July 31, 2007
A Diageo/Hotline from last week
has a nugget with very good news for Rudy Giuliani. The poll showed him leading Fred Thompson by only a point -- 20%-19%. But with John McCain out of the race, almost all of the Arizona Senator's support went to Giuliani -- increasing his lead over Thompson to 15 points, 36%-21%.
This could be due to the fact that Thompson is still relatively unknown. But it's more likely that Giuliani is the strong second choice of McCain voters. If so, and McCain can't come back, Giuliani remains in a very strong position.
July 30, 2007
Further fallout from the debate: Barack Obama is now running a radio ad in South Carolina
directly aimed at the black community. It follows this debate exchange, as recounted by CNN: During the debate, one YouTube questioner asked the Illinois Democrat how he would respond to African-Americans who say he is not black enough.
“When I’m catching a cab in Manhattan,” Obama replied, “I have… my credentials.” Laughter then broke out as the senator’s remarks trailed off and he segued into a broader stump answer.
“Race permeates society,” he added, “and I do believe in the core decency of the American people."
This is all obviously the beginning of Obama's push to claim the lion's share of the black vote. Expect a lot more of the same.
July 27, 2007
After calling the GOP field "pygmies," Newt Gingrich has retreated somewhat, with the Politico now reporting
that the former Speaker had dinner recently with Fred Thompson and may back his bid to be president. Maybe so, though it could be that Gingrich was just taking a moment to size up the opposition.
For Newt, it's probably now or never, which is why we still think he ends up a candidate. But trying to read his mind with its daily zigzags is a task well beyond our limited capabilities.
July 26, 2007
July 25, 2007
Until now, Mitt Romney has pretty much had the GOP airwaves to himself -- which is one reason he's sprinted to a lead in the first two states. Now, Rudy Giuliani has begun running 3 radio ads in Iowa and New Hampshire including this one
, "Out of Control." They're essentially bio ads, focusing on the challenges Mayor Giuliani faced in New York dealing with the economy and crime.
We said at the outset that Giuliani's campaign, ironically, would often resemble Michael Dukakis's in 1988. And so it goes here. The Duke promised to do for America what he did for Massachusetts. Giuliani offers to do for the country what he did for New York. Whether that works in two places about as different from New York as any in the country remains to be seen.
July 24, 2007
The Clinton camp has gone on the
attack after the debate, in the light of Barack Obama's comments last
night that he'd be willing to meet with foreign leaders from "rogue
nations" such as Iran and Cuba during his first year in office without preconditions. Both
Hillary and Edwards responded at the debate that they were unwilling to
make that pledge, with Clinton saying that lower-level diplomatic
contacts should come first, to avoid having the president used by our
Today, Hillary turned up the heat, calling Obama's
comment "irresponsible and frankly naive." Clearly, the Clintonites see
this as an opportunity to make their point that Obama is too
inexperienced to be president.
But did Obama really make a gaffe? Exactly what
would a negative ad look like attempting to exploit his statement?
"Barack Obama has foolishly said that he would meet with Fidel Castro
without any conditions," the narrator might say. That's probably not
what Obama meant since, of course, meetings aren't set up between
foreign leaders unless there's something to talk about, but so what? The guess here is that the
average voter doesn't think
it's a terrible idea to leave the door open to talking with enemies;
minds sometimes change and Obama's approach would certainly be a
refreshing contrast to the present policy.
A dispute over semantics and diplomatic protocol is
the kind of thing the media loves after a debate but that
voters hate. And by going negative, Hillary looks like the
personification of the "old politics" that Obama is running against. To
bolster her case, the Hillary forces called on Madeleine Albright,
secretary of state during her husband's tenure. Is that really the image Hillary
wants to convey?
Call it counter-intuitive, but the hunch here is this exchange helps Obama.
July 24, 2007
We mentioned last night
the terrific YouTube ad from the debate from the Edwards camp which finally responds to all the controversy about his $400 haircut. It's available here
As we said then, if we were running the Edwards campaign, we'd put it up on the air.
July 24, 2007
For those who think Gingrich isn't running, read this interview
from yesterday in which he dismissed the current GOP field as a "pathetic" bunch of "pygmies." At this point, it would seem hard for him not
July 24, 2007
There was no clear consensus on who benefited from last night's debate. Ben Smith in the Politico
noted that Roger Simon of the Politico said Edwards, Mark Halperin of Time said Obama, and Joe Klein of Time said Clinton. Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic blogged
that Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post seemed to give it to Edwards
as did Chuck Todd of NBC and that the Drudge online poll gave it to
The most significant reaction we heard came from a focus group run on Fox News after the debate, available here
. It parrots the reaction to a Roger Simon review of the debate
from an astute web respondent:
"Hillary seems to me to do well in these debates in terms of what
journalists like but not in terms of what voters like. We don't need
convincing that she knows about the issues or that she is well versed
in the ways of Washington. She knows all the lingo, the proper answers,
the old arguments....etc. And that's the problem...she's mastered the
all the ways that we hate. She knows how to go after Republicans, to
throw red meat, how to bring up the most divisive issues and rile up
the base. She knows all the old Democratic talking points and she has
them down to the tee. Half of the country is angry and the other half
is defending her. Yay."
A CNN focus group after the debate also gave it to Obama.
We stick with our earlier analysis: A good night for Obama and Edwards.
Hillary is always her same political self which, over time, is not to
July 24, 2007
Tonight's Democratic debate was the best so far because the questions from the general public were so much better and more authentic than those always posed by journalists.
A very quick analysis: In that environment of authenticity, the candidates who did the best were those who came off as real and not overtly political. Barack Obama (who gets better with every debate) and John Edwards fit that bill the best and so did Joe Biden, especially in the second half when he finally managed not to sound so angry. (His flippancy still gets him in trouble, however, which would be a problem were he a real contender.) Hillary Clinton did OK but her studied answers didn't help her in this setting as much as they had before. The others sounded like the career politicians they are.
The best self-made campaign video came from the Edwards contingent. Were they to run it nationally, they might begin finally to put the $400 haircut to rest.
There will be more analysis tomorrow.
July 23, 2007
Debate fatigue for the Democrats has set in, notes the Washington Post
, and it's a wonder it took this long. No one can even figure out if this is the third or fifth debate already and -- get this -- there are at least a half-dozen more scheduled before we even get to the key debates in Iowa and New Hampshire after the first of the year.
Each debate has its gimmick and tonight's on CNN offers questions from ordinary citizens, via YouTube. But, since CNN is picking the questions from those submitted, the concept violates the whole zeitgeist of YouTube in the first place, which lets the people decide what they want to watch -- not some cable TV executive.
The debates so far have had the effect of helping to consolidate Hillary Clinton's lead, since the press has had the same reaction to each one -- giving the verdict to Hillary, followed by Barack Obama. The real losers have been Joe Biden and John Edwards, who have put in some good performances but have been generally ignored in the media rush to make it a two-person race.
So the news tonight will be if the press has anything other than the expected reaction. Don't count on it.
July 20, 2007
We did a column several weeks ago
on how big an asset Elizabeth Edwards had become in her husband's race for the nomination. Thus, it's no surprise that she now stars in one of his ads
, now running in New Hampshire. It's essentially a glowing testimonial -- one that would be almost embarrassing in its effusiveness were it coming from anyone else.
Whether it's attacking Hillary Clinton or recording commercials like this that highlight things to which no one but a spouse could attest, the best thing the Edwards campaign currently has going for it is Elizabeth.
July 19, 2007
This week's Tote Board column
, "Outsmarting Himself," looks at whether Obama's race can trump the egghead factor in his pursuit of the Democratic nomination.
July 18, 2007
Mitt Romney is up with a new 60-second spot, "Ocean," available here
. It's the best ad of the campaign so far because it eloquently addresses an issue -- the polluted culture in which kids grow up -- that no one is talking about in the campaign but everyone talks about privately. As kids play on a beach, Romney talks about how he'd like to clean up the violence and pornography of everyday American life that surround children on the internet or in video games.
He's on to something. The Mittster may have a second act, after all.
July 17, 2007
There's an interesting new poll out,
courtesy of AP, that shows that more Republican voters favor "none of the above" than any of the current candidates. Part of that, of course, is that the race is still early and many haven't focused on a particular choice.
But the main reason -- and one seldom focused on by the press -- is that many Republican voters sense that their political leadership of the country has been pretty much a failure. Congress under GOP rule wasn't really much different than Congress under Democratic control -- despite promises to the contrary when the Republicans won in 1994. The administration of George Bush has been thoroughly discredited by partisans on both sides of the aisle.
Even worse, perhaps, Christian conservatives saw their political hopes realized when Bush took office; many of their ilk took over some of the principal posts of government. The policy change in many departments was enormous and radical.
But on the ground, what really changed? Is America almost seven years after Bush took office more like the country the Christian conservatives hoped it would be or less?
There are only two tragedies in life, said Oscar Wilde. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. Wilde was no Christian conservative but they now know exactly what he meant.