Archive for January, 2008

Hillary Will Win FL–Will the US Notice?
January 29, 2008

The Clintonistas are out on the talk-show rounds, arguing that her expected FL win will be a big story. Cong. Kendrick Meek (D-Miami) contended on MSNBC that Florida will be the first big and diverse state to weigh in on the Democratic contest, and therefore, its verdict carries weight.
Fair enough–IO, NH, NV, and SC are small. Michigan has voted, but only Hillary’s name was on the ballot there.
In Florida, she’ll almost certainly roll up a lopsided win. All the latest polls show her up 20 points. None of them were taken after Barack Obama’s big SC win, or after the big names in the Kennedy clan proclaimed the Illinois Senator the rightful heir to JFK’s New Frontier legacy.
But Monday’s Quinnipiac poll makes it appear the Clinton votes in FL are pretty firm. 82% of her supporters here say there’s little or no chance they’ll change their minds. Only 69% of Obama’s FL backers are similarly firmed up.
Certainly, the announcement that Clinton will hold her primary-night party at the Signature Grand in Davie is a clear sign she expects to win, and wants to focus attention on Florida, after 4-1/2 months of avoiding public appearances here like the plague.
She’s after a coast-to-coast platform to proclaim her win, to proclaim FL’s long-neglected Democratic votes now have real significance. Will pundits and headline-writers across the country be impressed?
It seems unlikely. Almost all the pre-primary coverage of Florida focusses on the incredibly tight race between John McCain and Mitt Romney. When I asked NBC’s Tim Russert about the significance of a Hillary win (we had Russert on a Sunday-morning special on the primary), he repeated the prevailing pundit wisdom on the subject– that FL’s Dems are taking part in a meaningless “beauty contest” that will give the Clinton campaign no boost, heading into the 22 primaries on caucuses on February 5th.
Indeed, the only way the Democratic result here might get major media attention is if Obama comes within 10-points of Clinton. An unexpectedly close tally might lead to a spate of “momentum” stories about the Obama campaign.
Clearly, the Clinton folks think that’s a remote prospect, so she’ll be here to claim her moment in the FL sun.

Prediction– The Pledge Will Hold
January 16, 2008

The Democratic contenders have stayed out of Florida, under their pledge to punish Florida’s against-the-rules re-scheduling of its primary (FL, essentially, performed what we called “cutsies” back in grade school, cutting in the primary line before Super Tuesday, Feb 5th).
Now, the Obama campaign is muttering by leaked memo that Hillary’s people may be about to go back on the pledge. I would bet dollars to doughnuts that won’t happen.
Here’s why– the race here doesn’t seem to be close. The Quinnipiac poll this week had Clinton 20-points up on Obama. She doesn’t need to come here to win.
He doesn’t need to break the pledge and come here either, because a loss in FL can be dismissed by the Obama people as– “Hey, we didn’t compete in Florida– no biggie.” Look how little buzz Hillary got for winning Michigan last night– her serious opponents weren’t even on the ballot there.
But where it is close– really close– is Nevada, which holds its caucuses soon. And South Carolina, which votes on the 26th (three days before FL does) is also not a runaway– polls there show a substantial but not insurmountable lead for Obama there.
And in NV & SC, voters take that pledge thing seriously. When Obama said hello to some reporters who’d gathered outside a FL fundraiser a few months back, a Las Vegas paper did a serious piece questioning whether he’d broken the pledge. Those early states want to keep their place in line, and want to see FL punished for “cutsies”.
So– put yourself in Hillary’s place. Will you risk losing a couple of points in the next couple of states– where things are close and crucial– to come here and try to pad your 20-point lead? Winning in NV will help her more in Florida, in terms of momentum and excitement, than holding a couple of events on Miami Beach.
True– the Clinton campaign looked into holding a low-$, big crowd fundraiser at the Miami Beach Convention Ctr. just before our primary. That was apparently the source of the Obama campaign’s concerns.
But even such a fundraiser– technically legal under the Pledge– would not play well in all-important NV & SC. So Hillary will do a pair of under-the-radar, no-press-allowed events on Miami Beach this weekend… tucking away another $750,000 but not actually meeting anyone Floridians for free, or singing to anyone but the choir.

And now, a message from—WHO?
January 15, 2008

  I heard my first honest-to-goodness campaign ad on South FL airwaves this morning, and it was another reminder of how deliciously unpredictable this campaign is.  Darned if it wasn’t an announcer extolling the virtues of Ron Paul on WIOD radio.  Ron Paul!  If you’d asked me six months ago which candidate would be the first to reach out to me on the airwaves, Ron Paul might have been my 10th guess.  Maybe my 12th.

  Overall, the ’08 campaign has been a huge disappointment to local media sales managers like my buddy at NBC 6, Larry Olevitch.  Larry was hoping for a bonanza when Florida moved its primary up to January.  Those old March timetables didn’t do much for broadcasters’ bottom lines, since presidential races were often decided by the time FL voted (hey, John Edwards dropped out the week before our primary, in ’04).
  But January– that would be different.  Larry had hopes of politicians and retail giants fighting for air time during the Christmas holiday season, if well-financed campaigns got cranked up early.  
  Then–Democratic candidates agreed to The Pledge, agreed not to campaign or advertise in Florida to punish us for throwing their primary/caucus timetable into disarray.  Those Democrats, hugely fearful of offending voters in Iowa, NH, South Carolina and Nevada, stuck religiously to The Pledge (see my October blogs about Barack Obama’s visit to Tampa).  
  Among GOP candidates, Mitt Romney did air some early “Get to know me” ads in FL, but they were either upstate (where advertising dollars buy more Republican eyes and ears than in the expensive Miami/Ft. Laud. market) or in Spanish, the first language of so many South FL Republicans.  Mitt’s pulled his media money out of the Sunshine State for now, pouring it all into Michigan.
  Rudy Giuliani’s on the air in Florida now, though–again– not on south Florida English-language stations.  Rudy’s desperate to win our votes, but his campaign appears a little frayed financially, and air time’s awfully expensive down here.
  McCain and Huckabee and Thompson are focussed elsewhere.  So that leaves Ron Paul.
  The libertarian Republican has plenty of dough– his internet fund-raising is one of the big “inside baseball” political stories of the year (maybe not so inside baseball– two people to whom I mentioned the Ron Paul ad immediately responded “Hey, he raised $19-million last quarter!”).  
  My friend Larry and South FL political junkies may be sad not to have seen and heard more political advertising, but many South Floridians may be relieved. Remember the ad fatigue so many complained of in October ’04?  
  
  

Kerry Endorses Obama– Quick Thoughts
January 10, 2008

John Kerry backs Barack Obama, declaring “Who better than Barack Obama to turn a new page in American politics?” History gives one pause in describing it as a big boost for Obama.
Think back, four years ago. The immediate past Democratic nominee, Al Gore, endorsed the insurgent campaign of that year– Howard Dean’s, which imploded just a few days later.
This announcement would also seem to confirm the widely-reported tensions within the Kerry-Edwards ticket, four years ago.
Meanwhile, I note that Al Gore’s running mate of ’00, Joe Lieberman, is said to be headed to Florida to campaign for– not Obama, not Clinton, not Edwards– but John McCain.
Lieberman, of course, is now an independent. He was put on the ticket in ’00, at least in part, on the theory he could galvanize Jewish voters, and visited FL often, trying to do that (a little more galvanization, and Lieberman might be finishing up his 2d term as VP). He may well return to some of the same FL condos he worked 8 years ago, trying to do a little galvanizing this time for Republican McCain.
Meanwhile, the FL endorsement all Republican contenders are panting for MAY be forthcoming. Gov. Charlie Crist now says he might endorse someone before the primary on the 29th. Or maybe not– the Gov’s still being coy about it.
They’ve all courted Crist and his 60%+ approval rating. Just today, Rudy Giuliani endorsed the concept of a National Catastrophe Fund, which could help spread the risk from national disasters like hurricanse among several states. The National CAT Fund is high on Crist’s list of priorities.

People Perplex Pundits– Again
January 9, 2008

For the 2nd week in a row, I’m enjoying watching electoral results roll in (about 38% of NH’s vote has been counted as I write this), and enjoying the surprises they bring.
Last week, the big news was the victories Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee, both of whom surged late.
In the 5 days since, pundits aided by near-perpetual polling have come close to declaring Hillary Clinton politically dead, and close to declaring Barack Obama the Nominee, perhaps the presumptive President. They couldn’t stop talking about Obama’s overflow crowds in NH. Brian Williams showed us the Senator’s reaction to seeing his face on the cover of Newsweek.
Pundits– particularly on Fox News Channel– interpreted joking remarks by Bill Clinton (“I can’t make her younger or taller”) as an attempt to alibi a coming double-digit rout. They declared that Sen. Clinton’s choke-up in a Portsmouth coffee shop was a sign she foresaw devastating defeat, and that many voters would be turned off by her unexected display of emotion.
Cable TV, as always, was quickest to render judgment– 24 hours a day of news/comment certainly gives pundits plenty of rhetorical rope to work with. But consider this clever but suddenly hollow-sounding lead in the Times of London dispatch– “As she watches her support melt away, the horror on the face of Hillary Clinton sometimes resembles that of C.S. Lewis’s Snow Queen on seeing summer return to Narnia. ” Artful prose, but NH may have brought winter back.
Wow– on the tube, with 47% of the vote in, Chris Matthews just admitted he’d been premature in burying Hillary Clinton. MSNBC’s exit polling is showing that NH voters who decided in the last couple of days were evenly-split between Obama and Clinton. The same exit-polling shows, unlike in Iowa, Sen. Clinton got the lion’s share of women’s votes.
It makes me think that a lot of women might have responded like Joy Behar, one of the hosts of “The View”. When I saw the Portsmouth diner scene being replayed on that show this morning, I turned the sound up to hear Behar bemoaning media savaging of Hillary and her campaign, and heard her call for a “woman’s backlash” against such ganging up.
I asked my wife about it– she’s kind of a Hillary fan, but has no truck with her near-tears episode in New Hampshire. “I’m not opposed to women showing emotion”, she said, “but it’s not what I want to see in my leaders.”
But Sally may not be typical– with 56% of the vote in, NBC’s Political Director Chuck Todd is now saying the choke-up in the diner might well have driven lots of women voters back in the Hillary camp.
Well, you’d think the whole point of this posting is– only a fool would hazard any guesses about what’s to come. That said, I would draw some conclusions, based on what we’ve seen so far.
For the second contest in a row, Democratic turnout has dwarfed Republican. “Change” is everyone’s theme. Obama– “Change we can believe in”. Clinton– “An agent for change.” McCain talks about how he’s long advocated change in Iraq strategy, while Romney claims nobody from inside Washington can “turn Washington inside-out”.
In a fall campaign, all of this would seem to point to a Democratic year.
Also– though he can rightly claim “two silver medals and a gold” (the former Olympics organizer’s way of describing second-place finishes in Iowa and NH and a little-noticed win in Wyoming’s caucuses), Mitt Romney is not looking good, coming out of NH.
Massachusetts pols OWN that primary. Mass. Sen. John Kerry won last time around, as did Mass. Sen. Paul Tsongas in 1992, and Mass. Gov. Michael Dukakis four years earlier. Hey, even Amb. Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts took NH as a write-in candidate in 1964, though the moderate Brahmin was quickly buried by the conservative Goldwater revolution.
Apparently, Romney’s the first Mass. pol to ever not win in NH. Maybe his name will be enough to carry Michigan next week (Mitt’s father George was governor there), but it sure looks like the quick-start, big-buck Romney strategy is going nowhere fast.
The good news– no one’s pulling away in the Republican field, and it looks like Florida will be really interesting– Giuliani, Huckabee, Romney, and McCain could still be in serious contention.
OK– NBC’s just declared Hillary the winner. Time to log off, with the usual advice– “Stay tuned.”