Seattle Times Endorses Obama

The Seattle Times has endorsed Barack Obama. In this excerpt from the endorsement they address the question of experience versus judgment. I certainly agree in choosing someone whose judgment has proven to be correct over a candidate such as Clinton who might have more experience (if you include her years as First Lady) but who has shown poor judgment on the war as well as other issues:

Critics ask a fair question about Obama’s experience. He has been a U. S. senator for three years, Illinois state senator for eight, lawyer, lecturer, community organizer — a résumé some say is not executive enough for a president.

American voters tend to select governors rather than senators for president, President Bush being a recent example. Bush fit the mold — governor of Texas six years — but his résumé proved to be a failed indicator.

Judgment is more important. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq was the most-wrongheaded decision of our time.

Voters this time have reason to focus on other qualities, such as the courage to tell people things they might not want to hear. Obama, for example, took his pitch for higher fuel-efficiency standards to the most-challenging audience, Detroit.

And in October 2002, when our country was horribly bruised by Sept. 11, he came out against the war in Iraq: “I don’t oppose all wars. … What I am opposed to is a dumb war. … What I am opposed to is a rash war.”

Such statements might sound unpatriotic — unless, of course, the speaker turns out to be correct. In an Obama administration, American troops have a chance to start coming home.

Sebelius To Endorse Obama

We have yet another endorsement coming in for Obama this week:

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) will deliver the Democratic response to the State of the Union on Monday.

And then Tuesday or Wednesday, she plans to endorse Barack Obama, numerous Democratic sources said.

The sources said that Sebelius decided some time ago that Obama was her candidate but decided to wait until after the State of the Union.

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Independents on Super Tuesday

In the early primaries both Barack Obama and John McCain have benefited from votes from independents in states where they are allowed to vote in the party primaries. I’ve seen a number of articles claiming that they would lose this advantage as the upcoming primaries are closed, but not it appears this does not entirely apply on Super Tuesday. AP reports:

More than half the states holding presidential contests next month on Super Tuesday allow unaffiliated voters to participate, giving millions of independents a chance to shape what is usually an insider affair among Democratic and Republican loyalists.

Two of those states, California and New Jersey, together have nearly 6 million unaffiliated voters who will be allowed to cast ballots. Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts and Alabama are among other prized catches with millions of independents eligible for the Feb. 5 contests…

Fifteen of the 24 states holding contests on Super Tuesday have some form of flexible voting system. Some are wide open, allowing voters to cast ballots in either party regardless of political affiliation. Others have semi-open primaries, allowing unaffiliated voters to participate if they register with a party on the day of the primary.

Obama could get the biggest boost, analysts said, because independents appear to be leaning toward Democrats this year…

The ranks of unaffiliated voters have grown steadily since the 1960s. Experts estimate that about one in five eligible voters nationally are independents. But the figure is difficult to pin down because many states don’t require voter registration by party, and many voters who call themselves independents lean strongly toward one party.

Among states with partisan registration, percentages vary widely.

California’s 3 million unaffiliated voters account for about 19 percent of the state’s total registered. In New Jersey, some 2.8 million are unaffiliated, well over half. Kansas and Massachusetts, two other Super Tuesday states with flexible primary rules, have 447,634 (27 percent) and 2 million (50 percent) unaffiliated voters, respectively.

I’m also not convinced that candidates who appeal to independents won’t do as well in states which do not allow independents to vote in primaries. Independents who are motivated to vote in party primaries might be more likely to take action to ensure they can vote in other states. I bet that many people will register as independents in states where this is an option but register as a member of the party they vote for the most often if this is the only way to vote in a primary. I suspect that states which do not allow independents to vote in party primaries have a larger number of people registered as members of a party who vote more similarly to the independent voters, and such voters will still tend to vote more for Obama and McCain. One important factor might be the ease of registering to vote in a party primary for new voters who desire to vote for Obama. It will be interesting to see if there is a major difference in the primary results based upon whether independents can vote.

Joe Klein on The Rejection of the Smear Campaign

Joe Klein has some comments on the repudiation of the Clinton smear campaign in South Carolina:

Make no mistake: What happened in South Carolina today was a moral reprimand delivered to Bill and Hillary Clinton by a united Democratic Party–but especially by the African-American segment of that party.

I chased the Clintons around South Carolina yesterday and the absence of black faces at their rallies was striking–eerie almost, the absence a palpable presence, as if the rooms were filled with ghosts. In Penn Center on St. Helena Island, which has been a historic nexus of the civil rights movement going back to the civil war–a place where Martin Luther King Jr would sometimes go to live in a rude cabin, and to write and think–Bill Clinton looked out on a lily-white crowd and he must have known what he was seeing: a silent, decorous protest against him by a segment of the Democratic Party that was always there for him in the past, the churchified African-American middle class, a group that represents the Democrats’ canary in the coal mine when it comes to injustice.

A mass, unspoken decision had been made that Bill and Hillary Clinton had behaved unjustly toward Barack Obama. It was the sort of decision that Bill Clinton might have tried to argue with, if it had come from the presss: “Hell, that Reagan thing…c’mon that’s the kind of thing Republicans do to us all the time. Barack’s gonna have to get used to it if he wants to play in the big leagues…” Except he had pulled the Reagan thing–trying to make it seem as if Obama had said that Reagan’s ideas were better ideas–with the wrong audience…and I don’t just mean black people, I mean an entire political party sick of games-playing.

This might be the key lesson from this primary campaign. Republicans might have gotten away with these tactics, but many Democrats do not want to wind up with a choice of two parties behaving equally bad.

It may well be true that any Democrat is going to have to handle that sort of sewage in the general election, but I’ve now–belatedly!–figured out that the real audacity in Barack Obama’s campaign–far more than his positions on the issues, which almost seem an afterthought–is his outrageous belief that the entire country, not just Democrats, wants to see a straight up election; that the entire country is tired of the pestilence of tactical tricks that the Clintons learned from their co-dynasts, the Bushes. (The latest example being their sudden, sociopathic emphasis on the importance of the Florida primary, a contest all three candidates had agreed to eschew at the behest of the Democatic National Committee.)

It is a hell of a bet Obama has made. And nearly 40 years of political, uhm, experience tells me that it isn’t a very wise one…but I must also say that it is truly sad to see Bill and Hillary Clinton on the wrong side of it.

Illinois Legislators Defend Present Votes has reviewed the meaning of “present” votes in the state legislature:

Obama’s former colleagues who still serve in the Illinois Capitol say that the attacks are off-base and that either Obama’s opponents don’t understand how things work in Springfield or they are deliberately distorting his record.

“To insinuate the ‘present’ vote means you’re indecisive, that you don’t have the courage to hold public office, that’s a stretch. But, it’s good politics,” said state Rep. Bill Black (R), a 22-year veteran of the House and his party’s floor leader…

The “present” vote in Illinois is sometimes cast by state lawmakers with a conflict of interest who would rather not weigh in on an issue. Other times, members use the option to object to certain parts of a bill, even though they may agree with its overall purpose.

“The ‘present’ vote is used, especially by more thoughtful legislators, not as a means of avoiding taking a position on an issue, but as a means of signaling concerns about an issue,” said state Rep. John Fritchey (D), an Obama supporter.

There’s further information on voting present both in the entire article quoted above and in this post from last month.

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Kennedys to Bill Clinton: You Are No John Kennedy


Bill Clinton’s legacy is slowly unraveling. He certainly took offense when Barack Obama said, “I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not.” Obama went on to say, “I think Kennedy, twenty years earlier, moved the country in a fundamentally different direction.” Bill Clinton certainly felt insulted by being lumped with Richard Nixon as opposed to Reagan and Kennedy. His overreaction to this interview and other attacks on Obama have only acted to tarnish his reputation and hurt Hillary in the South Carolina primary.

Meeting John Kennedy in the White House Rose Garden as a student has always been an important part of the legend which Clinton wished to portray. Clinton has used the photo above as a symbolic passing of the torch as he wanted his presidency to be seen as the successor to Camelot.

Comparing oneself to John Kennedy can be dangerous. Nobody has forgotten how Lloyd Benson demolished Dan Quayle in the debate when he said, “I knew John Kennedy, John Kennedy was a friend of mine, and you Senator, are no John Kennedy.”

Now the Kennedy family is telling Bill Clinton that “you are no John Kennedy.” In endorsing Barack Obama, Caroline Kennedy said, “I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them.” This clearly excludes former President Clinton from being such an inspirational figure.

As many predicted, Caroline Kennedy’s endorsement was a lead in to the endorsement of someone else who knew John Kennedy well. His brother, Senator Ted Kennedy, will be endorsing Obama on Monday. The Boston Globe reports that Kennedy will appear along with Obama and Caroline Kennedy at the American University in Washington tomorrow morning to announce his support:

Kennedy believes Obama can “transcend race” and bring unity to the country, a Kennedy associate told the Globe. Kennedy was also impressed by Obama’s deep involvement last year in the bipartisan effort to craft legislation on immigration reform, a politically touchy subject the other presidential candidates avoided, the associate said.

The coveted endorsement is a huge blow to New York Senator Hillary Clinton, who is both a senatorial colleague and a friend of the Kennedy family. In a campaign where Clinton has trumpeted her experience over Obama’s call for hope and change, the endorsement by one of the most experienced and respected Democrats in the Senate is a particularly dramatic coup for Obama.

“The America of Jack and Bobby Kennedy touched all of us. Through all of these decades, the one who kept that flame alive was Ted Kennedy,” said Representative Bill Delahunt, A Quincy Democrat who is also backing Obama. “So having him pass on the torch [to Obama] is of incredible significance. It’s historic.”

Endorsements are not enough to win a nomination, but having Kennedy’s support was a great help to John Kerry, who has also endorsed Obama. Kennedy’s endorsement will help in Massachusetts and beyond. Each major endorsement takes away from Clinton’s main advantage of being perceived as the candidate of the Democratic establishment and the inevitable winner. Endorsements from veteran Senators such as Ted Kennedy and John Kerry also help negate the issue of whether Obama is too inexperienced for the job. Clinton has sometimes done better than Obama among long time Democratic voters. This endorsement might cause some to reconsider. This might also be a sign that more of the party’s super delegates are beginning to see Obama as the party’s future, which could tip the balance should neither candidate be able to win enough delegates to clinch the nomination in the primaries.

The White Male Vote

Earlier in the race some pundits believed the deciding factor might be whether the black female vote went to Obama or Clinton. If there was ever any question as to who would receive their votes, the race baiting tactics of the Clinton campaign sealed the deal for Obama. Now the election might come down to white males.

While there was a lot of discussion last night about the racial breakdown of the vote, the issue looks quite different now that we find that Clinton and Obama split the white male vote equally. The Clinton campaign was probably successful in keeping some whites from voting for Obama but the beneficiary of this turned out to be John Edwards, allowing him to pick up enough of the vote to accumulate some delegates and remain in the race.

In retrospect this should not come as a surprise. Male voters who can be convinced to vote along racial lines are also less likely to vote for a woman. The Clinton campaign realized at the last moment that Edwards did represent a threat and tried to prevent this with last minute robocalls:

Voice: Hello, This is the Hillary Clinton for President Campaign.
Before you vote on Saturday, you should know that John Edwards voted for permanent trade relations with China. That’s right, John Edwards voted for the bill that cost thousands of jobs. Like the ones in the textile mills he talks about so much down here.

You should also know that John Edwards made nearly a half a million dollars working for a Wall Street investment fund. A fund that’s been profiting on foreclosing on the homes of families; including 100 homes right here in South Carolina. That’s according to The State newspaper. Here in South Carolina, Edwards says he’s one of us, but up on Wall Street he was just another one of them.

Can you trust John Edwards? This call is paid for by the Hillary Clinton for President Campaign.

The problem with this tactic is that it was too little too late to have an impact. There are plenty of arguments to questions Edwards’ authenticity and progressive credentials but Edwards has been working on this act for quite a while. By now people either see through his act or are conned by it, and those who are conned by his act are not likely to have their view changed by a brief message such as this from an opposing campaign.

Edwards remains extremely unlikely to win the nomination, but this development does suggest he will continue to be able to pick up votes from those who are unwilling to vote for a black or a woman. Unfortunately for Edwards it is difficult to actively campaign for more of this type of support. There was always a subtle hint of racism and sexism in the manner that Edwards has promoted himself as the most electable of the top three candidates, but he cannot take it any further than that.

Obama also received more of the white vote than predicted, successfully keeping the story from being that Obama won along racial lines. Josh Marshall has explained why the Clinton analogy to Jesse Jackson does not hold up. The media is covering the victory as coming from all segments of society, possibly as an intentional response to the Clinton strategy. We will know better by Super Tuesday whether the Clintons have been successful in scaring enough white voters from voting for Obama to win, but at the moment it does not look like their strategy is working.

For a moment after the Iowa caucus Barack Obama was seen as a man running for president who just happened to be black. America appeared to transcend racism. Then the Clinton campaign attempted to use race in order to help Hillary compete and probably did manage to get some voters to refrain from voting for the black candidate. In doing so Clinton diminshed herself more than she hurt Obama and hopefully voters on Super Tuesday will completely reject this tactic.

Clinton Smear Campaign Backfires


Yesterday I discussed the manner in which the Clintons have used race in the campaign and this is demonstrated yet again in the video above. The spin from Bill Clinton is that Barack Obama won in South Carolina because he is black, like Jesse Jackson. They continue to push this in their response:

Clinton campaign strategists denied any intentional effort to stir the racial debate. But they said they believe the fallout has had the effect of branding Obama as “the black candidate,” a tag that could hurt him outside the South.

Andrew Sullivan comments:

In a simple phrase: “Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice”. Listen to it yourself. I’m not making that up.

I don’t think there can be any doubt about the Clintons’ racial strategy now. The people of South Carolina just rejected that logic by voting for Obama – white and black, male and female – in a diverse coalition in the face of a deliberate attempt at racial polarization. They threw the Clintons’ logic back in their faces. Kudos to Josh for noticing this. It’s revealing, and depressing.

The exit polls show that Obama won 52% of the non-black vote among voters under 30, with this percentage dropping as voters got older. Exit polls also show that the net result of the Clinton smear campaign was to hurt Hillary. Voters who made up their minds in the last three days, when there has been increased coverage of the attacks, overwhelmingly backed Obama. “Twenty percent of South Carolina Democrats made their decision in the last three days and 51 percent of them chose Obama, while only 21 percent picked Clinton.”

With all the talk the last few weeks about how Obama was expected to win South Carolina, it is often forgotten that Hillary Clinton had a strong lead in the state in late November. Clinton’s support dropped from 40% to 29% over 6 weeks while Obama’s support jumped from 28% to 43%. Movement in the final days gave his victory with 55% of the vote.

Bill Clinton once again tried to deny that he has been engaging in a smear campaign claiming, “My message has been 99.9% positive for 100% of this campaign.” Joe Gandelman does an excellent job of debunking this claim.

Colbert I King combines Bill and Hillary into Billary and provides a long list of examples of how “Billary will say and do anything to come out ahead.” Among the items on his list:

Billary loves to whine about the “politics of personal destruction.” But Billary’s campaign has taken to the low road, running ads falsely accusing Obama of supporting federal deficits and private Social Security accounts, and distorting his position on hot-button issues such as abortion. Newark Mayor Corey Booker, who branded the attacks “outrageous” and “dishonest,” told Newsweek‘s Jonathan Alter: “We’re trying to offer an alternative to the Republicans’ fear and smear campaigns, and now we’re being dragged down to their level by the Clintons.”

Jonathan Chait asks Is The Right Right on The Clintons?

Something strange happened the other day. All these different people — friends, co-workers, relatives, people on a liberal e-mail list I read — kept saying the same thing: They’ve suddenly developed a disdain for Bill and Hillary Clinton. Maybe this is just a coincidence, but I think we’ve reached an irrevocable turning point in liberal opinion of the Clintons.

The sentiment seems to be concentrated among Barack Obama supporters. Going into the campaign, most of us liked Hillary Clinton just fine, but the fact that tens of millions of Americans are seized with irrational loathing for her suggested that she might not be a good Democratic nominee. But now that loathing seems a lot less irrational. We’re not frothing Clinton haters like … well, name pretty much any conservative. We just really wish they’d go away.

The big turning point seems to be this week, when the Clintons slammed Obama for acknowledging that Ronald Reagan changed the country. Everyone knows Reagan changed the country. Bill and Hillary have said he changed the country. But they falsely claimed that Obama praised Reagan’s ideas, saying he was a better president than Clinton — something he didn’t say and surely does not believe.

This might have been the most egregious case, but it wasn’t the first. Before the New Hampshire primaries, Clinton supporters e-mailed pro-choice voters claiming that Obama was suspect on abortion rights because he had voted “present” instead of “no” on some votes. (In fact, the president of the Illinois chapter of Planned Parenthood said she had coordinated strategy with Obama and wanted him to vote “present.”) Recently, there have been waves of robocalls in South Carolina repeatedly attacking “Barack Hussein Obama.”

I crossed the Clinton Rubicon a couple of weeks ago when, in the course of introducing Hillary, Clinton supporter and Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson invoked Obama’s youthful drug use. This was disgusting on its own terms, but worse still if you know anything about Johnson. I do — I once wrote a long profile of him. He has a sleazy habit of appropriating the logic of civil rights for his own financial gain. He also has a habit of aiding conservative crusades to eliminate the estate tax and privatize Social Security by falsely claiming they redistribute wealth from African Americans to whites. The episode reminded me of the Clintons’ habit of surrounding themselves with the most egregious characters: Dick Morris, Marc Rich and so on.

The Clinton campaign is trying to make it seem as if the complaint is about negativity, and it is pointing out that Obama has criticized Hillary as well. That’s what politicians are supposed to do when they compete for votes. But criticism isn’t the same thing as lying and sleaze-mongering.

Clinton still has the edge in the polls going into Super Tuesday, but momentum does seem to be on Obama’s side–especially if there continues to be a backlash against the Clinton smear campaign.