State of the Race: Clinton Leading, Richardson with Momentum

James Boyce gives his views on the State of the Race at Huffington Post and I agree with much of what he says. While I do not think that a Clinton victory is inevitable, you’d have to give me pretty good odds to put money on any outcome other than Hillary Clinton winning the nomination and being sworn in as our next president in January 2009.

Any candidate can stumble, and choosing the candidate who might come from behind to win is still relevant at this point. Boyce has noticed, as I’ve frequently written here, that Edwards’ campaign is failing. In my view this is due to having a poor candidate who would have little chance regardless of the quality of the campaign staff. Boyce and I agree that the candidate with the momentum right now is Bill Richardson:

The state poll most recently out of Iowa shows me three things.

I like John Edwards personally and politically, but there is something missing this time around. He is rolling the dice on Iowa and as more and more people go on air there, he is losing ground not gaining it. I think the campaign is well run by smart people but maybe he has been too front and center for too long, but I see a continued fade there.

I also like Barack Obama and he has some great people working for him. But both nationally and in states where he is focusing, I don’t see any upward momentum. Same with Christopher Dodd.

However, Richardson is the only one who is moving up where he is focusing time. He has some, modest momentum. If he finished a strong second in Iowa, he would have some momentum. Will he ever overtake Hillary? That’s a long shot but if I was going to pick a horse other than Hillary, I would be picking Bill Richardson.

I wouldn’t write off Obama either, and of course Edwards still has a shot. I’d make it more of a three way race, with Clinton way out in the lead. At this point should Hillary get stopped I believe that the winner could be either Obama or Richardson.

Obama Leads Edwards and Clinton in “Purity Primary”

John Edwards has frequently claimed to be the purest candidate with regards to taking money from lobbyists, but those of us who have followed him without giving  him a pass based upon partisanship have noticed that Edwards is the candidate most likely to make any untrue statement for personal gain. Ruth Marcus looks at the Democrats’ Purity Primary and finds that Edwards loses and Obama wins.

Marcus notes Edwards’ rhetoric but also notes that, “Edwards is no less tainted by the trial-lawyer money he scoops up by the bucketful than he would be by lobbyist contributions.” She takes a closer look at his record, and it is pretty poor:

Edwards was part of the legislative team working to pass the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, but lobbying and campaign reform were nowhere near the top of his agenda in the Senate.

During the 2004 campaign, Edwards gave a useful speech outlining his plan to limit lobbyists’ influence. But, unlike the other Democratic candidates, he refused requests to reveal the identities of his big fundraisers. This time around, after considerable prodding, Edwards agreed to release the names of fundraisers — all his fundraisers, with no specifics about how much they had collected. His campaign argues vehemently that it should be praised for this avalanche of information, not faulted. But the candidate knows who has reeled in $1,000 and who raised $100,000. Why shouldn’t voters?

Edwards certainly is clever here. He can go on the stump claiming to have provided information, but this information means little without the specifics of the amounts raised. Hillary Clinton’s record isn’t much better than Edwards’.

Clinton has shown no zeal for or even particular interest in the issue in the Senate; nor did she while in the White House. Indeed, as her handling of the health-care task force and Whitewater documents illustrate, Clinton’s instinct is for secrecy, and her default position is to disclose only the minimum legally required. She consented to reveal her major fundraisers only after repeated editorial hammering — and only after all the other leading Democratic contenders had agreed.

Of the three front runners discussed, Obama comes out sounding the best by far:

On this issue, Obama leads the pack — I’d say PAC, but he (and Edwards) don’t take their checks, either. He helped pass a far-reaching ethics and campaign finance bill in the Illinois state Senate and made the issue a priority on arriving in Washington. Much to the displeasure of his colleagues, Obama promoted an outside commission to handle Senate ethics complaints. He co-authored the lobbying reform bill awaiting President Bush‘s signature and pushed — again to the dismay of some colleagues — to include a provision requiring lawmakers to report the names of their lobbyist-bundlers.

He has co-sponsored bills to overhaul the presidential public financing system and public financing of Senate campaigns. It’s nice to hear Clinton talk about how “we’ve got to move toward public financing” — Edwards backs it, too — but I don’t see her name on those measures.

Obama readily agreed to identify his bundlers. Unlike Clinton and Edwards, he has released his income tax returns. Perhaps most important, Obama has pledged to take public financing for the general election if he is the Democratic nominee and his Republican opponent will do the same.

Any Democratic candidate wanting to “get the money out of American politics” (Clinton) or demonstrate that “the Democratic Party is the party of the people” (Edwards) ought to leap at this chance. The candidates’ silence on Obama’s public financing proposal — they’ll “consider” it — has been more telling than anything they have actually said.

Hillary Clinton vs. Karl Rove on Electability

With months to go before the first caucus or primary vote is to be cast, political talk, as usual, centers on the horse race as opposed to issues. Karl Rove, who has been proven to be capable of error in 2006, has questioned whether Hillary Clinton is electable:

There is no front-runner who has entered the primary season with negatives as high as she has in the history of modern polling. She’s going into the general election with, depending on what poll you look at, in the high forties on the negative side, and just below that on the positive side, and there’s nobody who has ever won the presidency who started out in that kind of position.

Peter Daou, internet director for the Clinton campaign, has responded to this attack at several blogs today, including at Huffington Post. Peter makes a good point that both Bill Clinton in 1992 and George W. Bush in 2004 actually had similar high unfavorable ratings and went on to win.

Obviously Peter has an interest in this argument so I went on to check the data at Gallup. From the data present it looks like there may actually be an even stronger argument to counter Rove’s argument than Peter made. The data discussed goes back to 1992. In terms of presidential elections this doesn’t include very much data. If Rove was wrong about the elections for which we have this Gallup data, I wonder how many other elections he was wrong about

Richard Nixon was known as Tricky Dick well before he was elected in 1968. I doubt that there wasn’t a point when he had unfavorable ratings as high as Hillary Clinton’s.

The use of George W. Bush in 2004 might be less compelling due to the inherent advantages of an incumbent president, especially during wartime. However, if we do consider Bush in 2004, I sure wonder what Harry Truman’s unfavorable ratings would have been in 1948.

Adding Richard Nixon and Harry Truman only takes us back to 1948. I wonder how many other unpopular candidates might have also won in elections I have less knowledge about.

This is not intended as an endorsement of Hillary Clinton or an argument either way as to whether she is electable. At this point in the race it would be far wiser to look at the candidates in terms of their positions and other qualities which would determine whether they would make a good president. Perhaps when we reach January (or late December) and it is time to vote then perceptions of electability might be included in the final decision with regards to who to vote for. It is way too early for electability to be a factor to decide between the candidates when there is so much more of consequence to learn about them.

John Stossel’s Vision of Health Care for Few

John Stossel suffers from a couple of common fallacies on the right about economics and health care. He believes that if the free market is superior to government in most activities it must be superior in all. Secondly he assumes that the only plausible alternatives are either government run health care or a totally free market system. This fallacies have been seen in reviews of his previous writings on health care and are again evident in his discussion of the World Health Organization’s ranking of nations on the health care delivered.

Stossel admits there are problems with our health care system but attributes them to the United States now having a pure free market system:

First let’s acknowledge that the U.S. medical system has serious problems. But the problems stem from departures from free-market principles. The system is riddled with tax manipulation, costly insurance mandates and bureaucratic interference. Most important, six out of seven health-care dollars are spent by third parties, which means that most consumers exercise no cost-consciousness. As Milton Friedman always pointed out, no one spends other people’s money as carefully as he spends his own.

The problem with a pure free market system where everyone is responsible for their health care costs has already been discussed in multiple posts. This includes this response to a previous column by Stossel, the previous posts which I linked to in that post responding to similar proposals from Rudy Giuliani, as well as other health care posts on this site.

The other problem with this argument is that the countries leading in the survey have greater government involvement in health care than the United States. If our degree of government involvement makes our system inefficient, it is hard to imagine how the health care systems in other industrialized nations would be able to function at all if we accept Stossel’s logic. If the problem here is having health care covered by insurance as opposed to spending our own money, our system which includes growing deductibles and copays should be far better than those systems where people only pay a nominal amount or nothing at all.

Stossel also tries the usual misdirection we see from conservatives when he argues, “Even with all that, it strains credulity to hear that the U.S. ranks far from the top. Sick people come to the United States for treatment.”

The problem here is that Stossel is trying to substitute a single measure of health care for that used in the survey and concentrate solely on the strong points of our system. It is widely agreed, including by most critics of our health care system, that the United States leads the world in tertiary and subspecialty care. Our system does an excellent job of treating the sickest and most complex patients provided that they have access to the system. Rather than moving to a totally free market system as Stossel recommends, or to a government controlled system as few actually advocate, we need reforms which will preserve the strengths of our system while improving access to care for all Americans. (more…)

Atheists and CNN

Maybe those conservatives are right and CNN really is the network of godless atheist liberals. Obviously on line polls mean very little (and we might argue as to whether atheism should be listed as a religion) but the results of this poll from Larry King Live are interesting. The question is “Which religion do you associate with?” At present, 71% are choosing atheism.

Bloomberg Says He Will Not Run But Pressures For Alternative Remain

Maybe its because everything looks more real on high definition, but Michael Bloomberg’s statement that he doesn’t plan to run certainly sounded like he meant it when he was interviewed by Dan Rather on HDNet Tuesday night. For those who do not receive HDNet, Reuters provides a summary. I always suspected Bloomberg would not run because of not wanting to spend his money on a campaign he probably could not win. Hearing Bloomberg cite his belief that “Nobody’s going to elect me president of the United States” provides a convincing argument that he does not plan to run.

Ask me next January or February, after we have the nominees from the major political parties, whether Bloomberg’s decision is a good or bad thing.

In 2004 there was little talk of third party candidates as most people were either determined to attempt to throw Bush out of office or to reelect the person whey were conned into thinking was keeping them safe from terrorism. At this point in the election cycle, without a candidate as polarizing as George Bush, there is far more talk of third parties than in a typical election.

When there isn’t talk of individuals such as Bloomberg, Unity 08 has dominated much of the consideration of third party bids. Unity 08 looks like a backwards idea based upon choosing a candidate from each party for President and Vice President. The problem is that until they have such nominees there is no ideology for the party. A pair of from each party could turn out to be better or worse than the actual candidates of the two parties.

For a third party movement to make sense there must be ideas behind it which are not adequately represented by the major parties. If the party has the right ideas it could then seek out candidates, with current party affiliation not being crucial.

It appears to be a safe bet that the Republican nominee will be from the far right. Whether there is a need for a third party will therefore depend more upon what the Democrats do. In recent years, culminating in 2006, there has been an increase in support for Democrats among college educated professionals, small businessmen, and suburbanites. It was easy to find common cause with more traditional Democratic voters in opposing the war and the social conservative policies of the Republicans. It will be harder for these groups to agree upon policies once the Democrats are governing.

Of the candidates currently seeking the Democratic nomination, so far only Barack Obama and Bill Richardson have shown an ability to unite both traditional Democratic voters, new Democratic voters, and independents. It remains unclear as to whether Hillary Clinton can accomplish this. Beyond his fellow trial lawyers, few educated professionals or others who have achieved success will accept John Edwards-style populism. If that had been possible, the Edwards have burned that bridge with the exclusionary nature of their campaign rhetoric.

Should the Edwards campaign recover from its recent melt down and win, a large number of independents and new Democratic voters may not have an acceptable choice, leaving the possibility for attempting to develop a new political party. Running a third party candidate would only make sense if the ultimate goal is the development of a new political party considering the low likelihood of success in 2008. It was never clear that Michael Bloomberg, with his reputation for supporting the nanny state, ever was the best candidate for such a third party. The forces which drove consideration of Bloomberg persist regardless of whether Bloomberg himself is a candidate.

The two party system requires that divergent groups be able to unite despite their differences. The Perot vote, as well as the amount of talk of a third party bid in 2008, are manifestations of the inability of either party to satisfy a significant number of voters. In recent years many of us independents saw no alternative but to support the Democrats after the Republicans moved to the extreme right. The question now is whether the Democrats can keep the divergent groups who voted for them in 2006 satisfied or if we will see a major third party candidacy.

Liberals Read More Than Conservatives

An AP-Ipsos poll found that liberals read more than conservatives:

The AP-Ipsos poll found 22 percent of liberals and moderates said they had not read a book within the past year, compared with 34 percent of conservatives.

Among those who had read at least one book, liberals typically read nine books in the year, with half reading more than that and half less. Conservatives typically read eight, moderates five.

By slightly wider margins, Democrats tended to read more books than Republicans and independents. There were no differences by political party in the percentage of those who said they had not read at least one book.

The head of a book publishing industry trade organization offered one explanation:

“The Karl Roves of the world have built a generation that just wants a couple slogans: ‘No, don’t raise my taxes, no new taxes,'” Pat Schroeder, president of the American Association of Publishers, said in a recent interview. “It’s pretty hard to write a book saying, ‘No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes’ on every page.”

She said liberals tend to be policy wonks who “can’t say anything in less than paragraphs. We really want the whole picture, want to peel the onion.”

Needless to say, Schroeder is a liberal Democrat. Naturally the Republicans have a different take:

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Schroeder was “confusing volume with quality” with her remarks.

“Obfuscation usually requires a lot more words than if you simply focus on fundamental principles, so I’m not at all surprised by the loquaciousness of liberals,” he said.

Considering that the Republicans are experts at obfuscation, and depend upon it to sell their policies, this explanation does not hold up very well.

As we see above, there are some conservatives who prefer to escape into a book at times such as when the country is under attack.

There was a time when conservatives would study books, but such intellectuals, and basically everyone with a brain, have been thrown out of the modern conservative movement. There is a word for conservatives who begin to both read and understand books–liberals.

A movement whose defining philosophy has become authoritarianism and blind support for their leaders requires followers who have as little knowledge as possible. It is not possible to understand history or international relations and accept the neoconservative foreign policy as anything other than a recipe for national disaster. It is not possible to study philosophy or ethics and not be appalled by the conduct of the Bush administration. If conservatives read economics they might figure out that the corporate welfare policies of the Republicans are not part of the free market they claim to support. Obviously understanding of science totally undermines the goals of the conservative movement.