Barack Obama

Obama's great advantage in the fall election - his modern campaign

I'm quoted in two pieces today on the momentum events of the last few days. One, by the ever-sharp Susan Milligan in today's Boston Globe, talks about why Senator Clinton lost:

More damaging, critics say, is that the veteran staff was operating from an old playbook, misreading the mood of the country and the new makeup of a 21st-century Democratic electorate.

With her promises to wage war on the enemy - be it Republicans, pharmaceutical companies, or oil interests - Clinton made a textbook appeal to the Democratic Party of old: working-class white Americans, union members, and senior citizens. Obama, however, picked up on the physical and emotional exhaustion many Americans felt after the bitterly partisan Bush and Clinton years, and built a new Democratic coalition among young, educated, and independent voters.

Obama had been to 30 states to campaign for fellow Democrats in 2006, and developed a keen sense of the country's mood, analysts said. Clinton, who was obliged to concentrate on her own reelection in New York, traveled to only 14 states to campaign for fellow Democrats in 2006, and did not pick up on the direction the country was headed politically, they said.

"They didn't understand how much politics has changed since the 1990s. They were slow to use the Internet and the new media. Their understanding of the new coalition was imperfect," said Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democratic Network and a veteran of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign.

The other, in Wired, talks about why Obama won:

Ever since the internet propelled Howard Dean's campaign to national importance in 2004, observers have expected the web would soon play a pivotal role in electing a president. As Obama makes history by becoming the first African-American presumptive presidential nominee, his campaign is also the first to fulfill that long-anticipated internet promise. With an enormous internet-driven donor base of 1.5 million people, more than 500,000 of whom have accounts on Obama's social networking website, Obama is the first internet candidate to win mainstream success. His online supporters have created more than 30,000 events to promote his candidacy, some of which are still underway in the last primary states of Montana and South Dakota.

"It's impossible to imagine Barack Obama's rise without the modern methods that his campaign used to organize itself, particularly around the internet," says Simon Rosenberg, president and founder of the non-profit think tank the New Democratic Network. "This really was the most successful campaign of the 21st century."

"This is what happens is when you have a charismatic candidate, and you organize on a scale not seen before," he adds. "Literally, the size and scale of this is unprecedented in American political history, and it wouldn't have been possible without the money, and passion, and support of millions of American people."

The campaign came up with a number of innovations on the internet. It used wikis -- online collaborative software -- to coordinate and churn out precinct captains in both California and Texas. And it created a counter-viral e-mail campaign to combat the anonymous e-mail smears that question his religious faith and patriotism. It set up policy pages that solicited ideas from supporters, and at one point, the campaign solicited letters from supporters over the internet to lobby the undecided superdelegates.

And Obama's campaign constantly updated its YouTube channel to keep its supporters around the country up to speed on his latest speeches.

Obama's campaign spent significant resources on physical offices in battleground states. But those efforts often came to follow the informal infrastructure that his supporters built ahead of time by finding each other through and coordinating off-line to campaign for their candidate.

The most obvious area in which it led was online fund-raising. Just under half its record-level of $265 million raised so far came from donations of $200 or less, much of which flowed to the campaign through the internet. The Clinton campaign ended up tweaking its fund-raising approach after Obama's initial successes and began asking supporters for smaller amounts of money in online fund-raising drives following each primary victory.

In contrast to Obama's campaign, presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain has raised only $90.5 million during the same 2007 and 2008 period. Just over a third of his donations came from the $200-and-under crowd. Forty-two percent of it came through contributions at the maximum $2,000 level. For Obama, just under a quarter of his donations came from $2,000-level donations.

Obama's record fund raising enabled him to out-blast his chief rival through traditional television ads in battleground states during the Democratic primaries, as well as build out the physical infrastructure needed to organize volunteers.

But it was also savvy off-line campaigning that boosted the size of his online cadre of supporters, notes Rosenberg.

"One of the reasons that they have so many donors is that they were able to collect millions and millions of names through their rallies," he says, referring to Obama's stadium-sized political events, one of which took place tonight at the Xcel Energy Center, where the Republican National Convention is scheduled to take place this summer. "It was all part of an ecosystem where they made it clear that they wanted supporters to be at the center of the campaign."

Each of these interesting articles visit themes we've been talking about here for years - the emergence of a new politics of the 21st century. I end this post with a long repost of an essay I wrote in early February right before Super Tuesday which offers a way of thinking about what this new people based model of politics Dean pioneered and Obama took to another level means. To me what we are seeing is the emergence of a virtuous cycle of participation, which I guess could be described as a political version of the network effect. But the key here is that what Obama, David Plouffe, Steve Hildebrand and others have done is to create a new and better model for how we organize our politics and advocacy, one that brings together on and off-line, and that is,simply, a much better model than the old 20th century tv-based broadcast model we all used for so long:

A Virtuous Cycle of Participation - Finally, Obama has one very powerful advantage in these final days that is hard to see and evaluate - the power of his virtual community across the country. We saw the power of this community with the truly extraordinary amount of money it raised for him in January. But equally important in these final days will be the virtual door knocking these millions of people will be doing - emails to their address books, actions on MySpace, Facebook and other social networking sites, text messages sent to friends, viral videos linked too, and comments left on blogs, newspapers and call in radio shows. It is no exaggeration to say that this million or so impassioned Obama supporters will reach tens of millions of voters in highly personal ways in the next few days, providing a messaging and personal validation of Obama that may be equal in weight to the final round of TV ads, free media and traditional grassroots methods.

All the way back in 2003, I wrote an essay about this new era of participation in politics that argued the new Dean campaign model was changing the way we had to imagine what a Presidential campaign was all about. In the 20th century, a Presidential campaign was about 30 second spots, tarmac hits and 200 kids in a headquarters. In the 21st century, the race for the Presidency would be about ten million people going to work each day, wired into the campaign through the campaign's site, through email, sms, social networking sites etc acting as full partners in the fight not just passive couch potatoes to be persuaded.

This is a very different model of politics. One begun by Dean but being taken to a whole other level by Obama. It puts people and their passion for a better nation at the core of politics. When used correctly, it creates a virtuous cycle of participation, where more and more people engage, take an action and bring others in, creating a self-perpetuating and dynamic network of support. It is also why the endorsements of entities with large, active virtual communities -, MoveOn - is so meaningful for Obama. He has created an on-line ecosystem that can quickly take advantage of the support of the millions of people now doing politics in this new 21st century way and exponentially grow his dynamic community of change.

The Democratic Party is one entire Presidential cycle ahead of the Republicans in adopting this new model, and I will argue it is simply not possible for the Republican nominee to catch up this year. Too much experimentation, too much trial and error goes into inventing this new model for it to be easily and quickly adapted. It has to be invented, not adapted. I'm sure the GOP will catch up over time, but this year year the only GOP candidate who has taken this new model seriously has been Ron Paul - and they have paid the price. Obama raised almost as much money in January of this year as John McCain raised in all of 2007. Democrats are raising much more money across the board, seeing historic levels of voter turnout, increased Party registrations and millions more working along side with the campaigns - all of which is creating an extraordinary virtuous cycle of participation that continues to grow the number getting engaged in politics as never before. While there can be little doubt that anger towards Bush and disapointment with his government is a driving force behind this, the key takeaway is that the adoption of this new politics by Democrats allowed the Party to take advantage of this tidal wave in unprecedented ways, and will be one of the Democratic Party's most significant advantages going into the fall elections.

Much attention has been given to the money raised by this Obama network. Much more needs to be given to the power of it to deliver message, provide personal validation to friends, neighbors, colleagues and peers in ways so powerful, and ways never seen before in American history. I have no doubt that it has been the campaign's ability to foster and channel the passion of his supporters - creating a vrituous cycle of particpation - into an unprecedented national network - helping amplify and reinforce the power of Obama's argument - that is playing a critical role in Obama's closing the gap with Clinton in these final exciting and dramatic days before Super Tuesday.

The challenge for McCain of course is that he has yet to even begins experimenting with this people based model, and is, at this point, not in a position to catch up. As one begins to handicap the fall election this yawning gap in models between the two campaigns will emerge as one of the greatest differences between the a new and dynamic 21st century politics and what I think will be seen as a last gasp of an old - and failed - 20th century politics.

Obama, pride, and possibility

Watching all this tonight I feel pride, and a powerful sense of possibility. I am proud of our nation, I am proud of Senator Clinton and I am proud of Senator Obama, his family and his remarkable campaign.

As each day goes by I am more and more convinced that we are entering a new age of politics, an age of possibility, where so much is possible now, where we can imagine, imagine a tomorrow and an America so much better than today.

I end my brief post by reposting something I wrote just after Senator Obama's impressive win in the Iowa Caucuses, called Obama, Race and the end of the Southern Strategy:

For the past several years NDN has been making an argument that for progressives to succeed in the coming century they would have to build a new majority coalition very different from the one FDR built in the 20th century. The nation has changed a great deal since the mid-20th century, as we've become more Southern and Western, suburban and exurban, Hispanic and Asian, immigrant and Spanish-speaking, more millennial and aging boomer and more digital age in our life and work habits than industrial age. 21st century progressive success would require building our politics around these new demographic realities.

Looking at the leadership of the Democratic Party today, there is cause for optimism on this score. The four leading Presidential candidates includes a mixed race Senator of African descent, an accomplished and powerful woman, a border state governor of Mexican descent and a populist from the new South. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi represent areas west of the Rockies. Taken together these leaders represent a very different kind of politics, a 21st century politics, for the Democrats.

But of all these great changes the one that may be most important today is the growth of what we call the "minority" population. When I was born in 1963 the country was almost 89 percent white, 10.5 percent African-American and less than 1 percent other. The racial construct of America was, and had been for over hundreds of years, a white-black, majority-minority construct, and for most of our history had been a pernicious and exploitive one. Of course the Civil Rights Movement (particularly the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act) began to change our understanding of race around the time of my birth, but it was the Immigration Act of 1965 that changed the face of America. That act changed who would enter America, reorienting our new immigrant pool from Europe, as it had been for over 300 years, to Latin America and Asia. And America changed.

As the chart below shows, today America is 66 percent white and 33 percent "minority". While the African-American population has grown a bit, most of that increase has come from the recent historic wave of Asian and Hispanic immigrants. In my half a lifetime the "minority" population in the United States has tripled. When I was born one of out ten people walking around America were non-white. Today it is one out of three.

I think it is safe to say that America is going through the most profound demographic transformation in its long history. If current trends continue, America will be majority minority in my lifetime or soon thereafter. In a single lifetime we will have gone from a country made up largely of white Europeans to one that looks much more like the rest of the world.

If Senator Obama becomes the Democratic nominee this profound change will become something we all begin to discuss openly. Today the nation is having a big conversation about this change - whether it understands it or not - through our ongoing debate over immigration. While this debate has seen some of the most awful racist rhetoric and imagery since the days of Willie Horton, what should leave us all optimistic is that only 15 percent of the country is truly alarmed about the new wave of immigrants arriving in America. Consistently about 60 percent of the country says we need to leave all the undocumenteds here, indicating a pragmatic acceptance of the changes happening around our people and their families. Once again the uncommon wisdom of the common people appears to be prevailing here, and it is my hope, perhaps my prayer, that if Obama is the nominee American can begin to have a healthy and constructive discussion of our new population rather than what we have seen to date.

My final observation this morning is a point we focus on in our recent magazine article, The 50 Year Strategy. This election is the first post-Southern Strategy election since its early emergence in 1964. The Southern Strategy was the strategy used by Conservatives and the GOP to use race and other means to cleave the South from the Democrats. This strategy - welfare queens, Willie Horton, Reagan Democrats, tough on crime, an aggressive redistricting approach in 1990 - of course worked. It flipped the South (a base Democratic region since Thomas Jefferson's day) to the GOP, giving them majorities in Congress and the Presidency. 20th century math and demography and politics dictated that without the South one could not have a majority in the US. But the arrival of a "new politics" of the 21st century - driven to a great degree by the new demographic realities of America - has changed this calculation, and has thankfully rendered the Southern Strategy and all its tools a relic of the 20th century. As Tom Schaller has noted, today the Democrats control both Houses of Congress without having a majority of southern Congressional seats, something never before achieved by the party of Jefferson, Jackson and Lyndon Johnson.

In our article we lay out what might become the next great majority strategy, one yet unnamed, that we believe may be used by the Democrats to build a durable 21st century majority. It will be built upon an America described above, and will embrace the new diversity of 21st century America at its core. At a strategic level, resistance to the new demographic reality is futile, which is why GOP leaders like George Bush, Ken Mehlman and even the Wall Street Journal's editorial page (here and here) have railed against the GOP's approach to immigration. They rightly understand that positioning their party against this new demography of America may render them as much a 20th century relic as the Southern Strategy itself.

Liberating American politics from the pernicious era of the Southern Strategy should be one the highest strategic priorities for left-of-center politics. Last night a powerful and thoughtful man emerged on the national stage who deeply understands - and is himself the embodiment of - the moral and political imperative of moving beyond this disappointing age. He appears to be summoning the courage, the vision, and the conviction to usher in a whole new - and better - era of politics for America. At its core this new politics will embrace diversity and difference rather than exploit it; at its core this new politics will be defined by hope and tolerance not fear and Tancredoism; at its core this new politics of tolerance is not just a requirement for a more just America here at home, but is a requirement if America is to reassert itself abroad in the much more globalized, multi-polar, interconnected, and open world of the 21st century.

And of course the arrival of this new post-Southern Strategy age of American politics will be accelerated by the extraordinary level of political participation of Millennials, the largest generation in American history, whose life experiences and values are much more Obama than Nixon.

Whatever happens in this campaign, the arrival of Barack Obama and his politics is a welcome development for our nation struggling to find its way in a new and challenging day.



On the Clintons, and Florida and Michigan

I've resisted weighing in on the DNC meeting today for I have written a great deal about the Clinton's effort to claim victories in Florida and Michigan over the last few months, and have found the whole thing so distateful that I've tried to avoid it all week. But here we are, the Rules Committee meets today not so far from my house, and this morning I read this remarkable statement by Donna Brazile. So, before I head off to my kids' soccer games I will simply repost two of my essays on Florida and Michigan, concluding that this whole episode has been instrumental in Senator Clinton's defeat.

I first weighed in January, the night of the Florida Primary:

Like many I wish the Democratic Party could have found a way to let
the votes of the people of Michigan and Florida be counted.
Unfortunately the rules were the rules, all the candidates agreed to
them, and - for the most part - have stuck by them.

So what exactly is Hillary doing by going to Florida to declare
victory, pushing her way into whatever is the big Republican story
tonight? Somehow given the events of the last few weeks this move just
feels wrongly timed. Too many questions are being raised about the
Clinton's integrity, their willingness to do whatever it takes to win,
even sacrificing long held values and beliefs in the process.

Having worked on the New Hampshire primary and in the War Room in
1992 for the Clintons, I was present at the creation of the famous
"rapid response" campaign style and fierce fighting spirit of the
Clinton era. In the very first meeting of the War Room James Carville
warned us "that if you don't like to eat sh-- everyday you shouldn't be
in politics." So I understand as well as anyone that this is a tough
game, not for the faint of heart.

But there is a line in politics where tough and determined becomes
craven and narcissistic, where advocacy becomes spin, and where
integrity and principle are lost. I am concerned that this Florida
gambit by the Clinton campaign is once again putting two of my
political heroes too close - or perhaps over - that line. So that even
if they win this incredible battle with Barack Obama they will end up
doing so in a way that will make it hard for them to bring the Party
back together, and to lead the nation to a new and better day.

Wed Update: In Wednesday's Washington Post, Dana Milbank effectively captures the absurdity of the Clinton campaign's declaration of victory last night.

And offered this one in early May, called the Backlash against the Clinton Florida and Michigan Strategy:

In addition to sounding like she has been trying to rewrite the rules
in the middle of the game, I think the strident rhetoric by the Clinton
campaign on the sanctioning of FL and MI has done grave damage to their
campaign. Most of the superdelegates, who at this point have the power
to decide the outcome of the race, are from the other 48 states and 6
territories. They played by the rules. They are not interested in
rewarding FL and MI for bad behavior and have resented the approach
taken by the Clintons.

In addition, Senator Clinton's campaign agreed to the sanctioning of
Florida and Michigan. If the voters of those states were
disinfranchised then she was instrumental in bringing that about. The
superdelegates in these other places understand all this better than
anyone, and I think her wild approach to resolving the unfortunate
problem of FL and MI has ended up being a major cause
of her terrible showing with superdelegates these last 2 months. Like
many of us who understood the system, and her role in creating it, the
campaign's consistent whining and strident rhetoric has spoken very
badly of her character. To many this episode has reinforced the notion
that she and her husband were her willing to say and do anything to get
elected, including what appears to be, let us say, lying and cheating.

Given that no one campaigned in either place, or that Barack was not
even on the ballot in MI, these states did not have legitimate
elections. Counting the outcome towards the eventual delegate count is
simply not an option. The idea of somehow splitting each of them 50/50
to each of the 2 candidates, and reducing their total number by some
percentage, now seems the most fair way to proceed.

For the Clinton campaign it is time to let go of the FL and MI
fantasy. It has done a great deal of damage already to her standing
with far too many.

Update: For more on the state of the Democratic primary race visit here.

Update Thur pm - Amazingly, Senator Clinton sent a letter today to Senator Obama about this very issue. Read it here. I first weighed in,
strongly, on this issue the night of the Florida primary, and have felt
very strongly since then that this was a terrible decision by the
Clinton campaign.

To my friends on the Rules and Bylaws Committee, good luck and please work hard to do the right thing today.

Will the Democrats Look Forward or Backward in 2008…and Beyond?

Makeovers or realignments occur about every four decades in American politics, resulting in forty years of partisan advantage for the party that catches the next wave of generational and technological change. For the other party, it means spending forty years in the minority. Whether a party prospers or loses ground at the time of a realignment depends, in large part, on whether it is willing to embrace a new coalition of voters that is aligned with the larger changes taking place in society or whether it remains locked in the divisions and debates of the past.

In 1896, the Democrats and William Jennings Bryan looked back to an agrarian America and to Jefferson's and Jackson's "yeoman farmer", leaving it to Republicans William McKinley and Mark Hanna, the Carl Rove of his era, to appeal to an emerging urban America. The result was GOP dominance of U.S. politics for the next forty years.

The Democrats got it right in 1932. That year, spurred by the Depression, Franklin Roosevelt built a coalition based on the economic egalitarianism of the GI Generation, many of whom were blue-collar workers and the children and grandchildren of the last great wave of European immigrants to the United States.

But as late as 1968, many Democrats still wanted to rely on the New Deal coalition even as a young idealist generation, Baby Boomers, attempted to get the party to focus on a different set of concerns including civil rights, women's rights, and opposition to the Vietnam war. The resulting divisions presented an opportunity that the Republicans have exploited ever since.

Now, forty years later, American politics is undergoing another period of political and generational change just as it did in 1896, 1932, and 1968. If the Democratic Party has the courage to embrace a new generation of young voters and the group-oriented values it favors, it can once again recapture the political advantage for the next four decades.

Unfortunately, most of the advice the party is getting on what constitutes a winning coalition in 2008, is being provided by pundits and candidates who seem locked in the politics and divisions of the past. Some tell the party to focus on the "white working class," or "hardworking white people." On the other hand, a recent Wall Street Journal article suggested that the focus should be on "senior citizens," virtually all of whom vote and who, together, comprise about 20-percent of the electorate. But these approaches to coalition building neither recognize the major demographic changes continuing to take place in America nor the factors that lead to political makeovers or realignments.

Throughout history, realignments have been produced by the political coming-of-age of a large, dynamic generation and its use of a new communication technology that mobilizes the opinions and votes of that generation. Today's realignment stems from the emergence of the Millennial Generation (Americans born 1982-2003) and its use of Internet based social networking technologies.

The Millennial Generation is the largest in American history. There are over 90 million Millennials, about four in ten of whom are of voting age, making them just as powerful a force in the 2008 election as the much more frequently touted senior citizen cohort.

The Millennial Generation is also the most diverse in our history. Four in ten are non-white and about 20-percent are the children of at least one immigrant parent. Reflecting their gender-neutral behavior, a majority of college undergraduates are women, for the first time in U.S. history. Solid majorities of Millennials are tolerant on social and racial issues, favorable to governmental intervention and egalitarian policies in the economy, and an activist, but multilateral, approach in foreign affairs. With few exceptions, Millennials have overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama in this year's presidential primaries and caucuses.

At the same time, changes in America's economy and the composition of its population serve to continue the half-century long trend, noted recently by Alan Abramowitz in the Rasmussen Report, of the diminishing contribution of "white working class voters" to the American workforce overall and to the Democratic electorate specifically:


"In the 1950s, manual workers made up 47 percent of the white electorate in the United States while sales and clerical workers made up 21 percent and professional and managerial workers made up 32 percent. By the first decade of the 21st century, however, manual workers made up only 24 percent of the white electorate, while sales and clerical workers made up 33 percent and professional and managerial workers made up 43 percent. Since the 1960s, however, Democratic identification among both white manual workers and white sales and clerical workers has declined sharply while Democratic identification among white professional and managerial workers has risen. Today, white professional and managerial workers are actually more likely to identify with the Democratic Party than either white manual workers or white clerical and sales workers."


As Joel Kotkin and Fred Siegel wrote recently, the Democratic Party is rapidly becoming a party of "gentry liberals", minorities and youth with little resemblance to the working class-based party coalition assembled by FDR almost eighty years ago.

This shift in America's economic dynamics and demographics, coupled with the generational and technological changes the country is experiencing, produces an historic opportunity for the Democratic Party in 2008. In a March 2008 Pew Survey, Millennials identified as Democrats over Republicans by a greater than 2:1 margin. Millennials are the first generation in more than forty years in which a larger number say they are liberal rather than conservative. In contrast to older generations that are sharply divided by sex and race in their ideology and party identification Millennials are united in their political leanings, a fact that serves to enhance the potential decisiveness of this powerful new generation.

All of this gives the Democrats a clear leg-up in the Millennial makeover that's under way. Whether the Democratic Party takes advantage of this historical opportunity largely depends on the choices it makes in building its electoral coalition. Will it look backward, as it did to its detriment in 1896, or forward, as it did in 1932, to its benefit? The consequences of that choice will shape the fate of the party and the nation, not just in 2008, but also for the coming four decades.

Obama Now Takes California in a Landslide over Clinton

Ever since the Feb 5th Super Tuesday primary, I have spent a lot of time explaining why Clinton won California by 9 points when many other indicators at the time seemed to be pointing towards an Obama victory. One simple factor was time.

California has the size and complexity to be a nation into itself. Its economy alone consistently rates in the top half dozen or so in the world. So big sea-changes in public opinion take longer to get carried out than in a small state like Iowa or New Hampshire or almost any other state, for that matter.

To the average voter, Obama appeared on the national scene in the blink of an eye compared to the institutional name-brand Clinton. His national prominence after his Iowa caucus win in early January left about a month for the 36 million Californians to figure him out. In that month the trends lines between Clinton and Obama support kept converging, hers sinking and his rising, but on the day of the election, a gap remained. He lost by 9 points. The nation turned to other state contests.

But those support trend lines did not stop their trajectory. Now, four months later, Californian Democrats overwhelmingly support Obama over Clinton by a landslide margin of 51 percent to 38 percent, according to the non-partisan Field Poll, the gold standard of California polls. Here are some other findings from the San Fransico Chronicle report:

In a head-to-head contest with presumed GOP nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Obama does as well as Clinton, both of them beating the Republican by 17 points among a cross section of voters likely to cast ballots in November. Obama also leads McCain 59 to 24 percent among critical decline-to-state or independent voters, who make up 20 percent of the California electorate, the poll showed….

The poll shows that while Clinton still leads Obama among three categories of voters - those over 65, those with a high school education or less and those earning less than $40,000 a year - Obama now bests the former first lady in all other age, educational groups and income levels…

In breakdowns among voters by ethnicity, Clinton leads only among Latinos - by more than 2-1 - though Obama is ahead among white non-Hispanics by a whopping 56-34 percent, among African Americans by a huge 76-13 percent and favored by Asians by 56-33.

Even women, who formed a critical base for Clinton in this state, now back Obama 49 to 41 percent, the poll shows.

It looks like California, like the nation as a whole, has had time to absorb this newcomer Obama and adjust to the new politics around him. The result does not bode well for Clinton, and certainly not for McCain.

Peter Leyden
Director of the New Politics Institute
From my outpost in San Francisco


An inconvenient poll -- Obama leads McCain 48-40 in PA

In our long essay about the future of left of center politics, Peter Leyden and I point out that Democrats have won 19 states worth 248 electoral college votes in each of the last four presidential elections. This group includes important states like PA and MI. It is this analysis which has led us to argue that the true battleground of this election will be in the heavily Hispanic states of AZ, CO, FL, NM and NV (and a handful of other states like OH, MO, IA, NH and perhaps NC, WI and VA).

One of the big arguments coming from both the McCain and Clinton camps has been that Obama cannot win those northern industrial states so critical to this Democratic map, and that they can. But is this true? Can McCain, in this environment in which the GOP is weaker today than it has been since at least 1982, and perhaps the 1960s, really think about winning a general election state they have not won since 1988? I have always believed that once a Democratic nomiee was picked, those 248 Electoral College votes would begin to settle in for the nominee and the game would move to the battleground described above, which in recent years was won by the GOP.

A new Survey USA poll of Pennsylvania indicates that as Obama begins his transition from candidate to nominee, that these traditional Democratic states may be reverting back to form. This new poll has Obama beating Senator McCain in PA by 8 points, 48-40, well outside the margin of error -- and this is before Senator Obama has been officially crowned the nominee. Another poll has the uber battleground of Ohio even. I've seen other recent polls that have Obama within a few points of McCain in Texas and Arizona (driven to some degree by the Hispanic community's aggressive abandonment of the GOP).

While it is early, and these polls will bounce around, looking at the national polls (A new Reuters poll released today has Obama up 8) and new state polls, there is growing evidence that Obama is successfully bringing the Democratic Party together, is winning over key Clinton constituencies and that his much discussed weakness with certain white voters is not carrying over to the general election battlefield in any meaningful way.

It also means that we will be seeing an unprecedented national campaign for the Hispanic vote, a battle which Senator McCain begins in a very weakened position and without a lot he can do to change a very anti-GOP dynamic that has taken hold in the Hispanic community.

Here she goes again, again

Incredibly, Senator Clinton has revived her efforts to persuade us that the votes of people in Florida and Michigan - two states she agreed along with all the other candidates to ignore and sanction - should count, and that she has thus won more votes than Senator Obama.

In a recent post I argued it was time for the Clinton to let go of the Florida and Michigan fantasy and to recognize this case was doing grevious harm to her with the superdelegates in the other 48 states and 6 territories.

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