[Programming Note for Sunday:
• Meet the Press hosts Hillary and ex-Fed Chair Alan Greenspan.
• Face the Nation hosts Hillary and Politico’s John Harris.
• This Week hosts Hillary. The roundtable consists of Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne, New York Times’ David Brooks, Cokie Roberts and George Will. PBS’ Ken Burns is the Voices segment.
• Fox N_ws Sunday hosts Hillary, Newt Gingrich, and Ken Burns.
• Late Edition hosts Hillary, French FM Bernard Kouchner, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), ex-NSA Zbigniew Brzezinski, ex-Sec/State Henry Kissinger, and CNN’s Gloria Borger.]
As the Fall season begins, how is “transformational” Obama doing?
Did slithering out of the U.S. Senate in order to avoid the Move-on vote help him? How much money did Obama extract at the Usher fundraiser Obama used as an excuse for slithering out of the Senate vote? Did the amount of money he raised at the fundraiser with Usher offset the terrible publicity he garnered by slithering out of the Senate vote? How angry is Steve Hildebrand, Obama’s Iowa guru and campaign strategist, because Obama missed opportunity of speaking with hundreds of thousands of Iowa seniors by also slithering out of the AARP debate?
How much money did Obama spend when forced to host his ‘Ignore the fact that I dissed the AARP debate and have insulted seniors in the past’ senior citizens forum, which few paid attention to anyway? How much money will have to be spent in advertisments and mailings in an attempt to induce amnesia among Move-on members, senior citizens in Iowa and nationally, African-Americans and other marchers protesting the Jena 6 situation? How much anger has Obama introduced into the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s mind? How will Obama deal with the now dredged up history of Obama’s slither record.
As usual at Big Pink, let’s walk down the sunny side of the Obama street.
In a new, public memo, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe makes the case for Obama’s strategy: A win based on organization and the hunger for change in Iowa, followed by a roll through the rest of the early states.
The memo had one interesting claim, of South Carolina: “We believe South Carolina is now a very competitive two-way race, with Edwards, who won this contest in 2004, in a very distant third.”
You can also tell from the memo one way in which this race hasn’t changed from Day One: Experience is still Obama’s central challenge. Plouffe quotes Obama’s line that he he “may not have the experience that Washington likes, but he has the experience that America needs,” and stresses his “20 years in public service.”
But there’s also a recognition voters aren’t entirel convinced yet on the experience front: “Barack is the candidate with the message and biography that is most in synch with the electorate – according to a Gallup poll in September Democratic voters prefer change to experience by a margin of 73 percent to 26 percent.”
Well, that’s a nice souffle memo – lots of hot air. Problem of course is that Hillary is the Experience and the Change candidate and Hillary is doing very well in South Carolina, a must win state for Obama.
At least the souffle memo acknowledges that it is getting late in the game and that “the campaign has entered the critical post-Labor Day phase where the pace will pick up and the public will become more engaged in the campaign.” That’s progress. First admit you have a problem. Donors and supporters are getting antsy.
Still, Obama in his souffle memo wants to blame Democrats, not just Ripublicans for the mess the country is in. Maybe he has not read about the successes of the (Bill) Clinton Administration and how the Ripublicans are the ones to blame for attempting to hamper progress at every turn (even before the Clinton Administration this is true). The souffle memo blames Bush and those that pre-date him for our problems: “our failures on big issues like health care, energy, and education pre-date the Bush Administration and real change requires a President who is capable of truly transforming our politics.” Sad.
It also appears that Obama is abandoning a national campaign, “Barack and the campaign will take this case to voters in the four early states and the February 5th states in the coming weeks and months.” Sad.
While we walk down the sunny side of Obama street, rainclouds appear. The Kansas City Star counts the raindrops.
This wasn’t supposed to be a cakewalk.
But as the fall campaign begins, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is showing signs that she’s on top of the Democratic field to stay.
Up 2-to-1 in many national polls, Clinton leads convincingly in the early primary states of New Hampshire and South Carolina. In first-in-the-nation Iowa, still viewed as a three-way contest between Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, the New York senator led by five points in the two latest polls, supplanting Edwards, who led last winter and spring.
“If they can’t beat her in Iowa, it’s going to be amazingly difficult to catch her,” said University of Iowa political scientist Bruce Gronbeck.
The Kansas City Star remembers the sunnier days for Obama:
Nine months ago, things looked strikingly different. Back then, Obama was hot property, smiling confidently on magazine covers, raising money like a seasoned pro and nearly matching Clinton in early-voter surveys.
Clinton was anything but new and flashy. Her vote to go to war with Iraq frustrated liberals, while others were wary of “Hillary fatigue” — the prospect of a second Clinton administration draining enthusiasm.
Instead, President Bush’s struggles appear to have produced a certain longing for Bill Clinton’s presidency that has rubbed off on his wife. Even Obama sees the trend.
“Senator Clinton is the default candidate for a lot of Democrats,” Obama told NBC’s Brian Williams on Monday. “People have fond memories of Bill Clinton.”
Since February, the polls have flatlined. They show Clinton ensconced in first and Obama distinctly in second, followed by Edwards in a distant third. The lines never intersect, nor do they show much gyration.
“He seems to have plateaued,” Drake University political scientist Dennis Goldford said of Obama.
In one sentence the Kansas City Star sums up the problem. We’ll be generous and quote a few more.
The issue for Obama is experience, or more precisely the lack of it, said veteran Democratic operative Terry Stewart, chairman of the Dubuque County Democratic Party in Iowa, who is neutral in the race.
“The people who have followed Hillary for 15 years since she became first lady realize she has accumulated a wealth of experience, depth and breadth,” Stewart said. “That’s the biggest thing.”
Obama is charismatic, he said. But he remains “the new kid on the block” amid world turmoil.
Transformation Obama is undaunted. His campaign responds with confidence inspiring, um, resignation and despair: “Our campaign’s been clear from the beginning that because we’re running against a quasi-incumbent, we don’t expect Senator Obama to ever pass Senator Clinton in the national polls before Iowa,” said Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt.”
Buddy, can you spare some change?
Obama has emphasized his credentials as a change agent.
But a September CNN poll of potential Democratic primary voters found that Clinton — not Obama — was the candidate most likely to bring change. She led Obama on that front 42 to 30 percent, with 10 percent for Edwards.
The warmest candidate? Clinton won that contest, too. A recent Gallup Poll found Clinton to be the “most liked” candidate among Democrats. Her “warmth” rating was 82 percent to Obama’s 72 percent and Edwards’ 68 percent.
Asked which of the candidates has the right experience, Clinton got 60 percent to 15 percent for Edwards and just 9 percent for Obama.
Let’s not forget the substantive Obama blunders:
Obama’s foreign-policy missteps have hurt him, such as calling the use of nuclear weapons against terror targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan a “profound mistake.” The answer ran counter to longstanding U.S. policy to never rule out nukes, if only for bargaining purposes.
It also gave Clinton a chance to lecture her rival. “Presidents,” she said, “should be very careful at all times in discussing the use or non-use of nuclear weapons.”
Obama is still known for his soaring rhetoric, which was on full display during a Kansas City stop in May. But some don’t see specific policies.
“People love the music,” Goldford said, “but they keep wondering where the lyrics are.”
Grab your umbrellas!. It’s a storm on the sunny side of Obama street:
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has consolidated her early lead in the Democratic presidential contest, showing steady strength as the candidates head toward the first voting early next year. [snip]
She has maintained solid leads in most national polls. And while polls in early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire are of limited value in predicting the outcome, they too show her more than holding her own entering the period in which primary voters begin to make up their minds.
“I think they’ve run a great campaign,” David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, said of Mrs. Clinton, of New York. “She’s been a very disciplined candidate. They’ve been deft in trying to get ahead of this tidal wave of people out there who really want change. They are doing the best they can with it.” [snip]
A senior adviser to Mr. Edwards, Joe Trippi, said: “You used to be able to say the front-runners — her and Obama — but I don’t think that’s the case anymore. It’s pretty clear that she has sort of pulled away.”
Obama, still refusing an umbrella, still not coming in out of the rain, at least is aware that it is raining:
In the final week of August, Mr. Obama expressed frustration to some of his close associates at the course of his campaign, saying he felt his message was adrift, and personally took to rewriting some of the basic themes.
A few days or weeks ago, Big Blogs were dazed by the winning Hillary team making 1 adjustment to its Iowa team. Big Blogs cried “Havoc”, disaster, ruin – even though Hillary’s lead was and is as strong as it ever was. Now Obama is beginning a covert restructuring of his
funeral parlor campaign. Here is what is going on:
One of Barack Obama’s closest friends and long-term advisers will be spending more time guiding the Democratic presidential candidate as he enters the final three months of the primary race still in second place.
Valerie Jarrett, the finance chair of Obama’s 2004 Senate bid, will advise Obama on campaign strategy and possibly travel with him, campaign manager David Plouffe said in an interview Thursday.
Plouffe said Jarrett’s new role does not indicate a shake-up and instead was part of “all hands on deck time” as the Illinois senator comes into the final stretch. Pete Rouse, the chief of staff of Obama’s Senate office, also has been spending more time advising at the Chicago campaign headquarters.
When the Obama campaign says it is not a shakeup, it’s a shakeup. The Atlantic has more on the non-shakeup, shake-up:
Obama advisers insisted that Jarrett’s expanded role should not be read as a sign that Obama has lost confidence in campaign director David Plouffe.
But it’s also true that Obama and his wife Michelle decided to bring Jarrett inside the campaign a little earlier than some in Obama’s world had anticipated. The Obamas were responding to suggestions from friends outside the campaign who thought the campaign could use a firmer managerial hand.
One Democrat close to Obama said that the candidate agreed that the “nuts and bolts” of the campaign needed to be “tightened.” But the Democrat said that Obama had “complete confidence” in Plouffe as a planner and a strategist and was worried that press accounts of any change would falsely incorporate the assumption that Plouffe was somehow being demoted.
The demands on Plouffe’s time are extensive; donors and major political figures line up to meet with him, and the addition of high-level talent — staffers and friends who have stature and the ear of Obama — will allow Plouffe more time to run the campaign.
Plouffe is among the newer members of Obama’s inner circle. He has hiring and firing authority and oversees the campaign’s budget along with Marty Nesbitt, a Chicago entrepeneur who is also Obama’s best friend. Nesbitt serves as campaign treasurer.
Jarrett will serve as a consigliere of sorts who can mediate disputes between senior staff members and make sure that major projects are completed to Obama’s standards. She will be, for a campaign dealing with challenging questions about race, its most influential African American.
Another change: strategist Steve Hildebrand will take a more aggressive role in running the campaign’s political and field departments. Hildebrand put together those departments, wrote most of the campaign’s field plan, and divides his time between the campaign’s Chicago headquarters and its field offices in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
For a major presidential campaign, Obama’s inner circle has been relatively free of the acrimony that generally results from the combination of healthy egos and high-pressure decisions. David Axelrod has been the chief strategist, responsible for crafting Obama’s campaign argument. Robert Gibbs is the guardian of Obama’s image. Pete Rouse, Obama’s Senate chief of staff, is a veteran of Capitol Hill politics.
Now that staff
shake-ups changes are occurring Obama can stem the Jesse Jackson inflicted wound. (We will borrow from comments in the earlier post).
Obama supporters must be dispirited at the very best. Think about it: in 1 day, in 1 day (emphasis, exclamation point) – Obama managed to alienate seniors, African-Americans, bloggers, and even his own collegues in the senate. Obama has only led in 1 poll ever, and even that poll was retracted by the polling company. Now Obama is behind by 20 points and sinking to Edwards’ poll levels. But at least, to paraphrase the words from the immortal Brando film On The Waterfront – he was a contender. Now Obama is just a palooka – sinking in the polls and alienating Democratic allies and groups left and right.
The Jesse Jackson flareup this week is a portent of what is to come. In the latest news reports Jesse makes clear that he has not been asked to campaign by/for Obama. That is the backstory as to why Jesse made those controversial remarks about race, that he now denies ever making and which we take him at his word that he never said, but that nevertheless wound up in the biggest paper in the Obama critical state of South Carolina.
Keep in mind: Jesse Jackson is from South Carolina and won the primary in South Carolina when he ran for president. So Jesse Jackson knew where his remarks would have most impact. When Jesse Jackson reprimanded Obama over not being vocal and campaigning on the Jena 6 situation, nor attending his Jena 6 rally, Jesse Jackson was sending a very clear signal to Obama. Jesse Jackson does not like to be ignored and clearly he is feeling ignored. Candidates for the Democratic nomination ignore the Reverend Jesse Jackson at their own peril.
More Obama problems: Missing the Iowa AARP debate was not bright.
There wasn’t a big winner of Thursday night’s debate among the Democratic presidential candidates, but there was a clear loser – Barack Obama. [snip]
Since the average age of a caucusgoer in Iowa is something over 50, it wasn’t as if Obama was stiffing some obscure party constituency group.
Quite an agenda for Obama: Alienate, bloggers, Move-on, African-Americans, seniors nationally, seniors in Iowa and complaining about the Congressional Black Caucus and anger Jesse Jackson.
Black members of Congress supporting Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) presidential bid are grumbling that leaders of the officially neutral Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are trying to help Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).
The CBC is split 11-9 between Obama and Clinton, while former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) has picked up support from three members, according to a tally kept by The Hill.
Obama’s supporters are privately crying foul because they feel that the group’s neutrality is being subverted by Chairwoman Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), chairman of the CBC Foundation, who have invited Clinton to a forum at next week’s Annual Legislative Conference at the Washington Convention Center. The forum, to be held Sept. 28, is called “What’s at Stake in 2008 — A Dialogue with Sen. Hillary Clinton.”
Kilpatrick, Meek, Clinton and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, the congresswoman’s son, will participate in the dialogue. But CBC rules dictate that only CBC members can hold these so-called “Brain Trusts” during the four-day conference.
Meek has endorsed Clinton; Kilpatrick has not. [snip]
Meek said, “I don’t know — people can look at it for how they want to see it. This brain trust will be open and free to the public. They can have a real exchange and dialogue with four elected public servants.”
Keiana Barrett, Kilpatrick’s spokeswoman, denied that the forum was a subtle way for Kilpatrick to endorse Clinton. “The CBC as whole does not make endorsements — that never has been the case,” Barrett added.
A Clinton spokesman noted that Clinton has attended the conference in past years and has worked closely with the CBC. As the Steering and Outreach Committee chairwoman, she co-hosted African American Summits with the CBC. The 2004 summit was called “From Brown to the Ballot: African American Leadership Summit.”
Maybe Obama as a CBC member will attend the Clinton meeting. Maybe not. He might as well, it’s going to be a tough fall for him anyway. He might also learn a little less audacity and more humility.
It’s going to be a hard fall.