Saturday, May 10, 2008

Using Democrats Against Democrats

Many Democrats are still operating under the illusion that in spite of the bitter, nasty, divisive primary campaign that just now appears to be drawing to a close (maybe), they are somehow going to win in November. While it is certainly possible that John McCain will not use every advantage the Democrats are giving him, if he opens up and decides to fight, there is an opportunity to rout the Democrats. In recent days, his campaign is showing some signs of fight:

Asked to respond to Obama's comment that the 71-year old
senator is "losing his bearings," McCain said today that questions raised about
his age are "fine with me."

And, he added, if age is a legitimate issue,
so are a few things about his likely opponent.
"Every issue that the
American people want to be an issue, and it's part of their discussions, it's
fine with me," he said in response to the question about his age.

missing a beat, he added the controversial statements of Jeremiah Wright onto
that same list. Obama, McCain noted, "has said that [Wright] is a legitimate
topic of discussion.” He added, “If that's what the American people want to
discuss, that's fine.”

McCain also told reporters that the recent
complimentary remarks ofObama by a Hamas spokesman are also fair game for
debate. Prefacing his comment by saying he believes it's clear Obama "shares
nothing of the values or goals of Hamas," the presumptive GOP nominee added that
the Palestinian organization's favorable assessment of Obama's candidacy is "a
legitimate point of discussion."

"That's of interest to the American
people," he said. "And that is something that needs to be discussed."

If liberals and Democrats don't think their own words can and will be used against them on the campaign trail by our side to unbelievable effect, perhaps they need a bit of a reminder of just how effective the words of an angry Democrat in their own primaries is when used in a Republican General Election campaign.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Stating the Obvious

Earlier this week, when the outcome in North Carolina and Indiana was still a topic of some debate, Hillary Clinton seems to have created no small stir among Democratic superdelegates because she stated the obvious. From Tim Russert:

Msnbc: Earlier this week, referring to
Barack Obama and the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, Hillary Clinton said,
“Whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me and in
independents I was running even with him and doing even better with
Democratic-leaning independents I have a much broader base to build a winning
coalition on.”

Is she playing the race card?

Russert: It is interesting. One undeclared superdelegate from North Carolina said it was driving a wedge between the races in the party.

There are two ways to look at this. One is, obviously, Barack Obama is going to need a higher percentage of the white vote against John McCain than he’s been getting against Hillary Clinton. But if Hillary Clinton was the nominee, she would to need to win African Americans 90 to 10 in order to carry states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and

It is an unfortunate reality that the polls and all of the data are telling us that white working-class people don't support Barack Obama and they can't identify with him, but it is the hard truth. Some will say that this is merely because of Barack Obama's race. There are some people out there who are discarding Obama because of his race-I've met some of these folks and I will be the first to admit that they do exist. Further, race alone is the worst possible reason to disregard a candidate-but it inevitably will happen with, as the polls suggest, about one in ten voters.

The reason working class whites are not supporting Obama is because he cannot make the claim that he understands anything about them. He seems distant from the world of the average American blue-collar man. Barack Obama knows little, for example, of many East Tennesseans in Upper East Tennessee: Blue collar (or from a working-class background), Scots-Irish, church-going, and often from a clannish family culture that really goes back to the British Isles-a way of life Obama can't identify with even in the most remote terms.

Barack Obama is now getting 85-90% of the black vote (now that blacks realize his candidacy is "for real"), and with those kinds of numbers it is very difficult to make the case that African-American voters are not voting for Obama primarily because of his race (you can't really blame them) since he is the first black man to run a campaign with a real shot at the presidency. Hence, this part of Barack Obama's constituency is a given-it is built-in.

What all of this means is that Barack Obama's average "won" supporter is young, white, upper-middle or even upper-class, college educated, and from a moderately well-off background. If the typical Obama supporter doesn't encapsulate all of the above-mentioned categories, he or she is likely to be a part of at least two or more of those sub-groups.

General Elections are not won with that kind of constituency base. The Democrats' reluctance to deal with the issue merely because doing so means they are going to have to confront the sub-issue of race will be their undoing as a party. Some liberals and Democrats think all of Obama's troubles will be over if he just runs Hillary Clinton on the ticket with him-but it isn't likely to be that simple:

Msnbc: Harold Ford and other Democrats are saying
they’d love to see and are doing everything they can to encourage a ticket that
is Obama-Clinton. Is that realistic?

Russert: Most campaign strategists I talk to think
it would be difficult, because of the intensity of the campaign. Now,
other candidates have overcome that – John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan and former President George Bush.

But look at the Electoral College map. If Barack Obama becomes the
official nominee, he wants to win states like Colorado and Virginia and North
Carolina because states like Florida and Ohio have been elusive for the
Democrats. So the question is would Clinton’s presence on the ticket help
him in those kind of swing states? Many Democrats have told me it might
make it more difficult.

Indeed, the Clintons aren't exactly popular among voters in those States the Democrats know that they desperately need to win. Some people who are proposing a joint ticket forget that the Gerneral Election will bring voters to the polls who did not vote in the Democratic primaries, and the majority of November voters are likely not to have done so. The biggest block of voters the Democrats need to win in November do not like Barack Obama, and many others who have not yet voted are skiddish about Obama and despise the Clintons.

This election is John McCain's to lose. If Barack Obama has one consolation in all of this, it is that McCain has so far shown himself a master at screwing over his own campaign. His base dislikes him, and he has refused to use any serious political advantages which both Obama and Clinton have handed him on a silver platter. If McCain loses, it will not be because Obama defeats him, but because he will have beaten himself.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Obama's Problem With the Rest of America

Despite what many of Barack Obama's supporters are now saying (or thinking) about him being the frontrunner in the fall, the fact of the matter is that if we make the assumption that the Democratic intra-party political situation remains as it is and Mr. Obama should emerge after June or the convention as the party nominee, he emerges as the weak candidate of an even weaker political formation:

All of this poses a challenge to Mr. Obama as he seeks to move the Clinton
wing of the party beyond with the Clinton era without offending Mrs. Clinton’s
considerable base of supporters. Exit polls in Indiana and North Carolina once
again suggested just how cleaved the party is between young and old, white and
black, lower-income and upper income.

“It’s going to be hard,” said
Bob Kerrey, a former senator from Nebraska, and a supporter of Mrs. Clinton.

“Part of what I’ve seen in this campaign is how difficult it is to unite this
party: To unite voters in West Virginia with Democratic [read:
African-American] voters in South Central Los Angeles. That is what he has
to do and what is going to be hard.”

“He has to learn to set aside grievances; and there are going to be
plenty of them,” Mr. Kerrey said. “Can we disagree without being disagreeable?
The answer is, no. We get disagreeable. And this has been a disagreeable

Mr. [Gary] Hart recalled that after a similarly divisive primary
battle against
Walter F. Mondale in 1984, he made a point of throwing all his effort into trying to get his supporters behind Mr. Mondale. In that case, Mr. Hart was more equivalent to Mr. Obama than Mrs. Clinton, having drawn new voters into the
primary system.

“I went to the platform and moved his nomination by acclamation,” Mr.
Hart recalled. “And then I went out and did over 40 campaign events for him on
my own. And I was not able to move the younger and independent voters, as the
results made clear.”

In Barack Obama's case, he must move white working-class voters into his corner, and many of these people have sworn they will never cast a vote for him. I've spoken to several professing life-long Democrats who have told me they will be voting Republican for the first time in their lives in the fall-it is the only protest they have against what they view as the betrayal of Obama's nomination. The Democrats' great problem is not that Barack Obama isn't "one of us," but that he can't make the claim that he ever was-unlike many of our former Presidents. Barack Obama went spent a good part of his life in Indonesia, went to high school in Honolulu, and has been a college professor. It isn't that he is an academic that is the problem-it is that this is all that he has ever been.

Obama cannot say, as former candidates and presidents have been able to do, that he came from among the masses of Middle America. He can't say that he was a farmer and son of a farmer from Independence, Missouri who got into politics serving as a judge on the Jackson County Court. Barack Obama can't rightly claim that he came from a town called Dixon, Illinois and was a lifeguard on the Rock River, who came into his career by calling Chicago Cubs baseball games by telegraph. Obama wouldn't sound the least bit believable if he told Middle America that he was a peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia who went to the Naval Academy and Georgia Tech, served on a nuclear submarine, and became a nuclear engineer-and ran for the State Senate. Obama's father was not a blacksmith and farm store owner. He wasn't born on a small farm on the Pedernales River. Obama can't even claim to be from a place called Hope, or to have made his way in the Texas oil business. While presidential narratives are different, and many do belie a privileged upbringing, most invariably have some tie to Middle America-and many of our modern Presidents did begin, if they did not remain, with humble small-town origins.

The blue-collar voters that Barack Obama needs to win over understand the farmer from Jackson County and they can identify with Dixon, Illinois. Many of these people certainly understand the world of Plains, Georgia, or the ramshackle farmhouse on the Padernales, or the little store owner's son who made good and was elected President. These are people that blue-collar voters understand because at some point in their lives, the men who had these stories as part of their narrative can say "I am one of you-we are from the same stock." Barack Obama cannot make that claim with any credibility.

This by itself should not be held against Obama, as he has no control over who his parents are or even how he was raised. Despite the fact that much has been revealed about Obama, there is still so much about him that is a mystery-and the fact that he has spent so much of his life in academia (something many of the men of the narratives would have scorned-especially Truman and Reagan) makes him all the more divorced from the reality of the working-class whites he absolutely must have in his corner to win. Barack Obama doesn't understand White Pine, Tennessee, or Postville, Iowa, or Douglas, Georgia, or Midland, Texas. He only knows what he's read about the people who live there.

This reality will get him slaughtered in November.

As for "Operation Chaos", what does Rush Limbaugh now say? Well, he's called it off:

"I now believe he would be the weakest of the Democrat

He added: "He can get effete snobs, he can get
wealthy academics, he can get the young, and he can get the black vote, but
Democrats do not win with that."

On that score, Rush Limbaugh is exactly right. The one group of voters that Barack Obama must win in order to be successful, he will lose in spades...and if he does, he will be the biggest flop in the history of the modern Democratic Party.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Elephant in the Democrats' Closet

Tim Russert may be right when he said this morning that Barack Obama may have clinched the Democratic nomination last night. However, hidden in the results is the great elephant in the closet that will plague the Democrats between now and November:

Still, exit polls in both states charted a racial
divide that has become familiar in a long, historic campaign pitting a black man
against a white woman and that could weigh heavily on an Obama campaign in the

In North Carolina, an estimated one-third of all
ballots were cast by black voters, and Obama claimed support from roughly 90
percent of them. Clinton won 60 percent of the white vote. Only Democrats and
unaffiliated voters were permitted to vote in North Carolina.
In Indiana, Clinton's victory among white voters was just as wide.

These aren't just white voters that Obama is losing. If we look at the generic "white" vote, Obama loses it-but not terribly. However, if we look at the white working-class vote, Obama loses that demographic in both States by massive numbers. Furthermore, these are voters that are traditional Democrats-they are Democrats because their parents and grandparents were. If they don't think that a Democratic candidate is someone that they can identify with, they have no problem crossing the floor.

West Virginia is a classic example of this. Democratic identification in that State runs at nearly 70%-but West Virginia Democrats are a different breed than the present national party. Their loyalty to the Democratic Party was forged during the New Deal, and it is rooted in white, working-class socially conservative union households. These are the church-going, God-fearing, flag-waving, gun-toting Democrats that the national Leadership of that party wants to pretend do not exist. Current West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin is a devout Catholic who is strongly opposed to abortion, gun control, is against "gay marriage," and favors voluntary prayer in public schools. His Democratic predecessor, former Congressman Bob Wise, held almost identical positions on social questions. Hillary Clinton is expected to win both West Virginia and Kentucky by at least 20 points.

In States where the working-class white vote has been a factor in the Democratic Primaries, Barack Obama has been crushed under foot politically. Blue collar whites have shown in numbers that they have no problem at all voting Republican in a General Election-it is for this reason that Barack Obama will not likely carry a single Southern State and will likely lose every plains State. Pennsylvania will be in play this year as well.

Winning the General Election is not impossible for Barack Obama-but the November geography and the reality of his poor showing among blue-collar whites will work very strongly against Obama-especially with Hillary Clinton still refusing to bow out with primaries left to fight.

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Indiana and North Carolina


Roundtable discussion of the Democratic Primary results in Indiana and North Carolina. Adam Graham and Hatton Humphrey join the discussion.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

What is Padgett's Philosophy?

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate William Mike Padgett is on The Voice this morning reminding all of us why he will not be elected.

He can't speak worth a hoot, and I would hate to hear him embarrass himself with an address on the Senate floor.

Padgett says he is opposed to the death tax-that's great, but in the same conversation, he essentially admitted that he would have no problem raising taxes. He also said he was an "Appalachian conservative Democrat." In the mold of who, Mike? Who is Mike Padgett's great political example-as the conservative that he was just on the radio claiming to be? Since Padgett himself has made this claim, I think it is a fair question to ask: To whom can we look to as a comparison for Mike Padgett's political philosophy?

Mike Padgett has served on the Knox County School Board and as Knox County Clerk-that is all he has ever done politically. It is fine for people to run for local office and serve therein for many years to better the community-and the truth is that for the most part, Mike Padgett didn't do a terrible job as Knox County Clerk. Indeed, I think more people should do what Mike Padgett did and get involved at the local level. In Tennessee, County Clerk is a mandated constitutional position, and because of our form of government it is an important one. Even so, serving as County Clerk is a far cry from the United States Senate.

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Tar Heel and Hoosier Day

Today is voting day in the Democratic primaries in North Carolina and Indiana, and both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are now predicting a blow-for-blow fight right up to the last primary on June 3rd:

Resolute rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama straddled North Carolina and Indiana on Monday on the eve of a pair of crucial primaries in the unceasing contest for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Both predicted the race would stretch into June, regardless of Tuesday's outcomes.

Obama is ahead in the hunt for convention delegates — 1,743.5 to 1,607.5, according to an Associated Press count Monday — but Clinton senses an opening after a win in Pennsylvania last month. Still, the delegate math works to Obama's advantage, and it will be hard for Clinton to overtake him. NBC's national delegate count currently stands at 1603 for Clinton and 1738 for Obama. NBC’s estimated superdelegate count stands at 267 for Clinton and 248 for Obama.

The most likely outcome of today's vote at this point is that Clinton will win Indiana and Obama will win in North Carolina. This is the first set of Democratic contests since Super Tuesday where a win is an absolute requirement for both candidates. For Hillary Clinton, failure to win either State will likely shut the door on her campaign, as it will be impossible for her to raise the money to compete in the remaining contests. In the case of Barack Obama, if he cannot win either State, it will raise real questions about his electability and give Clinton supporters funding to keep fighting until the convention if they wish.

If the results turn out as predicted and the two candidates split the voting today, it is very likely that a brokered convention is inevitable. The "nightmare scenario" that Democratic Chairman Howard Dean is trying so hard to avoid will likely materialize, making Democratic defeat in November all the more likely.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

The Democrats' Path to Defeat

Barack Obama may indeed win the Democratic nomination by sheer force of the number of delegates that he has managed to win so far and because of the justifiable fear on the part of Democratic Party leadership that failure to nominate Obama would lead to the key interests within the Democratic apparatus fracturing apart. However, if the Democrats nominate Obama, all signs point to a General Election defeat:

Barack Obama's problem winning votes from working-class whites is showing no sign of going away, and their impression of him is getting worse.

In an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll in April, 53 percent of whites who have not completed college viewed Obama unfavorably, up a dozen percentage points from November. During that period, the numbers viewing Clinton and Republican candidate John McCain negatively have stayed about even.

In Democratic primaries held on or before Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, whites who have not finished college favored the New York senator by a cumulative 59 percent to 32 percent, according to exit polls of voters conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks.

In primaries since Feb. 5, that group has favored Clinton by 64 percent to 34 percent. That includes Ohio and Pennsylvania, in which working-class whites have favored Clinton by 44 and 41 percentage points respectively.

Recent voting patterns underscore Obama's continued poor performance with these voters, who are often pivotal in general election swing states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

A rather elitist attitude has developed within certain circles of the Democratic Party with regard to working-class whites-a sort of "we know what's best for you" attitude. This mentality essentially says that Democratic Party Leadership knows more about blue collar whites than blue collar whites know themselves. It also plays up the divide between the so-called "educated" white vote and the so-called "uneducated" white vote. The pollsters are correct that such a difference does exist in this election cycle, but it isn't permanent. It has been proven over and over in repeated surveys since the 1960's that the older college educated whites become, the more likely they are to become Republicans. That leaves working-class white voters as the backbone of the Democratic Party, right? There are, after all, still more blue collar whites than any other demographic group of voters.

The Democratic Party has chosen to ignore the concerns of this numerous group, and it cost them defeat in 2000 and in 2004. Ronald Reagan understood that in the modern era, an election can't be won without blue collar white voters-that these people must be brought into any winning coalition. Bill Clinton understood that, too-although as he turned on blue collar voters, they turned on his legacy in 2000.

A candidate from either political party who attempts to win without reaching out to blue collar whites will not be beaten-they will be crushed.

While less educated whites tend to vote less frequently than better educated voters, they are important because of their sheer number.

Exit polls show they have comprised three in 10 voters in Democratic contests so far, a group that cannot be ignored in a contest that has seen Obama maintain a slim lead. They made up 43 percent of all voters in the 2004 presidential contest, when they heavily favored President Bush over Democrat John Kerry.

If working-class whites turn out in numbers the way they did in 1972 for Nixon, and 1980 and 1984 for Ronald Reagan, Obama could be looking at McGovern or Mondale numbers.

For those who don't remember their history well, George McGovern carried one State in 1972 for the Democrats-Massachusetts. Like Al Gore (Tennessee), McGovern could not carry his home state of South Dakota. Walter Mondale carried his home State of Minnesota in 1984 by around 5,000 votes-it was the only State Mondale won.

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

What Can Brown Do for You?

Something happened yesterday that very rarely occurs-the favorite (Big Brown) won the Kentucky Derby. The sadness came when filly Eight Belles was put down after finishing second and breaking both front legs:

“There was no way to save her. She couldn’t stand,” Jones said. “She ran an incredible race. She ran the race of her life.”

Some folks forget that these beautiful animals are athletes, too. They are just as susceptible to injury as human athletes. Perhaps the biggest difference is that unlike human athletes, if a horse breaks both front legs and can't stand, it likely won't survive. Although this kind of injury tends to happen with greater frequency in the racing world among thoroughbreds and standardbreds, it can and has happened in the show ring as well. Owner Larry Jones has to be milling around his decision to run Eight Belles in the Derby yesterday-he scratched her from the all-filly Kentucky Oaks Friday for a chance at the big race. I'm sure he's playing the "what-if" game in his mind, especially after another of his horses, Proud Spell, won the Oaks.


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