Well, that Finishes Romney

By Al Giordano


(Google satellite tour of McCain's estates, courtesy of Jed.)


If Mike Huckabee's vocal opposition didn't already put the stake through the heart of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's aspirations of becoming John McCain's vice presidential running mate, the McMansion controvery that erupted today - with McCain unable to recall how many homes he has (seven, eight, ten, thirteen, and still counting) - should chop Mitt once and for all off the short list.

Romney, billionaire, already counts with a mansion in Massachusetts and additional homes in New Hampshire and Utah. And since the whole point of his possible vice presidential nomination would be to try to win over voters in the Michigan of his childhood, who knows? Romney might have already acquired another one to bolster his "favorite son" status there!

McCain now has to vet everybody else on his checklist all over again and find the one (Pawlenty?) that has only one home, or the controversy gets a whole new set of legs. (But if Pawlenty turns out to have his own housing chain, this thing may come back to Huckabee by process of elimination!)

Ciao, Mitt!

Update: The national evening newscasts each emphasized McCain's "housing crisis" tonight. From Halperin's round-up:

ABC: ...report on housing fracas said McCain has nine homes on seven properties, listing them and showing photos. Said this is "not what McCain wants to be talking about," and the Obama campaign hope it's "highly exploitable" like Kerry's 2004 comment about troop funding. Stephanopoulos said the Obama team sees it as a seminal moment, while the McCain camp denies anyone considers McCain an elitist....
CBS: Led with news that Obama has made his veep decision, combined with coverage of McCain houses and subsequent battle. In a preview of an Obama interview with Harry Smith, Obama said his veep choice would be someone he would "feel comfortable with." Reported that McCain has "at least seven" homes "from coast to coast" and played clips from Obama and McCain Thursday ads, concluding that "the gloves are off" in the race...

NBC: ...Said McCain's "houses" remark was "the biggest political story of the day" and there's "indications" voters will hear more about it. Called McCain's answer to Politico "surprising," said for Obama it was "too good to resist" and campaign predicts working class families will have a tough time understanding it. Covered McCain response. Said "who is the more out of touch game" was a favorite of Clinton's, noted her campaigning for Obama in Florida...



Friday Morning Update: (From the airport.) The talking heads are abuzz with Halperin saying that McCain has decided to tap Romney as VP. Here's why that's not credible: McCain will have the luxury of knowing who the rival vice presidential nominee is before he has to pick his. It would be political malpractice to finalize his choice before knowing who they'll be up against, because his running mate will debate Obama's and there may be an opportunity for "counterprogramming" against any perceived weakness of the other guy's sidekick. More likely, GOP spinners are head-faking the Great Mentioners in an attempt to trick Obama into counterprogramming his choice against a possible McCain-Romney ticket. But nobody's going to fall for that. In the end, maybe McCain will be crazy enough to give Obama an opening to reach for Southern Evangelical Christians by picking Romney who many of their leaders distrust (putting various Southern states more into play), but there's no way he's finalized any veep decision already. He, like the world, is waiting on Obama's decision first.

Go West, Young Man!

By Al Giordano

Here's Obama's Western frontier route to Denver:


(Hat tip on the map to foxsucks81 at Dkos.)


Eau Claire, Wisconsin


Quad Cities area, Iowa


Kansas City, Missouri


Billings, Montana


Denver, Colorado

And going with our rampant and irresponsible speculation based on little else to go on, here are my observations on what this will do to stock prices in Intrade:

Downward: No stops in Kansas or Ohio, not a good sign for Sebelius. No stops in Indiana, ditto for Bayh. No stops in Ohio, Indiana, and the choice of Eau Claire over Green Bay in Wisconsin - in fact, no stops in any state, city or town that Senator Clinton won in the primaries, take a deep breath and smile! All these stops in places where a populist economic message will be sought! Bad for Biden, Clark, Kerry, Richardson, Webb, or any other "foreign policy profile" pick. Doesn't look too likely it will be Warner either: economic populism's never been his thang.

Upward: Stops in Kansas City, Missouri (where Kaine went to High School) and the Eau Claire stop will draw in Twin Cities, Minnesota crowds and media (where Kaine was born)! McCaskill started her political career in Kansas City! (Yes, Feingold is from Wisconsin, but it's not his southern part of the state.) And Billings, Montana on the day the Veep nominee gives a speech later on in Denver? Schweitzer's stock goes up! (Sell Bayh! Buy Brian!)

Unchanged: Gore, Dean, Dodd and anybody else that can carry an economic populist message.

My hunch: This route begs for the "three point shot" and a DC outsider. Lots of Independent, All American, Washington Hating voters along that road! God bless 'em.

And from here in the nosebleed seats where the "celestial choirs" have been singing all along there rose a mighty and powerful chant: "Three point shot! Three point shot!"

Update: I hate to say this, but notice how that path goes right through a state that is not on his schedule, that being South Dakota? Could this be an attempt to re-brand Daschle as the populist voice of the western plains and mountains? That would be a difficult stunt to pull off, since before South Dakotans unseated him, he was not only a Senator, but the Majority Leader of the Senate. Not a three point shot. But plausible (and please don't shoot the messenger).

Burning Down the House!

By Al Giordano


This is one of those unscripted moments that changes the dynamic of a campaign. McCain doesn't know how many homes he owns!

It will be the subject of late night television comedy monologues and plenty of speechifying at the Democratic National Convention next week.

And here's a viral video that came out a few days ago, now with more than 200,000 views on YouTube, with more of the skinny on McCain's mansions:


The McCain camp's response in fact reveals a new weakness:

Does a guy who made more than $4 million last year, just got back from vacation on a private beach in Hawaii and bought his own million-dollar mansion with the help of a convicted felon really want to get into a debate about houses? Does a guy who worries about the price of arugula and thinks regular people "cling" to guns and religion in the face of economic hardship really want to have a debate about who's in touch with regular Americans?


Actually, um, yes, he does, and, yes, he can!

And whatever plans the GOP had to raise the "convicted felon" card (Rezko) against Obama just went out the windows of seven condominiums and ranches like hot air from a punched tire. Whooosh! Now the response need only be, "hey, I only have one house!"

(And here's a goombah public service announcement from yours truly: Italian-American working class families have been eating and growing arugula in the garden next to the tomatoes for generations; there's nothing novel or boutique or elite about that food among that part of the Roman Catholic swing vote. Put that microtrend in your pipe and smoke it, old man!)

Three-hundred-sixty-five degrees - Burning down the house! 

Update from the St. Petersburg Times (with graphic aid):


John McCain, sounding not exactly like a man of the people, said yesterday he didn't know how many homes he has. The Barack Obama is jumping on it:
"The campaign will spend the day surveying Floridians by phone to ask this question: "Yesterday, John McCain couldn't remember how many homes he owns because he has so many. The Obama campaign is trying to find Floridians who, like McCain, have lost track of the number of homes they own. Do you know how many homes you own?" The campaign will announce the results of the search late this afternoon.


Paging Dr. House!

Update II: Here's Tim Kaine, demonstrating flawless application of the Mack the Knife technique:


Smiling as he twists the dagger, and nary a trace of red. That's how to do it.

Update III: Obama's already on the "if you have just one house, like me" wavelength:


VP Watch: Light a Candle for the Three Point Shot

By Al Giordano

Here we are at the Thursday before the Democratic National Convention, and Obama headquarters has successfully kept its VP nominee under wraps, leaving the rest of us to speculate idly as we pass the time.

Nate notes that the geography of the Barack Obama's voyage from Springfield, Illinois (Lincolnian birthplace of his presidential campaign, where he'll appear on Saturday) to Denver, Colorado offers a "very good bio-building" opportunity for his vice presidential nominee, if that choice is Kansas governor (and Ohio native) Kathleen Sebelius (and if that choice is even known by Saturday). He speculates:

Start out in Springfield, and proceed to Sebelius' childhood home in Cincinnati by route of Indianapolis and Dayton. Big media appearances on Sunday AM in Cinncinati, and proceed to St. Louis by that evening, with a quick stop in Evansville or Bloomington, Indiana in between. Travel to Kansas City overnight, begin your Monday with an AM event there, and then cross the state line into Kansas and proceed to the state capital in Topeka...


Of course, minus Ohio the geography also favors Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, another oft-mentioned VP possibility.

And then there's this report out of Montana, where Governor Brian Schweitzer is the sheriff:

In what will be his fifth visit to Montana as a presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama will make a campaign stop Tuesday in Billings.


So, again, we're back to nobody knows nothin'.

The suggestion of a bus tour from Springfield to Denver, though, is compelling, through 57 swing-state Electoral Votes: 11 in Indiana, 20 in Ohio, 11 in Missouri, 6 in Kansas and 9 in Colorado. (And as Nate points out, a toe-touch in El Dorado, Kansas, from where Obama's late mother hailed, would make for good national theater, too.)

Iowa's 7 Electoral Votes, and Omaha, Nebraska's one, are not far off that path, either.

And then there were Obama's own words to Time magazine reporters Karen Tumulty and David Von Drehle yesterday when asked what he wants people to conclude from his VP choice:

Hopefully, the same thing that my campaign has told the American people about me. That I think through big decisions. I get a lot of input from a lot of people, and that ultimately, I try to surround myself with people who are about getting the job done, and who are not about ego, self-aggrandizement, getting their names in the press, but our focus on what's best for the American people.
I think people will see that I'm not afraid to have folks around me who complement my strengths and who are independent. I'm not a believer in a government of yes-men. I think one of the failures of the early Bush Administration was being surrounded by people who were unwilling to deliver bad news, or who were prone to simply feed the president information that confirmed his own preconceptions.


Tumulty concludes that the "pick is either Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana (low profile, both executive and foreign policy experience, but a supporter of the Iraq War), or a surprise whose name has not been circulating on the pundits' short lists."

Funny, but I don't get the same reading at all (the quote is like a Rorschach test upon which we can project our preexisting biases). I just don't think anybody sees or will buy Evan Bayh as "independent" or ready to "deliver the bad news" to his prospective boss. His strength is, rather, his docility and easy domestication to never upstage the boss.

That independent, straight-talking, shoe more readily fits... Brian Schweitzer.

A friend asked me recently, "have you ever been able to predict a vice presidential nominee?" The answer is no. Decisions like that simply are not based on normal data and the criteria changes from person to person, from year to year.

And if the pick doesn't come today, before the weekend's low-attention news cycle, it might not come until the convention next week, which will send the Great Mentioners into a frenzy of speculation that it will be an already established big name such as Clinton... or Gore... leaving Howard Dean as the final Hail Mary pass among the few names that need little introduction, and the only one of those that would be received as a DC outsider, which his rebel chairmanship of the DNC has miraculously not tarnished.

The likelihood that it will be a "three point shot" (i.e., someone considered to be from outside of Washington, such as a Schweitzer, a Sebelius or a Kaine) diminishes if the sun goes down today without a cell phone text message sent to two million close personal friends. Choosing a running mate not from the US Congress would allow Obama to run against Washington during a "change year" election (that was key in his defeat of the Clinton machine). There are understandable arguments for some DC insiders, too (mainly in the realm of "experience" and, in some cases, such as that of Chris Dodd, ideological), but the price - to cede so much of the outside turf - would be high, indeed.

I'm lighting a candle for the three point shot.

Update: Andrew Sullivan writes that an Obama-Bayh ticket would be one "in which a young duo - visually different - somehow amplify the themes of newness and generational change. Against McCain, the theme of generational change is essential to the Obama message."

That got me wondering about the age of the mentioned VP prospects, and it turns out that there are two younger than Bayh (Kaine, who is considered to have been vetted, and Michael Moore's proposal: that chief vetter Caroline Kennedy pull a Cheney and pick herself). Here are the relevant birthdates.

Older than Bayh:

Biden: November 20, 1942

Kerry: December 11, 1943

Dodd: May 27, 1944

Clark: December 23, 1944

Clinton: October 26, 1947

Richardson: November 15, 1947

Gore: March 31, 1948

Sebelius: May 15, 1948

Dean: November 17, 1948

Warner: December 15, 1954

Schweitzer: September 4, 1955

Bayh: December 26, 1955


Younger than Bayh:

Caroline Kennedy: November 27, 1957

Kaine: February 26, 1958


Still, Obama is younger than all of them:

Obama: August 4, 1961


In terms of generations, only Kaine and Kennedy really qualify - and only marginally so - as post-boomer (or what we who were there understand was the punk rock generation).

Update II: Nate was right on the concept if off on the exact itinerary. Here it is:


Eau Claire, Wisconsin


Quad Cities area, Iowa


Kansas City, Missouri

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Billings, Montana

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Denver, Colorado

(No swings through Sebelius-land but the Montana stop - on the day the VP nominee gets that moment in the spotlight - sure is interesting!)

(Also, these stops are all in states and cities where Obama beat Clinton: not where one would take her on tour if the number two. Just sayin'.)

Return of the Underdog

By Al Giordano

If my memory serves me, this is the first moment of the general election campaign in which the aggregate state-by-state "poll of polls" on RealClearPolitics shows McCain with an Electoral College lead:

But if you're Barack Obama, this map - coming up six Electoral College points short of the 270 needed for victory - is not a bad starting point at all from which to develop the game plan for the next eleven weeks. The Obama organization's ability to steal "red" states on that map is much, much greater than McCain's ability to take "blue" ones.

So let's play along and assume - even though it is premature to do so until both conventions have occurred - that this map is the starting point.

As everybody knows, turning Ohio or Florida would change the outcome. But the "fifty state strategy" has turned the corner on the 2000 and 2004 obsession over those two states. There are multiple other paths to change the game this time.

For example, if nothing on this map changes except for Virginia (paging Governor Kaine), Obama wins.

The same goes for Colorado, where a million or more phone calls will be made from a stadium next week. (Or let's pretend McCain wins Colorado but loses in mountain states Nevada and Montana: the Republican would still lose the election.)

The same goes for Kansas (paging Governor Sebelius).

Or what if African-American voter registration and turnout goes through the roof and suddenly Georgia (hello, Mr. Barr!), or North Carolina, and/or Mississippi break the mold?

I've said it before: Pollsters are going to have an unusually difficult time this fall factoring in new registrants and turnout among youths, African-Americans, and Hispanic-Americans.

What happens when, as university students go back to school in swing states, more than half of the student body gets registered in that state in a single weekend? In that case, it's not just a matter of new registrants, but of youngsters changing the state in which they vote. Don't think the Obama campaign has that up its sleeve? Check in with a college student in any battleground state in the coming weeks and report back to us.

See, 96 of McCain's 274 Electoral Votes on that map come from seven states where his lead is four percentage points or less in the aggregate "poll of polls": Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Missouri, Colorado, Nevada and Indiana. That's a vast territory to defend.

Among Obama's 264 Electoral Votes on that map, only 36 come from just four states where he is leading by less than five points: Michigan, New Mexico, New Hampshire and Minnesota.

And that's why field organization - registering new voters and turning them out on Election Day - is more important than the kinds of "messaging" matters that The Armchairmen fret about so loudly.

And here's my final thought: Remember the Democratic primary contests? When Obama was still the underdog, his troops were working harder and more "fired up and ready to go." It was after his 11-state winning streak in February that Senator Clinton got to play the underdog and made quite the ride of it, even though the math was insurmountable for her ever since she had lost Wisconsin and Hawaii on February 19. A lot of us knew that Obama had the nomination in the bag way back then, and, frankly, the grassroots just wasn't working as hard and began to rest on its laurels.

Obama plays the underdog role much better than he plays the frontrunner. Those that have constructed their echo chamber as a "panic room" are mainly trying to hold up their own illusions that Obama ever was safely ahead. They fear what would happen if suddenly the conventional wisdom shifted to a belief that McCain is going to win.

My own sense is counterintuitive: Let's have a month or two when people think McCain's got the upper hand, just like they thought that Clinton had the upper hand in January and early February. That's what it took for Obama's volunteers to work harder and donate more: February was his single greatest fundraising month, and the day after losing New Hampshire marked his single greatest fundraising date. Likewise, Clinton had better fundraising in the later months when she was perceived to be the underdog, too.

I'm not sure we'll get that, by the way. My greater sense is that the polls will remain neck-and-neck straight through to a nail-biting finish (but I'll be watching to see which pollsters adjust their demographic estimates based on new voter registrations among key groups: the rest will simply be offering chaffe).

In sum: There's no need to hold up the sky. Let it fall! It's the ground where the real action is going to take place. In fact, it already is. But if you're too busy writing "panic diaries," you're not out there to see it for yourself.

Week in Review: Meet The Field's Convention Guest Blogger Katie Halper


Al writes: I've mentioned that there will be too much going on in Denver next week during the convention for me to report all by myself, so we'll be involving the Field Hands Denver Posse and we're also bringing in a ringer.
Please join me in welcoming Katie Halper, co-founder of Laughing Liberally, who will be terrorizing the media and the party insiders next week in Denver with the Field Hands, much in the same way that she did at Netroots Nation in Austin last month. She'll be assisting with the blogging here on The Field next week (and if we find a video shooter or two in time, we may even supply video reports).



The Week's News in Review

By Katie Halper

Bush flip flops on Putin's soul. It seems like only yesterday that Bush said of President Vladimir Putin: "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue... I was able to get a sense of his soul." Now, Bush accuses the Russian president of "bullying and intimidation." It remains unclear whether Putin has changed or Bush has bad soul-dar.

Condoleezza Rice leaks conscience to the press. [or "in rare moment, Condoleeza Rice let's conscience slip."] The Secretary of State said "military power" is "not the way to deal in the 21st century."

In a similar episode, the AP lets the truth slip, referring to Joe Lieberman as "the Democratic vice presidential prick* in 2000..."

William Kristol lies only 1/4 of the time. Since joining The New York Times Op Ed team in January, William Kristol has already forced the paper to issue four corrections. Although Kristol founded the Weekly Standard, he prefers writing for The New York Times, where he can push the neo-con agenda, bring down Obama, and destroy the credibility of a newspaper he hates, all at the same time.

McCain's cone of silence could be confirmed by Ear, Nose and Throat doctor.  The McCain campaign insists that the presumptive Republican nominee was in a cone of silence during Rick Warren's interview of Obama. Some, however, suggest that, since McCain was traveling in his motorcade,  "he may not have been in the cone of silence" and might have had "some ability to overhear" the questions. This leaves the McCain campaign in the unenviable position of holding the world's first nationally televised presidential audiological test in order to prove that the cone of silence was unnecessary because the senator is hard of hearing.

Bored with just stealing American jobs, immigrants turn to taking away our medals.

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