Sunday, January 13, 2008

Help Us Joe Trippi, You're Our Only Hope


By Chuck Browder

With the majority of media focused on the primary race in Michigan this past Tuesday and Nevada this weekend, I thought this would be a opportune time to unveil the strategy Senator John Edwards will need to adopt in South Carolina before it's too late. Like Governor Romney, Edwards needs a win in the state where he was born to keep his campaign viable. In order to win in South Carolina, Edwards' campaign strategist Joe Trippi (former Howard Dean campaign manager) will need to supply his candidate with lots of ammunition. That is exactly what I intend to provide with this article.
So, far be it from me to presume I know any more about campaign strategy than a seasoned veteran like Trippi, but I have yet to see the Edwards campaign use many hardcore tactics. Playing too hard can seem calculated and distasteful - and that could be the reason we haven't seen it out of Edwards yet - but those tactics are exactly what he will need to take South Carolina. (Let me state in the interest of full disclosure, that I worked on Edwards' 2004 presidential campaign, and would love nothing more than to see the former senator of my home state at the top of the Democratic ticket.)

The Edwards from '04 seemed more optimistic, moderate, and certainly less angry. So what happened to change all of this? To begin with, he seems less optimistic now because he is a seasoned candidate with
a tough race behind him already. And the '04 primary and general election campaigns were very difficult, first as John Kerry's bitter rival, and later as his reluctant number two. Secondly, Edwards' positions have seemed to move further left since '04 due to rising anti-war sentiment, the apology for his vote on Iraq, and middle-class anger over corporate profits, outsourcing, gas prices, health care costs and a stressed job market. These positions, if angrier, are still within the moderate end of the Democratic Party. Edwards did not really change, other than his position on the Iraq war. Instead, the media's opinion of him changed, essentially throwing him under the bus, as Senator Joseph Biden was, when he made his "fresh and clean" remarks. I would say the Edwards campaign has endured similar treatments, and they too has been personal and not based on the substance of his platform.

Edwards and his campaign have contended with superficial personal attacks based only on prurient interest, such as the $400 haircuts and his six-million-dollar estate. Does anyone think for a minute that Governor Mitt Romney, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, or any of the any of the other top-tier candidates don't spend that kind of money on their appearance? If your answer was yes, you are even more delusional than the media who have made it their mission this election cycle to ridicule Edwards. Ask yourself, could Obama endure this level of scrutiny? Could Hillary? This may be a result of mixed messages by the Edwards campaign. Since he is the champion of the poor and middle class, the media has a problem with Edwards. Some analysts have remarked on this, chalking it up to Edwards' poverty-centered campaign being hurt by his estate and haircuts. However, the truth of the matter is far more heinous. A recent Gallup Poll reveals the embarrassingly low priority the American people have regarding the issue of poverty. Homelessness, illegal immigrants, and hunger rank at 4 percent, behind Iraq, terrorism, health care, and education. The media consistently glorifies wealth and has no incentive to back a cause that garners such little interest. After all, if there is no advertising revenue to be had, the media will refuse to cover the issue and can dismiss Edwards with baseless attacks and superficial coverage. Never mind the fact that he is a philanthropist, the founder and director for the University of North Carolina's Center on Poverty. Never mind that his agenda has substance.

Edwards will never be president if he does not win South Carolina. He and his campaign have said "two down, forty-eight to go", and that they are "in it for the long haul", but it is hard to envision a victory if he does not place first here. While no candidate who has not won Iowa or New Hampshire has gone on to win the nomination, it is still possible for him to win a majority of the delegates. In reality, Edwards has nothing to lose in this race. He likely would not run again, avoiding the labels attached to such candidates (this means you, Ralph Nader). In all likelihood, Edwards will not be on Hillary's short list for VP and will she not nominate him for a cabinet position, since it is evident from Edwards' more recent rhetoric that he has nothing but disdain for the Clintons. As for Obama, Senator John Kerry's endorsement could be the kiss of death. . . I, for one, would not expend resources against him in South Carolina, for no other reason than the remote possibility of Obama nominating Edwards for VP or a cabinet position, as a fellow agent of change. So, other than a possible future-run for North Carolina Governor, Edwards has nothing to lose by attacking Hillary
in South Carolina - on all those issues where the media gives her a free ride.

Edwards needs to position himself as the candidate of change with the experience to facilitate it. One term in the U.S. Senate does not a Washington insider make. And his time serving on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate
Judiciary Committee should be the experience that he cites when criticized by opponents like Hillary Clinton, who has not spent much more time in office than Edwards. The Edwards campaign also needs to make more of his time spent as co-chair of the Council on Foreign Relations task force on United States-Russian relations with another former vice presidential nominee, Congressman Jack Kemp. Also, let us not forget it was Edwards who immediately reached out to Pakistan, whose president, Pervez Musharraf then contacted him by telephone in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. We should take note: Edwards' resume is far more impressive on foreign policy than Hillary Clinton or the media are willing to admit.

Something one would expect the Edwards campaign to make more of, since he is the son of a mill-worker, is the whole 'dynasty' aspect to the Clinton campaign. If Hillary wins the nomination, you could potentially have a Bush/Clinton dynasty that spans over three decades. You would have to go back to president Reagan to find someone not related to either of these families. This co-dynasty reign could potentially continue through the year 2016 (or '24, if George P. Bush joins in), and with the two former presidents being so chummy with each other as of late, that just looks suspicious. The argument Edwards needs to make here in the upcoming South Carolina debate, is the same one I made against George W. Bush during the 2000 primary. Why in America, where we have the right to choose from anyone, from any background, do we choose to perpetuate these political dynasties? Is it that we feel inferior to the Europeans monarchies? Why would we do this when we fought the Revolutionary War over it, and the framers of the Constitution did everything to prevent it? After all, a direct product of nepotism is ineptitude and the perpetuation of the status quo. While it would be hard to make the argument that Hillary's presidency would be as inept as Dubya's has been, she most certainly would perpetuate many of the policies of the Bush and prior administrations.

Another avenue Edwards could exploit against the Clinton campaign is the affirmation by Mrs. Clinton herself that her time spent in the White House as First Lady amounts to executive experience. While her involvement and her meetings with foreign heads of state should not be diminished, there is a far greater difference in watching than executing. There are plenty of activities I have observed in great measure, football for instance. So why not put me in as a head coach, or even better yet, at quarterback. Well, maybe not. I would probably run around until I separated my shoulder, throw like a girl in the process, and sustain a season ending concussion, all in the course of a three-and-out. It is one thing to play Monday morning quarterback, it is quite another when you are the one making the tough decisions there on the field.

With Obama and Clinton receiving key endorsements, it certainly seems now more than ever that Edwards needs an attack dog. If his wife Elizabeth is up to it, she should be out there on point just like Bill Clinton is for Hillary. Another point the Edwards campaign could capitalize off of are all these old figures from the 90's White House. It is pretty hard to claim to be the advocate for 'real change' when your campaign looks like the bar they walk into on Tatooine in Star Wars, with an eccentric cast of has-beens and creeps, all looking to move in on the first piece of action they find. More needs to be made of these characters, and if not by Edwards in South Carolina, then his wife needs to do it for him. After all, the cancer card trumps the race and gender cards, any day. Here is the killer dossier on a potential relic-laden Clinton cabinet. Enjoy, and feel free to use what you like.

Bill Clinton: I'm not sure how much I would actually get into it with this one. Democrats still have a lot of nostalgia for the former president. However, there is one inroad I believe Edwards could exploit here, in regards to our trade inequity with China. Clinton signed a bill in 2000 extending permanent and normal trade status with China,
but it faced a long campaign of opposition from labor, human rights and conservative groups who wanted to keep reviewing China's trade status annually. Clinton was quoted as having said, "Today we take a major step toward China's entry into the World Trade Organization and a major step toward answering some of the central challenges of this new century." That bill paved the way for China's entry into the WTO, ended the way the U.S. had been dealing with China for decades, and also managed to get us poisonous dog food, tainted toothpaste, and dangerous children's toys. At the time, critics argued that such an agreement would reward a repressive communist state, undermine the country's labor and environmental protections, and cost jobs for U.S. workers. These issues all sounded important - from international and environmental concerns to the outsourcing of manufacturing and skilled labor jobs. Sound familiar? China had to grant Americans and others the right to set up distribution points within the country and open its banking and service sectors to international competitors. As a result, U.S. loans from China are rising at an exponential rate to finance the war in Iraq and the Bush tax cuts. Already in 2008, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch have turned to investors primarily from Asia for an unprecedented $21 billion bailout after HUGE quarterly losses. So China really does own your mortgage.

Sandy Berger: The Deputy National Security Adviser and Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, he is currently an unofficial adviser to the Clinton campaign, despite having had his national security clearance suspended. This man most definitely has a sordid past. In November '97, Berger paid a $23,000 civil penalty to settle conflict of interest allegations stemming from his failure to sell his stock of Amoco Corporation as ordered by the White House. Berger was advised by the White House to sell the stock in early '94. Berger said he had planned to sell the stock, but then he forgot. He denied knowingly participating in decisions in which he had a financial interest. With no evidence that Berger intended to break the law, the U.S. Justice Department determined a civil penalty was adequate for a "non-willful violation" of the conflict of interest law. This however is not his worst conduct. In '99, Berger was criticized for failing to promptly inform President Clinton of his knowledge that the People's Republic of China had managed to acquire the designs of a number of U.S. nuclear warheads. Berger was originally briefed of the espionage by the U.S. Department of Energy in April '96, but did not inform the president until July '97. However, his worst infraction was not during the Clinton years, but as an adviser to the '04 Kerry campaign. The U.S. Justice Department investigated Berger for stealing classified documents, by removing them from a National Archives reading room
in October '03 prior to testifying before the 9/11 Commission. The documents were five classified copies of a single report commissioned from Richard Clarke, covering internal assessments of the Clinton administration's handling of the unsuccessful 2000 millennium attack plots. Berger eventually pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material on April 1, 2005. Under a plea agreement, U.S. attorneys recommended a fine of $10,000 and a loss of security clearance for three years. Critics suggest Berger destroyed primary evidence revealing anti-terrorism policies and actions, and that his motive was to permanently erase one of the Clinton administration's pre-9/11 mistakes from the public record. This is nothing to laugh at from a guy who is rumored to be on Hillary's short list for National Security Adviser, assuming he is allowed to have his security clearance re-instated.

Terry McAuliffe: A fairly unremarkable former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. While he raised large amounts of money for the party, he never really delivered in any of the elections as chairman. This is probably a result of his strategy to cherry-pick states, and not run a 50-state-strategy like his successor, Howard Dean. Had he done so, states like Virginia and North Carolina may have gone to the Dems in '04. McAuliffe is currently a fund-raiser and adviser to the Clinton campaign. His resume looks like he is most likely gunning for Federal Reserve Chairman or Deputy Secretary of something in a potential Clinton administration.

Harold Ickes: Deputy White House chief of staff for President Bill Clinton and the son of Harold L. Ickes, Secretary of the Interior under Franklin D. Roosevelt. A product of nepotism, he now heads the Media Fund, a 527 committee. Five-27's undermine the election process and are a loophole around campaign finance reform. (Since Edwards does not accept PAC money, this may be an area he wishes to exploit.) Ickes is currently an adviser to the Clinton 2008 campaign.

Bill Richardson: With his own campaign for president concluded, and currently not campaigning for nor endorsing the Clintons, he may be on the short list for VP. Richardson has foreign relations experience and was, among other things, Clinton's Secretary of Energy. During his tenure at the Energy Department, he presided over both the
Wen Ho Lee nuclear espionage scandal and the California energy crisis. The roving brownouts over California resulted in billions of dollars lost in the private sector at the height of the 90's tech boom.

Wesley Clark: Another former Clinton operative rumored to be on the short list for VP,
Clark has officially endorsed Hillary for president. Shilling now for her campaign further suggests that his late-entry '04 presidential campaign was an attempt by the Clintons, even back then, to sabotage Edwards in the primary. I have news for you, buddy, handling an exit strategy from Iraq or fighting the global war on terror is going to be quite a bit more difficult than peacekeeping in Bosnia and Kosovo. If I were you, I would try and man up - weren't you once a republican?

Another note on Bill and Hillary and the war. . . Edwards should remind democratic voters that the legal precedent Bush uses to order a pre-emptive attack in a war with Iraq stems back to the rationale Bill Clinton gave for the December 16, 1998 strikes on Iraq.
Those familiar with the film Wag the Dog know how well it parodied the Clinton Administration while the air-strikes, it is worth noting, were criticized by the media as an attempt by Clinton to divert attention from the Lewinsky scandal. This could be fertile ground for Elizabeth Edwards to use if she chooses. Many mothers have seen their sons and daughters killed or injured in Iraq, Elizabeth Edwards lost a teenaged son in an automobile accident, over 60,000 people are killed in automobile accidents each year, and Elizabeth herself is battling a terrible illness. She can make a real, human connection with many American families, and she is a great asset for the campaign.

Edwards is a road-tested and proven candidate, having taken on the Jesse Helms machine in North Carolina and winning, and having taken on Dick Cheney as the vice-presidential nominee and surviving. Everybody knows a Hillary nomination will galvanize the Republican base like nothing else can. As of now, Edwards is the only democratic candidate who beats republican front-runners head-to-head in the polls and projections. There is also the theory that an Edwards nomination, and the subsequent media blackout between the nomination and the convention (due to his acceptance of public financing), might not be such a bad thing. With the compressed primary schedule, the general election is longer than it has ever been. A media blackout at this time might reduce the dreaded election fatigue that is sure to arise.

A recent Research 2000 poll has Edwards in a dead heat with his opponents for Saturday's Nevada Caucus. Whether or not Edwards wins here, this shows his campaign is still viable. Still, Edwards could use a boost into South Carolina, and to take his home state, he will need ammunition. I hope the campaign will use it, and I hope that I have got enough, but then again how many presidential campaigns have I lost? WhiIe I am no Bob Shrum (and who would want to be?), I do believe these tactics could garner Edwards up to 20 percent going into the South Carolina primary. I have the utmost respect for Trippi, and hold him in up to the great political strategists of our time, Karl Rove and James Carville. In 2004, Dean could have been president, had his scream not been about three decibels too loud, and that was not Trippi's fault.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

New Hampshire Post-Mortem

By Chuck Browder


Winners

Hillary Clinton – It was a good night for the former First Lady. I suppose those crocodile tears really paid off for her. Had she not placed first here, it would have made it exponentially more difficult to garner the nomination. According to The Associated Press, Hillary managed to win over 46 percent of women voters in New Hampshire, and Clinton also prevailed among the largest age groups, voters 40-49 years of age, and seniors 65 years and up. Among the one in five voters who picked "has the right experience," Clinton trounced Obama 71 percent to 5 percent. This should serve as effective damage control for the national front-runner, who will be very difficult to stop from here on out.

John McCain –
Not to overstate it, but this was an amazing come back for McCain, who was left for dead months ago, after his heavily financed campaign imploded with so many former George W. Bush advisers at the helm. Since then McCain’s campaign has relied more on hard work and experience than money and slick advisers. As a result, a third of Republican primary voters who call themselves independent came out to vote for him. Also, McCain won nearly 2-to-1 among moderates and the 11 percent who were self-described liberals. Three in 10 Republican voters said it was most important to them that a candidate "says what he believes" and a quarter picked "has the right experience." McCain won about half the votes of both groups. He also found greater support among GOP voters who disapprove of the war in Iraq. Romney and McCain ran about even among the six in 10 who approve the war. For now McCain has the ‘Big Mo’ on the Republican side going into Michigan, where he beat Bush in 2000.

Mike Huckabee –
Huckabee once again exceeded expectations with a third place finish. More than a third of Republican voters said the top quality in who they were looking for in a president was that the candidate "shares my values," of which 20 percent of these values voters favored Mike Huckabee. Huckabee was unable to repeat his success last week in the Iowa caucuses because fewer of the electorate in New Hampshire are among his strongest groups: evangelical Christians and those who said it matters a great deal that a candidate shares their religious beliefs. Third place isn’t great, but it’s certainly nothing to sneeze at. Watch for his momentum to continue into South Carolina, where he should have more success with their larger demographic of religious conservatives.

Barack Obama –
Not the showing that he had hoped for, but he will go on to fight another day. Obama received only 34 percent of the women’s vote, according to the survey conducted for The Associated Press and television networks. Obama beat Clinton by a comparable margin among men, but women voters outnumbered men in the Democratic primary by 57-43. Obama was as strong in New Hampshire as in Iowa among the youngest voters, winning 60 percent of those aged 18-24. And Obama ran about even with Clinton among 25- to 29-year-olds in New Hampshire. When asked which of four personal qualities was most important to their vote, 54 percent of Democratic primary voters picked "can bring about needed change." Obama won 55 percent of that group but Clinton got 28 percent. The exit polls found six in 10 independents opted for the Democratic contest and Obama led among them; voters who usually consider themselves Democrats went for Clinton over Obama by 10 points, after splitting evenly between the two in Iowa. It should be interesting to see where Obama’s national numbers go from here, after a strong second-place finish. As of January 6th, a USA Today/Gallup poll has him tied with Clinton at 33 percent nationally.


Losers

Mitt Romney – New Hampshire was billed by the media as Romney’s last stand and it appears he failed to deliver. However, Romney beat McCain 38 percent to 30 percent among the more than half of Republican primary voters who called themselves conservative. More than a third of Republican voters said the top quality they were concerned with was that the candidate "shares my values," and Romney led among that group with 38 percent. Romney also beat Huckabee 2-to-1 in New Hampshire among very conservative voters. So all in all, don’t count old Mitt out just yet. He is very heavily financed and still has a very well organized campaign. Also, pay careful attention to next week’s primary in Michigan - this could really be Romney’s last stand here. After all, Romney’s father, George W. Romney, was once Governor of Michigan, so there may be a nostalgia factor going into this race.

John Edwards –
This was a bad night for Edwards, not only finishing a distant third with 17 percent of the vote in New Hampshire, but Hillary Clinton placed first. Senior Edwards staffers, rumored to have been told of the great likelihood, if Clinton had not placed first in New Hampshire, that her campaign would drop out of the primary. However this was not the case. Edwards ran even with Clinton among voters who emphasized that a candidate "cares about people like me" while Obama trailed on that score. Few voters acknowledge electibility as a top factor, which was probably a detriment to the Edwards campaign. For now, Edwards is still in the race and claims that there are “two elections down, forty-eight more to go.” This may be true, one would not have expected Edwards to expend too many resources in New Hampshire, since he was tracking so far behind in the polls and didn’t have a strong history in the state, finishing poorly there in 2004. However, two upcoming primaries that could work to Edwards’ advantage are the Nevada caucus and the South Carolina primary. Edwards was born in South Carolina where he won the primary in 2004, and also served one term in the U.S. Senate as the representative of neighboring North Carolina. Also, Edwards has strong ties to organized labor, which could work to his advantage in Nevada, a heavily unionized state.

Ron Paul –
This is a candidate I would have expected to finish stronger in New Hampshire, where the electorate is comprised of over forty percent independent voters. Finishing fifth with 9 percent, just behind Giuliani, Paul managed to at least blow Fred Thompson out of the water. Still, this won’t be the end of the Ron Paul phenomenon. He is very well financed by libertarian-minded donors, and may manage to cause an upset before everything is said and done in this race.

Additional Losers: Fred Thompson & Rudy Giuliani –
These two losers didn’t even bother to show up to participate in either Iowa or New Hampshire. While Giuliani did manage to eke out a slim forth place finish over Ron Paul with 10 percent in New Hampshire, Thompson didn’t even show up on the radar. Dennis Kucinich did better in the Democratic primary than that, and they don’t even let Kucinich participate in the debates any more! Unbelievable.
Either way, you won’t be hearing much about either Thompson or Giuliani for quite some time. Thompson has relied for a while on a win in South Carolina to propel his campaign to victory. With Thompson tracking fourth with 11 percent in South Carolina, one imagines that sooner or later he will throw in the towel. As for Giuliani, his campaign has publicly admitted that they have targeted Florida as their must-win state. According to a Real Clear Politics average, Giuliani leads Huckabee by 5 percent. One has to ask the questions, with so many states between now and then, can that lead hold and will victory in Florida be too little, too late?

*The results are from exit polls Tuesday in 50 precincts around New Hampshire for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International. The Democratic primary survey interviewed 1,956 voters, the Republican primary poll 1,521. The sampling error margin was plus or minus 4 percentage points for each exit poll.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Iowa Caucus Post-Mortem

by Chuck Browder
Winners

Barack Obama – Obviously a historic night for Obama with a first place 9% victory over the once inevitable candidate Hillary Clinton. Given four choices, 52 percent of Democratic caucus-goers said the most important personal quality was that a candidate “can bring about needed change,” and Obama won the initial preference of half of them, according to the entrance poll for the Associated Press and television networks. More than one in five Democratic caucus-goers was under age 30 – about twice as many as typically vote in early presidential nomination events – and 57 percent of them expressed initial preference for Obama. Only 10 percent of those younger voters backed Clinton, and 14 percent Edwards. Nearly six in ten Democratic voters were attending their first caucuses, and 41 percent of them backed Obama. Obama also edged out Clinton, vying to become the first female president, among female voters. Among Democratic caucus-goers 54 percent said they were liberal, and Obama did better among liberals than more moderate caucus-goers. As of now, the Real Clear Politics average has Obama down by 7% to Clinton in New Hampshire. It should be interesting to see what momentum he gets in the polls there from his momentous victory in Iowa.

Mike Huckabee – Maybe Huckabee’s supporters should change their signs from ‘I heart Huckabee’ to Seabiscuit. Outspent by Romney by a factor of sixteen to one, he beat expectations by many in his party, not to mention the crowd at The Weekly Standard. In the Republican contest, born-again or evangelical Christians comprised six in 10 Republican caucus-goers, and 46 percent of them favored Huckabee. More than a third of Republican caucus-goers said it matters a great deal to them that a candidate shares their religious beliefs, and 56 percent backed Huckabee. Given a choice among four personal attributes, 45 percent of GOP caucus-goers said it was most important that a candidate “shares my values,” and nearly half of them supported Huckabee. A third said it was most important that a candidate “says what he believes,” and Huckabee won 33 percent of them. Huckabee hit a home run tonight, but don’t expect him to repeat his performance in New Hampshire, where a Real Clear Politics average has him in fourth with 9.5%. Still, according to the Real Clear Politics averages, he is 1% behind Romney in Michigan, ahead by 6.5% in South Carolina, in second place in Florida, 2% behind Giuliani, and second place in California as well. Expect to see good things down the road after New Hampshire for Huckabee.

John Edwards – Outspent six to one by his opponents, Edwards managed to eke out a second place victory over Senator Clinton, which may be a major victory in itself. Edwards won 44 percent, of those who said the top priority is that a candidate “who cares about people like me,” but only one in five chose that attribute. Only 8 percent said it's most important that a candidate “has the best chance to win in November,” and Edwards fared best among them with 36 percent support. Edwards, who finished second in the 2004 Iowa caucuses, edged out Clinton and Obama among those who have caucused before. To capitalize on this, Edwards will need to place at least a strong third in New Hampshire and will need to do well in both Nevada and his original home-state and possible firewall, South Carolina. A Real Clear Politics average had Edwards in third with 18.5% in New Hampshire, which he may get a little more mileage out of after his second place finish in Iowa. He will need it in order to get back in the game for Nevada and South Carolina, both where he is currently a distant third. Though, it is possible that the Democratic Party is just now coming around to their former Vice Presidential candidate, or as I like to call him "the Democrats’ great white hope", since it finally has become apparent to boomers that Al Gore isn’t getting into the race.

John McCain – Very good night for McCain, as he finishes close with Thompson for third place despite his lack of campaigning in Iowa. With many of the pundits writing off Huckabee in New Hampshire and with Huckabee not expected to attack McCain, this may provide McCain with an opportunity to resurrect his campaign. A recent Real Clear Politics average now has McCain over Romney by 2.5%. Despite only capturing 10% of the evangelical vote in Iowa, McCain should fare better in the more secular New Hampshire race, where he won over President George W. Bush in 2000.


Losers


Mitt Romney –
Terrible night for Romney who was the initial front-runner here.
Highly organized and ten million dollars later, Romney only finds himself in a distant second place behind Huckabee. I suppose Mormon-backed corporations like American Express and Marriott, with all their money, can only polish a turd so much. In the Republican contest, born-again or evangelical Christians comprised six in 10 Republican caucus-goers; only 19 percent favored Mitt Romney, a Mormon who has been viewed skeptically by some religious conservatives. Romney won a little more than a third of voters who said the top priority was that a candidate “has the right experience.” Only 7 percent said the most important attribute was a candidate's electability, and half of them backed Romney. If Romney fails to perform well in New Hampshire, as former Governor of neighboring state Massachusetts, his campaign is most likely toast.

Hillary Clinton – A devastating loss, which the concerned Clintons have conducted damage control on for several weeks. Even more embarrassing for the Clintons is a third place loss to John Edwards, who they outspent by a factor of six to one. I suppose the top-down strategy that brought in the hard-hitters from her national campaign resulted in blowback in Iowa. Hillary Rodham Clinton won half of those who said it was most important that a candidate “has the right experience” – but only one in five said that. Only 10 percent of younger voters backed Clinton, although she won 45 percent of voters 65 or older, who made up a fifth of the Democratic electorate – double the share of seniors in Iowa's general population. While it looks bad for the Clintons now, don’t count them out, they play ball harder than anyone out there in politics.

Fred Thompson – ‘Lazy-like-a-fox-Fred’ may be done here. He initially announced that finishing with anything less than third place would mean the end of his campaign. With he and McCain closely competing for third in Iowa, both he and his campaign may be ready to throw in the towel. Serves him right, after all he initially stated publicly that if McCain were to run in 2008, he would stay out of the race. The only saving grace for the Thompson campaign is that rumor has it that if he packs it in before New Hampshire, the he is expected to back McCain. Maybe old Fred still has a soul; hard to believe it with all the time he spent in Hollywood. Maybe while he is at it he should congratulate Ron Paul.

Joe Biden – This is unfortunately the end of the road for Joe Biden, who has more legislative and national security experience than Edwards, Clinton, and Obama combined. Even more unfortunate for Biden now that his campaign is officially over is that his chances of being chosen as the vice presidential candidate for 2008 are even slimmer, due to the fact that Biden is a human gaff machine. I suppose this is retribution for calling Obama “clean and articulate”.

Chris Dodd – So long, we hardly knew you, seriously Chris who? Yes this is also the last stop for Dodd on the stump. Serves him right for pandering to the The Daily Kos crowd by sandbagging O’Reilly on the Factor the week before the Kos convention. A recent Quinnipiac University Poll shows 55% of those surveyed believe the state's senior senator is spending too much time on the campaign trail and not enough time serving as senator. Probably a good idea, since he had been tracking in the polls just behind dirt. At least the people of Connecticut will have their senator moving home soon (well, as soon as he gets to re-enroll his child in school there!). At the very least, it should get Lieberman off his case for a little while.

*The surveys were conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International as voters arrived at 40 sites each for Democratic and Republican caucuses in Iowa. The Democratic entrance poll interviewed 2,136 caucus-goers, the Republican survey 1,600. Each survey had a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hillary Vs. Hollywood


By Chuck Browder

If anyone cares to notice, outside of the beltway there is a media blackout on the presidential primary. Due to the ongoing writers’ strike, programs like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, Saturday Night Live and the three late-night staples – Leno, Letterman and Conan O’Brian - are all in reruns. Real Time With Bill Maher, after canceling the season finale due to the strike, is on a planned break. Whether production of any of these shows resumes soon, depends on the strike’s outcome. The dead air left behind has created a vacuum which even cable news cannot hope to fill. It seems their programming is tuned in only to the political junkie demographic, so the majority of the electorate outside of New Hampshire and Iowa isn’t paying attention to a race now coming into its final stretch. And no one is drawing their attention to it, while time just ticks by and the primaries get closer. With all of this said, who benefits? Hillary Clinton is the assumed front-runner right now, and so Hillary is the last candidate who should benefit from losing media coverage. But she does. Big time.

Let’s reflect back to several months ago, when DreamWorks Pictures executive David Geffen held a multi-million dollar fundraiser for Senator Barack Obama. On the surface it may have seemed innocuous, except for the fact Geffen historically had done fundraising only for ex-President Bill Clinton. Geffen reportedly told NY Times author Maureen Dowd,

“Not since the Vietnam War has there been this level of disappointment in the behavior of America throughout the world, and I don't think that another incredibly polarizing figure, no matter how smart she is and no matter how ambitious she is -- and God knows, is there anybody more ambitious than Hillary Clinton? -- can bring the country together.”

In regards to the Republicans and Bill Clinton as a liability, Geffen commented,

“I don't think anybody believes that in the last six years, all of a sudden Bill Clinton has become a different person, I think they believe she's the easiest to defeat."

This was the first of several rejections Hillary has received from Hollywood over the past several months.

More recently, Obama received a key endorsement from Oprah Winfrey, who has now announced she will actively campaign with him. So with Oprah throwing the Obama card, this could potentially create a gender gap for Hillary with women, compounding the gap that already exists for her with men. To combat the Oprah endorsement, Hillary pulled out the big guns and garnered the endorsement of long-time Clinton compatriot, and on-again-off-again retiree, Barbra Streisand. Admittedly, Babs has a limited demographic appeal. She’s just preaching to Hillary’s choir.

So Hollywood isn’t for Hillary. Right wing pundits would tell you this is because Hollywood is so radically left and anti-war and out of touch. The truth is, who could blame Hollywood for not supporting her? For starters, she has not had much to say on the subject of the writers’ strike. This is in stark contrast to her opponent, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, who Hillary all but accused of being a Republican shill in the last debate. And to Edwards’s credit, he was on the picket lines recently with the striking writers, addressing their interests in person, bullhorn and all.

But the animosity towards Hillary from Hollywood travels deeper than the current strike. She has made a career of turning marginal and insignificant issues into red meat for her soccer mom demographic, who she is counting on to nominate her. First case in point, Hillary, along with Senator Joe Lieberman, introduced the Media Marketing Accountability Act of 2001, which mandated the Federal Trade Commission to go after record companies for selling rock and rap records to kids under 17 years old. They insisted they just wanted to put "ratings" on CD covers, but what was really at work behind the scenes was a plan to make it a criminal act to sell Eminem and "the vile, hateful and nihilistic" Marilyn Manson to kids. As a result Warner Brothers dropped Eminem as an artist from their label, and Hillary was handed a hollow victory.

Second, the federal investigation Hillary sought against the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which she referred to as “a silent epidemic”. She asked for the FTC to probe how users of the game can access "graphic pornographic and violent content" for the [mature rated] game from the Internet, what was known as the ‘Hot Coffee’ mod. As for proof of the red meat for soccer moms, you only have to read Hillary’s open letter to FTC chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras where she said it’s time the federal government steps in: "There is no doubting the fact that the widespread availability of sexually explicit and graphically violent video games makes the challenge of parenting much harder." As a result of this political tripe, Rockstar Games, the studio that released GTA: San Andreas, pulled the remaining product from the shelves and re-released the game several months later without the controversial content.

So why is it, you may ask, that Hollywood is no friend to Hillary Clinton? For a “liberal,” she sure likes that censorship stuff. But there are more ways Hillary can alienate Hollywood. Look at her treatment IN media compared to the above treatment OF media. During the recent debate on CNN (which, of course, we all know stands for Clinton News Network), moderators Wolf Blitzer and Campbell Brown lobbed softball question after softball question at Hillary, allowing her to answer in vague generalities with little or no follow up on specifics. But this was far from the worst in the CNN debate. The audience in Nevada clearly was stacked with Clinton supporters. Senators Barack Obama and Dennis Kucinich were interrupted several times by boos and shouts. As soon as Senator Edwards began to raise legitimate questions about Hillary’s baggage as a candidate, he was also shouted down with boos. This happened to Edwards several more times throughout the debate. He finally backed down after Hillary responded to his criticisms, accusing Edwards of “mud-slinging” and using talking points right out of the Republicans’ playbook. (Maybe Edwards should have accused her of taking a play out of Tipper Gore’s PMRC [Parents Music Recording Center] playbook, or asked her about other valid serious issues regarding her record and some pre-White House business dealings no one dares to press. But throwing Webb Hubble in her face would have been dirty, and Edwards wasn’t playing that game.)

Does this sound familiar? Harkens back to the days of her accusations of a “vast right wing conspiracy” against her and her husband during his administration. This woman is more paranoid than Richard Nixon and twice as calculating. To make this whole futile exercise in discourse extra special, former President Clinton advisor David Gergen and current Hillary Clinton advisor James Carville were on CNN after the debate to provide post-debate analysis - calling it in her favor, of course - making this debate one of the all-time lows in American political discourse.

And what recourse is there when Jon Stewart couldn’t say a word? How do we put it in perspective without Jay Leno’s line dancers lambasting Wolf Blitzer and Amy Poehler’s Holiday Hillary impressions to bring her back down to size? Seriously. Geffen is right, the Republicans want to run against Hillary. CNN is doing its best to help her and the other networks have all but declared her the winner. Without late-night comedy, there is no voice of reason left.

So what should Hollywood take from all of this? Quite simply, get back to work. I don’t believe for a minute that Hollywood will treat Hillary any better than Dubya. Do you honestly believe that Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, or the writers at Saturday Night Live will give Hillary a free pass? I don’t. Did her husband get a pass when it came to busting the president’s chops? Hardly. So unless you want her as your nominee, you need to get back to work and fill the void in the media’s coverage of this primary you left when this strike occurred. Unless you want all of your content regulated through the FTC, or to go through a Congressional sub-committee for a new content and ratings system, go work it out and get back to work. If you do nothing, cable news will elect her, and you will have no one to blame but yourselves.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Fred Thompson’s Song and Dance

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by Chuck Browder

The thought occurred to me shortly after watching Brit Hume lead off with a question about former Senator Fred Thompson at the top of the last Fox News debate. All of this fervor on the right concerning Thompson’s late to the game campaign feels a little like déjà vu. Remember about this time four years ago, during another campaign and within another party? Yes I’m speaking of former General Wesley Clark’s late entry into the 2004 Democratic primary. For months Clark was coy about his ambition to run for the Democratic nomination, while party-surrogate 527’s launched advertising in an attempt to promote him.

Clark, who currently is rumored to be on Hillary Clinton’s short list for VP, fed red meat to Democrats with lines regarding the war like "Are we safer after all of this?" and "When ought the United States use force?” andI was either going to be the loneliest Republican in America, or I was going to be a happy Democrat." Yet Clark’s late entry into the race never caught fire and his presence in the race only served to detract from the more established candidates. Four years later, Redux: former Senator Fred Thompson’s Campaign.

To Thompson’s credit, he was candid early on with interviewers about his intentions to run for the Republican nomination. Yet, when it came time to file papers with the Federal Election Commission to officially enter the race, he held off on until after the September 5th New Hampshire Fox News Debate. One might surmise from this maneuver that Thompson’s camp realized he would not live up to expectations in the debate. Rather than disappoint Republicans, he could continue to garner free exposure from the syndicated airings of Law and Order, since the episodes in which he appears would be pulled as soon as he filed with the FEC. By the end of the fundraising quarter, Thompson had only reported 3.5 million in campaign contributions, which is roughly the same amount his opponent, fellow Republican Congressman Ron Paul, raised in the same period of time.

Despite his ‘Freddy come lately’ approach to the primary (which is sure to alienate the early New Hampshire and Iowa voters) and his lack luster fundraising, Thompson is still riding high in the polls nationally. Most polls have him competing well with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. However, Thompson does not poll highly in early primary states where former Governor Mitt Romney has a sizeable lead, nor does he do well against top tier Democrats nationally and in the South, which could hamper further fundraising. These money concerns, coupled with his disregard of prepared speeches, his wife’s meddling with his campaign staff, and the lack of a real platform should hurt his campaign. It has not, yet. This is due to the immense amount of red meat he throws to the base of the Republican right on issues like same-sex marriage, immigration, gun rights, right to life, and intelligent design. These are issues, which as the basis of a campaign like Representative Tom Tancredo’s, can turn an outspoken candidate into a lightning rod - marginalized and therefore ineligible to be on the ticket in 2008.

Thompson is arguably the least substantive of the top tier candidates and he snubbed the N.H. Fox News debate, but these current troubles may not compare to his history of problems when all things are said and done. He has a long and sordid past, dating back to his position as co-chief counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee in its investigation of President Nixon. He admits he leaked information to the Nixon White House during the height of the investigation, tipping off Nixon's attorney that the committee was aware of the president's secret tapping device, and would be making the information public.

Thompson’s ‘Fred Heads’ may be appropriately named for a ‘lazy like a fox’ candidate who spent eight years in the senate, failing to author or sponsor a single piece of legislation. He served this odd eight-year term as a U.S. senator by filling the last of Al Gore's term and then one of his own, but he left to pursue his career as a supporting actor because he thought the political realm was too dirty. Since then, the right has accused Thompson of pro-choice lobbying and using his own political action committee to benefit his son. He also married Republican consultant Jeri Kehn, of whom much has been written regarding her being twenty-five years his junior. Just because he calls himself a consistent conservative does not make it true. Ronald Reagan, he is not.

Two factors concerning Fred Thompson and his presidential aspirations that are rarely covered are his health and his involvement leading up to the Iraq war in 2003. Thompson has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and while it is considered indolent, or the lowest grade of the chronic disease, this is a topic worthy of consideration for someone seeking the presidency. In the latter case it would be an understatement to say that there has been a lack of recall concerning the advertisement Thompson did for the Citizens United Foundation. In the ad, Thompson performed a 30-second sales job on the Iraq war for the Bush administration, speaking of a Saddam with nuclear weapons and making an analogy between Hussein and Al-Qaeda, subtly insinuating a connection between the two. This ad is largely responsible for the public misconception that still prevails today: Saddam Hussein had something to do with the attacks on September 11, 2001. In the ad, Thompson says

“. . . And when people ask What has Saddam done to us? I ask

What had the 9/11 hijackers done to us – before 9/11? ”

The answer to Fred’s question is simple: the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the simultaneous bombs in 1998 at the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the Cole bombing in 2000. The ad’s premise and reasoning are faulty, as Hussein violated the no-fly zone continually for 12 years, with no American casualties. Thompson’s intellectual dishonesty and mediocre acting skills helped the Bush administration push a hasty authorization through Congress and convince the American people that a pre-emptive war was the only route.

Thompson, who is known best for his role as D.A. Arthur Branch on Law and Order, has made himself an image of a down-home, southern conservative who campaigns out of the bed of his red pickup truck. He may not be the next Ronald Reagan, but he still may be competitive. Even if he blew off Brit Hume to schmooze it up in southern California with Jay Leno, even if he was late to the game and not ready for primetime, and even if he is just another do-nothing legislator, he may still have a chance in this field. When you’re running against a Baptist preacher, a cross-dresser, a Mormon, an OB/Gyn, a P.O.W. and a couple of xenophobes, anything can happen. Remember the Gray Davis recall and California gubernatorial race in ‘03, or has everyone already forgotten?


Saturday, September 8, 2007

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Third Rail Blog is the counterpart of a politically abrasive Nü media radio show, where we talk about all the important issues you care about, the stuff that the old media won't touch with a 10-foot pole. Brought to you by your hosts J. Scott and Chuck Browder. Careful, touch it and you might get shocked. Click here to check out our new homepage.