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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Should Caroline ‘Pull A Cheney’?

A little addition to the veepstakes hysteria Ed referenced yesterday: I was roundly ridiculed for floating an idea in conversation with friends a few months ago, probably with good reason. Now, Michael Moore is putting it out there via email and his website post “Caroline: Pull a Cheney! An Open Letter to Caroline Kennedy (head of the Obama VP search team) from Michael Moore.
Yes, I know. An Obama-Kennedy ticket would be doubling down on the perception that the Dem ticket’s experience is limited. But jeez, the idea is appealing on a number of levels. As Moore puts it in a couple of nut graphs:

What Obama needs is a vice presidential candidate who is NOT a professional politician, but someone who is well-known and beloved by people across the political spectrum; someone who, like Obama, spoke out against the war; someone who has a good and generous heart, who will be cheered by the rest of the world; someone whom we’ve known and loved and admired all our lives and who has dedicated her life to public service and to the greater good for all….That person, Caroline, is you.
…And Barack, if you’re reading this, you probably know that she is far too humble and decent to nominate herself. So step up and surprise us again. Step up and be different than every politician we have witnessed in our lifetime. Keep the passion burning amongst the young people and others who have been energized by your unexpected, unpredicted, against-all-odds candidacy that has ignited and inspired a nation. Do it for all those reasons. Make Caroline Kennedy your VP. “Obama-Kennedy.” Wow, does that sound so cool.

Kennedy’s gender is a plus, although you couldn’t blame feminists for complaining that more experienced women were passed over. Yet, Kennedy, more than anyone in her family, evokes the passionate spirit of hope her father, JFK and uncle RFK embodied so elegantly. She has natural dignity and real class (in the positive sense of the term), elements in short supply in American politics. She is extremely bright, intensely patriotic and deeply concerned about civil liberties. Her speech to the 2000 Democratic convention was a smash, as much because of her ability to personify the renewal of lost hope as the content of her speech. Talk about mediagenic. Romney or Pawlenty would look like moral midgets compared to her, and it would be fun to watch exasperated Republicans try to attack her without looking creepy.
When called to serve, the Kennedys have always answered. But no, it ain’t gonna happen, since Ms. Kennedy seems too level-headed to do crazy, even if Obama’s team went for it. It’s too late for a trial balloon to do any good, with Obama’s decision expected any hour now. Yet Moore’s proposal resonates because Kennedy symbolizes a time when all Americans could be rightly proud of their President, however idealilzed were our perceptions back then. She bears that precious memory for the nation with both humility and poise.
It’s not too late, however, to put Ms. Kennedy’s impressive skill set to good use. If Obama decided to embrace the interesting idea put forward by Paul Waldman, to name his cabinet and some key appointees in advance of the election, or even if he does it later in keeping with tradition, Caroline Kennedy would make an excellent U.N Ambassador. Having her represent us at the United Nations would signal that America is determined to earn the respect and admiration of the world, not through militarism and intimidation, but by providing moral leadership and a higher level of humanitarian concern.
It’s often said that America lost some of its spirit when JFK was assassinated, and the sense of loss deepened with the assassinations of MLK and RFK. Obama’s pending nomination has helped reclaim some of that spirit. A leadership role like that of U. N. Ambassador for Ms. Kennedy would be yet another step forward — and it would also be smart politics.

Crunch Time for Southern Electoral Votes

Bob Moser makes the case about as good as it can be made, so his pre-convention Salon post “How Democrats can take back the South,” along with Thomas Schaller’s response, is a must-read for Dems focused on electoral vote strategy. The debate also has implications for the veepstakes in both major parties.
Moser’s Salon piece is based on his new book, “Blue Dixie: Awakening the South’s Democratic Majority,” which has gotten a “highly recommended” review from Publisher’s Weekly. A couple of nut graphs on southern demographic shifts from his Salon post provide a taste:

Thanks to a historic “re-migration” of millions of African Americans back South, combined with the country’s fastest growing Hispanic population, the political potency of Southern whites has started to shrivel. From 1990 to 2005, the white population percentage dropped in every Southern state — and in many places, the change portended revolutionary political shifts. The state of Texas is now officially “majority minority,” with large chunks of the South following suit. Georgia went from more than 70 percent white to less than 60 percent just between 1990 and 2005. Nashville, of all places, has been dubbed America’s “new Ellis Island” due to its large influx of not only Hispanics, but Kurds and Somalians (among others). These seismic demographic shifts, which the Census Bureau expects to accelerate over the next few decades, mean — among a world of other things — that the Democrats’ “threshold” of white votes needed to win Southern states (in Mississippi, for instance, it’s 31 percent with average black turnout) will keep falling for the foreseeable future.
The Southern swing voters of the future — and of 2008, at least in the closely competitive states of Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida — bear scant resemblance to the Bigfoot of yore. That’s not simply because fewer of them are Caucasian: It’s also because white Southerners’ political attitudes are undergoing a profound generational shift. The backlash whites, their anti-liberal politics forged in the ’60s and whipped to a froth by the GOP’s wedge issues in almost every election since, are losing members by natural attrition every day. (Rev. Falwell and Jesse Helms, RIP.) Younger Southerners — and the millions of college-educated Yankees who’ve migrated south for bigger houses and better jobs in recent decades — hold more moderate views on cultural and “moral” issues than their elders did. They support withdrawal from Iraq and strong environmental policies. And on economic issues, they lean populist: Like black Southerners, most whites in Dixie now support government action to reduce income inequities; increased regulation of business; more spending on education, Social Security and healthcare; and higher taxes to help the poor.

Moser is more concerned with long-range strategy here than how the Dems will do in southern states on November 4. Schaller’s response focuses more on Moser’s embrace of “economic populism” as a wedge that can help Dems in the south. Schaller argues,

…Economic populism tends to be more useful politically in the post-globalization Rust Belt, or the new growth economies of the Far West, than in the South. Though the South is the nation’s poorest region and millions of Southerners of all races are hurting financially, the conclusion reached by many demographic analysts, myself included, is that the deep-seated social conservatism and widespread resistance to race-blind redistribution in the South serve as powerful bulwarks against the curative effects of economic populism.
…Unfortunately, the prescriptions Moser offers in “Blue Dixie” are closer to overstated hopes, often based on anecdotal evidence contradicted by broader patterns or wholesale data. If economic populism were an untapped electoral reservoir in the South, Southern state budgets would not be among the lowest per capita in the country, unions would not be weaker than in any other region, and working-class white Southerners would already be joined at the hip with working-class black Southerners as the backbone of the most Democratic region in America. But these are not Southern political realities, and wishing them so will not make them so.

Schaller concedes that the Dems have a shot at winning Virginia and elsewhere he has included Florida as a possibility. But he sees Dem resources poured into winning the electoral votes of other southern states as a waste. On balance, he may be right for this cycle, although Georgia is a possibility if Obama picks Nunn and Bob Barr runs strong.
I think he overstates his case, however, in arguing that the 2006 elections indicate Dems have limited prospects for winning congressional, state and local elections in the south. He argues that “85 percent of all new-seat gains in Senate, House, gubernatorial and state legislative races in 2006 came outside the 11 states of the former Confederacy.” Those 11 southern states are 22 percent of the states. If they account for 15 percent of new gains, that’s a little short, but hardly hopeless. And even if Obama loses all the southern states electoral votes, the increased African American registration should help Dem congressional, state and local candidates. Further, as Ed Kilgore noted of the ’06 elections,

In a quirk of the electoral calendar, only five Senate seats were up in the South (accepting Schaller’s definition of “the South” as the 11 states of the old Confederacy), four held by Republicans. Democrats won two, for a net gain of one senator, which is a perfectly proportional contribution to the conquest of the Senate. Similarly, there were six gubernatorial contests in the South, five in seats held by Republicans. Democrats won two for a net gain of one, again a proportional contribution to the national results. (Democrats also won the single Southern governor’s races held in 2004 and in 2005, which means they now control five of the 11 executive offices.)

At present, Democrats hold majorities of both houses of the state legislatures in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina and West Virginia (and one House in TN and KY), as well as the governorships of Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee. Dems hold two U.S. Senate seats in both Arkansas and West Virginia, and one each in Virginia, Florida and Louisiana.
Schaller’s position on southern electoral votes gets some support from the latest poll by The Charlotte Observer/NewsChannel 36, which indicates that 43 percent of North Carolinians believe McCain would be a better president, compared to 38 percent for Obama. McCain’s 5 percent advantage increased when respondents were all registered voters. As Taylor Batten concludes in his Charlotte Observer report on the poll,

By most estimates, John Kerry won no more than a third of the white vote in North Carolina in 2004, according to exit polls. If Obama were to win 30 percent of the white vote and 95 percent of the black vote in North Carolina, blacks would have to make up about 31 percent of the electorate for him to win. They represent less than 21 percent of all registered voters.

Still, Dems are not giving up NC, as Katharine Q. Seelye reports in her New York Times update on Obama’s NC campaign:

Mr. Obama has spent more than $1.9 million on television commercials here since mid-June. He has opened 16 offices in the state since early July…His blueprint calls for deploying 625 teams, of four to six volunteers each, to blanket the state’s 2,762 electoral precincts. So far, more than half the teams are in place, each with captains who are committed to contributing at least 10 hours a week. Almost 6,000 volunteers are actively engaged to some degree…Obama headquarters in Chicago would not confirm the number of paid staff members it had in the various states, but the number in North Carolina is believed to be close to the estimated 150 it has deployed in another battleground state, Missouri, where Mr. McCain is two points ahead.

Regarding NC voter participation demographics, Seelye adds,

In 2000, blacks made up 17.3 percent of the vote, and in 2004 they made up 18.6 percent, according to the state elections board. To win this year, by Mr. Jensen’s calculations, Mr. Obama needs blacks to make up 23 percent of the electorate while also winning at least 35 percent of the white vote. Others say he may need more.
So far, the rate of black registration (up 9.8 percent over 2004) is outpacing white registration (up 4.6 percent), but at the current rate blacks would make up only 20 percent of the electorate.

And, although both Gore and Kerry received no electoral votes in the 11 southern states, Dick Polman notes in the Athens Banner-Herald,

…No Democrat ever has won the presidency without capturing some Southern states. This year, the Old Confederacy holds 153 electoral votes. Nationwide, there are 538 electoral votes on the table. Do the math. If Obama cedes Dixie, he has to win 72 percent of the electoral votes everywhere else. And that’s one reason Howard Dean, the party chairman, has long been touting the importance of a “50-state strategy” to ensure a broader playing field.

Meanwhile the Obama campaign continues to invest heavily in VA, NC, GA and FL at the expense of close campaigns in other swing states. We can be sure only that Obama’s southern strategy is a major gamble that will go down as a colossal blunder or a stroke of genius.

McCain’s Veep Games Show Ambivalence About Choice

In his column at WaPo‘s ‘The Fix,’ Chris Cillizza discusses Senator McCain’s latest veepstake trial ballon. Cillizza quotes McCain:

I think that the pro-life position is one of the important aspects or fundamentals of the Republican Party…And I also feel that — and I’m not trying to equivocate here — that Americans want us to work together. You know, [former Pennsylvania Governor] Tom Ridge is one of the great leaders and he happens to be pro-choice. And I don’t think that that would necessarily rule Tom Ridge out…I think it’s a fundamental tenet of our party to be pro-life but that does not mean we exclude people from our party that are pro-choice. We just have a — albeit strong — but just it’s a disagreement. And I think Ridge is a great example of that.

Cillizza sees it as a genuine veepstakers trial baloon. My guess is that what McCain is really up to here is trying to cool out pro-choice GOP women and PA Republicans, since he still harbors hope that he can be competitive in that state. Ridge will almost certainly get a big cabinet job if McCain wins. But putting a pro-choice veep on the ticket could open up a big can of ugly at the GOP convention, with angry ‘pro-lifers’ giving bitter interviews to anyone who will listen.
Also, Seema Mehta and Maeve Reston caught a revealing comment by McCain in their L.A. Times post, “Sounds like Tom Ridge is out of the VP picture” :

…Conservatives scoffed at the notion that McCain, already viewed with suspicion in some conservative circles, would choose a running mate who supports abortion rights. And McCain hinted Monday, perhaps unintentionally, that Ridge might not be on his short list.
During a visit to a General Electric plant in Erie, Pa., with Ridge in earshot, McCain was asked what he would do in his first 90 days in office. He replied, “Call Tom Ridge to Washington from whatever vacation he’s taking and get him to work.”

McCain is clearly worried about losing the votes of pro-choice women in the general election, even though he has cast his lot with a strong anti-choice position. He doesn’t want to discuss his position regarding criminalizing abortion in any detail because it could be a huge loser, with the rapidly-growing single women demographic and what polls show about their views on abortion-related issues.
Dems have much to gain by making sure the public, especially women swing voters, understand that he favors a constitutional amendment banning abortion, overturning Roe v. Wade and more Supreme Court justices who support criminalizing abortion. At some point during the campaign, he should be asked straight out “Do you favor criminal penalties for women who have abortions?” Letting him get to November 4 without answering this question on camera would be the real crime.

Party Loyalty: Fading Cause or Realistic Goal?

Although the media is fixated on the implications of the Edwards mess in the context of the current election, it also helps bring into focus a problem of longer-term significance that has been overlooked.
In John Edwards, we had a candidate who offered what was arguably the best package of reforms benefitting working people in decades. I still believe his concern was sincere, that he had some genuine compassion for those who didn’t have basic economic or health security. Yet at the same time, he was willing to risk getting his Party — the one party than can rise to this challenge — crushed in the presidential election by revelations of his sloppy personal life.
I’m sure Edwards rationalized it with the argument that he could do a lot of good if he got elected. But it’s not merely appalling that he would risk having his Party trashed. For me it’s a disturbing revelation of the underlying fragility of the Democratic Party. When even our better candidates have so little regard for the Party as an institution, what have we got?
The examples of Bill Clinton and Gary Hart prove that Edwards was not such an exceptional case in this regard. Earlier Democratic (and Republican) candidates knew that the media would give them a free pass. I’m just hoping Senator Obama is the exceptional case — a candidate who not only has his personal life together, but who also has enough respect for his party (as well as his family) that he would never jeopardize it so casually.
Not to let Edwards, Clinton or Hart off the hook for their personal responsibility. But party loyalty is pretty shallow across all demographic groups. Yes, the percentage of self-identified Democrats has increased significantly recently and the percentage of those who have a “favorable” view of the Democratic Party has increased. But only about a third of voters i.d. themselves as Dems, and evidently party i.d. doesn’t resonate very deep.
You have to go back to the FDR era to find a time when party loyalty was a strong value among many Democrats. Back then, a healthy majority saw the Democratic Party as a reliable champion of their interests, and a lot of the credit goes to FDR’s leadership. Reagan usually gets the cred for the GOP’s inroads into the working class, but really it was Eisenhower who laid the foundation and blurred party lines.
FDR had the benefit of a growing union movement to support his party. In Europe, stronger union movements have delivered better wages, benefits and working conditions, and European unions have helped empower European progressive parties. Strengthening Democratic party loyalty will also require rebuilding America’s trade union movement. Until that happens, my guess is that efforts to invoke ‘party discipline’ will have limited success.
To make this happen, unions must do a better job of informing the public about organized labor’s vital contributions. For example, why the hell is there no AFL-CIO TV network offered in my cable package? There should also be more creative membership options for unorganized service and white collar workers for unions to grow and become strong again.
On another track, the Obama campaign, with its elements of a social movement offers hope that we can begin to deepen party loyalty among Democrats. But much depends on the depth of his personal commitment to strengthen unions if he gets elected. The Democratic Party also needs a more aggressive campaign on its own behalf. We are seeing lots of candidate ads. But you don’t see many ads stating the Party’s commitment to needed social reforms. People need to know that the ‘big tent’ doesn’t mean Dems have amorphous values.
In a couple of weeks, the Democratic Party will convene for our quadreniial pep rally, culminating in a powerful, historic moment when Senator Obama accepts the nomination as the nation’s first African American presidential nominee on the 45th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. Obama and the Democratic Party will enjoy a surge of support, and hopefully, some of it will last through November 3. On day one after the election, that great energy driving the Obama campaign should be channeled into strengthening the Democratic Party.

‘Proud’ McCain Dumps on Supporters

In case anyone doubts Senator John McCain’s proclivity for callous narcissism and his campaign’s inclination toward vicious hackery, I refer you to the statement, via HuffPo, of Kathy Hilton, mother of the McCain-dissed Paris Hilton.

I’ve been asked again and again for my response to the now infamous McCain celebrity ad. I actually have three responses. It is a complete waste of the money John McCain’s contributors have donated to his campaign. It is a complete waste of the country’s time and attention at the very moment when millions of people are losing their homes and their jobs. And it is a completely frivolous way to choose the next President of the United States.

And in case you wisely tuned out the buzz surrounding the McCain ad that prompted the response, McCain said he was ‘proud’ of the ad, which trashed two fellow Republicans in a silly, ineffectual attempt to diminish the gravitas of Senator Obama by unconvincingly associating him with two ‘Hollywood train wrecks.’ “All I can say is we’re proud of that commercial,” the GOP nominee-apparent told a town hall meeting.
Yes, the ad insults two Republicans. Ms. Hilton’s parents reportedly contributed $4,600 to the McCain campaign, no less. Ms. Spears has been captured on videotape touting her support for President Bush. Such is the gratitude and loyalty they get from the leader of their party.
The mean-spirited ad reveals McCain’s callousness in 3-D. Yes, many feel that Spears and Hilton have often behaved like superficial, immature air-heads. But would it be too much to ask that an aspiring leader of the free world show a little more dignity and compassion toward them and others who may have psychological problems or substance-abuse issues?
It may be that McCain and his team didn’t know they were trashing fellow Republicans. If so, that would be very sloppy research and compelling further proof that McCain is sorely lacking in management skills and as a judge of character and abilities of those who he would select to run the government. In any event, McCain’s misguided hubris about the celebrity ad provides yet another indication of his lousy judgment.
It’s McCain’s campaign that is the real train wreck, and the most charitable explanation is that the engineer is asleep at the switch.

Going Negative With Class vs.The High Road to Nowhere

Sooner or later, all presidential campaigns go negative, the good guys, as well as the bad guys. The “we’re better than that” conceit is a self-delusion shared by losing campaigns everywhere.
Of course there are two basic ways to go negative — with lies and sleaze, or with integrity and class. Dems should always chose the latter option, and usually do.
The key decision associated with going negative is timing. The McCain campaign has made their decision. As Michael Kranish observes in the lede of his article “McCain ads go negative early on Obama” in the Thursday edition of The Boston Globe:

By launching a series of TV ads that ridicule Senator Barack Obama and question his readiness to be president, Senator John McCain has made a strategic decision to go directly negative much earlier than usual in the presidential race.

Actually, it’s been going on a little longer, as Kranish notes,

The Wisconsin Advertising Project, which monitors campaign ad spending nationwide, reported yesterday that of the $48 million worth of ads the two campaigns have aired since Obama clinched the nomination in early June, 90 percent of Obama’s ads have been positive and mostly about himself, while about one-third of McCain’s commercials referred to Obama negatively.

Obama has to go negative and he will. The only question is will it be too late to help him win? Who Obama should not be on the morning after election day is the loser who sniffs before TV reporters “At least we kept on the high road. I’m proud of my campaign.”
The high road strategy makes sense for the candidate who is protecting a lead in the primary season, because party unity among contenders’ supporters is paramount. But it makes little sense in the general election campaign when surrounded by snarling jackals. If anyone in Obama’s campaign has doubts that McCain’s strategists will go as low as is neccessary to win, Daily Kos writer Dengre has a sobering reality check.
No, I don’t think Obama should personally get into it with McCain’s mud-slingers. But he would do well to heed Ed Kilgore’s advice, in his Friday post,

…Obama really does need to spend less time on broad-based indictments of “Washington” or “lobbyists” or “politics as usual,” and spend a lot more time talking about his actual opponent, the actual opposing party, and the actual incumbent that links them.

McCain and his strategists understand that, to work, a negative meme has to be launched early and hammered throughout the campaign. Then, in the closing days of the general election, McCain can affect a ‘high road’ persona, the dirty work having been done.
So far Obama’s attacks against McCain have been a little too tame. The Obama campaign needs to define the precise meme they want to hang on McCain and implement a strategy to make it stick. Easier said than done, but a challenge that has to be made — and soon — for Democrats to take the white house.

Can Obama Win ‘Whispering Republicans’ ?

Patrick Healy’s article, “Obama Camp Sees Potential in G.O.P. Discontent” in today’s New York Times has one of the more eloquent plugs for the Democratic Presumptive yet uttered. And it comes from a pedigreed Republican, Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of one of the better GOP presidents.

Obama seems like a leader who can deal with challenges that are highly complex, nuanced and interconnected,” Ms. Eisenhower said, “and he has the language and communication skills and temperament to engage a set of world leaders who are his generation

In brutally-stark contrast to his opponent, I would add. Healy notes also that GOP campaign consultant Mike Murphy expects Obama to get more Republican votes than did Kerry.
Healy goes on to discuss pro-Obama stirrings among “whispering Republicans.” He cites the most recent New York Times/CBS News poll in which Obama got about 9 percent of self-identified Republicans (Kerry got 6 percent at mid-summer, ’04).
Democrats hoping to take a significant bite out of the GOP demographic, however, will not get much encouragement from the historical record. As Emory University political scientist Alan I. Abramowitz pointed out in a recent post at Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball,

…In contrast to the fluidity and unpredictability that has characterized the nomination contests in both parties, the voting patterns in November will be highly predictable and consistent with those seen in other recent general elections — close to 90 percent of all votes will be cast by party identifiers for their own party’s presidential candidate. Whichever party turns out more of its own supporters on Election Day is likely to emerge as the winner.

Still, we can hope that November ’08 breaks the tradition, at least enough to make a difference in one or two swing states. It’s been a long time since a Republican president blundered America into an elective war, and I’m sure there are growing numbers of conservatives out there who are tired of seeing their taxes squandered on the open-ended occupation of Iraq.

Offshore Drilling, Oil Speculation & More MPG: What the Polls Say

The GOP is betting heavy that Dems’ opposition to drilling for oil in environmentally-sensitive areas is a big winner for Republicans. Chicago Tribune reporter Amanda Erickson quotes Sierra Club spokesman Josh Donner in her article today on Obama’s meeting on energy reform strategy with House of Reps members,

There’s a stalemate with Republicans…They are determined to filibuster anything [that does not involve drilling] … because Republicans think this is the issue they’re going to take to the bank.

As part of the GOP strategy, MN Republican Rep.Michelle Bachmann’s Wall St. Journal op-ed article, “The Democrats’ Energy Charade” vents her disdain for the Democratic-sponsored Drill Responsibly in leased Lands (DRILL) Act, which would increase the allowable leases in the National Petroleum Reserve, with some modest environmental precautions. But DRILL would not allow new exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR), which is closer to existing pipeline structure. Nor would it permit additional offshore drilling for oil, which is a cornerstone of McCain’s energy ‘plan,’ along with nuclear power development and a suspension of the federal gas tax. And so it is anathema to Republicans.
In contrast to McCain’s plan, Sen. Obama opposes offshore drilling for oil, supports resolution of safety and storage issues before more nuclear power is expanded and he calls McCain’s ‘gas tax holiday’ a gimmick. Obama would require that oil companies drill in areas they have already leased, pay consumers a rebate and invest $150 billion in renewable energy
Democrats are having a tough time getting enough votes to move legislation like DRILL forward, due to the threat of a fillibuster and some ‘blue dog’ and ‘oil patch ‘ Dems who want drilling regulations eased. Recent opinion polls indicate that Dems do indeed have a very tough sell in their opposition to unrestricted drilling for oil. A June 26 Zogby poll showed 74 percent in support of offshore drilling. Even 58 percent of Dems in the poll favored offshore drilling. And in a recent CNN poll, 73 percent wanted it.
However, a Rasmussen poll taken on Monday night may have identified the weak link in the Republican position. The survey found that when respondents are given the choice between “cracking down on speculators or lifting the ban on offshore drilling,” 45 percent favor the former, while 42 percent favor the latter. The survey concludes that,

At this moment in time, there is support for offshore drilling, regulating speculators, more nuclear power, research for alternative energy sources, and drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

The Rasmussen poll wrap-up also noted that their poll taken last week found,

…52% support building new nuclear plants, but 31% are opposed. This is a slight increase in support. Backing for Obama’s proposal to spend $150 billion on green energy resources dropped slightly to 54%…Forty-four percent (44%) say reducing the price of gas and oil is more important than protecting the environment, but 41% disagree. These numbers track closely with previous findings on this question.

Energy reform is clearly a tricky proposition for both parties. When congress adjourns for the August recess in a few days, there is a strong probability that nothing will have been passed. Then the battle is about spinning the blame for inaction, in which case the Rasmussen report notes,

In the latest survey, 46% oppose the present GOP congressional strategy of blocking other energy legislation until a vote on the offshore ban is allowed, but 28% support it. Even more Republicans (44%) are against their congressional leaders’ strategy than for it (38%)

It would be hard to make a persuasive case that alternative energy development could be a practicable substitute for drilling for more oil in the short term. Opinion polls indicate strong support for developing wind power as a longer-term reform, for example. But mid-west wind farms and the like still seem like a distant dream to many voters. ‘Sure, it sounds great, but we need oil now.’ Never mind that whatever oil we find won’t be in the pipeline for years. Most voters apparently believe also that adequate precautions could be taken to have new offshore drilling that doesn’t damage the environment.
Dems can help their case by fighting harder for limiting oil market speculation, as well as for developing alternative energy. And, Dems have under-used leverage to wield in holding Republicans more accountable for their obstruction of better fuel efficiency standards. Although, there hasn’t been much polling about it recently, a CBS News/New York Times poll taken back in April of last year found that 92 percent of Americans supported “requiring car manufacturers to produce cars that are more energy efficient” — about as close to unanimous as you find in opinion polls.

Pride in President

Frank Rich has a gem of a column in the Sunday New York Times, “How Obama Became Acting President.” Rich shows why he is one of the better hires the ‘newspaper of record’ has yet made. He explains the politics of the moment with perceptive observations, among them:

The growing Obama clout derives not from national polls, where his lead is modest. Nor is it a gift from the press, which still gives free passes to its old bus mate John McCain. It was laughable to watch journalists stamp their feet last week to try to push Mr. Obama into saying he was “wrong” about the surge. More than five years and 4,100 American fatalities later, they’re still not demanding that Mr. McCain admit he was wrong when he assured us that our adventure in Iraq would be fast, produce little American “bloodletting” and “be paid for by the Iraqis.”

After watching a replay of Senator Obama’s Berlin speech (See it here), I wondered “what’s this, an American politician being cheered in Europe? Haven’t seen that for a few decades” Rich nailed the historical meaning more succinctly:

What was most striking about the Obama speech in Berlin was not anything he said so much as the alternative reality it fostered: many American children have never before seen huge crowds turn out abroad to wave American flags instead of burn them.

In stark contrast, Rich illuminates McCain’s ill-fated plan to visit an offshore oil-rig:

The week’s most revealing incident occurred on Wednesday when the new, supposedly improved McCain campaign management finalized its grand plan to counter Mr. Obama’s Berlin speech with a “Mission Accomplished”-like helicopter landing on an oil rig off Louisiana’s coast. The announcement was posted on politico.com even as any American with a television could see that Hurricane Dolly was imminent. Needless to say, this bit of theater was almost immediately “postponed” but not before raising the question of whether a McCain administration would be just as hapless in anticipating the next Katrina as the Bush-Brownie storm watch.

Rich’s column goes on to evoke a palpable sense of dread about what a McCain presidency would feel like, and a tantalizing taste of the alternative. Real pride in our President? What a radical concept.

Radio Key for Motivating New Voters

Excited as all Dems should be by recent reports of dramatic increases in voter registration benefitting our party, it’s time to give serious thought to GOTV strategies to maximize turnout of these new voters on November 4th. Registration percentage is the most reliable predictor of voter turnout — the more voters registered, the higher the turnout. So we have already gained a significant edge, assuming the Republicans don’t produce an equivalent uptick in registering their base in the months ahead. But that doesn’t mean we can’t gain an additional edge with a concerted effort to get more of these new voters to the polls.
We don’t know precisely who these new voters are. But many of the registration campaigns in different states have targeted young voters, particularly college students. Other registration campaigns have targeted African and Latino Americans. The motivated voters in all demographic groups are going to get to the polls without much encouragement. But if previous patterns prevail, as many as 40 percent of the newly-registered voters won’t vote — if nothing is done. In 2004, for example, nearly 60 percent of registered voters went to the polls, according to the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate. If we can increase their turnout/rv ratio up to 70-75 percent, it just might make the difference in a close race.
Many newly registered voters who may not vote on election day have transportation problems. The polls may be too far away and/or they don’t have a car. or they don’t know where the poll is located. Others may be time-challenged — having to pick-up the kids, fix dinner, work late etc. Some may be energy-challenged, just too dog-tired to make the effort.
Early voting can help get around such ‘convenience’ issues, provided the voters are informed about how they can do it with a minimum of hassle. There should be a major push — make that an unprecedented effort — to inform new voters in the 28 states that permit no-excuse absentee voting by mail about early voting opportunities.
The internet is a great medium for reaching many of these voters, especially college students. In a recent Pew poll, 42 percent of young people said they learn about political campaigns from the internet, up from 20 percent in 2004. Internet ad revenues are expected to surpass radio ad revenues for the first time this year, reports Rudy Ruitenberg of Bloomberg.com. Yet, television still rules as a source for political information, and 60 percent of respondents in the Pew poll said they get “most of their election news from TV,” although it’s down from 68 percent in ’04 and ’00.
But television time is expensive, and not all young people or low-income voters have daily access to the internet. Radio may be the most cost-effective medium for reaching newly-registered voters, not only for informing them about early voting opportunities in their communities, but also to motivate them to get to the polls on election day. Radio reaches more than 210 million voting age listeners every week, according to Jeff Haley, president of the Radio Advertising Bureau, and, more so than TV, it reaches voters at useful times — the wake-up alarm, driving to work, at work, at lunch and driving home — pretty much all day, until the polls close.
High as we all are on the power of the internet as a tool for transmitting political information and motivation, a more substantial investment in radio ads could hold the key to victory in November.