Barack Obama

Quick '08 Update: ABBA, Sec. of Moonshine, and Debates

- U.S. Sen. John McCain finally explained his appreciation for ABBA.

- Always finding ways to keep it light, The Onion has a piece on U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's half-brother who hopes to become Obama's Secretary of Moonshine.

- Anticipating the announcement of Vice Presidential choices, Chris Cillizza looks at the possibilities and weighs in at The Fix. Cillizza also gives a nod to the Obama campaign's agreement to allow U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton's name to be put forth for nomination in Denver.

- Over at AdAge, Evan Tracey uses the latest ad strategies of the campaigns to show that negative advertising could dominate the airwaves over the next 100 days.

- The Atlantic is really writing some interesting stuff. Two pieces from them recently of note are Joshua Green's musing on whether Mark Penn could/would find his way into Obama's campaign, and James Fallows' in-depth piece on what the primary debates showed and what we should expect as we look to the Presidential debates.

- Jake Tapper discusses a recent ad from the Matthew 25 Network that touts Obama's support of families and seems to take aim at McCain's past. The Matthew 25 Network might be hoping that the ad will derail some of the progress McCan has seen in getting the Republican base behind him.

- Wondering who from Hollywood is headed to Denver? Check out Wilshire & Washington for a list of folks planning on attending Starz's Green Room events.

- Matthew Yglesias takes on the RNC for mocking Barack Obama's tendency to take his shirt off at the beach.

- Finally, the obvious statement of the day goes to the McCain Report Blog. Not that McCain shouldn't be allowed on the beach, but the campaign needs to do as little as possible to highlight McCain's age even more. Heck, even T. Boone Pickens joked about McCain's age.

Back to Basics On Energy: It’s the Economy, Stupid

Keith Johnson, of the Wall Street Journal’s Environmental Capital blog, has a solid summary of where the media narrative on drilling sits: Republicans are winning the battle. This narrative is backed by a new Rasmussen poll that has 64 percent of Americans supporting offshore drilling, and 42 percent seeing it as the "best way to reduce oil prices." Rasmussen also tells us that Americans believe McCain wants to find more sources of energy, while they believe that Obama cares more for limiting energy use. Unsurprisingly then, Americans two-thirds of Americans side with McCain’s approach.

The New Republic’s editors make some interesting but debatable points today about how the narrative has gotten to this point, arguing that blaming speculators and going after oil companies may not have been the best plan of attack. TNR also argues that the Obama and Pelosi shift toward allowing more offshore drilling in a compromise bill that would also include support for renewables and efficiency was the second losing move in this argument, and that Democrats’ inability to debunk the drilling idea in the minds of voters was troubling.

As I argued yesterday, the shift on drilling will not be a big deal, and will likely remove drilling as a wedge issue into the fall. The more important voter perception is that Americans believe that Obama cares about energy austerity while McCain wants to do everything he can to increase production. (His actions don’t bear this out, but perception is what matters.)

Whether drilling specifically will be a voting issue is unknown, and this is likely a case where Republicans are winning the battle on drilling but setting themselves up to lose the war on energy as a whole. However, being portrayed as promoting austere energy use is extremely dangerous for Democrats. Obama has already begun to recast the debate on energy about investing in a clean energy economy, which is forward looking, as opposed to the McCain Republican petro-economy of the past, one that, as Michael Moynihan notes, continues to have dangerous ramifications in foreign policy.

At the end of the day, the most important argument to make and win is that energy policy is central to the economy: energy to power the economy, energy impacting American households and families through gas, home heating, and overall prices, and energy jobs and investment allowing average Americans to enjoy the broad-based prosperity they knew in the 1990’s, but that disappeared in the Bush administration. Transitioning to a clean energy economy will not be simple or easy, but, done responsibly, it is a key to future prosperity. Americans already feel austerity in their pocketbooks; being perceived as asking them to feel it in their energy use is not in Democrats' interests, especially when the better option of investing in a clean energy economy exists.

More Evidence of a Sustained Progressive Revival

At the recent Netroots Nation conference in Austin, Texas, the Obama campaign put on a panel about its on and off line organizing. Moderated by New Media Director Joe Rospars, it was a compelling presentation, and I, for one, am still thinking about it a great deal all these weeks later. What was most striking to me was the persistent use of the term "community organizing," and how the campaign, had from the beginning, set out not just to win an election, but to create a lasting progressive movement capable of bringing real change to the country. While these are words spoken by many over many years, you got the sense that the Obama people meant it, and actually have the money, the organization, the candidate, the moment and the determination to do it.

I've been working in politics for two decades now, and for the past five years, I've been involved in various efforts to "build progressive infrastructure" to combat the conservative ascendancy by competing with the right's think tanks, leadership schools, candidate training centers and other organizations. I was an early advocate of the blogs and netroots, which have involved millions of people in politics as never before, and helped bring much-needed vibrancy and debate to left-of-center politics. I was instrumental in launching the Democracy Alliance, a consortium of funders who have channeled hundreds of millions of dollars into progressive organizations. I've also helped provide direct support to several of these groups, including Media Matters, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, Democracia USA and what we now call Netroots Nation.

I strongly believe we will look back at this decade and see it as one of extraordinary progressive revival. It has been a time of tremendous institutional entrepreneurship on the center-left, but has also been a time when millions of Americans awakened politically. Dozens of new organizations have been started. Hundreds of new candidates have been elected to office, and once there, they have hired thousands of new staff. Thousands of blogs and bloggers have sprung up, creating a whole new class of thinkers, writers, analysts and powerful voices. The Internet has allowed millions of people to become engaged in a much more meaningful way in the life of their nation. All of this is creating a much larger, more dynamic ecosystem of progressive politics, with millions more activists, making the movement much bigger but also creating a much larger pool of future elected officials, writers and leaders of all kinds. All of this is very exciting to watch.

And into all this comes Barack Obama and his inspirational campaign. Unprecedented crowds, money, volunteers, viral activity, votes and enthusiasm - a sense all along in this campaign that he was summoning something deep inside himself to help inspire us to - as they say - have the "courage to change." He has told us all along that we are the change that we seek, that this campaign is not about him, but about us and our desire to bring about a better America. But is all of this just talk, tactics to get elected?

After listening to the Obama team in Austin, I was convinced that this historic campaign is trying to do much more than win an election. They are going to do everything in their power to unleash the passion of Democrats, progressives, indepenendents, Republicans - Americans - across the country and wage a truly national campaign, hiring staff in all 50 states, unveiling a national voter activist tool, opening up an unprecedented number of field offices, working to expand and redraw the Electoral College map and elect Democrats up and down the ballot in every state and prepare for redistricting in 2010. It is a bold and audacious vision, and one that I now know they intend to work to pull off.

But what made this presentation so powerful was their argument that this vision could only work if they could identify, train and develop a whole new generation of community leaders - in every community - who would become bottom-up advocates for a better nation long after past this election itself. They told a story of one of their community leaders from the South Carolina primary who used the network he built in the primary to run for office for the first time - and amazingly, he unseated a 13-year incumbent by a single vote. They talked as if they understood that this election, and the Obama campaign, was just one piece of a much larger battle to bring change to America itself. They have invested in training thousands of these new leaders in every community across the country - firemen, nurses, teachers, veterans, college kids, moms - who are the foundations of their communities and have become highly trained community and political activists. They will be working this cycle for Senator Obama, but many will continue on to help pass the Obama agenda, elect future Democrats, get involved in local politics and even run for office themselves.

The staff, including a very inspiring Steve Hildebrand, argued that this was Barack and Michelle's vision from the very first day of the campaign - that this was not a fight for him, but for us, for our country, and that if it went well, they needed to build a national movement for change that would long outlast the Senator and that would leave behinds millions of new activists and tens of thousand of new leaders capable of fighting future battles beyond 2008.

As someone who has worked to improve our nation for more than 20 years, I was, simply, blown away by this presentation. For reasons I still don't really understand, the campaign has not talked about all of this work very much, and I felt lucky to have been in the room. I hope that it will be up on the Netroots Nation Web site soon, and I would strongly recommend watching it online if you can.

The Obama effort, coming on top of the already incredible work being done through the progressive movement, makes one believe that a sustained period of progressive dominance, led by many new, emerging leaders across the country, is truly possible now. The ecosystem necessary to build a long and sustained movement for change is rapidly coming together, and it just may be that the Obama campaign's historic organizing effort - the marriage of the grassroots and the netroots -- will become seen as a critical "tipping point" for the long-term success of a new 21st century progressive politics.

NDN will be continuing this important conversation at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. On Tuesday, August 26, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., join us for Two Million Strong, and Growing. During this discussion, I, Internet pioneer Joe Trippi and Google's Peter Greenberger will lead a lively discussion of how a new set of media and technology tools are creating a much more decentralized, people-based model for campaigns and advocacy in the 21st century. Two Million Strong is at the Westin Tabor Center, 1672 Lawrence St., Tabor Auditorium, 3rd Floor Mezzanine Level.

On Thursday, August 28, at 11 a.m., I will take a closer, in-depth look at where American politics is heading in the 21st century in my presentation, The Dawn of a New Politics. The presentation, seen by many progressive leaders and groups across the country, focues on the big changes in media, technology, demography, race and governing agenda which are making the politics of the 21st century very different from the one just past.

So join us at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1400 Welton St., in the Titanium & Zirconium Rooms, 5th Floor on Thursday, August 28.  To learn more about these and other NDN events at the Convention, or to RSVP (recommended) go here

The Changing American People

The New York Times has a story today about a new U.S. Census report that shows America is on track to be a majority-minority nation earlier than predicted -- in 2042, not 2050. This is further evidence that America is undergoing its most profound demographic transformation since the arrival of the Europeans here in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.

I offered some thoughts on these extraordinary changes in a recent essay, On Obama, Race and the end of the Southern Strategy. I have little doubt that it is these changes that have the emergence of a bi-racial President candidate much more likely. This also is a subject we cover in our recent report on the growing political power of Hispanics, Hispanics Rising II.

For those coming to the Democratic National Convention, I will be talking about America's historic demographic changes at a presentation of our powerpoint, the Dawn of a New Politics, Thursday morning, August 27. Look for an announcement about this and other NDN events at the Convention later this morning.

Txtual Seduction: Obama to SMS VP Choice

Plenty of people just received an interesting SMS from the Obama campaign. It reads:

Barack will announce his VP candidate choice through txt msg between now & the Conv. Tell everyone to txt VP to 62262 to be the first to know! Please forward.

To me, this decision is telling for two reasons. As we've long discussed, technology is changing the way we conduct and interact with politics. New tools like SMS - as well as many others - are making it easier for more people to become involved in the process, ultimately making our democracy more participatory. The Obama campaign clearly understands this and is hoping to continue to use the advent of these tools to further reinforce its campaign message of change.

Also, consider the constituencies that SMS reaches. From our reports:

From Mobile Media in 21st Century Politics, Sept. 2006:

Some constituencies are more savvy or dependent on mobile phones than others. Two key groups in are of special concern to progressives. Any majority political movement of the early 21st century will need to connect to the massive young generation of Millennials, and the booming population of Hispanics. Both groups are among the top users of mobile phone media.


Studies from Telephia in 2005 showed that African American, Hispanic and mixed Asian groups make up the top three groups both in scope and in percentage of growth in using mobile.

Hispanic users had the 2nd highest use of mobile minutes, and the growth in use quarterly was rising at higher than any other ethnographic group.

All this reinforced in Go Mobile Now, Oct., 2007:

Mobile tools like text messaging and picture messaging are considerably more popular in black and Hispanic communities than in other demographics.

So what is clear is that the Obama campaign is announcing its VP choice via a method which is heavily used by Millennials, Hispanics, African Americans, and mixed Asian groups. To a lesser degree, I'm sure there will be members of older generations signing up to receive the text as well. As a result, the campaign will broaden its mobile database, making organizing and outreach to vital groups in the coming months all the more sophisticated. This surely will help cement the Obama campaign's mobile database as the go-to mobile database in progressive politics. And, more importantly, it adds another means through which the campaign hopes to build a lasting majority.

Now what would be impressive is if the campaign could figure out how to segment the Hispanic/Latino audiences from this effort and began delivering Spanish-language text messages. Imagine that foundation going into the fall.

Update: I just found out through Facebook that the campaign will also e-mail you Obama's VP choice. You just have to sign up to receive the notice. So not only will the Obama campaign hold the go-to mobile database, but perhaps the go-to e-mail database of progressive politics.

Update II: Jose Antonio Vargas has more insight in the Washington Post.

Obama's Olympic Ad Focuses on Building a Low-Carbon Economy

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama's ad that will air during the Olympics is called "Hands" and presents an optimistic vision of the green technologies that will promote economic growth in the coming decades. This is a important vision for America's economic future, and the fact that this vision is taking center state during the Olympics speaks volumes about the significance placed on it by Obama. Take a look:

The ad comes on the same day that The Climate Group, an independent non-profit based in the UK, releases a report on "China's Green Revolution." The report argues that China has become a global leader in renewable energy technology production and is seizing the low-carbon economic opportunity.

From a press release from The Climate Group:

Despite its coal-dependent economy, the report reveals Chinese government and businesses have embarked on a Clean Revolution that has already made it a world leader in the manufacture of solar photo-voltaic technology (Solar PV) where its six biggest solar companies have a combined market value of over USD $15 billion.

China is also set to become the world’s leading manufacturer of wind turbines, with production capacity expected to reach 10GW per year by the end of 2009, and is competing aggressively in other low carbon markets including solar water heaters, energy efficient home appliances, and rechargeable batteries.

Steve Howard, CEO of The Climate Group says: "For too long, many governments, businesses and individuals have been wary of committing to action on climate change because they perceive that China – the world’s largest emitter – is doing little to address the issue. However, the reality is that China’s government is beginning to unleash a low carbon dragon which will power its future growth, development and energy security objectives."

Changhua Wu, China Director, The Climate Group, says: "Far from ignoring climate change, Chinese leaders have already committed to improving energy efficiency and scaling up the growth of low carbon industries. China is beginning to pull its weight on climate change and the targets and policies in place are in line with those being taken by ‘leading’ countries like the UK and Germany."

Investment in renewable energy in China - almost USD $12 billion in 2007 - is almost level with world leader Germany as a percentage of GDP. Stronger policies from the Chinese government are creating increased demand for low carbon investment and China will require a further USD $398 billion (USD $33billion per year) to meet its 2020 renewable energy goals.

Steve Howard says: "China’s current trajectory will ensure it remains a strategic global hub for low carbon investment, innovation and growth over coming decades."

Eight years of ignoring climate change and the economic opportunity presented by creating a low-carbon economy have put America behind Europe and now possibly China. The vision presented in Obama's new ad, mated with good policy, has the potential to take advantage of America's innate economic advantages and help us become a leader, not a laggard, in the 21st century energy economy.

Quick '08 Update: Hollywood and Tire Pressure

- I already posted the Paris Hilton video, but here's some additional Hollywood news: U.S. Sen. Barack Obama will join Danny Ocean (George Clooney) in Switzerland for a fundraiser in September.

- U.S. Sen. John McCain is outspending Obama with what AdAge describes is a last-minute $6 million ad buy during the Olympics. That is $1 million more than Obama's buy.

- NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg threw a party for U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton this past Monday at Gracie mansion. Debt relief was not on the agenda. Speaking of Sen. Clinton, check out her op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal.

- Jake Tapper cites Politifact research to conclude that Obama's remarks on tire pressure have merit. In fact, as he points out, former President George H.W. Bush's administration held views similar to Obama's on the issue. Game, Set, Match.

- Speaking of energy, Obama is up in Florida with a new ad on energy and gas prices. (Via Eric Kleefeld over at TPM).

- According to Politico, the DNC is responding to the RNC's tire gauge campaign with the launch of its "Exxon-McCain '08" campaign.

- McCain was in Michigan yesterday, emphasizing his support for nuclear power. More on this below.

- Obama's in Indiana today with U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh. Speculate away! Also for those who are looking to affix a label to Bayh's politics, be sure to check out this analysis from Josh Patashnik. (Via Andrew Sullivan.)

- The New York Times and the Washington Post both took a look at campaign bundlers.

- Ben Smith, you are the man for finding this picture:

- As referenced above, this was way too easy. Thanks to Dave for adding who he calls the next Secretary of Energy, C. Montgomery Burns, to the picture of McCain stating his position on nuclear energy. Excellent...

Obama Out With New Energy Plan, Ads

As U.S. Sen. Barack Obama releases his new energy plan this week, the Obama campaign is out with two new ads on energy. Both hit U.S. Sen. John McCain on his energy policies and ties to oil companies and lay out parts of Obama's new plan.

The Obama campaign released "Pocket" yesterday:

According to's Ben Smith, "National Priority" has been airing in battleground states for about a week, but was not released to the press:

McCain Backs Away from Cap and Trade

Last week, as U.S. Sens. McCain and Obama rained down haymakers on energy policy, ads and rhetoric out of the McCain campaign seemed to suggest that his already wavering commitment to Cap and Trade legislation could soon be going to way of his positions on comprehensive immigration reform and the Bush tax cuts. Whether he is having trouble remembering his commitment to this issue or is moving for political reasons, the emerging signs from last week are too much to ignore.

On Tuesday, July 29, McCain economic adviser Steve Forbes appeared on CNN’s Glenn Beck and said:

"I think cap and trade is going to go the way of some other things, as you may remember, when he came into office, Bill Clinton had a proposal of tax carbons and stuff like that. I don’t think those things are going to get very far as people start to examine the details of them."

The same week, the McCain campaign released its now infamous "Celeb" ad, which included a line criticizing Obama for wanting to "tax electricity." Of course, none of Obama’s speeches or plans specifically call for raising taxes on electricity, so what could this possibly mean?

The McCain campaign points to a February, 2008 Q&A with the San Antonio Express-News, during which Obama said, "What We Ought To Tax Is Dirty Energy, Like Coal And, To A Lesser Extent, Natural Gas." He said this in context of putting a price on carbon emissions, a large portion of which come from, of course, energy production. Obama’s (and supposedly McCain’s) chosen method of doing so is cap and trade.

So, if McCain has a problem with pricing dirty energy, then he has a problem with cap and trade. These two points out of the campaign, one from an adviser and one in an ad, in the same week, seem to be more than just coincidence, and a fairly direct repudiation of carbon-pricing regimes.

In light of this, McCain needs clarify his position on climate change legislation – specifically cap and trade. And if he does plan on dropping support of this legislation, he then needs to show how he would create the clean energy future that he has made a central part of his platform without incentives for renewables or pricing carbon. Right now, it just doesn’t add up.

McCain Don't Know Much About Geography

As Simon has commented, U.S. Sen. John McCain's ads exceedingly reflect a new Rovian approach to this election, and he's not limiting himself to attacking in one language...this latest ad in Spanish, called "The World According to Barack Obama" intends to promote the notion among Hispanic voters that according to Barack Obama, Latin American countries somehow "don't count" in the world because he didn't discuss Latin America during his trip to EUROPE ("but entire nations were forgotten.."), by asking voters: "and where is Latin America?", "and what about Latinos?", "Did he forget about us?" The ad is flawed in that Barack Obama's trip through Europe, and his speech in Berlin, was intended to discuss issues related to joint U.S. and EU policy.  As Jake and I were discussing, there's this thing called the Monroe Doctrine that would make it unseemingly to say the least for the U.S. to invite European nations to strategize over Latin American policy. But since when have Rovian tactics had any regard for honesty and accuracy?  

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