obama

Geez, what do you expect? This is America, and something did happen on 9/11 that caused and continues to cause many Americans to be deeply suspicious of Muslims.

From The New York Times:

When Mr. Obama began his presidential campaign, Muslim Americans from California to Virginia responded with enthusiasm, seeing him as a long-awaited champion of civil liberties, religious tolerance and diplomacy in foreign affairs. But more than a year later, many say, he has not returned their embrace.

While the senator has visited churches and synagogues, he has yet to appear at a single mosque. Muslim and Arab-American organizations have tried repeatedly to arrange meetings with Mr. Obama, but officials with those groups say their invitations — unlike those of their Jewish and Christian counterparts — have been ignored. Last week, two Muslim women wearing head scarves were barred by campaign volunteers from appearing behind Mr. Obama at a rally in Detroit.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Hits Women Much More

From The New York Times:

The Army and Air Force discharged a disproportionate number of women in 2007 under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prohibits openly gay people from serving in the military . . . .

While women make up 14 percent of Army personnel, 46 percent of those discharged under the policy last year were women. And while 20 percent of Air Force personnel are women, 49 percent of its discharges under the policy last year were women.

Despite stress on the armed forces from two wars, the Pentagon is not advocating a change in policy, saying it is up to Congress to decide whether the law should be altered or repealed.

November was the 14th anniversary of the legislation that allows gay men and lesbians to serve in the military, but only if they keep their sexual orientation secret.

National Push by Obama on Ads and Turnout

From The New York Times:

Senator Barack Obama is drawing up plans for extensive advertising and voter-turnout drives across the nation, hoping to capitalize on his expected fund-raising advantage over Senator John McCain to force Republicans to compete in states they have not had to defend in decades.

Aides and advisers to Mr. Obama said they did not believe he necessarily had a serious chance of winning in many of the traditionally Republican states. They said he could at least draw Mr. McCain into spending time and money in those places while swelling Democratic enrollment and supporting other Democrats on the ballot.

Mr. Obama’s strategists are studying data from focus groups, magazine subscription lists and census studies, the first steps toward an intensive door-to-door drive, using volunteers overseen by a growing staff of organizers.

Their aim is to reach voters with messages tailored to their interests through mail, e-mail and word of mouth.

Free from the constraints of public financing, Mr. Obama’s budget for the rest of the year could exceed $300 million, campaign and party officials have said. But his fund-raising slowed in May, when the campaign raised about $22 million — almost $10 million less than in April and a large decline from the record amounts he was taking in earlier this year. The decline was evidence that he might have to invest substantial time at fund-raising to match the levels he set in the first quarter this year.

With Mr. McCain’s acceptance of public financing restricting him to a budget of $84.1 million this fall, party officials say Mr. Obama’s decision to opt out of the system is well worth the criticism he has received for doing so, which even came from some allies.

Republicans said they expected Mr. Obama to show a sizable financial advantage, but it might not help him if the race came down to the handful of states that decided the last few presidential elections. In that case, they said, the $84.1 million in public financing that Mr. McCain would receive would be enough for everything he needed to stay competitive.

Mr. McCain also will have considerable help from the Republican National Committee, which has far outpaced the Democratic Party in fund-raising and still holds the vaunted voter identification and turnout machinery that President Bush’s campaign built with his chief strategist, Karl Rove, and a former Republican chairman, Ken Mehlman.

Monday, June 23, 2008

3 in 10 Americans Admit to Race Bias

From The Washington Post:

[N]early half of all Americans say race relations in the country are in bad shape and three in 10 acknowledge feelings of racial prejudice, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

[T]o win in November, Obama most likely will have to close what is now a 12-point deficit among whites. (Whites made up 77 percent of all voters in 2004; blacks were 11 percent, according to network exit polls.)

This is hardly the first time a Democratic candidate has faced such a challenge -- Al Gore lost white voters by 12 points in 2000, and John F. Kerry lost them by 17 points in 2004 -- but it is a significantly larger shortfall than Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton encountered in their winning campaigns.

David Brooks: Obama is the most effectively political creature we’ve seen in decades.

David Brooks writes in The New York Times:

Republicans . . . think that they’re running against some academic liberal . . . against some naïve university-town dreamer, the second coming of Adlai Stevenson.

All I know for sure is that this guy is no liberal goo-goo. Republicans keep calling him naïve. But naïve is the last word I’d use to describe Barack Obama. He’s the most effectively political creature we’ve seen in decades. Even Bill Clinton wasn’t smart enough to succeed in politics by pretending to renounce politics.

Obama is right in following the Cracker Squire's position & voting as a moderate & not leaving himself out on a weak liberal limb that might break.

In a 3-15-08 post entitled "I'm with the Senate on this one. It voted to give legal immunity to phone providers that helped in the wiretapping program in pursuit of terrorists."

The post noted that the House had just rejected retroactive immunity for the phone companies that took part in the National Security Agency’s program of eavesdropping without warrants, and it voted to place tighter restrictions on the government’s wiretapping powers.

The Wall Street Journal in an article entitled "Many Democrats Object as House Passes Spying Bill" notes:

The House passed legislation to expand spying authority, despite the objections of most Democratic lawmakers, almost ensuring that a White House-backed surveillance measure will become law.

The heated debate reflected a sharp split between liberal and moderate-to-conservative Democrats in an election year when Republicans are seeking to bludgeon Democrats on national-security matters. Party leaders had worked feverishly to mend the rift for several months, but were unable to find a solution that could pass muster with both liberal House lawmakers and the Senate.

Reflecting these tensions, presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama announced Friday he would support the bill. The move is geared toward his general-election campaign, but will also upset many in the party's liberal base. "It is not all that I would want," he said in a statement. "But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence-collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay."

He said he would attempt to remove the phone-company immunity provision when the Senate votes next week, though his chances of success are low. Mr. Obama added that, as president, he would monitor the program and "work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary."

The bill moves to the Senate, which is expected to debate the measure next week. It is expected to pass with overwhelming support, though senators could use procedural maneuvering to stall or kill the bill.

The measure would permit the federal government to listen to conversations between the U.S. and suspicious people overseas without a specific warrant.

Despite broad opposition from Democrats, the party's leaders concluded Congress had to pass a surveillance measure. They faced an August deadline, when previously authorized surveillance orders would begin to expire. Conservative Democrats in tough re-election races were clamoring for a bill. Party leaders wanted to pass the surveillance bill, so they could move on to issues where they would have more election-year traction, such as the economy, congressional aides said.

This WSJ came out [read Obama went public on how he would vote] before I could post the following from an earlier Wall Street Journal story:

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama will have to decide whether to support it and risk the wrath of his party's left wing, or vote against it and risk losing support from independents. One top Democratic lawmaker said the Democrats delayed the announcement by a couple of days, in part to give the presumptive nominee time to assess his position.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

At Odds With Air Force, Army Adds Its Own Aviation Unit

From The Washington Post:

Ever since the Army lost its warplanes to a newly independent Air Force after World War II, soldiers have depended on the sister service for help from the sky, from bombing and strafing to transport and surveillance.

But the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have frayed the relationship, with Army officers making increasingly vocal complaints that the Air Force is not pulling its weight

[T]he Army has quietly decided to try going it alone for the important surveillance mission, organizing an all-Army surveillance unit that represents a new move by the service toward self-sufficiency, and away from joint operations.

Senior aides to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates say that he has shown keen interest in the Army initiative — much to the frustration of embattled Air Force leaders — as a potential way to improve battlefield surveillance.

The Army cobbled together small civilian aircraft, including the Beech C-12, and placed advanced reconnaissance sensors on board. Also assigned to the task force are small, medium and larger remotely piloted Army surveillance vehicles, including the Warrior and Shadow, with infrared cameras for night operations and full-motion video cameras.

All are linked by radio to Apache attack helicopters, with Hellfire missiles and 30-millimeter guns, and to infantry units in armored vehicles.

In Afghanistan, Army officers have complained about bombing missions gone awry that have killed innocent civilians. In Iraq, Army officers say the Air Force has often been out of touch, fulfilling only half of their requests for the sophisticated surveillance aircraft that ground commanders say are needed to find roadside bombs and track down insurgents.

Army and Marine Corps officers in Afghanistan have complained that Air Force pilots flying attack missions in support of ground operations do not come in as low as their Navy and Marine counterparts. Instances of civilian casualties from bombing and missile attacks have increased tensions among local populations, which have to be eased by ground commanders, adding to their burden of winning hearts and minds in the counterinsurgency efforts.

See also The Washington Post.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Travelers Shift to Rail as Cost of Fuel Rises

I would love to see Amtrack succeed, although I regret the circumstances. I just flew to Boulder and back; the flights were not non-stop, and went through Nashville. Four flights there and back; four flights 100% full.

Like so many Americans, I do love trains. I took one from Waycross, to Atlanta, to Oklahoma City by myself when I was eight years old, and the conductors made sure I was just fine.

I took my girls on the train from Jesup to Washington and up to New York a couple of times while they were growing up rather than flying. I can't say that they or their Mom love it as I do, but they tolerate me.

From The Washington Post:

Amtrak set records in May, both for the number of passengers it carried and for ticket revenues — all the more remarkable because May is not usually a strong travel month.

But the railroad, and its suppliers, have shrunk so much, largely because of financial constraints, that they would have difficulty growing quickly to meet the demand.

Many of the long-distance trains are already sold out for some days this summer. Want to take Amtrak’s daily Crescent train from New York to New Orleans? It is sold out on July 5, 6, 7 and 8. Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, on July 5?

The problem is that rail has shriveled. The number of “passenger miles” traveled on intercity rail has dropped by about two-thirds since 1960, and the companies that build rail cars and locomotives have also shrunk, making it hard to expand.

In 1970, the year that Congress voted to create Amtrak by consolidating the passenger operations of freight railroads, the airlines were about 17 times larger than the railroads, measured by passenger miles traveled; now they are more than 100 times larger. Highway travel was then about 330 times larger; now it is more than 900 times larger.

The railroad carried about 25 million passengers last year and may hit 27 million this year. (That is all intercity traffic; commuter rail, connecting suburbs and cities, is also growing, but that is not Amtrak’s market.) By contrast, the airlines carry about 680 million domestic passengers a year.

Profits are unlikely. The Government Accountability Office found last November that Amtrak had received more than $30 billion in federal aid since its creation in 1971, but was still in “poor financial condition,” with extensive deferred maintenance.

When Amtrak began operating 37 years ago, the plan was for it to eventually break even. In 1997, Congress passed a law threatening dire consequences if it did not reach self-sufficiency by 2002.

But by 2002 the mood had changed, and the appropriations have continued, financing losses of over $1 billion a year.

The railroad is not radically more energy-efficient than other means of travel. Amtrak can move a passenger a mile with 17.4 percent less fuel than a passenger car can, and about 32.9 percent less than an airline can, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

It does save oil, however, since much of the fuel Amtrak uses is in the form of electricity, made from coal, natural gas and nuclear power.

Last year Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, and others won overwhelming Senate approval for a bill that would offer the states 80 cents for every 20 cents they spend on new intercity passenger rail service, the same as the match offered for highway projects.

Amtrak’s fortunes also hinge on who wins the White House; Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee, was a staunch opponent of subsidies to Amtrak when he was chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. Barack Obama, the probable Democratic nominee, was a co-sponsor of the Senate version of the bill to provide an 80/20 financing match.

Savannah Morning News Editorial: Testing fiasco is Opening for Democrats

An editorial in the Savannah Morning News says:

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue is wrong to label ongoing concern over this year's testing fiasco in public schools a political stunt.

If this is the governor's blasé attitude, then parents, teachers and others who work in school systems across Georgia may call this mess something, too:

A reason to vote Democratic.

Mr. Perdue and State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox, who are both Republican, are either misjudging public opinion or not getting out of their Atlanta offices enough.

The topic of course is this year's Criterion-Referenced Competency Test scores results, the subject of a 6-1-08 post.

InsiderAdvantage Poll Has McCain And Obama Tied In Georgia

From InsiderAdvantage Georgia:

McCain: 44%
Obama: 43%
Barr: 6%
Undecided: 7%

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Can Georgia Be Obama's Ohio? -- Obama is trying to put Georgia in play this election!

From TIME:

Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, said he is focusing on Georgia and Virginia as potential swing states and, depending on the outcomes of voter registration drives, he's also keeping an eye on Mississippi and Louisiana.

Obama faces an uphill battle in most of the South. Even if there is vastly increased black turnout, he still needs to draw a portion of white votes in states like Mississippi and Louisiana, where less than a quarter of whites voted for John Kerry in 2004. Though he may have a legitimate shot in Georgia, he currently trails McCain by a margin of 12.3 percentage points . . . .

In 1992 Bill Clinton lost most of the Deep South, except for Georgia and his home state of Arkansas). In Georgia the third-party candidacy of Ross Perot helped leach enough votes from President George H. W. Bush to deliver Clinton the state. This year the Libertarian candidacy of former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr could help Obama in much in the same way. "Georgia would be very much in play, even if I weren't in the race, and it will be even more so now that I am," Barr told TIME. Republican presumptive nominee John McCain "does not really have a natural constituency in Georgia. Certainly, he'll appeal to die-hard Republicans and certainly the military folks, but it's not a state, if I were advising his campaign, that I would focus on."

McCain has shown some weakness in the South. During the primaries, he lost Georgia and much of the South to former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister. McCain has struggled to connect with Southern social conservatives, who are leery of his positions on issues such as global warming, campaign finance reform, immigration, domestic oil drilling and gay marriage. He's also gotten himself into trouble with high-profile Evangelicals like James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, who never warmed to the Arizona Senator and has said he won't vote for him.

[B]lack votes alone cannot win him Southern swing states like Georgia . . . . In the Georgia primary Obama edged out Clinton among young white voters, but lost white voters over the age of 45 by more than 20 percentage points, according to CNN exit polls.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

This won't happen, but findings could be interesting: House Democrats say Governor should investigate Cox and those middle school tests

According to the AJC's Political Insider:

House Democrats on Tuesday called on Gov. Sonny Perdue to launch an investigation into problems with state CRCT testing and the Department of Education.

Democratic leaders said Cox covered up the testing problems and let teachers and local officials take the blame.

The Times They Are A-Changin' -- Politics and the Internet.

From the AJC's Political Insider:

When Ralph Reed was at the Atlanta Press Club last week, he wandered onto the topic of American presidential politics and the Internet.

“2008 may be to the Internet what 1960 was to television. This could be our first true Internet election,” he said. “Whoever learns how to win campaigns with the Internet is going to dominate politics for the foreseeable future.”

By coincidence, the Pew Internet and American Life Project is out today with a new report on the Internet in the 2008 elections.

Among its findings:

Democrats were more adept at the social networking. Even Republicans admit that this is so.

But we’re talking more than Democratic enthusiasm for social networking. We’re talking Republican reluctance as well, particularly among religious conservatives who — when they think of the Internet — think of porn, gambling and other sinful activities.

‘Daisy Girl’ ad creator dies

The so-called "daisy ad," made for Lyndon B. Johnson's presidential campaign in 1964.

The AJC's Political Insider reports:

The man behind the “Daisy Girl” ad that did so much damage to Republican Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election is dead.

According to The New York Times:

Of the thousands of television and radio advertisements on which Mr. [Tony] Schwartz worked, none is as well known, or as controversial, as one that was broadcast exactly once: the so-called “daisy ad,” made for Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidential campaign in 1964.

[T]he minute-long spot . . . showed a little girl in a meadow (in reality a Manhattan park), counting aloud as she plucks the petals from a daisy. Her voice dissolves into a man’s voice counting downward, followed by the image of an atomic blast. President Johnson’s voice is heard on the soundtrack:

“These are the stakes. To make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.”

Though the name of Johnson’s opponent, Senator Barry M. Goldwater, was never mentioned, Goldwater’s campaign objected strenuously to the ad. So did many members of the public, Republicans and Democrats alike. The spot was pulled from the air after a single commercial showing, but it had done its work: with its dire implications about Goldwater and nuclear responsibility, the daisy ad was generally credited with contributing to Johnson’s victory at the polls in November. It was also credited with heralding the start of ferociously negative political advertising in the United States.

This is the link to the ad from YouTube.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Landing back on Earth

Rocky Mountain National Park, one great place to visit here in the good ole US of A.

I have been in Boulder, Colorado since last Wednesday, and thus a bit behind with both my blogging and what is going on in the real world. Truthfully, although I have read the Wall Street Journal each day, I have not watched the news since Monday night a week ago or been on the computer other than to check email.

Rome wasn't built in a day, and I won't get caught up with my blogging tonight.

The above are shots from Rocky Mountain National Park, an hour or so north of Boulder. Sally and I had been there before, but the youngest daughter had not. Thus just as I promised to take her to Yosemite National Park -- one God's great gifts to America -- as we did a few years ago, she got to see another of nature's wonders this past week.

God Bless America!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Europeans Much Prefer Obama

As an early Obama supporter, my readers should appreciate that this post should not be construed as slighting Obama in the least.

The following excerpts from an article inThe Wall Street Journal, rather than reflecting negatively on McCain, reveal just how low our standing in the world community has drifted because of Bush & Company:

While the race between Barack Obama and Republican rival John McCain remains close among U.S. voters, Europeans have given their hearts to the likely Democratic nominee.

A poll in late May of five major countries -- Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia -- showed Sen. Obama getting 52% support, compared with 15% for Sen. McCain. In France, 65% favor Sen. Obama, compared with 8% for Sen. McCain, according to the poll for the United Kingdom's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

As President Bush leaves Monday for a weeklong tour of Western Europe, some experts in trans-Atlantic public opinion believe the election campaign -- and particularly Sen. Obama's rise -- have contributed to an uptick in European support for America itself.

For some reason, a chart in the hard copy of the WSJ was not online. That chart has the following percentage perferences for Obama versus McCain:

Italy 70% v. 15%
Germany 67% v. 6%
Framce 65% v. 8%
Britain 40% v. 49%
Russia 31% v. 25%
TOTAL 52% v. 15%

Republicans Gird for Big Losses in Congress

From The Wall Street Journal:

Republicans are bracing for double-digit losses in the House and the prospect of four or five losses in the Senate, as they fight to hold a wide range of districts and states normally seen as safe for them, from Alaska and Colorado to Mississippi and North Carolina.

The feared setback for Republicans, coming two years after their 2006 drubbing, is unusual for several reasons. It is rare for a party to lose two election cycles in a row. And many expect losses even if their presidential candidate, John McCain, captures the White House.
Democrats already hold majorities in the Senate and House. Democrats hold 49 seats in the Senate, and they often have the votes of the chamber's two independents. In the House, Democrats have 235 seats compared with 199 for Republicans.

But a wider margin of control in both chambers would give the party a more workable majority, a change that would let it push more ambitious agendas on health care, energy policy and tax issues. While Democrats are already able to pass much of their agenda through the House, many of those bills currently get stuck in the Senate. A handful more seats in that chamber would give Democrats a better chance of overcoming filibusters, which require 60 votes to break.

Already this year, Republicans have lost three House seats in special elections in Republican-leaning districts, an alarm bell for many in the party as they strategize for campaign season.
In both houses, Democrats also have a financial advantage. At the end of April, House Democrats' campaign arm had $45.3 million in cash on hand compared with $6.7 million for Republicans. That lets Democrats spend money on a broader swath of races and defend freshman House members whom Republicans view as most vulnerable.

The Senate Democrats' campaign arm had $37.6 million in cash compared with $19.4 million for Republicans.

The toughest Senate race for Republicans is in Virginia, where popular former Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, is running for the open seat left by retiring Republican Sen. John Warner. Also challenging are highly competitive races in New Hampshire and New Mexico, another open seat.

Republicans are seen having just one Senate opportunity to pick up a seat -- the one held by Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, which has trended more Republican after Hurricane Katrina displaced many of the state's residents.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bush Orders Contractors to Vet Status of Workers

From The New York Times:

President Bush has ordered federal contractors to participate in the Department of Homeland Security’s electronic system for verifying the immigration status of their workers, greatly expanding the reach of the administration’s crackdown on employers who hire illegal immigrants.

An executive order, signed by the president on Friday and announced on Monday, requires federal contractors to use the system, known as E-Verify, to check immigration status when they hire new workers or start work under government contracts.
This is the first time that participation in the program, which Congress established in 1996 as a voluntary system, has become mandatory for any large group of employers.

As recently at 2005, the E-Verify system was a pilot program that gave employers a way to confirm that Social Security numbers and immigration information provided by new employees matched federal records. As the administration has stepped up immigration raids at work sites in the last two years, employers’ participation has grown sharply.

About 69,000 employers are now enrolled, up from about 5,900 in 2005, according to federal figures released on Monday. That is still a small fraction of the estimated 7.4 million employers in the United States. Officials estimated that as many as 200,000 contractors would be covered by the new rule.

Congress, work this out; don't let this happen!! -- Return to Old Spy Rules Is Seen as Deadline Nears

From The New York Times:

With Congress at an impasse over the government’s spy powers, Congressional and intelligence officials are bracing for the possibility that the government might have to revert to the old rules of terrorist surveillance, a situation that some officials predict could leave worrisome gaps in intelligence.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Hammer said what? Really? Hard to believe, really hard to believe.

The AJC's Political Insider reports:

While [former House majority leader Tom] DeLay said he’ll vote for Republican John McCain in the presidential contest, the man once known as “the Hammer” said his wife will be voting for Bob Barr, the Libertarian.

States Take New Tack on Illegal Immigration

From The New York Times:

[A Florida sheriff uses a way] around rules allowing only the federal government to enforce immigration laws [, arresting illegal immigrants for violations of state identity theft laws for using stolen Social Security numbers].

His approach is increasingly common. Last month, 260 illegal immigrants in Iowa were sentenced to five months in prison for violations of federal identity theft laws.

At the same time, in the last year, local police departments from coast to coast have rounded up hundreds of immigrants for nonviolent, often minor, crimes, like fishing without a license in Georgia, with the end result being deportation.

In some cases, the police received training and a measure of jurisdiction from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, under a program that lets officers investigate and detain people they suspect to be illegal immigrants.

But with local demand for tougher immigration enforcement growing, 95 departments are waiting to join the 47 in the program. And in a number of places, including Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, police officers or entire departments are choosing to tackle the issue on their own.

State lawmakers, in response to Congressional inaction on immigration law, are giving local authorities a wider berth. In 2007, 1,562 bills related to illegal immigration were introduced nationwide and 240 were enacted in 46 states, triple the number that passed in 2006, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A new law in Mississippi makes it a felony for an illegal immigrant to hold a job. In Oklahoma, sheltering or transporting illegal immigrants is also a felony.

It remains unclear how the new laws will be enforced. Yet at the very least, say both advocates and critics, they are likely to lead to more of what occurred here: more local police officers demanding immigrants’ documents; more arrests for identity theft; more accusations of racial profiling; and more movement of immigrants, with some fleeing and others being sent to jail.

In Crowd Size, Obama Has the Edge -- Speeches Can Draw Tens of Thousands, But Does It Matter?

From The Wall Street Journal:

When Barack Obama claimed the Democratic nomination before 17,000 people last week, with thousands more outside unable to get in, it was notable but not surprising. He routinely draws huge crowds. That same night, John McCain spoke to about 600 supporters. That was routine, too.

The disparity in crowd size between the two candidates is striking, as are the candidates' oratorical abilities when they speak before those large gatherings. But does it even matter? Experts and political consultants say that in some respects, it does, though the crowd size isn't nearly as important as it might seem.

Sen. Obama, the Democratic candidate for president, is among the most gifted speakers in recent politics. Sen. McCain's speech-making abilities have improved, but both Democrats and Republicans say that he still comes across as stilted and awkward.

Large crowds can excite supporters and generate more volunteers, and they look impressive on the local news.

They can also get into the "psyche of the electorate," said Republican strategist Jason Roe. He compared large crowds to seeing a lot of yard signs for a particular candidate. Voters think, "There must be something special about that guy if that many of my neighbors are supporting him," Mr. Roe said.

Still, history is littered with losing candidates who drew super-sized crowds. Sen. Obama himself has drawn large crowds in primary states where he lost.

Most voters' impressions won't be shaped by big speeches or big rallies, but through interviews and debates, where Sen. McCain performs much better than he does in a scripted speech.

Just one high-profile speech remains for each man, but it is an important one -- the address to a primetime audience during each party's convention in late summer.

Voters are most likely to see the candidates in interviews and snippets on the nightly news, forums where Sen. McCain does well.

Peggy Noonan: Obama needs someone like Sam Nunn. Or, actually, Sam Nunn. Or Jim Webb.

Peggy Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal:

[Obama] doesn't need [Hillary]. He needs a boring white man. Because he's an interesting black man. He needs a sober, experienced, older establishment player who will be respected by the press, the first responders of the political game. They'll set the tone in which the choice is celebrated, or not. He needs someone like Sam Nunn. Or, actually, Sam Nunn. He could throw a wild pass at Jim Webb because he has a real-guy, Southern, semi-working-class persona, and a Scots-Irish grit and chippiness. He is from important Virginia, has Vietnam boots and is moderate.

The instrumental role of evangelicals in Bush’s victory in 2004

From The New York Times:

Mr. Bush’s openness about his personal faith and stances on social issues earned him a following among evangelicals, who represented about a quarter of the electorate in 2004. Exit polls in the 2004 election found that 78 percent of white “born again” or evangelical Protestants had voted for Mr. Bush.

The election could turn on the outcome of contests in the Rocky Mountain States and the South. Georgia in Play?

From The Washington Post:

The Midwest remains the most concentrated competitive region of the country, but advisers to McCain and Obama agree that the election could turn on the outcome of contests in the Rocky Mountain States and the South.

[Obama campaign manager David Plouffe says] Obama's route to the necessary 270 electoral votes starts with holding every state won by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004 and then focusing on a handful of red states that Obama advisers think are ripe for conversion.

The Kerry map gives Obama 252 electoral votes. To pick up the next 18 electoral votes, Obama will target Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. His list also includes Ohio, where he lost the primary to Clinton but which, in the 2006 midterms, shifted dramatically toward the Democrats.

An analysis of past elections shows remarkable stability. States the Democrats have won in four of the past five elections add up to 255 electoral votes; states Republicans have won in five of the past seven elections (including two Ronald Reagan electoral landslides) account for 269 electoral votes. New Hampshire, New Mexico and West Virginia, representing 14 electoral votes, fall into neither category.

In 2004, 13 states were decided by seven or fewer percentage points: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

McCain sees potential to make his greatest inroads in the industrial heartland. Obama stumbled in Ohio and Pennsylvania and never competed in Michigan. Of those, Pennsylvania may be the most difficult for McCain.

Democrats would love to pick off Ohio after their near miss in 2004, but Obama's weakness in rural and Appalachian areas of the state makes the challenge greater.

Florida will remain on everyone's targeting map, but McCain is a clear favorite there. Obama advisers hope to make North Carolina and possibly Georgia competitive. A large African American turnout could change the equation in both.

Of all the regions in the country, the Mountain West has emerged as the one that may be changing most politically. Fast growth, a rising Hispanic population and disaffection with Republicans have altered expectations in the region.

Both candidates expect fierce competition for the electoral votes of Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. All three went for Bush four years ago.

Also see The New York Times in an article entitled "Obama Maps a Nationwide Push in G.O.P. Strongholds", that notes:

Senator Barack Obama’s general election plan calls for broadening the electoral map by challenging Senator John McCain in typically Republican states — from North Carolina to Missouri to Montana — as Mr. Obama seeks to take advantage of voter turnout operations built in nearly 50 states in the long Democratic nomination battle, aides said.

[Obama] is moving to hire Aaron Pickrell, the chief political strategist of Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio — who helped steer Mrs. Clinton to victory in that state’s primary — to run his effort against Mr. McCain there. In another, aides said, he has tapped Dan Carroll, an opposition researcher who gained fame digging up information on opponents’ records for Bill Clinton in 1992, to help gather information about Mr. McCain. That is the latest evidence that, for all the talk on both sides about a new kind of politics, the general election campaign is likely to be bloody.

Mr. Obama’s campaign is considering hiring Patti Solis Doyle, a longtime associate of Mrs. Clinton who was her campaign manager until a shake-up in February, the first of what Mr. Obama’s aides said would be a number of hires from the Clinton campaign.

Recognizing the extent to which Republicans view Michelle Obama’s strong views and personality as a potential liability for her husband, Mr. Obama’s aides said they were preparing to bring aboard senior operatives from previous Democratic presidential campaigns to work with her, a clear departure from the typical way the spouse of a candidate is staffed.

Mr. Obama’s aides said some states where they intend to campaign — like Georgia, Missouri, Montana and North Carolina — might ultimately be too red to turn blue. But the result of making an effort there could force Mr. McCain to spend money or send him to campaign in what should be safe ground, rather than using those resources in states like Ohio.

[T]he Republican Party has a history of out-hustling and out-organizing the Democratic Party in national elections. The question is whether the more organically grown game plans that carried Mr. Obama to victory in Democratic primaries and caucuses can match the well-oiled organizations Republicans have put together.

Mr. Obama is not alone in trying to fight on what is historically unfriendly territory. A central part of Mr. McCain’s strategy is an effort to pick up Democratic voters unhappy with the outcome of the primary, and to compete for states that have recently voted Democratic, like Pennsylvania, where Mr. Obama was soundly beaten by Mrs. Clinton, and Michigan, where Mr. Obama did not compete in the primary.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Obama begins in Virginia, just what I was hoping he would do. This is smart, very smart.

From The Washington Post:

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama chose Virginia as the starting point of his general election campaign yesterday, sending a clear signal to voters and Republicans that he plans to compete hard in a state that past Democratic presidential candidates largely ignored.

With Obama hoping to shake up voting patterns across the country, it looks increasingly as if Virginia will be a center of his strategy for amassing the 270 electoral votes he will need to defeat Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive GOP nominee.

"To go to a Southern state right off the bat and lay down a marker is very smart politics for Barack Obama," said Steve Jarding, a Democratic strategist who orchestrated the 2006 victory of Sen. James Webb (D-Va.). "Obama has made a statement to voters in some of these potential swing areas and the South that, 'I am going to bring my message here and I am not going to be intimidated by past voting patterns.'"


A 5-25-08 post noted:

For the first time in decades, Virginia is shaping up as a presidential battleground as advisers to Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama lay plans to compete in the fall for the state's 13 electoral votes.

Virginia has supported a Democratic presidential candidate only once since 1948 -- Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 -- but the recent string of Democratic victories has Republicans vowing to redouble their efforts in the state this year.


As might be obvious from my catching up on my posts, I have been out of town a couple of days. My mother-in-law, a Republican, asked if Obama would carry Georgia.

I told her the margin would be much narrower than in 2004, but that he would not unless he put Nunn on as V.P., in which case he most definitely would.

But, I added, I will tell you one state that he will carry, and you won't believe this. What, she asked. Virginia, I responded.

In truth, my real feelings about Obama carrying Georgia were expressed to a close friend at a party last night who asked me what I thought about his being this area's coordinator for Obama. He had just been asked either Thurday or Friday. Of course I said do it by all means, and then told him that I thought that it is at least possible that Obama can carry Georgia. Not likely, but very possible. But even feeling this is is a big contrast with the past.

Wow! This is huge news. I'm not saying its good or bad. Just huge. -- Obama and the DNC say no more money from lobbyists or PACs.

The AJC's Political Insider's headline says it all: "So Obama and the DNC say no more money from lobbyists or PACs — what does this do to downticket Democrats?"

I wonder if the expansion of the Obama campaign policy to the DNC has been thought out completely.

The Insider post notes:

The Barack Obama campaign announced today that the Democratic National Committee will no longer accept donations from lobbyists and political action committees, to comply with Obama’s campaign policy.

Think about this one — it could have an impact on downticket Democrats who may or may not fall in line with their party’s nominee on the topic. Not just in Georgia, but across the U.S.


The following is from The New York Times:

As Mrs. Clinton prepared to formally endorse his candidacy on Saturday, Mr. Obama said the Democratic National Committee would no longer accept donations from federal lobbyists or political action committees. He said he would keep Howard Dean as the national chairman, but was deploying his own advisers to oversee party operations.

From The Washington Post:

In addition to DNC staff changes, Obama extended his campaign's prohibition on raising funds from lobbyists and political action committees on the party's fundraising operations. Paul Tewes, one of the architects of Obama's primary strategy and the field general of his critical victory in the Iowa caucuses, will serve as Obama's point man at DNC.

Obama said his special-interest money ban is "not a perfect solution" but is an important symbolic move.

The following is part of an email I received from the DNC Thursday:

I wanted to drop you a quick note about a major policy change here at the Democratic Party:

As we move toward the general election, the Democratic Party has to be the Party of ordinary Americans, not Washington lobbyists and special interests. So, as of this morning, if you're a federal lobbyist, or if you control political action committee donations, we won't be accepting your contribution.

This is an unprecedented move for a political party to make -- one that has sent shockwaves through Washington and has turned the debate on clean campaigns upside down. We've unilaterally agreed to shut lobbyists out of the process, and are we're relying on people just like you.

Just imagine what hundreds of thousands of Americans donating $20, $30, or $50 at a time can accomplish together. Imagine the signal that it sends to anyone who looks at John McCain's political machine and the special interest money it needs to fuel every move it makes.

We have a chance to change the way business is done in this country, and we're taking the lead.

Barr wants to participate in Obama-McCain debates -- Think twice on this Obama. This is risky stuff, & the risk may not outweigh the possible gain.

From the AJC's Political Insider:

About those 10 debates that Republican presidential nominee John McCain has pitched to Democratic rival Barack Obama.

Bob Barr wants a piece of the action.

This raises an interesting question. McCain would probably oppose Barr’s participation. A higher Barr profile hurts the Republican.

Does Obama insist on Barr’s participation — as Bill Clinton insisted on making Ross Perot part of the ’92 debates with George W. Bush?

I talked with one strategist earlier today, before this topic came up. He said the Democratic campaign is quickly coming to realize that Bob Barr is Barack Obama’s best friend.

Very interesting & I had thought the same thing, i.e., McCain's attempted cure was worse than disease -- ‘McCain made a mistake by disavowing pastors’

From the AJC's Political Insider:

Mark DeMoss, a conservative Christian public affairs specialist who served as Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s liaison to evangelicals . . . [and] who operates out of Gwinnett County, makes three points:

— He’s now an unenthusiastic McCain supporter. “I told [the McCain campaign] I’m a conservative a first and a Republican second. I was inclined to vote for Senator McCain but not to get involved beyond that,” he said.

— McCain made a mistake when he recently disavowed two pastors with large television followings.

“The senator hurt himself by rejecting the endorsements of John Hagee and Rod Parsley in Texas and Ohio, and it was mistake to do that. Here were two conservative religious pastors who were probably out on a limb supporting him.… That was a slap in the face to evangelicals who are already somewhat suspect of Senator McCain,” DeMoss said.

— As many as 40 percent of evangelical voters may take a chance with Obama.

“You’re seeing some movement among evangelicals as the term [evangelical] has become more pejorative. There’s a reaction among some evangelicals to swing out to the left in an effort to prove that evangelicals are really not that right wing,” DeMoss said. “There’s some concern that maybe Republicans haven’t done that well. And there’s this fascination with Barack Obama.”

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Is this a connection between an earmark and campaign contributions? Appears so -- Rep. Jack Kingston.

From the AJC's Political Insider:

[Friday’s] Huffington Post has this in a piece about the connections between earmarks and campaign contributions:

Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., won a $1.6 million earmark last year for Engineering and Software Systems Solutions Inc. for advanced coating technologies. Kingston has received more than $20,000 in campaign contributions this election cycle from company executives and their wives.

Clinton's Road to Second Place -- Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack flatly told Hillary Iowa Democrats know she's qualified, they just didn't like her.

Sen. Hillary Clinton stands with daughter Chelsea Clinton and former President Bill Clinton during her election night event at Baruch College on June 3 in New York.

I normally post selected excerpts from long articles, but I think this was is worth your reading in total. It appeared in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday morning, June 4, the day after Clinton had lost and Obama won the nomination.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, once positioned to be Democrats'"inevitable nominee," won't be. On Tuesday, Sen. Barack Obama won enough delegates to claim the party's presidential nomination.

Inside the Clinton campaign and out, the finger-pointing has begun. The bottom line is this: She called the biggest plays, and she got them wrong.

Conversations over months with dozens of Clinton staffers, advisers and supporters suggest that over her 17-month campaign, the second-term New York senator and former first lady was smart, substantive and tireless. The surprise was how good a campaigner she grew to be.

Still, these people say, Sen. Clinton is responsible for what one confidant called "grievous mistakes." Those help explain why Sen. Clinton -- the best brand name in Democratic politics, and an early favorite to be the first female nominee in U.S. history -- lost to a relative newcomer who would be the first African-American major-party nominee.

A campaign spokesman said the Clintons were unavailable for interviews.

The mistakes boil down to mismanagement, message, mobilization failures and the marital factor.


Insiders say control over the campaign resided with a small clique of loyalists close to Sen. Clinton but at odds with each other. Ultimately, however, she relied on an inner circle of two -- her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and their longtime pollster, Mark Penn -- whose instincts often clashed with those of the campaign veterans around them.

As Sen. Clinton's presidential campaign took shape amid her easy Senate re-election race in 2006, she wanted Mr. Penn to serve as both chief strategist and sole pollster. Virtually no one else in the campaign did. Since his work on Mr. Clinton's 1996 re-election, current and former associates have criticized Mr. Penn as too data-driven, more comfortable with centrist general-election campaigns than Democratic primaries, socially awkward and not a strategic thinker.

For campaign manager, Sen. Clinton chose the more popular Patti Solis Doyle. No one doubted that Ms. Solis Doyle, hired 17 years ago as the future first lady's scheduler, spoke for the senator. Yet even friends say she had little to prepare her to lead what would become a $200 million presidential campaign with nearly 1,000 employees.

The clear front-runner for all of 2007, Sen. Clinton was shaken by her third-place finish in the first contest, Iowa's Jan. 3 caucuses. Big donors demanded a management shake-up. The morning of the New Hampshire primary Jan. 8, she told Ms. Solis Doyle she wanted another manager.

Other staffers protested. The senator hesitated. Her headquarters was rattled for a crucial month up to the 20-plus Super Tuesday contests in early February. When she ousted Ms. Solis Doyle in mid-February, it was done so coldly and publicly that hardened colleagues say they were stunned. Ms. Solis Doyle -- who still has a Hillary Clinton sign in the yard of her Washington home -- and Sen. Clinton haven't spoken since, an associate said.

"I take my fair share of the responsibility for the mistakes that were made," Ms. Solis Doyle says now. But she said she got the campaign up to speed quickly, kept the trains running and the egos in check, and for a year fostered a fun yet disciplined atmosphere.

Colleagues told Sen. Clinton that Mr. Penn should have been fired instead. Insiders resented that the pollster-strategist remained CEO of public-relations giant Burson-Marsteller Worldwide, given the potential conflicts. Their fears were realized in April, when The Wall Street Journal reported he was helping a client, Colombia, win Congress's approval of a trade pact that Sen. Clinton opposed. Mr. Penn was replaced as head strategist by Geoff Garin, though he remains in frequent touch with both Clintons.

Critics' bigger complaint was that from the campaign's start Mr. Penn had been its only pollster. Other campaigns typically use many pollsters to provide alternative views; Sen. Obama has had up to four. Ms. Solis Doyle says that throughout 2006 and 2007, she urged Sen. Clinton to add more. Sen. Clinton told advisers Mr. Penn is "brilliant," and multiple pollsters would slow consensus on strategy.

But top aides chafed that Mr. Penn used his control of "the numbers" to win most disagreements. "He could go straight to the [former] president of the United States, who in turn got to Hillary," says a senior strategist. "After a while, people just shrugged their shoulders and said, 'Hey, look, this is how she wants her campaign run.'"

Mr. Penn defends his polling analyses, and counters that others were responsible for budgets and field operations. "The misleading thing here is, the title of chief strategist connotes that I was in charge of things," he said. "It was a much more complex structure than any title connotes." As for the core staff's divisions, he evoked Abraham Lincoln's contentious but largely successful cabinet. "I think she had in mind a 'team of rivals' idea, and it almost worked."

'Flawed' Message

Sen. Clinton's management choices, it is widely agreed, gave rise to fatal strategic blunders. The main one, in the eyes of many associates, was her message: She emphasized her Washington experience when voters wanted change.

Before her January 2007 debut as a candidate, the senator's team wrangled over how to portray her. Ms. Solis Doyle, communications director Howard Wolfson, media strategist Mandy Grunwald, policy chief Neera Tanden and senior strategist Harold Ickes wanted to promote her as a candidate of change -- the first woman president -- her Washington years notwithstanding. They also wanted to counter the candidate's high negative ratings among the general population by revealing the witty, engaging woman they knew.

Mr. Penn, by contrast, believed that voters would need to perceive Sen. Clinton as tough and seasoned enough to be the first female commander in chief. Emphasizing her gender too much, he argued, would undercut that. He also said Sen. Clinton would look weak if she apologized for her 2002 war vote, though it was especially unpopular in Iowa.

When one insider pleaded during meetings in 2007 to humanize the candidate, witnesses say Mr. Penn responded: "Being human is overrated." His polls, he said, showed "soft stuff" -- talking about Sen. Clinton's mother, for example -- had no effect. Her early attacks on Sen. Obama, on the other hand, had moved numbers in her favor. "People don't care if you have a beer with the guys after work, or whether you're warm and fuzzy about your mother," Mr. Penn argued -- they care about issues like health care.

Sen. Clinton, issue-oriented and intensely private, backed Mr. Penn.

Some supporters in Congress and big donors still begged Ms. Solis Doyle to show the senator's softer side -- get her onto more women's TV programs and late-night shows. But when Ms. Grunwald, the media adviser, last year suggested having Chelsea Clinton in an ad, the senator glared at her. When advisers arranged to have her open "Saturday Night Live" last fall, she vetoed them: "That's too risky for me," they recall her saying.

She relented only on the eve of the Iowa caucuses, as polls showed her trailing badly. State supporters, including former Gov. Tom Vilsack, flatly told her Iowa Democrats know she's qualified, they just didn't like her. In December, she suddenly appeared on stage in Iowa with her daughter and mother. She held "The Hillary I Know" events featuring old friends. But for Iowa, it was too late.

Campaigning next in New Hampshire, she visited voters' homes more and took dozens of questions. The most memorable moment was unplanned, advisers insist. On the eve of the state's Jan. 8 primary, as her brain trust huddled in a hotel basement anticipating defeat, advisers got emails from reporters that Sen. Clinton had just cried at a women's round table. They cursed, fearing a campaign-ending backlash.

Instead, she won New Hampshire, and exalted at her comeback-victory rally that she found her "voice." Later, she agreed to appear on "Saturday Night Live." But supporters say she deployed her softer side inconsistently.

Emphasizing experience over likability and change may have been her "fatal flaw," Ms. Solis Doyle has told others.

Mr. Penn succeeded on one level, as Sen. Clinton scored high in polls for leadership and drew a majority of votes from men. But her marks in polls for delivering change, and for likability, fell over time.

The campaign's most inarguable mistake was its failure to organize voters in states with caucuses rather than primaries. That left Sen. Obama to build what proved an insurmountable lead in convention delegates.

Failure to Mobilize

Many supporters blamed Ms. Solis Doyle and her deputies. But the failures started at the top with the Clintons' bias against caucuses and an ignorance of key party rules. Early on, the campaign figured she would lock up the nomination with Feb. 5's Super Tuesday primaries. Caucus states wouldn't matter.

The Clintons were unfamiliar with caucuses: Mr. Clinton had left Iowa to native son Sen. Tom Harkin in the 1992 Democratic race and was unopposed there for his 1996 re-election. They considered them less democratic than primaries, where turnout is greater and voters quickly cast secret ballots. Caucuses, by contrast, are long meetings -- discouraging those with work, child-care or health conflicts -- where votes are made in the open. Plus, in Iowa especially, Democratic caucuses were dominated by grass-roots activists, many of them antiwar liberals who resented Sen. Clinton's Iraq vote.

Advisers point to a missed opportunity. Veteran Iowa organizer Steve Hildebrand had sought a job with Sen. Clinton in mid-2006. In a 45-minute interview, the senator talked about congressional elections but never mentioned the coming presidential race, Mr. Hildebrand says. Months later, he signed on as Sen. Obama's deputy campaign manager and oversaw his Iowa push.

By last summer, when the Clinton campaign began organizing in Iowa, the volunteer-strong Obama network had already mobilized supporters statewide. Advisers say the Iowa loss hardened both Clintons against caucuses. With money getting tight and polls in caucus states discouraging, Sen. Clinton scaled back spending and appearances in places such as Idaho and Nebraska, effectively forfeiting them.

Mr. Ickes, a rules expert, had long argued against the strategy. Last June at a meeting at the Penn home, Mr. Penn suggested Sen. Clinton would get all 370 state delegates when she won California's primary, attendees say. Mr. Ickes, they say, mocked him: "The vaunted chief strategist" doesn't know that party rules aren't winner-take-all?

Mr. Penn calls the account "totally false."

Then and later, others say, Mr. Ickes would lecture that the rules give each candidate delegates in proportion to their share of the vote. He argued that Sen. Clinton should compete even in caucuses she'd lose to limit Sen. Obama's delegate gains. "Even if you lose, you win," these people recall Mr. Ickes saying. But he failed to press the matter, they say.

Clinton 'Craziness'

Finally, the campaign failed to acknowledge the "Clinton fatigue" felt by many Democrats. Mr. Clinton's controversies on the stump only fanned it.

Early on, even some of Sen. Clinton's biggest admirers feared that another Clinton presidency would be undercut by distracting dramas of her marriage and her husband's activities. Several confidants separately referred to the "meshugas" -- Yiddish for craziness. But early polls and interviews showed most Democratic voters saw Mr. Clinton as his wife's best asset.

Through 2007, she mostly campaigned alone to build credibility. He kept largely to his foundation's global philanthropic work. Insiders say Mr. Clinton seized a more central role after Democrats' Oct. 30 debate in Philadelphia.

Sen. Clinton, usually the debate standout, bobbled a question on drivers licenses for illegal immigrants and endured days of criticism. When Democrats debated two weeks later, Sen. Obama fumbled the same issue. Little was made of it.

"That's when Bill Clinton just lost it," says an adviser. Associates say he called to vent: "They torture her on this drivers license issue for weeks, and then the media gives this guy a free ride?" After Thanksgiving, the Clintons brought aides to their Washington home, and he told them: "If the media is not going to take this guy on, then we have to."

Mr. Penn backed him, arguing that the campaign should have taken on Mr. Obama early in 2007. Mr. Penn lost then largely because Sen. Clinton's Iowa team protested that negativism would backfire there.

When Sen. Clinton lost Iowa anyway, Mr. Clinton came to headquarters bearing bagels and a plan to effectively take over, with his wife's blessing. Yet he ended up mostly on the road, and took credit for her comeback in New Hampshire. Energized, he decamped to South Carolina to court the black vote. When advisers objected that Sen. Clinton should leave its Jan. 26 primary to the now-surging Sen. Obama, he cried, according to one, "That's nuts!"

Once known for his sunny optimism, Mr. Clinton became a finger-wagging scourge against media bias and Sen. Obama. The man once dubbed "the first black president" railed against accusations that he was using race against the candidate trying to be the real thing.

His wife lost South Carolina 2-to-1. Dismissing Sen. Obama's win, Mr. Clinton compared it with the 1980s campaigns of Rev. Jesse Jackson, a comment many viewed as a way of calling attention to Sen. Obama's skin color. Instead of winning the black vote, Sen. Clinton permanently lost it.

Party leaders and donors urged the campaign to control Mr. Clinton for the sake of party unity. Critical among these people are the superdelegates, whose growing endorsements for Sen. Obama put him over the top Tuesday.

"The issue became, 'If she can't control her husband in the campaign, who the h- is really going to run this White House?'" one adviser says.

Among the party leaders Mr. Clinton alienated over time by his angry tirades was South Carolina's Rep. Jim Clyburn, the third-ranking House leader and a civil-rights-movement veteran.

Before South Carolina's primary, Mr. Clyburn admonished Sen. Clinton for suggesting President Johnson deserved more credit than Martin Luther King Jr. for civil-rights laws. On primary night, Mr. Clinton called Mr. Clyburn and they spoke for 50 minutes. "Let's just say it wasn't pleasant," Mr. Clyburn says.

Mr. Clinton called Mr. Clyburn an expletive, say Democrats familiar with the exchange. Mr. Clyburn's office would confirm only that the former president used "offensive" words. Some day soon, the congressman says, he'll write about the incident. On Tuesday, he endorsed Mr. Obama for president.