What Obama needs to do to win big next Tuesday

After a couple of games of Armchair Pundit, I now feel ready to play Armchair Strategist for the Obama campaign.

After a big victory in South Carolina, Barack Obama has the most delegates (63, vs. 48 for Hillary and 25 for Edwards). He also has a strong ground game in the February 5 states. But of course that's not enough.

In order to win big on Super Tuesday, Obama must:
  • Tout his record. Few people can say they have done in Illinois or US politics what Obama has done. Check out this bit from TIME regarding Obama's record in his first three years as a freshman Senator. In contrast, what has Hillary done in her seven years in the Senate? Or Edwards in his six years?
  • Go to town about his policy proposals - and why he offers them. This sarcastically titled article on Democratic Underground offers a complete look at where Obama stands on countless key issues.
  • Reach out to groups among which he is weakest. He needs to improve his standing among women, senior voters, unions, and, yes, white voters. How can he do that? In part by touting his endorsements. More on that below.
  • Attack the 'youth' and 'inexperience' factor. This is about the only 'advantage' Hillary has. Many of Hillary's supporters support her because they feel she is more ready for the job than the younger Obama. Well, fiurst of all, many Presidents - including Bill Clinton - took office at younger ages than Obama will be on 1/20/09 (he'll be about 47 1/2 years old). And second, experience doesn't matter as much as judgment and integrity. Even so, experience is not about how long you've held an office; it's about what you have done during your time in office. Incidentally, here's a good article on Obama's experience.
  • Milk his endorsements. Among many others, Obama is endorsed by Senators John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Pat Leahy, Claire McCaskill, and Kent Conrad (ND); Caroline Kennedy; Governors Kathleen Sebelius (KS), Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) and , Deval Patrick (MA); Reps. Barbara Lee (CA) and Linda Sanchez (CA); and Mayor Shirley Franklin. The Arizona Republic, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Dallas Morning News, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Trenton Times, and Boston Globe have also decided to back him. They all believe that he is the most capable and most ready Democrat in this race.

    While it's great that he has these (and many more!) endorsements, let's be honest: How many people are going to be swayed by endorsements? Voters need to see why these people and papers are backing Obama. When an undecided voter sees an ad or a piece of literature that includes a key quote (or two or seven) from said endorser(s), the impact of these endorsements will go farther, helping him to improve his standing among demographics where he hasn't done as well. (For example, it would also help to feature labor leaders and experienced politicos in his campaign items, the former to get the union vote, and the latter to help quell concerns regarding Obama's experience.)
  • Have one hell of a showing in Thursday night's debate. Don't even let it look close.
I will say that a year ago I was not to keen on the idea of Obama running for President; now I believe no one else is as ready to take on the demands and rigor of the White House. If he can win me over, he can win over countless other Americans. I have outlined a few steps
Obama can take. This is not an exhaustive list; there are other things both he and his supporters need to do in order for him to win on Tuesday. But I believe that following these and other strategies will help his campaign greatly as we head into what just might (or might not) be the final few days of the primary election season.


Candidates, others react to Bush's State of the Union address

The official Democratic response to the State of the Union was given by Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius:

The Presidential candidates offered their two cents as well. Here's Barack Obama:

Hillary Clinton:

President Bush had one final chance tonight to acknowledge what the American people have known for years: that the economy is not working for middle class families. Unfortunately, what he offered was more of the same - a frustrating commitment to the same failed policies that helped turn record surpluses into large deficits, and push a thriving twenty-first century economy to the brink of recession.
John Edwards:
"The president tonight renewed his call for an economic recovery plan. But the plan he and Congress have offered leaves out tens of millions of Americans who need help the most. This plan would take months to have any impact, and the people I meet everyday on the campaign trail do not have months to wait. These people are hurting now and need this help now. Over the past seven years, typical workers' paychecks have failed to keep up with inflation, millions of families are facing the loss of their homes to foreclosures, health insurance premiums have doubled, and families are spending $1,000 more a year on gasoline. The State of the Union may be interesting political theater, but until we find bold solutions to the challenges facing the country, we will be stuck with the same old small, Washington answers."
Michigan politicians with their reactions include Carl Levin:

“We need to turn the page on President Bush’s ‘more of the same’ policies and priorities that he continued to offer in his State of the Union address. Democrats and Republicans in Congress need to seek common ground to turn that page.
Debbie Stabenow:
"Unfortunately, the President is pushing a stimulus package that leaves out one of the quickest, most effective ways to stimulate our economy – extending unemployment insurance. Economists and experts from both sides of the aisle agree that extending unemployment insurance will immediately boost consumer spending, while allowing individuals more time to search for a job in a difficult market. I will continue to lead this effort in the Senate Finance Committee."
John Conyers:
Near the end of his speech, the President asked us to "trust the people," and promised that as long as we do so, "our Nation will prosper, our liberty will be secure, and the State of our Union will remain strong." There's a great post on DailyKos about that passage, showing a series of statistics of how many Americans disagree with the President on Iraq, warrantless surveillance and torture. I am also certain that if you asked the millions of Americans in danger of foreclosure, or bankruptcy due to medical bills, or parents with children in failing schools, they would have a very different take on the state of our union than the President. So in that last section of the address, I found a ray of hope--a year from now, we will be addressed by a new President, and I trust that the people will reflect on the hardships and disappointments brought on by the Bush Administration, and that they will elect someone ready to lead the country in a new direction.

Bits of Tid: January 29, 2008

A Quarter of a Thousand Edition

  • This is Post #250 on Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott!
  • Check out Michigan Liberal for a liveblog of the State of the State! The address will be given at 7PM. You should be able to see it on your local PBS station.
  • Yours truly was interviewed by 9&10 News regarding the State of the Union! Watch the video; I'm the guy in the blue shirt.
  • State Senate Democrats have a new blog!
  • Want to help get healthcare on the ballot this November? Check out HealthcareForMichigan.org to see what you can do.
  • "We have an opportunity to make critical progress in 2008," says Carl Levin in his preview of the new year in Congress.
  • Less than 6,700 hours until the polls open on Election Day!
  • January is Michigan Mentoring Month, School Board Recognition Month, and Stalking Awareness Month. You have about 56 more hours to celebrate!


Obama dominates - I mean DOMINATES - in South Carolina

Most of us expected Barack Obama to win the South Carolina primary. But he didn't just win South Carolina; he flat out dominated.

I couldn't imagine Barack doubling Hillary's total. But CNN says he did; they peg the numbers at 55% for Obama, 27% for Hillary, and 18% for Edwards.

Now let's take a look at the exit polls.

  • Obama did just as well among women as men.
  • Obama won virtually every age group, though of course younger people were more likely to vote Obama than older people.
  • Hillary won the over-65 vote, but other than that, she did not win a single other age, race, or gender demographic (though she tied Edwards amongst whites over 60).
MSNBC also did some exit polling:
The Clintons have been accused of playing the race card in this contest. We do see some potential fallout for the Clintons in the African-American community: 74% of African-American voters think that Clinton unfairly attacked Obama. But when we look at the same question among white voters, a comparable number thought Clinton unfairly attacked Obama -- 68%.

Also worth mentioning, a majority of the voters -- 56% -- said that Bill Clinton's campaigning was important to their vote today.

Obama's victory speech:

What's next? Florida, which, like Michigan, lost its delegates to the Democratic National Convention for holding its primary before February 5. After that is Super Tuesday, where nearly half of the states will be voting.


Martin Luther King, Jr.

I thought I'd share with you a couple of items I found this week regarding Martin Luther King, Jr. First, there's this piece on Daily Kos, discussing some of his work toward economic equality. I highly recommend a look at this excellent compilation - even if it's just a glance.

Second, from YouTube comes his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech he delivered the night before he was assassinated.

Prophetic - and inspiring.


Bits of Tid: January 20, 2008

One Year Edition

  • One year ago today, the very first Bits of Tid was published. What is Bits of Tid? As I said one year ago:
    Every so often I come across news items that I want to include in this blog, but I don't feel deserve their own separate entry. Plus, I occasionally see a few cool links on the web that I also believe don't deserve their own blog entry. Bits of Tid is the name I have chosen for my new periodical series that focuses on these news items and other sorts of fun info. ('Bits of Tid' comes from separating the word 'tidbits' into two seperate syllables - 'tid bits' - and adding the word 'of.')
  • Better yet, we are one year away from the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States.

  • So I was kicked out of a Saturday Night Improv show because the room was filled to capacity, and we couldn't sit in the aisle because it would have been a fire hazard.

  • So Hillary Clinton won the Nevada Democratic Caucuses. Or did she? Well, yes, but Barack Obama won 13 Democratic National Convention delegates to Hillary's 12. Romney and McCain won Nevada and South Carolina, respectively. It could be a while before we know who the nominees will be.

  • Voting ends soon on Democracy for America's Grassroots All-Star Contest.

  • Buh-bye Duncan Hunter.

  • Vanity time: This comment on Daily Kos got nearly 150 recs.


Michigan Primary Bits of Tid: January 16, 2008

  • Hillary won an underwhelming 55% of the vote, while 40% voted Uncommitted. Hillary won 73 DNC delegates, while Uncommitted won 55. I call Hillary's win underwhelming because she was supposed to dominate this election. As John Nichols of The Nation writes:
    As the only leading Democratic contender to keep her name on the ballot after Michigan officials moved their primary ahead of the opening date scheduled by the Democratic National Committee, Clinton was perfectly positioned. She had no serious opposition. She also had the strong support of top Michigan Democrats such as Governor Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow.

    Usually, a prominent presidential contender running a primary campaign without serious opposition and with strong in-state support from party leaders can count on winning 90 percent or more of the vote. That's how it went for George Bush when he was running without serious opposition in Republican primaries in 2004, and for Bill Clinton when he was essentially unopposed in the Democratic primaries in 1996.

  • On Michigan Liberal:
    • Mark Grebner tells us how each district voted.
    • Phil offers an analysis of West Michigan numbers.
    • Nirmal crunches the exit poll data.
    • Laura analyzes the youth vote numbers. Uncommitted actually outperformed Hillary among young voters!

  • You gotta love it: The Michigan Republican Party erroneously sent out a press release congratulating McCain on the victory he didn't have. Oops.

  • One more bit from Michigan Liberal, written by yours truly. Did holding the primary early have the desired effect of giving Michigan more influence in the nominating process? No.
    Had we held a February 5 caucus - an idea which I supported even when the caucus was set for February 9 all the while other states were moving theirs to February 5 - Michigan would have been the fourth-largest state with a primary or caucus that day (and the second-largest not including the home states of the front-runners). Candidates would have come to Michigan, and their campaigns - as well as our Party - would have been better for it.

    Yet some people decided that it was better for Dems to break DNC rules (arcane as they are) and base our delegate count on a primary that would not have gone on if not for four extreme conservatives on the state Supreme Court. MDP leaders knew that some of the candidates would not be campaigning if they decided to go with a primary, yet most of them chose to go ahead with it anyway.

    The result? Instead of having more influence in our nominating process, we have at the moment pretty much no influence (and it is uncertain whether we will have influence in the end). Instead of unity, as the LA Times put it, we have rancor. Instead of Michigan issues being at the forefront of the campaign, we are once again seen as a laughing stock to the rest of the country.


Bits of Tid: January 14, 2008

Questions Only Edition

  • Did you hear about CMU's 21-hour power outage last week?
  • Speaking of which, do you have a disaster plan in place for emergencies?
  • Have you heard about the prominent endorsements Obama has picked up?
  • Have you checked out Coffee Talk on Michigan Liberal for the latest on the presidential primary?
  • What if John Edwards were to drop out of the race? Would his supporters align with Clinton or Obama?
  • When was the last time you called your elected officials?


Hillary ekes out New Hampshire upset; more analysis

With most of the votes in, CNN and other outlets say that Hillary Clinton and John McCain have each won their respective parties' primaries in New Hampshire. Time for me once again to don my pundit cap. (Apparently I look a lot more attractive with a pundit cap than without one.)

In terms of pledged delegates to the Democratic and Republican national conventions, Barack Obama still holds a thinner-than-Wheat-Thins lead of 25-24 over Clinton, with Edwards at 18. Romney has 24 delegates to 18 for Mike Huckabee, 10 for John McCain, 6 for Fred Thompson, 2 for Ron Paul, and 1 for Duncan Hunter. Again, a candidate must win a majority of the convention delegates to win the nomination. More on how delegates are selected later.

If nothing else, Hillary and McCain proved with this primary that they are top-notch contenders and are both very much in it. Big victory for Hillary? Yes. Setback for Obama? Yes. Fluke? We'll find out soon enough.

For Hillary, this win should remind everyone that it's not over yet, despite her disappointing third-place finish in Iowa. Must do well in: Michigan. I mean, there are five choices on the ballot in Tuesday's primary: Clinton; Gravel; Kucinich; Gravel; Dodd; and Uncommitted. Gravel and Kucinich were the bottom finishers in both Iowa and New Hampshire, while Dodd is no longer running. More on Michigan's primary in the next couple days.

For Obama, this could in many respects be considered a disappointment. He was, after all, leading by several points in most polls leading up to the primary. He had a certain amount of momentum that has now been lost. That said, only twice in the last ten elections has a Democrat won every single Democratic primary and caucus, and Obama only lost New Hampshire by two points. Also, as I mentioned, he holds a one-vote lead in the delegate count. If nothing else, this should motivate Obama supporters and remind them not to take things for granted. Oh, and polls aren't always that reliable. Must do well in: South Carolina. Nearly half of South Carolinians who took CNN's exit poll in the 2004 primary were black. Neither New Hampshire nor Iowa can be considered nearly that racially diverse.

Edwards has pulled two disappointing performances in a row. Both Clinton and Obama received twice as many votes as Edwards in New Hampshire. Must do well in: South Carolina, for three reasons. First, he was born in Seneca, SC. Second, he currently lives in North Carolina. Third, he won South Carolina over Kerry in 2004. Should he follow his disappointing showing in the Granite State with another one in the Palmetto State, look for many in the 'Anybody-but-Hillary' crowd to ratchet up the pressure on Edwards to drop out and let said anti-Hillary crowd more or less unite behind Obama.

Richardson has been a much bigger disappointment than Edwards. Richardson took 2% in Iowa and 5% in New Hampshire, failing to win a single delegate to the Convention. Must do well in: Nevada, with its heavy Latino population.

Just a few months ago, McCain was all but counted out. His campaign looked like it was on its deathbed. Yet with a third-place finish in Iowa and a victory in New Hampshire, it appears that (to borrow an expression) rumors of the death of his campaign were greatly exaggerated. Must do well in: Michigan, where it has been a battle between him and Romney from the get-go.

Romney won the barely publicized Wyoming caucus last Saturday and has finished second in the other two states. Despite their second-place finishes, he and Obama each actually lead their National Convention delegate counts. Still he must do well in: Michigan, which his father governed from 1963-1969.

What happened to Huckabee? McCain tripled Huckabee's total in the Granite State, and Romney came close to pulling off the same feat. South Carolina has a higher percentage of evangelical and born-again Christians, and regional favoritism could benefit him. Thus, he must do well in: South Carolina.

Rudy Giuliani edged Ron Paul after finishing behind him in Iowa. Fred Thompson took a dismal 1%. Why is Duncan Hunter still running?


Iowa results - and where we go from here

Here are the near-final Iowa numbers from CNN as of 2:45 AM:

Obama - 38%
Edwards - 30%
Clinton - 29%
Richardson - 2%
Biden - 1%

Biden and Chris Dodd have dropped out.

Huckabee - 34%
Romney - 26%
Thompson - 13%
McCain - 13%
Paul - 10%
Giuliani - 3%
Hunter - 0%

Time for some analysis. By winning, Huckabee and Obama have momentum heading into next Tuesday's New Hampshire primary. The Iowa Democratic caucus was seen as a very close three-way contest amongst Clinton, Edwards, and Obama. The Republican caucus was seen as a toss-up between Huckabee and Romney.

For Obama to win by eight points, therefore, should be considered particularly good news for him. Also good for him is that quite a few more independents - a voting bloc where he did particularly well in Iowa - are expected to vote in New Hampshire. Also, the fact that he won an overwhelmingly white state tells us that, well, his appeal crosses racial lines. If he can follow his win in Iowa with another one in New Hampshire, then he will have high expectations for South Carolina, whose black population is quite high.

Edwards really needed to do well here. Had he finished behind Hillary, I doubt his campaign would've ended, but his organization was said to be lagging behind Hillary and Obama in other states. In other words, unlike Obama and Hillary, most of his chips were down in Iowa, and he needed to do well there to get some mo'. Now he needs to do well in South Carolina, where he was born. That said, his second-place finish couldn't hurt too much; for him to beat Hillary (albeit by a small margin) gives him some momentum.

For Hillary - long considered the front-runner - to finish behind both Obama and Edwards has got to be disappointing. Having said that, she and Obama are the two with the most organized campaigns. She had been leading in several states. Whether she gets any momentum from Michigan - where she is one of four candidates in contention (along with 'Uncommitted') - remains to be seen, since Michigan has lost its delegates because of the fact that holding a primary on January 15 violated Party rules.

Richardson needs to do well somewhere. Preferably Nevada, with its high Latino population. With just 2% in Iowa, his campaign is on the ropes.

Romney has to do well in New Hampshire for two reasons. One, the state he governed, Massachusetts, borders New Hampshire. Two, Iowa has a higher percentage of evangelical and born-again Republican voters than New Hampshire; they are seen as the main reason Huckabee won. If Huckabee can use his Iowa momentum and overcome those obstacles to win New Hampshire, then he is the clear front0-runner heading into the Michigan primary a week later. (Michigan Republicans lost only half of their delegates for scheduling the primary on January 15.) If Romney loses New Hampshire, then he MUST hold off Huckabee here in Michigan, which his father governed during much of the 1960s.

For McCain, Thompson, and Giuliani, it's a fight to stay in the top tier. Ron Paul could yet pull off a surprise, since he seems to be sharing in the momentum. Why Duncan Hunter is still in the race beats me.

You might look at these returns and think, 'well, Obama did great.' I, an Obama supporter, am pleased that he won. But you see, what matters is how many delegates to the Democratic and Republican National Conventions are won by each candidate. Obama holds a narrow lead with 16 Democratic delegates, followed by Clinton at 15 while Edwards has 14. Huckabee leads the Republican delegate count with 17, followed by Romney at 12, McCain and Thompson at 3 apiece, and Paul with 2.

Even more interesting? Both parties require that a candidate gets a majority of the delegate votes at the convention. No candidate has a majority on either side.

Now, here's what's likely to happen. As the primary season continues, a clearer picture will emerge on both sides of the aisle. Seeing writing on the wall, more candidates will follow Biden and Dodd out of the race, meaning less competition for those who are still in it. In 2004 eight Democrats were in the running leading up to the caucuses. Dick Gephardt dropped out after Iowa; Joe Lieberman exited after New Hampshire; Wes Clark's swan song came following voting in Tennessee and Virginia; and Howard Dean's downfall was completed after the Wisconsin primary. After 'Super Tuesday' which was then in March and not February) John Edwards dropped out.

In all likelihood, as candidates drop out they will release their delegates. That is, they will allow the delegates pledged to vote for them to instead vote for someone else. In 2004, for example, many of the candidates received delegates, but only Kerry won a majority of the delegates. The other candidates released their delegates, allowing them to vote for Kerry at the convention and providing a near-unanimous vote for Kerry.

So there you have it. Obama and Huckabee are by no means assured of their nominations. But they are the front-runners and they do have that all-important momentum heading into the rest of the primary season.


New Year's Bits of Tid: January 1, 2008!


  • This election year is starting on a Tuesday - the same day of the week on which most big election-related events and deadlines will be taking place (see list below). This only happens once every 28 years.

  • We have:
    • One week until the New Hampshire Primary;
    • Two weeks until the Michigan primary;
    • Five weeks until Super Tuesday;
    • 18 weeks until School Board Election Day;
    • 19 weeks until the Filing deadline for offices which will appear on the August - including precinct delegate;
    • 31 weeks until the August primary;
    • 34 weeks until you see me on TV from Denver (I hope);
    • 44 weeks until Election Day itself;
    • 55 weeks until the inauguration of the Forty-Forth President of the United States;
    • 148 weeks until Election 2010;
    • and
    • 253 weeks until Election 2012.

  • Some trends are made to be broken. The last five Presidential elections which were held on November 4 took place in 1868, 1896, 1924, 1952, and 1980. Each resulted in Republican landslides.

  • I had a diary rescued on Daily Kos!

  • I was disappointed in ABC’s coverage of the ball drop itself. They showed Ryan Seacrest and Dick Clark talking, and then they din't show the ball dropping until 20 seconds before midnight. In years past they'd show almost the entire ball drop.

    On a happier note? At midnight they brought back a version of Auld Lang Syne that I really like but hadn't heard them use in a few years. For the last couple of years they just had the Guy Lombardo version that was played throughout Times Square. (Don't get me wrong, though, I like Guy's versions of that song!)

  • As promised, Lake Superior State University has released its 2008 List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness.

    • Perfect Storm
    • Webinar
    • Waterboarding
    • Organic
    • Wordsmith/wordsmithing
    • Author/authored
    • Post-9/11
    • Surge
    • Give back
    • ___ is the new __ (i.e. "60 is the new 50")
    • Black Friday
    • Back in the day
    • Random
    • Sweet
    • Decimate
    • Emotional
    • Pop
    • It is what it is
    • Under the bus

    None of my many nominations made it. Oh well. But I have plenty more words to nominate for the 2009 list!

New Year's Resolutions

  1. Get organized. I'm less organized than the Democratic Party. I mean, seriously!
  2. Lose weight. I want to look sexier than Fred Thompson., Oh wait, I already do - and so do most of us. Still, I'm gonna get in a lot better shape this year.
  3. Spend within my means. Okay, splurge once in a great while. But otherwise, keep things within reason.
  4. Start hunting for a summer job early. No summer jobs in '07 or '06.
  5. Work my behind off for Democrats up and down the ballot. From our Democratic nominee for President to Rick Jakubiec for Isabella County Drain Commissioner, I will not sit on the sidelines this election year.
  6. Make no fewer than 20 contacts with lawmakers. Outside of Democratic conventions and gatherings, of course.
  7. Make the Dean's List. 2008 is the year, darn it!
  8. Go to the Democratic National Convention. If I can't make it as a delegate, then maybe as a credentialed blogger? I do want to see my aunt, who lives in Littleton; I haven't seen her in person in almost seven years.
  9. Lead something. Hold the title of President, Chair, Coordinator, Director.
  10. Get on the CMU SGA Elections Committee and Board of Trustees-Student Liaison Committee. I stepped aside from the Student Government Association (SGA) because my life became chaotic. I want to get involved again, but this semester I have class on Monday nights (the one with Professor Gary Peters) at the same time SGA meets.
  11. Complain less, act more. As Ghandi would say, be the change I want to see.
  12. Remember that each moment is precious. Recently I found myself in a situation where I pictured what things would be like at my wake and funeral - if I were to die young. I pictured a few College Dems, my RA, and people from church and the Knights of Columbus. People would say nice things about me, of course. But when I die - which, God willing, will be several decades from now - I want to be remembered as an extraordinary person.