Monday, January 21, 2008

Obama Faces White Resistance In South, Polls Show

Columbia, S.C. -- Barack Obama is heading into the January 26 South Carolina Democratic primary powered by a solid lead in each of the most recent 11 polls taken here, with African American voters and a slice of the white electorate set to put him over the top next Saturday.

While Obama is expected to pick up one out of five white Democratic primary voters, his margin among such voters in this deep Southern state lags from three to fourteen percentage points behind his support among whites nationally, depending on the survey. This lag, which appears at present to hold across the entire South, challenges one of the central claims of the Obama campaign: that he is a more viable general election candidate than Hillary Clinton.

Additional poll data from Mason-Dixon and SurveyUSA studies also produce findings which run counter to the hopes and expectations of many of Obama's supporters here in South Carolina.

"Many of us remember Martin Luther King's impassioned speech calling for the day when his daughter would be judged on content of her character and not on her color," said former state Democratic chairman Dick Harpootlian earlier this week. "We think that day is here, Barack Obama is that person."

Similarly, former Democratic Governor Jim Hodges said on January 17, "I've got to tell you that as a white Southerner, it gives me an immense amount of pride to see an African American who could really win the presidency. It would do great things for race relations in the country."

Another former Democratic chair, Joe Erwin, said on January 16 that Obama's campaign "will help us to grow again in this state and across the South. To me, it speaks volumes about what this country can be and should be about race relations. Because of the history of race in this country and in this state where we had more of our share of problems, it can bridge and create a new spirit for people of all races."

If, as a number of Democratic strategists argue, the party were to write off the states of the deep South and limit efforts in the region to Florida and perhaps some states on the periphery such as Arkansas and Tennessee, Obama's apparent difficulties with white Democrats -- ranging from slight to very substantial -- would not be a significant factor in the general election. Instead, his strength with independent whites outside the South could prove to be a more important matter in assessing his viability in November.

There are a number of signals pointing to difficulties for Obama in the South.

In national surveys of white voters, conducted by television networks and newspapers, Obama has generally run ahead of John Edwards and behind Hillary Clinton. In the South, however, Edwards has run consistently ahead of Obama among whites.

Confirming Obama's relative vulnerability in the South is MIT political scientist Stephen Ansolabehere, one of the nation's leading experts on public opinion surveys who has helped coordinate a huge academically-based data collection program, the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey, including 10,000 interviews conducted in December. He found that "Obama comes in third among the white southern Democrats. Clinton gets 36 percent, Edwards 24 percent and Obama 17 percent." This amounts to a 19 point spread between Clinton and Obama, and a significant 7 point spread between Edwards and Obama.

Reflecting Ansolabehere's data, a January 14-16 Mason Dixon survey (pdf) published in The State newspaper in Columbia of 400 likely voters in the South Carolina Democratic primary found that among whites, Hillary Clinton had the support of 39 percent of respondents, John Edwards 28 and Obama 20 -- a 19 point spread between Clinton and Obama.

Obama's decisive South Carolina lead among African American Democrats in the Mason-Dixon poll -- 56 percent to Clinton's 25 and Edwards' 2 -- more than made up for the Illinois senator's white vote deficit, putting him ahead among all voters, 40 percent to Clinton's 31 and Edwards' 13.

Columbia political scientist and statistician Robert Erikson pointed out that a recent SurveyUSA poll conducted for South Carolina television stations showed that "as a group, only one in five [white South Carolina Democrats] supports Obama."

The SurveyUSA Poll conducted January 16-17 gave Obama a 10-point lead overall, but showed Obama winning only 22 percent of whites, compared to 50 percent for Clinton (a 28 point spread), and 26 percent for Edwards. Obama held a landslide margin among black voters, 74 percent, to Clinton's 20 and Edwards' 3.

Most politicians and many political analysts contend that even though the South is more conservative and more Republican than the rest of the country, Southern white Democrats are not much different from white Democrats everywhere else.

The poll numbers here in South Carolina challenge that assessment.

While white Democrats in South Carolina give Obama a level of support in the low twenties, a national ABC News/Washington Post survey released January 14 found that among white Democratic voters across the country; Obama does much better than among white southern Democrats.

The ABC/Post poll showed 33 percent of white Democrats backing Obama nationally, with 41 percent supporting Clinton and 14 percent in Edwards' corner. Nationally, there was only an 8 point spread between Clinton and Obama. Obama did less well among white voters nationally in a CBS poll released January 13, winning 24 percent to Clinton's 42 percent and Edwards' 13 percent. But he still beat Edwards by a solid 11 points.

In his analysis of Southern white Democratic poll data, Ansolabehere found:

*One of Obama's weakest levels of white support is among Democratic union members in the South: "That is Edwards' base. 50 percent of [Southern white] union members supported Edwards, 19 percent supported Clinton, and 12 percent supported Obama."

*"Clinton draws substantial support among those with high school or less education," Ansolabehere said. She had the support of 44 percent of these voters, and 31 percent of those with college degrees. Obama had the reverse pattern. Just 12 percent with a high school degree or less backed him, compared to 22 percent of those who had completed college.

*The strongest levels of white Southern support for Obama were among well-educated liberals, especially those who are not regular church-goers. Obama got 25 percent of liberal southern whites, and 12 percent of moderates.

Ansolabehere's conclusions were generally supported by the seat-of-the-pants analyses from political strategists and other political scientists.

Donna Brazile, who ran the 2000 Gore campaign, said "my sense is that it [white southern support for Obama] is independents, college students, high income, highly educated and urban whites who often back strong Black reform candidates for mayor and congressional offices."

Similarly, University of Maryland political scientist Tom Schaller said Obama is most likely to find white southern support among the "upper income, for one. Transplanted, perhaps, number two. And [in] university towns."

Rice University political scientist Earl Black said "college-educated white men, especially those with good incomes, should be more supportive than white men with modest education and/or income. Younger white Democrats (male and female) should be more supportive of Obama than older white Democrats (male and female)."

In a more cautious assessment, Gary Jacobson of the University of California-San Diego, an expert in election analysis, said, "My crystal ball is too cloudy . . . I hesitate to make any prediction at all after watching the polls bounce around so much this season."

More in Politics...

Hillary Leaves South Carolina To

read more | digg story

Noam Chomsky : Does public opinion count?

read more | digg story

Diebold disparities appear in NH recount


Why is it so few people pay attention to the big things? BradBlog’s Brad Friedman is one of the astute few journalists who have been pressing the issue on electronic voting. But, as the New Hampshire recounts roll in, the rest of the media has been shamefully silent, although WMUR9 New Hampshire spewed some false logic telling the public that essentially no errors took place. But, significant errors did happen.

In Hillsborough County, Clinton gained 675 votes – a jump of more than 2 percent. Time will tell if more errors are forthcoming. There were also bizarre but credible reports of eight-inch slits cut into the sides of some ballot boxes, and several other (surely frivolous) things like resealable ballot-box seals – it’s all part of the fun at Black Box Voting’s chain of custody investigation.

The officially sanctified recount numbers might be hard to come by unless you take the activists’ word for it. The media isn’t reporting anything. And the official Web page for the recount seems to be having technical difficulties. (Say, “Oh, well!” now.) Here is a incomplete screenshot (19 Jan 2008 02:04:48 GMT) of the current Google cache of the recount page .

To me, this all proves the media is the lynchpin of the whole big scam. By ignoring the efforts of concerned people, pigeonholing them as batty leftist radicals, they turn truth into mistruth and lies into fact. The main message is: “Some activists got angry, but there was nothing wrong with the vote. Go back to your homes, people.”

[Posted By Beagle17]
By Brad Friedman
Republished from BradBlog
Recount variations consistently favoring establishment candidates

As mentioned last night in this disturbing article, the early results of the hand counts of one Diebold precinct in Dennis Kucinich’s election contest in New Hampshire are now being posted, as they come in, at this New Hampshire SoS page.

As mentioned earlier today, NH SoS Bill Gardner told WMUR in NH that “We did nine of the 12 wards in Manchester, and a lot of the votes were exactly the same…Some went up by a vote or two.” He didn’t, of course, note that a lot of the vote counts (most of them) were off by 5 or more.

And now, the rest of the numbers from the rest of the Manchester wards are coming on. And get a load of Ward 5:

Diebold Result : Hand Count
CLINTON 683 : 619
EDWARDS 255 : 217
OBAMA 404 : 365

All of the other candidates seem to have lost votes as well. No clue who received them instead…

[end excerpt]

read more | digg story

Mike Huckabee on Federal Raids for Medical Marijuana

read more | digg story

Just One More Year! Good Riddance to George W Bush

But what kind of mess will the next president inherit, exactly 12 months from today? By Rupert Cornwell in Washington

Arabia is the land of illusion and desert mirages. And as he jetted last week from kingdom to sheikdom, to be regaled with feasts and falcons, jewels and ornamental swords, George Bush might have imagined that all was well with his presidency. But this, his longest and most ambitious trip to the Middle East, will surely be remembered – if it is remembered at all – as a gaudy, irrelevant footnote to a presidency that has long since failed.

Today is a sombre milestone, marking the start of the last of Mr Bush's eight years in the White House. This being a leap year, exactly 366 days remain until 20 January 2009, when his successor will be sworn into office. It is a time when incumbents look to their legacies. And for this President the view could scarcely be bleaker.

Is he the worst President in US history? Mr Bush faces stiff competition from the likes of James Buchanan, who watched as America slipped towards civil war, or Warren Harding with his corrupt administration, or Herbert Hoover, who failed to halt the slide into the Great Depression, or, more recently, Richard Nixon, the only President to be forced to resign. But in terms of dogmatism, incompetence, ignorance and divisiveness, Mr Bush surely compares with any of the above.

His first, albeit far from most important, bequest is seemingly inevitable defeat for his own party in November, ending almost 30 years of Republican dominance since Ronald Reagan took power. As David Frum, a one-time Bush speech-writer, put it the other day: "I fear the Republicans are heading to an epochal defeat, 1980 in reverse. Every gain we have made since then has been wiped out since 2002."

That, it should be noted, is a Republican speaking. But Frum's evidence is overwhelming, from the President's consistently abysmal approval rating, to the 70 per cent of the population who believe the country is "on the wrong track" (a level not seen in two decades, and that before all-but-certain recession began to bite), to the 51 per cent of Americans who identify themselves as Democrats. By contrast, just 36 per cent of Americans call themselves Republicans – the widest such margin in two decades. Even on the Republicans' signature issue of national security, Democrats are at level pegging. All other things being equal, it is hard to see them losing in November.

In politics, of course, all other things are not equal. The chances of Bush ordering military strikes on Iran may have receded, after last month's report by the US intelligence community that Tehran halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003. But some other foreign calamity, a lethal domestic terrorist attack or even a scandal could reshuffle the electoral cards.

Pace the result of last night's primary in South Carolina, the Republican with the best shot at victory is John McCain, the veteran Arizona Senator and a candidate with genuine appeal to independent and centrist voters. He has a chance precisely because he doesn't come across as a standard-issue Republican. But if elected, even he will have to set about cleansing a political version of the Augean stables.

In Greek mythology, Hercules washed away that mess by re-routing the rivers Alpheus and Peneus. Whoever takes the oath of office next 20 January will face a similar task in repairing America, both at home and in the eyes of the world. By almost every yardstick, the country is in a worse state than seven years ago – a state virtually unimaginable when the new century dawned.

Mr Bush cannot be blamed for some of the difficulties. On illegal immigration, among the biggest concerns to voters, the reform he proposed, offering a legal path to citizenship, was sensible. Alas, by 2007 he was too weak to push it through.

Much the same goes for the economy. Presidents are the first to claim responsibility for the good times, but in fact have little power to influence events. The recession that now looms is not his fault; if anyone is responsible, it is the once-lionised former Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, and the central bank's over-lax policies in the aftermath of 9/11. The accelerating downturn also proves how, contrary to assertions, the business cycle has not been abolished by the wizardries of hi-tech econometrics.

That said, the Bush era leaves its own nasty odour. Corporate cronyism has been rife. Globalisation and cuts driven by ideology have turned the wealth gap between rich Americans and the rest from an embarrassment into an obscenity. Since 2001 the real income of ordinary Americans has stagnated.

And the mind-boggling losses suffered by such pillars of the financial establishment as Merrill Lynch and Citibank, followed by humiliating foreign bail-outs, suggest something is fundamentally amiss with capitalism, American-style. Like Enron and WorldCom, these colossal financial shipwrecks will forever be associated with Bush's tenure.

A cartoon last week in The Washington Post caught the mood of laissez-faire drift. "Anything interesting happen while I was gone?" asks a voice from Air Force One as the President's plane flies over Manhattan on the way back from the Middle East. Below, a giant sign dangles from the skyscrapers of America's financial capital: "USA – Now a Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Foreign Investors".

Of even more immediate concern will be the surge in inequality that affronts America's inherent sense of fairness. Nowhere is this more evident than in healthcare. As Mr Bush has fiddled, the sickness of the existing system, which leaves a sixth of the population without coverage while consuming a similar share of the country's entire GDP, has become near terminal.

Even more corrosive has been the damage inflicted on the US system of governance. This President may have blithely ignored mainstream science, pretended global warming was not happening and only belatedly grasped the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. In one domestic activity, however, Bush has not tarried: that of perverting and undermining the constitution in the name of expanding the President's power to fight his "war on terror".

To that end, what everyone else considers torture has been sanctioned, the basic legal right of habeas corpus has been denied to designated "foreign fighters", illicit eavesdropping on US citizens has been authorised and fear-mongering has been turned into a political strategy. Somehow, the next President must restore Americans' faith in their own institutions.

In foreign affairs, the story is the same. The Iraq invasion may not be the greatest foreign policy blunder in US history. But it is among the greatest, utterly discrediting the country's intelligence services, hugely straining relations with key allies, handing a massive strategic victory to Iran and stretching the country's military close to breaking point.

Belatedly, the President has learned the virtues of diplomacy, and his troop surge has at least reduced the violence in Iraq. Even so, he has bequeathed a no-win dilemma to his successor. It is too late for victory. His successor must decide how to withdraw US forces without plunging the region into new chaos.

In the meantime, familiar issues such as the Israeli-Arab conflict have festered amid years of neglect, which this one trip to the region will not expunge. Soaring Bush promises of a democratic Middle East now sound like a bad joke, as Washington again embraces the ruthless autocracies it knows. US policy in Pakistan is in ruins, Osama bin Laden is still at large and the Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan. Not only has America lost confidence in itself, but a great tide of anti-Americanism washes across the Muslim world.

And that may be the greatest challenge of all facing a President Obama, Clinton, McCain or Romney. America, as Bush never tires of insisting, must lead. But it must lead by example, not just by military force. Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, secret CIA camps, waterboarding and "extraordinary rendition" have all combined to give the lie to the US as champion of human rights.

The new occupant of the Oval Office can but hope today's dislike for America is directed at a leader, not at a country. That may well be, but one thing is for sure. Never again will the US occupy that extraordinary position of supremacy – military, moral and economic – that it held in the interlude between the demise of Communism and the attacks of September 2001.

To the 44th President falls the task of explaining that truth to the country, as well as dealing with the concrete day-to-day problems left by George Bush. Indeed, one wonders, why would anyone want the job?

read more | digg story

1 in 5 soldiers returning from Iraq with brain injuries

On The Chris Matthews show, Richard Stengel, the managing editor of TIME gives us a chilling new report that the Pentagon is releasing about the serious head injuries our troops are sustaining in Iraq.

video_wmv Download (1027) | Play (1065) video_wmv Download (847) | Play (506)

Stengel: When we got into the Iraq war we didn’t know how long it would last. When we got into the Iraq war we didn’t know how much it would cost. It’s lasted longer, it’s cost more than we ever expected. The real toll is coming out now. The Pentagon is releasing a report saying, one in five American serviceman and women who have been in Iraq are coming back with brain injuries. Mild, traumatic brain injuries. More than 250,000 people. That legacy of that will last all of our life times and it’s incalculable.

It is incalculable and unforgivable, but it would appear that Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney still sleep very well at night. Does Stengel really believe all the spin that BushCo. fed the public and the media before we attacked Iraq? I believe Cheney told us on Meet the Press that it wouldn’t be very long at all and we’d be greeted as liberators. Andrew Natsios told us it would cost US taxpayers about 1.7 billion for reconstruction that was later scrubbed from the WH website. …I believe we were told that it wouldn’t cost all that much and Wolfowitz told us that Iraqi oil would pay for it anyway.

Enlisting countries to help to pay for this war and its aftermath would take more time, he said. “I expect we will get a lot of mitigation, but it will be easier after the fact than before the fact,” Mr. Wolfowitz said. Mr. Wolfowitz spent much of the hearing knocking down published estimates of the costs of war and rebuilding, saying the upper range of $95 billion was too high, and that the estimates were almost meaningless because of the variables. Moreover, he said such estimates, and speculation that postwar reconstruction costs could climb even higher, ignored the fact that Iraq is a wealthy country, with annual oil exports worth $15 billion to $20 billion. “To assume we’re going to pay for it all is just wrong,” he said. (h/t Heather)

read more | digg story

E-mails missing from day WH was told to preserve leak docs

New report shows archives gone on several key days in Plame investigation

Among the sixteen days for which email are missing from Vice President Cheney's office is Sept. 30, 2003, the same day the day the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced they were investigating who outed former CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson.

That morning, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales ordered the president and the vice president's staff to "preserve all materials that might be relevant" to an inchoate Justice Department probe.

"We were informed last evening by the Department of Justice that it has opened an investigation into possible unauthorized disclosures concerning the identity of an undercover CIA employee," Gonzales wrote in a terse Sep. 30, 2003 email. "The Department advised us that it will be sending a letter today instructing us to preserve all materials that might be relevant to its investigation. Its letter will provide more specific instructions on the materials in which it is interested, and we will communicate those instructions directly to you. In the meantime, you must preserve all materials that might in any way be related to the Department's investigation."

The analysis was released over the weekend by Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW), a D.C.-based ethics watchdog.

The White House said in a court filing last week that backup tapes, which contained archived copies of the e-mails, were recycled as part of a policy the White House had in place until October 2003.

Special Prosecutor and Chicago US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald convicted Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby of obstructing justice and lying to investigators last year. Fitzgerald noted in a January 2006 letter that some of the White House's emails had not been archived.

Emails gone on day Bush said he'd 'take care of' leaker

Ironically, Cheney's office is missing emails from the very day President Bush told reporters he'd "take care of" whatever staff member had actually leaked the CIA agent's name.

"If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is," Bush said Sept. 30, 2003. "And if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of."

The day before, then-White House press secretary Scott McClellan had said there was "nothing, absolutely nothing" to suggest any White House involvement.

"And that includes the vice president's office, as well," McClellan added.

Much remains to be learned about what happened to White House e-mails on 473 days for which they seem to have disappeared. A lawsuit brought by CREW and the National Security Archive and planned hearings from the House Oversight Committee are trying to find out just how much of the historical record of the Bush administration ended up in the White House recycling bin.

Cheney's office also is missing e-mails from Oct. 4, 2003, when the Justice Department demanded that the White House turn over "all documents that relate in any way" to the leak of Plame's identity. E-mails are also missing for the following day, during which the probe intensified and CIA director George Tenet found himself at the center of it, "caught between his loyalty to the president and defending an agency enraged" at Plame's exposure, according to the New York Times.

As Fitzgerald's probe continued over the next few years, emails continued to disappear, CREW says. More e-mails were missing from Cheney's office on Feb. 16, 2005, when a court ordered reporters who had discussed Plame's identity with administration officials to testify about those conversations.

All in all, some 473 days of emails are missing from various Administration departments, according to a House Democrat who saw a White House presentation on the files.

read more | digg story