Obama Momentum Accelerating Going into New Hampshire

Yesterday I defended my prediction after the Iowa caucus that Obama would win the nomination by noting his momentum, including his upward movement in the polls. A couple additional polls came out which demonstrate the increasing trend towards Obama. CNN now shows Obama with a ten point lead. Edwards has also dropped, consistent with my prediction that his political career is over. A USA Today/Gallup poll shows Obama with a thirteen point lead.

With such poll results, it is not surprising that Clinton’s advisers are now fearing a loss in New Hampshire, followed by a loss in South Carolina. Like Rudy Giuliani they are hoping for victories on Super Tuesday, but this will be very difficult after a string of losses. In the meantime. Obama will be the recipient of a tremendous amount of positive coverage, such as Andrew Sullivan’s column in the Times of London. Sullivan notes how Obama has compared to people such as Adlai Stevenson and John Kennedy. He has another comparison which among Republicans, and some independents, would be even more impressive:

The analogy that worries Republicans the most is a more recent one. Could Obama be a potential liberal version of Ronald Reagan? Could he do for the Democrats what Reagan did for the Republicans a quarter century ago?

It’s increasingly possible. Reagan was the cutting edge of the last realignment in American politics. With a good-natured, civil appeal to Democrats who felt abandoned by their own party under Jimmy Carter, Reagan revolutionised the reach of his own party.

He didn’t aim for a mere plurality, as Bill Clinton did. Nor did he try for a polarising 51% strategy, as George W Bush has done. He ran as a national candidate, in search of a national mandate, a proud Republican who nonetheless wanted Democrats to vote for him.

He came out of a period in which Americans had become sickened by the incompetence of their own government. Reagan shocked America’s elites by pivoting that discontent into a victory in 1980. And by his second term, he won 49 out of 50 states.

You can see the same potential in Obama. What has long been remarkable to me is how this liberal politician fails to alienate conservatives. In fact, many like him a great deal. His calm and reasoned demeanour, his crisp style, his refusal to engage in racial identity politics: these appeal to disaffected Republicans.

He is particularly attractive to those on the American right who feel betrayed by the Bush administration’s version of conservatism, just as many Democrats felt betrayed by Jimmy Carter’s liberalism.

These voters � nonevangelical, fiscally and militarily prudent, socially tolerant � do not feel at home in the angry, Southern, antiimmigrant Republican party of the past few years.

Almost a quarter of those voting in the Democratic caucus last Thursday night were Republicans or independents. In both categories, Obama beat Clinton by more than two to one.

In New Hampshire on Tuesday, independents are even more prevalent and may well represent 40% of the Democratic vote. (In both Iowa and New Hampshire, you can change your party registration on the day of the vote.)

Reagan won a national victory on the strength of “Reagan Democrats”. Obama could win with “Obama Republicans”. That’s remarkable in itself. When you realise he’s also a liberal urban black man whose middle name is Hussein, it’s gob-smacking.

Put these disaffected Republicans together with a spectrum of minorities and a black vote potentially greater than at any time in history, and you begin to see what Obama offers his own party.

The other strikingly Reaganite aspect to Obama is his appeal to the younger generation. People forget that the oldest president was extremely popular among the under30s.

Obama has an almost cult-like standing on college campuses. The youth vote is always touted every four years but never materialises on polling day.

Last Thursday, it came out in force. In Iowa, where the over65 cohort usually outnumbers the under30s by five to one, the old and the young were evenly divided. Among the under30s, Obama beat Clinton by 57% to 11%.

This generation, moreover, is a huge one: the Boomer Echo. Between Bush’s pushing them and Obama pulling them, the Democrats’ advantage could define a generation’s politics. And that’s increasingly Obama’s ambition. He has kept his ego in check, but he is clearly aiming not for a small win, but for a major mandate. He isn’t a Clinton in this respect or even a Bush. He is a Reagan, a Thatcher � of the left.

Factchecking Republicans on Bill Clinton and Military Spending

The second of two reports from Factcheck.org on the Republican debate which I find worth quoting in whole debunks the common Republican claim that we currently face problems because Bill Clinton drastically cut back on the military:

Rudy’s Historic Rewrite

Giuliani falsely blamed President Clinton for cuts in the military that happened mostly under a Republican administration:

Giuliani: Bill Clinton cut the military drastically. It’s called the peace dividend, one of those nice-sounding phrases, very devastating. It was a 25, 30 percent cut in the military. President Bush has never made up for that. We – our Army had been at 725,000; it’s down to 500,000.

Actually, most of the cutting to which Giuliani refers occurred during the administration of George H.W. Bush. At the end of fiscal year 1993 (which was Bush’s last one in office), the Army had 572,423 active-duty soldiers – a far cry from 725,000. In fact, to get to that number, one has to go back to 1990, during the first gulf war. Moreover, Clinton’s cuts in the military, while large, were nowhere close to 25 percent to 30 percent. Between 1993 and 2001, the Army went from 572,423 to 480,801, which is a decline of 16 percent. The entire military went from 1,705,103 to 1,385,116, a decrease of 18.8 percent.

Compare that with the far larger cuts made during the first Bush administration: In 1989, the military stood at 2,130,229 and the Army had 769,741 soldiers. By 1993, those numbers had declined by 19.9 percent and 25.6 percent, respectively.

And as we’ve pointed out before, it was the first Bush administration – specifically then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney – that began bragging openly of the peace dividend.

Republicans Misleading on Uninsured

Factcheck.org reviewed last night’s Republican debate and found a number of errors. I’m posting the two most significant errors, which repeat claims which are often heard from conservatives, as two separate posts. The first is the claim that reports of 47 million uninsured are greatly inflated by healthy people who choose not to have insurance. These facts also support Barack Obama’s argument that mandates are not necessary because most people who have the opportunity to receive affordable care will do so. 

Romney’s Freeloaders

Romney offered a theory for the number of uninsured that is simply false:

Romney: And the reason health care isn’t working like a market right now is you have 47 million people that are saying, “I’m not going to play. I’m just going to get free care paid for by everybody else.” That doesn’t work.

This idea – that most uninsured Americans simply don’t feel like having health insurance – has been heard before from this year’s GOP field. We addressed it here, after Huckabee claimed at a Dec. 10 debate that a third of the uninsured “think they’re healthy and invincible.” Experts say this is simply not the case: Most people who are offered insurance do not turn it down, neither because of perceived invincibility nor from an unwillingness to “play” the insurance game.

The National Academies report that “only 4 percent of all workers ages 18 to 44 (roughly 3 million people) are uninsured because they decline available workplace health insurance, and many do so because they cannot afford the cost.” A 2007 study published in Health Affairs found that 56 percent of the uninsured were neither eligible for public coverage nor able to afford insurance without assistance.  This study also found that 20 percent of the uninsured could have afforded coverage, but even leaving aside other factors like being turned down for insurance, that’s hardly 47 million people refusing to “play.”

Romney is also misleading when he implies that the uninsured are simply choosing between toeing the line and freeloading as two roughly equal ways of obtaining health care. While uninsured individuals can get a certain amount of free emergency care, it is by no means comparable to the care given to those with insurance. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the uninsured have less access to care, are more likely to be hospitalized, are often financially unable to follow treatment plans, get less preventive care and are in general poorer health than the insured. Poorer health among the uninsured could also affect their ability to purchase private coverage, since insurance companies often reject individuals with preexisting conditions.

Michael Bloomberg, Centrist Democrat?

The New York Times looks at Michael Bloomberg’s views and find that he falls right in the middle. Middle of the Democratic Party that is. Many have gone ballistic over the upcoming bipartisan meeting have centered their attacks on a straw man argument that then are all supporters of a mushy center position on all issues. This article proves they are wrong but hasn’t ended the attacks. Greg Sargent, who is emerging as one of the leading Bloomberg-bashers, calls Bloomberg’s calls for “post-partisanship” “a self-serving, attention-seeking stunt.”

One would think that liberal bloggers would be happy to see that Bloomberg shares their views. The objection is really on a partisan rather than ideological level, demonstrating that Bloomberg has a point in criticizing today’s hyper-partisanship. This only demonstrates further the reason these individuals are meeting. Besides, if a liberal such as Michael Bloomberg can find common ground with the variety of people from both parties who are attending, this could be beneficial. Should moderates such as Christine Todd Whitman ever manage to regain influence in the Republican Party, it is beneficial that they speak with people like Bloomberg who support abortion rights and oppose restrictions on same sex marriage. Maybe others there will get Bloomberg to reconsider some of his nanny state ideas.

The vitriol towards Bloomberg and the others meeting most likely comes from the fear that they will run as a third party, harming the Democrats in the 2008 election. The old argument was that there was no point in Bloomberg running because the mushy center wasn’t a valid platform. Seeing that this is not the case, the new argument is that there is no point in a Bloomberg run because he shares the views of the Democratic Party. The point is that Bloomberg’s views would be at the center of the Democratic Party, which is approximately where the center of the country currently is.

Whether a Bloomberg run makes sense, or has any chance to succeed, depends upon what the Democrats do. If Obama is the nominee, then it makes no sense for Bloomberg to run, and I’ve already noted evidence to suggest that he would not run against Obama, and he wouldn’t have much impact if he did. However, if the Democrats embrace either Edwards’ economic ideas, or the idea that increasing the hyper-partisanship is the way to accomplish their ends, then the Democrats would not be offering a viable choice in the general election and there would be room for another option. My main interest is in the principles someone promotes, not their party affiliation.

Bill Bradley to Endorse Obama

Political Radar reports that Bill Bradley will be endorsing Barack Obama on Monday:

ABC News’ Karen Travers Reports: Former Sen. Bill Bradley will endorse Sen. Barack Obama in New Hampshire on Monday, ABC News has learned.

A source close to the senator said that he has waited until now to endorse because he wanted to give former Sen. John Edwards a shot in Iowa first.

I wonder if other endorsements will follow, adding to Obama’s momentum. The implication from the second paragraph is that Bradley also agrees that Edwards no longer has a chance.

Update: Further sources are reporting the same. The Los Angeles Times says that “Bradley will praise Obama for working to build a wide coalition of Democrats, Republicans and independents in his bid to become the first African American presidential nominee for a major party.” They also note that his last endorsement didn’t work out so well as he endorsed Howard Dean. The difference here is that he waited until after Obama has the momentum to win, as opposed to backing Edwards as he was apparently considering.

The Politico has a slightly different quote from the upcoming statement:

Barack Obama is building a broad new coalition that brings together Democrats, independents and Republicans by once again making idealism a central focus of our politics

The New Hampshire Democratic Debate

With two debates involving ten candidates I only saw two people I could take seriously as president. If experience is a factor, Bill Richardson might make the best president of the bunch, but he doesn’t make a good enough candidate to get the chance. Richardson was best prepared for the final question regarding admitting mistakes as he’s made a few. At least he was willing to admit it as the others dodged the question:

GOV. RICHARDSON: Well, I’ve made a lot of them. One that I particularly remember — I think it was here in New Hampshire, the first debate — I was asked who my favorite Supreme Court justice was, and I said, dead or alive? (Laughter.) I said — I should have — I should have stuck to the alive because I then said, “Whizzer” White, because I idolize John F. Kennedy and I figured if he appointed “Whizzer” White, this was a great Supreme Court justice. Well then I find out that “Whizzer” White was against Roe versus Wade, against civil rights — (laughter). You know, so that’s — that wasn’t a good one. (Laughter, applause.)

Being included after the field was narrowed down to the final four certainly helped Richardson. Edwards joined Obama in trying to get Clinton to be the one voted out at the next tribal council. As things got heated, Richardson got in one of the better lines of the debate as he said, “Well, I’ve been in hostage negotiations that are a lot more civil than this.” This served to also remind people that he has negotiated with foreign leaders. He also didn’t hesitate to remind viewers that he was the only governor there with executive experience.

While Richardson had a good night, the big winner was Barack Obama. Seeing Edwards and Clinton argue over change only highlighted the fact that Obama now dominates the race. He might lack the experience Richardson has, but he was the only other person I saw tonight who appeared the least bit presidential.

Once again, seeing Edwards I couldn’t help but wonder why he is even on the same stage as legitimate contenders to be president. It’s amazing how far a big smile and lots of ambition can get you, but it won’t be enough to win. Clinton didn’t do herself any favors either when she tried to compete with Obama by claiming to be an agent of change but instead appeared to be imitating Edwards as someone consumed with anger, as seen in this video:


Ultimately Obama won by both looking the most presidential and by denying his opponents the opportunity to change the current dynamic before Tuesday. Only Richardson might have given anyone reason to shift their vote to him, but he is too far behind for that to matter.

The full transcript for the debate is here.