By Al Giordano
Jed posted this video of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine on Face The Nation this weekend.
The guy is growing on me.
The number one rule in choosing a vice presidential nominee is "first, do no harm." If you're a presidential nominee, you don't want a running mate that will distract from you, commit gaffes, speak off-message, or that secretly thinks he or she is too good to be number two.
And the second rule is, "then, do some good." You want a VP that will reinforce your messages and make voters more comfortable with you.
Kaine is so far passing both tests with flying colors.
Faced with the typical trick questions of television anchors, Kaine had a magic word to dispel each attempted curve ball: "Virginia!"
In the nine-minute interview, Kaine mentioned "Virginia" fourteen times. Virginia, Virginia, Virginia... Yes, Virginia... there is a Virginia!
And for those believing the hype about the titling of the Wednesday night convention show "Securing America's Future" somehow being a "tell" that General Clark will be the vice presidential nominee, I bring as our first witness Wes Clark, Jr., posting comments tonight on DKos about dad's VP chances.
About him as a VP choice or being on any list whatsoever. Dad doesn't really know anyone on the search committee, so my guess is that he is not going to be Obama's VP choice.
Don't hold your breath on the VP nom. I've seen no sign that Obama ever considered him for the job.
And also here:
I don't want to dash anyone's hopes, I just don't see the VP thing happening. Obama'll probably go with somebody like Bayh, Kaine or Sebelius.
Remember: Dad doesn't lack ambition. Without ever having served in elected office, Clark ran for president in 2004. This is most certainly daily chatter among Clark family members. If young Wes thinks it's down to Bayh, Kaine or Sebelius, in all likelihood that's what he's heard from Senior. If Clark was under serious vetting, you would definitely not find his son posting such comments on the Internet.
With Sebelius taking on a more institutional role at the convention, it seems to be down to Kaine or Bayh or a dark horse.
Kaine - in this TV interview and elsewhere - emanates a fundamental decency (and in a mild and unforced southern accent) that Bayh simply does not. After the 1990s, there's a "slick factor" that must be avoided at all costs in choosing the vice presidential nominee.
A couple more points:
Indiana has 11 electoral votes. Virginia has 13.
(That's, literally, a couple more points!)
And the comfort factor is always easier with the ally that's been with you all along.
Kaine would make for a very solid - comfort building - Wednesday night at the convention.
I'm thinking, at least right now, that this guy is looking like the wingman of 2008.
That's not yet a prediction. It's an instinct.
To be continued...
Morning Update: The Bayh boomlet hits a wall:
Mr. Bayh's support of authorizing force in Iraq stands in sharp contrast to Mr. Obama's oft-stated view that he showed the good judgment to oppose the conflict from the start. After his vote, Mr. Bayh in early 2003 joined Mr. McCain as an honorary co-chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which made regime change in Iraq its central cause.
By Al Giordano
Last month, presidential candidate Barack Obama visited Iraq, six years into his vocal opposition to the war there, and forced the hand of those that got the United States into the war and even got them agreeing aloud to a sixteen month timetable to get the troops out.
First spoke Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki to call Obama's plan a reasonable timetable, then Senator McCain and President Bush - who had been attacking Obama's position for months already - suddenly caved, each repeating, "me, too!"
But as The Field has reminded time and time again, pressuring a candidate - McCain, in this case - to change a policy position in the middle of the campaign almost never leads to real policy changes once elected.
(I'm tempted to offer a nice fat cash reward for anybody who can demonstrate an example of how election-year efforts to pressure a presidential candidate to change what he says about a a major policy issue led to that change being translated into governmental action later on: The last example I can think of is Franklin Delano Roosevelt coming out, in 1932, for the end of alcohol prohibition after having first supported it and then, in his first year as president, repealing the 18th Amendment. I imagine that there must be a more recent example out there, but I can't think of a single one in the past 32 years that I've followed presidential politics, and nobody - not even those that insist that it can be done and dedicate so many waking hours to such attempts to "use an election to pressure a candidate" - has taken me up on the challenge: just one example, please!)
McCain, of course, doesn't mean it. He may say today that he favors withdraw in 16 months, but as the chart above demonstrates he has changed his timeline multiple times already since the war was proposed and launched, and will no doubt change it again, with projections of how fast the US occupation out of Iraq can end so far waging from "three weeks" to "a hundred years."
That chart - brought to our attention by the GutCheck08 blog, and made available for reprinting via this online .pdf document - serves as an effective response to those that are fond of saying there is no difference between the two leading presidential candidates' Iraq war policies.
The flyer, in combination with this very high impact viral video (hat tip, NwTerriD at DKos) that so convincingly captures McCain's warmongering character, is the sort of thing that the Obama campaign can't push itself without getting drawn into a sideshow over the use of the word "warmonger," no matter how well the shoe fits. When radio talker Ed Schultz used the Dubya-Word during an Obama campaign event in North Dakota last April, the McCain camp used it as an opening to create a sideshow:
McCain then called on Obama to condemn Schultz's words. The Democrat's campaign issued a statement saying that "John McCain is not a warmonger and should not be described as such. He's a supporter of a war that Senator Obama believes should have never been authorized and never been waged."
Schultz, to his credit, didn't back down and kept using the phrase on his radio show.
Still, it's much harder for the McCain camp to pick a fight with an inanimate object, such as a viral video. Check this out:
(You can read a transcript of the video, here.)
I mean, what's McCain to do about that? Call on Obama to condemn Pat Buchanan? (The right-wing pundit said, in a TV appearance captured on this video, that McCain, as president, would make Dick Cheney seem like Mahatma Gandhi... In doing so, Buchanan made Ed Schultz seem almost Gandhian, too!)
I've read more than a few complaints here and elsewhere when a national-level Obama surrogate or Democratic Party leader says something counterproductive, or doesn't say anything at all in the face of some attacks against their candidate.
But it would be so much more productive if instead of waiting for somebody else to speak the effective hard truths, people deputized themselves as "surrogates from below," and set to work targeting friends, associates, neighbors, classmates, coworkers, whomever, with materials like these.
Think of the flyer together with the video as a virtual "Happy Meal" of effective propaganda, especially toward those so fond of claiming that there's no difference between the presidential candidates on Iraq policy (and "war and peace" issues in general). Nothing prevents any of us from being the surrogate we hope that others might be. And, frankly, people listen more to their peers than to famous people or politicians when it comes time to decide whether to register to vote or for whom to cast a ballot.
Come to think of it, the next time some purer-than-thou activist, armchair pundit or verbose academic tries to tell me that there's no functional difference between Obama and McCain on ending the Iraq war, I think I'll just send ‘em this "Happy Meal."
By Al Giordano
What can be read into two moves by the Obama campaign today regarding the pending pick of a vice presidential nominee?
The whole world has been invited to "be the first to know" when the VP choice is announced, via text message to every cell phone that requests it (and, reading the missive carefully, the news will move simultaneously via email to the millions already on the campaign's list).
The news came in a mass email from campaign manager David Plouffe:
You will receive an email the moment Barack makes his decision, or you can text VP to 62262 to receive a text message on your mobile phone.
Once you've signed up, please forward this email to your friends, family, and coworkers to let them know about this special opportunity.
No other campaign has done this before. You can be part of this important moment.
To pull this off, they'll have to throw the national media off the scent of the real choice (perhaps they'll do as Kerry's people did four years ago and "leak" a decoy choice to one of Rupert Murdoch's media outlets: I'm cool with that... as long as it's not The Field!).
Most likely, the decision to drop the news from the bottom up and horizontally, bypassing the middlemen of the media, reflects a confidence that the person chosen will be satisfactory to the grassroots supporters.
Or - an alternate and opposite reading might suggest - that if it is a tooth-puller of a choice (i.e. a Bayh, a Biden, or a Clinton) it will be even more vital to deliver the talking points and arguments in favor of that person to the supporters on the ground.
But more likely this reflects the former: in which he or she will either be an outside-of-the-beltway (Kaine, Sebelius, Schweitzer, Richardson, etcetera) change agent, or someone inside Washington that would nonetheless excite the Internet bases of Obama supporters (i.e. Dodd).
But another email arrived today from the (Obama campaign controlled) Democratic National Convention Committee, that also might contain a hint. It said:
"The 2008 Convention will highlight Americans coming together to change the course of this nation," said Kansas Governor and Convention Co-Chair Kathleen Sebelius. "We are at a critical moment in our nation's history. The politics and policies that have divided us will not allow us to achieve the change we need. Barack Obama is a leader to move America in a new direction and bring us together to turn moments of great challenge into moments of great opportunity. This year's Democratic Convention is the story of people from across the country who believe it is time for change."
Sebelius noted that the Convention will use innovative techniques to highlight the people fueling this national movement for change.
"Just as the Obama Campaign uses the energy and passion of grassroots volunteers combined with state-of-the-art technology to bring people into their positive campaign for change, so will the 2008 Convention use the voices of the people through technology and innovative programming to lay out Barack Obama's vision and policies for how to move America in a new direction," Sebelius added.
Now, does that prominent a featuring of Sebelius as convention co-chair make it more likely that she might become the veep candidate? Or does it suggest that it's less likely? (After all, do you really want to portray your running mate as that much of a party insider?) I don't know. But if Sebelius is going to be prominent on stage and in the press as a convention co-chair, my sense is that the pre-convention exposure takes away some of the mysterious allure that the VP choice should have. The decision may have already been made to pick someone else, or narrowed down to a smaller list that doesn't include her, and therefore feature Sebelius - clearly an A-lister in the Obama pantheon and possible administration - in this way instead. In any case, it's a role she'd be good at.
Another tealeaf to read: In recent weeks, we've been through press cycles of joint appearances by Obama with Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, and Obama with Indiana Senator Evan Bayh. One or both could be head fakes. But here's an interesting tidbit: after Barack Obama spent his time on the trail with Kaine, Michelle Obama went to Virginia last week and did her own mini-tour with him. No such Michelle touring happened with Bayh. And as much as nobody would admit it aloud, the spouse's opinion weighs very heavily in a vice presidential choice.
I'm inclined to think that Kaine's star is still very high up on the tree. But don't keep your eyes off the others - yet.
In any case, you and a few million close personal mutual friends will be the first to know... unless we figure it out here, first!
Instant Update: No sooner had I published this post, when this email arrived:
DENVER - TOMORROW at 10:00 AM Eastern Time/8:00 AM Mountain Time, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Co-Chair of the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and a senior advisor to the Obama campaign will hold a conference call for reporters to discuss the nightly themes for the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.
Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Co-Chair of the 2008 Democratic National Convention
Senior Advisor, Obama for America
Conference call to discuss nightly themes for the 2008 Democratic National Convention program.
What's interesting, is that in the earlier email today a basic schedule was offered:
2008 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION HEADLINE SPEAKERS
Monday August 25th's headline prime-time speaker will be Michelle Obama.
Senator Hillary Clinton, who is a champion for working families and one of the most effective and empathetic voices in the country today, will be the headline prime-time speaker on Tuesday August 26th.
The headline prime-time speaker on Wednesday August 27th will be Barack Obama's Vice Presidential nominee.
On Thursday, August 28th, the DNCC will throw open the doors of the Convention and move to INVESCO Field at Mile High so that more Americans can take part in the fourth night of the Convention as Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination.
Note: There is no "keynote" speaker listed. Could it be that the vice presidential nominee will be the same person as the keynoter (the role that Obama played at the convention four years ago)?
Monday Morning Updates:
Didn't Obama say last week that he was looking for a vice president who would "help me get stuff done"? In that context, the hands-on role of Sebelius as, now, the face and the voice of the convention could be a kind of "tell" in her favor. By contrast to the Kaine and Bayh media cycles, she's actually "helping him get stuff done."
Also, if it ends up being Schweitzer, there's conveniently a biography about him hot off the presses: Blue Man in a Red State by Greg Lemon (2008, Two Dot Press). McJoan has just reviewed it for Daily Kos:
Schweitzer was rather dubious about the whole prospect. "I don't know who you think's going to buy this thing," Schweitzer told him. Nonetheless, through dogged determination, Lemon got his story.
His occasional frustration in getting there periodically peeps through, and is something to which I can relate. Last fall I scheduled an interview with Schweitzer, expecting to have 45 minutes or an hour with the Governor to talk about how the West was shaping up in 2008. Three hours, and a personal tour of the state capitol, later, I'd heard about Montana's most famous stray dog, pine bark beetles, sagebrush, carbon sequestration, his family's immigrant roots, and the last few weeks of th Tester campaign. The man can dodge a question like nobody's business, and you don't even really notice it's been dodged until you go back to the transcript. But the getting there is fascinating and always entertaining.
Lemon's book provides an excellent sketch of the career of this unlikely Montanan, from his family's ranch near Geyser, to a Catholic high school in Colorado, to Libya and Saudi Arabia, where he headed up some experimental and innovative agricultural programs, and learned more about the middle east than arguably any other governor in the country--and understanding that has made him a vociferous opponent of the Iraq War. What drove Schweitzer to politics isn't entirely clear, His emergence from nowhere to seriously challenge Senator Conrad Burns in 2000 still has some Montanans baffled, but after that solid run, his taking the governor's seat in 2004 seemed to surprise few.
Read the whole thing.
Morning Update II: I'm listening to Governor Sebelius on the conference call right now, and she just referred to "the vice presidential candidate" who will speak on Wednesday night of the convention, "who Barack will announce before the convention."
That's the first statement by a senior campaign advisor that the pick will come prior to the convention.
They're also rolling out another participatory factor for the convention:
Monday through Wednesday of Convention week, the Convention program will feature a nightly segment in which elected leaders, national policy experts and other Convention speakers will respond to voters on topics including how to change politics as usual, fix our economy, make America safer and restore our nation's standing in the world...
Starting today, text and video questions can be submitted online at www.DemConvention.com/townhallthrough Wednesday, August 27, though participants are encouraged to submit their questions as early as possible. A variety of questions will be answered live from the Convention floor in front of thousands of delegates in the Convention hall, millions of Americans watching the Convention at home on television and millions more watching online. In addition, elected leaders and policy experts will also answer questions online during Convention week at www.DemConvention.com.
In addition to submitting questions online, Americans in eight cities across the country will have the opportunity to record their questions and individual stories in person at a series of "open calls" starting Wednesday, August 13. Open calls will take place in Atlanta, Ga.; Columbus, Ohio; Denver, Colo.; Detroit, Mich.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Raleigh, N.C.; Richmond, Va.; and Tampa, Fla. The exact times and locations of those tapings will be posted to www.DemConvention.com/townhall as they are scheduled and released to local media in those markets.
And they're teasing "more to come" later this week.
Morning Update III: And GOP nominee McCain is doing his own version of a VP roll-out and/or head fake: He's touring Pennsylvania today and tomorrow with the commonwealth's former governor, Tom Ridge.
By Al Giordano
An audience at the convention of the 1.4 million-member Disabled American Veterans organization ought to bring an easy sale for Senator McCain, no?
Patrick Coolican and Michael Mishak report in today's Las Vegas Sun that the 4,000 disabled vets assembled were largely unimpressed:
The veterans, at Bally's for their national convention, gave him a tepid reception, especially considering McCain's life story...
Just one of 14 veterans interviewed by the Sun after his speech said he is a certain McCain voter, and the nonpartisan group's legislative director expressed concerns about McCain's proposed "Veterans' Care Access Card."...
John Von Schlicher, 87, of Florida, said he will support McCain. Schlicher sharply criticized the Democratic-controlled Congress for not funding VA hospitals. (Spending on veterans benefits will increase 11 percent this year.)
Other veterans, such as James Jewett and Jay Johnson of Texas, expressed misgivings about McCain using the occasion to attack his opponent so fiercely.
Duke Hendershot, a double amputee retired Marine who served in Vietnam, supported McCain's run for president in 2000 but is undecided this year.
"John just isn't the same as he used to be. He's not his own man," said Hendershot, who lives in San Antonio, Texas. "A lot of that has to do with how he's wanted this job so bad for so long that he's tied himself to President Bush."
He said McCain's embrace of Bush, whom Hendershot called a "draft-dodging coward," is even more perplexing because of the rivalry between the two candidates during the 2000 campaign.
Hendershot also criticized McCain for taking swipes at Obama in his speech. "He should have been talking about veterans issues, not his opponent," he said.
By contrast, he praised Obama for keeping his remarks tightly focused on veterans. The Democrat gave taped remarks via video.
Bob Drogan, there for the Los Angeles Times, drew the same conclusions: "the Arizona Republican's appearance here suggested limits to that appeal."
This is an excellent example of how much of the free advice being offered to Obama (the latest, a stream-of-consciousness screed from the pop star, Moby, that fails as poetry as well as consultancy) to go more negative on McCain has more to do with the advice-givers' self-indulgent desire for the Democratic nominee to supply them with personal gestalt-on-demand than with the realities of the 2008 campaign.
As you can see from the report out of Vegas, the media narrative about Obama "not closing the deal" is empty by half. McCain is doing an especially poor job of it. All he talks about is Obama, obsessively and - I think this is sinking in with a lot of undecided voters out there (you've just heard it from some veterans' mouths) - enviously.
McCain's TV ads during the Olympic games feature attacks on his rival but they utterly fail to make voters feel more comfortable with their own candidate. If anything, their cringe factor raises doubts about the attacker as well as the attackee. Obama's Olympian ads, by contrast, are issue-oriented, upbeat and introductory.
The Field thinks that - and not merely a retaliatory negative air war - is the smarter strategy for August, a month when the deal can't be closed anyway, but the seeds for the sale can be planted.
The more that Obama can put the decision onto the playing field of the issues, and sharpen those differences with his rival without making the election a referendum on personalities, the closer he'll inch toward assuring that McCain's next medal will be silver, not gold.
By Al Giordano
Nate Silver - whose statistical approach to forecasting the primary results this spring hung bad pollsters out to dry and has sent good pollsters into a long overdue stampede to reexamine the technical bases of how they do their work - was on Countdown with Keith Olbermann last night. It's a sign of the times that the new rising star of political analysis doesn't come from inside a campaign staff (a la Pat Caddell in '76, Roger Ailes in '80, James Carville in '92 or Karl Rove in '00) but from the outside.
In a few short months Nate has gone from being one of thousands of bloggers on Daily Kos (he used the pseud Poblano there) to launching his own website, which in addition to the addictive numbers-crunching, charts and graphs, features excellent commentary (and really good writing).
In this interview with Olbermann, Nate made an important point that we repeat a lot here, too: That public opinion on the presidential candidates won't really solidify until September:
"At this point there’s a pretty big margin of error. Once we have the conventions, especially the first debate, Obama will be vetted by voters… The movement comes after labor day and after the conventions…."
If you find yourself wondering or frustrated why your candidate hasn't thrown the kitchen sink at his rival during these dog days of summer, that largely explains the strategic and tactical reasons for it: a vast chunk of the electorate simply does not begin to pay attention until the conventions are held and it's back to school or work at the end of the summer.
During the TV appearance, Nate also stuck in a mention of a possible vice presidential nominee that the Great Mentioners of the mass media are so far ignoring, but that we've been talking a lot about here:
"In a small state, if Montana were to have a vice presidential pick like (that state's governor) Brian Schweitzer that could make a seven or eight point difference... In a midsized state… maybe two or three points."
By Al Giordano
To those of you that supported Barack Obama for president as early as 2007: You saved the Democratic Party's chances at the presidency in 2008.
Not just once, as we had thought.
But, now, twice.
And, yes, it's too bad we live in a culture that is hypocritical - both obsessed and moralistic - on all matters sexual. And, yes, people have private lives (or ought to be able to have them). I'm not going to cast stones or pile on Edwards or anybody else for their human frailties. It is what it is.
That said, had John Edwards been the nominee this week, and had he had to make the same disclosure that he made today, it's simply obvious that the convention later this month in Denver would have been a political disaster, no matter if it had stuck by Edwards or if it had turned to an eleventh hour replacement, leading to four more years of Republican policy.
The Democratic Party ought to get down on its hands and knees and thank each and every one of you that volunteered and gave early donations to Barack Obama. Your instincts served you well, young Skywalkers!