Barack Obama

The Race Enters a New Phase - Obama is Clearly Now in the Lead

The 3 major tracks we follow - Kos, Gallup and Rasmussen - all have Obama at 50 today.  Gallup shows the most dramatic movement, with a change from 49/44 yesterday to 50/42 today.  The Real Clear Politics poll aggregate now has the race 48/43, with Obama ahead and gaining ground in the Electoral College.  McCain led in this aggregate for a week after the GOP Convention.  So the race has shifted a great deal in the last few weeks. 

Given McCain's true limitations as a candidate I still have a hard time seeing how McCain turns this thing around in the next few weeks.  Obama just came through a series of serious tests - the Palin surge, an extraordinary crisis and his first debate - looking self-assured, confident, in command,  You can see his campaign gaining greater confidence each day.  This is now a campaign that has been big time tested and has come through it with momentum, gaining ground.  Through his strong performance over the last few weeks Obama is showing those with doubts about his experience that he can handle hard and tough moments, a major hurdle for him to grow his vote in these final weeks.  

The McCain campaign has a very different dynamic now, having squandered a lead, made some significant stumbles, and with the very real limitations of their two candidates much more on display in recent weeks.  

We have a long way to go in this race but time and opportunity is running out for the McCain campaign. 

CNN Poll: Obama Wins the Debate

CNN polled after the debate and found that of those who watched, 51% said Obama won, 38% McCain.  You can read more about the poll, and watch the debate if you missed it, here

820am Update - One additional thing stands out this morning - how we now learn of a series of half truths, misremembrances, outright falsehoods that came from McCain last night.  To clarify, in those two Eisenhower letters, Ike did not offer his resignation in either one; McCain came to Congress after the Marines went to Lebanon; and Henry Kissinger has indeed encouraged high-level meetings with Iraqis without preconditions.  

Why does all this matter?  As readers of this blog are well aware, there is great mountain of evidence that John McCain has a lost a step or is shockingly unconcerned with facts, truth and detail.  We simply have not seen a candidate at this level of politics make the kind of serial mistakes he has made in this campaign. He just comes off, repeatedly, as a little out of it.  Like a great major league pitcher whose fastball has lost its pop. 

And I don't think given all the next President will have to do that this is a good set of qualities for our next leader. 

Liveblogging the debate

910pm - McCain seems just a little out of it tonight.  Tired.  Rambling. Nervous.  

911pm - Obama needs to stay more focused on what is he going to do. 

914pm - Not sure that McCain's attacks on the GOP's spending and corruption is helping him.  Would love to see the data showing that Americans want all this emphasis on fiscal austerity right now.  

916pm - Obama almost nailed it.  Started strong.   Wandered at the end.  

919pm - McCain's obsession with earmarks seems, again, bizarre.  But this whole exchange on the economy has been instructive.  Think Obama has won this exchange, but he gets a little far down in the weeds. 

927pm - Obama's investment agenda was strong, thoughtful.  Loved the emphasis on modernizing the grid! Also forgot to mention that Obama embraced our argument at the outset that keeping people in their homes is the key to dealing with our fiscal crisis. 

930pm - McCain's economic strategy - cut taxes and cut spending.   A spending freeze.  A spending freeze.  Money for Iraq.  Money for Wall Street.  No investment into accelerating the development of the 21st century American economy.  I think McCain is really out of touch with the struggle folks are going through today. 

A spending freeze.

937pm - Iraq now.  Do people really believe we are winning there? 

944pm - Obama just wacked McCain hard.  It was his best moment so far.  McCain is fighting back.  This is important now.  McCain has come to life a bit.  His defense of his Iraq policy was alright.

956pm - McCain has had a good run here.

1010pm - Obama appears Presidential.  While he is not knocking the ball out of the park tonight he is doing well.   He is holding his own.   

1014pm - All in all it feels like both candidates will grow and improve throughout the debates.  As if they are just feeling their way, learning the terrain, being careful.  McCain's assault on Barack for his willingness to meet "without preconditions" while intellectually dishonest was effective.

11pm -  I think both candidates scored points tonight.  Obama looked like a President, held his own,made his points, showed he could hit McCain.  McCain after a slow start seemed steady, strong, comfortable, forceful.  But I still think McCain's overall argument is just out of synch with Americans today.  He is just a little off, off enough to be behind in this race now. 

Obama's surge in the last 2 weeks has been very important.  Given the issue environment, the Democratic tide, McCain's limited skills as a candidate and Obama's steadiness I just have a hard time seeing how McCain moves from 42-43 up to the high 40s in these next six weeks.  McCain has flashes of his old self but all in all he feels as if he has lost a step; that he is an all-star past his prime; that his best days are well behind him now. Obama seems to be in the driver's seat now...confident, steady, in touch, with no glaring weaknesses except that has shown this year that he has a hard time closing the deal.

So on we go.  Next up Palin Biden on Thursday.  

Is McCain Really Not Going to Show Tonight?

Without consulting anyone, Senator John McCain has unilaterally withdrawn from a national Presidential debate. As I wrote yesterday, there is no precedent for this in modern American history. Presidential campaigns went on during the Civil War, the Depression, WWII and the Vietnam War.  All were crises much more grave than what we are facing now.

There is no nice way to say this - John McCain just isn't showing up to the debate tonight. 

Let's imagine what he will be doing tonight instead of debating Barack Obama.  Surfing the web? Huddling with staff? Going for a walk in the woods? Meeting with recalcitrant Republicans who have come out against the Bush bailout? Having dinner with his familiy?  I'm sure the campaign will conjure up some serious photo op.....but come on.  He spent 24 hours in NYC after he made his announcement that he was suspending his campaign....he couldn't take 8 hours to fly to Mississippi to debate Barack? 

Honestly, I think this is a national disgrace, and he should be embarrassed by the crazy decision his campaign has made. McCain has run one of the wildest and most unorthodox - some would say silly, depressing, pathetic, shameful - campaigns in modern times.  He should get off his butt and show that he isn't scared of talking about our challenges in front of the American people. 

1130 Update: The McCain campaign has just announced they will be participating in the debate tonight.  

1145 Update - Chris Cillizza has already found web ads placed by the McCain campaign claiming "McCain Wins Debate!"

Poll Roundup, Duck and Cover

Again, DemFromCT over at Kos has an excellent morning analysis of the latest polling trends.

Of note is the new Fox Poll, which has it 45 Obama 39 McCain.  

Yesterday, this Fox poll and the WaPo poll (52-43) were two of the worst polls for John McCain of this entire Presidential election.  Yesterday morning it also became clear that the McCain campaign had told a huge lie about Rick Davis, its campaign manager - that despite its assertions otherwise, Davis was still making money and an advisor to one of the major instittuions in the financial collapse through August of this year all while he was the manager of McCain's campaign. 

I have no doubt this new crazy idea to "suspend the campaign" came because the McCain campaign was desperate to break an increasingly vicious news and public opinion cycle.  There simply is no precedent for this.  Presidential candidates did not suspend their campaigns during the Civil War, the Great Depression, WWII, the Cold War and the Vietnam War.  Lincoln. FDR. Kennedy, Nixon.  They stood, debated, made their case. Why can't McCain do the same?  This feels so craven, so political, so full of cowardice and fear that it says a great deal about the man who wants to be our next President. 

I mean, what else could he possibly be doing tomorrow night that is more important than having a frank conversation with the American people about our future? 

I know.  He will be having Shabbat dinner with his old friend Joe Lieberman. That's a good enough excuse to unilaterally withdraw from one of the four debates that will help the American people choose their next leader.  A previous engagement.  Dinner with an old friend.

The Times On Bush, the Bailout, Debates

The New York Times offered these thoughts this morning:

Absence of Leadership

It took President Bush until Wednesday night to address the American people about the nation's financial crisis, and pretty much all he had to offer was fear itself.

There was no acknowledgement of the shocking failure of government regulation, or that the country cannot afford more tax cuts for the very wealthy and budget-busting wars, or that spending at least $700 billion of taxpayers' money to bail out Wall Street and the banks should be done carefully, transparently and with oversight by Congress and the courts.

We understand why he may have been reluctant to address the nation, since his contempt for regulation is a significant cause of the current mess. But he could have offered a great deal more than an eerily dispassionate primer on the credit markets in which he took no responsibility at all for the financial debacle.

He promised to protect taxpayers with his proposed bailout, but he did not explain how he would do that other than a superficial assurance that in sweeping up troubled assets, government would buy low and sell high. And he warned that "our entire economy is in danger" unless Congress passes his bailout plan immediately.

In the end, Mr. Bush's appearance was just another reminder of something that has been worrying us throughout this crisis: the absence of any real national leadership, including on the campaign trail.

Given Mr. Bush's shockingly weak performance, the only ones who could provide that are the two men battling to succeed him. So far, neither John McCain nor Barack Obama is offering that leadership.

What makes it especially frustrating is that this crisis should provide each man a chance to explain his economic policies and offer a concrete solution to the current crisis.

Mr. McCain is doing distinctly worse than Mr. Obama. First, he claimed that the economy was strong, ignoring the deep distress of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have already lost their homes. Then he called for a 9/11-style commission to study the causes of the crisis, as if there were a mystery to be solved. Over the last few days he has become a born-again populist, a stance entirely at odds with the career, as he often says, started as "a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution."

After daily pivoting, Mr. McCain now says that the bailout being debated in Congress has to protect taxpayers, that all the money has to be spent in public and that a bipartisan board should "provide oversight." But he offered not the slightest clue about how he would ensure that taxpayers would ever "recover" the bailout money.

Mr. McCain proposed capping executives' pay at firms that get bailout money, a nicely punitive idea but one that does nothing to mitigate the crisis. And that is about as far as his new populism went.

What is most important is that Mr. McCain hasn't said a word about strengthening regulation or budged one inch from his insistence on maintaining Mr. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy. That trickle-down notion has done nothing to improve the lives of most Americans and, even without a $700 billion bailout, saddled generations to come with crippling deficits.

Mr. Obama has been clearer on the magnitude and causes of the financial crisis. He has long called for robust regulation of the financial industry, and he said early on that a bailout must protect taxpayers. Mr. Obama also recognizes that the wealthy must pay more taxes or this country will never dig out of its deep financial hole. But as he does too often, Mr. Obama walked up to the edge of offering full prescriptions and stopped there.

We don't know if Mr. McCain or Mr. Obama will do any good back in Washington. But Mr. McCain's idea of postponing the Friday night debate was another wild gesture from a candidate entirely too prone to them. The nation needs to hear Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain debate this crisis and demonstrate who is ready to lead.


Obama, McCain Joint Statement

"The American people are facing a moment of economic crisis. No matter how this began, we all have a responsibility to work through it and restore confidence in our economy. The jobs, savings, and prosperity of the American people are at stake.

"Now is a time to come together - Democrats and Republicans - in a spirit of cooperation for the sake of the American people. The plan that has been submitted to Congress by the Bush Administration is flawed, but the effort to protect the American economy must not fail.

This is a time to rise above politics for the good of the country. We cannot risk an economic catastrophe. Now is our chance to come together to prove that Washington is once again capable of leading this country."

McCain Tries to Bail Out Due To Bailout

For well over a week, NDN has been offering its thoughts on the causes, effects, and proposals in the financial meltdown. Yesterday, Simon Rosenberg and Dr. Robert Shapiro released an essay encouraging the federal government to keep people in their homes and stabilize the housing sector. U.S. Sen. Barack Obama has been doing the same, meeting with top economists, outlining his principles, and working to ensure that this financial bailout actually helps everyday Americans.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. John McCain, has, in the words of George Will, "substituted vehemence for coherence," for the last week, calling for the head of SEC Chairman Chris Cox, demanding regulation he used to crusade against, and otherwise misunderstanding the complex levers that drive America’s financial sector.

Today, following an 8:30 am call from Obama and some very, very bad public polling, McCain snapped, and decided that the financial crisis was in fact worthy of a significant reaction. McCain’s chosen reaction, leaving the campaign trail to return to the scene of the deregulation and try his hand at crafting legislation that accomplishes the opposite of what he has stood for his entire political career, is the easy way out. It is designed to do one thing: place Obama in an awkward position. One must not confuse this – campaign tactics – for what McCain wants people to think it is – leadership.

So, instead of campaign trail theatrics and huff-and-puff returns to Washington, let’s have a debate on Friday. But, instead of talking about foreign policy, let’s talk about the financial meltdown and the future of the American economy. An unprecedented number of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction, and they are looking for those who would lead to demonstrate that they have a plan to put the nation back on track. These two Senators are running for President amidst the greatest economic turmoil in a very long time. The American people deserve a debate.

UPDATE: From Obama, courtesy of's Ben Smith:

It’s my belief that this is exactly the time the American people need to hear from the person who in approximately 40 days will be responsible with dealing with this mess.

Presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time. It's not necessary for us to think that we can do only one thing, and suspend everything else.


New Post Poll Has Obama Up 52-43

This one is sure to have our busy Capital abuzz this morning.

Rob Dugger: A Prescription for Recovery

Our friend Rob Dugger penned a powerful op-ed in the Washington Post today, A Prescription for Recovery.  It offers these five principles to help guide our next steps in putting our financial system back on track: 

· Put individual taxpayers first. The program needs to focus on keeping taxpayers in their homes, strengthening their local economies and protecting their savings. It has to help Americans broadly, not just a few, and certainly not the managers who got us into this mess.

· Minimize taxpayer costs over the long term. Short-term thinking created this crisis. Only long-term efforts will end it. The S&L crisis was limited to the financial sector. It was best addressed on an aggressive basis, bank by bank. This meant that least-cost resolutions were the way to go and that the RTC should buy and sell assets quickly, which it did. But the current situation is systemic. It involves our entire economy. This means the revitalization program should buy distressed assets early and plan to hold them for a long time. The goal is to make the economic adjustment as shallow as possible, to limit the injury to families, jobs, homes and savings.

· Avoid creating an interim program. This program must not be like the S&L "rescues" of the mid-1980s, which merely enabled the problems to grow. The program needs to have the capacity, flexibility and scope to address the vast size of the current crisis. Congress should put no dollar or time limit on our national commitment. Yes, markets will want dollar figures. If numbers must be given, let them be in statements about the program -- and let them be big. Do not shy away from saying that the United States is prepared to commit a trillion dollars over the next 10 years to halt this meltdown here and now.

· Remember global investors, whose confidence we must regain. This crisis is an economic heart attack, but not a fatal one. We must assure global investors that we are fully prepared to cover American losses. No one suggests that this will be easy. The budget choices being forced on us will be profoundly difficult. But we have the strongest democracy and the most durable legal and financial systems in the world. We have the capacity to absorb losses and the ability to reshape our economy. Foreign investors need evidence that we are committed to the changes necessary for recovery. When they see that, they will buy our private assets again.

· Do not hesitate. Bill Seidman's greatest lesson was action. It is far better to deal with a few assets, even without knowing quite what to do, than to do nothing while trying to work out the details. Whoever is in charge of the revitalization program must not hesitate to buy the assets that institutions offer -- these will be what is burdening the institutions and clogging our credit system the most. There are many strategies for buying assets and infusing capital that can protect the program from paying too much and ensure that taxpayers benefit from price increases as recovery occurs. The key is to get the assets in-house quickly and learn how to manage them effectively.

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