Saturday, May 31, 2008

Watch Carl Levin

Rules and Bylaws: Watch Carl Levin

Marc Arbinder, The Atlantic:
"Sen. Carl Levin will be speaking on behalf of Michigan; he wants the entire delegation seated and given full votes, and if he does not get his way, he will likely challenge the RBC's ruling when the credentials committee convenes unless the rules and bylaws committee promises to strip Iowa and New Hampshire of their privileged status in 2012. (emphasis added)

What that means is that the debate about the size of Michigan's delegation will not be settled (Saturday).

What we don't know is whether Hillary Clinton will use Sen. Levin's ornery desire to punish Iowa and New Hampshire as a pretext for continuing her campaign."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Clinton Campaign Backs Off On FL/MI Rhetoric

Clinton Campaign Backs Off On FL/MI Full Seating

In a conference call today, Hillary Clinton campaign officials acknowledged for the first time that Florida and Michigan broke Democratic Party rules by moving up their primaries, and thus cannot receive more than a half share of delegates.

Also, in a brief, Clinton attorneys wrote: "Rule 20(C)(7) allows the (Rules and Bylaws Committee) to forgive violations when a state party and other relevant Democratic party leaders and elected officials have taken provable, positive steps and acted in good faith to bring the state into compliance with the DNC’s Delegate Selection Rules."

The key phrase is "Forgive violations." Early in the campaign, Clinton and her supporters had said the calendar breaking states wouldn't count. But after she won them, the rhetoric shifted to "count every vote," and the argument changed to a claim that Michigan and Florida had not violated party rules since Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina had moved their dates up as well. Those moves were, of course, a ripple effect which started in response to Michigan and Florida.

Clinton spokesman Harold Ickes said on the call that Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina acted fully within the rules, and specifically disputed the Michigan Democratic Party's claim that the DNC had selectively enforced its rules. He also said the DNC has acted within the rules when it stripped Michigan and Florida of all its delegates.

However, despite that acknowledgment, Ickes continued to argue for seating both Michigan and Florida at full strength, with results based on the too-early primaries, was the only acceptable solution.

Also this week, DNC attorneys argued that party rules require at least a 50 percent delegate penalty for violating the calendar.

Since the Obama campaign is not likely to object, and the Florida Democratic Party now says it's comfortable with half a vote, this means a half-vote per delegate is the likely outcome of Saturday's DNC Rules and Bylaws meeting. Writing for Daily Kos, Delaware Dem is more concise: "Therefore, Ladies and Gentlemen, the race is officially over. Barack Obama is the nominee."

Delegate Math And Popular Vote Myth

Delegate Math And Popular Vote Myth

The Democratic National Committee's Rules and Nomination Committee is preparing to meet in Washington Saturday to decide the fate of calendar cheaters Florida and Michigan. Most observers are instead expecting delegates from the two states to be seated with a half vote each, though there's several variations on that theme.

One thing the committee won't settle is the debate on how to define the popular vote. How much of the Michigan and Florida fight about the delegates, at half or full strength, and how much is about popular vote claims? If the two states are seated in any way based on the too-early primaries, the votes "counted."

"Count all the votes" is Hillary Clinton's mantra, as she claims a popular vote lead in an effort to persuade superdelegates. But the formulas that show Clinton in the lead don't count all the votes -- and Iowa is among the states excluded.

"We are urging 100 percent of the delegations be seated and that each delegate have a full vote," said Hillary Clinton strategist Harold Ickes. That's an unlikely scenario.

MSNBC's Chuck Todd says one scenario gaining support involves seating Florida at half strength with results based on the Jan. 31 primary, as Clinton wants. But the Michigan delegation, also at half strength, would be evenly divided, as Barack Obama's campaign requests.

Todd also notes that giving all the delegates a half vote is a better scenario for Clinton than cutting the number of delegates in half. "If Florida delegates are seated in their entirety, but only have their vote counted as a .5, then Clinton will net approximately 19 delegates out of the state," he writes. "But if the delegation is cut in half, that's done in every congressional district as well as statewide. Then suddenly Clinton's advantage is only a net of six."

This solution makes it harder for Clinton to argue for counting Michigan in her popular vote math. But the popular vote math is impossible to calculate anyway, and is a matter of definition. We Iowans are one of the problems.

Iowa is among four caucus states (Nevada, Maine and Washington are the others) that release only delegate counts and not raw vote totals. The secrecy is part of Iowa's long-time truce with New Hampshire. In the 1980's Iowa and New Hampshire agreed that Iowa would have the first caucus and New Hampshire would have the first primary. If Iowa Democrats would release a raw vote total, the results would be too much like a primary for New Hampshire's taste, and the truce would crumble.

But with the national popular vote count now an issue in the campaign, and a linchpin of Clinton's last-ditch effort to persuade superdelegates, Iowa's quirky results are now more than just an annoyance to national reporters who want a straightforward vote total. You know, the kind Iowa Republicans provide. If the Clinton rhetoric is consistent, the lack of a raw vote total means... Iowa's votes aren't being counted!

Real Clear Politics adds the math several ways and tries to estimate the "vote totals" from Iowa. Those vote totals, of course, don't exist. Iowa's county convention delegates are based on realigned totals. Those don't reflect nonviable groups, like the five people out of 315 in my precinct whose first choice was Chris Dodd. Still, an estimate is something to go on.

Here's the scenarios, with various questionable totals included. This excludes the two states set to vote on Tuesday, Montana and South Dakota, and also excludes Puerto Rico which votes Sunday (though that begs the question of whether a commonwealth that does not vote in a general election should be considered as part of a "popular vote total.").

FLMIIA-NV-ME-WA estimatesObamaClintonSpread
nonono16,685,94149.1%16,227,51447.7%Obama +458,427+1.4%
nonoyes17,020,02549.1%16,451,37647.5%Obama +568,649+1.6%
yesnono17,262,15548.3%17,098,50047.8%Obama +163,655+0.5%
yesnoyes17,596,23948.3%17,322,36247.6%Obama +273,877+0.7%
yesyesno17,262,15547.5%17,426,80947.9%Clinton +164,654+0.45%
yesyesyes17,596,23947.6%17,650,67147.7%Clinton +54,432+0.15%

The two scenarios with Clinton ahead both include Michigan, and here best scenario excludes Iowa. Florida is straightforward enough: no one campaigned, and the vote totals may have been lowered by the widespread news that the state's delegates would not be seated. But at least there's a vote total for the Obama column.

Michigan is the problem, since Obama took his name off the ballot. Any scenario that argues a Clinton popular vote victory is based on a 328,309 margin out of Michigan: Clinton 328,309, Obama 0, Kevin Phillips-Bong naught.

That doesn't account for 238,168 uncommitted votes that were most definitely cast against Clinton. Now, it's probably not fair to credit those to Obama. John Edwards was also off the Michigan ballot and still in the race when Michigan voted on Jan. 15.

But here's a formula I've never seen applied elsewhere. Credit Clinton for her 328,309 Michigan votes, but then subtract the 238,168 uncommitted votes. That lowers her gain out of Michigan to 90,141 -- her margin of victory over uncommitted. Now apply that new math, and Clinton's best scenario (where Michigan counts but Iowa doesn't) slips from a lead of 164,654 to a deficit of 73,514.

In the end, of course, delegates choose the nominee, not a mythical national popular vote. The popular vote is only a tool for persuading superdelegates. But Clinton's strained efforts to selectively calculate the total make it a less persuasive tool.

Curtis Sliwa For Congress

He Wore A Raspberry Beret

With Republicans struggling to find a replacement for the disgraced Rep. Vito Fossella, Curtis Sliwa thinks he may have found the GOP's perfect angel - himself.

The WABC radio talk show host and Guardian Angels founder said Wednesday he'd be willing to run for the 13th Congressional District seat - which covers Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn - if no one from the district steps forward.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Teahen Says Charges Risk Safety

Anti-Teahen Charges Echo Across Blogs

An email from a one-time disaster relief colleague of 2nd Congressional District candidate Peter Teahen, charging the Cedar Rapids Republican with misconduct and dishonesty on a relief mission in Darfur, is false and dangerous to his family, the candidate told Iowa Independent. Teahen also alleged that the campaign of one of his rivals in Tuesday's primary is behind the distribution of the email from British disaster worker David Tredrea. A spokesman for Mariannette Miller-Meeks denies the charge.

"I consider him a threat to my life and to the safety of my family," Teahen said of David Tredrea, who worked with Teahen last year in Darfur. "It is irresponsible of the Miller-Meeks campaign to be distributing this information." Teahen said Tredrea had called the third candidate in the race, but "Lee Harder knew better than to touch it."

"For Mr. Teahen to attempt to claim that our campaign is directing this individual's actions is completely false," said Miller-Meeks campaign manager Todd Versteegh, who said Tredrea himself distributed the charges. "But, as we've seen so clearly in this campaign, Mr. Teahen is quite capable of promoting his own falsehoods, so this comes as no surprise."

Democrats have joined the fray, too, charging Teahen with résumé padding and improper commercials.

Teahen said that he is working with the FBI and Great Britain's Scotland Yard in dealing with Tredrea and that he has no-contact orders against Tredrea. "It's lies," Teahen said. "If you read it, it doesn't make a lot of sense. It's the comments and words of someone that's not being rational."

The charges cut to the core of Teahen's biography as a Red Cross disaster relief spokesman. "Some of your recent claims about Darfur are complete fantasy -- like looking into machine guns and being physically close to the Janjaweed bandits," Tredrea writes, citing an Iowa Independent article. Tredrea also charges that Teahen has padded his résumé and credentials in several places. "He wants us to see him as an Indiana Jones replacement, swashbuckler, universal hero and amazing international humanitarian," writes Tredrea. "His claims and ambitions are very enticing and impressive -- but what if his true reality is more like that of a Walter Mitty character?"

A Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) email sent Thursday afternoon repreated the résumé-padding charges, and cited Tredrea. Democrats have also filed a Federal Election Commission complaint against Teahen, charging that ads for his funeral home were misleading and that they appeared to be campaign commercials. Democratic interest in Teahen is noteworthy, since he's not yet, and may not be, Loebsack's fall opponent.

Teahen says he's run similar ads, with the tagline "I'm Peter Teahen, and I'm proud to be an American," since 9/11. "The media company, the TV station and the radio station all signed affidavits saying we did not violate the law," said Teahen. "We were off the air 47 days before the primary." Federal law requires such ads to vanish from the airwaves 45 days before an election. Two years ago, 1st Congressional District candidate Mike Whalen faced a similar complaint from a primary rival. Consulting firm Victory Enterprises, headed by former Iowa Republican chair Steve Grubbs, worked for both Whalen and Teahen.

One of Tredrea's more colorful charges is that Teahen demanded a high-class hotel and, very specifically, ice cold Diet Pepsi, in Darfur. Teahen says he was placed in a secure place to protect him from Tredrea. "He was more dangerous than the rebels," he said.

"Why would a guy from Great Britain want to be to be involved in this kind of thing?" Teahen said of Tredrea's interest in the Iowa congressional race. When asked if Tredrea had some sort of mental health issue, Teahen did not directly answer but repeated that he was working with the FBI and Scotland Yard on the matter. He also said he was concerned that further publicizing Tredrea's allegations would increase the risk to himself and his family.

The charges are being widely distributed across Iowa's conservative blogosphere, where Teahen has attracted significant vitriol in both posts and comments. In addition to Tredrea's charges, which Teahen firmly denies, there are other points of contention that Teahen freely acknowledges: his past party affiliation as a Democrat and donations to Democratic candidates. Battleground Iowa published Tredrea's charges in full and called Teahen "a disaster waiting to happen." A recently revived Krusty Konservative, the state's top "konservative" blog until going on hiatus a year ago, has published three anti-Teahen posts in the past week.

Teahen noted that the posts and comments appear similar. "The information that comes out appears to be supported by one of the campaigns," he said. "People from her campaign are calling up radio shows," he said of Miller-Meeks supporters.

Versteegh said the Miller-Meeks campaign first learned of the charges when Tredrea blind-copied the email to the campaign's webmaster.

Teahen says his message is still getting through despite the distractions. "Our poll numbers show us strong, and every indication is that the word is getting out," he said. "People are rejecting negative campaigning."

The Miller-Meeks campaign is also confident. Versteegh cited recent endorsements from the Iowa City Press-Citizen, the Ottumwa Courier and the Coralville Courier blog.

Shameless Self-Promotion

Shameless Self-Promotion

Nine Johnson County Democrats are to be honored Saturday at the inaugural Pioneer Awards Banquet at the Iowa Memorial Union.

The nine Pioneer Award winners are Mori Costantino, Edith Hargrave, Claudine Harris, Pat Jensen, Dwight Jensen, Pat Kelley, Verne Kelley, Jean Martin and Carol Spaziani. In addition, John Deeth will be honored as Activist of the Year, and Dawn Suter and Geoff Seamans as Rookies of the Year.

This was in other media so I guess I'm scooped. It's the same award I won last October; I got plenty of attention at the time which tends to happen when your friends and co-workers have blogs. But some of the other award winners got buried in the craziness of five presidential candidates, Forest Whitaker, and a bunch of Bidens. So we're doing a do-over.

So if you feel like applauding the others and/or heckling me, come on over to the IMU Saturday night.

UPDATE: In case you need yet another excuse to attend, my grandson will be there.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Incumbents Miss Harkin's Cut

Incumbents Miss Cut in Harkin Contest

The three incumbents with primary challengers who were included in a Tom Harkin campaign contest failed to make the second round of voting, thus resolving what at least one primary challenger considered an unfair advantage.

The "Building Blue" page at Harkin's campaign site allowed voters to choose the top 20 state House candidates and top 10 state Senate candidates to be eligible for up to $7,000 in campaign money. Voters needed to enter their email addresses, which could prove useful to Harkin as he seeks re-election this year. The Harkin campaign will announce the top five House and top five Senate candidates on June 4.

The contest listed no candidates in districts with contested primaries and without incumbents. But three House incumbents with primary challengers -- Deborah Berry, Wayne Ford, and Geri Huser -- were listed, while their primary rivals were left off.

The Harkin campaign said the list of candidates was provided by the House Democratic Caucus, while a Democratic Caucus staffer said the decision on who to include or exclude was made by the Harkin campaign.

Matt Ballard of Altoona, Huser's primary challenger, held the House Caucus responsible and considered the snub just one of many exclusions he's faced running against an incumbent of his own party. An informal survey Sunday of Altoona's main drag showed Huser winning the yard sign war, but Ballard maintaining a noticeable presence.

Several campaigns are using their own email lists and actively soliciting support in the contest, including Nate Willems (open House District 29), Gretchen Lawyer (open House District 36), and Frank Best (challenging GOP incumbent Tom Sands in House District 87).

Primaries by The Percentages

Primaries by The Percentages

If you're watching the primary returns next Tuesday night, you may want to keep a calculator handy. Iowa law requires a candidate to win 35 percent of the vote to earn a nomination, but the percentages that get reported aren't always the ones that matter.

If no candidate gets 35 percent, the party has to hold a convention to choose a nominee, and that's a realistic possibility in one Iowa congressional race.

The prospect of a convention was a hot topic in Democratic circles in early 2006, and Ed Fallon's gubernatorial campaign made a big effort to elect delegates at precinct caucuses and county conventions. But the convention talk cooled after Patty Judge left the race to form a ticket with eventual nominee Chet Culver, who won a four-way race (don't forget Sal Mohamed) with 39.1 percent.

Even in a three-way race, a convention is a possibility if the math breaks just right. The Republicans came within one percent of a statewide convention for governor in 2002, when the three candidates all bunched up in the 30s; nominee Doug Gross emerged as the nominee with only 35.6 percent.

That same year, Republicans actually went to a convention for the 5th Congressional District. Four strong candidates competed in the brand-new, solidly Republican district, and they landed between 21 and 31 percent each. Steve King landed at the top of that heap, and then turned that lead into a convention win. The rest is history.

Who attends a convention depends on what level of office is involved. For legislative seats, it's county central committee members, with votes weighted by the size and party strength of each precinct. County offices are nominated by a county convention, made up of the precinct delegates elected at the Jan. 3 caucuses. Congressional district and state conventions are made up of delegates elected at the March county conventions.

The likeliest prospect for a convention is the Democratic race in the 4th Congressional District, with four candidates seeking the nomination. Republicans have two major three-candidate races: the U.S. Senate race and the 2nd Congressional District.

Prospects also exist for conventions in local contests. The definition of percentage is less than straightforward in elections for more than one seat, such as at-large county supervisor contests. To determine the 35 percent threshold in these races, the Code of Iowa specifies a "percentage of votes" method. To get at this number add up all the votes cast for all the candidates, including write-ins. Then divide it by the number of seats available.

For example, look at the 2004 Democratic supervisor race in Johnson County. Eight candidates were running for three seats, and a total of 20,905 votes were cast. Divide that by three, and the base lien for calculating percentage is 6,969.

Johnson County Supervisors, 2004 Democratic Primaryvotespercentage of votespercentage of votersTV Percentage
Terrence Neuzil5,06072.6%54.4%24.2%
Pat Harney4,62766.4%49.7%22.1%
Rod Sullivan3,18745.7%34.3%15.2%
Mike O'Donnell3,06043.9%32.9%14.6%
Rick Dvorak1,99828.7%21.5%9.6%
John Schneider1,33919.2%14.4%6.4%
Julie Gilmere1,13416.3%12.2%5.4%
James Knapp4466.4%4.8%2.1%
write in540.8%0.6%0.3%

This formula does not factor in the common dynamic of under-voting or "bullet voting," in which supporters of one candidate don't use all their votes in a vote for two or vote for three race. Instead, bullet voters vote only for their favorite candidate. You can't use both, or all three, of your votes on that candidate, but you don't have to use all of your votes. It's a common campaign tactic, but one that's usually done sotto voce so as not to alienate supporters of other candidates. If you want to crunch some math, add up the total votes cast for all candidates plus write-ins, then divide it by the number of voters. This will give you a "votes per candidate" number, illustrating how many people cast some sort of bullet vote. In our 2004 sample race, the 20,905 votes were cast by 9,305 voters, meaning the average voter only cast 2.25 votes for supervisor out of a possible three.

Calculating percentage of voters, by dividing the candidate's vote by the total number of voters, produces a lower percentage but provides a more reliable assessment of how many people supported a candidate. Another common, misleading method in a vote for two or three race is to add up all the votes, and divide each candidate's vote by the grand total. This is often seen on local TV, and produces seeming paradoxes like candidates winning with 17 percent.

Another seeming paradox happens in a race where four candidates are competing for three seats. It's possible for a candidate to win support from a majority of voters, yet finish in last place, as in this 2001 Coralville contest. Over half of the voters supported Bream, yet he drew the least support and lost.

Coralville City Council, 2001votespercentage of votespercentage of votersTV Percentage
Henry Herwig74480.0%70.4%26.7%
Dave Jacoby73278.7%69.3%26.2%
Tom Gill68273.3%64.5%24.5%
Bob Bream61466.0%58.1%22.0%
write in171.8%1.6%0.6%

DNC Lawyers: FL, MI Must Be Punished

DNC Lawyers: FL, MI Must Be Punished

At the Democratic National Committee's rules and bylaws committee prepares to meet on Saturday to decide the fate of calendar cheaters Florida and Michigan, attorneys for the DNC are arguing that party rules require that the two states lose at least half their delegates for violating the party's nomination calendar.

The 38 page brief looks at several aspects of the issue and underscored an understated fact about the fight. "Most overlooked is the agenda of the committee itself," as opposed to the agendas of the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns, writes The Politico. "It is a rules committee; its members believe in rules and that rules must be enforced, even as political realities are addressed."

"I think we're moving toward half votes for everybody," Florida DNC member Jon Ausman told the St. Petersburg Times. That paper also notes that delegate selection in Florida may need to be reopened; the Obama campaign never fielded a slate of delegates because, as of the Jan. 29 vote in Florida, the state wasn't going to have any delegates.

Tickets to Saturday's meeting of the once-obscure committee were scooped up in "a matter of seconds,” wrote the DNC, and a circus atmosphere reminiscent of the 2000 Florida recount is expected. Clinton supporters are organizing protest, but the Obama campaign is officially discouraging counter-protests. “We look forward to the meeting proceeding smoothly — and we’re asking our supporters not to show up to demonstrate, passionately as they feel about this campaign,” said in internal campaign email obtained by The Hill.

Democratic Convention Watch runs the math based on five live scenarios:

  • Do not seat Florida or Michigan, as the rules currently state.
  • Seat Florida at a half vote per delegate, and Michigan at a split of Clinton 69, Obama 59. That's a compromise between the 64-64 split proposed by Obama and the 73 delegates Clinton "won" on Jan. 15, and is the current official position of the Michigan party. Superdelegates would get a full vote under this plan.
  • Michigan and Florida seat at a half vote per delegate.
  • Michigan and Florida seat at a half vote per elected delegate, and a full vote per superdelegate.
  • Finally, the Never Mind scenario of seating Florida and Michigan as elected, with no punishment.

    Not on the table: Clinton supporter Lanny Davis' proposal to give Clinton the 73 delegates she "won" in Michigan and half of the uncommitted delegates. His argument that some of the uncommitted voters who voted against Clinton really had her as a second choice was greeted with web-wide derision.
  • Tuesday, May 27, 2008

    Register Endorses Fallon

    Register Fallon Endorsement May Be Boswell's Price For Not Debating

    It seems like a surprise on the surface, but the Des Moines Register endorsed Ed Fallon Tuesday in the 3rd Congressional District, over incumbent Leonard Boswell.

    Why alienate an incumbent who, according to all public polls, is likely to win re-nomination by a two to one margin? Let me help you think like journalists.

    We've got this weird mix of cynicism and idealism, always looking for the motivations behind seemingly straightforward moves, yet still wishing for the Mr. Smith Goes To Washington vision of how government and politics are really supposed to work. Think John Stewart meets Jimmy Stewart, and you'll get the idea.

    Ed Fallon, in his own way, plays into that vision, telling the Register editorial board that he wants to bike to work and grow tomatoes while serving in Congress. Fallon is different, thus making him interesting, and the true bias of the press is toward the interesting story.

    Fallon's independent streak, his "I don't play ball attitude," is annoying to party insiders and legislative colleagues. But it plays well to the press paradigm of "objectivity," which sees independent thinking, within reason, as morally superior to voting a party line. The question here is defining "within reason." "Fallon is aware of mistakes he's made," the Register writes in its endorsement. "He joked, for example, about being overzealous in introducing bills during his early years in the Iowa Legislature." How many stories were padded by one line from 1993 to 2006 for having to include the phrase, The lone nay vote was Rep. Ed Fallon, D-Des Moines? Just enough? Too many?

    The Register describes Boswell as "out of touch" on several key issues, particularly Medicare spending. Editorial board in general love those dull gray, doom-and-gloom budgetary issues that play out so convincingly in long print articles, and can't be simplified into soundbites. The Registers David Yepsen calls those the "pour another cup of coffee" stories (presumably, not a latte from an Iowa City coffee house).

    But perhaps the most significant reason, not even mentioned in the endorsement piece itself, has nothing to do with Fallon or with a concrete federal issue. My sense is this endorsement is a shot across Leonard Boswell's bow for not debating Ed Fallon. The incumbent cited a busy Congressional schedule, but nevertheless had plenty of time to attend events in the district.

    It may have been smart politics, in the conventional sense. If you're an incumbent who's well ahead, why give your opponent a break by putting him on an equal footing? A debate might have turned the dialogue in the race from "Why did you vote for Ralph Nader, Ed?" to "Why did you vote for the war, Leonard?"

    But playing it safe involves some trade-offs, and perhaps this endorsement is the price Boswell paid for not debating. Debates are good stories, and they're one of the rituals of the campaign trail that journalists believe in. Boswell will probably learn his lesson and agree to debate Republican Kim Schmett in the fall.

    In the end, the Register endorsement isn't likely to mean much. Boswell's gotten almost every other endorsement that matters in this race, from organized labor and party insiders. Even Senator Tom Harkin, who usually stays out of primaries, has placed the stamp of approval on Boswell. Only a handful of left-side groups, such as Move On, are with Fallon.

    More importantly, Secretary of State Mike Mauro is predicting very low turnout next Tuesday. That means most of the voters will be the diehard party activists who vote in every election, who know Leonard Boswell, and who are receptive, or perhaps susceptible, to the Nader! Nader! Nader! rhetoric the Boswell campaign has offered.

    Why Dems Will Win, in One Headline

    Why Dems Will Win, in One Headline

    More Americans Fear Losing Their Health Insurance Than Being in a Terrorist Attack

    Monday, May 26, 2008

    Clinton Campaign's New Michigan Math

    Clinton Campaign's New Michigan Math

    A high ranking Hillary Clinton campaign supporter has put another Michigan delegate plan on the table, though it's not likely to pass the Obama test.

    Lanny Davis, a Clinton fundraiser without formal portfolio (though "wartime consigliere" is an apt description) proposes splitting the delegates 50-50. Oh, not all the delegates. The 73 that Clinton "won" in the calendar-breaking Jan. 15 primary would still go to her. No, Davis argues that Clinton should get half the uncommitted delegates, chosen by voters who actually voted against Hillary Clinton.

    The logic? As Davis explains, in a guest piece for The Politico, "Some of those delegates might have been for Clinton as a second choice to candidates other than Obama, so it would be totally unfair to award all 50 delegates to Obama."

    Davis' proposes either splitting the uncommitted delegates is based on polls taken in Michigan before Jan. 15 which showed a close race between Clinton and Obama, or simply dividing the uncommitteds in half, a solution he calls "more generous to Obama than to Clinton." This switches 28 delegates from Uncommitted to Clinton, and 27 to Obama. (Clinton gets the tiebreaker, suggests Davis, "since she led in all the latest statewide polls prior to Jan. 15.")

    The net result would be a Michigan delegation of Clinton 101, Obama 27. The Michigan Democratic Party itself, a hotbed of Clinton love and Iowa caucus hate, is suggesting a delegation of Clinton 69, Obama 59. That's based on splitting the difference between the Obama campaign's earlier requests for a 64-64 split and the Clinton campaign's insistence on the 73 delegates "earned" Jan. 15. Thus, Davis' trial balloon, assuming he speaks for the campaign, actually increases Team Clinton's demand.

    As for Florida, no new math here; Davis simply recommends accepting the results from the Jan. 31 primary, which also broke party rules.

    The Democratic National Committee's rules and nominations committee is scheduled to settle the matter May 31.

    Sunday, May 25, 2008

    Holiday Weekend Clippings

    Holiday Weekend Clippings

    I'm on Kid Patrol in the basement while my wife's side of the family cooks. My sister in law has the perfect basement for my guys: a big concrete floor with insulation functioning as padded walls. And, for me, neighbors with unsecured wifi.

  • "They [the Clinton campaign] weren't stirring it up when they didn't need the delegates... Let's not sort of pretend that we don't know what is going on." -- Barack Obama, late Saturday, on Florida and Michigan.

  • One of the better pieces about the Vote For A Woman Thing.
    "This is the first time I felt it was 'my' election," said Janet White, a 64-year-old retired writer and editor from Tacoma, Wash., who was a Clinton delegate in the early stages of the caucus process in her state. "She is very much our cohort, born within a 20-year time frame; both her life and her troubles and her great achievements pretty much echoed our lives."

    Funny; that's kind of how I feel about Obama. I broke the Older Than The Governor barrier a couple years back, now for the first time I'm pretty much the same age as the presidential candidate.

  • Speaking of Michigan, a nice Kos diary on its messed up primary history, dating back decades.

  • "By 2008, I think I might be ready to go down to the old soldiers home and await the cavalry charge there" -- John McCain, August 1, 2000

  • And another problem for McCain: Bob Barr just moments ago took the Libertarian nomination. Iowa Indy's sister site Colorado Independent liveblogged the convention.
  • Camille Paglia Buys The Meme

    Camille Paglia Buys The Meme

    In and amongst her usual mix of contrarian feminism, Camille Paglia writes:

    The biggest barrier to women winning the White House is that the president must serve as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and thus convey strength and purpose to defend the nation. Hillary shrewdly tried to address this gender problem by getting herself appointed to the Senate Armed Services Committee, where she absorbed information and slowly gained the trust of high-ranking military officers.

    However, the plan went awry when, servilely following polling data about national opinion, she voted for the War Resolution authorising George W Bush to invade Iraq. That fateful decision, meant to shore up her military credibility, would alienate her from the left wing of her party and ironically boost the presidential hopes of a virtual unknown, Obama, who had publicly opposed the war.

    "If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from."

    Also noteworthy, Marc Arbinder:
    If the DNC seats the entire Florida and Michigan delegations... states will have NO incentive to follow the rules, knowing that at least half their delegations will be seated.

    Friday, May 23, 2008

    Hillary Finally Crosses Line With RFK Remark

    Hillary Finally Crosses Line With RFK Remark

    OK, I've had it.

    I've been critical of Hillary Clinton, sure, but it's more about issues than about tactics. My big problem has always been the same: the war vote, and the way she stood by it like a giant middle finger salute to the peace movement.

    As for the Clinton campaign's tactics, they were borderline but not unprecedented. Students Shouldn't Caucus was contradicted by the Count! The! Votes! rhetoric about Florida and Michigan, but that's within the realm of normal hypocrisy. And her re-invention as Appalachia's Great White Hope is more a problem with bigoted voters than with Hillary, though it would have been nice to hear a high-minded "If you're voting for me only because my opponent is black, then I don't want your vote" line at some point.

    But this crosses the line:

    You know my husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere around the middle of June. We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.

    Bringing up assassination. In the context of her run against the man who looks like he may be the first black president. In the 21st century, that's what we call a Macaca moment.

    Nice nomination youse got here. Shame if anything happened to it. Maybe there was more to that Sopranos video than we thought. No, I'm not a Vince Foster conspiracy theorist, but this slip was too revealing of the thought process.

    Her apology:
    "“Earlier today I was discussing the Democratic primary history and in the course of that discussion mentioned the campaigns that both my husband and Senator Kennedy waged in California in June 1992 and 1968 and I was referencing those to make the point that we have had nomination primary contests that go into June. That’s a historic fact. The Kennedys have been much on my mind the last days because of Senator Kennedy and I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation, and particularly for the Kennedy family was in any way offensive. I certainly had no intention of that, whatsoever. My view is that we have to look to the past and to our leaders who have inspired us and give us a lot to live up to, and I’m honored to hold Senator Kennedy’s seat in the United States Senate from the state of New York and have the highest regard for the entire Kennedy family.”"

    Historic facts. Why not the 1972 McGovern-Humphrey credentials fight, a reasonable facsimile of Michigan/Florida? She worked on the McGovern campaign; you'd think that might come to mind first. Or Reagan and Ford in `76, when Ronnie tried to smoke Jerry out on the running mate issue in a last-ditch attempt to peel off 50 or so delegates? No, the first thought that came to Hillary Clinton's mind in that editorial board was Bobby Kennedy, on the night of that 1968 victory in California and that sudden turn of emotions from celebration to horror, just two months after Dr. King's murder... that underlit photo where his body fell in that crucifixion pose, Ethel screaming over his dying body, Rosey Grier weeping...

    She can, and probably will, apologize more, but she can't un-ring this bell. I can hear the die-hard supporters brushing it off already, saying "oh, she was tired" or some other explanation we've heard before. But the statement plays too perfectly into the "she'd do anything to be president" preconception. People keep asking, "Why is she staying in? What does she want?" Now it's clear. She wants to be president - NOW - and she's staying in In Case Something Happens.

    It's offensive to Obama. It's offensive to the memory of Bobby Kennedy, the man whose Senate seat Clinton holds, a man who himself was often accused of being "ruthless," but who never voiced a subconscious wish to whack a rival. (Well, Castro, true, but not HHH or LBJ or Gene McCarthy or even Tricky Dicky.) It's offensive to his surviving brother, battling a sudden unexpected threat to his life from another kind of killer. It's offensive to anyone calling themselves a Democrat.

    Is this what she really wants? Even if it's on some subconscious id level, that her superego will sincerely deny, that's disconcerting.

    Team Obama react: "Senator Clinton's statement before the Argus Leader editorial board was unfortunate and has no place in this campaign."

    The Meme Again

    The Meme Again

    Jonathan Tasina, Hillary Clinton's 2006 primary challenger, Huffington Post:
    Most of us know now that Hillary Clinton has lost the Democratic presidential nomination race. But, she really lost the race before she officially entered the presidential race, because of one issue, and one issue only: Iraq.


    "If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from."

    Floridians Suing DNC -- Again

    Floridians Suing DNC -- Again

    The tactic has failed twice already, but three Florida "delegates" are suing the Democratic National Committee, arguing that not seating the state's delegates is a violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

    One of the plaintiffs is a state legislative leader who, as the state voted to move its primary up to Jan. 31, openly mocked the DNC's threat of penalties on the Senate floor.

    Senate Minority Leader Steve Gellar, an uncommitted superdelegate, alleges in the suit that the DNC did not "treat equally all similarly situated states and Democratic voters" when it decided not to seat Florida delegates because the state moved up its primary date against party rules. The suit also claims the committee's actions violated "due process" because the sanctions against Florida "flow from a constitutionally inadequate process that implements DNC rules in an arbitrary manner."

    Two other lawsuits from Floridians -– including one by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson – have failed.

    Florida Democrats have long argued that they were powerless to stop a Republican-run legislature and GOP governor from moving up the date. But Gellar's remarks on the Senate floor indicate they didn't exactly try very hard:

    Gellar is joined in the suit by two other "delegates," one committed to Hillary Clinton and one for Barack Obama. The DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee is scheduled to meet in Washington on May 31 to reconsider their death penalty of 100 percent of Michigan and Florida delegates.

    Obama To Hillary: No VP

    Obama To Hillary: No VP

    I'm amazed this isn't getting more play. From Al Giordano at The Field:

    The Field can now confirm, based on multiple sources, something that both campaigns publicly deny: that Senator Clinton has directly told Senator Obama that she wants to be his vice presidential nominee, and that Senator Obama politely but straightforwardly and irrevocably said “no.”

    Also, another variation on The Meme: the argument that the Iraq war vote, and especially the Iran vote, were about the Israel Lobby. That's part of it; I also think they were about Looking Tough, in a read of the job of president as Commander in Chief and ONLY as Commander in Chief. Both a political and a moral error.

    And this gem: "If Barack Obama would change his name to Barry, I would vote for him." Is calling him a "Muslim" shorthand for calling him another six letter word?

    Thursday, May 22, 2008

    Obama Speaks To Fla. Press, Suggests 50% of Delegates

    Obama Speaks To Fla. Press, Suggests 50% of Delegates

    In his first interview with a Florida reporter since signing the early state pledge last August, Barrack Obama said he would be open to seating a Florida delegation based on the Jan. 31 primary results at 50 percent strength.

    Obama said he had no choice politically but to go along with Iowa and three other early states and pledge not to campaign in Florida and Michigan, the two states that scheduled early primaries in violation of Democratic party rules.

    "Had we not agreed to that, we would be in a position where on the one hand, the DNC was telling you, 'This won't count.' On the other hand, you've gone out of your way to offend the first two states (Iowa and New Hampshire) where you know that it will count," Obama told the St. Petersburg Times. "I would hardly call that voluntary."

    Obama, making his first Florida stop since the primary, said counting Florida's disputed primary votes and cutting the state's delegation to the convention in half would be "a very reasonable solution."

    But Hillary Clinton thus far has refused any solution to the Florida-Michigan standoff other than seating both states at full strength and basing the delegates on the primary results. Recent campaign statements have compared the unseated delegations to the Florida 2000 recount, the civil rights marches of the 1960s, the women's suffrage movement, and even the recent disputed election in Zimbabwe.

    "It's such an important principle in our country: when the voters speak, we count their votes," reads a Clinton campaign fund raising email sent under the candidate's name Thursday. Clinton's claim that she has a popular vote lead, a key part of her appeal to superdelegates, hinges on including the totals from Florida and, more importantly, Michigan, where Obama was not on the ballot.

    The Democratic National Committee's rules and bylaws committee is scheduled to settle the issue at a May 31 meeting, though its decision can be appealed to the August national convention.

    Wednesday, May 21, 2008

    Harkin Page Playing Favorites With Legislative Races?

    Harkin Page, House Caucus Favoring Incumbents With Primary Challenges?

    With relatively few worries about re-election for the first time, Senator Tom Harkin is turning his efforts to helping state legislative candidates. A campaign email Monday steered Harkin supporters to a "Building Blue" page, where readers can enter their email address (thus building Harkin's list) and vote on which legislative candidates should receive up to $7,000 from Harkin.

    But a look in the drop-down boxes shows that incumbents with primaries are listed, but their challengers aren't. A Harkin spokesperson said the list was provided by the House Democratic Caucus and did not constitute endorsement, but the House Democratic campaign director says otherwise.

    "We gave the Harkin team our list of all the House candidates," House campaign director Kevin Boyd told Iowa Independent. "They made the decisions about who to include in their program and who not to include."

    Iowa Democrats have primaries in nine state House seats and one state Senate race. Three incumbents face primary challengers, and Harkin's Building Blue page lists the incumbents but not the challengers.

  • In House District 22, Waterloo incumbent Deborah Berry is listed while primary challenger Don Shatzer is not.

  • In House District 42, Rep. Geri Huser of Altoona is included, and challenger Matt Ballard is not.

    "It's a continuation of the same thing I've faced with the House Caucus," Ballard told Iowa Independent. He said he had spoken with Harkin staff about the exclusion and while they were sympathetic, they said they were taking their lead from the House caucus. "This is the same House caucus that has denied me access to the VAN," the state party's database, Ballard said.

  • Des Moines incumbent Wayne Ford is listed in District 65. Challengers Tyler Reedy and Charles Hoffman are not.

    In one open seat, one candidate was briefly listed while his primary rival was not. On Monday, the Harkin site included Windsor Heights mayor Jerry Sullivan, but not his Democratic primary rival in open House District 59, Mark Matel. However, Harkin's spokesperson said Sullivan had been dropped from the page late Tuesday morning. The three incumbents with primary challengers were still listed.

    In the other five House primaries, and the one Senate primary, the Breaking Blue page lists no candidates.

    In the biggest contest of all, the not-quite-done presidential primary between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Harkin is still neutral. In Iowa's next highest profile contest, Harkin has endorsed 3rd District Congressman Leonard Boswell over primary challenger Ed Fallon.
  • Kos and The War Vote Meme

    Kos Buys The War Vote Meme Too

    In a rare post that's mostly positive about Hillary Clinton, the mighty Markos says:

    "If Clinton hadn't voted for Bush's war, and compounded that grievous mistake by voting for that Iran bill, she'd likely be the nominee."

    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    Obama-McCain Nominations and the Future of Iowa

    Obama-McCain Nominations and the Future of Iowa

    "Love you back," Barack Obama invariably says near the beginning of each speech, when someone from the crowd shouts "We love you."

    Barack Obama loves Iowa back. The Jan. 3 caucus winner is in Des Moines tonight to mark what he's not quite calling a clinch of the Democratic presidential nomination.

    The Obama near-win bodes well for Iowa keeping its first in the nation status. But on the Republican side, John McCain's nomination makes the situation a little cloudier.

    John McCain's relationship with Iowa has been testy. He skipped the state in his 2000 run, with a few jabs at the caucuses and ethanol on the side. In 2008, he made a partial effort but concentrated on New Hampshire and other early states.

    A year and a half ago, I wrote a history of which caucuses mattered the most to the nomination contest. In 2004, Iowa was the whole ball game. Winner John Kerry was the nominee, second place finisher John Edwards was the running mate, and, in the most infamous moment in caucus history, Howard Dean yelled. (Can anyone, ever again, hear a candidate say a list of states without thinking, "YEEEAH!"?)

    2008 doesn't rank quite as high in ultimate importance to Obama's win, but it was an extremely important event in the process. This race was always going to come down to Hillary vs. Not Hillary. Iowa chose Obama, over Edwards and the carefully considered second tier, to be Not Hillary. We also proved Obama could win one of the whitest states in America, which helped unleash the overwhelming support he has received from African Americans. Lest we forget, many black voters were on the fence before Iowa; votes and polls weren't reflecting the 90-plus percent support he's now winning.

    We also derailed the vaunted Clinton Machine, though some of the failings that led to her third place in Iowa were of her own misread of the caucus process.

    Iowa, though, was ultimately insignificant to John McCain's nomination. So we picked Mike Huckabee over fellow also-ran Mitt Romney. Big deal. That's like the Iowa Democrats choosing Dick Gephardt over Paul Simon in 1988; interesting, but not decisive. We were just one more early state in the muddled mess that was the Republican contest in January 2008. The really important events were New Hampshire, where McCain re-ignited his campaign, and Florida, where he consigned Rudy Giuliani and his "skip the first five states" strategy to oblivion.

    So what do the Obama and McCain nominations mean for Iowa's future?

    It seems like a paradox, but the party that loses the White House really has more to do with Iowa going first. An Obama win would presumably mean a smooth renomination and a Republican battle. But Republican party rules say the nomination calendar can only be set by the national convention. That means they set the schedule before they know if they've won or lost. A party committee has already given preliminary approval to a plan that protects Iowa and New Hampshire's early role, then puts small states first and big states last.

    But what if states break that plan? The GOP has been less obsessed with rules than the Democrats, who have spent months navel-gazing about what to do with calendar cheaters Florida and Michigan. The Republicans just said, that'll cost you half your delegates, the states and candidates said that's fine, and everyone proceeded.

    If McCain wins, and the Democrats are looking at an open nomination, Iowa may be in trouble. Hillary Clinton, who came so close this year, will be an obvious front runner, and she's been making it clear that she's no fan of caucuses since at least two days before Iowa. At a New Years Day Iowa City stop, Clinton emphasized that people like shift workers and troops could not participate in the caucuses.

    In that case, what may save Iowa is the state's tradition of bipartisan cooperation on the caucus date. The parties briefly flirted with separate dates this cycle, but once the Republicans settled on Jan. 3, the Democrats soon followed suit.

    But even with an Obama win, Iowa may be in jeopardy. At MyDD, Jerome Armstrong writes that nomination reform (i.e. Screw Iowa) may be on the agenda as the Clinton and Obama campaigns negotiate the price of peace. "Clinton, I'm betting, has more interest in using her capital to reform the nomination process" than in a vice presidential nomination, Armstrong writes.

    Iowa Dem Chair Brennan To Endorse Obama

    Iowa Dem Chair Brennan To Endorse Obama

    Iowa Democratic Party Chair Scott Brennan will endorse Barack Obama for president today. The endorsement leaves Senator Tom Harkin as Iowa's only remaining uncommitted superdelegate.

    Two weeks ago, Brennan told Iowa Independent, "I agree with Senator Harkin at this point, why not let the contest play out," and said it was possible he may not endorse until the nominee was apparent.

    In addition to his own convention vote, Brennan will name one "add-on" delegate, who will be officially unpledged but is almost certain to be an Obama supporter. That person is subject to ratification by the state party convention June 14, but that's highly likely. Supporters of caucus winner Obama are expected to control more than half the convention. Combined with the forces of John Edwards, who endorsed Obama last week, that figure jumps to about 70 percent.

    Obama now has seven of Iowa's 11 superdelegates. In addition to Brennan, those are:

  • Governor Chet Culver
  • Congressmen Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack
  • State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald
  • State party vice chair Sarah Swisher
  • DNC member Richard Machacek

    Hillary Clinton has backing from three (using the Clinton campaign's term) "automatic" delegates:

  • Congressman Leonard Boswell
  • State Senate majority leader Mike Gronstal
  • DNC member Sandy Opstvedt

    Boswell's Clinton support is a new campaign issue, as 3rd Congressional District primary challenger Ed Fallon is urging Boswell to switch his support to Obama.

    Obama is scheduled to speak in Des Moines tonight. The campaign is not calling the event a "claim victory" speech, though many observers are interpreting it as such.
  • Monday, May 19, 2008

    Robert Byrd's Long Journey

    Robert Byrd's Long Journey: From Klan To Obama

    I can't say it better than the candidate himself:
    "Listening to Senator Byrd I felt with full force all the essential contradictions of me in this new place, with its marble busts, its arcane traditions, its memories and its ghosts. I pondered the fact that, according to his own autobiography, Senator Byrd had received his first taste of leadership in his early twenties, as a member of the Raleigh County Ku Klux Klan, an association that he had long disavowed, an error he attributed—no doubt correctly—to the time and place in which he'd been raised, but which continued to surface as an issue throughout his career. I thought about how he had joined other giants of the Senate, like J. William Fulbright of Arkansas and Richard Russell of Georgia, in Southern resistance to civil rights legislation. I wondered if this would matter to the liberals who now lionized Senator Byrd for his principled opposition to the Iraq War resolution—the crowd, the heirs of the political counterculture the senator had spent much of his career disdaining."

    "I wondered if it should matter. Senator Byrd's life—like most of ours—has been the struggle of warring impulses, a twining of darkness and light. And in that sense I realized that he really was a proper emblem for the Senate, whose rules and design reflect the grand compromise of America's founding: the bargain between Northern states and Southern states, the Senate's role as a guardian against the passions of the moment, a defender of minority rights and state sovereignty, but also a tool to protect the wealthy from the rabble, and assure slaveholders of noninterference with their peculiar institution. Stamped into the very fiber of the Senate, within its genetic code, was the same contest between power and principle that characterized America as a whole, a lasting expression of that great debate among a few brilliant, flawed men that had concluded with the creation of a form of government unique in its genius—yet blind to the whip and the chain."

    Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope

    Robert Byrd, now 90 years old and the longest serving senator in history, endorsed Barack Obama for president today. It would have meant more a week ago, before Obama was whomped in Byrd's home state. Byrd, beloved to the point of near-worship in West Virginia, might have been the one person who could have softened that defeat. But as with many other things about Byrd, it's better late than never.