Saturday, March 08, 2008

Obama can still make Cheyenne

Barack Obama has won an overwhelming victory in the Wyoming Democratic Caucus today, carrying a whopping 61% of the vote in that State. What was fascinating about this result is that in heavily-Republican Wyoming, turnout for the vote was huge:

From the first caucuses of the day, it became clear the state's Democrats were showing up in large numbers. In 2004, a mere 675 people statewide took part in the caucuses.

In Sweetwater County, more than 500 people crowded into a high school auditorium and another 500 were lined up to get inside.

"I'm worried about where we're going to put them all. But I guess everybody's got the same problem," said Joyce Corcoran, a local party official. "So far we're OK. But man, they keep coming."

Party officials struggled with how to handle the overflow crowds. The start of the Converse County caucus was delayed due to long lines.

Democrats do have reasons to be enthusiastic about their primary and caucus turnout numbers this election cycle. However, they should keep one thing in mind about history-there were similar large turnout numbers in Democratic primaries nationally in 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1988. In all four of those years that saw massive Democratic primary season turnout, the Democratic ticket selected from that process went down to humbling, and in two cases humiliating November defeats.

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The Highwaymen

They don't make 'em any better than Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Weylon Jennings, and Johnny Cash.


Friday, March 07, 2008

The state of the GOP


David Oatney and Fabian Story discuss the state of the Republican Party in Tennessee versus the country at-large

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Bloated Knox County Government

Here is a list of paid positions in the Knox County Trustee's Office in 2007-2008:

Chief Deputy $88,600

Finance Director $56,100

Collections Supervisor $65,500

Supervisor of Payroll $67,500

administrative aide $60,000

Supervisor of Satellite $57,000

compliance officer/

HR supervisor/attorney $75,000

supervisor $58,500

OTA coordinator $40,100

office manager $67,500

tax sale supervisor $57,500

executive secretary $41,100

tax collections-cashier $32,175

tax collections-cashier $30,079

cashier $37,881

cashier $34,368

cashier $34,125

cashier $38,180

cashier $30,000

cashier $26,325

cashier $41,000

clerical $30,750

clerical $29,250

clerical $27,320

clerical $26,325

clerical $26,407

clerical $37,050

clerical $33,422

clerical $32,175

bookkeeper $32,139

bookkeeper $32,175

bookkeeper $36,000

bookkeeper $36,000

bookkeeper $36,100

field collector $35,094

field collector $32,175

field collector $32,175

field collector $34,125

field collector $34,125

field collector $36,075

field collector $36,075

field collector $26,325

satellite clerk $33,422

satellite clerk $30,225

satellite clerk $29,250

satellite clerk $27,320

satellite clerk $27,320

satellite clerk $37,881

satellite clerk $26,325

satellite clerk $36.075

satellite clerk $26,144

satellite clerk $24,375

satellite clerk $24,375

satellite clerk $26,325

satellite clerk $23,400

satellite clerk $20,475

liaison officer $34,335

tax freeze supervisor $35,000

That's just the Trustee's office, and we all know that not every one of these positions is needed. What other offices of Knox County Government have positions they do not need, and therefore have people they are subsidizing as a result?


Obama and the GOP in Tennessee...

Some interesting numbers via Kleinheider about the state of the Democratic campaign in Tennessee from the Nashville Scene:

SurveyUSA has a splashy new poll out this afternoon that looks at Obama-McCain and Clinton-McCain matchups in all 50 states as a way to estimate how the electoral college would play out if the election were held right now. In Tennessee the poll shows Obama trailing McCain by 16 points (54-38), but finds Clinton and McCain locked in a 46-46 tie. Aggregating to a national result, the poll shows either Clinton (276 electoral votes) or Obama (280 electoral votes) winning without Tennessee in the Democratic column.

The internals show how tough it will be for Obama, if he’s the nominee, to make a serious run at Tennessee’s 11 electoral votes. Obama’s strength nationally comes in large measure from popularity with young voters and independents, but the somewhat counterintuitive results of this poll find him doing worse than Clinton among both groups in a general election matchup here. Obama lags McCain among Tennessee independents by a whopping 37 points (61-24), compared to a 24-point deficit for Clinton (56-32). Among Tennesseans aged 18-34, Clinton beats McCain by 10 points, while Obama has just a 3-point edge. Among those who describe themselves as moderate (rather than liberal or conservative), Clinton beats McCain by 18 points, while Obama trails McCain by 1 point.

And the kicker: Only 66 percent of Tennessee Democrats prefer Obama over McCain (Clinton draws 80 percent).

These are very interesting numbers that show what the Democratic Primary numbers in Tennessee showed-Barack Obama is not popular here, no matter how much his supporters try to slice and dice the numbers to make him more so than he is. Nobody disputes that at a national level, Obama is far more likely to defeat John McCain than Hillary Clinton-if the numbers hold as they are now.

From a Tennessee Republican perspective, however, who is better for the GOP down the ticket? I'd be willing to wager that more than a few folks in Nashville think that an Obama nomination, while it could mean McCain's defeat, could lead to Tennessee independents (and some disgruntled Tennessee Dems) voting Republican in some downticket races, leading to an even larger-than-expected victory for Lamar! in the Senate race and serious possibilities for Republican gains in the General Assembly.

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The Democrats' Florida and Michigan question

Democratic Party National Chairman Howard Dean is encouraging officials in Florida and Michigan to consider "do-over" contests for the purposes of delegate selection to the National Convention in Denver, and in what appears to be an about-face, Hillary Clinton's campaign seems prepared to concede that this is a good idea:

"All they have to do is come before us with rules that fit into what they agreed to a year and a half ago, and then they'll be seated," Dean said during a round of interviews Thursday on network and cable TV news programs.

The two state parties will have to find the funds to pay for new contests without help from the national party, Dean said.

The Michigan governor, top officials in Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign, and Florida's state party chair all are now saying they would consider holding a sort of do-over contest by June. That's a change from the previous insistence from officials in both states that the primaries they held in January should determine how their delegates are allocated.

If there are new contests in Florida and Michigan, it seems that the growing consensus is that they will be caucuses since a caucus is much cheaper to run than a primary from the State's perspective. Both States say they aren't sure they have the funds (between 10 and 25 million dollars for each State, respectively), and the Democratic National Committee says they don't have the funds to pay for a re-vote and help fund their Presidential campaign as well.

Both Clinton and Obama have said they'll abide by whatever solution the DNC comes up with.

But CNN analyst John Dickerson said in the tight nominating race, half the party may be outraged with whatever the outcome.

This could be good news if you are a Republican. It may indeed be too late for new primaries in Michigan and Florida, so if there is another contest in those States it may have to be a caucus. Caucuses have favored Barack Obama throughout the Democratic nominating race (even when he lost one in Nevada), and we know that it is for this reason that Hillary and her supporters do not favor them. If there are caucuses in Florida and Michigan to determine delegate allocation and Obama wins them, expect Clinton supporters to cry foul. If delegates are seated under the present operating scenario in spite of candidates agreeing not to campaign in these two States (and all candidates not appearing on the ballot in one), Democratic Party hacks may join Obama supporters in their opposition. If no delegates are seated at all from either State, the voters of those States will likely feel disenfranchised-a winning argument for Republicans there, who did not disenfranchise their voters in either State (delegates were parsed in half to account for the rules violation of voting too soon).

Get ready for the Democrats' train wreck in Denver.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Barack's campaign problem

Some interesting thoughts from Newsweek about Barack Obama's strategy in the aftermath of the disappointment for his campaign in Ohio and Texas:

Behind the scenes, the Obama strategy is twofold: to start fighting against the GOP opponent, and to amp up the fight against Clinton. Both are crucial in getting Democrats—especially the superdelegates who will decide this nomination—to focus on what lies ahead. With McCain the GOP nominee, the Obama camp is convinced that the party will not want to endure several weeks of hand-to-hand combat.

If that is really Obama's strategy, he and his campaign are taking a huge gamble. There is little doubt that Barack Obama could turn up the heat on Hillary Clinton or he could start actively campaigning against John McCain, but he will not be able to do both effectively at once. His campaign is very well-financed, but even a campaign with loads of money cannot effectively run two campaigns at one time, which is what Newsweek is declaring that Obama will do. It is to avoid running two campaigns at once that generally cause candidates to concentrate almost exclusively on their intra-party opponents during the primaries and then turn to the nominee of the other party during the General Election. Running what amounts to a double campaign will sap just enough resources and energy from both sides of the campaign to keep Obama from clearly coming ahead on either one.

Clearly Obama now embarks on a series of primaries which favor him before Pennsylvania April 22, and after that time. The map of the country is in his favor, but all it would take would be one close race in a State he was supposed to carry easily, or one loss where he was seen as supposed to have won to sway the race in Clinton's favor. Barack Obama can combat John McCain with great energy or he can up the ante against Hillary Clinton with tremendous zeal-but he will not likely be able to do both and have enough energy to win.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Of superdelegates and respect

I have to hand it to my friend and fellow blogger Fabian Story, who called the races in Texas and Ohio last night nearly a week before the vote. Fabian went on to predict that Barack Obama would win the Texas Democratic Caucus, but not by the large numbers that we've seen in the other caucuses where he has managed to organize so successfully. Only 37% of precincts are reporting caucus results-but of those that have reported, Barack Obama only leads by four percentage points (52-48). That kind of result won't give Obama the large delegate haul from the Caucus that would be needed to thwart Hillary Clinton's newfound Texas momentum.

There are other ways for Obama to bridge the momentum gap, and the first would be a win in Wyoming in three days, followed by a victory in the Mississippi Primary next Tuesday. If Obama can win these primaries and maintain the delegate lead that he still holds (if only slightly) he will likely drive the nomination process to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. If there is no clear leader, however, the superdelegates will then become a legitimate factor, and it may be very hard for those people to justify swinging the nomination to Barack Obama if Hillary Clinton has won every large State that has voted. I don't think that either Clinton or Obama will win the Democratic nomination on the first ballot at this point, unless Hillary wins a few States where she is currently not projected to do well.

It is quite possible that the superdelegates may actually prove to be necessary in the convention process for the Democrats if neither candidate can win enough pledged delegates to clinch the nomination. If that proves to be the case, history will likely record that it was the State of Pennsylvania that decided the Democratic nomination in 2008. If Hillary Clinton wins in Pennsylvania, and other States between now and the Democratic Convention in Denver play out as predicted, the superdelegates may very well throw the nomination to Hillary. If Barack Obama can pull off a surprise victory in Pennsylvania (something he has plenty of time to do) and hold all of the remaining States where he is either favored or is expected to win, he may be able to win the nomination. Unless Clinton pulls off some unexpected victories-certainly not impossible for the Clintons-the Democrats will likely have a brokered convention.

John McCain clinched the Republican nomination yesterday, a source of disappointment and exasperation for many conservatives, including yours truly. I will say that McCain's victory speech was both magnanimous and well-spoken. I wish I felt that our nominee could be trusted to do the things he so proudly proclaims when he speaks.

The highlight of the night in my mind was not a victory speech, but one of the most moving concession speeches by a candidate that I have ever heard.

Mike Huckabee stayed in this race until the very last-he did not bow out until he was certain that he had lost, and he didn't give up when others told him that all was lost, he fought all the way until there was no fight left. Governor Huckabee did not begin this campaign with my admiration or my respect. Through the course of this race, he managed to do what few political candidates that I decide I don't care for have ever done-he earned my admiration and respect, and he did so in spades. I was unsure when I went to the polls on February 5th what to do, but now I am proud of the vote that I cast, and I would do it all over again-and perhaps one of these days, I will have that opportunity.


Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, and Vermont


A roundtable discussion of the results and campaign prognosis from the Republican and Democratic Primaries in Ohio, Texas (Primary and Dem Caucus), Rhode Island and Vermont. Adam Graham, Fabian Story, John McJunkin, and Ken Marrero join the discussion hosted by David Oatney.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Hillary's trouble today

NBC reports correctly why I believe Hillary Clinton is going to have trouble in Texas tonight:

Clinton needs to win by sizable margins in Ohio and Texas to cut into Obama's lead in the delegate count because they are awarded proportionally. And even if Clinton wins the popular vote in Texas, she could wind up with fewer delegates than Obama because of the state's unique same-day primary and caucus system.

Even if Clinton manages to win the popular vote in the Texas Democratic Primary, the Texas Democratic Caucuses, which decide 1/3 of Democratic delegates, start at 8pm tonight-and Barack Obama has managed to wipe the floor with Hillary Clinton in every caucus the two have been matched up in except Nevada-and Obama still managed to win more delegates than Clinton in Nevada (13-12) because of that State's unique delegate allocation rules. Democratic delegates are awarded proportionally, and that means that it would be quite possible for Barack Obama to lose the Primary in Texas and still walk away with more delegates than Hillary Clinton. If you win the most delegates, you have effectively won the State.

One State Hillary is all but certain to win tonight is Ohio, but what is interesting is the strategy she is using to carry that State. She is counting on a series of counties in rural and socially conservative Southeast Ohio (Muskingum, Perry, Morgan, Guernsey, Noble, Hocking, Vinton, Jackson, Gallia, Lawrence, Washington, Ross, Pike, Scioto etc.) to carry her over the top, as opposed to Northern Ohio around Cleveland and Toledo-which means that she is effectively ceding the heavily African-American vote in those areas to Obama. The counties that Hillary Clinton is expecting to vote heavily in her favor and help her carry the State are counties that are just as likely to go Republican in the presidential election in the fall. Southeast Ohio is an area that is known to vote Republican for President and often vote Democratic in the downticket races, largely because Ohio Democrats are smart enough to know that they cannot win in Southeast Ohio without nominating moderate-to-conservative Democrats in key races.

The short translation of all of this is that Hillary seems likely to win Ohio with counties that she can't depend on in the fall.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

The Canadian affair

A Canadian Embassy memo on the eve of the Democratic Primaries in Ohio and Texas is causing a huge stir:

Barack Obama's threat to withdraw from NAFTA should be viewed as "political positioning," according to a memo written after the U.S. presidential hopeful's senior economic policy adviser met with Canadian officials.

The memo, obtained by the Associated Press, was written by Canadian consulate staffer Joseph DeMora, after a meeting in Chicago last week between Austan Goolsbee and Canadian Consul General Georges Rioux.

"Noting anxiety among many U.S. domestic audiences about the U.S economic outlook, Goolsbee candidly acknowledged the protectionist sentiment that has emerged, particularly in the Midwest, during the primary campaign," the memo said.

"He cautioned that this message should not be taken out of context and should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans."

If an Obama campaign advisor met with Canadian diplomatic officials and said that Obama's words about NAFTA were mere political posturing, that is a major development which could have a real impact on tomorrow's voting. Barack Obama is denying that the exchange took place, but the non-event sure had quite a life of its own in the Commons today in a heated exchange between Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton, in which Layton accused Harper and the Conservative Government that he leads of trying to exert influence over the Democratic primaries.

This could prove to be a long-term stink that Obama could have trouble getting rid of.

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The News Sentinel's real agenda

The Knoxville News-Sentinel has no problem with concentrating incredible amounts of power in the County Mayor's office in Knox County:

Admittedly, the past year's mayoral scandals make mayoral appointments a tough sell. But Knox Countians shouldn't make public policy based on a worst-case scenario. Citizens should fight for a form of government that'll be most efficient, most logical and most likely to attract quality officeholders when it's running the way it should. Clearly county government would run better if a good mayor could actually run it.

So the News-Sentinel trusts the voters of Knox County to concentrate a largess of power in the hands of a County Mayor's office that can't even manage (or more likely has simply refused to manage) its own finances, but seems to believe they are incapable of choosing fee offices from election to election.

Then there is this telling statement:

If electing the trustee is such a great idea, let's ask the city of Knoxville to make its tax collection department an independently elected office, outside Mayor Bill Haslam's control.

Same for the city's business license office. And the law director. And so on.

Who thinks those are good ideas?

The constant comparison between Knoxville City government and Knox County government in the editorial pages of the News-Sentinel is a testament to what the KNS is really trying to accomplish-a metropolitan government in Knox County and the end of county autonomy there.

Metro government is what the News-Sentinel's real editorial agenda is all about where its position vis-a-vis the county government is concerned. At the very least, the News-Sentinel owes it to the public-to the voters of Knox County-to be honest about their real agenda and their promotion of metro government in Knox County.


Hillary's last gasp and Ohio strategy

Apparently, some of Hillary Clinton's "people" have suggested to The New York Times that Hillary may drop out of the race for the Democratic nomination if she does not win both Texas and Ohio tomorrow:

Their expenditures, combined with a travel schedule that sent Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama and their surrogates from border to border in Texas and Ohio, reflect the expectation that the voting on Tuesday may be climactic. Mrs. Clinton’s advisers have suggested that she will bow out of the race if she falters in either state, after 11 straight losses.

This woman doesn't give up easily, and I do not believe that losing Texas and Vermont (a scenario that is now not the least bit unlikely) will be enough to deter her from continuing on. If she is under the impression that narrow victories-that is winning by four points or less-in both Texas and Ohio will be enough to drive Barack Obama out of the campaign, I think she is in for a rude awakening. The Obama camp is setting up for a landslide in Vermont, and that wouldn't mean much except that with the Democrats' proportional delegate system, if Clinton were to win Texas and Ohio by four points or less, narrowly win Rhode Island, and Obama carry Vermont in a landslide, Clinton could do no better than an effective tie in the delegate count. Despite her lead in Pennsylvania, there is a month and a half to go before the Keystone State votes and plenty of time for Obama to catch up.

There is a particularly interesting note about Clinton's Ohio strategy that proves quite revealing:

In Ohio, both candidates have focused on the urban areas and suburbs around major cities, but Mrs. Clinton is campaigning as well in rural areas and southeast Ohio, which she views as one of the strongest parts of the state. (It is where Mr. Strickland did particularly well in his election as governor.)

Southeast Ohio isn't exactly the hub of nouveau-liberal thought. There are a lot of Democrats there, but they are the old-school, working class, socially conservative Democrats whose roots at the least come from the days of the New Deal, and in a few cases come from the days of the War Between the States and Clement Llaird Vallandigham. That part of the State is blue-collar, white, and most of its regular voters are over 40. To do well there, Governor Ted Strickland had to campaign as a moderate (as opposed to a liberal) Democrat-which he is, and George W. Bush carried nearly all Southeast Ohio counties handily both in 2000 and 2004. That begs the question: Has Hillary been campaigning in Southeast Ohio as the I'm-not-all-that-liberal candidate? If that is where Hillary is counting on getting the votes to put her over the top in Ohio, that is what she would likely have to do, and that would mean downplaying all of her liberal endorsements.

I wonder what lies she's been telling up there this week?

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Jivin' with the truth


I appeared on last night's edition of The Truth and Hope Report with Adam Graham


Sunday Lenten Rosary

The Sorrowful Mysteries

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Democrat dead heats

Barack Obama leads by four in Texas-Ohio is now a dead heat.


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