A Mandate for Obama?

October 17, 2008

CNN reports that the only states that are still uncommitted (according to the polls) are six states that were for Bush in 2004.  They are now a toss up but if they all go to McCain he will still lose.  Nonetheless they are essential to a successful campaign and so McCain and Palin are forced to devote increasing precious time campaigning in these states, states which are historically linked to Republican candidates.

Again, as was the case with Hillary Clinton, Obama’s campaign seems better organized in the late stages of the campaign.  Clinton ran out of money and McCain is running out of time.  Assuming that he had several states in his pocket, McCain finds himself having to make last minute appearances in states where there has been heavy traffic by the other ticket.

McCain finds himself scrambling for the support of states which are necessary but not sufficient for success in November.  Meanwhile Obama is pressing the fight in these states, apparently fighting for a landslide victory.

CNN’s David Gergen says that the Obama’s purpose is to have a decisive victory so that he can claim a mandate which in turn will presumably enhance his ability to govern.

We haven’t heard about mandates in a while.  I don’t recall Bill Clinton talking about it but he certainly never acted like he had one. George W. Bush acted like he had a mandate (more than any president I can think of) but he certainly never had one.  Each election boiled down to disputed election results in one state.

Reagan claimed a mandate to get stuff through a largely Democratic Congress.  How would a mandate serve Obama?  Particularly with what is expected to be a larger majority of Democrats in Congress.

In Washington State we have a super-majority of Democrats in the legislature and have experienced a withering of  the party’s agenda.  Few voting Democrats express anything but disappointment with the Democrat-controlled Congress after 2006.

It would be very exciting if Obama were looking to claim a mandate of leadership within his party.  The party desperately needs direction.  It has been a long time since the party stood for something that you could identify and point to legislation for examples.  That may be a little broad, but I’ll bet it is true of at least 80% of people who are registered Democrats.

For twenty years or so the Republicans and the Democrats have been “pigs at the same trough” to quote William Greider.  Obama has proved himself as a campaigner; wouldn’t it be great to find that he is as good a leader?

CBS News Says Obama Won by a Wide Margin Among Uncommitted Voters

September 30, 2008

CBS says that Obama won, although the polls do not seem to show a bump after the debate.  This may be because there were so many things happening last week, including last week’s declaration by McCain of “Mission Accomplished” with respect to the bailout. It was only this week that this was shown to be as illusory as previously accomplished missions.

McCain’s seizing the headlines last week and his efforts to portray himself as leader of the congressional bailout coalition no doubt caused expectations for his performance in the debate to rise, particularly when foreign policy, his acknowledged strength, was the focus of the debate.  Higher expectations may have contributed to the perception that he lost the debate.

I got the impression that he was betting the house when he “suspended” his campaign to demonstrate his leadership ability with the bailout legislation.  He of course did not suspend anything except his own public appearances and arguably the television time he got for this gesture exceeded anything that he would have received had he continued to make scheduled public appearances.  Once again though he took a short term gain — the appearance of leadership in crisis — and risked a long term loss.  Once again, as with the vice presidential decision, it looks like the long term loss will outweigh the immediate gains.  For all the broohaha last week, this week McCain looks ineffective.  His white horse seems to have charged in the wrong direction.

The vice presidential debate could given the recent downward direction of the polls momentum.  I shudder to think what episode awaits us to curb that event if it occurs.

McCain is not Leading, He’s Dissembling

September 25, 2008

There is simply no rational basis for believing that McCain’s latest hijinks are performed in good faith.  McCain is trying to leverage his declining political position by grandstanding on the national economic crisis.

Yesterday Obama called McCain in the morning with a proposal to join together in a statement about the economy, a statement of unity in righting the course.  Six hours later McCain called back to agree on the concept, then less than an hour after that McCain announces that the campaign is suspended so that he can attend to the national crisis.  He says that he is telling the president to call a meeting.

Characteristically he did not check with anyone about this, at least apparently no one outside his campaign; he just made another snap decision. (After all the Sarah Pallin blind leap turned out favorably, that is until her first interview.)   No one seemed to know what to make of McCain’s latest wild gamble and there was widespread fear that he would set negotiations back by dragging the campaign into the middle on-going negotiations.

It is hard to imagine how McCain’s presence — with him desperately needing to seem presidential — could have a favorable influence on the week-long negotiations over the economy, particularly when absolutely no one views him as having expertise in the area and he has no leadership role in this arena.  How could it help but turn the discussion toward partisanship?  Harry Reid upon hearing McCain’s announcement told him not to come.

Two huge questions emerge from this puzzling behavior.  First, if McCain really believes in good faith that the presidential candidates ought to suspend their campaigns to devote attention to Washington D.C. business, why did he not mention this when he and Obama talked about Obama’s idea to issue a joint statement on the economy?  After all he was going to call a press conference right after hanging up.  The press conference was more like a slap in Obama’s face than an expression of willingness to work together toward a common goal.

Second, if the situation is one that cries for McCain’s presence in Washington, why had he not spoken to anyone in Washington about it?  You would have expected a leader to have covered the groundwork and to have established how he could help and what he would do in advance of a declaration that the campaign for the presidency was being suspended.  Instead everyone was caught by surprise and many urged him not to come to Washington.  This is a very unusual brand of leadership.

In this instance McCain seems to be willing to risk progress in the resolution of a bailout for a chance at regaining a lead in the polls.

Bad News for McCain; Obama with a 9 Point Lead

September 24, 2008

The Republican Convention carefully avoided reference to the economy.  This was clearly a wise move as recent news of the economy has caused McCain’s support to plummet like the stock market.  Obma now has a nine point lead according to the Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Voter confidence in McCain could not have been bolstered when after McCain denied that his advisers had any connection with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and he falsely accused Obama of such a connection, the New York Times reported that from 2005 until taken over by the government Freddie Mac has been paying a firm owned by McCain’s campaign manager $15,000 per month.

This comes on the heals of the revelation that while McCain condemned golden parachutes given to executives who run companies into the ground, it was discovered that one of his top economic advisers, Carly Fiorina, received a $21.4 million severance package (a.k.a. “golden parachute”) when she was dismissed by Hewlett Packard in 2005 after laying off thousands of people and taking the company down the road to insolvency.

McCain right now is having trouble taking a stand on economic topics that do not make him look hypocritical.  He is even being accused of sexism on CNN in his treatment of Sarah Palin.

U.S. and Iraqi Polls

July 17, 2008

Today the New York Times published an article that seems to say that Iraqis do not favor U.S. troop withdrawal. Toward the end you read that there was an extremely limited sampling of opinions. The Times just published a more scientific poll that says the Iraquis want a withdrawal of U.S. troops by a 2 to 1 margin. This article also fails to mention that the Iraqi parliament, as well as Prime Minister al-Maliki, are calling for withdrawal. (The linked Christian Science Monitor article says that talks are on-going.) By all authority I have been able to find there has been ardent support for withdrawal among Iraqis since at least 2006 and strong support prior to that.

American polls are interesting. A strong majority has favored withdrawal for a long time. Bush’s handling of the invasion and occupation has for some time been viewed disfavorably by a clear majority. Almost 40% of Americans do not understand that McCain is against a timetable for withdrawal. Despite most people disfavoring his approach to the war, most Americans see McCain as the better commander in chief. Early polls on the two candidates are somewhat confusing.

Clinton’s Bad Day.

March 28, 2008

It appears that the curtain is going down on the Clinton campaign. With no realistic shot at winning a majority of delegates from the primaries and caucuses and no realistic shot at winning the popular vote, Clinton’s hopes are pinned on winning over the superdelegates. This strategy likely involves taking the battle to the convention where political infighting could be used to best result.

This strategy is being actively opposed by the party chiefs, who have dealt Clinton strong blows recently. First, Nancy Pelosi urged supredelegates to vote for the candidate with the most delegates from primaries and caucuses. Then Howard Dean, the party chairman, said that he hoped that the decision would be made by July 1 at the latest, more than a month before the convention.

Today with the forthcoming primary in Pennsylvania in the spotlight Bob Casey, one of the two senators from that state, endorsed Obama, while Senator Pat Leahy urged her to withdraw. Also today the Gallup Poll announced that nationally Obama enjoys nationally a 8% lead over Clinton.

Clinton fought back against the Pelosi edict by having several billionaire supporters write a letter to Pelosi which seemed to suggest that if she did not withdraw her proposal they might withdraw party support. This was not a smart thing to do for two reasons. First, it called attention to the divisive, polarizing aspect of this nomination process, exactly the thing the party wants to avoid. Second, it took away from whatever ground Clinton had gained in coming across as a populist leader. The letter made Clinton look like an insider attempting to subvert a democratic process with money. This is exactly what she has been trying to avoid with talk about change and appeals to everyday Americans.

This splintering of her message was probably inevitable as she seeks to appeal to the grass roots voters while trying to win the nomination through the superdelegates. This is certainly not an enviable position to say the least.