Barack Obama

Super Tuesday is here

It's here. No big new thoughts today. On the Democratic side it's gonna be close, exciting and a late night. On the GOP side it sure looks like we are headed towards a McCain candidacy.

You can review my take on the evolving state of the election this past week in these recent posts:

Clinton raises $13m in January

The Incredible Campaign - Sunday am wrap up (looks at how the media may call the race tonight)

Obama closes the gap and reinvents politics along the way

A good debate

the battle for Hispanics is joined

Hillary and Florida

On Obama, race and the end of the Southern Strategy

For tonight, 16 of the 24 states voting will have exit polls, meaning that they have the capacity to be called before all the results are in. The other eight states could go very late, making the "calling" of the race a little harder. I will try to get back to everyone on which of the states have exits, but I think they are skipping the caucus states and perhaps some other small ones.

For those who tracked my suggestion that Obama visit NY on the final day - it is the single most delegate rich market in the country - he did hit the market by visiting the Meadowlands yesterday morning. I still think a NY City event would have been dramatic, bold, strong. But it was not to be. To his credit he did not skip the market altogether, but as any NYer knows, New Jersey isn't New York. Although it is the home of the Miracle Giants!

Check out this Super Tuesday overview by Dan Balz. And this excellent overview of the politics of Hispanics by Julia Preston in today's Times.

For those voting today, happy voting.

Ten Days that Shook the World: Jan 26 to Feb. 4

It’s late Monday night before the Super Tuesday election and I’m reflecting back on the most extraordinary 10 days of politics that I have ever experienced -- 10 days, to borrow a phrase from John Reed, that could shake the world.

Only 10 days ago we watched the South Carolina primary, seen as a do-or-die moment for the Obama campaign. That Saturday January 26th primary was being held only a week after the Nevada Caucuses that Hillary won, a week that was marked by negative campaigning and the constant talk about the impact of race in the pending vote.

Obama had to win and win he did – big. The 55 percent landslide vote for him (versus Clinton 27) was decisive, but just as important was his victory speech. He delivered by all accounts an extraordinary speech that touched almost everyone who viewed it – and millions could via web video and YouTube. That speech beautifully framed the themes that he would continue to articulate for the next 10 days, as he continued to gain momentum day by day.

It’s worth briefly remembering the major developments each day, lest we forget how fast this all took place. The speed is jaw-dropping, but not inexplicable. This speed is part of the new politics of our hyper-connected world. Ten days in 1919 revolutionary Russia with barely any telegraph lines is one thing. Ten days in our over-mediated internet world is another.

Sunday: The Caroline Kennedy New York Times editorial that started the meme of JFK comparisons. It was the critical crack in the dam that started the whole outpouring of Northeast liberal support.

Monday: Senator Edward Kennedy’s endorsement at American University was jammed with ecstatic young people. The Kennedy meme gets turbo-charged, and the establishment Democratic pols who had held fast out of respect for Hillary begin to break ranks.

Overshadowed in all this is President Bush’s State of the Union address, which is countered by Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, (who the next day endorses Obama in the heartland), and Barack himself who does a web video response that catches a viral wave in YouTube and tops the charts as the most popular video 24 hours later (now at more than 1 million views).

Tuesday: The Florida primary is held amid a lot of acrimony for Democrats. The national party had said no delegate would be seated because of the state party pushing the primary to the front of the line. The Democratic candidates agree not to campaign there, but Hillary decides to go down to Florida for a victory party since the names are still on the ballot and, in fact, she comes out on top. All night CNN and other TV stations display the results and confuse the audience. Obama supporters seethe at what they consider dirty tactics.

Wednesday: The Edwards bombshell drops. After telling everyone that he was in the race til the convention, John Edwards decides to abruptly pull out before Super Tuesday. The great sorting process begins for former Edwards supporters, but more to the point, for the progressive wing of the Democratic party. They must figure out which of the remaining two will best carry out the progressive cause. MoveOn decides to hold an unprecedented “election” of its members to see whether a two-thirds majority will endorse.

Thursday: The morning does not start well for the Clintons. The New York Times publishes an above-the-fold front page article on former President Clinton’s shady dealings with the authoritarian leader of Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev. A crack team of Times reporters nails down the story of how a buddy of Bill’s is able to secure a lucrative uranium deal against all odds shortly after Bill and Buddy visit Kazakhstan for a sumptuous banquet with the strongman, who Clinton praises. The buddy makes a killing when the price of uranium skyrockets, and then proceeds to donate more than $130 million to Clinton’s charitable foundation. For many Times readers the whole deal reeks, and is reminiscent of the bad old days of Whitewater.

Hillary has her own bad media day when ABC News digs up old video tapes of her time serving on the board of directors of Wal-Mart, between 1986 and 1992. They show her remaining silent as the company waged a battle against any efforts to unionize the Wal-Mart workers.

By the evening, the Democratic Debate takes place in Hollywood, in none other than Kodak theater, the site of the academy awards. The stars come out for this one too, (though substantially less decked out). California, and the rest of the nation really tune in as the two candidates pretty much debate to a draw, but the newcomer Obama benefits more from two hours straight in the national media sun.

Friday: MoveOn does endorse, after 70 percent of members who vote choose Obama. This commits the powerful 3.2 million member organization to put its online organizational machine into overdrive.

The online money story starts to really make the rounds. Obama raised $32 million in the month of January, more than any presidential candidate has ever raised in a month during competitive primaries. But the real kicker is that $28 million of it came online, and 90 percent of those online donations were less than $100, meaning the campaign can come back to those people time and time again before they max out at the $2300 cap. Clinton meanwhile, declined to say what she raised, though it came out later that she raised only $13 million in the same period. In other words, Obama raised almost $20 million more than her.

Saturday: Time Magazine comes out with a cover story for the coming week on “Why Young Voters Care Again, and Why Their Vote Matters.” The text reads like an infomercial for Obama, who clearly garners the vast majority of Millennial Generation support. So Time ensures that in doctors and dentists offices across America this week, the talk among patients will be about these kids and why they love Obama.

Sunday: The Los Angeles Times comes out with a glowing endorsement of Obama, to join the San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, and San Jose Mercury News. To top it off, Maria Shriver, first lady to popular Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, surprises the Obama camp by showing up to a big rally of women in LA and endorsing Barack.

Monday: Polls are now showing the critical state of California as a virtual dead heat. This is an extraordinary shift in fortunes. In the summer. Clinton led everyone by 30 percent, by December she still held a solid 12 percent lead.

Some national polls even put Obama ahead of Clinton. Again, this an extraordinary shift in fortunes. As of only Jan 20th, Gallop had Hillary 20 points ahead of Obama; by Feb 2nd she was only 2 points ahead – statistically tied.

By Monday night, when I am writing this, on west coast time near midnight, an incredible YouTube video tells the story. The Barack Obama Music Video, created only about 48 hours earlier by a group of popular young musicians, passes the mark of 1 million views. The title is appropriately called: Yes We Can.

If you have not watched it, do so. It explains, as much as anything, what it is about Obama that many people clearly love.

I don’t know exactly what the Tuesday elections will bring in terms of final results. But I do know that we have crossed a threshold of American politics where we are in uncharted turf. It’s very possible that what will come out of this primary will be very powerful indeed. It may well shake up American politics, and roll through the November election, and yes, it might just shake up the world.

We’re all spectators to what is now unfolding, but we’re also all actors. Whatever comes next is up to us.

Let’s see what the next 10 days will bring.

And please vote. Thanks.

Peter Leyden

Director of the New Politics Institute

Clinton raises $13m in January

So Senator Clinton raised $13m to Senator Obama's $32m in January. This is a rather remarkable development no matter which camp you are in. It means many things but most of all it raises the stakes for Clinton tomorrow. If she is not a decisive victor tomorrow there will start to be real questions about her ability to match the machine that Obama has built, particularly over the next month of primaries, when another 15 or so states vote.

Without the big infusion of money that a clear victory brings, it will be very likely that her campaign will need to lay off staff, or skip campaign appearances, or decrease spending on ads and other voter contact options to keep pace with Obama's now much better funded effort. None of these choices are good ones, and while money does not make a candidate, at this point given how close every thing is, it could make a big difference - even a decisive difference.

For more on my thoughts on the Obama machine visit my recent post here.

Monday am wrap up

So 4 of the 5 national polls released yesterday had the Democratic race within margin of error, a shift of between 10 and 20 points to Obama in the last 2 weeks. So it is going to be close tomorrow. Not sure how much more any of us know now. It is up to the millions of voters on Tuesday. I have offered lots of analysis over the last week, the latest here and here.

The only new insight I have is that the unexpected Maria Shriver endorsement yesterday may end up being significant in California, as it will help Obama end his campaign there dominating the news. I also saw my first Potomac Primary ad - an Obama ad geared towards the DC market - for our Feb 12th DC, MD, VA primary day. It was a version of the ad that ran during the Super Bowl in local markets - including here - which I must say I found underwhelming.

So, is there a lesson in the incredible victory of the Giants last night (long my team)? Further evidence that anything is possible tomorrow? Perhaps for the Democrats. For the GOP it sure looks like Senator McCain. But he still has to win the thing and bring his party together.


The Incredible Campaign - Sunday am wrap up

What can you say. This one has it all. Drama. Volatility. New voters. New media. The weaknesses of our election system mightily exposed. Consequential differences between the two parties. And of course the overwhelming desire for change. What a remarkable and exciting election.

I offer up some thoughts and links on this Super Sunday. Yesterday I swore off reporting on polls, humbled as we all have been by their - let us say - unreliability. But this morning I changed my mind. Here we go:

- There are polls out today with good news for both sides in the Democratic contest. Josh Marshall reports that the national Rasmussen and Gallup tracks have Senator Clinton gaining. The new CA Field poll out this am shows the Golden State within margin of error, with Obama gaining and still a great deal of undecided. Post/ABC has it 47% Clinton, 43% Obama. All in all I think we go into Super Duper Tuesday with Obama having made up a great deal of ground in the last two weeks, something I have discussed here and here. Certainly it seems as if both campaigns will end up winning a lot of delegates and that we keep going through at least the first week of March when Ohio and Texas vote.

I don't really know how the media will declare a winner and loser on Tuesday night. The Nevada example - where Clinton won the popular vote, Obama won more delegates and Clinton was declared the winner - is a good example of how this process can only confuse the traditional way the media plays elections, particularly with the GOP side full of winner take all states and likely to produce a single winner - John McCain. What happens if one candidate wins more delegates and the other more states? National media, especially TV news, resists complexity. But that is what we are going to get Tuesday night on the Democratic side. For the East Coast media it will be particularly hard as CA could go late into the night.

I speculated the other day that given the complexity of all this the candidate who wins CA may end up having the greatest claim to make the "victory" speech, but I'm not so sure any more. It will be the most important state, no doubt. But I could see other narratives emerge. 1) Obama wins big in Red and Purple states, reinforcing his case that he will be a much better general election candidate (something the polls agree with). 2) Obama gets an early win in the NY media market, or keeps NY very close, setting the tone early that his late surge had an impact (I still cannot understand why Obama is not visiting the NY media market in the last week - it effects more delegates than other market in the nation). 3) Despite the closeness of the race one candidate could end up "winning" 12-15 states, giving them a visual win on election night even if the delegate count is very close or goes the other way. NDN will produce an analysis tomorrow that looks at the sequencing of the calling of states on Tuesday night, which will impact the final media narrative. Does anyone know whether the networks are doing exit polls in all 22 states? 4) Hispanics give Senator Clinton big wins in CA and other Southwestern states. 5) Obama suprises Clinton. 6) Clinton hangs tough, has a big night, stops the Obama surge.

Who knows.

- The Feb 12th Potomac Primary which features DC, VA and MD is going to engage the people of the Beltway in a very significant way in the campaign. The intensity and partisanship that is sure to break out here - pitting friends against friends, colleagues against colleagues - is a preview of the year to come. We are now almost certainly going to have 2 sitting US Senators running for President, putting the Senate, this city and its people on the very frontlines of the Presidential campaign in ways not typical in modern American politics. The emerging Bush-McCain, Clinton-Obama-Reid-Pelosi balancing acts will add even greater complexity to an already complex and dynamic political year.

- NDN's extended family is in the news quite a bit today. You can find us in Jose Antonio Vargas of the Post's piece on Hispanics in New Mexico; in John Heilemann's excellent piece on the importance of the Hispanic vote in 2008; in Holly Yeager's piece on the election in the Washington Independent; and Morley Winograd and Mike Hais, featured presenters at our upcoming March 12th Forum in Washington, have a major op-ed in the Post today on the coming power of the Millennial generation, one of our favorite topics. And if you haven't checkout the new Rolling Stone article, Blame Pedro, about the GOP's demonization of Hispanics, it is well worth a read. For background on the Hispanic vote and 2008 check out our recent memo, The Battle for Hispanics is Joined.

- Finally, the first round of national and state polling about the fall match-ups, while early, have some important clues to the coming general election.

First, McCain is consistently in the 40s, in some cases in the mid to high 40s and is often beating the Democrats. In these polls he is running 10 points or so of his Party, which indicates he may very well be a very competitive candidate. He, of course is not without problems - Iraq, his age, his flipflopping on immigration, his lack of an economic argument, a potentially deflated party base - but at this point he looks suprisingly formidible.

Second, Obama consistently outperforms Senator Clinton in these early head to heads with McCain despite her very strong showing in the Democratic primary and his lack of history with many voters. It needs to be said that given how well known Senator Clinton is with the national electorate her weak showing - most polls have her in the low 40s - is a worrisome sign for the general.

- Go Giants!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday afternoon update: 4 new national polls out today.  3 have Obama Clinton within margin of error, functionally tied.  The main Gallup poll which had HRC gaining yesterday now has it within one point.   There are now polls out showing Obama ahead in California.   Meanwhile 3 new polls out in MO have Clinton leading by more than 14, by 7 and the race tied.  So who knows. 

Wherever we end up it is clear Obama had made up as much as 20 points in the last 12 or days, making this one a real nail-biter Tuesday night.  Josh Marshall has a good poll roundup.  As does Daily Kos.

Gallup delivers some good news for Clinton

The new Gallup track out today has Senator Clinton picking up 4 points leaving the race at 48% Clinton 41% Obama. Given the volatility of the polls these last few days, particularly with Edwards dropping out, I will now swear off reporting on the changing polls any more and just leave it to the voters on February 5th.

On the Republican side McCain is beating Romney handily, and is picking up most of the major endorsements. He seems to be in good shape for Feb 5th, and according to Gallup is gaining momentum.

Adam Nagourney of the Times has a good piece looking at the final ad buys of all the major campaigns.

Obama closing the gap, reinventing politics along the way

Looking at various polls the other day I speculated that the Democratic race could end up even on Super Tuesday. The new Gallup track now has the race 44% Clinton, Obama 41%. On Jan 20th it was 48% Clinton, 28% Obama. The most interesting stat in the report is that more Edwards voting are breaking to Obama than Clinton. If these numbers are true what is most important to note is that movement is two way - Clinton is dropping while Obama is rising.

We will never know exactly what happened in these last few weeks to change the race so dramatically. It was some combination of the angry Clinton tactics, Obama's huge South Carolina win, the Camelot endorsement, the powerful set of other endorsements (well used by the Obama campaign) and a modification of the Obama strategy itself. And something else not well understood - the power of millions of people fighting hard, in new and unprecedented ways with new dynamic new tools - to make the case for their cause.

Perhaps Hillary's very strong debate performance on Thursday will blunt some of this momentum. But for now it sure looks like we head into Super Tuesday dead even. Let's look a little deeper at why:

The Power of Camelot - The Camelot endorsement has been particularly powerful. It gave the Obama a way to mount a frontal assault on the very effective 3 part Clinton strategy of women, Hispanics and tradional Democrats. The Kennedy name of course plays very well with traditional Democrats. The name has great resonance in the older Hispanic community, where Clinton was doing particularly well. And for younger Hispanics, particularly the immigrants, Kennedy's strong championing of their case is well known. And women. Caroline Kennedy's ads, speech and just overall incredible presence simply has to be having an impact (a new Gallup report suggests Obama has moved a great deal with women in recent weeks). Remember that Obama doesn't need to win these groups, but he may now be able to successfully cut Clinton's margin in each category, something that could fundamentally alter the dynamic of the race. (For more on the battle for Hispanics click here.)

Hispanics, the Economy - There is also now mounting evidence that the Obama campaign is in the process of correcting two of their greatest strategic failings in the last few weeks - their lack of emphasis on Hispanics and the economy. On top of the Kennedy endorsement, Obama is traveling throughout heavy Hispanic regions now; did an excellent job making the case for immigration reform in Thursday's debate; has been better using his high profile Hispanic surrogates and has upped his Spanish language buy throughout the region. Whether it is enough to carve into Hillary's enormous margin with Hispanics - so critical in California - we will find out on Tuesday. But it is now clear Obama and his campaign are at least trying much harder to reach Hispanics than even just a few weeks ago.

I've been writing since Iowa that the Obama campaign's lack of emphasis on the middle class struggle was not easy to understand. I think it was the major reason they lost New Hampshire and allowed Clinton back into the race. Over the last few days you can see the Obama mesage evolving, becoming more about the core struggle of every day people, and with a much greater emphasis in his campaign now. In New Mexico yesterday he offered this new speech on the economy, one that is clearly an evolution from previous formulations.

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.

Update: Not only did Obama receive the endorsement of the LA Times today, read by many Latinos in Southern California, he was endorsed enthusiastically by the largest Spanish language daily paper in the nation, the LA based L'Opinion. While the paper praised both Clinton and Obama, they singled out Obama's steadfast support for driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants - in contrast to Clinton's waffle on it this fall - as a major reason for the endorsement. How much impact these two endorsements will have in the coming days, and whether they will help him cut into her large lead with Hispanics could determine the outcome of the California primary - as the Rasmussen track has Obama now leading among white voters in the Golden State.

The Obama campaign continues to do things that one would have believed impossible a month ago. Receiving the endorsements of Camelot; of Oprah; of John Kerry and Bill Bradley; of Kathleen Sebelius the day after her giving the State of the Union response; the $32 million raised; the winning of the Iowa Caucus; and now, what I simply would not have believed possible, the endorsement of L'Opinion. Whether he wins or loses, Barack Obama has mounted a truly incredible campaign.

A good debate

It was a good debate. The format allowed the candidates to talk, and put the journalists in the background where they belong. For those who were not that familiar with the candidates, or where undecided, they certainly were able to learn a lot about each of them.

Hillary was very good. Comfortable, commanding, smart. It was one of her best performances, and it came at a critical time.

Barack was fine. He had good moments, but he seemed tired, restrained, careful. It is still one of the great mysteries of the campaign why this inspirational orator is just an above average debater.

It was so refreshing to hear such a thoughtful, impassioned and pragmatic discussion of the need to reform our broken immigration system. I was very proud of both Senators during that excellent exchange,

While we may not have seen great differences between the two Democrats on the major issues, it was very evident last night that there will be enormous differences between the Democratic and Republican nominees on a whole range of important issues - the economy, taxes, health care, immigration, the war. It is going to be an incredible general election campaign, a defining and important one.

And was often noted last night, it was the first time in the history of American politics where the candidates remaining in any race for the Presidency did not include a white man. For related background check out an essay I wrote recently that shows how America is undergoing its most profound demographic change in its history here.

Finally, I am in awe of the physical stamina and determination of both Barack and Hillary. This has been the most intense and grueling campaign we've ever seen. The campaigns are so big now, there is so much money, so many people, so many events, so much more media, so many more new tools, such big issues, and now so many states. Both Barack and Hillary looked good last night, despite it all. That level of determination and grit is simply a wonder to behold.

Kos on Piolin

Markos has an interesting look at one the most influential media figures in America today, El Piolin.

Obama, Clinton tied going into Feb. 5th?

Adding to the incredible drama of this already remarkable race, there is a growing body of evidence that Clinton and Obama may go into Super Tuesday tied, or close to it. The Rasmussen and Gallup tracks are now showing significant movement to Obama. The Rasmussen link above also has polls in Connecticut and California with the candidates now within margin of error. At this point, however, it is still too early to gauge the impact of the Edwards withdrawal - something that could influence the apparent Obama momentum one way or the other.

Two further points:

- Obama leads among white voters in the Rasmussem CA poll. I think this poll, and the other polls in this round should put to bed the idea that Obama cannot win white votes. He won plenty of white votes in both IA and NH, and outperformed all predictions of his white vote share in SC.

- Hispanics may end up being the single most important part of the Clinton strategy on Feb 5th. In the new Gallup poll she is holding on to a 28 point national lead, and in the Rasmussen CA poll she also leads by 27 points. As we wrote yesterday this battle for Hispanics - and whether Obama can cut her enormous margin down in the final few days - may be the most consequential battle of all the important battles coming up on Feb 5th.

Am I crazy to be referencing polls given what has happened this year? Maybe...

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