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April 30, 2007

Ads Classified: Romney Hits the Airwaves Again

    The latest ad offering from Mitt Romney, Inc., is better than his first venture. Titled simply, "I Like Vetoes," it's been up awhile in New Hampshire and is now going national. The ad, available here, plays to Romney's strengths as an executive and a candidate who can deal with the economy better than his rivals.
    In the ad, which simply features Romney giving a speech, the candidate promises as president to cap domestic spending at 1% less than the rate of inflation.
    With the economy beginning to waver, Romney's business credentials aren't a bad thing for him to promote. The downside of the ad is that he comes across, of course, as combative. That may appeal to GOP primary voters; it won't help him with independents.
    All in all, it's a better effort from his campaign. But it's still not very memorable.

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April 30, 2007

Bobby "Boris" Pickett of Monster Mash Fame Dies

    Sad news: Bobby "Boris" Pickett, co-author and lead singer of one of the greatest "one hit wonders" of all time, died last week.
    Pickett's song was, of course, "Monster Mash," and when it was released in the fall of 1962, it shot to the top of the charts (though it was initially banned in the UK as "too morbid").
    At the time the song was hitting the charts, the US was in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis and Richard Nixon was about to lose to Pat Brown in his race to be California governor. Mike Gravel was already in the Alaska legislature; Barack Obama was only a year old.
    In the fall of 1962, of course, the Hillary Clinton campaign already had a staff of 25, including two pollsters, three media consultants, and field organizers on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire.

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April 27, 2007

Who Won Last Night's Debate? The "Experts" Are All Over the Lot But SC Voters Say Obama

    Debate winners are in the minds of the beholder. That’s why this morning we have Iowa’s David Yepsen saying the second-tier candidates all did well, including Bill Richardson (we thought he bombed); the Politico’s rising star Ben Smith saying it was Hillary’s night (better than Edwards?), and David Broder talking about how impressive the field was (we thought it lacked stature). (Ewen MacAskill of England's Guardian also gave it to Hillary but he watched it live and live observers can never judge a debate accurately. Still, maybe if Hillary does poorly here she can move to England.) Slate's Mickey Kaus gave it to Obama -- though at least he agreed with us that Hillary still comes on way too strong ("If that's the non-grating Hillary, I hope we don't see the grating Hillary," he wrote.)
    Nevertheless, there was a poll of South Carolina voters done immediately after the debate. Keep in mind that when members of the public are asked whom they thought did best in a debate, they almost always pick the candidate whom they were supporting going into the debate. And this poll included Republicans, as long as they watched the contest.
    In any event, Obama won the poll hands down, beating Hillary in second, and Edwards in third. He compiled his plurality by essentially being the overwhelming favorite of black voters and doing very well among independents.
    This is very good news for Obama (not to mention Kaus who appears to have gotten it right). First, Obama did not even put in one of his better performances. More important, it means that Obama is very quickly consolidating the black vote. His strength among independents -- if this poll is indicative -- also means that in open primaries (like California), he has a very good chance to do better than expected.

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April 27, 2007

The New Quinnipiac Poll: Good News for Republicans and Terrible News for Hillary

    Quinnipiac is out with a new set of polls and it’s good news for the Republicans and very bad news for Hillary Clinton.
    What the polls show is that Rudy Giuliani leads Clinton in the key swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida, while John McCain leads in the first two and is tied with Clinton in Florida. Since the Democrats need to win at least two of these three to win the presidency – and perhaps all three  – this is terrible news for Clinton. It’s especially depressing when one considers that Ohio was considered to be leaning to the Democrats – after a strong Dem showing in the ’06 elections.
    There’s an additional reason – beyond the results themselves – why this hurts Clinton. NBC News and the Wall Street Journal also came out with a poll this week that showed that 39% of the Democratic respondents – a plurality – felt that Hillary has the party’s best chance to win the presidency. As a factual matter, at least now, this is clearly incorrect and the Quinnipiac poll shows it. Obama might be a stronger candidate (he isn’t now but he has much more to room to grow than Hillary because he is still relatively unknown). But Edwards would almost definitely be stronger than Hillary because he doesn’t have her negatives and he would be competitive in border states such as Virginia and North Carolina.
    In other words, when Democratic voters slowly come to the realization that Hillary is not their strongest candidate for the fall campaign, her support will likely dissipate further.

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April 26, 2007

Instant Analysis of the South Carolina Democratic Debate

    One debate hardly determines a party’s nominee. And it’s true, as we noted before tonight, that there is a way in which a mass debate diminishes all involved.
    If there is a criticism to be made of the whole field tonight, it is that they were, on the whole, too senatorial – which is no surprise given that most are serving, or have served, in that chamber. There wasn’t much passion (except for Mike Gravel, the Democrats’ Admiral Stockdale), and there seemed to be even less energy. Many, including Republicans, may be outraged about the direction of the country but there was no sense of that outrage on stage in South Carolina.
    None of the second-tier candidates did enough to move their candidacies ahead significantly – which is hardly surprising given that they had little time to speak. It’s the hunch here that Bill Richardson hurt himself; the questions put him on the defensive a lot and, as a friend who watched the debate with me put it, he appeared to have the personality of a guy you’d meet at a cookout, not in the Oval Office.
    Of the three front-runners, John Edwards appeared to do the best by a country mile. He appeared less canned than the others, more sincere, and more presidential. Alone among all the candidates, he actually answered the questions. Though the sound bite tape might well belong to Joe Biden -- with his one-word answer to whether he talked too much -- or even Mike Gravel, it was Edwards who gave the most memorable answer with his story of his father walking out of a restaurant with his family because he couldn’t afford the items on the menu.
    Hillary didn’t hurt herself but she still has the same problem: she doesn’t converse; she lectures. Barack Obama, at times, seemed like a young JFK but at other times, he seemed a tad insubstantial and thin – his stature a metaphor for his answers.
    These candidates have time to mature. But tonight, it was hard to imagine any of them sweeping into the presidency on a wave of passion, save Edwards.
    He benefited the most from this first encounter. Along, of course, with the man perhaps waiting in the wings -- Al Gore.

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April 26, 2007

A Preview Of Tonight's MSNBC Democratic Debate, Complete With Home Scorecard!

    For those who missed it, here is last week's column that previewed tonight's Democratic debate.

    Remember that the Tote Board will provide instant analysis of the debate on this site within minutes after the event ends at 8:30 pm. EDT.

    Also, here is a scorecard so you can keep track at home!

    The insider’s guide to scoring the first five minutes of the Democratic debate:

    ● Camera pans the field; reporters anxiously inspect Obama and Edwards to see if they’ve taken the trouble to wear neckties: 1 point
    ● Debate hosted by second-rate NBC News celebrity that network is trying to boost: 1 point
    ● That celebrity turns out to be Don Imus: 5 points
    ● Moderator gives obligatory lecture to audience about refraining from applause: 1 point
    ● Audience applauds the warning; moderator looks confused: 1 point
    ● Hillary begins by paying tribute to Elizabeth Edwards, thus showing that she has a heart and is a friend to women everywhere: 1 point
    ● Another candidate pays tribute to Elizabeth Edwards before Hillary’s turn; Hillary opens her eyes even wider than usual: 1 point
    ● Camera shows Elizabeth Edwards smiling in audience, thus giving her more favorable air time than Chris  Dodd and Dennis Kucinich combined: 1 point
    ● Joe Biden goes over the time limit in his opening: 1 point

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April 26, 2007

The French Election: Part III

    With the French election headed to a runoff a week from Sunday, the key question is whom the centrist, “third way” candidate who finished third, Francois Bayrou, might endorse. For the first few days after the initial election, he seemed inclined to go his own way but as the Independent of the UK indicates this morning, he may be moving towards the socialist candidate, Segolene Royal, if only out of antipathy to Nikolas Sarkozy.
    Also, check out the always worth reading Michael Barone for a demographic analysis of last Sunday’s results.

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April 26, 2007

Tote Board Column -- 4/26 --The Debating Game II

    This week's Tote Board column previews the first Republican debate, to be held at the Reagan Library on May 3.
    And a correction for that column: Ronald Reagan was actually Jane Wyman's second husband.
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April 25, 2007

“Giuliani warns of 'new 9/11' if Dems win.”

    Today’s headline in the Politico forecasts the future of the Republican race and even the fall 2008 campaign: “Giuliani warns of 'new 9/11' if Dems win.”
    One can completely disagree and even accuse the Republicans of creating an artificial climate of fear. But Giuliani is a superb politician and knows the strength of his own appeal (which, ironically, is often not the case in presidential politics). He is, in a way, as the Onion once humorously called it, running for president of 9/11, and he knows it’s a title he’s earned and one that is virtually unchallengeable in the minds of the public.
    Whatever one thinks of the merits of Giuliani’s charge, it’s good politics for him. Fighting the war on terror is a trump card: The polls already show that even super-conservative voters are willing to forgive Rudy’s liberal social stands because they trust him to stand up to “America’s enemies.” John McCain might be able to make a similar argument but because he’s tied his anti-terrorism credentials to the Iraq War and the present incumbent, he’s in a much weaker position.
    In a future Tote Board Column, we’ll explore how far Giuliani’s argument can take him. The hunch here is very far: Even if Fred Thompson gets in the race at the behest of the right-wing, he’s going to find that Giuliani has the public’s trust on an issue that ultimately overrides everything else on the public agenda.

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April 24, 2007

Black Leaders Beginning to Move to Obama

    The New York Times today highlights a trend that we noted over a month ago: Black support is beginning to drift from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama, even in her home state of New York.
    This is only the beginning of a trend that will see Obama overwhelmingly carry the black vote in the Democratic primaries. As noted in an earlier column, the conventional wisdom early on that Obama might not do well among black voters because, among other things, he did not share the African-American “slavery heritage," was, well, not very informed and way off the mark. As we noted then, there is an understandable pride among voters whenever “one of their own” seeks the nation’s highest office and black voters are not going to be an exception to the rule.
    With her lead now falling in most polls, things are not going particularly well for the Clinton campaign.

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April 24, 2007

Ads Classified: Bill Richardson Hits the Airwaves in NH and Iowa

    Bill Richardson appears to be the first Democrat to hit the airwaves in New Hampshire and Iowa -- not a bad move since he's got to appear to be moving out of the second tier and a good debate performance later this week might add to his momentum.
    Of the two ads running, his bio ad, available here, is the more impressive. Shot entirely in black and white and consisting of a series of still photographs, Richardson comes across as different from your average candidate: He's clearly a westerner and the ad is notable in both stressing his foreign policy experience and its emphasis on optimism and his sense of humor. The one question is whether these attributes -- as interesting as they are -- are the kind of thing that sells in Iowa or New Hampshire. It's a terrific ad for Nevada (which has an early caucus) or Colorado but maybe not in the Yankee snows of New England.
    The second ad, shot in color outdoors, features Richardson himself in jeans. Available here, it's called "The Wall" -- which is clearly intended to be a kind of metaphor. Richardson, the ad implies, will be a president who tears down the walls that separate Americans from the world and even from one another.
    It's an impressive start: If he can follow up on Thursday night with more of the same, pundits may soon be talking about a four-way Democratic contest.

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April 23, 2007

The French Election: Part II

    Following up on our earlier post, the results of the initial election are in and France will now have a classic choice in the run-off between a female Socialist candidate, Segolene Royal, and a male conservative, Nikolas Sarkozy.
    We had written earlier about the possiblity of a third-middle way candidacy emerging through Francois Bayou of the Union for French Democracy but Bayrou finished a disappointing third. That means that France will not follow the trend that had been developing in some European nations.
       For good analysis of yesterday’s results and the forecast for the coming two weeks, check out The Guardian's evaluation; Roger Cohen's column in the International Herald Tribune, and the Financial Times's John Thornhill.
    The excellent Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post also recommends the German Marshall Fund's blog, written by Amaya Bloch-Laine. Earlier we had also recommended the Times of London's blog by its correspondent in France, Charles Bremner.

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April 18, 2007

Tote Board Column -- 4/19 --The Debating Game

    This week's Tote Board column previews the first Democratic debate in South Carolina on April 26.

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April 13, 2007

Tote Board Column -- 4/12 -- Take A Sad Song And Make It Better

    This week's Tote Board column discusses why Hillary Clinton should still apologize for her vote on Iraq and how she can do so successfully.
    As a supplement to what's in the column in the paper, a discerning reader can read and listen here to the full speech Ted Kennedy gave in response to Chappaquiddick. And, the full text of Ronald Reagan's speech in response to the Tower report on the Iran-contra scandal is here.

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April 12, 2007

I Want to Tell You -- Our Beatles Picks!

    This week’s column featured a Beatles song for the current state of each campaign.
    To recap:
    MITT ROMNEY Baby You’re A Rich Man
    SAM BROWNBACK I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party
    T. THOMPSON Run For Your Life
    MIKE HUCKABEE Carry That Weight
    JAMES GILMORE Honey Don’t
    DUNCAN HUNTER Nowhere Man
    TOM TANCREDO  Fool On the Hill
    RON PAUL I’m A Loser

    BARACK OBAMA Come Together
    HILLARY CLINTON Can’t Buy Me Love
    JOHN EDWARDS Two of Us
    BILL RICHARDSON Don’t Pass Me By
    CHRIS DODD Hello Goodbye
    JOE BIDEN Things We Said Today
    DENNIS KUCINICH Not A Second Time
    MIKE GRAVEL Good Night                                                   


                   Listen to the Beatles perform a live version of our pick for Hillary's campaign song!
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