One For Four Is A Victory?

February 29, 2008

The Clinton campaign tries to move the goal posts forward, but they’re already at the back of the end zone.  In the latest fanciful memo, the campaign says about the March 4th states, “If [Obama] cannot win all of these states with all this effort, there’s a problem.”  Really, does a Clinton win in Rhode Island alone give her the prerogative to continue? 

Regardless of Hillary’s wishful thinking, Bill Clinton himself set the stakes when he said, “If she doesn’t win Texas and Ohio, I don’t think she can get the nomination.”  Here’s the full memo:

To: Interested Parties

From: The Clinton Campaign

Date: Friday, February 29, 2008

RE: Obama Must-Wins

The media has anointed Barack Obama the presumptive nominee and he’s playing the part.

With an eleven state winning streak coming out of February, Senator Obama is riding a surge of momentum that has enabled him to pour unprecedented resources into Texas, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The Obama campaign and its allies are outspending us two to one in paid media and have sent more staff into the March 4 states. In fact, when all is totaled, Senator Obama and his allies have outspent Senator Clinton by a margin of $18.4 million to $9.2 million on advertising in the four states that are voting next Tuesday.

Senator Obama has campaigned hard in these states. He has spent time meeting editorial boards, courting endorsers, holding rallies, and – of course – making speeches.

If he cannot win all of these states with all this effort, there’s a problem.

Should Senator Obama fail to score decisive victories with all of the resources and effort he is bringing to bear, the message will be clear:

Democrats, the majority of whom have favored Hillary in the primary contests held to date, have their doubts about Senator Obama and are having second thoughts about him as a prospective standard-bearer.


One Million Donors

February 27, 2008

The milestone is a striking display of grassroots support from roughly 1 in every 300 Americans, an unparalleled political feat. The gigantic small-donor base can give repeatedly, representing an untapped well which Obama can draw on heading into the general election.

Last night, Obama mentioned that the average contribution was $109.  So far this year, the campaign has 860,000 new donors, according to a website graphic; they raised $36 million in January.  The quick calculations indicate Obama’s February haul is potentially $58 million.

Left unsaid is whether the spigot will be turned off if Obama decides to accept public financing.  The reasons are clear for declining – the foremost is to preserve the Democrats’ financial advantage – yet there’s the risk of appearing to compromise principles for political expediency.

However, the “just another politician” aspect doesn’t seem particularly detrimental to his candidacy. Obama has already established a reformist image, refusing donations from PACs and lobbyists while passing sweeping ethics reform legislation in the Senate.  The million who have invested in the campaign are democratizing the process, removing the corrupting external influences from the political arena.  Ironically, accepting public financing (and the accompanying spending limits) would force the candidates to turn to outside organizations for more funding, bringing the special interest groups into the fray again.

McCain is also undergoing criticism for his campaign finances, sparring with Howard Dean and the DNC.  On another note, the longer McCain spotlights the issue, the more Republicans remember McCain-Feingold, symbolic of the senator’s frequent breaks with the party.


Media Treatment of Hillary Clinton

February 27, 2008

In the latest spate of gripes from the flailing Clinton campaign, chief architects Mark Penn and Howard Wolfson grumbled about the new media darling, Barack Obama, while accusing him of receiving a free ride. Regardless of Obama’s press treatment, Hillary has skated by on quite a few issues without widespread protest.

Take her preposterous claim of being “fully vetted.” Since 2000, the Republicans have stockpiled a treasure trove of ammunition, deemed the “Sierra Madre of Hillary oppo.” A Hillary nomination would unleash the Pandora’s box, contradicting her promise of “no surprises.”

Note the Clintons’ adamant refusal to release their tax returns, a practice commonly followed by presidential candidates. The papers would reveal the couple’s transformation from indigency to riches, buoyed by Bill Clinton’s ties with unsavory characters such as Ron Burkle. Yet the matter hasn’t been pressed in debates or on the evening news. Contrast that to Obama’s Rezko dealings, which have received considerable attention. The secrecy isn’t confined to financial matters, as it seeps into a main pillar of Hillary’s candidacy, her time as First Lady.

Experience isn’t measured by proximity to the Oval Office; the appropriate metric is to judge how Hillary used her time. But besides the botched health-care plan characterized by closed doors and the voluminous tomes on scandals, there is little public information on Hillary’s doings. The files exist, but they are buried in the Clinton Library’s papers locked away until 2012. Again, except for one debate mention, the issue has largely shied away from the spotlight. Answer for your record, as Obama has done when explaining his criticized “present” votes in the Senate.

Hillary frequently tosses out another line, citing her “thirty-five years of experience,” as preparation for the presidency. Yet the claim defies her life’s timeline, suggesting that her entire resume, beginning after law school, was training for the presidency. Despite the questionable veracity, she repeats the statement during debates without challenges from the moderators.

Instead of jabbing fingers at external forces, the Clinton campaign should only peer inwards to uncover the reasons for Hillary’s collapse. The flawed blueprint called for a February 5th knockout, a risky gambit that proved unsuccessful. After Plan A failed, the campaign was woefully unprepared, having scorned the common sense of a backup strategy.


Obamanomics – Retirement Savings

February 23, 2008

In a recent Portfolio piece, Matt Cooper explains the rare policy where Obama and Clinton differ, retirement savings. The summary:

Clinton has proposed new 401(k)-style savings vehicles. But seeing that most people don’t sign up for the plans available to them, Obama wants to make 401(k) enrollment automatic unless one opts out.

After digging through some material, it’s clear that Obama’s minor tweak of changing opt in to opt out has significant repercussions.

Consider the case of organ donors. Take Germany and Austria, two bordering countries that share language and culture. Yet only 12% of Germans are potential donors, compared to 99.9% of Austrians. The difference? In Germany, it’s an opt in policy; someone must register to become a donor. In France, everyone is a potential donor unless they opt out.

A similar effect, although not quite of the same magnitude, occurs involving 401(k) plans. Auto enrollment leads to higher participation, as numerous studies have shown. A 2004 report by the Investment Company Institute found the participation rate jumped to 92% from 66%. Among 20-29 year olds, automatic enrollment more than doubles participation, according to Fidelity.

For more Obamanomics reading, check out this BusinessWeek article from a few weeks ago. A telling anecdote starts the story:

On Sunday, Feb. 10, after he found out he’d won that day’s Democratic Presidential caucuses in Maine, but before his appearance on CBS’s 60 Minutes, Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) sat down at the keyboard of his computer to write an e-mail. Not to a media consultant or a delegate counter, but to banker Robert Wolf, CEO of UBS Americas. The two men exchanged notes about the Senate-passed economic stimulus package and that weekend’s G-7 economic summit, Wolf says.


The Best Political Team on Television

February 23, 2008

Some humor for CNN viewers, from Larry King’s interview of Jon Stewart:

STEWART: There are very few organizations left that have a credibility savings account that they can draw on anymore — except, of course, for CNN, that has the best political team on television.

KING: Do you think we have the best political team on television?

STEWART: No, I was told I have to say, that every seven minutes…

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Good (INAUDIBLE)…

STEWART: …or Wolf Blitzer would come in here and beard me.


Roundup: Everyone’s Profiting Except …

February 23, 2008

In the last two weeks, Obama has picked up 25 superdelegates while Clinton has lost two. Yet she still leads, 241 to 181, according to the AP.

Michelle Obama’s thesis, previously under tight wraps, is now available for public consumption.

Russ Feingold voted for Obama and plans to support him at the convention.

Rasmussen has Hillary up eight in Ohio, and Obama up three nationally.

McCain, the RNC, and the DNC fund-raise off the New York Times story. Meanwhile, the New York Times Company’s stock fell 3.35% today.


A Letter to Hillary: Drop Out Before March 4th

February 22, 2008

Hillary,

Drop out before March 4th.

Show the graciousness revealed last night and step aside to let history run its course. Don’t risk a humiliating loss in Texas; it would be an unfitting denouement to a year-long campaign.

An exit would be admirable, leaving voters with a favorable impression after a heated primary season that threatened to sunder the party. Set the party ahead of personal ambition, maintain the goodwill the Clinton brand harbors among loyal Democrats.

Your political prospects are bright in the Senate, a deliberative arena suited for your wonky nature and personal charm. Become the next Ted Kennedy – hammer out landmark legislation on the key issues. Perhaps the door will open for a presidential run in 2012 or 2016.

But most importantly, learn from the experience. The two finest moments in your presidential campaign came when you showed emotion, leading the public past the steely facade and into your interior. Connect with people, and the bond will prove powerful.

And fire Mark Penn.