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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.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

G.O.P. Exodus in House Bodes Ill for Fall Success

From The New York Times:

A swelling exodus of senior Republican incumbents from the House, worsened by a persistent disadvantage in campaign money, threatens to cripple Republican efforts to topple the Democratic majority in November.

Representative Tom Davis, a moderate from Northern Virginia, on Wednesday became the fifth House Republican in the last week to announce that he would not seek re-election.

That puts the roster of retirees at 28, one of the highest numbers recorded for the party in the House.

With only five Democratic seats opening so far, party strategists and independent analysts say the disparity in open seats — typically the most competitive House fights, as voters oust relatively few incumbents — makes it highly unlikely that Republicans could seize the seats necessary to regain the House. The current House has 199 Republicans and 232 Democrats, with four vacancies to be filled by special elections.

Compounding their problems, Republicans face a worrisome financial gap in comparison to House Democrats. New fund-raising figures to be made public on Thursday will show that the national campaign committee of the House Democrats ended 2007 with $35 million in the bank and $1.3 million in debt. The Republicans’ committee had $5 million in the bank and $2 million in debt.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

This is getting interesting: Macon Mayor Robert Reichert will endorse Obama tomorrow.

Travis Fain of The Macon Telegraph reports on Lucid Idiocy (Politics) that tomorrow Macon Mayor Robert Reichert will endorse Sen. Barack Obama.

Mark Taylor comments about John McCain

From the AJC's Political Insider:

“He hates Lockheed, he hates the peanut program,” Taylor said, meaning that rural Georgia and parts of suburban could be up for grabs [if Republicans nominate John McCain].

Common Hispanic remark: "I can't vote for a black man."

From The Wall Street Journal:

Sen. Hillary Clinton is counting on Latino voters to play a decisive role as several big states vote Feb. 5. Sen. Barack Obama is battling to overcome Sen. Clinton's lead and decades of hostility between Latinos and African-Americans in some major cities.

The Hispanic vote is huge in many of the states voting Feb. 5. California is the biggest prize both in overall size and in the impact of the Hispanic vote. Hispanics make up 22.8% of the eligible voters in California . . . .

Polls show Latinos overwhelmingly backing Mrs. Clinton.

Mr. Obama's candidacy is exposing the long-simmering hostility between blacks and Latinos in some neighborhoods and in politics.

Michele Martinez, a Latino city councilor in Santa Ana, a major Hispanic city in southern California, says when she goes out to canvass for Mr. Obama one of the things she hears is, "I can't vote for a black man," sometimes accompanied by a racial slur.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Heavy: Another former Dem. pres., Truman, said Kennedy lacked experience. Kennedy replied: “The world is changing. The old ways will not do!”

Regardless of your preference for Democratic presidential candidates, David Brooks has written a keeper in today's edition of The New York Times about the Kennedy mystique.

I normally share just the highlights with you so you get the flavor of an article without having to read it. This would not do this column justice. I share just the following, and encourage you to read his column:

[The most striking passage from Ted Kennedy's speech at American University in Washington in which he endorsed Obama was:] “There was another time,” Kennedy said, “when another young candidate was running for president and challenging America to cross a New Frontier.” But, he continued, another former Democratic president, Harry Truman, said he should have patience. He said he lacked experience. John Kennedy replied: “The world is changing. The old ways will not do!”

State of Disunion

Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama were within earshot at the State of the Union address, but never spoke. (From the 1-29-08 AJC online.)

Strategizing for Super Tuesday

From The Wall Street Journal:

For weeks, presidential candidates have waged battle one state at a time. But now the race enters a new phase, with candidates delving into the complex coast-to-coast contest known as Super Tuesday, and tough decisions are being made about where and how to compete.

On Feb. 5, voters in 22 states will cast ballots. More than half of all Democratic delegates and over 40% of Republican delegates are at stake in a pair of races that remain far from settled.

Strategists must consider not just state-by-state polling, but also the widely varying rules governing each contest. Some states allow independents to vote in partisan primaries; others are closed. Some are caucuses more likely to attract activists; some are primaries where early voting is already under way. In the Democratic field, Sen. Hillary Clinton has the advantage when only registered party voters are allowed in. Sen. Barack Obama, with an extensive field organization, is expected to do well in caucuses.

For Republicans, many states are winner-take-all, so campaigns must assess if they have a shot. If not, they will skip these states altogether and focus on realistic targets. Sen. John McCain will spend one day in the South; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will go nowhere else.

In Democratic contests, most delegates are awarded proportionate to the vote by congressional district. Some districts have an even number of delegates, meaning the two major candidates are likely to divide the spoils no matter what; but in others, there is an odd number, meaning an investment in voter phone calls and mailings could yield one extra delegate.

The map features states large and small that rarely play an important role in presidential politics. That includes the megaprizes of California and New York, both too Democratic to matter in a general election and usually too late to matter in a primary. But the campaign is also reaching tiny quarters. Both Sens. Clinton and Obama are running TV ads in Delaware, and Mr. Obama has a half dozen paid staffers in Idaho.

On the night of Feb. 5, the winners are likely to be reported by state. The statewide vote totals are important, even in the Democratic race, given that 35% of the party's delegates are awarded based on those results. But the rest of the Democratic delegates are awarded by congressional district, meaning there will be microcontests even in states where one or another candidate is far ahead.

Each district typically has three to five delegates to award. A candidate needs at least 15% of the vote in the district to get any delegates. So in a race where only Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama meet that threshold, they are likely to divide the delegates evenly if there are an even number of delegates available. That makes the districts with an odd number of delegates the most valuable, because the winner will automatically get an extra.

Campaign strategists are also looking to see where it might be possible to win 59% of the vote; a victory that large gets a candidate an extra delegate even in a district with an even number.

Clinton campaign officials expect they may lose Colorado and Minnesota, but they have identified districts in each state where they might pick up extra delegates. Similarly, Mr. Obama doesn't expect to win California, but he is running ads in the San Francisco area hoping to pick up delegates in those congressional districts.

The Republican map is nearly identical but the calculations much different. Many of the states have winner-take-all rules; in those states, there is no point investing in a state that can't be won. None of the candidates are advertising yet with the exception of a cable-television buy by Mr. Huckabee, who is trying to pivot beyond Florida, where he isn't expected to do well.

For Super Tuesday, Mr. Huckabee plans to concentrate in Alabama, Georgia and his home state of Arkansas. The campaign also hopes to be competitive in neighboring Missouri, particularly the conservative southern, rural part of the state.

Sen. McCain plans to focus on California, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. He also will make a stop in Illinois.

For Mr. McCain, the race is moving away from his comfort zone, the one-on-one style of campaigning where he can answer questions and interact with voters.

Mr. Romney is still working through his options, hoping that a weakened Mr. Giuliani will give him a shot at northeastern states including New York and New Jersey. He is also analyzing states where the winner of each congressional district picks up Republican delegates, and is considering making a play for some in Georgia, Alabama and California, regardless of whether he can win the entire state, one of his strategists said.

Part of the goal, Mr. Romney said, is keeping opponents guessing. "Clearly it's a bit of ... a head fake there and a move in a different direction than they were expecting, but it's all about getting delegates."

Weighing Costs of Death-Penalty Cases

The Wall Street Journal has the following insights from an article in The New Yorker:

At the heart of the debate over how much to spend on the legal defense of alleged killers, lies a paradox, says Jeffrey Toobin in the New Yorker. When the evidence is incontrovertible and the crime heinous, the cost of defending the alleged culprit is usually higher.

When it is fairly obvious the defendant committed a capital crime, the defense team is required to search for any mitigating factor that might convince a jury that the defendant’s life be spared, which essentially means spending money on experts such as forensic psychiatrists. A 2003 Supreme Court decision extended the search for mitigating factors to a defendant’s early life, making it more or less mandatory for defense teams to compile expensive mini-biographies of clients.

It isn’t clear how to keep such costs down. Some states cap the legal fees that can be spent on death-penalty cases. Florida sets its cap at $15,000 and South Carolina and Oklahoma at $25,000. But spending on experts, which isn’t subject to those limits, “often push the total cost in those states to six figures,” says Mr. Toobin.

The costs can be enough to derail a trial entirely, as is the case with the Georgia trial of Brian Nichols who, in 2005, shot a judge and a court reporter in a courtroom while making an escape; he then killed two more people, stealing cars and taking a hostage. More than two years later, the cost of paying for experts has played a large role in exhausting the funds of the Georgia agency charged with covering the defense of death-penalty defendants. It has already paid $1.2 million so far in legal fees and expert bills. With Mr. Nichols’s legal team refusing to go on without further payment, jury selection hasn’t even been completed.

The costs of Mr. Nichols’s defense has provoked outrage among some legislators. But their refusal to pay the defense team has slowed the trial to a standstill increasing the chances the prosecution will eventually settle for a life sentence.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

House Republicans Urge Earmark Moratorium -- Yes!! (But see UPDATE)

From The New York Times:

House Republicans called on Friday for “an immediate moratorium” on earmarking money for pet projects. They urged Democrats to join them in establishing a bipartisan panel to set strict new standards for such spending.

As an interim step, House Republican leaders said, they will insist that all House Republicans follow standards to eliminate “wasteful pork-barrel spending.”

Democrats won control of the House in 2006 with promises to end the Republican “culture of corruption.” House Republican leaders hope to seize the initiative on the issue, which they believe resonates with millions of voters.

A Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain of Arizona, is campaigning on his record as a longtime foe of earmarks. In wartime, he said, “it is especially egregious to squander money on special-interest pet projects.”

UPDATE -- House GOP Backs Away From Real Earmark Moratorium:

From The Washington Post:

House Republicans wrap up their three-day retreat at the Greenbrier resort today having taken only modest steps toward their biggest goal for the gathering -- a bold, consensus earmark reform plan that the party can use to invigorate its disillusioned base and paint Democrats as soft on the issue.

Coming into the retreat, many conservative lawmakers and some members of leadership were optimistic that the GOP could agree on a one-year moratorium on new spending earmarks, a ban that Republicans would heed even if Democrats wouldn't.

In the end, however, the GOP could not reach agreement on such a strict ban during their private discussion on the issue Friday night. Instead, the party settled on sending a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) calling for Democrats to agree to a moratorium -- meaning the minority would abstain from earmarks if the majority did too.

For Edwards, a Role as Possible Kingmaker -- Democrat May Grab Enough Delegates To Sway Convention

From The Wall Street Journal:

[T]he question among many Democratic Party officials is this: Why doesn't Mr. Edwards fold his presidential campaign tent, just as Rep. Dennis Kucinich formally plans to do today, and Joseph Biden, Christopher Dodd and Bill Richardson have already done?

Joe Trippi, senior adviser to Mr. Edwards, . . . continues to insist that Mr. Edwards has a chance at securing the nomination, [he] concedes it is a long shot. More probable: arriving at the convention with enough delegates to tip the scales in favor of either Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama. "Edwards is the primary force keeping Clinton under 50%," Mr. Trippi said. "Worst case? We go to the convention as the peacemaker, kingmaker, whatever you want to call it."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Machine -- In South, Democrats' Tactics May Change Political Game

From The Wall Street Journal:

In early voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, campaigns use rallies and personal appearances to get votes. Now, the nominating races have moved to bigger states, including much of the South. Candidates here rely on endorsements from powerful politicians and preachers. It is a tradition that has evolved since the 1960s to garner support among poor blacks who look to their preachers for both spiritual and political guidance. And it is the way Mrs. Clinton, like countless Democratic politicians before her, is running her campaign in South Carolina.

Mr. Obama, in contrast, is trying something many observers say has never been done here: He is circumventing entrenched local leadership and building a political machine from scratch. His staff consists largely of community organizers -- many from out of state or with no political experience -- who are assembling an army of volunteers. It is a strategy often used by labor organizations and in neighborhood and town politics.

The strategy has risks. The endorsement system of politics evolved precisely because it was locals, not outsiders, who knew where voters here lived and how to get them to the polls.

The campaigns' differing strategies have opened a split between the old hands at Southern black politics who back Mrs. Clinton, and a new generation of Obama supporters who are often more attuned to hip-hop culture than civil-rights history.

When Mr. Obama first started trying to organize the state [of South Carolina] earlier this year, he began in the usual way, seeking endorsements of traditional power brokers. The campaign offered a $5,000-a-month consulting contract to state Sen. Darrell Jackson of Columbia, a longtime legislator and pastor of an 11,000-member church, who also runs an ad agency.

Mr. Jackson's ability to turn out the vote -- or suppress it against rivals -- is the stuff of local legend. In 2004, he helped clinch a primary win for North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, even as Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry was coming off wins in Iowa and New Hampshire. At the time, Mr. Edwards was paying him consulting fees of roughly $15,000 a month, according to federal records.

Mr. Jackson says he seriously considered the offer from Mr. Obama, but instead became a paid consultant to Mrs. Clinton, essentially running her state operation for substantially more than what the Obama camp offered. "A lot of our hearts were torn -- it wasn't an easy choice," Mr. Jackson said. He drew more than $135,000 from the Clinton campaign from February 2007 through September 2007, the latest figures available, according to federal election filings, and remains on the payroll.

Mr. Obama's team says his grass-roots approach -- tapping younger African-American voters who have never been engaged in elections -- has the potential to permanently change the way politics are practiced here.

Steve Hildebrand, Mr. Obama's chief strategist for early voting states, set out to build an organization that relies heavily on circumventing the established black political gentry in South Carolina. A native of South Dakota, Mr. Hildebrand is not only an outsider, he is also white -- an unusual combination for someone setting out to win the black vote here. Many of the people he has hired have come from out of state or have no presidential-campaign experience, or both.

He says he has largely eschewed the local tradition of giving "walking-around money," or "street money," to political figures who back candidates. Such funds are used to hire van drivers, canvassers and poll watchers who turn out the black vote on election day. It's a practice as old as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Clinton Now Looking Beyond S.C.

From The Washington Post:

The next Democratic presidential nominating contest will take place in South Carolina on Saturday, but Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has already turned her full attention to places such as this: delegate-rich pockets of states that will vote in a tidal wave of primaries two weeks from now.

Clinton has been focused on California, New York, New Jersey and Arkansas since her defeat in the Iowa caucuses earlier this month, betting that she can sweep states where her name recognition and popularity are strong.

The logic seems simple: She represents New York in the Senate, and New Jersey is next door; she was the first lady of Arkansas for a decade; and California will be the biggest prize when 22 states vote on Feb. 5.

How Clinton will win the nomination by losing S.C.

Dick Morris, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton and now no friend of the Clintons to put it mildly, writes in The Hill:

Hillary Clinton will undoubtedly lose the South Carolina primary as African-Americans line up to vote for Barack Obama. And that defeat will power her drive to the nomination.

So why is [President Clinton] making such a fuss over [the South Carolina] contest he knows he’s going to lose?

Precisely because he is going to lose it. If Hillary loses South Carolina and the defeat serves to demonstrate Obama’s ability to attract a bloc vote among black Democrats, the message will go out loud and clear to white voters that this is a racial fight. It’s one thing for polls to show, as they now do, that Obama beats Hillary among African-Americans by better than 4-to-1 and Hillary carries whites by almost 2-to-1. But most people don’t read the fine print on the polls. But if blacks deliver South Carolina to Obama, everybody will know that they are bloc-voting. That will trigger a massive white backlash against Obama and will drive white voters to Hillary Clinton.

Obama has done everything he possibly could to keep race out of this election. . . . The more President Clinton begs black voters to back his wife, and the more they spurn her, the more the election becomes about race — and Obama ultimately loses.

[There is the question of how Sen. Clinton] will be able to attract blacks after beating Obama. Here the South Carolina strategy also serves its purpose. . . . [I]f she is seen as being rejected by minority voters in favor of Obama after going hat in hand to them and trying to out-civil rights Obama, blacks will even likely feel guilty about rejecting Hillary and will be more than willing to support her in the general election.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Obama's Bid Turns Focus On Class Split Among Blacks

From The Wall Street Journal:

Malcolm Davis, 25, waits outside his parole office in Columbia, S.C. Like 13% of all black men -- 1.4 million in total -- he can't vote because he lives in a state that disenfranchises people convicted of certain felonies. He scoffs at Mr. Obama's message of hope and change. "He didn't grow up the way I grew up -- Mom smoking crack, Daddy smoking crack. It doesn't matter what I think. Just because a black man is running for president doesn't mean it's going to change things."

Even as Mr. Obama is promising to bring America together, his candidacy is casting new light on the mounting class divide in the black community -- and the debate among blacks about how to get ahead. The expanding black middle class -- accounting for about 40% of the black population -- see in Mr. Obama a validation of the choices they have made: attending largely white colleges, working in predominantly white companies and government offices, climbing up the ladder of American success.

For African-Americans living in the inner city -- where most children are being raised by single mothers, male unemployment in some cities tops 50% and 40% of young black men are either in jail, awaiting trial or on probation -- the view of Mr. Obama is much more skeptical. Black teenagers mock Mr. Obama as a "Halfrican" and a "50-percenter" for his biracial background; his mother is white, his Kenyan-born father was black.

The black vote is key to Mr. Obama in South Carolina where he needs a victory this Saturday following defeat in New Hampshire and a mixed result in Nevada where he lost the caucus vote by 51% to 45% but won one more delegate than New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. His support among blacks across the country is swelling as he proves himself a formidable challenger to Mrs. Clinton, who initially rallied black support because of her and her husband's support of black issues. Despite losing in Nevada, Mr. Obama won about 83% of the black vote, according to exit polls. A CNN poll released last week showed Mr. Obama with almost 60% support among black voters across the U.S., compared with 31% for Mrs. Clinton. Here in South Carolina, several polls have shown Mr. Obama leading Mrs. Clinton by about 8% overall with wide leads among black voters.

Many poor blacks don't vote, so their skepticism likely won't hurt Mr. Obama's candidacy. But Mr. Obama's challenge goes beyond politics: Can he unite his own community -- and, if elected president, inspire and uplift African-Americans of all classes?

Many of the features that whites find most appealing about Mr. Obama -- his mixed-race background, cosmopolitan upbringing, the ease with which he moves among whites -- stir unease among some blacks. The debate among blacks about Mr. Obama has become unusually intimate, including discussions about the color of his wife's skin.

One of the things that many poor and middle-class blacks say they like best about Mr. Obama is that his wife, Michelle, who attended Princeton and Harvard Law School, is dark-skinned. Color has long been a sensitive subject in the black community, with men and women of lighter skin seen as having higher status.

Rev. Eugene Rivers, who works in Boston's poor black neighborhoods, says he was in his local barbershop last week "and there was a magazine with photos of Obama and his family. Someone held up the picture of him hugging his wife and the guys all started saying, 'She's a dark sister.'"

"Many of our male celebrities, sports figures, they marry white women or light-skinned wives," says Darnell Cooper, a laborer in Columbia, S.C. "We all see that on television. But you turn on the TV and you see Michelle Obama and she looks black. I can identify with her." He laughs. "I can tell you this: He would have a lot less votes if his wife were light-skinned or white."

Giuliani's toughness edged toward ruthlessness and became a defining aspect of his mayoralty.

In a 1-11-08 post I wrote:

I used to admire and respect Rudolph Giuliani.

Although I still appreciate the way he cleaned up New York City, something I have experienced firsthand, I have little admiration and even less respect for him now. He is just not presidential material.

Today The New York Times has an article about him entitled "In Matters Big and Small, Crossing Giuliani Had Price." The flavor of the article is as follows:

Rudolph W. Giuliani likens himself to a boxer who never takes a punch without swinging back. As mayor, he made the vengeful roundhouse an instrument of government, clipping anyone who crossed him.

Mr. Giuliani was a pugilist in a city of political brawlers. But far more than his predecessors, historians and politicians say, his toughness edged toward ruthlessness and became a defining aspect of his mayoralty.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Obama faces a new test in S.C. where he has to draw significant black support while maintaining the appeal of a candidate who seeks to transcend race.

From The New York Times:

As he stood at the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church here [in Atlanta], addressing worshipers at the former congregation of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Senator Barack Obama was doing something Sunday that he has rarely done in his months of campaigning for the presidency.

He was appearing before a black audience, and he was speaking about race.

For nearly a year, as the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination wound through Iowa and New Hampshire, Mr. Obama has strived to run a race-neutral campaign. Yet this week, as the campaign converges on South Carolina, a new test is at hand for Mr. Obama: Can he draw significant support from African-Americans while maintaining the appeal of a candidate who seeks to transcend race?

From the Cracker Squire Archives: In "I Have a Dream," our native son let the thousands assembled & facing the Lincoln Mem. know that he was from Ga.

From a 1-15-07 post:

Excerpts from "I Have a Dream" as delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28 1963:

"[G]o back to Georgia . . . knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed."

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood."

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

"[L]et freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia! . . . When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Clinton plays gaming card against Obama

From the Los Angeles Times:

Barack Obama has warned about the dangers of gambling -- that it carries a "moral and social cost" that could "devastate" poor communities. As a state senator in Illinois, he at times opposed plans to expand gambling, worrying that it could be especially harmful to low-income people.

Today, those views are posing a problem for Obama in the gambling mecca of Nevada, which holds its presidential nominating caucuses Saturday. While his top rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, also talks often about aiding low-income Americans, she has embraced the gambling industry and its executives, and her campaign has used Obama's past statements in an effort to turn casino workers and other Nevada voters against him.

Michigan primaray results: Early warning of discontent in the black community.

From Newsweek:

Exit polls in Michigan revealed that nearly 70 percent of African-Americans who participated in Tuesday's Democratic primary voted uncommitted, an early warning of discontent in the black community.

Hillary Clinton was the only leading candidate whose name was on the ballot because of a dispute with party officials; still, African-American voters withheld their support.

So Much for the "English-Only Movement" -- Democratic Candidates Look to Nevada for Signs of Future Success

From The Washington Post:

In a preview of the battle looming on Feb. 5, the campaigns of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) head into today's Nevada caucuses engaged in a fierce fight for Hispanic support, bombarding voters with Spanish-language advertisements and literature and arguing over which candidate is most committed to the concerns of Hispanics.

Both campaigns see Nevada as a test run of their strategies for winning over Hispanics, and say the results on Saturday will offer clues to building Hispanic support in the Feb. 5 mega-primary prizes of California, New York and New Jersey. Although Hispanics usually turn out in low numbers relative to their percentage of the population in Nevada, they make up about one-quarter of the electorate and could play a substantial role in deciding who wins.

Hillary and Edwards: Spare us please.

During the Las Vegas debate the Democratic candidates responded to a question about their biggest weaknesses.

Obama said he was disorganized.

Edwards said he's just so passionate about poor people and helping them.

And Hillary said her biggest weakness is she's so impatient about bringing about real change to America.

Geez . . . .

A few candidates who burst on the scene with little notice succeed; many others crash and burn.

From The Wall Street Journal:

[Mike Huckabee] is hardly the first candidate to burst on the scene with little notice. A few succeed, like Jimmy Carter; many others, like Howard Dean, crash and burn. The difference has much to do with outside factors, such as whether a candidate fills a particular void. Mr. Huckabee benefits from a splintered Republican field with no other candidate who appeals so strongly to social conservatives.

The compressed calendar is a big challenge, though. After Mr. Carter won Iowa in 1976, he had a month to prepare for New Hampshire. This year, New Hampshire came less than a week later. By barely a month after the Iowa caucuses, about half the GOP delegates will have been chosen.

Labor Makes Big Comback in '08 Races -- Ramping Up Spending, Unions Get Voters to the Polls

From The Wall Street Journal:

Big Labor is growing new political muscles.

Even as the number of unionized workers falls nationwide, labor unions are showing increased power in this topsy-turvy election season. By deploying new strategies to use their money, unions have regained their position as the single-strongest force in elections, outside of the presidential candidates and the national parties. That's a boost for Democrats, since labor is a pillar of the party.

Many thought campaign-finance reforms enacted in 2002 would diminish the clout of labor along with that of business. The law was meant to stem the influence of big money in politics by barring individuals, corporations, unions and other interest groups from making large donations to the parties.

But unlike companies, unions have adapted by shifting their spending to an often-overlooked part of campaigns: getting out the vote, or what pros call the "ground game." Unions have continued to ramp up their political spending and targeted it to get out the vote for candidates that labor leaders endorse.

Labor officials began to re-emphasize campaign operations about a decade ago, as their shrinking membership was hindering their influence. They redoubled their efforts after the campaign-finance law took effect. Businesses still spend far more but haven't adjusted as well: Their political spending has leveled off since 2002.

Labor's rising influence was a little-noticed factor in Sen. Clinton's surprise win in the New Hampshire primary last week. She beat Sen. Obama by 7,500 votes out of 290,000 cast -- and with the help of three of the state's largest unions, beat him by 4,000 votes among union workers alone, exit polls suggested.

Labor's potential impact in New Hampshire and Nevada goes beyond the Democratic nominating contests. Both are considered swing states in the general election, as are several larger states with big union presences, including Pennsylvania and Ohio. A reinvigorated labor movement could tip some toward Democrats in November.

Labor unions still spend only about half as much on elections as companies and their political action committees as a whole. But the gap is closing.

Corporations don't spend much to try to get employees to vote . . . .

The share of union members in the working population has been falling over the years, reaching 12% last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But exit polls show that voters living in households that include a union member make up almost one-quarter of those who vote in elections, a proportion that's up since the 1990s. Those voters don't necessarily vote for union-backed candidates, to be sure.

Labor spent $32 million on its own mailings and television and radio advertisements in months before the 2004 and 2006 elections, a nearly fivefold jump over the previous four years. In the past few months, unions have spent more than $4 million on advertisements and mailings, mostly to back Mrs. Clinton.

But the airwaves are jammed with political advertising, and labor's unique contribution is its ability to find and motivate reliable Democratic voters. The Republican side relies on the religious right and a formidable database of conservative voters first built by former White House adviser Karl Rove in the late 1990s.

Though the Culinary Union [in Nevada] didn't endorse Sen. Obama until last week, its organizers have been going door to door since last summer to make sure its members were registered to vote and persuade them to back whichever candidate the union ended up endorsing.

With a large number of Hispanic immigrants in its ranks, the Culinary Union helped 2,000 immigrant members get citizenship so they could vote. But the union's Hispanic population may cut into its effectiveness for Sen. Obama: Hispanics nationally favor Sen. Clinton by 56% to 11% in the most recent Wall Street Journal poll.

Did you understand what the lawsuit was about in Nevada?

And speaking of Nevada, I am like Michelle Obama and so many others -- I have always pronounced it incorrectly. Now to the lawsuit:

From The Wall Street Journal:

In Nevada, unions have been battling over their election operations in court. Nevada Democrats had decided this year to hold nine caucuses in casinos on the Las Vegas Strip to make it easier for the Culinary Union's main membership -- casino workers -- to vote. Thousands of cocktail waitresses, bellhops and maids planned to take a few hours off tomorrow for the caucuses, in which supporters of each candidate gather and try to win converts from the rival groups. When the union backed Sen. Obama, the Nevada State Education Association filed suit saying the practice unfairly favors casino workers. [Thursday], a judge allowed the casino caucuses to proceed.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

With the nominating process moving into more diverse states like Nevada, the Democratic candidates are competing for the Hispanic vote. Clinton ahead.

From Newsweek:

[T]he Democratic presidential candidates seized every opportunity they could to reach out to [Hispanics] in Tuesday night's debate in Las Vegas. Former senator John Edwards reiterated his support for comprehensive immigration reform that would include a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Sen. Hillary Clinton touted her work on education and health care and emphasized that "the agenda for America is the agenda for African-Americans and Hispanics." And Sen. Barack Obama noted that Latino voters had backed him in Illinois and that he'd be a forceful advocate for them in the White House.

Overall, surveys show Hispanic voters supporting Clinton by wide margins.

If you read it on the Internet it has to be true, right?

I got the following e-mail this morning:

It's all in how you say it . . .

Whether you are for or against Hillary, this is too funny not to share with all of you!

Judy Wallman, a professional genealogical researcher, discovered that Hillary Clinton's great-great uncle, Remus Rodham, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889.

The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows. On the back of the picture is this inscription: "Remus Rodham; horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889."

Judy e-mailed Hillary Clinton for comments. Hillary's staff of professional image adjusters sent back the following biographical sketch:

"Remus Rodham was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed."

And THAT is how it's done folks!

Call it a landmark moment in the history of presidential debates: A heckler in the audience who seemed to speak for the vast majority of Americans.

Time describes the Democratic debate in Nevada:

The first twenty minutes of Tuesday's Democratic showdown in Las Vegas passed without a single substantive question, as the NBC moderators busied themselves prodding the soft spots of identity politics. Barack Obama was asked if New Hampshire whites didn't vote for him because he was black. Hillary Clinton was asked how race had become such a big factor in the election. John Edwards was asked, "What is a white male to do?" That was actually the question.

Then some guy started shouting from the back of the auditorium. "Will you stop all these race-based questions?" he hollered. There was an awkward pause around the big table where everyone sat. The moderators, Tim Russert and Brian Williams, looked guilty and confused. For two days, the cable networks had run wall-to-wall coverage of the race-tinged war of words between Obama supporters and Clinton supporters. One can imagine why the network thought the mudslinging would be the subject of the debate.

But the candidates declined to engage. "Neither race nor gender should be a part of this campaign," said Clinton. "I know that John and Hillary have always been committed to racial equality," said Obama. "I'm proud of the fact that we have a woman and an African American who are very, very serious candidates for the presidency," said Edwards.

[T]he moderators, wisely, moved on.

All right, let's move on -- Clinton, Obama Distance Selves From Talk of Race

From The Washington Post:

After a week of bitter intraparty disputes over the issue of race, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) extended an olive branch to Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) on Tuesday night and declared that she and the other Democratic presidential candidates are "all family" in a nationally televised debate.

Obama returned the gesture, acknowledging on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday that both Clinton and former senator John Edwards (N.C.) are committed to racial equality.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Black Georgia voters joining rolls at three times the pace of white voters

From the AJC's Political Insider:

From Oct. 1, 2007 to Jan. 1, 2008, the number of black, registered active voters increased 1.6 percent to 1.2 million.

Over the same period, the number of white active voters increased .5 percent to 2.9 million.

African-Americans make up 27 percent of the Georgia electorate, according to the new figures. Whites make up 66 percent.

February 5 Primaries

From The Washington Post:

Democrats will hold contests in 22 states and one territory, with 1,681 delegates at stake. On that day alone, 52 percent of all pledged delegates will be awarded, compared with the 4 percent that will have been allocated in the four opening competitions of the year. Republicans have scheduled contests in 21 states for Feb. 5, known as Super Tuesday, with 975 delegates at stake. Those delegates make up 41 percent of the total available, according to the Republican National Committee.

In a lot of the Republican competitions, the winner of a state or a congressional district is awarded all delegates. For Democrats, delegates are distributed proportionally on the basis of the votes for each candidate.

"This is not a battle for states -- this is about delegates," said Howard Wolfson, Clinton's communications director. "We are past the point where any one state, no matter how important, will have a disproportionate impact relative to their delegate count on the nominating process."

David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, said delegates will be important but not necessarily decisive. "The way we view February 5 is there are 22 states that day, and the goal is to win as many states as we can," he said. "If someone is able to win several more states than your opponent, that is likely to be scored as a pretty significant win."

Tad Devine, a longtime Democratic strategist with experience in many campaigns, said victory might be determined by the big states with contests on Super Tuesday. The six largest are California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Georgia.

"If someone were to win five of six of those and the other wins only their home state, the race is likely over," Devine said.

All the rhetorical devices that have been a staple of identity politics are now being exploited by the Clinton and Obama campaigns against each other.

David Brooks writes in The New York Times:

When Hillary Clinton is good on the Sunday talk shows, she is really, really good. But when she is bad, she’s atrocious. When she talks about policy, she will dazzle you. When her own ambitions are on the line, it’s time to reach for the sick bag.

On “Meet the Press” Sunday, it was the latter. Clinton refused to admit any real errors. She implied that Barack Obama is unfit to be president, without ever honestly taking responsibility for what she actually believes.

Both Clinton and Obama have eagerly donned the mantle of identity politics. A Clinton victory wouldn’t just be a victory for one woman, it would be a victory for little girls everywhere. An Obama victory would be about completing the dream, keeping the dream alive, and so on.

Fair enough. The problem is that both the feminist movement Clinton rides and the civil rights rhetoric Obama uses were constructed at a time when the enemy was the reactionary white male establishment. Today, they are not facing the white male establishment. They are facing each other.

All the rhetorical devices that have been a staple of identity politics are now being exploited by the Clinton and Obama campaigns against each other. They are competing to play the victim. They are both accusing each other of insensitivity. They are both deliberately misinterpreting each other’s comments in order to somehow imply that the other is morally retrograde.

Clinton is suffering most. She is now accused, absurdly, of being insensitive to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Bill Clinton’s talk of a “fairy tale,” which was used in the context of the Iraq debate, is now being distorted into a condemnation of the civil rights movement. Hillary Clinton finds that in attacking Obama, she is accused of being hostile to the entire African-American experience.

U.S. to Speed Deportation of Criminals in Jail

From The New York Times:

Federal authorities expect to identify and deport more than 200,000 immigrants this year who are convicted criminals serving time in prisons and jails across the country, the country’s top federal immigration enforcement official said Monday.

The effort to speed the deportation of foreign-born criminals is part of a campaign by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to help federal and state prisons reduce the costs of housing immigrants. . . .

Under current law, immigrants convicted of crimes are deported only after serving their sentences in this country.

[The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency will] work with states to devise parole programs allowing immigrants imprisoned for nonviolent crimes to reduce their prison time if they agreed to be deported immediately upon release.

Monday, January 14, 2008

E-mails from the Clinton campaign staff.

Has Joe Trippi deserted John Edwards and joined up with Hillary Clinton? Based on the daily unrelenting bombardment of e-mails from the Hillary camp that commenced around Iowa and New Hampshire, it would appear so.

Huckabee calls himself a threat to GOP elites

Campaigning in Michigan Saturday, the Chicago Tribune reports that Huckabee said:

"Apparently my candidacy comes as somewhat of a threat to a lot of the Republicans in the Republican establishment -- some of the folks who have run the party in the Washington circles. They've maybe not understood that the heart and soul of the Republican Party is only as strong as the heart and soul of the rest of America."

(1) Racial gap between Clinton, Obama widens; & (2) Race spells trouble for the Democrats.

From The Hill:

The racial gap between the top Democratic presidential candidates appears to be widening, according to a new Rasmussen poll.

The results of the survey, released Monday, show that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) has the support of only 16 percent of black voters, while 66 percent back Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.).

The poll puts Clinton ahead among white voters, 41 percent to 27 percent.

From Time:

Whenever longtime Democrats gather to note how the chemistry and calculus of the 2008 campaign seem to favor their party this year, one or another will always add some version of the following: "Yeah, but we could screw this up before it's over."

Far-fetched as it would have seemed a month ago, the seeds of self-destruction are being planted in the war of coded words about race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Both campaigns are stoking this fire — and worrying at the same time about what this could do to them in the fall. They ought to be concerned: Keep this up and neither candidate may be able to marshal the votes from the various corners of the Democratic coalition that he or she will need in the fall. As pollster Andrew Kohut has noted, a party which found that it had at least two candidates who were seen as widely "acceptable" to its various factions just a few weeks ago could soon find that happy consensus has evaporated.

Georgia's Top Lawmakers

James Salzer writes in the AJC:

Gov. Sonny Perdue: Though a lame duck (in his second term), he still sets the agenda and the spending priorities. He's a careful decision-maker who files his budget proposals and bills but generally does not get heavily involved in the legislative process until the end of the session. Last year he was criticized for being particularly absent, so expect him to be more involved in 2008. He's not afraid to use the power of the governor's office. Even though he can't run for re-election, he has been raising a lot of campaign money, leading some to speculate he'll try to play a major role in the 2008 and 2010 legislative elections.


Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle: The president of the Senate and the first Republican to run the chamber. A deliberate conservative who tends to think things through before speaking or acting. Has a good relationship with the media and is considered a likely candidate for governor in 2010 if U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson doesn't run. As a longtime Gainesville senator, he was pro-development and pro-business, but not strictly a "yes man" for Perdue.
Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson (R-Savannah): The No. 2 leader of the Senate, he is one of the shrewdest and most powerful players at the Capitol. He's among the most quoted officials at the Statehouse because of his ability to turn a smart phrase. An architect by profession, he has spent years building the state GOP. First elected to the Senate in 1994, Johnson has been a strong Perdue supporter.

Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams (R-Lyons): A savvy politician who chaired the Senate Transportation Committee before becoming majority leader in 2006, Williams is charged with holding the Senate GOP caucus together. This South Georgia pine straw millionaire speaks Hebrew, Italian and Spanish, has served as a missionary in China, Israel and Belize, and is a deacon at First Baptist Church of Vidalia. Digs into issues he's interested in, and his interests are varied.

Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth): A former state Republican Party head who ran GOP political campaigns in the 1990s, Shafer is a relatively new power player, thanks in part to the election of Cagle in 2006. Was an early backer of Cagle over GOP strategist Ralph Reed and, like the lieutenant governor, opposed Perdue on the tax increase in 2003. Prefers to work behind the scenes and generally avoids the spotlight, although he has been out front in efforts to reform Grady Hospital.

Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown (D-Macon): First elected in 1991, Brown has emerged as a sharp critic of the GOP since becoming the Senate's leading Democrat two years ago. Previously had built a reputation as a moderate. Brown was a senior campaign adviser to U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, a conservative Democrat who won re-election in 2004 with the help of an endorsement by Zell Miller.

House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram): Runs the House with an iron fist the way Democratic Speaker Tom Murphy once did. Has shown a passion for big issues, from tax reform to transportation. Led a revolt against Perdue during the 2007 session that led to the House overriding the governor's veto of a $142 million tax cut. Has feuded with the governor during the interim while pushing his plan to eliminate property taxes. He doesn't hide his emotions: When he's upset with a House member, or the media, they know it. However, he was open in 2007 about his proposals, and received recognition for promoting bold ideas.

House Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter (R-Alpharetta): Second-in-command in the House, he is on good terms with Richardson even though the two competed for the speaker's job in 2004. Burkhalter is a champion of metro Atlanta companies and pushed legislation to help ailing Delta Air Lines. Like Johnson in the Senate, he does a good job conveying the party's position to the media. Has promoted eliminating property taxes on cars, a proposal now included in Richardson's plan.

House Majority Leader Jerry Keen (R-St. Simons Island): Former leader of the Georgia Christian Coalition, Keen has long been rumored to be contemplating a run for higher office. He has championed eliminating "onerous taxes," including property taxes and the state income tax, and pushed crackdowns on the most serious sex offenders. Advocates for fiscally conservative and socially conservative policies equally well, making him a good pick to express the leadership's views. If Isakson doesn't run for governor in 2010, Keen might.

Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs): One of Richardson's closest allies, Ehrhart runs the powerful House Rules Committee, which decides what legislation gets debated. He is a no-nonsense chairman who doesn't encourage a lot of debate. He also is a single father of two who chaired a commission that is developing guidelines setting child support payments. Like Richardson, Ehrhart can be volatile. But he also is a master at providing sound-bite-like context on big issues and explaining the chamber's stance.

House Minority Leader DuBose Porter (D-Dublin): An attorney and newspaper editor who came into the Legislature challenging the old-guard Democrats. Over time, he became part of the House leadership. Took on the role as lead critic of the new GOP leadership in the House in 2005. An articulate spokesman for the party, he is one of the few rural white men in a House Democratic caucus in which black, urban legislators now dominate. Might be the Democrats' top candidate for governor in 2010.

A changing electorate in Georgia

Tom Crawford writes in Georgia Trend:

In January 2001, whites made up 72.1 percent of the nearly 4 million active registered voters in Georgia while African Americans were 25.7 percent of the total. There were only 933 registered voters in the whole state who identified themselves as His-panic and 1,019 voters who identified themselves as Asian.

Over the next seven years, the number of white voters essentially remained flat – by July 2007 there were 2,884,468 whites on the voter rolls, an increase of less than 23,000 over the 2001 total.

During that same period, however, the number of black voters grew by nearly 154,000 while the number of Hispanic voters jumped from less than 1,000 to nearly 46,000 and the number of Asian voters increased by 43,000.

Voters who identified themselves as belonging to the “Other” racial category more than doubled, from 84,612 in 2001 to 170,086 in 2007.

As a result of these demographic shifts, the percentage of whites who make up the state’s voting base has dropped by more than 5 percent to the point that they now account for 66.9 percent of the registered voters. Blacks now make up 26.9 percent of the total, while Hispanics and Asians each account for about 1 percent. The number of voters classified as “Other” is now almost 4 percent.

Georgia Legislature 2008: A look at the issues

From the AJC:

The 2008 edition of the Georgia General Assembly, which opens in Atlanta this morning, faces a host of serious election-year issues, from long-range water planning and funding for Grady Memorial Hospital to the proposed elimination of property taxes to fund schools.

An overview of the top topics:


Water is back as one of the Legislature's top priorities, nearly two years into one of the worst droughts ever recorded in North Georgia.

Whatever gets decided will not happen soon enough to address metro Atlanta's current water crisis. Only rain and the federal government, which operates the region's major water supply reservoirs, can fix it.

But top leaders already have promised state funds to help build more reservoirs for the future. And legislators will vote on a 92-page policy guideline and to-do list that lays out how the state —- acting through 11 water districts —- will spend the next three years determining how to divide Georgia's lakes, streams and underground aquifers.

Just as important as the document will be the funds attached to it. One estimate for the work needed is $36.5 million, to be spent on a variety of data gathering.

Top Republican leaders, including the governor, and the business community are leading the charge, but they expect a fight. More than almost any other issue in Georgia, water is a true dividing line between metro Atlanta and the rest of the state.

—- Stacy Shelton


Grady officials are hoping the state Legislature creates and funds a statewide trauma care network, which could contribute millions of dollars to the financially-strapped hospital.

Grady officials, who operate the state's busiest and most sophisticated trauma unit, want to see as much as $30 million from the passage of permanent funding for the state's trauma units. In December, House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) proposed to help fund the trauma network with a $10 annual fee on vehicle registrations.

Also, Gov. Sonny Perdue has proposed additional fines on "super speeders" to help fund the network.

—- Craig Schneider


Property taxes will be one of the most debated topics of the 2008 session, especially during the early part of the session.

House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) is pushing a plan to eliminate most school property taxes and replace the lost revenue with a sales tax that covers more goods and services. Richardson's plan is expected to be considered early in the session by the House.

Its chances of passage are iffy at best because it includes a proposed constitutional amendment. To get the proposed amendment on the ballot, Richardson would need two-thirds of the House and Senate to support it. He also is seeking legislation to freeze property values at tax time. That would essentially freeze property taxes unless local cities, counties or school districts raise millages.

Several other similar proposals are being floated by lawmakers. Meanwhile, Gov. Sonny Perdue will continue to promote his bill to eliminate taxes on retirement income for upper-income retirees. The Senate has passed the bill, but the House has held off because it wants more broad-based tax reform.

Speaker pro-tem Mark Burkhalter (R-Alpharetta) is backing Richardson's proposal. If it doesn't pass, however, Burkhalter wants lawmakers to look at his bill to eliminate property taxes on cars.

—- James Salzer


One of the biggest transportation votes is expected to come at the beginning of the session: the payback attempt against two members of the state Transportation Board by House leaders furious because of their votes for the new transportation commissioner. Mike Evans and Raybon Anderson, who voted for the governor's candidate over the speaker's candidate, are among five DOT board members up for re-election by caucuses of state legislators.

In legislation, to tax or not to tax is still the question. Two big transportation funding bills last year —- one regional, one statewide —- went into a study committee. The committee's recommendation is expected soon, but it not only is an election year but also a year in which some local officials will be trying to protect their own special purpose local option sales taxes that are up for renewal.

Among other possible bills, safety officials are girded against attempts to repeal red-light camera laws, which they say save lives.

—- Ariel Hart


The debate whether sex offenders can be barred from living and working within 1,000 feet of churches, schools and day-care centers returns to the Georgia Legislature.

State Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) wants to reinstate the distance requirement that the Georgia Supreme Court struck down in November.

The high court ruled the ban unconstitutional because it could deprive an offender of the right to own property. Before the court's ruling, a homeowner listed on the state's sex offender registry could be forced to move if a church, school or day-care center opened within 1,000 feet of his house.

Ralston, who chairs the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, proposes exempting such property owners from the residency restriction.

But civil libertarians say Ralston's proposal also is unconstitutional because it doesn't exempt renters or institutionalized people. Thus, offenders could be forced out of half-way houses and hospices if a children's center were to open inside the 1,000-foot buffer.

—- Ben Smith


Sunday sales of beer and wine are being pushed again by stores, but the chances of getting a bill through the General Assembly this session are not good.

Last year, officials for grocery and convenience stores pushed legislation that would have allowed local voters to decide on the sale of beer, wine and liquor at stores on Sundays.

Conservative Christian groups opposed it, as did some prominent liquor store owners who do not want to have to pay Sunday payrolls while facing competition from groceries and convenience stores. The measure stalled in the Senate, with supporters blaming a liquor store owner with ties to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who presides over the Senate.

Proponents note that Georgia is one of just a few states with a total Sunday sales ban, and they say more and more of their customers shop on Sundays.

However, it will be a tough sell in an election year, when most lawmakers try to avoid the issues that rile up key groups of voters.

—- James Salzer


A battle over gun bills is sure to erupt in the legislature this year, with the National Rifle Association throwing its full support and resources behind one bill and Georgia gun owners and some lawmakers backing another.

The NRA is backing a bill that would allow employees to keep handguns in their cars at work. Rep. Tim Bearden (R-Villa Rica) filed a broader bill that would expedite firearm permits and allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons in many more places.

—- Andrea Jones


Always a major issue, education funding will receive renewed attention this year as advocates of public schools try to protect campuses from potential changes in Georgia's tax structure and in the way state funds are distributed.

Educators are waiting to see if Gov. Sonny Perdue will continue cutbacks, first started in fiscal 2003. Metro Atlanta school systems lose millions of dollars every year to Perdue's "austerity reductions" —- losses they make up for through property taxes.

The governor's Education Finance Task Force, charged with redoing the k-12 funding formula, is suggesting that systems be allowed to spend state money where needed, rather than where told. If legislators can't remedy the finance problem, a judge could step in. A lawsuit by rural systems, which claims that state officials are not adequately funding schools, is scheduled for trial in September.

—- Bridget Gutierrez

Social Lubrication 101 according to the Political Insider.

The AJC's Political Insider notes:

The rules of social lubrication dictate that the more comfortable you become with a fellow in private, the less likely you are to knife him in public.

Mail-In Voters Become the Latest Prize

From The New York Times:

The first Tuesday in February, when 22 states hold primaries, may turn out to be the biggest day of the presidential campaign. But for many voters, half or more in some states, the polling place will be the kitchen table, the ballot box will be the mailbox and the choice in many cases will be made weeks before a voting machine lever is pulled.

In California, the biggest prize on Feb. 5, state election officials estimate that more than half of voters may vote by mail, which has forced campaigns to adjust their strategies and has some political observers worried that people may make hasty choices they may later regret.

Officials in Florida, where the primary is Jan. 29, report an increase in requests for absentee ballots, attributing it largely to the closeness of the races in both parties. About 42 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of Republicans in the state have requested absentee ballots.
Nationwide, 31 states allow some form of early voting with “no excuse required,” and analysts say interest in voting by mail has increased mainly because it is more convenient than going to, and sometimes waiting in line, at a polling place.

Early voting adds another layer of complication to the already frenetic, far-flung campaign. Well-financed campaigns are in better position to take advantage of this dynamic by having more to spend on phone banks, mailings and other tactics to specifically target these voters.

It makes for an “extensive, grueling and expensive get-out-the-vote operation,” said Paul Gronke, a political science professor at Reed College in Portland, Ore., who is an expert on early voting. Mr. Gronke said surveys had shown that voters who use absentee ballots tend to be older, more affluent, better educated and more partisan.

(1) Race and Gender Are Issues in Tense Day for Democrats; & (2) Shame on you John Edwards.

From The New York Times:

After staying on the sidelines in the first year of the campaign, race and to a lesser extent gender have burst into the forefront of the Democratic presidential contest, thrusting Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton into the middle of a sharp-edged social and political debate that transcends their candidacies.

Two factors have helped create the atmosphere in which race and gender are coming to play a more prominent role. The first is that Democrats now increasingly view both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton as credible and electable candidates, given their victories.

In addition, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama are now moving into a series of contests, particularly in South Carolina but also in California, where black voters could play a pivotal role.

In a sign of how the issue [of race] was churning the waters, Mr. Edwards, also speaking at a church in South Carolina, expressed pride in Mr. Obama while criticizing Mrs. Clinton for what some have seen as her suggesting that President Lyndon B. Johnson deserved more credit than Dr. King for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“As someone who grew up in the segregated South, I feel an enormous amount of pride when I see the success that Senator Barack Obama is having in this campaign,” said Mr. Edwards, who grew up in North Carolina. He added: “I was troubled recently to see a suggestion that real change came not through the Rev. Martin Luther King, but through a Washington politician. I fundamentally disagree with that.”

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Dean of Georgia Politics and Journalism seems to have it down pat once again.

Bill Shipp writes:

Conventional wisdom holds that the polls were all wrong about Barack Obama having a whopping lead over Hillary Clinton going into New Hampshire.

Conventional wisdom errs. The polls were right when they were taken. The real mistake regarding Hillary was committed by her rivals John Edwards and Barack Obama. Presidential politics ain't boxing. O&E hit Hillary much too hard. They overplayed their hands in the extreme as they took turns pounding her. Shame on you, boys.

You must have missed class the day they taught axiom No. 6 of presidential politics. "Hell hath no fury like a scorned bloc of women voters." You also missed your reading assignments: "Just Because You Are a Misogynist, You Don't Have to Act Like One in Public" and "The Myth That Women Secretly Love Being Insulted by Guys with Expensive Haircuts."

Give Obama the booby prize for stupidity at the Saturday debate before the New Hampshire primary. Hillary started to pick up momentum the moment a male panelist blithely asked why so many voters don't like Hillary and Obama quipped that she was "likable enough." Heh-heh-heh.

"That hurt my feelings," Hillary said later. It apparently hurt a lot of other female feelings, too. Hillary choking up over the presidential campaign also may have gained her some sympathy, but the overall meanness toward her in the debate had far greater effect.

O&E should have watched the films of the 2000 New York Senate debate before they assailed Hillary in the final New Hampshire match-up.

Remember what happened? Her challenger, then-Congressman Rick Lazio, aggressively approached Hillary on stage to demand she disavow "soft money" in the race. Lazio came on like a New York Giants tackle. His bullying even turned off hardened New Yorkers and propelled Hillary into the Senate.

AJC reporter Ben Smith has an excellent feel for Georgia politics.

What a pleasant surprise to see that perhaps Ben Smith is going to be doing some of the reporting of the legislature this session. I see that he co-authored an AJC article with James Salzer on the major upcoming issues in this year's legislative session.

Ben is one very likeable fellow who also has an excellent feel for Georgia politics. I have missed his always informative articles of late.

Peggy Noonan on the sexism part of Hillary's "crying moment" as it is being called.

Peggy Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal:

When George Bush senior cries in public, it's considered moving. Ditto his moist-eyed son. But in fairness, they have tended to appear moved about things apart from themselves, apart from their own predicaments. Mrs. Clinton was weeping about Mrs. Clinton. If a man had uttered Mrs. Clinton's aria -- if Mr. Obama had said, "And you know, this is very personal for me . . . as tired as I am . . . against the odds," and gotten choked -- they would have laughed him out of town.

Clinton Courts Hispanics For Crucial Super Tuesday

Wonder why Hillary is so heavily courting the Hispanic vote? Look at the following:

From The Wall Street Journal:

With Super Tuesday looming as a potential make-or-break day for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, strategists for Mrs. Clinton are reinforcing efforts to woo Latinos, who could swing results in key states.

California is shaping up as a player in a presidential contest for the first time in decades. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year moved the California primary to February from April.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ruldolph "9/11" Giuliani Staffers Forgo Paychecks

From Time:

About a dozen senior campaign staffers for Rudy Giuliani are forgoing their January paychecks, aides said Friday, a sign of possible money trouble for the Republican presidential candidate.

I used to admire and respect Rudolph Giuliani.

I attended a lecture he presented in September 2002 at the Florida Theater in Jacksonville, Florida, part of something called the Florida Forum Series. This series seeks to bring some of the world's most widely known public figures to Jacksonville, Florida, with the series benefiting Wolfson Children's Hospital.

It was a fascinating evening, both program and presentation wise.

Although I still appreciate the way he cleaned up New York City, something I have experienced firsthand, I have little admiration and even less respect for him now. He is just not presidential material.

His financial situation is not all that different from the other Republican candidates whose campaigns are not reliant on personal funds. All such candidates have struggled to raise money for the 2008 presidential race, an indication that GOP donors aren't as energized as Democrats.

There are many positive aspects of the plan, but it still boils down to Metro Atlanta gets to take what it wants and the rest of state gets what left.

The Rome News-Tribune has an article about concerns that the Greater Rome Chamber of Commerce, Rome and Floyd County governments have over the proposed statewide water management plan and interbasin transfers.

Joe Cook, executive director of the Coosa River Basin Initiative, said: "The idea of the plan is good, and there are many positive aspects. But it still boils down to Metro Atlanta gets to take what it wants and the rest of the state gets what’s left."

And The Albany Herald Editorial Board writes:

The Albany area — indeed, Southwest Georgia — is blessed in that it is located over aquifers that supply our homes, farms, businesses and industries with a critical resource — clean water.

Long before Albany shelved the moniker in favor of the “Good Life City,” it was known as the Artesian City.

What has residents on our end of the state concerned is whether an Atlanta region bursting at the seams and surpassing the infrastructure and resources to support its continued expansion will fill its water trough at the expense of other regions of the state. Concern over whether metro Atlanta would take water from Southwest Georgia is decades old, but the tremendous drought that plagued much of the Southeast in 2007 added more fuel to it.

The state water council’s plan, three years in the making and expected to cost $36 million over the next three years, was met with plaudits from the state’s top three political movers and shakers — Gov. Sonny Perdue, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker Glenn Richardson. Perdue insists that this, Georgia’s first statewide water management plan, is not a veiled attempt to grab water from Georgia’s less populous communities and send it to slake the ever-increasing thirst of a rapidly growing metro region.

But there is an unleveled playing field created in the plan. Instead of having water districts that follow water resources, the plan is heavier toward following political boundaries. Under the plan, Georgia cannot alter the border of the 16-county metro Atlanta water planning district, which gives those counties upstream control of a several river basins, including the Chattahoochee and Flint.

Metro Atlanta is the state’s premier economic engine, one that is expected to gain more and more population — and more and more political clout. But Georgia cannot be allowed to turn into a state where other regions are strip-mined of their resources to sustain Atlanta. Georgia leaders have to start planning for a Georgia in which growth is directed toward these other regions, too. The result will be a more united Georgia instead of two distinctly different Georgias where one is suspiciously watching the other.

As I understand the situation, the General Assembly will get the proposed plan this coming Monday and will have 20 days to make changes before its automatic adoption.

Delta's Merger Buzz May Stir the Industry and Launch New Airline Consolidation

From The Wall Street Journal Online:

The U.S. airline industry may be on the brink of another big thrust of consolidation, prompted by a combination of high fuel costs, low share prices, and broad economic uncertainty -- as well as carriers' hope for more regulatory indulgence from a Republican administration.

[A]t a time when Democrats stand a good chance of retaking the White House next fall, the airlines believe approval by antitrust regulators is more likely under President Bush, [The Wall Street Journal] says. "Airline executives and investors believe deals need to be forged in the next 30 to 45 days to allow enough time for scrutiny before the new administration takes office a year from now," the Journal adds.

Economy Slumps To the Top of the Campaign Agenda

From The Washington Post:

As the presidential campaign got underway a year ago, the candidates faced a volatile political environment dominated by the Iraq war, illegal immigration and terrorism. A year later, the campaigns are rewriting their playbooks as it appears that the race may actually be shaped by the economy.

The virtual halt in job growth, the climb of oil prices above $100 a barrel, the New Year's stock market tumble and the continuing mortgage crisis have fueled fears of recession and crystallized the nation's growing economic anxiety. Nowhere was that clearer this week than in New Hampshire, where exit polls showed that the economy has overtaken all other issues as the top concern for Democrats and Republicans alike.

The poll numbers in New Hampshire were striking. Among Democrats, 38 percent called the economy the biggest issue, compared with 31 percent who named Iraq and 27 percent who said health care. Among Republicans, 31 percent cited the economy, while 24 percent said Iraq and 23 percent chose illegal immigration.

Supply-side economics had a good run, but continual tax cuts can no longer be the centerpiece of Republican economic policy.

David Brooks writes in The New York Times:

In 1974, a group of economists and journalists got together in a bar and launched supply-side economics. It was a superb political and economic package. It addressed a big problem: stagflation. It had a clear policy focus: marginal tax rates. It celebrated a certain sort of personality: the risk-taking entrepreneur. It made it clear that the new, growth-oriented Republican Party would be different from the old, green-eyeshade one.

Supply-side economics had a good run, but continual tax cuts can no longer be the centerpiece of Republican economic policy. The demographics have changed. The U.S. is an aging society. We have made expensive promises to our seniors. We can’t keep those promises at the current tax levels, let alone at reduced ones. As David Frum writes in “Comeback,” his indispensable new book: “In the face of such a huge fiscal gap, the days of broad, across-the-board, middle-class tax cutting are over.”

The political situation has changed, too. Republicans used to appeal to the investor class with economic policies and the working class with values, crime and welfare policies. But that formula has broken down. The workers are walking away from the G.O.P., and the only way to win them back is by listening to their economic concerns.

As a result, smart Republicans are groping for a new economic model, and as they do, Republican economic policies are shifting. The entrepreneur is no longer king. The wage-earner is king. As the presidential campaign rolls into Michigan, it’s clear that Republicans are adjusting their priorities to win back the anxious middle class.

The Republicans who are reaching toward this new model still sound very different from Democrats. They never describe American workers as victims. They never describe globalization as a remorselessly punishing process. They argue that individuals can still control their own destinies, provided they work hard and get educated. They believe it would be a catastrophe if the U.S. abandoned free trade or adopted a European-style safety net and suffered European tax rates.

But they envision a different role for government than the 1980s Republicans. “Americans aren’t afraid of competing in a global economy,” says Douglas Holtz-Eakin, John McCain’s economic adviser, “They’re afraid they’re doing it by themselves. They want a government that is on their side.” In this new model, government is sort of like Vince Lombardi, setting a context that allows individuals and families to compete.

There are four main spheres of policy innovation. First, a human capital agenda. The U.S. needs a more skilled work force, but for the first time in our history it is getting a generation no better educated than its parents.

To remedy this, Ramesh Ponnuru of The National Review proposes an increased child tax credit to reduce the stress on young families, the seedbed of human capital. Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina proposes tuition tax credits for families earning less than $75,000. The G.O.P. presidential candidates vow to spend more on scientific research and to take on special interests like the teachers’ unions. If schools can’t fire bad teachers and reward good ones, then nothing else we do to improve education will do any good.

Second, Republicans have embraced health care reform. While Democrats emphasize the uninsured, Republicans emphasize cost control. They understand that it’s not a question of protecting health markets from government takeover. Government already controls and distorts health care. It’s a question of straightening out the system so that it is clear who is paying and for what.

Mitt Romney supports private insurance enforced by a universal mandate. McCain talks about paying for outcomes rather than tests to cut down on unnecessary procedures. Mike Huckabee promotes an activist agenda to reduce obesity and prevent chronic illness.

Third, Republicans are putting together pieces of what you might call a resiliency agenda to help families withstand setbacks. McCain would subsidize the wages of workers who were laid off and forced to take lower-paying jobs. President Bush has proposed $3,500 personal re-employment accounts. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama supports $1,000 at-birth savings accounts, so that every American has assets to fall back on. Romney has a plan to aggressively increase savings, and Fred Thompson proposes a federal 401(k).

Finally, Republicans are shifting their emphasis from tax cutting to fiscal rectitude. McCain, Huckabee and Thompson emphasize spending control and dealing with the monumental problem of entitlements. Middle-class workers don’t worry so much about investment incentives. They worry that their government is fiscally decadent and fundamentally irresponsible.

This spring Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam will publish “Grand New Party,” a book about efforts to win back the so-called Sam’s Club Republicans. The book will be groundbreaking, but the campaign can’t wait. Republican candidates are shifting focus right now.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ga.'s Water Crisis: Water sharing plan takes shape -- Dividing limited supplies: Newly formed planning districts will determine where, how Ga. grows.

From the AJC:

While much of Georgia remains gripped in a historic drought, a state body on Tuesdayadopted a framework to divide limited water supplies.

Now the work can begin. Decisions made in 11 newly formed planning districts will determine where and how Georgia continues growing. Upstream or down, they will have to work together.

The first hurdle is the General Assembly, which will have a chance to approve or rewrite the proposal starting next week.

[T]he perception persists that the proposal is not strong enough to prevent metro Atlanta from sticking straws in the Flint River and other waterways.

Gil Rogers, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center and a member of a coalition of environmental groups opposed to the plan, said, "We think growth needs to occur where the water is, not the other way around."

Most of the work going forward will be handled by 11 regional councils, with decision-making power in each resting with 25 people appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House of Representatives. About one-third of the seats will be set aside for local elected leaders.

The proposal, despite hiccups early on, satisfied the business community, which expressed their support through the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Agribusiness Council and the Georgia Poultry Federation. The Association County Commissioners of Georgia also signed on.

The former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush tells us why Hillary won in New Hampshire and what is to come.

Karl Rove writes in The Wall Street Journal:

Sen. Hillary Clinton won working-class neighborhoods and less-affluent rural areas. Sen. Barack Obama won the college towns and the gentrified neighborhoods of more affluent communities. Put another way, Mrs. Clinton won the beer drinkers, Mr. Obama the white wine crowd. And there are more beer drinkers than wine swillers in the Democratic Party.

Mrs. Clinton won a narrow victory in New Hampshire for four reasons. First, her campaign made a smart decision at its start to target women Democrats, especially single women. It has been made part of the warp and woof of her campaign everywhere. This focus didn't pay off in Iowa, but it did in New Hampshire.

Second, she had two powerful personal moments. The first came in the ABC debate on Saturday, when WMUR TV's Scott Spradling asked why voters were "hesitating on the likeability issue, where they seem to like Barack Obama more." Mrs. Clinton's self-deprecating response -- "Well, that hurts my feelings" -- was followed by a playful "But I'll try to go on."

You couldn't help but smile. It reminded Democrats what they occasionally like about her. Then Mr. Obama followed with a needless and dismissive, "You're likable enough, Hillary."

Her remarks helped wash away the memory of her angry replies to attacks at the debate's start. His trash talking was an unattractive carryover from his days playing pickup basketball at Harvard, and capped a mediocre night.

The other personal moment came on Monday, when a woman in Portsmouth asked her "how do you do it?" Mrs. Clinton's emotional reply was powerful and warm. Voters rarely see her in such a spontaneous moment. It was humanizing and appealing. And unlike her often contrived and calculated attempts to appear down-to-earth, this was real.

Third, the Clintons began -- at first not very artfully -- to raise questions about the fitness for the Oval Office of a first-term senator with no real accomplishments or experience.

Former President Bill Clinton hit a nerve by drawing attention to Mr. Obama's conflicting statements on Iraq. There's more -- and more powerful -- material available. Mr. Obama has failed to rise to leadership on a single major issue in the Senate. In the Illinois legislature, he had a habit of ducking major issues, voting "present" on bills important to many Democratic interest groups, like abortion-rights and gun-control advocates. He is often lazy, given to misstatements and exaggerations and, when he doesn't know the answer, too ready to try to bluff his way through.

For someone who talks about a new, positive style of politics and pledges to be true to his word, Mr. Obama too often practices the old style of politics, saying one thing and doing another. He won't escape criticism on all this easily. But the messenger and the message need to be better before the Clintons can get all this across. Hitting Mr. Obama on his elementary school essays won't cut it.

The fourth and biggest reason why Mrs. Clinton won two nights ago is that, while Mr. Obama can draw on the deep doubts of many Democrats about Mrs. Clinton, he can't close out the argument. Mr. Obama is an inspiring figure playing a historical role, but that's not enough to push aside the former First Lady and senator from New York. She's an historic figure, too. When it comes to making the case against Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama comes across as a vitamin-starved Adlai Stevenson. His rhetoric, while eloquent and moving at times, has been too often light as air.

Mr. Obama began to find his voice at the Iowa Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, when he took four deliberate swipes at the Clintons. He called for Democrats to tackle problems "that had festered long before" President Bush, "problems that we've talked about year after year after year after year."

He dismissed the Clinton style of campaigning and governing, saying "Triangulating and poll-driven positions . . . just won't do." He attacked Mrs. Clinton on Iraq, torture and her opposition to direct presidential talks with Syria and Iran. Then he rejected a new Clinton era by saying, "I don't want to spend the next year or the next four years re-fighting the same fights that we had in the 1990s." It deftly, if often indirectly, played on the deep concerns of Democrats who look at the Clinton era as a time of decline for their party and unfulfilled potential for their cause.

But rather than sharpen and build on this message of contrast and change, Mr. Obama chose soaring rhetoric and inspirational rallies. While his speeches galvanized true believers at his events, his words were neither filling nor sustaining for New Hampshire Democrats concerned about the Clintons and looking for a substantive alternative.

And Mr. Obama, in his own way, is often as calculating as Mrs. Clinton. For example, he was the only candidate, Democratic or Republican, to use a teleprompter to deliver his Iowa and New Hampshire election-night speeches. It gave his speeches a quality and clarity that other candidates, speaking from notes or the heart, failed to achieve. But what he gained in polish, he lost in connection.

The Democratic candidates left New Hampshire not liking each other. Mrs. Clinton, in particular, lets her feelings show. In her victory speech, as she listed her competitors, she put Mr. Obama at the tail end, behind Dennis Kucinich. Ouch!

Now the Democratic contest will go on through at least "Super Tuesday" -- Feb. 5. Mrs. Clinton is likely to win the Democratic beauty contest in Michigan on Jan. 15. But with no delegates at stake, it will have little impact.

Despite Sen. Harry Reid's son serving as her Nevada chairman, she's likely to lose that state's caucuses on Jan. 19. Then comes South Carolina on Jan. 26, where half the Democratic voters are likely to be African-American and Mr. Obama the probable victor. That means Florida on the 29th looms very large. The outcome of the contest in the Sunshine State is likely to have a disproportionate impact on the 23 contests on Super Tuesday.

With so many states voting on Super Tuesday, no candidate will have enough money, time or energy to cover all the contests. Burning in a single television ad in every Super Tuesday state will cost nearly $16 million.

Instead, candidates will pick states where they have a better chance to win and, by doing so, lock down more delegates. They will spend their time in cities with local TV and print coverage that reaches the biggest number of targeted voters possible. And they will spend their limited dollars on TV stations that deliver the largest number of likely supporters at the least cost. Memphis, for example, may be a smart buy, with its stations reaching western Tennessee and eastern Arkansas, both Feb. 5 states. Fargo, which reaches North Dakota and Minnesota, may be another effective buy.

At the end of Super Tuesday, it won't be just who won the most states, but who has the most delegates. In both parties, party elders and voters in later contests across the country will want to start consolidating behind a candidate.

Geez, she's woman, give her a break: “At first, I thought it was bad that she cried, but then I thought she is a woman, give her a chance.”

From The New York Times:

At first, the moment seemed like a disaster: The televised images of the teary-eyed exchange Hillary Rodham Clinton had with a New Hampshire voter about the rigors of the campaign caused her advisers to express fears that it would badly undercut her message of strength and experience.

It turned out to play phenomenally well, one of several turning points during Mrs. Clinton’s five-day sprint in New Hampshire after the Iowa caucuses that transformed the dynamic of her race against Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Women, in particular, responded: Several said they chose to vote for Mrs. Clinton at the last moment because she had shown a human side of herself that they had never seen.

“At first, I thought it was bad that she cried, but then I thought she is a woman, give her a chance,” said Diane Fischel, a tailor and a grandmother, who cited the emotional display for deciding to vote for Mrs. Clinton in the Democratic primary instead of for Senator John McCain on the Republican side.

And Mrs. Clinton’s performance in a televised debate on Saturday drew some very positive reviews from voters — especially her reply to the question of why many voters did not find her likable.

“Well, that hurts my feelings,” she said, “but I’ll try to go on. I don’t think I’m that bad.”

Here's to hoping we're not in for more tears and similar "that hurts my feelings" comments during the continuing campaign.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I hate to say it, but I thought I read somewhere that Hillary was getting some help on what she wears.

I woke up about 3:00 or so and checked the results. Obama was just coming on, and after this I watched Hillary. Bill was dressed as if he had a cabinet meeting, but Hillary . . .

Shipp: Georgia's history with Clintons has changed since 1992

Bill Shipp writes:

Hillary Clinton's glide to this year's Democratic presidential nomination has hit a serious snag. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, her toughest rival, has caught an early wave that is threatening to swamp the Clinton cruise to reassuming the White House.

Watching an aspiring President Hillary Clinton fight for political survival brings back memories from 16 years ago. Then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton teetered on the brink of disaster as 1992 began. Stories were spreading about his womanizing and Vietnam War draft dodging. Gennifer Flowers, who claimed to have had a long-running affair with him, was on the cover of multiple tabloids.

In late 1991, I phoned Clinton and asked about Gennifer. He laughed and said, "It's old news." Before long, it was new news again. When the Flowers episode broke, Hillary was visiting then-Georgia Gov. Zell Miller and saw the first TV dispatch at the Governor's Mansion. Miller was the first person to provide her support and advice on how to handle the growing scandal.

Bill managed to fight back from total oblivion in New Hampshire, but he still didn't win the primary. Even though he declared himself the "comeback kid" after a second-place finish, he left the state without a victory and was living on borrowed time.

That's where Georgia came in. Our Democratic primary that year was Bill's firewall. Zell may have been Clinton's closest political ally outside Arkansas. Miller had moved Georgia's primary forward to give his fellow governor a much-needed early boost, and Miller and his operatives treated the 1992 Clinton Georgia effort as though it were Miller's own campaign.

The Miller team worked rural Democrats, including legislators and sheriffs, to validate Bill as a bona fide Southern Democrat they could openly back, and many did so, instead of fleeing from the national ticket as they have so often done. Their work not only provided Bill with his crucial first primary win, that team - including now nationally known James Carville and Paul Begala - managed to eke out a victory in the general election, delivering Georgia's electoral votes to the Clinton-Gore ticket. Bill actually won Georgia in the general election on the strength of his performance outside metro Atlanta. Ross Perot's presence in the race, draining votes from Bush in Georgia and nationally, didn't hurt.

The Peach State's key role in Bill's ascension to the White House was reflected in his administration, with Georgians occupying important posts. Keith Mason, Miller's first chief of staff, headed to the White House as a top aide. Gordon Giffin, another Clinton-Miller ally and a close associate of then-Sen. Sam Nunn, was appointed ambassador to Canada. Former Sen. Wyche Fowler was later installed as ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Georgians were installed throughout the federal government at levels unmatched except during native son Jimmy Carter's presidency.

In contrast to Georgia's central role in the 1992 Clinton presidential run, our state is now a veritable backwater in the Clinton family's effort to win back the White House. Hillary does have the endorsements of all three statewide Democratic officeholders (Attorney General Thurbert Baker, Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin and Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond). None has anything close to the political pull Miller had in 1992, however, and none is likely to stick out his neck anywhere near as far for Hillary as Miller did for Bill.

On top of that, Hillary appears to have no plans to try to rebuild the electoral coalition that won the state's convention delegates and electoral votes for her husband. Her campaign appears to be focused only on core metro Atlanta, where she will face tough sledding battling Obama for the votes of African-Americans and affluent white liberals, groups that make up a significant portion of his support. Hillary's lack of focus on the small-town and rural voters who helped her husband carry the state in 1992 is illustrated by her hiring as a top Georgia aide a woman whose other political project is managing a left-wing primary challenge to Democratic Congressman Jim Marshall. Marshall is very popular in his rural district, and is just the sort of Democrat the Clintons would have won over in 1992.

The contrast between the 1992 and 2008 Clinton presidential campaigns is yet another indicator of the steep decline of Georgia's Democrats. In 1992 the Clintons counted on Georgia Democrats to deliver for them in the primary and the general election. This year, the state is little more than a bump in the road that quickly will be forgotten in the summer and totally ignored this fall.