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More States Called - Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Etc

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 8:55 PM EST

WASHINGTON D.C. — Taking an early look...

For the Democrats
Illinois: Obama (recent polling showed Obama up 30+)
Oklahoma: Clinton (recent polling showed Clinton up 30)

For the Republicans
Illinois: McCain (recent polling showed McCain up 20)
New Jersey: McCain (recent polling showed McCain up 15)
Massachusetts: Romney (recent polling showed Romney up 25)
Connecticut: McCain (recent polling showed McCain up 20)

All of those polling numbers come from here. Clearly, no surprises in the early states of the night. The only news of note: McCain skipped campaigning in some close states (California, for example) in order to reach for Massachusetts. Winning Romney's home state would really be a finger in the eye of McCain's key opponent. The strategy didn't work. We'll see if the lost opportunity hurts McCain elsewhere.

Update: MSNBC just called Tennessee for Hillary Clinton. She had a 20 point lead there is recent polling.

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The Unbearable Disorganization of the Clinton Campaign

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 8:40 PM EST

NEW YORK, NY — Out on the campaign trail Hillary Clinton has frequently touted her experience, telling voters time and again that she is the candidate most prepared to be president "from day one." If her campaign's preparation for her gala celebration in New York City tonight is any indication, that argument doesn't wash.

You would think a campaign that had been going on for so long, in so many states, dealing with so many reporters and volunteers, would exhibit some semblance of organization for its biggest rally of the race. You would think it would have the savvy not to piss off hundreds of reporters who showed up six hours early to cover its event. You would think wrong.

Gay Rights: Obama and Clinton's Checkered Past

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 8:16 PM EST

This Super Tuesday is a historic day for equal rights—a black man and a woman are the front-runners for the democratic presidential nomination. But the ghosts of prejudice and politics as usual still haunt today's elections. Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown has revealed that four years ago, when San Francisco was receiving worldwide attention for issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Barack Obama didn't want anything to do with the city's endorsement of equal rights or the man responsible for it. Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I gave a fundraiser, at [Obama's] request...He said he would really not like to have his picture taken with Gavin [Newsom]." Back then it would have been political suicide to be associated with Mayor Newsom's controversial move.

During the 2008 campaign, however, Newsom hasn't been carrying as much baggage. Hillary Clinton reveled in the mayor's endorsement and last night Bill even shared a stage with him. So does this mean Clinton is a greater advocate for equal rights, or would she have done the same thing that Obama did four years ago? It's probably the latter. Clinton supported the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, yet during this campaign season her stance on gay rights is markedly more progressive and nearly identical to Obama's. They both think "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" should be revisited and say they'll vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Both opposed the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006. Both support civil unions, while maintaining that marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman.

CA Live Blog: What to Expect Tonight

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 8:02 PM EST

SAN JOSE, CA — Polls in California close in four hours, but it might not be possible to declare a winner in the state until Wednesday morning.The high turnout, high numbers of absentee voters, and use of old-fashioned paper ballots in some areas (Diebold machines were nixed here as unreliable) means it will take a long time to tally everything. That said, the Obama folks in here in Santa Clara County hope their districts might be decided by around midnight, and I'll be here as long as it takes. If you're a true political junkie, stick with me. This is in many ways a belwether district--whoever wins here has a good shot at taking the majority of the state.

Early Exit Polling Now Available; Georgia for Obama

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 7:56 PM EST

WASHINGTON D.C. — These are completely unreliable, but fun to look at.

They show a huge night for Obama in the making. But again, I caution, they are completely unreliable. The only thing we do know right now is that Georgia, the first state to report, has been called for Obama.

Black voters were 52 percent of voters in Georgia; they voted 86 percent for Obama. Among white voters, Obama took 43 percent, much much much better than the white vote he recieved in South Carolina and Florida.

Josh Harkinson, sitting in Obama's Norcal HQ, writes to add:

News just hit Obama HQ in San Jose, where I'm live blogging. "Take that enthusiasm and have it in California!" someone yells. Not exactly Obama-esque speechifying, but for this crowd, it will do.

Oh, and PS — Exit polls show the economy as the most important issue for the plurality of voters.

Live Blog from CA: Bring in the Big Guns!

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 7:17 PM EST

SAN JOSE, CA — Just now I was reading the California newspapers from my fold-out table in Obama HQ when a woman sat down at my elbow and logged into a MacBook. She hunted and pecked, fretting over her email. I figured her for just another first-time volunteer. Turns out she was U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, pecking out an email to the county's top voting official. You've got to love Lofgren--if not because she's campaigning for Obama, then for her ability to carry off the standard-issue DC pantsuit along with a very cool pair of blue-and-pink silk Chinese slippers.

Lofgren and her son had just come from eating lunch downtown at Teske's Germania, where she dines before every election. She'd ordered a gigantic pork shank. "It's kind of a good luck charm," she said. "I was going to actually order a salad because I've been trying to lose weight, but I didn't want to break the luck."

Lofgren has been in Congress for 14 years and has never seen an election bring in so many new volunteers. "In a Democratic event I walk in and I know everybody by name," she said, looking around the room. "These are all new people." Most volunteers didn't know her either--no crowd had gathered round until word got out who she was.

This is to be expected of a campaign that has harnessed a new wave of young voters. Several guys working the phones right now haven't even started growing facial hair. It's fun to watch these kids make things up as they go. This morning San Jose State student Sarah Bronstein was talking with another college kid about the Obama pitch they were reciting over the phone to voters. "It's a shitty script," she said. "They should write is as if someone is actually talking." So she tweaked it--one of countless of small examples today of DIY.

Excitement today goes beyond young people and Obama. This is the first time in recent history that California has played such a prominent role in choosing the presidential candidate, and the first time since the '50s that the election didn't feature an incumbent president or VP. Turnout is expected to resemble the much higher numbers of a general election. Of course, the bigger crowds at the polls have made snags more likely--which is why Lofgren has swooped in to fire off an email to the county elections chief. Obama staffers here had received a few reports that poll workers were incorrectly telling independent voters that they couldn't vote in the Democratic primary. If that problem becomes widespread, it would favor Clinton and hurt Obama, who polls better among independents.

Update: Lofgren's concern appears to have been merited. The Washington Post reports that confusion over independent voters and Democratic ballots has been widespread. Still, it does not yet appear to be a major factor in the race.

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"True Conservatives" Love the Super Bowl. And Mitt Romney, Apparently

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 5:47 PM EST

Sunday was a great day for New York Giants. For me, not so much—I'm a Pats fan, and I was there to watch the debacle unfold. I still wake up screaming.

So my trip to the Super Bowl didn't work out so well. But I did take some time out from tailgating to do some actual work: I had a very interesting chat with some passionate Mitt Romney supporters. They weren't hard to find. In the endless expanse of parking lots that surrounds University of Phoenix stadium, they were the only ones without sports paraphernalia. Their enormous "Mitt Romney for President" signs also made them stick out.

Rachael Proctor was among the Romney faithful spreading Mitt's message around Glendale Sunday afternoon. Longtime Arizona residents all, Rachael and her crew said they were supporting Romney because "true conservatives" and "true Republicans" disliked McCain.

Proctor and her fellow Mitt-ens did have something to say about the issues. They said the economy and illegal immigration were both incredibly important to them, and they trusted Romney more on both. "McCain's been here [in Arizona] 25 years, and [illegal immigration] has only gotten worse," Proctor said. But their main message was the same one that Romney himself has been spouting since the South Carolina primary: Mitt Romney is a true conservative, and John McCain isn't.

Despite the signs and the earnestness, Super Bowl fans weren't having it. I saw Rachael's group one more time after our chat in the parking lot. They were standing by the entrance to the stadium, holding their signs and shouting (politely) about Romney's conservatism. Thousands of fans just walked right by, ignoring them. It was the Super Bowl, after all. But if Mitt's going to have any sort of chance against John McCain, that "true conservative" message is going to have to start resonating.

Head Start: Dying On The Vine

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 5:16 PM EST

head%20start.jpgWhen George W. Bush took office in 2001, he came in with grand plans for Head Start, the popular early childhood enrichment and education program for low-income kids. Bush talked about beefing up standards, improving teacher training and quality, and working hard to make sure low-income preschoolers were ready to hit the kindergarten playground running. Oh, and he also wanted to turn the program into a block grant, slash its budget, and force 3-year-olds to undergo standardized testing twice a year.

Consequently, it took Congress five years to reauthorize the program, a last vestige of the Great Society poverty programs. Members of Congress from both parties saved Head Start from the block grant, better known as a stealthy way to defund the program by turning it over to the states. And in December, Bush grudgingly signed the bill that officially killed off the misguided testing regime. But one part of Bush's original ambitious plan for Head Start has actually succeeded: the budget cuts. It hasn't come all at once, but through erosion.

The new omnibus budget bill, signed just two weeks after Head Start was reauthorized in December, would put the program's budget at 12 percent below the funding level for 2002, according to the nonpartisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, mostly because Bush has failed to let Head Start funding keep up with inflation. The budget cuts translate into about 20,000 kids who may not have access to the program anymore. This is all happening at a time when child poverty is on the rise, and the number of poor kids under the age of 5 is increasing. Insert your own favorite "child left behind' kicker here...

New CDs Out Today and a Word From Critics

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 4:46 PM EST

Hey, there's actually a couple interesting albums hitting stores and internet emporiums today. Perhaps I shall list them in order of how much I'm enjoying them (or anticipating I'll enjoy them), from "most" to "least"?

Live Blogging From Obama HQ in California

| Tue Feb. 5, 2008 4:40 PM EST

I'll be writing to you today from the Obama campaign office in San Jose, California. It's one of six Obama offices in the Bay Area, but the battle here will be one of the most closely fought and important anywhere in the state (more on this shortly). The office is a small storefront in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood just outside downtown. Inside, posters on the wall say, "Fired up!" and, for those who've been here a bit too long, "Bang head here." The space lacks any heat (save for two space heaters--any more and the circuit breaker pops) but the 20 people packing into the place are keeping things warm enough. I've sandwiched myself into a row of clicking laptops on a fold-out table in the middle of the room. Everyone is working on getting out the vote; whenever a phone-banker convinces someone to vote Obama, he rings a bell and the room erupts in applause.

The volunteers here have their work cut out for them. San Jose's CA-15 congressional district is one of only 22 in the state with an odd number of delegates; whoever wins 51 percent of the vote in these districts will automatically pick up an extra delegate. (Most California districts are even-delegate and will likely to split between the candidates 50/50). Only about half of the odd-delate districts in the state will be truly competitive. CA-15 is one of those: Here in the Bay Area, Obama leads Clinton overall, but San Jose is predominately working class and has more Latino voters than any other county in the region--two groups that tend to support Clinton.