Big September

In our treacly introduction to September we wrote “The excuses from other candidates and their supporters as to why their campaigns have failed are laid bare. No longer can the claim be made that election season is too far away and that polls are irrelevant.”

September has lived up to what we expected.

The Gallup Poll organization has a good summary of the current state of the Hillary Clinton for President campaign:

Since August, Sen. Hillary Clinton has consistently led the 2008 Democratic presidential field by a better than 20-point margin over Sen. Barack Obama. With a lead of that size — and unless the race were highly polarized, which it is not — it’s logical that she would also dominate the race among most major Democratic subgroups. And she does.

In the four Gallup presidential election surveys conducted in August and September, Clinton has led Obama by an average of 22 points — 47% to 25%, respectively. Former Sen. John Edwards holds third place with about half of Obama’s level of support, while no other candidate is favored by more than 3% of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic.

According to the aggregated data from the four most recent surveys, Clinton holds a commanding lead among nearly every major subgroup of potential Democratic primary voters. (This includes all adults who consider themselves Democrats as well as independents who lean to the Democratic party.)

Clinton is most widely favored for the nomination by women, whites, seniors, core Democrats, the non-college educated, those living in low- and middle-income households, self-described conservatives, and residents of the East and West. However, she also leads Obama by smaller but still double-digit margins among most of the natural counterparts to these groups, including men, blacks, young adults, independents, college graduates, self-described moderates and liberals, and residents of the South and Midwest. The table at the end of this report provides the figures for these findings.

As was the case earlier this year, upper-income Democrats represent one of Clinton’s few weak links. Among those living in households with an annual income of $75,000 or more, she leads Obama by only seven points at 37% vs. 30%. This may help explain Obama’s competitiveness with Clinton in fundraising — even though he has not been competitive with her in national Democratic nomination preference polls.

Nearly 4 in 10 blacks favor Obama for the nomination, compared with fewer than one-quarter of whites (38% vs. 22%). However, blacks’ support for Obama does not come at the expense of their support for Clinton. In fact, blacks are more likely than whites to support Clinton. Rather, blacks steer their support to the top two candidates, giving less support to the lower-ranked candidates –particularly Edwards.

Big Media again missed the boat as to the latest John Edwards mess. Big Blogs did not do a good job either.

Let’s help Big Media/Blogs. The big disaster for Edwards in this announcement is that it cements his remarkable ability to highlight the hypocrisy charge that is constantly leveled at his head-spinning changes in positions. On Iraq, hedgefunds, big houses, lobbyists/trial lawyers and now campaign finance John Edwards opens himself to the hypocrisy charge. If Edwards had accepted matching public funds and explained it as a financial necessity for his campaign the story would be a minor story read only by us campaign geeks.

However, typical for Edwards, he moralizes about about his flip-flop in now accepting public funds and in the process opens himself to the hypocrisy charge. John Edwards is not fooling anyone. His fundraising will soon be a matter of public disclosure. When his limp fundraising figures are exposed, the moral highground will turn into a hangman’s scaffold.

But the Big Story in this Edwards slapstick farce is the Labor connection. Recall, Edwards was supposed to be the candidate with Big Labor support. Towards that end, instead of raising campaign funds and building an organization, Edwards spent endless hours on picket lines and charming union workers and Big Labor Big Wigs. Edwards had a campaign strategy based not on having an effective organization and competent campaign staff (hiring Trippi was a clue that the Edwards campaign was more about publicity than competence) but rather the Edwards campaign strategy was ‘Let the Unions do it for us.’

Why did Edwards decide to take the money and run? Because Edwards realized that his Big Labor endorsement strategy had failed. Recall, the latest Big Labor endorsement event. SEIU decided they would maybe decide on an endorsement in October – AFTER the third quarter fundraising reports come out. When SEIU sees the actual Edwards numbers they will not endorse him.

Hillary Clinton knows that Labor and unions want a partner who brings strength to the partnership, not dependence. Labor and unions do not want to someone to leech on their efforts.

Here is the New York Times article from September 25, 2007:

John Edwards was obviously hoping to get some good news out of Chicago this week. First, he was hoping that the executive board of the Service Employees International Union, which met in Chicago on Monday, would endorse him.

Mr. Edwards has lobbied the S.E.I.U. hard, but the S.E.I.U.’s executive board — whose endorsement is especially coveted because it is such a large and politically active union — punted on Monday just as it did when it met in Washington last Wednesday.
And with the S.E.I.U. deciding not to endorse anyone this week, that pretty much rules out that Change to Win, the rival labor federation to the A.F.L.-C.I.O., will vote to endorse anyone when it holds its biannual convention in Chicago today.

If several things fell into place, there was a good chance that Mr. Edwards could have won Change to Win’s endorsement, but since the S.E.I.U., with 1.9 million members, did not endorse, that makes it all but impossible for Mr. Edwards or any other candidate to secure the super-majority needed to win Change to Win’s backing.

Change to Win represents more than 5 million union members and in addition to the service employees, it includes the Teamsters, the carpenters, the laborers, the food and commercial workers, the farm workers and Unite Here.

The carpenters have endorsed Mr. Edwards, and he was hoping to already have the endorsement of Unite Here, which represents apparel, hotel, restaurant and laundry workers. But United Here’s endorsement has been delayed because its giant Las Vegas union local was not yet ready to endorse anyone.

Last Wednesday, S.E.I.U. officials said they were not ready to endorse anyone because, having heard lots about the candidates’ policies, they wanted to hear their strategies on how they would win in November 2008.

So in Chicago on Monday, the campaign managers of the three leading Democratic candidates spoke to the S.E.I.U.’s board to explain how their candidate would win, but the campaign managers evidently could not seal the deal.

After Monday’s meetings, S.E.I.U. officials said they decided not to endorse at this time because the 60-plus members of its board wanted to go back to their local unions to get a better gauge of rank-and-file sentiment. S.E.I.U. officials are no doubt mindful that and that Mr. Edwards is a distant third in polls of Democrats and that many S.E.I.U. members — many are women and blacks — favor Hillary Clinton, just like other Democrats.

One S.E.I.U. board member said that a majority of board members favored Mr. Edwards, (who has been very outspoken on behalf of universal health coverage, one of the S.E.I.U.’s main goals) but those members, taken together, do not come from locals representing 60 percent of the union’s membership—the threshold required for the board to make an endorsement.

It often appears that the thing that will most help Mr. Edwards secure more union endorsements is not for him to march on a union picket line for the umpteenth time, but for him to get a 5 or 10 percentage point bump in nationwide polls. Many union leaders are wary of endorsing candidate who will flame out the way Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt did in the 2004 primaries, notwithstanding the union endorsements they had.

The Washington Post with typical reaction of this latest Edwards calamity:

In a sign of potentially serious trouble for his campaign, former Sen. John Edwards has decided to sign onto the public financing system for the presidential primaries, accepting government funds in exchange for sharp limits on his spending.

Edwards presented the decision, announced Thursday, as a challenge to his Democratic rivals to value substantive ideas over fundraising prowess. “This campaign should not be a fundraising contest,” he said on CNN.

But with the end of the third quarter approaching this Sunday, the sharp reversal by Edwards suggested his candidacy is facing steep challenges in keeping apace with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, the two Democratic leaders in fundraising in the 2008 race.

By accepting public financing, Edwards will be able to receive up to $250 in matching funds for each person who donates to his campaign. In return, he will face severe limits on his spending, both during the early primaries, and if he wins those, in the months leading up to the general election.

Under the public financing system, Edwards will be allowed to spend just $817,800 in New Hampshire during the primary race. In Iowa, the limit is just under $1.5 million. In both states, even after the primaries are over, Edwards cannot exceed those limits until the Democratic convention – months after a head-to-head contest with the Republican nominee is expected to begin.

Joe Trippi, who managed the presidential campaign of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean in 2004 and is a senior adviser to Edwards this time, conceded as much in a 2003 interview with the Washington Post.

“This campaign believes that any Democratic campaign that opted into the matching-funds system has given up on the general election,” Trippi said in December of 2003. “There is absolutely no way you can sustain the hits that are going to come from now until August with a $45 million limit.”

His campaign moved aggressively to cast his decision as a moral imperative. “You shouldn’t be able to buy your way into the White House – you should have to earn the votes of the American people with bold vision and ideas,” said Edwards’ campaign manager Congressman David Bonior. “This is the most expensive presidential campaign in history, by far. And the simple fact is that the influence of money in politics – and the focus on raising money in this election – has gotten out of control. It’s time to get back to focusing on the issues that matter to the American people. That’s why John Edwards has decided to play by the rules that were designed to ensure fairness in the election process by capping his campaign spending and seeking public financing.”

In September Edwards was not alone in his delusions and hypocrisies:

Former Dick Gephardt presidential campaign adviser Moses Mercado hasn’t even joined the Barack Obama presidential campaign team and already he’s making waves.

Mercado, a veteran field man who organized Gephardt’s primary operations in Arizona and New Mexico, and later John Kerry’s general election operations there, confirmed he is finalizing plans to serve as a senior adviser to the Obama campaign.

The waves are being generated by Mercado’s other line of work — as a lobbyist with Ogilvy Government Relations who is registered to represent several dozen big-name clients, including the National Rifle Association, the Carlyle Group, the Blackstone Group, Monsanto, Pfizer Inc., United Health Group, Sempra Energy and Constellation Energy.

His resume seems to contradict one of Obama’s central themes on the campaign trail — that as an outsider he can fend of the powerful business interests that he has argued have contributed to the income gap between rich and poor and has frustrated attempts to address issues such as high prescription drug costs and global warming.

In a speech he gave in New Hampshire back in June, Obama singled out the role of lobbyists in the process. As the Chicago Tribune reported at the time, Obama “sought to make the case that the culture of influence in Washington affects the pocketbooks of Americans in myriad ways, from drug prices to student-loan interest rates — both of which, he argued, are inflated through industry manipulation of public policy.”

The story went on to quote Obama, saying: “What’s most outrageous is not the morally offensive conduct on behalf of these lobbyists and legislators, but the morally offensive laws and decisions that get made as a result.”

The above is hypocrisy, below is delusion:

Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign manager said this week that a “hidden vote” by young caucusgoers that doesn’t show up in public opinion polls will push him ahead in Iowa’s Democratic caucus race.

“… Polls consistently underrepresent in Iowa, and elsewhere, the strength” of Obama’s support, David Plouffe wrote in a memo to supporters on Saturday – the same day an article in The Des Moines Register outlined how Obama’s support has not significantly grown since he announced his candidacy in February.

But that is a strategy that has not worked in the past.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign heavily courted young, first-time caucusgoers, but the candidate finished in third place.

The reality is, (Obama’s) support is what I would consider light,” said Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co., the Des Moines opinion research company that conducts the Iowa Poll for the Register.

“It is heavy with younger people, and it is heavy with people who are registered independent. In the past, we have found them less likely to show up and be a part of this.”

Plouffe said pollsters often skip young voters because they are more mobile, which means they are less likely to be at home in the early evening, when most polls are conducted.

“So all of these state and national surveys have and will continue to underrepresent Barack’s core support – in effect, his hidden vote in each of these pivotal early states,” Plouffe wrote in the memo.

Although it’s possible that young voters could be underrepresented, a study from the Pew Research Center suggests it’s unlikely. The independent research group’s report shows little evidence that cell phone-only users produce inaccurate opinion polls.

Michelle Obama told a crowd in Davenport this week that winning in Iowa is essential to her husband’s campaign, the Quad City Times reported.

“Iowa will make the difference,” Michelle Obama said. “If Barack doesn’t win Iowa, it’s just a dream, but if we win Iowa, then we can move the world as it should be. And we need your help in making that happen so join me.”

Meanwhile in no bull New York a reporter for the New York Observer catches the lack of life for the Obama campaign:

At the Clinton Global Initiative yesterday, I ran into Hillary Clinton fund-raiser and aspiring Bloomberg successor John Catsimatidis. When I told him I was on my way to an event for Barack Obama, Catsimatidis said, “Is he still running?”