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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Month: December 2007

Broderist Ticket: Threat or Hoax?

I’m not sure I can remember the last time David Broder of the Washington Post broke a major political story. But it’s certainly appropriate that he was the first out of the gate with the news of a bipartisan cabal of Former Big Names who appear to be coalescing around a third-party presidential run by Michael Bloomberg next year.
In case you missed it, Bloomberg’s attending a meeting next Sunday, hosted by former sorta-Democratic Senator David Boren of Oklahoma, to discuss “bipartisan” options for 2008. Other past or present Democrats billed as part of the cabal include Chuck Robb, Alan Dixon and my old boss Sam Nunn. The two more surprising Democratic names on the attendance list are Gary Hart and Bob Graham. The one sitting elected official on the list is soon-to-retire Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, with fellow GOPers John Danforth, Bill Brock, Jim Leach and Christine Todd Whitman.
According to Broder, the meeting is intended to send a signal to presidential candidates of both parties to immediately announce support for a National Unity Government or risk a Bloomberg run. So it should be understood as positioning Bloomberg and his wallet to offer the American people a High Broderist bipartisan option next November.
I pretty much agree with Digby’s take on the objective case for High Broderism, most obviously its fatuous assumption that the two parties are equally responsible for polarization and gridlock. I do not, however, share the popular progressive netroots view that big majorities of voters actually like polarization and want a lot more of it, or the corresponding theory that a Broderist option is so politically puny that Democrats should, as Digby puts it, “tune out” and ignore it. The massive and persistent wrong-track numbers represent something beyond a coalition of those who hate Republicans and those who are mad at Democrats for not fighting them enough. There are those who out of conviction, ignorance or simple fatigue might vote for a reasonable-sounding third option, and the billion smackers that Bloomberg is alleged to be willing to spend will buy you a whole lot of credibility.
In the end, a serious Bloomberg run may not materialize. And if it does, history suggests he wouldn’t come close to winning, and would hurt the Republican more than the Democratic ticket (third parties generally get more votes from major parties in decline, such as Democrats in 1968 and Republicans in 1992). But Democrats shouldn’t’ just laugh it all off, even if they justifiably laugh at Broder and his confederates.

527s Hit Hard in IA, Key Poll Expected Tonight

Jane Norman of the Des Moines Register Washington, D.C. bureau reports on the growing controversy about nonprofit issue ads being run in Iowa in the closing days of the presidential campaign. There’s no real shockers here — the article spotlights accusations against the Edwards, Clinton and Huckabee campaigns for abusing federal election law prohibiting issue-focused groups and candidate campaigns from coordinating activities. Norman notes that the Federal Election Commission found “widespread illegal conduct” by 527s in ’04 and quotes Fred Wertheimer, head of the Democracy 21 reform group: “it appears that 527 groups are blatantly and arrogantly at it again in the current presidential race.”
Don’t hold your breath expecting fines or penalties. Allegations of law-breaking are usually difficult to prove, and it would be hard to find a campaign that didn’t get a little too cozy with a 527 at some point. The hunch here is that the ads in question have been targeted for criticism because they are effective. You can see the pro-Edwards ad here and the pro-Huckabee ad here. A host of Iowa campaign ads can be viewed here.
In a close race — and it looks close for both Dems and Republicans in Iowa, any small or large factor can be credited with making the difference between a win or a loss. Among the most recent polls, the MSNBC-McClatchy/Mason Dixon poll conducted 12/26-28 has Romney and Huckabee in a stat tie in the GOP race. Ditto for Edwards, Obama and Clinton in the Democratic contest, echoing the results of other recent the polls cited by TDS yesterday.
The much-anticipated Des Moines Register poll, regarded by many as the ‘mother of Iowa polls’ just before the caucuses, will be reported in tomorrow’s edition of The Register, but the results will be circulating on the internet later this evening. Among others, The Baltimore Sun‘s political blog “The Swamp” plans to post results tonight.

The Last Sunday: Ground Games, Ad Wars and Dueling Polls

Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny report on the ground game in their Sunday New York Times article “Candidates Digging for a Deeper Pool of Iowa Voters.” See also Scott Helman’s report “Ground game is key for Democrats,” focusing primarily on the front-runners campaigns in The Boston Globe.
Also in the NYT, Patrick Healy’s piece, “Iowa Saturated by Political Ads” discusses ad spending of the candidates and 527’s and notes that candidates are expected to triple the amount spent in 2004. And Jeff Zeleny also co-authors with David D. Kirkpatrick a round-up of the candidates’ messages on the last weekend before the launch of primary season. See also Todd Beeton’s MyDD post “Romney v. McCain: The New Hampshire Ad Wars.” As this week’s guests on Meet the Press, Huckabee and Obama get the functional equivalent of a huge free ad, a nice edge — if they do well.
A just-released Reuters/C-Span/Zogby poll, conducted 12/26-29, reported by John Whitesides has Clinton with 31, Obama 27 and Edwards with 24 percent of likely caucus goers. Biden and Richardson were at 5 percent, while Dodd and Kucinich had 1 percent. On the GOP side, it’s Huckabee 29, Romney 28 and McCain at 11. Thompson, Giuliani and Paul each got 8 percent. Both parties had 6 percent undecided. Clinton had a big lead in percentage of her supporters who described their support as “very strong” (76 percent), compared to 65 percent for Edwards and 56 percent for Obama. However, Edwards was the most popular “second choice” with 30 percent, compared to 25 percent for Obama and 12 percent for Clinton.
Another poll of likely caucus goers, conducted by the American Research Group 12/26-28, has Clinton at 31 and Obama and Edwards at 24, with the rest of the Dems in single digits, according to Alexander Mooney of CNN’s Political Ticker. But the ARG poll has Romney ahead of Huckabee 32-23 percent, with McCain trailing at 11 percent. Mooney reports on yet another poll, a Quad City Times poll conducted by Research 2000 (released Friday), that has Huckabee 34 percent, Romney 27 and Thompson 11 percent. The Quad City poll has Edwards and Obama tied at at 29 percent, with Clinton at 28 percent.

Iowa Primary links – Five Days Out

Robert Borosage has one of the better round-ups of the closing Iowa arguments of the Dem presidential front-runners at the HuffPo.
Kathy Kiely’s USA Today article “Democrats focus on getting out supporters,” takes a look at turnout issues and demographic considerations being addressed by Democratic presidential candidates in Iowa in the closing days of the Iowa primary campaign.
No major surprises in the 12/26-7 Lee Enterprises newspapers Iowa poll (sample size 500 ‘likely caucus-goers,” 4.5 m.o.e.), with Obama, Edwards and Clinton still in a stat tie, with Richardson 4th, followed by Biden. Edwards is up 5 since the Lee poll two weeks ago, Clinton is up 4 and Obama is down 4. Huckabee now leads Romney by 7 and Thompson is a distant third.
The Cedar Rapids Courier has Jens Manuel Krogstad’s report on how “Bhutto’s Assassination Jolts Presidential Politics.” The Politico rounds up the presidential candidates’ latest comments on the Bhutto assassination. See also Patrick Healy’s “Crisis Overseas Is Sudden Test for Candidates” in today’s Grey Lady, Peter Walsten’s L.A. Times article “Assassination May Shift Focus of Presidential Race” and E. J. Dionne Jr.’s WaPo op-ed “A Crisis Intrudes in Iowa.”
The Wall St. Journal‘s Amy Chozick reports on the presidential candidates’ efforts to reach Iowa’s 37,000 registered Hispanic voters.

No Favors For Huck

Jim Geraghty makes a good if limited point about the Republican presidential Caucuses in Iowa at National Review today: anything other than a sound victory by Mike Huckabee will be heavily spinned by the campaigns and the news media in the effort to influence trends in NH and later states. And in those spin wars, Huckabee doesn’t have many friends. This, indeed, could represent the “revenge of the establishment” against Huckabee that so many observers have been expected.
But will Huckabee lose? He’s not running away with the contest in polls at this late date, and Mitt Romney’s reached near-maniacal levels of paid media in Iowa. But somehow or other, Huckabee’s managed to come up with the jack for a respectable TV campaign of his own, so he could well hang on for a win that would be difficult to spin away.

Bhutto And Iowa

Yesterday, I briefly wrote about the highly debatable theory that the Bhutto assassination will greatly affect the Democratic presidential race, and J.P. Green briefly touched on it today. But I want to return to it now in a bit more detail, after appearing on the syndicated public radio show To the Point earlier today, where speculation was rampant that the Bhutto Factor will be the ball game for the Iowa Caucuses specifically.
To be clear, it’s all close enough among the Big Three candidates in Iowa that all sorts of factors–the weather, the impact of the final Des Moines Register poll, and most of all candidate “second-preference” deals–could be decisive, And in that respect, heavy news coverage of the Bhutto assassination and its aftermath, along with candidate interaction on the subject, could have a key impact as well. But as for the idea that the assassination has suddenly made foreign policy street cred and experience an overriding factor in Iowa–sorry, I just don’t buy it.
You have to remember that Iowans have been watching and listening to these candidates for about a year, many of them through personal contact, and hearing their pithy views on virtually every topic, foreign and domestic. Most likely caucus goers are not just now “tuning in” (unlike their counterparts in later states). Yes, they will be exposed to relatively heavy news coverage of events in Pakistan and the remarks of the candidate on same, but news coverage in Iowa will be dwarfed by paid campaign media (which has reached unprecedented levels this year), phone calls, door-to-door campaigning and personal lobbying from friends and family. There are also Iowans who will go to the Caucuses undecided, and will pick a candidate based on the dynamics (and campaign pleas) in the room.
In other words, it’s the last place on earth where tangential news-cycle developments are likely to play a really major role. And come to think of it, that’s the first good argument I’ve thought of for Iowa’s primacy in a good long while.

Poll Taken – Poll Reported Gap A Problem

The latest L.A. Times – Bloomberg Poll, taken 12/20-23 and the 26th, shows a statistical dead heat between Democrats Obama, Edwards and Clinton in Iowa and between Obama and Clinton In New Hampshire. On the GOP side the poll has Huckabee ahead in Iowa and McCain challenging Romney in New Hampshire, according to Janet Hook’s L.A. Times report.
The horse race polls are increasingly valuable for predictions in the closing days of the last week before primary season begins. However, supporters of these candidates would be wise to hold the high fives for a bit, because the 12/27 Bhutto assassination and the fallout in Pakistan could influence the choices of IA and NH voters. Here we have a classic example of how a late-breaking event can make the horse race numbers suddenly seem kind of dicey.
It’s not hard to imagine a host of questions about the impact of the Bhutto assassination on the IA and NH primaries: In the event of the possible ‘meltdown’ in Pakistan noted by Ed yesterday, will voters now look for more foreign policy experience, since Pakistan is a nuclear power? If so, what will that do to the Obama and Huckabee surges? Or Romney’s lead? Will Clinton benefit? As a veteran U.S. Senator, Will McCain be helped, as the Republican “best at fighting terrorism and protecting national security” in the poll, or hurt as a gung ho Iraq hawk? How much will it help Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Biden, who held a press conference yesterday showcasing his expertise on Pakistan? Will Huckabee’s gaffe — his inaccurate statement about Pakistan being under marshall law, which was lifted two weeks ago, clip the wings off his surge. (For a good round-up of the Democratic presidential candidates’ comments on the Bhutto assassination, see here and here.)
The Bhutto assassination may have no real effect on the early primaries. However, all of the aforementioned questions cast a measure of doubt about the shelf-life of the poll’s findings. One or more of the candidates in both fields could get a little bump or clip, which might provide a margin of victory or defeat, translating into bold headlines coast to coast. Small world.

Cui Bono?

In the confused aftermath of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, it didn’t take more than about five minutes for political media types to begin speculation about the potential impact of the event on the U.S. presidential contest. The staff of the Politico, unsurprisingly, had the most complete initial guesstimate on the subject, suggesting that Senate Armed Services Committee members Hillary Clinton and John McCain, full-time terrorism opportunist Rudy Giuliani, and maybe Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Joe Biden, would get a boost. The Politicos also reported that the “C.W. will say that the candidates most damaged will be Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R).”
As I type this, MSNBC has Joe Scarborough on arguing that Giuliani’s whole campaign might be revived by this development, and could fatally hurt Obama in the run-up to Iowa.
Not so fast, folks. We obviously don’t know what’s going to happen next in Pakistan. I understand that if Pakistan melts down in the next few days, at a time when the holidays limit other political news, it could get a lot more attention than would otherwise be the case. And I also understand that instability in the Greater Middle East might reinforce the campaign messages of those Democrats or Republicans who stress their foreign policy experience and/or anti-terrorist credentials.
But who really knows? International instability can reinforce both status quo and “change” sentiments, and the most proximate contest, in Iowa, features a small electorate that is probably more focused on the campaign unfolding right in front of it than on news events. But media interpretations of political trends have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies, so how the candidates react in the next day or two could be very important.
No matter how it plays out, it’s really disgusting to watch the White House’s efforts to spin the Bhutto assassination as a vindication of its own anti-terrorism efforts. As Spencer Ackerman of TalkingPointsMemo reports in a conversation with Pakistan expert Barnett Rubin, the administration’s strategy was to promote a Bhutto/Musharraf “moderate” coalition after the January 8. That strategy is now “in tatters.”

Strategy Links: ’08 and Beyond

Jason Zengerle reports in TNR’s The Plank that Biden will hold a press conference on the Bhutto assassination
Swing State Project‘s DavidNYC has DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen’s target list of 40 GOP-held House of Reps seats, with “leading” Dem challengers and ’04 and ’06 D-R percentages. Reader comments are also worth a gander.
Progressives considering making a contribution to Ron Paul’s campaign should first read Kos‘s post, “The overt racist in the GOP field” (with more than 700 comments this far). Digby elaborates here.
Larry J. Sabato’s “Senate Sensibilities” (posted 12/13) update on the ’08 Senate campaign has interesting maps, charts and commentary on key Senate races.
Paul Starr, co-editor of The American Prospect, rolls out a post-election “road map for the start of a new America” in his article, “The Democrats’ Strategic Challenge.”

Mitt vs. Dad

In his Tapped post “The English Major Defense,” Mark Schmitt hones in on the most salient point about Mitt Romney’s claim that “I saw my father march with Martin Luther King.” It’s not so much that Mitt, well, stretched the truth about what he actually saw, to put it charitably. Looking at the larger picture, his father really was an extraordinarily-progressive Republican, as Schmitt points out, along with a few others of his era, including Senators Jacob Javits and Lowell Weicker. Schmitt asks a more relevant question:

Is there the slightest reason to believe that in the same position as his father, as it was becoming clear that the Republicans’ path to the presidency ran through the South (Goldwater secured the nomination in 1964 in part by opposing the Civil Rights Act, and Strom Thurmond switched parties that year), he would have shown similar courage?

Schmitt cites Romney the younger’s “shape-shifting adaptation to whatever the Republican prejudice of the moment is (anti-immigration rhetoric, or denouncing the kind of health plan he enacted as “socialized medicine”),” in stark contrast to his father’s principled stand for racial justice. The strategy of drawing broad distinctions between the GOP of an earlier era — when a few of its leaders actually demonstrated a concern for social justice — and the Republican Party of today is more rewarding than simply pointing a finger and saying a particular candidate lied.