OK. I’m Starting To Believe It.

Presidential Elections, Uncategorized, US Elections, US Politics

The other day I clicked to Comedy Central, just to see what was on. Barack Obama’s smiling face filled the screen. The camera panned to show fireworks behind him, then out to show that he was on a porcelain plate. The words “Change Has Come” in scrolly gold letters were lingered on lovingly. Everything was soft-focus and precious.

There were no captions and I squinted at the screen in confusion… was this some sort of Jon Stewart parody? What was going ON?

Eventually it became apparent that despite the insipid-looking white people gazing happily at the plate and the lo-budget schmaltz, this was the real thing. They’re actually selling porcelain plates commemorating Barack Obama’s victory.

This can be YOURS for the low, low price of $19.99!!

This can be YOURS for the low, low price of $19.99!!

There is a whole site set up for selling these plates (and coins!), where you can watch the video (slightly altered from the one I saw — fewer insipid people, more coins).

I remember when I ordered my “ObamaMama” t-shirt, more than a year ago. It’s a very nice t-shirt, as t-shirts go; black with red white and blue lettering and an Obama logo.

I never seemed to make the decision to wear it lightly. I’m relatively new in town and I had serious concerns about whether wearing that t-shirt would close some doors for me.

When I did wear it, the reactions tended to be strong (especially once the primaries got started). I wore it to the Ohio State Fair in July and a young black guy grinned at me and said “I like your t-shirt…!” while a middle-aged white woman glared at me with such heat that I prepared to physically defend myself — she eventually moved on, though.

Residents of Blandville, USA raise a toast to the new president (seen, tinily, on a plate in the background)

Residents of Blandville, USA raise a toast to the new president (seen, tinily, on a plate in the background)

This commercial somehow brought home for me that Barack Obama is not the risky candidate that I started supporting almost three years ago. He’s our President-Elect. Three quarters of Americans think he will be a good president. His face is on tacky porcelain plates, for chrissakes. This is real.

A toast to our President-Elect, Barack Obama.


The Best News I’ve Seen All Year

Presidential Elections, Uncategorized, US Politics

This is from Weather Underground’s forecast for Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008.

Election day.

I was here in Columbus for the election in 2004. It was a miserable, cold, rainy day. Brave (and soggy) souls stood in lines anyway, but the weather depressed turnout. And Bush won Ohio.

It was typical weather for November in Columbus, which makes this all the more wonderful. Sunny, clear, and a high of 72. Seventy-two! Amazing.

This is very, very good news.

It’s not just Columbus, it’s all of Ohio. (Cincinnati’s forecast is identical, Cleveland’s high is 67 rather than 72 — still lovely!) And as Pennsylvania tightens, Ohio’s status as an uber-battleground state is reinforced.

Good weather will help the Obama campaign strategy of deploying “line managers,” too. I recently received an email from the wonderful Valli Frausto, explaining the role of line managers (and inviting me to be one):

Based on the amazing turnout already for Early Vote at Veterans Memorial, the campaign is expecting record-breaking turnout across Franklin County for Election Day! This is great news, but it also means that there will be some long waits for voters at certain polling places. Let’s make those waits feel as short as we can – and keep those voters in line and get them into the polling booth!

How? Line managers!!

On Election Day, the line manager is a critical role inside the Obama campaign.

As a line manager, you will work outside a polling location at an Obama Target precinct. It’s a really fun and totally new way to be a part of our movement for change. Handing out water and hamburgers, rocking out to a local band playing a set, and just talking with folks – it’s a great way to participate and make a tremendous difference while having a great time.

And, because of the work you do, people that would have left without voting actually stay and vote. You personally bank real votes for Barack!

I love the idea. Not sure yet if I can do it. (I’ve been sick and am not sure if I’ll be well enough in time. Hacking and coughing and looking haggard doesn’t seem like a great morale-raiser.)

Like the election prognostications, the weather forecast is subject to change of course. But I’m hopeful.

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Notes From A Battleground State: Crumbslide?

Presidential Elections, Uncategorized, US Politics

The Busken bakery in Ohio has been conducting a “cookie poll” since 1984. They sell cookies festooned with the image of the candidates, and keep a tally of the sales. They’ve called the winner every single time — within 4 percentage points of the final tally!

So how’s it look for Obama?

(Note, the McCain cookie is frowning here — because he’s losing by a 2-1 margin! — but the one for sale is smiling.)

That’s as of Tuesday, October 28th at 10:40 AM. Click here to keep tabs.

Brian Busken, VP of marketing, says, “We’ve never seen a spread like this before in the numbers. I don’t know if there’s going to be a crumbslide or not. … We may still predict the winner, but probably by way too many cookies.”


Chafin’ Update

Presidential Elections, Uncategorized, US Politics

Sarah Palin’s chafin’ all right.

On Tuesday I wrote that I thought she was “frustrated that her big debut is being stepped on by the wrinkly old white-haired dude and his ineffectual group of cronies,” and asked whether Palin would “break free from her handlers in ways large and small, and try to further her own career — even if that means doing direct damage to John McCain’s chances in these last two weeks before election day?”

Look what Ben Smith of Politico is reporting today:

Four Republicans close to Palin said she has decided increasingly to disregard the advice of the former Bush aides tasked to handle her, creating occasionally tense situations as she travels the country with them. Those Palin supporters, inside the campaign and out, said Palin blames her handlers for a botched rollout and a tarnished public image — even as others in McCain’s camp blame the pick of the relatively inexperienced Alaska governor, and her public performance, for McCain’s decline.

“She’s lost confidence in most of the people on the plane,” said a senior Republican who speaks to Palin, referring to her campaign jet. He said Palin had begun to “go rogue” in some of her public pronouncements and decisions.

“I think she’d like to go more rogue,” he said.

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If you eat the cake, you can’t have it no more…

Presidential Elections, US Politics

Today, the folks at First Read write:

*** The Colin Powell floodgates: Three semi-notable Republicans came out for Obama yesterday, including two former very-moderate Republican governors: Arne Carlson of Minnesota and Bill Weld of Massachusetts. Neither is that surprising to those that know the politics of the two ex-governors, but to a layman’s eyes, it’s not good news for McCain. What is striking here is that these endorsements underscore how McCain somehow lost his moderate identity — even among Republicans who seem to know him well. Seriously, these are the type of Republicans the McCain of 2000 would have counted on as his base. How did McCain end up being the nominee that was overly focused on wooing the base? How did he lose this middle-of-the-road mojo? Forget the Bush issue and the economy; McCain’s inability to keep his moderate identity might be the biggest mistake bungle of the campaign.

I agree that this is a central problem with the McCain campaign. McCain got the nomination in part because he was able to convince two very different groups — the religious conservatives and the moderates — that he was their guy. The moderates had loved him since 2000, and were happy to finally have a chance to brush past the Bush machine and get McCain elected. The religious conservatives were skeptical but they didn’t have that many options — there was a deep distrust of the Mormon Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee didn’t seem to be a serious contender (though I think it’s significant that he received as many votes as he did). Divorced, cross-dressing, gay-friendly Rudolph Giuliani of New York City was an even worse choice for this group than McCain.

So they were brought along, grudgingly. And the grudge showed.

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Notes From a Battleground State: On the Ground

Presidential Elections, US Politics
Volunteers outside of the OSU Obama campaign office

Volunteers outside of the OSU Obama campaign office

I volunteer for the Obama campaign here in Columbus, Ohio. I have been for a while and have watched the ranks of volunteers swell and swell. These days the mood is probably best summarized as “nose to the grindstone” — people are optimistic and somewhat hopeful, but everyone I’ve come in contact with seems allergic to taking anything for granted. And everyone is working their butts off.

I’m deaf so I don’t do the two biggest volunteer jobs — phone banks and canvassing. That works out well because while I’m more than happy to answer questions or debate someone who’s being obnoxious, I really dislike any sort of salesmanship, getting into people’s private space (whether knocking on doors or making calls) to convince them of something. I know this is the bedrock of a successful campaign operation, though, so I thank and admire the people who do this with sensitivity and aplomb — and I’ve met a lot of those people.

Inside of OSU Obama office

Inside of OSU Obama office

What I do instead is various odds and ends. I took my (cheap, digital, low-quality) camera with me on Tuesday and snapped some photos as I made my rounds.

First, I bought a bunch of supplies that had been requested by the campus Obama office and dropped them off. These ranged from chalk and cheap hairspray (a major “chalking” operation was taking place on campus that day as various artists drew on streets and sidewalks encouraging people to vote for Obama) to handsoap and dishsoap.

The OSU office was a cheerful, chaotic place. I received much gratitude for the bags of goodies I’d brought. There were posters and stickers and fliers everywhere on the walls, and food and drink and stacks of paper everywhere on the tables, but the overall sense was of pleasant industry.

Prominently displayed were the office’s goals:

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Politics, Presidential Elections, Uncategorized, US Elections, US Politics
Getty Images Photo

Getty Images Photo

A couple of weeks ago, in a post about how the McCain campaign was sequestering Sarah Palin from the media, I wondered, “Is there a point at which she will finally chafe at the treatment she is getting from the campaign?

She’s chafin’.

The New York Times today:

COLORADO SPRINGS — These days, Gov. Sarah Palin seems like a candidate trying to wriggle free of her handlers.

On Sunday night, she twice took questions from reporters, the first time on an airport tarmac without her press staff’s knowledge.

After landing in Colorado Springs late Sunday, Ms. Palin marched over to a local television crew and began answering questions on camera, sending the traveling press corps sprinting in pursuit, and her press staff scrambling.

“Get Tracey,” one campaign aide barked into his headset, calling for Tracey Schmitt, Ms. Palin’s ever-watchful spokeswoman, who rushed over to supervise the impromptu news conference. (Ms. Schmitt, looking distressed, tried several times to cut it off with a terse “Thank you!” in between questions, to no avail.)

I think something interesting is happening here, that will perhaps have a bearing on whether the McCain campaign can pull significantly closer to Obama in these last two weeks of the campaign. I think that Sarah Palin considers her running mate to be a loser, and that if she were at the top of the ticket (and making the decisions), she’d be winning.

In my previous post on this subject, I noted that Palin was upset that the McCain campaign decided to pull out of Michigan. Yesterday I noticed this (also quoted in the New York Times article):

On Sunday night, she criticized the Republican National Committee’s use of robocalls.

“If I called all the shots, and if I could wave a magic wand,” Ms. Palin said, “I would be sitting at a kitchen table with more and more Americans, talking to them about our plan to get the economy back on track and winning the war, and not having to rely on the old conventional ways of campaigning that includes those robocalls, and includes spending so much money on the television ads that, I think, is kind of draining out there in terms of Americans’ attention span.”

“If I called all the shots…”

I think Palin’s frustrated that her big debut is being stepped on by the wrinkly old white-haired dude and his ineffectual group of cronies. She considers herself the star — and why wouldn’t she? There have been widespread reports of people leaving McCain/ Palin events when she’s done and the supposed headliner takes the mic. I think she has abundant self-regard and is pleased but isn’t particularly surprised at the adoration she receives at rallies.

Yet the wrinkly old white-haired dude and his cronies tell her to keep reading from the teleprompter with maximum spirit (“we’ve got spirit, yes we do!”) and otherwise stay in the background while they take care of the real business of winning an election.

If that possibility seems less and less likely — if Palin sees her chance of becoming vice president fade — will she become more of a free agent? Break free from her handlers in ways large and small, and try to further her own career — even if that means doing direct damage to John McCain’s chances in these last two weeks before election day?


Finally! A Political Wife Says “Sayonara…”

Congressional Elections, US culture, US Politics

This can be filed under “Well, that’s not really a surprise” category.

Terry Mahoney, wife of Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-Fla.) has filed for divorce, according to the Palm Beach Post. — Politico

Silda and Eliot Spitzer on a Very Bad Day.  Nonetheless, they just celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary.

Silda and Eliot Spitzer on a Very Bad Day. Nonetheless, they just celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary.

You’d certainly THINK it wouldn’t be a surprise. But actually, this is one of the very few incidences I can remember when the aggrieved wife sent the no-goodnik packing.

Hillary Clinton? Nope. Silda Spitzer? Nope. Suzanne Craig? Nope. And on and on and on — Joe lists some of the others here.

They have their horrible press conferences where they stand to the side and look miserable and humiliated (is this really necessary? can’t the guy just apologize on his own?) and yet they STAY. Why?

Thats Terry under Tims armpit.  Surprisingly hard to find a photo of her -- every one Ive found has Tim front and center and then shes off in a corner somewhere.  Foreshadowing, anyone?

That's Terry under Tim's armpit. Surprisingly hard to find a photo of her -- every one I've found has Tim front and center and then she's blurrily off in a corner somewhere. Foreshadowing, anyone?

Maybe the wives of politicians have already resigned themselves to the possibility of their husbands fooling around — certainly seems to be an occupational hazard. Maybe the kind of people who would put up with a politician husband at all are the ones who are especially attached to the perks — and especially averse to losing those perks by divorcing. Maybe politicians are better than other people at convincing their wives to stick around once they mess up — all that public speaking helps, ya know? (Unless of course they don’t want to stay married, like Rudy — then they convey the news in a press conference.) Maybe it’s not actually that unique to political couples — maybe it just seems that way, but in fact these couples stay together after misbehavior at about the same rate as non-political couples.

Who knows.

It’s awfully refreshing to see someone finally refuse to play the game, though. Good luck, Terry.

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As Tough As He Needs to Be

Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics
Barack Obama playfully confronts John McCain on the Senate floor, 2006

Barack Obama playfully confronts John McCain on the Senate floor, 2006

David Brooks finally brought himself to write a mostly admiring column about Barack Obama today. But the kind words led to a rather unkind conclusion — that Obama’s vaunted cool might ill-serve him as president:

Of course, it’s also easy to imagine a scenario in which he is not an island of rationality in a sea of tumult, but simply an island. New presidents are often amazed by how much they are disobeyed, by how often passive-aggressiveness frustrates their plans.

It could be that Obama will be an observer, not a leader. Rather than throwing himself passionately into his causes, he will stand back. Congressional leaders, put off by his supposed intellectual superiority, will just go their own way. Lost in his own nuance, he will be passive and ineffectual. Lack of passion will produce lack of courage. The Obama greatness will give way to the Obama anti-climax.

I just don’t see this. I have been arguing with people about Obama’s toughness for a very long time, and what I keep seeing from him is that he is as tough and confrontational as he feels is necessary, and doesn’t go beyond that.

He’s perfectly willing to be confrontational when he feels that confrontation is warranted, though. (Or to paraphrase one of his first famous lines, he’s not against all fights, just dumb fights…)

The photo above is from a confrontation Obama had with McCain in 2006. They were sitting on an ethics committee together and a “poison pen” episode led to tension and acrimony. (Basically, McCain erupted at Obama for no good reason.) The Washington Post reported the denouement:

Obama and McCain part deux

Obama and McCain part deux

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama appeared to make up yesterday after their unusual public poison-pen exchange (McCain accusing Obama of “partisan posturing” and “disingenuousness”; Obama expressing hurt that McCain “questioned my sincerity”) over lobbying reform.

As Obama entered the crowded Senate Rules Committee hearing room, he playfully brandished a fist while putting an arm around the seated McCain. Awwwwww! Many pictures were snapped. “I value his input,” McCain told the panel. Said Obama: “I’m particularly pleased to be sharing this panel with my pen pal John McCain.”

More recently, after Joe Lieberman went on a particularly strident run of campaigning for McCain, including (immediately before this encounter) participating in a McCain campaign conference call eviscerating Obama’s performance at AIPAC, Obama approached him on the Senate floor:

Roll Call reports that during a Senate vote today, Sen. Barack Obama “dragged” Sen. Joe Lieberman “by the hand to a far corner of the Senate chamber and engaged in what appeared to reporters in the gallery as an intense, three-minute conversation.”

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I Fought A Smear!


A friend of mine just sent me a scurrilous email she’d gotten about Barack Obama, and asked me whether I had a response to the allegations in it. I did, but I knew it’d take a while — I’d have to get cites together, etc. I told her that I’d try to get to it tomorrow, and thanked her for sending it to me!

Meanwhile, I went ahead and forwarded it to the address given at the “Fight The Smears” website. Figured I’d do my little bit of reportage before getting down to the nitty-gritty.

Five minutes later — literally five minutes later — I received a response from the Obama campaign, addressing in great detail the specific allegations made in the email.  I won’t quote the whole thing but the Snopes rebuttal (one of several links in the email) is here.

I’m sure that the the email I received from the Obama campaign wasn’t, like, composed on the spot, but the speed with which the specific smear was identified and the corrective was sent out still astounds me.

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I Heart the Bradley Effect

Presidential Elections, Uncategorized, US Elections
Tom Bradley greeting supporters, 1973

Tom Bradley greeting supporters, 1973

I have long been skeptical of whether the Bradley Effect is something that continues to be a problem for black politicians. Deval Patrick‘s 2006 gubernatorial campaign and Barack Obama’s 2004 senatorial campaign and 2008 primary campaign, among other examples, all seemed to show that whatever validity the Bradley Effect might have had, its power has faded.

This article from someone who was there argues that the Bradley Effect was never actually a legitimate phenomenon. While that may or may not be true, this post by Nate Silver collects some of the latest studies showing the disappearance or dissipation of the Bradley Effect, and speculates as to why things may have changed.

However — if people believe the Bradley effect is a legitimate concern, it leads to emails like this!

Dear MoveOn member,

Obama’s now ahead in most polls. That’s great, but there’s just one problem: the polls could be wrong.

This is an unprecedented election. No one knows how racism may affect what voters tell pollsters—or what they’ll do in the privacy of the voting booth. And there are plenty of other unknowns.

We can’t afford to take any chances with the most important election of our lifetimes. Whatever the polls say, we all need to get out, talk to voters, and make sure every single Obama supporter makes it to the polls.

The Obama campaign in Columbus needs more volunteers this week for a big voter-outreach effort. Click here to sign up:

And THAT is fabulous news. If there is one thing I’m worried about in the run-up to the election it’s complacency. I worry about a premature coronation, and the backlash that would result. If everyone takes a chill pill and says “well, the polls look good, but I dunno if I trust the polls,” and continues to work hard and take nothing for granted… great.


Annals of Cool Campaign Gadgetry

Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics
Screenshot from BarackObama.com

Screenshot from BarackObama.com

Barack Obama has a new tax calculator on his website.

Marc Ambinder expects the McCain campaign to complain about the methodology — nothing yet though. Meanwhile, it’s a lovely and straightforward illustration of something a whole lot of voters are curious about. Will Obama tax ’em to death? Will Obama tax them more or less than McCain?

In my case, when I plugged in the numbers I got a result that showed a savings of almost $2000 under Obama’s tax plan — vs. a savings of $60 under McCain’s plan.

Powerful stuff. While the news that Obama has been inserting his campaign ads into video games has been all over the place today and I think that’s very cool, very campaign 2.0, I think this is the more effective use of technology. Provide tools to give voters the kind of information they really want.

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