Monday, December 24, 2007

Just because it's Christmas doesn't mean that the Campaign is on hold

Actually, since I've been traveling (or preparing to) for the last couple days, the little bits of news from the trail have been piling up. It was a bit of a bummer to wake up this morning and find the map of campaign stops blank. I guess the candidates have to take a break sometime, but their recent blitz has taken its toll on voters in New Hampshire. Here are some things that have happened in the last few days:

1) The Campaign Discussion Group Committee of Seven has picked a Clinton-Romney match up for the general election.* The Clinton political machine wrapped up a 5-2 victory over Obama on the Democratic side while Romney was only able to secure a plurality for the GOP nomination. Guiliani was a close second with two votes and Huckabee and McCain got one vote apiece. Depending on when the group reconvenes for pre-/post-Iowa discussions, I thought it would be interesting to hold another "primary" online to allow those who were unable to participate last Friday to weigh in and to see if those who did, changed their minds (Fine, let's put it in the vernacular of the season: flip-flopped). I'll make a stand-alone post later in the week, so stop by and give us your choice for each party (given up-to-the-minute information) and a reason(s) for that choice in the comments section.

2) In the post below, Rob points out that Guiliani can get by on name-recognition alone (probably the only candidate on the GOP side that can make that claim). Adam Nagourney at the New York Times puts together a nice piece here concerning Guiliani's recent issues. The prevailing sentiment from that article is that Guiliani perhaps peaked too early; a charge that could be levied against any of the top four Republican candidates. But as Chris Cillizza put it in putting together his rankings of the candidates, someone has to win the GOP nomination.

3) Paul (via Audrey Haynes) just sent over the results of a Pew Research poll looking at the dynamics of the races on both sides. And given the gap in candidate satisfaction among each party's voters, it should come as no surprise that Democratic voters, are more prone to shifts based on personal or tactical errors while those on the GOP side are focused almost completely on the ideological differences among their candidates. Republicans just don't know their candidates as well as they have in the past (That and there's no "heir apparent" for them this time around.).

4) This from today's AJC isn't news so much but it does reflect the prevailing thinking among the members of the group: that the GOP nomination is the one more likely to go to and be decided at the convention (or past Super Tuesday).

5) Finally, I think we'll all find it interesting that the FEC is stuck in limbo this holiday season as a standoff between the White House and Senate continues over nominees to the commission. The effect that having only two of six members in position will have on the commission and the role it plays in the primary campaign is unknown, but it is a piece of information to file away for a later time.

As always the comments section is open to any and all comers. So have at it.

* The Committee of Seven reserves the right to change its mind at any time and for any reason. And with less than two weeks until Iowa, those changes may come more often than not.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Day That Was (12-20-07)

Tom Tancredo is out of the race for the Republican nomination. And he's decided to back Romney. Now why couldn't Tommy Thompson and Sam Brownback have held on long enough to make powerful, last minute endorsements prior to Iowa? And who are they endorsing again (I had to look it up: Thompson backs Guiliani and Brownback's for McCain.)?

So the question(s) of the night: 1) What impact does this have and 2) Does it matter anyway?

With Iowa now only two weeks away (Yes, only two weeks left. It's a mad rush and I'm already trying to fend off the primary season withdrawals I expect to have on February 6.), this is a well-timed exit/endorsement. And it looks even better that Tancredo, despite being the longest of long shots, was the one real issue candidate in the race. His position as the "immigration guy" now gives Romney a little something to hang his hat on concerning the issue. And he needs any extra push he can get now in Iowa to keep the Huckabee momentum at bay. How does that play in the general election though should Romney get the nod on the GOP side? Immigration is clearly an important issue for Republicans, but the position(s) posited thus far by the candidates seems to put any of them on the wrong side of the issue among the entire electorate.

Obama is facing yet another sticky issue. The latest question has arisen over the number of "present" votes he made while in the Illinois State Senate. There's yes. There's no. And then there's present. Were they votes made on principle as a sign of protest? "I'm here but I'm not going to vote for/against this piece of legislation until it is in its final form." Or were they votes intended to avoid taking a stance on some important issue. "I'm here, but I'm not touching that bill with a ten foot poll." The former is one thing, but the latter is obviously potentially more damaging. Ah, the pitfalls of being a legislator: actually having to vote on issues that may come back to haunt you later.

One other thing that I have wanted to bring up the last couple of weeks in the "live" discussion that may be better dealt with in this forum is the issue that IHOP is raising over so many states holding primaries and caucuses on February 5. That day happens to be National Pancake Day and the company has gone as far as writing the governors of fifteen states asking them to move their states primaries to different dates. Sadly, someone over in the research department didn't do their homework on this: North Carolina got a letter and the primary there is not until May 6, a day far removed from National Pancake Day.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

And the Campaign Discussion Group goes online

Here are a few things of note for the group in the lead up to our discussion on Friday:

1) Hillary Clinton and John McCain receive the endorsements of the Des Moines Register. Experience seems to be the name of the game for the editorial board at the paper. How else could you explain McCain getting the nod on the Republican side? Iowa hasn't been his strength in either 2000 or 2008. What impact will it have on the race? Well, Edwards got the paper's blessing in 2004 and that certainly didn't hurt him on his way to a surprising second place finish in the state. It is interesting that the write up of the endorsement made mention of this. And I will admit that I'm torn as to how to take the mention of the 2004 endorsement. Is the editorial board saying, "Well, this guy did well here four years ago and he's in this race as a top tier candidate too," or "This guy did well here four years ago and well, he's in third now." What does everyone else think?

2) And speaking of Hillary... Another of her surrogates, former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, made the mistake of opening his mouth about Obama (then backed away from them). Fresh off the Bill Shaheen comments about possible drug use in Obama's past, the Clinton camp found another of its backers, Kerrey, highlighting the Illinois senator's middle name (Hussein) and Muslim background following an event with the former first lady. I thought it was the bloggers and members of the new media who were supposed to threaten the power candidates have over their own campaigns, not those within their camp.

3) Mitt Romney is making a rare stop in Georgia today. His swing through South Carolina closes across the border with meeting with the press in Savannah, GA. And who said Feb. 5 wasn't early enough for Georgia. [Blogger raising hand.]

4) Finally, if you don't already be sure and check out these other blogs:
The Fix (by Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post): US elections in general are covered.
The Caucus (The New York Times politics blog): Campaign 2008
The Primary Source (by James Pindell of the Boston Globe): All about NH.

Feel free to drop a comment or any news you have by clicking on the link below. This should be fun.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Phase II

Now that the calendar for the 2008 presidential primary season has been officially (and completely?) set, I'm done with this thing for a while, right? Well, states probably won't shift their focus to 2012 until 2009 at the earliest (Arkansas, for example, moved to February 5, 2008 in 2005.), but the campaign presses on and the ramifications of the frontloading this cycle have yet to fully play out. So, this blog will continue to track those developments.

However, I'll also be adding a new feature. Over the holidays, I'll (we'll) take University of Georgia political science professor, Paul Gurian's quadrennial campaign discussion group online. With the Iowa caucuses coming on the heels of the holiday season this cycle and with school still being out, the group regulars will need an outlet. Hopefully regular posts and comments can help bridge that gap. Once the semester gets underway and the group resumes meeting regularly, I plan to use this forum as a means of satisfying the instant historians/political scientists out there. I want to augment our Wednesday discussions (not displace them) with posts and comments the night(s) that primary and caucus results are coming in. Sometimes you can't wait until the day after to weigh in on what's happened, right?

And to think, primary season might have kicked off today

Ah, what could have been. Today is the day New Hampshire's presidential primary could have been held. Sure, it turned out that December 11 was nothing more than a Bill Gardner scare tactic to show the rest of the states considering crowding New Hampshire at the front of the line that the state would not be crowded. But it is fun to think of how different the last two and half weeks would have been if Gardner had announced a move to Dec. 11 back on the day before Thanksgiving. The direction of the race would have taken on a completely different tilt. On the Republican side: Would Huckabee have risen the way he has or would he be peaking at the right time? Would Romney have made his religion speech or held that until the time between New Hampshire and the Iowa caucuses (if it was even necessary)? On the Democratic side: Would the coronation of Hillary Clinton have begun? She's comfortably ahead in New Hampshire and having that contest first would have been a potential boon to her chances. From her campaign's perspective, it sure beats the three-way dead heat that polls in Iowa are showing. Would we even be talking about Obama and Edwards? For this cycle though, we'll have to live with the ho-hum IA-NH-some other states-Super Tuesday progression toward the nominations in both parties.

Other News:
New Hampshire:
Fine, I missed the boat on New Hampshire's announcement to hold their primary on January 8. "And you call yourself Frontloading HQ?" Well yeah, I guess I still do. I will admit that the timing of the announcement was odd. It came across like one of those Friday afternoon leaks of information to the press that presidential administrations have always had an affinity for. It just got lost in the shuffle on a day when folks were preparing to give thanks. Of course those in the Granite State may be thankful that the powers that be (Secretary of State Bill Gardner) didn't rock the boat too much (Dec. 11 primary) triggering reform that could have bumped New Hampshire from its lofty position at the front of the primary line.

After having the January 15 primary struck down by a circuit court, the state appealed the decision only to have the state Court of Appeals affirm the lower court's ruling (that public voter lists should not go exclusively to two private entities, the state parties) on November 16.
Incidentally, that date was to have been the date on which the two parties were to have decided if they were even going to opt into the primary system set up in the initial law. The state then appealed to the state Supreme Court and won a 4-3 decision, putting the January 15 primary back in place. That triggered the New Hampshire announcement later in the afternoon.

The state legislature in Massachusetts also made news by moving the state's 2008 presidential primary from the first Tuesday in March to the first Tuesday in February. The bill, SB 2414 made it through the Senate on Nov. 15 (by a vote of 33-5), the House on Nov. 20 (by a vote of 135-17) and was signed by Gov. Deval Patrick on Nov. 26. So, now Massachusetts joins half the country on February 5 for the Super Tuesday extravaganza that will (if you follow the model established in the years since 1988) most likely determine the nominees from both parties.