If It's Biden, There's a Consolation Prize for Dodd and Maybe for You, Too

By Al Giordano


Adam Nagorney and Jeff Zeleny of the NY Times claim Obama's vice presidential pick is down to Bayh, Biden or Kaine. Mark Halperin hints it's Biden. They all may be victims of head fakes. Or not. I don't claim to know.

But if it is Biden, here are some interesting angles.

Biden comes from a Democratic state (Delaware) with a Democratic governor (Ruth Ann Minner) so his possible vacancy from the US Senate could be quickly filled with another Democrat. That's not the case with Bayh. If it came down to a choice between those two, that fact alone probably pushes Biden over the top.

Also, Biden is chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Guess who's next in line to take the chairman's gavel in the event of Biden moving on? It's Chris Dodd! That's a consolation prize for Dodd and for foreign policy progressives, human rights watchers and Latin American democracy advocates in particular (and a long overdue nightmare for Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, his death squads and his mercenary DC lobbyists Mark Penn and Howard Wolfson).

Biden as vice president would also remove him from consideration for Secretary of State in an Obama administration: that would certainly please Bill Richardson (and maybe John Kerry?).

My preference would be for the "three point shot" - that Obama pick somebody from outside of Washington such as Kaine or Sebelius or Schweitzer. There's little doubt in my mind that as running mate Biden - when those flash bulbs start popping - will stray off message and undercut Obama at various points during the campaign (he can't help himself) no matter what kinds of electronic monitoring bracelets Patty Solis Doyle has concocted for him. (Although the daily struggle to keep Biden, if he's the veep nominee, on the leash will make for entertaining copy in the coming months. And Solis Doyle did get some practice, albeit with mixed results, in her efforts to house train Bill Clinton earlier this year.)

And Biden's horrid record on crime and civil liberties as a drug war hawk is just plain embarrassing (and goes hand in hand with his tendency to seek out TV cameras and do the pander dance for them). Then again, a vice president has no direct authority over those matters and removing Biden from the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations committee (and from his third-in-line post - behind Leahy and Kennedy - on the Judiciary committee) and stuffing him in the vice presidential closet wouldn't be the worst thing for good legislation in Congress in the coming years.

That's not exactly a ringing endorsement. But it's realpolitik: If you're not a big Joe Biden fan, there are consolation prizes for you, too, in "promoting" him to that dungeon manse on the southeast corner of 34th and Massachusetts Avenue!

(I'm not saying he's the choice. I'm just speculating on "what if?")

Obama's VP: Why Not Wait Until Next Wednesday?

By Al Giordano


The more I think of it, there's little reason for soon-to-be Democratic nominee Barack Obama to announce his vice presidential pick before the convention begins in Denver a week from now, and one very good reason to wait - and keep everybody at the edges of their seats - until the second or third night of the convention.

With the campaign giving every American that text-messages the letters "VP" to telephone number 62262 (that's touchtone-speak for "O-B-A-M-A") the simultaneous opportunity to be the "first to know" about his choice (and thus gathering a multitude more of voters whose cell phone numbers are in his database and will be contacted with other news, invitations, fund appeals and requests over the coming months), there would be a distinct advantage to holding off on the announcement until during the convention itself.

From the (nationally televised) stage on Monday and Tuesday nights of the convention, the phone number offer could be announced again and again, netting many more hundreds of thousands of people to link into the Obama text-messaging network and then receive their instant gratification on Wednesday - the day of the pick. (And, after all, which of those millions doesn't get a secret thrill out of getting the confirmed news before the Great Mentioners and middlemen of the national media announce it?)

In fact, I can't think of any really good reason to spill the beans before then. That move would simply suck the oxygen out from Clinton-centric or other "off message" speculation to gain traction or dominate the convention week narrative and would retain a real element of surprise and meaningful theater to the convention itself, upping viewership, and making the eventual choice seem bigger than life: the whole world waiting, together, to find out the news.

The only potential downside of such an extended tease tactic would be if somebody got a photo of a campaign plane or placards being printed with the two names together, thus spoiling the surprise. But there are ways around that, too, simply by providing some decoy "leaks" or photos in which members of the national media announce with authority the name of the VP nominee, but end up proved wrong by the real deal.


Field Hands Update: We're now at 499 Field Hands (members of the network that puts you in contact with each other and facilitates organizing by Field Hand locals throughout the country and the world). Question of the day: Who will be Field Hand #500?

Update: Welcome Field Hands # 500 (Russell Wong) and # 501 (Eric Edenfield) and # 502 (Julie King)!

Civil Forum

By Al Giordano


The intro to yesterday's "Civil Forum" featuring both major presidential candidates by the Reverend Rick Warren called on the "need to restore civility" and "stop demonizing" each other in America. That's one example of how the forum was supposedly on McCain's turf (an evangelical Christian church) but stylistically was on Obama's (a post-partisan end to boomer generation polarization). This forum simply would not have been possible four years ago... nor twenty years ago. And I doubt very much that any other prospective Democratic nominee would have attended it, nor have walked away unscathed as Obama did yesterday.

(You can see the whole thing in YouTube segments, here.)

Warren is not your grandfather's Rev. Billy Graham. He's certainly no Rev. Jerry Falwell or religious-rightist. Stylistically, he stands somewhere between Tony Robbins' self-help inspirational schtick and Oprah Winfrey's talk show pulpit. Guys like him pioneered - in the realm of religion - many of the same techniques that grew the Obama campaign to count with 2 million donor activists. More than 400,000 ministers - including from other religions - have sought and received training from Warren on how to rally the faithful. In politics, that would be called training for community organizers.

So when Warren said that both Obama and McCain were "my friends," and "patriots," and gushed with feel-good admiration throughout the program for both of them, he was - like Obama - "turning the page" from the polarized politics of recent decades. That was very reinforcing to Obama's message. Far more lasting than any impressions left by the candidates' statements (as the more-watched Olympic results ticked across the bottom of the screen) was the imprint that melted away a summer of negative ads by both sides, and an inoculation against the negative campaigning to come among a particular demographic - Evangelical Christians - that in the past has been among the most vulnerable to such techno-marketing.

In 2004, among the 23 percent of voters that identified themselves as Evangelical Christians to exit pollsters nationwide, Republican George Bush received 78 percent of those votes to 21 percent for Democrat John Kerry: giving Bush a 13 percentage point advantage among all voters nationwide. McCain's not going to do better among Evangelicals than Bush: the question is whether Obama can cut into this most important part of what has been the GOP's base.

According to a Pew survey this month, McCain leads Obama among Evangelicals with 68 percent to 24 for Obama. That may seem marginally different than the 78-21 split between Bush and Kerry, but nationwide it's an advance of three percentage points for the Democrat if Obama can simply grab a similar one-quarter of the eight percent of undecideds in that subsample. Right there is the math for what could have been a Kerry victory over Bush in the national popular vote four years ago, and and what, if it occurs, will be an Obama victory in November.

So for Obama to have appeared at that forum, and been humanized by Warren in contrast to the attempts to demonize and attack his character to Evangelicals that have characterized the rival campaign, leaves the lasting impression among those that watched the forum on cable television.

Obama's open discussion of "faith" throughout the primaries, his use of "faith forums" in the Iowa caucuses and gospel concerts in the South Carolina primary, his tolerance (yes, that's the proper word for it) of religious views different than his own, and the intensive efforts (a la the Matthew 25 Christian group for Obama) to peel away Evangelical voters from the GOP base (particularly the younger ones) was grist for attacks on Obama from the identity-politics left during the primaries (remember the screeching, during the early primaries, over gospel singer Donnie McClurkin's views on homosexuality? Interestingly, so many of the same bloggers and commentators that slammed Obama then over his refusal to demonize McClurkin then are those that have today picked new complaints over what they see as Obama's unwillingness to demonize McCain in the ways they would prefer to see a presidential campaign run: it's as if some people don't know or can't even conceive of any other kind of presidential campaign than the ugly contests that produced Bush-Clinton-Bush).

Sure, the "Civil Forum" audience was mostly a McCain crowd, but in those 3,500 seats and among the million or more viewers via cable TV was part of that twenty-five percent or so of Evangelicals that, if Obama wins their votes in November, he will win the presidency.

July Fundraising: McCain $27 Million, Obama $51 Million

By Al Giordano



US military soldiers - overseas and at home - are among those that donate in much larger numbers to Obama over McCain (video hat tip, Jed).

They're not alone.

This just in from the Obama campaign, which says it had $65.8 million cash on hand as of the end of July:

CHICAGO - Senator Barack Obama's campaign announced today that more than 65,000 new donors contributed to the Obama campaign during the month of July, bringing the total raised for the month to over $51 million.  More than 2 million people have now contributed to the campaign.


The McCain campaign says it raised $27 million and had $21.4 million cash on hand as of July 31.

But McCain, once he receives his party's nomination, will be shifting to public financing for his campaign, with state by state spending limits, so he'll be dumping a fortune on the airwaves before this month is done - including during the Democratic National Convention August 25-28 - which, by law, he has to spend before he's the nominee. The real action on the GOP side this autumn will be through the Republican National Committee and "independent" groups which will have no shortage of dough to attack Obama in every way imaginable:

The Republican National Committee reported it had raised an additional $25.8 million, giving it a total of $71.5 million.
...fundraising by the RNC and other groups means McCain and his GOP supporters can draw on more than $100 million to battle Obama.



And that means that Obama's not out of the woods yet, and so the nationally televised Democratic National Convention will have to be a kind of fundraising telethon, too. Watch for the website URL and 1-800 number announcements, as well as a new line of campaign merchandise to share the stage in Denver.

Update: Ben Smith reports that for the first time this year, the Democratic National Committee has outraised the RNC: $28 million vs. $25.8 million for the month of July. (There's still a deficit in cash on hand, but it's a start.)

Also of Interest: Camp Obama is back in session. Here's a live blog from Austin, Texas.

And Saturday Reading: James Wolcott lights a candle for Lieberman as McCain's VP pick, and explains why Biden is an unlikely choice for Obama. (I do have to hand it to Obama, though, who must have Biden convinced he's on the docket: Normally, during an international dust-up like the one in Georgia, Biden would be all over the cable news networks. That he's not is an indication that at least he thinks he's got a shot at the number-two position, and so is laying low. Regardless of whom Obama chooses, he's accomplished something that nobody, but nobody, has ever accomplished in US politics: coming between Joe Biden and the TV news cameras.)

Oops! I spoke too soon. Joe Biden is now headed toward the TeeVee cameras in Georgia. (Actually, if you think about it, that's a good sign, since it means that he no longer considers himself in the running for you-know-what.)

The Mack the Knife Technique

By Al Giordano



In the context of what I've referred to as "the Mack the Knife technique" of politics - that in which you slip the dagger in quietly and cleanly so there's "not a trace of red" on your white gloves - NBC's First Read seems to have smelt the blood in the water:

Obama's stealth ad campaign: Over the past week, we've gotten our hands on a number of negative TV ads Obama's been running against McCain in key states like Ohio and Michigan. This is in addition to the tough spot, uncovered by Politico, that Obama's airing in Indiana. Clearly, the Obama campaign isn't interested in telling the media about every single McCain attack ad they're running. Perhaps this is because Obama's brand can't afford to be tarnished too much if he's seen as constantly running negative TV ads. So the campaign simply puts them on the air in key markets, doesn't tell the press about them, and layers those ads with positive ones being run nationally during the Olympics. Also, by not releasing to the media, it forces the McCain camp to wait a day or two before they see the ad. McCain's camp is much more comfortable unveiling their negative ads, perhaps because they want the free press that comes with them. But make no mistake, Obama's running plenty of negative TV ads, particularly in the industrial Midwestern states. In fact, one of Obama's biggest candidate strengths -- which doesn't get the attention it deserves -- is that he plays political hardball as well as his opponents; he just sometimes does it under the radar.

That's the Indiana stealth ad, above.

What's also going on is, I think, the use of specific ads and messages in specific states to then test - through polls and focus groups - whether and what kind of effect they have, for possible use in other states or nationwide.

We're seeing other national media begin to recognize, as Mark Halperin headlined an entry the other day: "This Man Won't Be Swift Boated."

There's a big difference (especially among Democrats) between putting out a press release that claims that you're playing tough, and actually being tough. That the Obama campaign doesn't see it necessary to call a press conference each time it smacks down its rival or airs a new comparative TV ad on the local, swing state, level is a sign of the kind of quiet confidence and execution of game plan that won it the nomination.

Just as the primary victory was the result of a plan laid out before a single state voted, the general election strategy seems - to this observer - to be the execution of a playbook that was drawn weeks or months ago and remains largely unchanged and immune to the armchair counsel and protestations out there.

And while some complain or worry that national level Democratic Party leaders and politicians aren't visibly on the attack sufficiently against McCain & Co., you have to, at least, concede this: neither are they prattling off-message much either. On the Republican side you've got Huckabee attacking a possible Romney pick as VP, while top religious right leaders gripe aloud about the potential McCain running mates Ridge and Lieberman (because they have moderate pro-choice positions on abortion), but the Democratic pols, unions and national organization leaders - who also have their favorites and their nemeses on the rumored "short lists" - are mainly keeping their counsel direct and under the radar of the press, for the most part. That's unprecedented for the traditionally splintered and rancorous Democrats, and a sign that Chicago has done what's necessary to promote discipline among competing leaders. It's better to keep some folks quiet altogether when they have a penchant for yakking in ways that distract.

Now, I have no problem with the Stop-Bayh Facebook page (I in fact agree with its sentiment but I haven't joined it mainly because I don't think such efforts are effective; I still don't think he'll be the running mate, but if it turns out he is, I wouldn't want to have to walk back from there). I also have no issue with Senator Clinton's name being put into nomination. I think that was also planned long ago, and that "Greek Drama Week" and its feigned Clintonian soap opera has been successful beyond my predictions (thanks, sort of, John Edwards!) at sucking the oxygen out of McCain's hospital bubble while Obama - who heads back to the mainland today - was able to recharge his batteries in Hawaii without incident. What a lost opportunity vacation week was for McCain!

Obama will come back sprinting and I'm sure the next few days will bring plenty of new developments for us - and an increasingly attentive nation - to analyze and talk about... now that Mackie's back in town!  

Convention Preview

By Al Giordano



2008 will go down in the annals as the year of the viral video.

This anonymously produced masterpiece captures the zeitgeist of the upcoming Democratic National Convention and general election campaign as well as or better than any "serious" reporting.


(Hat tip, Jed.)

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