Third Quarter Fund Raising Keeps Richardson Alive

Bill Richardson was the first candidate to release information on third quarter fund raising. His campaign raised about $5.2 million for the quarter and over $18 million for the year. This still leaves him behind Clinton and Obama, but keeps him in the same range as Edwards and well ahead of the remainder of the candidates.

With Edwards seriously crippling his chances with his desperation decision to accept public financing, along with the restrictions on spending, this solidifies Richardson as the number three candidate in the race. Richardson spokesman Tom Reynolds said that Richardson would be “very hesitant” to accept such limitations which would give the Republicans a tremendous advantage.

CQ Politics reports that Obama and Clinton have raised similar amounts during the third quarter. Obama’s campaign estimates they raised between $18 million and $19 million dollars. Clinton’s campaign estimates they raised between $17 million and $20 million dollars for the quarter.

Conservatives Threaten Third Party If Giuliani Wins Republican Nomination

Michael Scherer reports that many on the religious right are considering a third party campaign should a pro-abortion rights candidate such as Rudy Giuliani win the Republican nomination. This leaves many liberals thrilled with the idea of an easy win, while some liberals such as Ron Beasley are also looking for an independent alternative to the Democratic candidates.

I don’t have much hope that this will have a lasting impact. Assuming the Democrats stay away from fringe candidates such as Kucinich, Gravel, and increasingly John Edwards, they should win in 2008 regardless of what the Republicans do. The conservative wing of the Republican Party has intermittently played with challenges to the Republican Party in the past, but this rarely goes anywhere as they realize they have a greater chance for electoral success by concentrating on fighting for control of the GOP.

On paper a Giuliani Republican Party looks good and I might support a socially liberal Republican over many Democratic candidates. Unfortunately Giuliani has too many drawbacks, including his abandonment of liberal principles for political expediency, his ignorance of health care issues, his even more dangerous ignorance of national security issues, and his authoritarian personality. As John Dean has warned, Bush is worse than Nixon, and Rudy Giuliani might be even worse:

“Look at the so-called Watergate abuses of power,” he said. “Nobody died. Nobody was tortured. Millions of Americans were not subject to electronic surveillance of their communications. We’re playing now in a whole different league.”

And how does Bush compare with the Republicans seeking to succeed him? “If a Rudy Giuliani were to be elected,” Dean said, “he would go even farther than Cheney and Bush in their worst moments.”

While unlikely, I do hope that the conservative idea to start a third party becomes part of a trend to shake up the current dividing lines between the parties. A problem with the two party system is that many diverse groups are thrown together. The “country club” Republicans (who increasingly are being replaced by younger “Starbucks Republicans”) and the libertarian-leaning Republicans have long been in a strained alliance with the religious right.

I have more in common with some of these groups than with some Democrats. A socially conservative Democratic candidate such as John Edwards who is also conservative on civil liberties, engages in populist pandering on economic issues, and whose opposition to the war appears to be more out of political expediency than based upon a true understanding of foreign policy, is far less desirable to me than a moderate Republican who follows the principles in this letter which attempts to revive the progressive wing of the GOP.

I’m more concerned with what a party stands for at present than its name and history and would have no objection to a reborn Republican Party which shares my beliefs. As long as the religious right and the neoconservatives control the Republican Party I’m not very optimistic that these moderate Republicans can take control of the party, and currently have more hope in a transformation of the Democratic Party. As hard a time as third parties have at winning in the United States, I’ve also had greater hope for a successful third party to develop should the Democrats fall back on old habits than for the Republicans to return to sanity. However, if the religious right were to really leave the GOP, perhaps there is a possibility for the party to adopt more rational policies. While I do not see much hope for a party led personally by Rudy Giuliani, perhaps this could be an intermediate step towards a Republican Party controlled by a more liberal wing which does not share his authoritarian tendencies and support for the Iraq war.

Update: More in the New York Times and from McClatchy.

Republican Losers of the Week

There were too big Republican losers of the week, Rush Limbaugh, John McCain, and Rudy Giuliani. Limbaugh called soldiers who advocate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq “phony soldiers.” This is consistent with the intolerance of dissent and knee jerk support for Republican policies he has displayed in the past, but following the over-reaction to the MoveOn ad it was inevitable that there would be considerable reaction to his latest comment.

Many of the conservative bloggers who participated in the distortion of comments from John Kerry, such as claiming his joke about George Bush getting us stuck in Iraq was actually a slur on the troops, are now claiming Limbaugh’s statement was taken out of context. This argument doesn’t hold up after reading the actual transcript. Limbaugh tried to strengthen this argument by releasing an edited transcript, but this was exposed by Media Matters. Many liberal bloggers, such as Army of Dude, presented examples to counter Limbaugh’s claim.

The House of Representatives will be considering a measure to condemn Limbaugh for his comments. Mitt Romney and John McCain have also condemned Limbaugh for this comment. McCain said:

Any American who risks his or her life to defend us has earned the respect and gratitude of every American citizen, irrespective of their views on this war. If Mr. Limbaugh made the remark he is reported to have made, it reflects very poorly on him and not the objects of his offensive comment. I expect most Americans, whatever their political views, will have the same reaction. He would be well advised to retract it and apologize.

McCain didn’t do as well when he was interviewed by Beliefnet and claimed that the Constitution established a “Christian nation.”

Another loser of the week was Rudy Giuliani as one of his backers was found to be behind the failed attempt to improve the odds of a Republican victory in 2008 by dividing up the California electoral votes.

Obama Leads in Iowa Poll Among Likely Caucus-Goers

Iowa determined the outcome of the nomination battle in 2004 and very well could do so again, making national polls meaningless. Even polls from Iowa have limited predictive value as caucus voters typically make up their minds in the final days. Today’s poll out of Iowa must be evaluated with that in mind. It provides a snap shot of where the race is, but doesn’t predict the outcome.

For quite a while Edwards led in Iowa. This was due to a combination of Edwards having practically lived in Iowa after the 2004 election and having adopted a populist platform which is attractive to many Iowa Democrats. Edwards also had the benefit of name recognition, much as Joe Lieberman had in the early 2003 polls. Like Lieberman, Edwards support has fallen as the other candidates have been campaigning.

This trend is also seen in the latest poll from Newsweek:

Among all Iowa Democrats surveyed, Clinton enjoys a 6-point lead over her nearest rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. But among likely Democratic caucus-goers, she is locked in a three-way race with Obama and former North Carolina senator John Edwards, with Obama enjoying a slight edge…

Among all Iowa Democratic voters, Clinton draws 31 percent, followed by Obama (25 percent) and Edwards (21 percent). But among likely caucus-goers, Obama enjoys a slim lead, polling 28 percent to best Clinton (24 percent) and Edwards (22 percent). Bill Richardson is the only other Democratic candidate to score in the double digits (10 percent).

To remain a viable candidate, Edwards must not only reverse his downward trajectory but come back to win decisively. Without a sizable win it is unlikely Edwards would get enough of a bounce to win in New Hampshire, where his populist agenda is not received well as favorably as it is in Iowa. Without an impressive victory, Edwards would also have a difficult time raising enough money to mount a national campaign for the multi-state February 5 primaries, and he is also at a disadvantage from the restrictions due to accepting federal matching funds.

Obama could benefit tremendously if his lead holds. Clinton’s strength comes from the perception of inevitability, and this could be shattered if Obama beats her in Iowa. It would still be a tough fight, but Obama might have the edge following a win. On the other hand, a Clinton victory in Iowa would make it very difficult for anyone else to challenge her.

John Kerry came back from fourth place in the Iowa polls to win, and an upset win by Bill Richardson cannot be ruled out. Richardson does much better on the stump than in the debates and he has an outside chance to win with a strong ground game. It is looking increasingly hopeless for the remainder of the candidates. Chris Dodd deserves more attention than he receives, but if he has not been able to move from single digits yet I doubt he will be able to do so unless he gets some major breaks such as more than one high profile endorsement. As we saw in 2004, even this wasn’t enough to give Howard Dean the victory despite a strong lead in the polls.

Bill Clinton Discusses Barack Obama’s Experience

Bill Clinton questions whether Barack Obama is experienced enough to run for president. Sure I’d like it better if Obama had a little more experience, but Bill Clinton in hardly the person whose opinion I’d ask about Obama. I believe he has a horse in this race.

In a perfect world all the candidates would also be perfect. Both front runners would be highly experienced. Neither would have made mistakes such as supporting going to war in Iraq, supporting the Patriot Act, or supporting federal legislation to outlaw flag desecration. Perhaps experience isn’t the only criteria here, especially when Hillary Clinton has been on the wrong side so many times, starting with her original health care plan.

If we are looking at someone experienced enough to run for president we might also look at Hillary Clinton’s latest proposal to give $5000 to every baby. That’s five times what George McGovern offered in 1972, but correcting for inflation it sounds about even. Is this another example of the experience which makes Clinton more qualified than Obama to run for president? Does experience mean adopting ridiculous ideas of the past?

SciFi Friday: Fall Premiers, Doctor Who and Torchwood

The Bionic Woman was the most hyped genre show premiering this week, and it even beat the second season premier of Heroes in the ratings. Just as Battlestar Galactica was transformed from a camp show of the past to a more modern, edgy show, The Bionic Woman is a total remake of The Six Million Dollar Woman. The first episode was mixed, and hopefully will improve after it doesn’t have to spend time setting up the story. Typical of modern television shows of this genre, the remake centers around a government agency with a questionable agenda. David Eick, also Executive Producer of Battlestar Galactica, brought in a new character played by BSG’s Starbuck, Katee Sackhoff. Sackhoff (above) plays an earlier bionic woman who has gone bad, and who steals the scenes from the current version of the heroine, Jaime Sommers.

The most highly hyped new genre show, Pushing Daisies, doesn’t premier until next Wednesday, and is reviewed by Variety:

Series creator Bryan Fuller previously explored the great beyond in “Dead Like Me,” but this is a far more impressive construct, built around Ned (Lee Pace), who discovers at an early age that he possesses the power to bring the dead back to life with a single touch.

The tradeoff: If he touches that person again, they die forever — and leaving the resurrected alive causes someone else in the vicinity to drop dead, achieving a weird kind of cosmic balance.

Ned has found a way to eke out a living from this talent on two fronts: His dazzling pies, where his touch invests the fruit with tremendous flavor; and moonlighting with a detective (Chi McBride) who inadvertently witnessed his gift first-hand, reviving murder victims long enough to find out who killed them and split the reward. Still, it’s a detached, emotionally frigid existence, as his coworker Olive (the ever-adorable Kristin Chenoweth) points out.

Enter Chuck (Anna Friel), the girl Ned loved as a child before she moved away. When Chuck turns up murdered, Ned brings her back for the sizable payout but can’t bring himself to kill her, creating this conundrum: Although strongly drawn to each other, they can never, ever touch..

While it’s hard to imagine “Pushing Daisies” becoming a major hit, the best hope is that a cultish audience will become enormously attached to it (which is almost inevitable) and the series finds a way to sustain its initial charms. Those are both tall orders, but as the premiere makes clear, hope really does spring eternal; this is one pilot that truly deserves to postpone death’s embrace.

Heroes returned with a solid first episode. After ending last season together in New York to save the world, most of the heroes are split up four months later. A lot happens in the episode. Mohinder is researching a virus which is deadly to those with powers, and infiltrates The Company. We find at the end that Peter Petrelli lost his memory after blowing up. Clare Bennett and her father are trying to blend in while hiding in California despite a contending with mean girl cheerleaders and a stalker who can fly whose interested in Claire, and a boss on a power trip who gets on the wrong side of Noah. Hiro finds out that his hero is not what he believed. They even managed to introduce some new characters, while eliminating others.

Kristen Bell will be joining Heroes for an arc later this season, and is rumored to play Clare’s sister. Her television and film career is apparently taking up too much of her time, causing her to change her mind on appearing as the lead in Legally Blonde on Broadway.

Doctor Who has another strong episode tonight for those following on the SciFi Channel as they finally reveal what The Master has been up to behind the scenes all season in The Sound of Drums. I previously reviewed the episode here, along with a video clip.

The BBC also presents some information on one of next season’s episodes, Rome Sweet Rome:

The Doctor and his new companion Donna are set to travel back in time to the Roman Empire for the fourth series of Doctor Who.

In one of the most ambitious episodes to date, The Doctor, played by David Tennant and Donna (Catherine Tate) arrive in Pompeii in AD 79, on the eve of the historic eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

The Time Lord and his companion are posed with an immediate dilemma; should they warn the residents of Pompeii of the forthcoming catastrophe or leave them to fend for themselves?

“Arriving in Pompeii marks the start of another exciting adventure for the Doctor and Donna,” said Doctor Who’s Executive Producer and Head Writer, Russell T Davies. “Donna is stunned to find herself in the midst of history’s most famous volcanic eruption. Viewers can expect many more ambitious storylines and a whole host of guest stars in 2008.”

TV Squad reports that some episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures are available on YouTube. There’s no word yet on when this Doctor Who spin off will be broadcast in the United States.

The premier of Torchwood might have given Pushing Daisies the idea of bringing people back from the dead to solve murders. The second episode of Torchwood shows why the show has a reputation of being the “adult” spin off of Doctor Who. An alien arrives on earth which requires orgasmic energy to survive. It takes over the body of a young girl who obtains this energy from engaging in wild sex which causes her partner to explode at climax. When trapped, she even attempts some girl on girl action with Gwen. Yes, it is worth waiting a week to catch this show in High Definition.

Edwards’ Hedge Fund Foreclosed On Iowa Borrowers

The scandals surrounding John Edwards’ association with Fortress might jeopardize his position in Iowa. TPM Election Central reports that “Fortress companies foreclosed on sub-prime mortgage borrowers in Iowa — 107 of them, to be exact — while Edwards worked with the firm.”

Once again, Edwards denied knowledge of the foreclosures by Fortress. As I previously noted, Edwards’ defense based upon pleading ignorance of the activities at Fortress only reinforce questions that he is a lightweight who is unqualified to be president. Edwards has claimed he worked for Fortress “primarily to learn” the business but came away without much knowledge of what the company was doing.

Edwards has attempted to reduce the political harm from this scandal by claiming to assist those harmed by Fortress but his trivial response looked far more like attempted damage control for PR value than a meaningful response. Today’s response from Edwards does not help his cause:

Edwards told the Des Moines Register that he did not know about the Iowa foreclosures until they told him about it. “If you look at the context of everything I’ve done since the last election, it’s absolutely clear where my heart is and what I care about,” he said.

Yes, in observing Edwards’ career it is very clear what John Edwards cares about: Making money for John Edwards and acquiring political power for John Edwards, and he is willing to say or do anything to achieve these goals.

Edwards To Accept Matching Funds Ending Pretense of Being Most Electable Candidate

John Edwards has announced he will accept matching funds. I doubt few will see this as anything more than a desperation move due to the inability to raise a meaningful amount of money from anyone other than the trial lawyers. For those who believe Edwards when he says, “This is about taking a stand, a principled stand, and I believe in public financing” I have a bridge or two for sale that I’d like to show you.

For John Edwards, “principle” means a view that changes based upon what is the most beneficial for John Edwards at the time. The legal training to argue either side of an argument convincingly has paid off well for him. With regards to matching funds, Edwards held different “principles” back in February:

Democrat John Edwards on Monday joined New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in saying he will not use public money for the presidential primary campaign or, if he wins his party’s nomination, for the general election.

The move by the former North Carolina senator is the latest sign of trouble for the public campaign funding system, created after the Watergate scandal to set limits and disclosure rules on contributions to presidential campaigns.

Edwards said in an interview that he expects major candidates in both parties to raise unlimited private dollars rather than participate in the public system. He said he needs to do the same “to have the funds to be competitive.”

No doubt Edwards will now apologize for having been wrong on public financing, and then attack the other candidates who have not had the same revelation as he has had, reminiscent of his changing position on the Iraq war.

Edwards has long been arguing that he is more electable than the other candidates despite deteriorating support from independents and moderates after seeing the populist views he has adopted since the 2004 campaign. As Edwards himself argued in February, by accepting the limits from public funds he will no longer have the funds to launch a competitive race.

Documentary Promoting Intelligent Design Deceived Scientists

The right wing has become increasingly active in promoting their alternative reality. This includes a recent documentary promoting their revisionist history denying that separation of church and state is a fundamental principle upon which this country was founded, denial of the scientific consensus on global warming, and claiming that there is scientific controversy over evolution.

The New York Times demonstrates how the religious right is using deceptive techniques in a documentary entitled Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed to present a false view on evolution. In order to attempt to give the documentary which presents misinformation about science credibility, several scientists were deceived into appearing in the movie. P.Z. Myers, one of the biologists interviewed, writes on his blog, “We were lied to, and they tricked us. It’s that simple.”

The science writer for the Times sums up the issue well:

The growing furor over the movie, visible in blogs, on Web sites and in conversations among scientists, is the latest episode in the long-running conflict between science and advocates of intelligent design, who assert that the theory of evolution has obvious scientific flaws and that students should learn that intelligent design, a creationist idea, is an alternative approach.

There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. And while individual scientists may embrace religious faith, the scientific enterprise looks to nature to answer questions about nature. As scientists at Iowa State University put it last year, supernatural explanations are “not within the scope or abilities of science.”

Two Provisions of Patriot Act Called Unconstitutional by Federal Judge

Two provisions of the Patriot Act were called unconstitutional by a federal judge in Oregon:

In a case brought by a Portland man who was wrongly detained as a terrorism suspect in 2004, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Patriot Act violates the Constitution because it “permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment.”

“For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law — with unparalleled success,” Aiken wrote in a strongly worded 44-page opinion. “A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised.”

It makes one wonder how supporters of these measures can be considered patriots considering how they violate the principles upon which this nation was founded and stands for.

This legal challenge to the Patriot Act comes soon after another federal judge called the gag orders under the act unconstitutional.