Saturday, May 31, 2008

5 Days, 5 Contests

Finally! The end is upon us. By the middle of next week, Obama should be able to declare victory in the race for the Democratic nomination (at the site of the Republican Convention - nice move, Obama). Based more than anything on the outcome of the first contest, today's Democratic Party Rules and By-laws Committee meeting, Hillary should be ready to acknowledge that by conceding, hopefully on Tuesday night.

Contest 1: Rules & Bylaws Committee
With DNC lawyers taking Hillary's favored solution off the table, Michigan and Florida delegates will almost certainly be awarded at half value. Since both Obama and Hillary were on the Florida ballot, that means that the pledged delegate split for Florida should break out to 34.5 for Obama, 52.5 for Hillary.

The big question is how the RBC will deal with Michigan since Obama was not on the ballot there. The state party organization proposes splitting the delegates 69-59 in Clinton's favor. This is characterized as a compromise between Hillary's position of seating all the delegates and the initial Obama position of seating the delegates 50-50. Obama has agreed to this compromise, but Hillary is rejecting it, arguing that she should get no fewer pledged delegates than awarded in the tainted primary. She is also arguing that Obama should get no delegates, that the minority batch of delegates should go to the convention "uncommitted" as they were defined in the illegal Jan. 15 primary ballot. However, Poblano, the brilliant and anonymous statistician at has shown that in a competitive race, by now with the other candidates dropping out, the primary election and subsequent delegate selection process would have awared Obama a majority of 65 delegates to Hillary's 63. But, even if you simply assume that most of the 40% of the votes for "uncommitted" in Florida were for Obama, with some for Edwards, plus add in the 5% of votes that were write-ins for Obama but never counted, and work that through the Congressional District proportional system by which delegates are awarded, the delegate split would end up close to the 69-59 proposed by the Michigan Democratic Party.

Even if this scenario is adopted by the RBC, it would likely need to be halved according to DNC rules. In other words, a net gain of only 5 full delegates for Hillary. This would be accompanied by an 18 vote margin for Hillary in Florida. That's for pledged delegates, the apportionment of superdelegates in both states is a separate issue. In all likelihood those would also be halved as well, in part to avoid creating two classes of delegate within the same state delegation.

Contest 2: Puerto Rico (Sunday)
It's absurd that a territory that can't even vote for president in November is apportioned significantly more delegates than Montana and South Dakota combined - 55 pledged delegates, plus 7 supers. There's a common misconception that because Hillary has done so well with Hispanic voters in other parts of the country. That's not going to help her in Puerto Rico, where the high mixed-race population feels more affinity with Obama than Hispanics in California or Texas. What does help Hillary is that she's the Senator from New York where most Puerto Ricans in America reside. Bill Clinton was popular in Puerto Rico, and Hillary as First Lady played a major role in helping with a big hurricane recovery effort there in the late 90s. The one recent poll (conducted May 8-20) shows Hillary with a 13-point lead - 51-38. Her winning margin may well fall under 10 points. By the way, Puerto Rico falls into the Eastern time zone at this time of year and polls are open from 8am-3pm. So, we should have results by 1 or 2pm Pacific Time.

Contests 3 and 4: South Dakota and Montana (Tuesday)
The polling in both South Dakota (15 pledged delegates/8 super) and Montana (16 pledged/9 super) is kind of stale (another sure sign that the nomination fight is over). But, all indications are that Obama will win by big margins of 15-20 points in each state. The real importance of these states will come in allowing Obama to finish out the primary season with two big wins in one night as he declares victory in the whole process and then starts rolling out big numbers of superdelegates the next day.

And that brings us to Contest 5, Superdelegates. Hillary may or may not concede on Tuesday night, but even if she doesn't, by Wednesday morning the remaining 190 or so superdelegates will start rolling out en masse for Obama. And our long national nightmare will be over. We can only hope.

Update (7:00Pm Saturday): Contest 1 goes to... Obama! The outcome was pretty much as predicted below. Harold Ickes and other HRC supporters on the committee were gracious on the Florida decision but got all pissy about Michigan. They felt that a 73-56 was more accurate an apportionment than the 69-59 proposed by Michigan Democrats. They reserved the right to appeal the decision to the Credentials Committee meeting in July. The magic number is now 2117 and Obama only needs 64 more to reach that magic number. He should reach it by Tuesday night, Wednesday morning at the latest.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Teddy on Bobby

I have long thought that the assassination of Bobby Kennedy marked the death of the 20th century brand of liberalism. After Vietnam and the loss of America's faith in LBJ, RFK had become the last great hope of a liberalism based on the right of equality for all, communitarian compassion and a foreign policy that was pragmatic yet strongly informed by human rights ideals. And with Bobby, especially the person that Bobby had become by 1968 (transformed to a great degree by the Civil Rights Movement, his brother's death and the horrors of the Vietnam War), that liberalism came from a person of passion, depth, sincerity and conviction, along with charisma and the ability to inspire.

While there are a lot of reasons to be excited about the possibility of an Obama presidency, more than anything I'm excited about his potential to transform our nation and bring a new liberalism to American politics. I believe that Obama has the potential be to this era in American history what Lincoln was to the Antebellum America, Teddy Roosevelt to the Gilded Age and FDR to Great Depression-era America. JFK may have been on his way to being this sort of president, but I think RFK even more so.

In this week of news about the Kennedys, it's really worth taking a listen to Teddy Kennedy's eulogy of his brother, Robert:

Hillary and the Dead Kennedys

I don't know what to say about Hillary's reminder to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader editorial board that it wasn't until June of 1968 that Robert Kennedy was taken out of contention in that's year's nomination fight. In this case, by an assassin's bullet. But, as furious as I've been with the willingness of Hillary's campaign to play the race card, my reaction to this episode has been to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe this time, it really it really is the misstatement of an exhausted candidate. But, here are some excerpts from some arguments from around the blogosphere that make me think twice:

From the XX Factor blog at, first Rosa Brooks:
I think we know exactly what Hillary meant:
"Nice nominee you got there... sure would be a shame if anything happened to him."
Awfully big-hearted of her to be willing to stick around through August, just in case....
And, Melinda Henneberger:
I'm not saying she literally hopes he dies soon. (Plus, she's apologized, so case closed, right?) But Hillary didn't mean what she said this time just like she wasn't exactly shouting out to hardworking white people, and Bill didn't quite say Jesse equals Barack, and her surrogates never meant to push the whole image of him as a druggie in the 'hood, and she never meant to reanimate the whole highly racial Jeremiah Wright hoo-ha by saying—gosh darn the timing, just as things were dying down—that he woulda never been her pick for pastor. But either Hillary Clinton is one smart, savvy, and occasionally even on-message politician—in which case she is well aware of what it means to reference the possible assassination of a black leader in this country—or she isn't and doesn't. It can't be both.
And this conclusion from Emily Yoffe:

...I don't like the game of gotcha in which every ill-phrased remark is grounds for ending a candidacy. But recently Clinton has been making a string of offensive statements, from saying "hard-working white Americans" support her and not Obama, to comparing her effort to seat delegates from Florida and Michigan to the civil-rights marchers beaten in Selma. But calling forth the forces of madness to give her the presidency - please, let her end the madness of her campaign.
From BarbinMD on Daily Kos:

But this isn’t the first time she has made this same, offensive comparison. In March of this year:

TIME: Can you envision a point at which--if the race stays this close--Democratic Party elders would step in and say, "This is now hurting the party and whoever will be the nominee in the fall"?

CLINTON: No, I really can't. I think people have short memories. Primary contests used to last a lot longer. We all remember the great tragedy of Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June in L.A. My husband didn't wrap up the nomination in 1992 until June. Having a primary contest go through June is nothing particularly unusual.

Once might be a mistake, twice and it’s a tactic. An offensive, ugly tactic from a failed campaign whose only hope is to raise the possibility that something might happen to Obama. The willingness to say such a thing in a cheap effort to sway superdelegates is disgusting.
And, finally from Josh Orton at MyDD:

This must now end.

Over the past weeks, many have called for Clinton to end her campaign based on metrics. But with the infrastructure-building the primary keeps delivering, I've been reasonably comfortable waiting until June for closure.
But this is unacceptable.
The United States has a history of profound political violence - and the use of violence to oppress and coerce. And while I'm not quite willing to accept that Clinton spoke maliciously - it doesn't matter. There is no excuse for flippantly referencing assassination, especially given the historic nature of Obama's campaign and our nation's grim history of racial oppression through violence. When Hillary Clinton speaks of our history, she is not reflecting academically or only in a vacuum - her words and influence are real. To act otherwise is negligent, at best.

No context can save her. She must go.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Kentucky and Oregon

In the next hour, we'll start to see results from Kentucky, with Oregon a bit less than 6 hours away. While it's now clear that Hillary will stay in for the last three primaries ending June 3, and for the DNC Rules Committee meeting on May 31 that will decide the fate of Michigan and Florida delegations, Obama will almost certainly have gained a majority of pledged delegates, whether you count all states excluding MI and FL or, likely, even if you include them. No one from the Obama camp, or from the Democratic powers that be will tell Hillary to step down until after June 3, but Hillary will lose all credibility if she doesn't concede shortly after the last primary.

In Kentucky, don't be fooled by early returns, which will start rolling in around 3:30 Pacific Time. Because of the time zone split in Kentucky, early results will mostly reflect returns from Louisville in the eastern half of the state. Western Kentucky is demographically pretty similar to West Virginia, so when those returns get factored, Obama will be lucky to crack 30%. Kentucky polling has been remarkably consistent at showing Hillary performing in the low-60s. The rest goes to Edwards, who as in WV remains on the ballot, and "Uncommitted," which is actually an option on the Kentucky ballot.

In Oregon's all-mail balloting, ballots have to be turned in by 8pm. Counting actually started this morning. So, we'll know the first results, mostly from the heavily Obama-favored Portland area right at 8pm PDT. Those early results are likely to get watered down a bit (or maybe not), but expect the final results to give Obama somewhere between 54 and 64% of the vote.

If all goes as expected, the meme that will enshroud the airwaves and print media is that it's all over, Obama is the nominee no matter what happens with FL and MI, but the Kentucky results show that Obama continues to have troubles gaining the vote of working-class whites (conveniently ignoring the fact that OR is almost as blue collar as KY and probably whiter). But, if all goes expected tonight, or if it's any better than expected, Obama may well get the superdelegates he needs to declare victory on June 3, or even earlier.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Better late than never

John Edwards will endorse Obama tonight.

Would have been nice if Edwards had come out for Obama at that Charleston rally, but better now late than never. And, now as the NY Times points out, the news of the endorsement will push Hillary's West Virginia win off the lede on tonight's TV news broadcasts.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

John Edwards Endorsement

Clearly John Edwards voted for Barack Obama in past Tuesday's North Carolina Primary. For some reason, maybe it's because his wife supports Hillary, Edwards refuses to endorse in the race. A lot of pundits argue that, with the NC Primary passed, it's irrelevant. But, one way that Edwards could really help his favored candidate is by showing up on stage with Obama at his rally now scheduled for Monday morning in Charleston, WV.

As well as Hillary is doing in Appalachian areas, the results from the South Carolina primary indicate that Edwards has even more appeal with voters in that part of the country. Edwards would help Obama to no end by endorsing him at the rally, with the moment repeated on local news broadcasts in West Virginia throughout the 24 hours before the voters go to the polls. The benefit would be magnified by Edwards campaigning with Obama in Kentucky in advance of the May 20 primary there.

Whadaya say, John?

Monday, May 12, 2008

West Virginia Preview

Obama fans like myself should probably look for something else to do tomorrow night. Watching election results won't be nearly as fun as last week. The only satisfaction we'll have is knowing that after the night is over Obama will still be ahead in pledged delegates, superdelegates, states won and popular votes won.

Not only does West Virginia have exactly the kind of demography that has supported Clinton in Ohio and PA -older voters, working poor whites, Catholics, racist crackers, but there also seems to be a high quotient of West Virginia voters who are absolutely convinced Obama is a foreign national, a Muslim, or even a terrorist. The best explanation for this is a high level of illiteracy, along with lack of Internet access, newspaper distribution or news broadcasts in the state. It makes you wonder if they'll be able to find anyone in the state with the aptitude to count the votes.

All the recent polls show Clinton winning by a more than 2-1 margin, 60-24 according to a Suffolk poll conducted on May 10-11; 56-27 according to a Rasmussen poll conducted May 4. Fortunately, Bill Clinton has done us the favor of establishing the expectation for Hillary's success when he urged West Virginia voters to make sure Hillary wins with 80% of the vote , or even 90% according to one state official.

Polls close at 7:30pm Eastern, so expect the networks to call it for Clinton by about, oh, 4:30 here on the West Coast. There are only 28 delegates at stake, so Hillary should not come away with more than about a 6-7 delegate net gain. Obama will probably pick up at least that many superdelegates in the following day or two.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

More evidence that Clinton's continued candidacy has jumped the shark...

Preachers and Presidents

From the New York Times coverage of Jenna Bush's wedding:
The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston officiated at the ceremony. Mr. Caldwell, a longtime religious adviser to [President] Bush, has endorsed Senator Barack Obama.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

John Edwards Endorsement

Clearly John Edwards voted for Barack Obama in past Tuesday's North Carolina Primary. For some reason, maybe it's because his wife supports Hillary, Edwards refuses to endorse in the race. A lot of pundits argue that, with the NC Primary passed, it's irrelevant. But, one way that Edwards could really help his favored candidate is by showing up on stage with Obama at his rally now scheduled for Monday morning in Charleston, WV.

As well as Hillary is doing in Appalachian areas, the results from the South Carolina primary indicate that Edwards has even more appeal with voters in that part of the country. Edwards would help Obama to no end by endorsing him at the rally, with the moment repeated on local news broadcasts in West Virginia throughout the 24 hours before the voters go to the polls. The benefit would be magnified by Edwards campaigning with Obama in Kentucky in advance of the May 20 primary there.

Whadaya say, John?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

It's the racism, stupid

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on... Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again... There's a pattern emerging here."

-- Sen. Hillary Clinton, in an interview with USA Today

I have a theory. In mid-January, shortly before the South Carolina primary, when Hillary started alienating black voters with her comments about how Dr. King needed LBJ to effectuate the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, she and her most Rovian of advisors, Mark Penn and Bill Clinton, discovered that raising race would drive more working class rural voters to rally behind her (while also putting some fear into the minds of superdelegates). South Carolina went from being a state in play for her to a colossal disaster. With half the votes cast by blacks, Hillary lost to Obama by nearly 30 points.

She still had to fight John Edwards for those rural votes, but buried in the national discourse and in the results and exit polls the Clinton campaign could see that by forcing identity politics to the fore they would have an advantage with older white and working-class voters who were not only unfamiliar with Obama, but could actually be manipulated into fearing him.

This strategy, of course, would all have to operate at the most subtle of levels to avoid any chance of causing a backlash among Hillary's base of older women voters, the media and party leaders. Also, there was the risk of permanently alienating black voters who would still be necessary to win in November. So, no Willie Horton or Jesse Helms' white guy ripping up the rejection letter type ads. Only coded signals to provoke fears among white voters, along with taking every opportunity possible to marginalize Obama as "the black candidate."

In South Carolina, it started with Bill Clinton dismissing Obama's South Carolina victory by comparing it with Jesse Jackson's in 1984. And, then as the Obama campaign picked up steam, the race-baiting lost a degree of subtlety. Desperate times called for desperate measures. So, along came Geraldine Ferraro's statements, the darkening of Obama's image in campaign ads, and leaks of pictures of Obama in African garb to Drudge.

All along, Bill Clinton is becoming the rural specialist for the campaign, drumming up Hillary's rural, working class cred with the tobacco chewing set. As Maureen Dowd so wickedly stated it:
Then came the Big Dog, crazy like a fox, for the coup de graceless. Campaigning in Clarksburg, W. Va., he said that his scrappy wife can win working-class voters, as compared with Obama’s Viognier-and-Volvo set.

“The great divide in this country is not by race or even income, it’s by those who think they are better than everyone else and think they should play by a different set of rules,” the former president said. “In West Virginia and Arkansas, we know that when we see it.”

Oh, well, at least Bill didn’t use the word uppity.
The Rev. Wright "Controversy"

And, then came the Rev. Wright controversy. I'm not sure where YouTube videos came from. The Clinton's campaign's fingerprints are not on them in the same way they are with the other tactics mentioned above. But, I have no doubt they were happy to raise them with the press and did what they could to disseminate the videos.

Now, as the power of nearly de-railing the campaign of a leading contender for the presidency has clearly gone to his head, and as he has clearly gone off the rails himself, Obama was right to jettison the Rev. Wright from his life. In any case, the constant throughout this controversy has been the fact that Wright, for many older, especially rural older, whites helps invoke with Obama the same 60s trope of a radical black man associated with Jesse Jackson in the '84 race, or Al Sharpton in 2004.

The Wright issue also had the effect of dragging Obama into still painful debates from that last flared up during the 1990s over what share of responsibility falls on whites versus blacks to help heal the wounds and impacts of our 400-year history of racism in America (a bitter irony is that Bill Clinton earned his popularity within the black community by falling on the right side of this debate). From the awesome black blog, Too Sense:
....What people want is not for Obama to denounce Wright, but to denounce black people everywhere who have the gall to be angry at America for how they are and have been treated. What they wanted Obama to say was that racism is unequivocally a black problem, that white people have moved past it but that black people cling to grievances as an excuse for out of wedlock births, unemployment, or incarceration.

It doesn't matter that rhetorically and policy-wise, Obama has struck the right balance between personal and governmental responsibility. It doesn't matter that he's confronted black anti-Semitism, black homophobia, black apathy. When Obama dared to mention that white people might harbor irrational prejudices of their own--he was pilloried by conservatives and liberals everywhere who don't want to feel guilty suspecting every black teenager of being a drug dealer for "throwing his grandmother under the bus."

They didn't want him to condemn Wright, they wanted him to condemn black people. So of course they're not satisfied. For all the talk of how white people are attracted to Obama and the alleged "absolution" he could offer them, what they really want is for him to publicly shift the blame for the racial divide squarely on the shoulders of the black community, so white people can stop thinking about it.

And he didn't do that, so they're not happy.

Appalachia's Love Affair with Hillary

Racism is a reality in this race- fact is that there is a hard core 10-15% of American voters who would never vote for a black candidate, no matter what. One of the uglier episodes in the Indiana campaign was one white man's refusal to shake Obama's hand. Fortunately, most of those racist voters would not be counted on by any Democratic candidate. But, as George Packer at the New Yorker has pointed out, there are a percentage of Democratic voters, most concentrated in Appalachia, that will never vote for Obama.

This map, assembled by Meng Bomin at Daily Kos, shows how amazingly concentrated in Appalachia the anti-Obama Democratic vote resides (click on map for larger versions):

The purple denotes counties where Hillary won more than 65% of the vote through May 6. As you can see from the map -outside of Michigan where only Hillary was on the ballot, and in Arkansas for obvious reasons- most of the purple is in Appalachia- from Northern Alabama and Georgia, up through Western South Carolina, Eastern Tennessee, Western Virginia, South Eastern Ohio, Western PA and Southwestern NY (Some of the more detailed maps here show that John Edwards also did well in the sliver of South Carolina that falls in Appalachia - makes you wonder whether Edwards staying in the race would have helped Obama, which is inverse of the conventional wisdom).

Most of these Appalachian Democratic racists are in states like Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia that were not likely to go Democratic in the general election, even this year. But, there is also a large enough percentage of voters in Tennessee and West Virginia -states that voted for Bill Clinton- that will be lost to Obama. And then there are concentrations of these voters in key swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio (seeing a pattern here?), along with Virginia, which could be a Democratic win this year (and voted overwhelmingly for Obama, except in Appalachia). So, no doubt that the loss of these often Democratic voters in Appalachia and their racist ways are a real challenge to Obama putting together a winning coalition of states in November.

Reject and renounce the racism, along with those who would continue to exploit it for their own gain (i.e., Hillary Clinton)

What's scary is that this racist reality continues to fuel talk, even after Tuesday night's results in IN and NC, that it's ok for superdelegates to deliver the nomination to Clinton because, well, we're just not ready to elect a black president (Ed Rendell said this publicly many times). On today's media briefing call, Clinton chief strategist, Geoffrey Garin, raved about Hillary's improved performance with white voters in NC while all but dismissing black voters as a relevant voter class. This was followed by Hillary herself in the USA Today interview. I think this about my 100th FU to Hillary on this short-lived blog, but Hillary, Fuck You!

We, as Democrats, given our country's history, given our party's history, given our aspirations for racial equality should find this kind of race-baiting completely unacceptable. It's really the kind of thing that party leaders (also known as superdelegates) should hold out as a threshhold for determining the legitimacy of a contender for the nomination. If Obama has the most pledged delegates after the last primary (and he absolutely will), the nomination should be his, realities of racism be damned. This is a principle worth losing over, although I don't think that'll be result. In reality, I think it just adds some risk of losing. But, if we're not willing as a country and a party to take that risk this year, when will we be?

We must take on that racism, stare it down and defeat it. And, have we ever been in a better position do that in the realm of national politics than this year. McCain is a deeply flawed candidate (his association with Bush is far more damaging that Obama's association with Rev. Wright). Obama is one of the best candidates this party has ever seen. At the very least, he is our generation's JFK or maybe, better yet, RFK. Obama's message of hope and change, I predict, will be more powerful in the general election race, when that next level of more casual, less partisan voter gets engaged. He will maximize black and young voter turn-out and, I believe, capture the Hispanic and older woman vote that has been, along with the Appalachian racists, key to Hillary's base.

We Democrats might be taking on some incremental measure of additional risk of losing the presidency by nominating Obama because racism will be a real factor to overcome. However, Obama is completely capable of winning in the face of that racism. And, we as a nation will be better off for it.

Update: Meng Bomin has posted updated maps. The high degree of opposition to Obama in Appalachia is even more stark in the map of counties where Hillary won more than 65% of the vote. I've replaced the map in my original posting with this one and also updated my discussion of those maps.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

How she loses

Last month, former Clinton administration member and close Obama friend, Illinois Rep. Rahm Emmanuel, made this apt statement:
“The way the loser loses,” said Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, who is close to both candidates but has made no endorsement, “will determine whether the winner wins in November.”
The response to last night's Indiana and NC primary results from Gore and Kerry strategist, Bob Shrum:
“The campaign may go on but the contest is now over: Obama is the Democratic nominee for president. Now the decision for her is how she wants to end this.”
But, presumably this is not how Hillary wants to end it:
Earlier this week Hillary Clinton instructed supporters to bet on the filly in the Kentucky Derby. In other words: Bet on Eight Belles, the only female in the horse race (and, Clinton obviously hoped, a potentially promising metaphor/omen for herself and her chances of winning the Democratic nomination).

Well, as local sports fanatic Seth Kolloen just pointed out via email (and on his blog), it didn’t go so well for the filly today.

In a development that you couldn’t even make up, Eight Belles finished second, but broke both her ankles during the race, collapsed at the end, and was immediately euthanized on the track.
(via Eli Sanders at the Slog)