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.