Saturday, April 26, 2008
Ratcheting up once again on Iran
The nation's top military officer said yesterday that the Pentagon is planning for "potential military courses of action" as one of several options against Iran, criticizing what he called the Tehran government's "increasingly lethal and malign influence" in Iraq.....
"It would be a mistake to think that we are out of combat capability," he said at a Pentagon news conference.
If that were not enough, the NYTimes has top administration officials very intentionally, trying to get this message out there,
The administration has, in fact, discussed whether to attack training camps, safe houses and weapons storehouses inside Iran that intelligence reports say are being used by the Quds Force to train fighters, according to two senior administration officials.
So, we seem to have another concerted effort to threaten Iran.
With Fallon gone, and Petraeus moving up.....
Some backstory on the Syria/N. Korea nuclear revelations
I just keep going back to that article from a year ago saying the US was trying to shut down any Syria/Israeli talks.
(A thought spawning piece at TPM.)
More Clinton donors shifting to Obama
Campaign finance records released this week show that a growing number of Clinton's early supporters migrated to Obama in March, after he achieved 11 straight victories. Of those who had previously made maximum contributions to Clinton, 73 wrote their first checks to Obama in March. The reverse was not true: Of those who had made large contributions to Obama last year, none wrote checks to Clinton in March.
(And this is through March, so, you have to figure there have been more.)
Friday, April 25, 2008
Political bits II
Guerra-Mondragon raised nearly $500,000 for Clinton's campaign, according to some estimates..... he was uneasy with the tone of the Clinton campaign and was beginning to worry about what this would mean for the general election.
Later: A quote on a WaPo blog, "Looking at it as coldly as I can, I just don't see how Senator Clinton can overcome Senator Obama with delegates and popular votes. I want this fight to be over, the quicker the better."
(WSJ) Clinton is spending alot of money to try and stave off a NC blowout.
(FirstRead) Obama has almost twice as many campaign offices in NC.
(AKTimes) Huckabee held a rally before appearing with McCain where many of the Huckabee backers talked about McCain losing.
Preparing for the general election, Obama (Politico) starts rolling out a national voter registration drive and (NYTimes) sets up a joint DNC fundraising arm. (Question: How much potential "black vote" and "youth vote" is out there unregistered?)
(FirstRead) Obama has picked up 3 superdelegates since Pa, Clinton only 1.
(Politico) David Plouffe makes the point that the racists will vote Republican anyway.
(DenverNews) Rush Limbaugh calls for riots at the Democratic convention.
And, here's a better written version of my point the other day. The exit polling that is being cited as "white resistance" to Obama has a whole lot more to do with white women voting for Hillary Clinton than with whites voting against Obama.
It's going to take more than a marginal argument
The "safe" play for the superdelegates is to simply ratify the pledged delegates. Although the Clinton folks will not be happy with this, it is, by far, the more easily defended position for all those supers who will have to face voters this cycle or next.
Certainly, in many cases, such as in pro-Clinton areas, a super can claim they are just reflecting their voters, but by and large, the Clinton people are asking the superdelegates to politically extend themselves and the party without that overwhelming, easily defensible argument.
My belief is that most of the supers' holding back is not about any doubts about where they they will come down, but more about a fear of the costs of publicly declaring for one side or the other.
Picture of the Day - 3
Thursday, April 24, 2008
(Politico) Reid, Pelosi, and Dean make noises about writing a joint letter asking the superdelegates to pledge.
(I've kind of been seeing anecdotal evidence that some of the party leaders responsible for Congressional races are beginning to grow concerned that the ongoing primary battle could impact down ticket races.)
(Politico) A pro-Obama piece suggesting the superdelegates largely aren't moved by Clinton's arguments.
(WashTimes) Clinton's faith underestimated (Another far right wing outlet praises Clinton?)
And, (CharlieCook) Clinton can't win.
"Maybe it's time for Americans to start stockpiling food...."
The short version is that this current stress is a result of a rising China and India, and that's not likely to go away too soon.
Picture of the Day - 2
A ceasefire in Pakistan, but read the fine print
Mehsud's ceasefire is with the Pakistani government forces only. No action to limit cross border activities into Afghanistan and only valid so long as the Pakistani government keeps its forces out of the region.
The agreement also calls for compensation for the families of people killed in military operations in the region and a promise to cease arresting tribesmen suspected of ties to the Taliban or al-Qaeda, Omar said.....
Omar vowed, however, to continue fighting U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan. "The presence of the U.S and NATO forces in Afghanistan is the mother of all ill and there will be no peace until their presence in the region has ended," he said.
This may help the peace in Pakistan, but the US/NATO war in Afghanistan just got much, much worse.
Are the battle lines being redrawn in Iraq?
On the other side, we have second hand reports that
But al-Sadr — who has been in the Iranian seminary city of Qom for the past year — is seriously considering tearing up the truce and disassociating himself from his political bloc in parliament, according to loyalists and Shiite politicians interviewed by the AP over the past two weeks.
Now, I don't know which, if any, of these are true or will come to pass, and I'm not convinced that this is as clear cut as I'm making it sound, but there does seem to be a fair amount of flux in the Iraqi politics right now. Maliki threw the government Sadr conflict to the front and now everyone's adjusting.
Just thinking out loud.
Picture of the Day
Olmert throws Bush under the settlement expansion bus
The US denies this is in the intent of the letter, but, to me, it's far more interesting that Olmert chose to deliver this so publicly and intentionally.
Olmert is choosing to undermine US credibility right before Bush meets with Palestinian half-PM Abbas.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants the Bush administration to press Israel to stop expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank — a step he says is needed to make progress in Mideast peace talks.....
Halting Israeli expansion in the West Bank is a major component of the so-called roadmap blueprint for peace.
"I am telling you frankly that the most important obstacle to the peace process and the negotiations is the continuation of the settlement activities," Abbas said in his speech. "Therefore, I am calling on the Israeli government to stop all settlement activities so we can hold proper meetings to reach a solution on the core issues."
And Olmert says, so publicly, we're just doing what the US wants.
Iran is turning to ISCI from Sadr?
Iran said on Tuesday that it backs the Iraqi government’s crackdown on armed groups and denied accusations of assisting militias in the war-battered nation.....
“Weapons should be only in the hands of the Iraqi army,” said Mottaki, who took part in a key conference of foreign ministers of Iraq’s neighbors and Western powers.
However, details emerged Wednesday of talks under way between the Pakistani government and leaders of the dominant Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan on an agreement in which the Pakistani army would pull out of the area and the government would release some militants from custody.....
Pakistan's army has as many as 30,000 troops in South Waziristan, Abbas said.
Look. This is a very tricky situation, and some sort of negotiated settlement is inevitable, but at the same time, much like Musharraf's agreements over a year ago, this would completely free up the Pakistani side of that border.
The last version of this was a disaster, and this agreement sounds even weaker.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
According to surveys of Pennsylvania voters leaving the polls on Tuesday, Mr. Obama would draw majorities of support from lower-income voters and less-educated ones — just as Mrs. Clinton would against Mr. McCain, even though those voters have favored her over Mr. Obama in the primaries.....
But the Pennsylvania exit polls, conducted by Edison/Mitofsky for five television networks and The Associated Press, underscore a point that political analysts made on Wednesday: that state primary results do not necessarily translate into general election victories.
Did you get that? "....state primary results do not necessarily translate into general election victories."
This has been one of the more pernicious false analysis items embraced as legitimate by the talking heads, and it's the core of the Clinton argument right now whether it's individual demographic breakdowns or the "big state" argument.
For instance, you would expect Obama to lose Dem registered white women to Clinton in a Dem primary, but to think that Dem registered white women are all going to defect to McCain is pretty insane.
(TPM has a more subtle argument about this.)
Even McCain's warning about his future.
"Obama's difficulties and the prolongation of the Clinton-Obama confrontation have lifted Republicans from their slough of despondence to optimism about the presidential election. The transformation from deep pessimism to overriding optimism is such that McCain is privately warning supporters that once the nomination is decided and supporters of the losing Democratic candidate return to the fold, he will fall behind badly (though, McCain hopes, temporarily).".
Also: "High-level Republican contributors and fund-raisers complain that the McCain campaign has not got its act in order and is still badly disorganized. This comes from very heavy GOP hitters."
Dancing the edge with the Obama people
Introduce the other candidate's filth in a completely deniable way.
In the two weeks leading up to the Indiana primary, a Democratic strategist familiar with the Obama campaign said aides are likely to turn to the controversies of Bill Clinton's White House years -- Hillary Clinton's trading cattle futures, Whitewater and possibly impeachment.
Then, of course, you go on the record and deny that you plan to talk about it.
This is very similar, although far smaller and better controlled, to the way the Clinton people tried to raise Obama's drug use way back before NH.
To my mind, because this is small, I think it's likely intended for Dem insiders and superdelegates to imply that Obama hasn't thrown all the punches he could have and that a Clinton candidacy could take alot more attacks than it has so far.
Later: Obama surrogate Sen. Claire McCaskill is less subtle.
"But, frankly, they keep throwing nails in front of the bus," she continued. "And as voters are considering whether or not some of the controversies around Barack Obama will be an issue in November, people do need to remember, there will be controversies about the Clintons that will also be an issue in November. And I think that's what we hope superdelegates also focus on.".
Per the exit polls, 47% of the Pennsylvania Democratic electorate last night was made up of white women, higher than any other race/gender subgroup. Clinton ended up winning them by more than 30 points, 66%-34%.
Think about that. Assuming the rest of the electorate splits down the middle 50/50, Clinton wins Pa with a +15 overall advantage coming from this one group alone.
That's not to discount these voters, but, as a point of analysis, it's interesting.
Picture of the Day
Perceptions going forward as the math creeps back in.
By this morning, the realities seem to be creeping back in with talk of delegate math, money problems, and the mathematical state of the race.
(From the Pa. Sec State, with 99.07% reporting, the final margin appears to be 8.5%, right at the media set over/under line.
Best guess: Clinton picked up about 12-16 pledged delegates on a lead of 166, and just less than 200,000 votes on a lead over 700,000. Right now, Obama is on track to get most of that back in North Carolina.)
The Obama campaign has an early conference call this morning intended to reinforce the mathematical message.
(And the rumor is that Obama will pick up superdelegates over the next few days.)
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Many Democratic insiders are convinced that Clinton is going to lose and it's just a question of how much damage she does going out.
Picture of the Day - 2
The NYTimes blasts Clinton
Observation, Thought, Question, and Theory
Thought: Hillary Clinton doesn't just need a better argument, she needs an overwhelming argument because she is asking the superdelegates to overturn the nominee selected by the voters and take the less defensible position before their constituents.
Question: Who will the superdelegates blame as all the public pressure comes crashing down on them and their electoral chances are affected?
Theory: The superdelegates facing reelection will want this over soon and will try to influence it without getting caught on the public record.
(PS. It's not at all unrealistic that Obama will recover any Clinton gains tonight in North Carolina alone.)
Early Exit Rumors?
(Later: A very good post showing that the early exits from past states have always shown an unwarranted Obama advantage.)
Ambinder distills some of the lower level numbers.
only 23 percent decided within the last week.... the economy was the most important issue with 54%.... 49% said change was their top vote-generating quality, versus 26 percent who said experience was.....About 15% of the electorate was made up of new voters.
But again, these are only among those who have voted as of 5PM.
Obama camp tamping down expectations
Picture of the Day
The popular vote gap by Chuck Todd.
That brings us to the popular vote... According to our turnout estimates (based on past results and talks with the campaigns and also assuming a bump), it is unlikely that Clinton will completely erase Obama’s lead in the popular vote without factoring in Florida and Michigan. Here's a fairly rosy scenario for Clinton, which assumes big wins in her states and somewhat narrow wins for Obama in his states of the contests that remain.
So that projection gives Clinton a net gain of 167,500 popular votes for the rest of the remaining primaries -- if everything plays out by the projections above. Obviously, we encourage folks to play around with these numbers themselves. So Team Clinton couldn't get there with also adding Florida; they'd need Michigan, too... and maybe even try and count total Puerto Rico votes -- which, turnout-wise could look like Oregon, but in reverse. So MAYBE she could net another 60,000 votes out of Puerto Rico. Of course, if Clinton gets a big win out of Pennsylvania, she might be able to narrow the gap in places like North Carolina and Oregon and then suddenly her net popular vote take could increase. To have ANY chance of selling legitimacy to this popular vote game, she'll need to cut his lead without the use of Michigan. Maybe, she can include Florida; there are a chunk of superdelegates who would give her that, but most will not give her Michigan. So she needs to more than double the projected popular vote totals we've come up with to even start the popular vote conversation.
Later: (WSJ) Donna Brazile: "There's a group around [Sen. Clinton] that really wants to take the fight to the convention. They don't care about the party. It scares me, and that's what scares a lot of superdelegates."
(USAToday) Meanwhile, President Bush set an unwelcome record, scoring the highest disapproval rating — 69% — in the history of the Gallup Poll, which dates to Franklin Roosevelt's tenure. Bush's approval rating is 28%, matching the low point of his presidency.
(WaPo) 8 Questions about the Pa. primary.
(ThePage) Halperin recaps the candidates on the morning shows. (The Clinton camp is pushing "a win is a win," trying to lower expectations, and the Obama camp sounds like it's on the defensive.)
And, From the last set of financial reports, (NYTimes)"Mr. Obama is spending 75 cents for every dollar he is taking in; Mrs. Clinton is spending $1.10."
(Early reports are that Pa turnout is high.)
In the details, she closes the popular vote by a fair bit, 200,000, but not enough to credibly challenge Obama's overall lead.
In the pledged delegates, she comes out +10 or +12, but again, not enough to substantially cut into the overall lead.
The media stories going forward will be mixed. Much more "Clinton can't win" and "Running out of time" tinged with a grudging respect for her wins in Oh and Pa, "Once again, she did what she needed to do." These will be offset by stories asking "Why can't Obama win?"and "damaged candidate" stories referring to Wright and "bitter" and all the rest.
In other words, my guess is that by tomorrow, we'll feel like we're pretty much where we are right now only with no "big states" left.
However, I would think that by Thursday, Friday, and into the weekend, the pressure on Clinton will build, more Obama superdelegates, more stories about Clinton's money situation, more stories on Clinton's impossible math, and polling showing an Obama NC sweep and an Indiana tie.
Just guesses. I've been substantially wrong before.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Picture of the Day - 2
I liked it.
Political bits II
(Later: The Clinton campaign denies this and alleges malfeasance by Drudge.)
(AP) Obama is predicting "close."
The Gallup national tracking. shows a return to the more steady spread of Obama +7 after a convergence following the debate.
More late Pa. polling. PPP Obama +3 (?) and SUSA Clinton +6. (SUSA had Clinton up +14 about a week ago.)
Bloomberg looks at the numerical improbabilities of Clinton winning the popular vote and nomination.
(Politico) Obama has shut out the traveling press corps since April 11.
(FirstRead) Clinton's last ad is a "threat"/readiness ad.
(Ambinder) Clinton's on Olbermann tonight, (after Olbermann blasted her in that editorial,) and I think Obama's on Jon Stewart.
And, I would point out again that the Clinton campaign is effectively broke. So, as you watch the results and spin tomorrow night, keep in mind that she has to somehow raise money to run in NC (Obama) and Indiana (tied) in just two weeks.
Picture of the Day
(Beyond Pennsylvania, how does Clinton go forward into NC and Indiana?)
The WSJ has an interesting piece on the pressure on Dem leadership to end the primary by June. One focus, how a convention fight would damage down ballot races.
(AP) With Obama the likely Dem nominee, what in the hell is John McCain doing trying to court black voters?
The WaPo has an interesting "on the ground" piece from Pa. (First time I've seen a report of open racism, "white volunteers -- were greeted with racial slurs.")
(TPM) Late Pa. polling. (ThePage) Two more late polls.
(Clinton healthy lead.)
(Politico) New voter registrations/switches could make up 10-15% of the Pa. vote with them maybe breaking towards Obama. (These might not be picked up in polling because they don't meet "likely voter" criteria.)
(NYTimes) List of McCain Fund-Raisers Includes Prominent Lobbyists (Kinda undermines that campaign argument, eh?)
(Politico) John McCain will go public financing, "John McCain is abandoning any hope of catching the Democrats in fundraising."
And, (WaPo) thus far, the GOP 527's are in chaos.
Iran departing Sadr?
The most explicit expression I've seen is in this NYTimes story today which paints the Iranian pullback as a function of Sadr's Iraqi nationalism with the Iranians wanting the southern Shia superstate that Sadr rejects.
I don't know if, or to what degree, this is actually going on, (the Iranians may want to keep Sadr on the books as a later lever against the US,) but it is out there in traces, and it would mark a substantial shift in the regional politics.
Yesterday, (AFP) US spokesman in Iraq, Major General Rick Lynch, said the Iranians were still supplying Sadr.
(IRNA) The Iranians want it known that the US is seeking talks with them.
(Reuters) "In a statement on Saturday, Sadr vowed "open war until liberation" if the government refused to end a crackdown on his Mehdi Army fighters in Baghdad and the southern city of Basra."
"Bring em on"
"I know he's sitting in Iran," Rice said dismissively, when asked about al-Sadr's latest threat to lift a self-imposed cease-fire with government and U.S. forces. "I guess it's all-out war for anybody but him," Rice said. "I guess that's the message; his followers can go too their deaths and he's in Iran.".
Oil at $117
And, (Reuters) "The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries sees no need to raise oil production to counter high oil prices, the OPEC President said on Sunday."
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Picture of the Day - 2
(Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton rallies the crowd in the rain as she campaigns in McKeesport, Pa., Saturday, April 19, 2008.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak))
I can't help but get the "You'll never walk alone" flash.
Expectation setting in Pa and other Political bits
Seeking to play down expectations of a big Clinton victory once polls close at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, advisers said they expected a narrow win and said if Obama loses, it would not bode well for a general election if he were the nominee.
"If Sen. Obama is unable to win here with his enormous spending advantage ...
Meanwhile, the Obama camp seems pretty happy with that +10, (ChicagoSun-Times) Obama would call single-digit Pa. loss a victory.
Taking the polling at face value, it would appear that the difference will be less than that +10, however, I would point to the fairly large numbers of undecideds (roughly 10%) in almost all the polling.
Political bits: The New Republic has a very flattering piece on Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, crediting him with the Iowa win, evincing higher delegate counts by working the state maps, and coming out of Super Tuesday well ahead on money.
And, Richard Mellon Scaife's paper in Pittsburgh, the same Scaife that led the impeachment movement and accused Clinton of murdering Vince Foster, endorses Hillary Clinton.
The Pentagon's "hidden hand" behind the military analysts on your TV.
Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”....
Some warned of planned stories or sent the Pentagon copies of their correspondence with network news executives. Many — although certainly not all — faithfully echoed talking points intended to counter critics.
It's way too long to excerpt effectively, but, seriously, read at least the first few pages.
Picture of the Day
A long WaPo front page feature on McCain's angry outbursts, "McCain: A Question of Temperament"
Former senator Bob Smith, a New Hampshire Republican, expresses worries about McCain: "His temper would place this country at risk in international affairs, and the world perhaps in danger. In my mind, it should disqualify him."
(Sen. John McCain speaks to reporters aboard his campaign plane Monday, April 14, 2008. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer))
(NYTimes) Iraqi Army Takes Last Basra Areas From Sadr Force
(CNN) Al Qaeda in Iraq calls for offensive against U.S.
(AFP) Former Pentagon official calls Iraq war "a major debacle"
Clinton's problems with donors and former loyalists
(NYTimes) Facing Obama Fund-Raising Juggernaut, Clinton Seeks New Sources of Cash (An article looking at the Clinton campaign scrambling for cash as their big donors have maxed out.)
(NYTimes) Clintons Sort Friends: Past and Present (Reporting on the array of superdelegates with past ties to the Clinton's who are supporting Obama, or at least not supporting Clinton.)
US commanders seeking to put US troops into Pakistan.
American commanders in Afghanistan have in recent months urged a widening of the war that could include American attacks on indigenous Pakistani militants in the tribal areas inside Pakistan, according to United States officials.
The requests have been rebuffed for now, the officials said,.....
Administration officials say the risk of angering the new government in Pakistan and stirring increased anti-American sentiment in the tribal areas outweighs the benefits of dismantling militant networks in the region.
“It’s certainly something we want to get to, but not yet,” said one Bush administration official. “If you do it now, you can expect to do it without Pakistani approval, and you can expect to do it only once because the Pakistanis will never help us again.”
I think that's a fair assessment.
(The US does appear to be using some special forces inside Pakistan right now, but they are small, clandestine "no fire" or advisory operations.)