Mojo - March 2008

What John McCain Must Do Now

| Wed Mar. 5, 2008 2:57 AM EST

mccain_closeup_250x200.jpg Now that John McCain has secured the delegates he needs to become his party's nominee, he has a period for several weeks, possibly several months, during which the Democrats are going to be slugging it out. So what should he do with his time?

(1) Raise money. The Clinton campaign raised a record $35 million in February, and speculation in the media points to a $50 million haul for Obama in the same period. That builds on Obama's $30+ million in January. In contrast, McCain raised $12 million in February.

Over the course of the campaign, Clinton and Obama have each raised roughly $135 million. Through January, Clinton has $29 million left, and Obama has $25 million left. McCain, on the other hand, has raised $53 million over the course of the campaign, and has $5 million left, less than Ron Paul.

But while the Democrats are raising $85 million a month, they can't spend that money defining John McCain or introducing their general election messaging. They have to spend it on 3 a.m. phone ads and the like. That provides McCain with a golden opportunity — now that he has access to all GOP donors, he can build out his fundraising base and start putting out ads that define the Democrats in any negative way he pleases.

But successfully building that donor base means consolidating his support among American conservatives. In order to that he must...

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Why Howard Dean's Blood Pressure Is Through the Roof

| Wed Mar. 5, 2008 2:30 AM EST

Wanted to add one thought to David's full-bodied analysis of tonight's Democratic results. If you run the numbers, Senator Clinton has almost no chance of catching Obama in the pledged delegate totals, even when you take her wins today into consideration. (Here's the proof.) In order to catch him in the delegate count, she needs to win by completely unprecedented margins in every state going forward. That's not bias. That's fact.

That means she can take her campaign in one of two directions: she can attack Obama so thoroughly that he becomes radioactive and no voters will touch him, or she can use some combination of superdelegates and Michigan/Florida to overrule the will of the people who have voted thus far. Either route creates huge problems for the party. Both damage Clinton even if she does come away with the nomination (because her primary win looks ill-begotten and gangster) and both destroy all of the goodwill and energy currently surrounding the Democratic Party.

I'm not saying Clinton should drop out. She can do as she pleases. But I am saying she should be aware of the consequences on her choices as she decides how to move forward. The difficulties she faces in climbing back into this thing, her wins today notwithstanding, are very real.

Clinton's Triple Win Sets Up a Long, Ugly Slog to Pennsylvania

| Wed Mar. 5, 2008 1:58 AM EST

HRCwin.jpg Now it's on to the Democratic death-march in Pennsylvania.

By winning decisively in Ohio and Rhode Island and narrowly in Texas, Senator Hillary Clinton managed to keep her presidential aspirations alive and guaranteed that the bitterly-fought Democratic contest will slog on for weeks, at least until April 22, when Pennsylvania (with its 188 delegates) votes. With these victories, Clinton put an end to Barack Obama's streak--though he still maintains a significant, if statistically slight, lead in the delegates chosen in primaries and caucuses. (Due to the rules governing Texas' odd joint primary-caucus, it seemed possible on Tuesday night, even probable, that Obama would pocket a majority of the delegates there, despite placing second in he popular vote.) More important, Clinton earned the right to claim that her case against Obama, which she and her aides sharpened in recent days, has been seconded by Democratic voters, including two important blocs for the party: blue-collar Dems in Ohio, a decisive state in general elections, and Latino Democrats in Texas. Obama netted his only primary win of the night in Vermont.

At long last, Clinton and her strategists seemed to have gained traction with their attacks on the candidate of hope. As Firewall Tuesday approached, the Clinton campaign did not introduce any new themes. But it did tinker with the mix and accused Obama of falling short on integrity, credibility, and experience. This new mash-up was a success. Catching a break because the corruption trial of Obama's onetime friend and contributor Tony Rezko began this week, Clinton aides repeatedly clamed there were "unanswered questions" about Obama's relationship with Rezko. Obama's aides countered that there were no unanswered questions about this much-investigated episode. (Obama, accused of no wrongdoing in the Rezko matter, has acknowledged it was dumb for him to have entered into a real estate deal with Rezko, especially since the politically-wired developer was under investigation at the time.) Prodded by the Clintonites, reporters started grilling Obama anew about Rezko. And being asked about the dirty dealings of a former pal is never helpful to a candidate selling change and reform. Simultaneously, Obama's camp came under heavy fire--from the Clinton campaign--for falsely denying that a campaign adviser had met with Canadian officials and discussed Obama's position on NAFTA. (The aide denied press reports that he had told the Canadians that Obama's criticism of NAFTA was merely political posturing.) It looked as if Obama the Inspirer was not playing straight.

While casting Obama as just another shifty, sleaze-tainted pol, Clinton and her lieutenants pumped up the volume on their well-worn charge that he's not ready for prime time--that is, when the phone rings in the White House in the middle of the night because there's a crisis somewhere. The Obama camp quickly cooked up a clever retort--Clinton failed her red-phone moment by voting for George W. Bush's Iraq war measure--yet Clinton's heavy-handed commercial, if it did not persuade any individual voter in Texas or Ohio, did define the discourse (and media coverage) in the days before these primaries. Experience, not hope, was the main subject of the debate. Advantage: Clinton.

Ohio Exit Polls - Clinton Gets the Gang Back Together

| Tue Mar. 4, 2008 9:15 PM EST

Voting is staying open late in Ohio due to some nasty weather, but the networks have their exit polls out. Clinton is putting her old coalition (that Obama was meticulously dismantling) back together.

Whites were 75% of the vote — they went 61-38 for Clinton over Obama.

Blacks were 19% of the vote — they went 89-11 for Obama over Clinton.

Voters 44 and under went for Obama. Voters 45 and older went for Clinton.

Men were just 41% of the vote — they went 52-47 for Obama.

Women were 59% of the vote — they went 54-45 for Clinton.

Clinton won voters making under $50,000 a year. Obama just barely won voter making over $50,000 a year. Clinton's 50/50 voters are back!

Self-identified Democrats were two-thirds of the vote. They went 53-46 for Clinton. Self-identified Republicans and independents were one-third of the vote. They went roughly 55-45 for Obama.

Clinton won economic voters (the majority) and health care voters (roughly 20%), while Obama won Iraq War voters (also roughly 20%).

I think it's safe to say that Clinton has arrested Obama's momentum in Ohio. Looking at these numbers, I would guess Clinton takes the state by a small margin. Clinton has her base back together: women, older voters, low-income voters, and core Democrats.

Vermont Comes Up Obama

| Tue Mar. 4, 2008 8:11 PM EST

In an expected move, the networks have called Vermont for Barack Obama. We don't know what the margin of victory is yet, so we don't know how many of the state's 15 delegates will go to the Illinois Senator.

The exit polls show that Obama won majorities in basically every demographic. Tellingly, however, Obama lost people who decided on their candidate in the last three days, underscoring exactly how badly the last half week has been for Obama.

Something to Brighten Your Day

| Tue Mar. 4, 2008 5:16 PM EST

Tonight's primaries have saturated every minute of the news for a while now, and I understand if you're feeling burnt out. So before results start rolling in from Ohio and Texas, and before MoJo's coverage starts up, rest your brain by watching videos of adorable, super-talented children.

That video is filthy awesome. I hope that kid becomes a huge star someday. And I hope he always performs between two fuzzy cars wearing a diaper and no pants. This one, called "Star Wars according to a 3 year old" is pretty good, too.

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Something to Brighten Obama's Day

| Tue Mar. 4, 2008 2:52 PM EST

Barack Obama has been enduring some rough treatment, and it's showing in the polls. The press is getting testy. You know what would turn things around? Unleashing 50 superdelegate endorsements that the campaign has been keeping in its back pocket.

Talk about a game changer. Five endorsements a day for ten days, either kicked off or capped by an announcement of February's supposedly stunning fundraising total — that'll get things back on track.

Clintonites Claims "Unanswered Questions" Dog Obama; Obama Camp Says No; Voters to Decide

| Tue Mar. 4, 2008 1:57 PM EST

clinton_obama_profile.jpg Unanswered questions about Tony Rezko, a friend and contributor, who is now on trial for corruption and extortion. Contradicted denials about a campaign adviser's contact with the Canadian government concerning NAFTA. And don't forget that lack of experience on national security.

The Hillary Clinton campaign seems rather satisfied with its current lines of attack against Barack Obama. On this morning's conference call with reporters, as voters in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, and Vermont were hitting the polls, top Clinton aides hammered these points repeatedly, noting they were pleased that reporters covering Obama were beginning to ask him about these matters. Obama has "credibility questions," asserted Phil Singer, who handles opposition research for the Clinton campaign. Howard Wolfson, the communications director, made much of the fact that the Obama campaign had sent an aide to take notes at the trial of Rezko, a developer indicted on corruption charges. His trial began yesterday. The aide's presence "belies the fact," Wolfson maintained, that Obama has downplayed his relationship with Rezko, who helped raised about $150,000 for Obama and who bought a strip of property next to Obama's home.

The Clintonites suggested that Obama could be a witness in the trial--though the list of expected witnesses made public on Monday did not include the Illinois senator--and Wolfson noted that Obama will continue to be "dogged by questions" related to Rezko unless he "answers them fully." Due to these "unanswered questions," Wolfson said, Democratic voters will not want to seal the deal with Obama.

Clinton Attacks Working? Obama Poll Numbers Down For First Time

| Tue Mar. 4, 2008 1:37 PM EST

Just over a week ago, Hillary Clinton decided to throw the "kitchen sink" at Barack Obama — that is, hit him with every single attack her campaign had. It might be those attacks, or it might be the NAFTA flap, but something's working. Obama is actually trending down in Texas. Check out this chart from pollster.com:

08TXPresDems600.jpg

Chris Hayes over at the Nation says this is the first time in the entire campaign that Obama's averaged poll numbers have declined. (Pollster.com averages all polls, making it a better source for numbers than any individual poll.) That sounds right to me. I do know this is the first time I've ever seen his numbers declining as he heads into a primary.

All hail the kitchen sink.

Obama Pandering Watch: We 'Should Never Fear to Negotiate' - Except With Hamas

| Tue Mar. 4, 2008 1:33 PM EST

9649.jpg

One of the fundamentals of Barack Obama's foreign policy pitch—and one of those rare areas of real disagreement between him and Hillary—is that he is willing to meet with the leaders of all nations. As his Web site puts it, "[Obama] will do the careful preparation necessary, but will signal that America is ready to come to the table, and that he is willing to lead." On this position, which he applies to even such official boogeymen as Raul Castro and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Obama likes to quote JFK's line that "We should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate."

That Obama has vigorously defended his pro-negotiations posture, even in the face of criticism that will no doubt intensify if he is the nominee, makes the senator's response to a question about whether he favors negotiations with Hamas particularly striking. From an event for Jewish leaders in Cleveland last week: