Barack Obama

Saturday roundup - McCain, immigration, the Senate and Superdelegates

Some am thoughts at this exciting time:

Picking a Democratic Nominee - I may be niave, but somehow I think the current process will end up picking a nominee without the Democratic Party having to do extrarordinary things. If one candidate emerges by mid-March as stronger than the other, the pressure on the weaker one to get out will be so great that the race could just end. The Superdelegates will begin to break towards the stronger one, ratifying the will of the voters. A deal with be struck to seat Florida and Michigan. Markos proposes a 50/50 split - not a bad idea. But we agree with Bob Kerrey these states should not have a voice in picking the nominee, and that the rules are the rules. In this year of all years - when we've seen unprecedented citizen involvement in politics - it is critical that the Party of the People not once again become the Party of the Smoke Filled Room.

For more on the history of how Democrats ended up with this crazy system read the Post's Ruth Marcus's excellent overview.

But of course this puts all eyes on the March 4th states of Ohio and Texas. If Obama wins both these states, or perhaps even one of them, I think he will win the nomination. If that night somehow Hillary ends up winning the night, either by winning one and drawing in another or winning both, she could be back in this thing. This next period - with 2 debates - Wisconsin. Ohio and Texas is for all the marbles. And with Clinton holding large leads in both the big March 4th states, the drama is can Barack - with his financial edge and the power of his personal appearances - catch up? For those of political junkies, the upcoming rallies, speeches and debates are going to be must sees CSpaners as both Obama and Clinton understand the make or break importance of these critical states and will giving it their all.

The Hispanic Vote so far - If you haven't read it, check out NDN's new study on the Hispanic Vote in 2008. It has some dramatic results, and all sorts of bad news for John McCain and the GOP. If you want to see the study's author in person, come to our event this Wed in DC featuring Joe Trippi, Amy Walter of Hotline and Andres Ramirez, the director of Hispanic Programs at NDN.

Will McCain quit the Senate? - Josh Marshall has been asking the question. I think McCain will quit the Senate and run his campaign from Arizona, right in the middle of the hugely important swing region of the Southwest. For McCain being in DC will complicate his life and make it even less likely he wins. The Democrats will use the Senate to tie him down, interrupt his fundraisers, make him take tough votes. He will have to work much more closely with the very failed Washington GOP, which has given him a recession, a declining middle class, the worst foreign policy mistake in American history, unprecedented levels of corruption and cronyism, and no progress on key issues like climate change, health care and immigration. The more tied McCain is to this era of American history the less likely he is to win, and my guess is that by mid-March he will be trailing the Democratic frontrunner by high single digits or more. So he will have to go, to change the dynamic of what may very wll be a losing campaign. And besides Arizona is a good place to retire to.

The interesting question is if McCain quits the Senate what will Barack do? Running for President from Washington is no easy thing, particularly in this year of "change."

McCain, Hispanics and Immigration - I've gotten questions from the press this week about McCain and immigration, suggesting that given his leadership on immigration reform won't he be able to get back to Bush numbers with Hispanics, and put the heavily Hispanic swing states - AZ, CO, FL, NM and NV - out of play for the Democrats.

There is no question that McCain was a leader on immigration reform. But in 2007 when his bill was brought back up by the a newly elected Democratic Senate (it passed a GOP controlled Senate in 2006) McCain was nowhere to be found. Spooked by his early primary stumbles, McCain distanced himself from his own bill, and forced Democrats to negotiate with GOP leaders like John Kyl who had opposed the bill in 2006. The end result of McCain's betrayal of his own bill was without the bill's author, the bill collapsed and progress on fixing our broken immigration system stopped. In a recent interview on Meet the Press, McCain even suggested he would no longer vote for his bill if it came up.

So can McCain claw his way back with Hispanics, given how far his Party has fallen with them? Perhaps, but given his betrayal on this critical issue, his connection to the deeply unpopular Bush, his lack of any real plan for universal health coverage and his strong support of the war (Hispanics are and have been more against the war than the public at large), I think the decision McCain made to walk from his own bill in 2007 to appease GOP primary voters managed to both get him nothing with the anti-immigrant wing of his own Party while at the same time tossing away any chance he had of getting his necessary share with Hispanic voters in 2008.

Update: MSNBC's First Read has a must read account of a conference call today with Harold Ickes of the Clinton campaign, where, among other things, he makes the case for why the election results in Florida and Michigan need to be counted even though as a member of the DNC he voted to strip them of their delegates thus nullifying the results of their elections.

Update 2: TNR's Jonathan Cohn also condems the Clinton Florida and Michigan play, and Josh Marshall captures the anger many feel at the recent wave of Clintonian threats to play games with the system.






Obama on Infrastructure

Crisscrossing Wisconsin today in advance of what may be his next primary win next Tuesday, Barack Obama delivered what aides billed as a major economic policy address. Most notable about the speech following a tour of a GM assembly plant in Janesville--a venue loaded with meaning given the huge losses just announced by GM--was Obama's support for a $60 billion National Infrastructure Bank to rebuild America's infrastructure and his support for a $150 billion energy and technology investment plan to create five million jobs in the new green economy.

Against the backdrop of an economy in turmoil, Obama's message of creating the conditions for long term economic revival was refreshing. The bi-partisan stimulus package signed today to forestall or blunt a recession is certainly needed. However, short term relief is no substitute for the long term leadership needed to get America moving again and to ensure that benefits of globalization flow to all Americans.

The Bush Administration has focused exclusively for seven years on short term appearances at the expense of long term economic growth. Lost has been any sense of vision or leadership for the future. In November, in a paper I authored for NDN on rebuilding America's infrastucture, I offered support for the Dodd-Hagel legislation to create a National Infrastructure Bank and a new Green Act to green the federal government. Obama's support for a bank along the lines suggested by Dodd and Hagel and his $150 billion plan to invest in new energy technologies--like a similar plan proposed by Senator Clinton--is the sort of bold stroke needed to set America on a path of future growth.

A growing consensus is emerging among venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, politicians and increasingly the public that the green economy will be central to America's economic future--this at a time when the once far off dangers of global warming are coming home--as hurricanes rage and the summer ice line of the Artic continues its alarming retreat.

Money and energy are now pouring into efforts to halt climate change and create a post carbon economy. The changes will be profound and overwhelmingly positive--quiet, exhaust free electric cars, a smart and more decentralized electric grid--and new modes of living. As a new NDN Fellow and director of a new green project, I am going to be exploring these issues in coming months. Nothing could be more exciting for me and it is exciting to hear that Senator Obama views building the green economy as central to his economic agenda.

The evolution of the Obama campaign

A lot of the initial chattering commentary over night has referenced Obama's incredible speech in front of 17,000 people in Madison last night. How you can see him growing, evolving, reaching, summoning even more, all right in front of us. That part of the emerging drama of this race is tracking the maturation of the most moving and remarkable public speaker America has seen in a very long time.

Last night he added a whole very compelling riff on McCain, and as I've written, it may turn out that McCain is one of the worst candidates the GOP could have fielded this year. But the most important new part of the speech was his discussion of the economy, of the middle class struggle, something that the campaign has had a very hard time taking to the same level as the rest of his stump. Given how important the economy is this year, it is remarkable how far Senator Obama has come given that his economic messaging has been less than it should be. But later this morning he is giving what the campaign is billing as a "major" new economic speech. For those tracking the evolution of the good Senator from Illinois, this speech - which I think was previewed a little last night - will be an important moment in assessing his continued growth.

He also appears to be in the process of successfully addressing one of his other weaknesses - Latinos. He broke 40% last night in both MD and VA, and actually won Latinos in Virginia. The real test of his new efforts in the Hispanic community will of course come in Texas on March 4th, where both campaigns are already on the air with Spanish language ads (scroll below to listen and watch). Obama doesn't need to win Latinos to win Texas, he just needs to get close, something he did last night, and did in both Arizona and Colorado. As Andres wrote last night, the Clinton campaign is very aware of the centrality of the Hispanic vote as her primetime event last night was very very Hispanic focused.

Of all the stats the one that stood out to me most this morning - and that should be terrifying GOP strategists - was that Senator Obama won more votes in Virginia than all the Republican candidates combined. Yes, Virginia, a state Democrats have not won in a general election since 1964. As Senator Obama has been saying, "something is happening out there." One of the most interesting trends to watch is how the recent Obama surge not only put him ahead of Clinton but of McCain as well.

Finally, while I loved his speech last night, my favorite line is the one from last week "we are the ones we've been waiting for." The campaign took the line and turned it into an incredible video which you can watch from the link.

Update: The Post's Jonathan Weisman has a good piece looking at whether the formidable Clinton triad - women, traditional Dems, Hispanics - broke apart last night.

Bush-McCain Republicans

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think I've ever heard this before. During his speech in Madison, Wisconsin, Barack Obama altered a familiar line from his stump speech ever so slightly: that Democrats don't need to look tough on National Security by voting like "Bush-McCain Republicans".

As Simon pointed out, we know what happens when people are aligned with President Bush. So it's no wonder Obama is taking that line, which I'm sure we'll see more of in the days and weeks ahead.

A new meme tonight - time is running out for Senator Clinton

On MSNBC tonight Chuck Todd made the case that given the way the delegates are breaking that for Clinton to win now she will have to win more than 60% of the vote in all the remaining states beginning on March 4th.   He made the simple case - which I had not heard before - that it is starting to become hard to see how she can win. 

The media tonight seemed to be coming to terms with this emerging reality.  Mike Henry's resignation played right into this narrative (Mike Henry btw is one of the most talented political operatives in the country).   And to add one scary stat for the Clinton crowd - as Hillary spoke live from El Paso to a very Hispanic crowd -  it was reported that Obama won Hispanics in Virginia tonight. 

March 4th is three weeks away.  It is going to be a long and hard 3 weeks for Senator Clinton.  It is likely that during this period Obama will take a commanding national lead in the polls, and may even start leading in Ohio and Texas.  Will her money hold out? 

The two debates in this period will be very important for both sides.  

While Obama pulled ahead of Clinton in this past week, he also seems to be pulling ahead of McCain.  Most polls out this week had Obama beating McCain by between 3 and 6 points.  Some polls had McCain down in the low 40s.  Soon, Obama may be ahead of McCain by a significant margin, and will all of a sudden be the frontrunner not just in the Democratic Primary but also in the general election against John McCain, who is struggling to put his Party back together. 

In Virginia tonight twice as many people voted Democrat than Republican.  30 percent of all those who voted Democrat tonight were independents or Republicans.  Obama's strength and McCain's weakness have become the dominant themes of this next phase of the campaign.

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