Saturday, October 25, 2008

Obama Winning Georgia? How He Could Pull Off An Upset

A new InsiderAdvantage/Poll Position survey shows the remarkable: Barack Obama could very well win the deep-red state of Georgia.

The Illinois Democrat, according to the poll, has a slight edge over John McCain -- by a margin of 48 percent to 47 percent. The findings represent an outlier from other public opinion surveys, though Democracy Corps had the race extremely tight just a few days ago. The attention they are garnering is driven as much by the novelty as by a sincere belief that Obama could pull off the upset.

But from a strictly numerical standpoint, political observers shouldn't be all that shocked if the Democrats flips the Peach State. The data certainly lines up in Obama's favor.

The population in Georgia, according to the 2005 U.S. Census estimate, breaks down roughly as follows: 61.5 percent white, 30 percent African-American, and 6.5 percent Hispanic.

But the political map has, traditionally, been different. In 2004, the Georgia voting public consisted of roughly 3,280,000 individuals who broke down as follows: 70 percent white, 25 percent African-American, and 4 percent Hispanic.

Those dynamics led to a fairly easy victory for George W. Bush. The president took 76 percent of the white vote, 12 percent of the black vote, and 56 percent of the Hispanic vote en route to winning the state by a margin of 58 percent to 41 percent.

Flash forward four years and every change in Georgia's demographics appears to be favoring Obama. The Hispanic vote, which is growing in the state, is trending his way. The white vote is still predominantly Republican, but McCain's trouble with the base suggests he won't match the success that Bush enjoyed. And African-Americans are expected to go to the polls in record numbers.

So what does this mean in practical political terms? A Democratic friend does the math:

The big question is not if African-Americans' share of the electorate will increase, but by how much and what that will do to the share of the electorate made up by whites. The potential electorate could look as follows.
Whites: 64 percent African Americans: 31 percent Hispanics: 5 percent

Let's say McCain gets 71% of the white vote, Obama 26%, and [Third Party candidate] Bob Barr 3%, which is reasonable and perhaps a bit cautious on Obama's and Barr's shares. Then there is the Hispanic vote, which favored Bush in 2004 but nearly everyone has now given Obama roughly 2-1. Meanwhile, let's put Obama's support among African-Americans at 95%, which I think is reasonable.

The end result -- if one assumes the same number of voters that showed up four years ago (3,280,000) come to the polls next week -- would be as follows:

Obama would end up with 49.39 percent of the vote (approximately 1,610,000 votes) McCain would end up with 48.64 percent of the vote (approximately 1,590,050 votes)
This is, to be sure, the most optimistic scenario that Democrats can imagine. Matt Bocian of Democracy Corps says that in all likelihood, the African-American vote will hover somewhere between 26 and 27 percent, even with record turnout. One must consider that a portion of that group isn't of age to vote. And without an accompanying drop in McCain's support among whites, Obama could fall short of the upset.

Still, Georgia should be a state to watch on November 4th. Throughout the Democratic primary, pollsters consistently underestimated Obama's tallies in southern states, despite pegging Hillary Clinton's numbers accurately. In Georgia, for example, Obama's support jumped from 50 percent in early February to 66 percent when the vote took place, while Hillary Clinton stayed roughly at 30 percent.

In addition, the Obama campaign has done absolute yeomen's work in reaching out to and registering African-American voters. More than 400,000 newly registered voters were reported between January 1st and September 30th, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution; 164,859 of those voters are African-American, 176,570 are white.

If African-Americans can defy pollster expectations and go to the polls at a level approaching 30 percent while McCain's support among white voters hovers around 70 percent, it could portends a very close election in Georgia and, potentially, an Obama win.

Original here

Blame game: GOP forms circular firing squad

By & &

John McCain speaks in Florida.

John McCain speaks in Florida on Thursday, with his wife, Cindy, by his side.
Photo: AP

With despair rising even among many of John McCain’s own advisers, influential Republicans inside and outside his campaign are engaged in an intense round of blame-casting and rear-covering — much of it virtually conceding that an Election Day rout is likely.

A McCain interview published Thursday in The Washington Times sparked the latest and most nasty round of finger-pointing, with senior GOP hands close to President Bush and top congressional aides denouncing the candidate for what they said was an unfocused message and poorly executed campaign.

McCain told the Times that the administration “let things get completely out of hand” through eight years of bad decisions about Iraq, global warming, and big spending.

The candidate’s strategists in recent days have become increasingly vocal in interviews and conference calls about what they call unfair news media coverage and Barack Obama’s wide financial advantage — both complaints laying down a post-election storyline for why their own efforts proved ineffectual.

These public comments offer a whiff of an increasingly acrid behind-the-scenes GOP meltdown — a blame game played out through not-for-attribution comments to reporters that operatives know will find their way into circulation.

Top Republican officials have let it be known they are distressed about McCain’s organization. Coordination between the McCain campaign and Republican National Committee, always uneven, is now nearly dysfunctional, with little high-level contact and intelligence-sharing between the two.

“There is no communication,” lamented one top Republican. “It drives you crazy.”

At his Northern Virginia headquarters, some McCain aides are already speaking of the campaign in the past tense. Morale, even among some of the heartiest and most loyal staffers, has plummeted. And many past and current McCain advisers are warring with each other over who led the candidate astray.

One well-connected Republican in the private sector was shocked to get calls and resumes in the past few days from what he said were senior McCain aides — a breach of custom for even the worst-off campaigns.

“It’s not an extraordinarily happy place to be right now,” said one senior McCain aide. “I’m not gonna lie. It’s just unfortunate.”

“If you really want to see what ‘going negative’ is in politics, just watch the back-stabbing and blame game that we’re starting to see,” said Mark McKinnon, the ad man who left the campaign after McCain wrapped up the GOP primary. “And there’s one common theme: Everyone who wasn’t part of the campaign could have done better.”

“The cake is baked,” agreed a former McCain strategist. “We’re entering the finger-pointing and positioning-for-history part of the campaign. It’s every man for himself now.”

A circular firing squad is among the most familiar political rituals of a campaign when things aren’t going well. But it is rare for campaign aides to be so openly participating in it well before Election Day.

One current senior campaign official gave voice to this “Law of the Jungle” ethic, defending the campaign against second-guessers who say it was a mistake to throw away his "experience" message in an attempt to match Obama’s “change” mantra.

“Everybody agreed with the strategy,” said this official. “We were unlikely to be successful without being aggressive and taking risks.”

Running as a steady hand and basing a campaign on Obama’s sparse résumé was a political loser, it was decided.

“The pollsters and the entire senior leadership of campaign believe that experience vs. change was not a winning message and formulation, the same way it was no winning formula with Hillary Clinton.”

Beyond the obvious reputation-burnishing — much of it by professional operatives whose financial livelihoods depend on ensuring that they are not blamed for a bad campaign — there is a more substantive dimension. Barring a big McCain comeback, and a turnabout in numerous congressional races where the party is in trouble, the GOP is on the brink of a soul-searching debate about what to do to reclaim power. Much of that debate will hinge on appraisals of what McCain could have done differently.

That is why his criticisms of Bush hit such an exposed nerve Thursday. Was McCain hobbled by party label at a time when the incumbent president is so unpopular? Or did his uneven response to the financial rescue — and endorsement of such nonconservative ideas as a massive government purchase of homeowner mortgages — seal his fate?

Dan Schnur, a McCain communications adviser during his 2000 run and now a political analyst at the University of Southern California, said McCain should step in to halt the defeatism and self-serving leaks — an epidemic of incontinence — on his own team.

“It’s a natural and human reaction when you’re struggling to make up ground, but that doesn’t make it right,” Schnur said. “As long as the campaign is still potentially winnable, these are an unnecessary distraction. This looks like it’s reached a point where the candidate has to step in himself and crack some heads to remind everyone why they came to work for him in the first place.”

Offered a chance to respond to the suggestion that the McCain campaign is awash in defeatism, a McCain official delivered a decidedly measured appraisal: “We have a real chance in Pennsylvania. We are in trouble in Colorado, Nevada and Virginia. We have lost Iowa and New Mexico. We are OK in Missouri, Ohio and Florida. Our voter intensity is good, and we can match their buy dollar for dollar starting today till the election. It’s a long shot, but it’s worth fighting for.”

Earlier this week, campaign manager Rick Davis complained to reporters in a conference call that reporters refuse to call out Obama for alleged shady fundraising tactics, but in the process revealed no small amount of envy over the Democratic financial advantage. "Now, I'd love to have that $4 million right now to put into Pennsylvania,” he said. “It'd be a good thing for our campaign. I think it's a game-changer if I can slap all of that right on the Philadelphia media market. It's an expensive place. And yet, Barack Obama gets away with raising illegitimate money and spending it.”

A New York Times Magazine piece on Sunday chronicling McCain’s campaign featured numerous not-for-attribution McCain staffers participating in what amounted to a campaign autopsy. One aide told writer Robert Draper, “For better or worse, our campaign has been fought from tactic to tactic,” and one criticized McCain’s debate performance.

Longtime McCain alter ego Mark Salter gave an interview to Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg criticizing everything from the news media to the vagaries of fate: “Iraq was supposed to be the issue of the campaign. We assumed it was our biggest challenge. Funny how things work.”

Many conservative commentators likewise have been writing of McCain’s campaign in a valedictory tone. Among this group there is an emerging debate — one with the potential to last for a long time about the role of vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

One school — including syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker and Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal — called her a drag on the ticket and implicitly rebuked McCain’s judgment in picking her. Another school believes she is the future of the party, a view backed by Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard: “Whether they know it or not, Republicans have a huge stake in Palin. If, after the election, they let her slip into political obscurity, they’ll be making a huge mistake.”

In The Week, former Bush speechwriter David Frum wrote of McCain’s travails in a way that seemed to take defeat for granted and warned the GOP faces a long road back. “That’s not a failure of campaign tactics. It’s not even a failure of strategy. It’s a failure of the Republican Party and conservative movement to adapt to the times.”

While Frum was focused on the long view of history, many Republicans in Washington are much more in the moment — and much harsher in their denunciation of McCain and his team.

A senior Republican strategist, speaking with authority about the view of the party’s establishment, issued a wide-ranging critique of the McCain high command: “Lashing out at past Republican Congresses, … echoing your opponent's attacks on you instead of attacking your opponent, and spending 150,000 hard dollars on designer clothes when congressional Republicans are struggling for money, and when your senior campaign staff are blaming each other for the loss in The New York Times [Magazine] 10 days before the election, you’re not doing much to energize your supporters.

“The fact is, when you’re the party standard-bearer, you have an obligation to fight to the finish,” this strategist continued. “I think they can still win. But if they don’t think that, they need to look at how Bob Dole finished out his campaign in 1996 and not try to take down as many Republicans with them as they can. Instead of campaigning in Electoral College states, Dole was campaigning in places he knew he didn’t have a chance to beat Clinton, but where he could energize key House and Senate races.”

A House Republican leadership aide in an e-mail was no more complimentary: “The staff has been remarkably undisciplined, too eager to point fingers, unable to craft any coherent long-term strategy. The handling of Palin (not her performances, but her rollout and availability) has been nothing short of political malpractice. I understand the candidate might have other opinions and might be dictating some aspects of the campaign to staff — but the lack of discipline and ability to draft and stick to a coherent message is unreal. You have half of the campaign saying Ayers is a major issue, and then the candidate out there saying he doesn’t care about a washed-up terrorist. You have McCain one day echoing Milton Friedman and the next day echoing FDR.”

Alexander Burns contributed to this story.

Original here

Former Bush aide voting for Obama


Watch McCllellan on D.L. Hughley Breaks the News.

(CNN) — Scott McClellan, the former White House press secretary who sharply criticized President Bush in his memoir last spring, told CNN Thursday he's voting for Barack Obama.

"From the very beginning I have said I am going to support the candidate that has the best chance for changing the way Washington works and getting things done and I will be voting for Barack Obama and clapping," McClellan told new CNN Host D.L. Hughley

McClellan, a onetime Bush loyalist whose scathing critique of the president sent shock waves across Washington last spring, has long hinted he was leaning toward the Illinois senator.

"It's a message that is very similar to the one that Gov. Bush ran on in 2000," McClellan said in May about Obama's campaign.

McClellan isn't the first member of Bush's inner circle to express support for Obama. In 2007, former Bush strategist Matt Dowd also said he had become disillusioned with the president and said Obama was the only candidate that appealed to him.

The full interview will air on D.L. Hugley's new show, D.L. Hughley Breaks the News, Saturday at 10 p.m. ET. Hughley is also a guest of Larry King Live Friday at 9 p.m. ET.

Original here

Calif. gay marriage ban backers target businesses

By LISA LEFF, Associated Press Writer

Leaders of the campaign to outlaw same-sex marriage in California are warning businesses that have given money to the state's largest gay rights group they will be publicly identified as opponents of traditional unions unless they contribute to the gay marriage ban, too., the umbrella group behind a ballot initiative that would overturn the California Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage, sent a certified letter this week asking companies to withdraw their support of Equality California, a nonprofit organization that is helping lead the campaign against Proposition 8.

"Make a donation of a like amount to which will help us correct this error," reads the letter. "Were you to elect not to donate comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage. ... The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to but have given to Equality California will be published."

The letter was signed by four members of the group's executive committee: campaign chairman Ron Prentice; Edward Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference; Mark Jansson, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; and Andrew Pugno, the lawyer for A donation form was attached. The letter did not say where the names would be published.

The unusual appeal reflects the increasing tension surrounding the tight race over Proposition 8, which would change the California Constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman. In recent days, both sides in the debate have accused their opponents of threatening their respective campaign volunteers and misleading voters.

San Diego businessman Jim Abbott, who owns a real estate company and is a member of Equality California's board of directors, received one of the letters late Wednesday afternoon. His adult son called Abbott to read it to him.

"He characterized it as a bit 'Mafioso,'" Abbott said. "It was a little distressing, but it's consistent with how the 'yes' side of this campaign has been run, which is a bit over the top."

Abbott, who married his same-sex partner at the end of August, estimated that over the last decade he has given $50,000 to Equality California, including a recent $10,000 gift to underwrite a San Diego event that raised money to defeat Proposition 8.

When asked whether planned to name businesses that have supported the No on 8 campaign, Prentice initially said he was unaware of any such effort.

"I'm not familiar of any organized attack against organizations that have given to No on 8," he said Thursday.

But when asked about the letter to Equality California donors, Prentice confirmed they were authentic and said the campaign was asking businesses backing the other side "to reconsider taking a position on a moral issue in California."

Prentice said it was his understanding it was intended for large corporations such as cable operators Time Warner and Comcast instead of small business owners like Abbott. Both Time Warner and Comcast are listed on Equality California's Web site as corporate sponsors that gave $50,000 each to the group.

Companies that have contributed directly to one of the campaign committees collecting cash to fight Proposition 8, including one set up by Equality California, also were recipients of the letter, Prentice said. That list includes companies such as Pacific Gas & Electric, Levi Strauss and AT&T.

"I think the IDing of, or outing of, any company is very secondary to the question of why especially a public corporation would choose to take a side knowing it would splinter it's own clientele," he said.

Equality California executive director Geoffrey Kors said Thursday he has heard from two other business owners besides Abbott.

"It's truly an outrageous attempt to extort people," Kors said.

While an anti-Proposition 8 group called Californians Against Hate has posted lists of gay marriage ban donors on the Internet and even launched boycotts of selected businesses, Kors said that work has been independent of the official No on 8 campaign.

"They are going after our long-term funding and trying to intimidate Equality California donors from giving any more to the No on 8 campaign and from giving to Equality California ever again."

While corporations often give to rival candidates for public office as a way of preserving their government access no matter who wins, tit-for-tat solicitations are almost unheard of in ballot initiative campaigns, said Robert Stern, president of the nonpartisan Center for Governmental Studies.

"This is a proposition where you are on one side or the other. You vote yes or no, not yes and no," Stern said.

Though unusual and disturbing, Stern said there was nothing illegal about hitting up Equality California supporters for money.

Sonya Eddings Brown, a spokeswoman, estimated that 36 companies were targeted for the letter and said those that do not respond with a contribution would be highlighted in a press release and on the campaign Web site.

She called the tactic "a frustrated response" to the intimidation felt by Proposition 8 supporters, who have had their lawn signs stolen and property vandalized in the closing days of the heated campaign.

Original here

McCain Communications Director Gave Reporters Incendiary Version Of "Carved B" Story Before Facts Were Known

By Greg Sargent

John McCain's Pennsylvania communications director told reporters in the state an incendiary version of the hoax story about the attack on a McCain volunteer well before the facts of the case were known or established -- and even told reporters outright that the "B" carved into the victim's cheek stood for "Barack," according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions.

John Verrilli, the news director for KDKA in Pittsburgh, told TPM Election Central that McCain's Pennsylvania campaign communications director gave one of his reporters a detailed version of the attack that included a claim that the alleged attacker said, "You're with the McCain campaign? I'm going to teach you a lesson."

Verrilli also told TPM that the McCain spokesperson had claimed that the "B" stood for Barack. According to Verrilli, the spokesperson also told KDKA that Sarah Palin had called the victim of the alleged attack, who has since admitted the story was a hoax.

The KDKA reporter had called McCain's campaign office for details after seeing the story -- sans details -- teased on Drudge.

The McCain spokesperson's claims -- which came in the midst of extraordinary and heated conversations late yesterday between the McCain campaign, local TV stations, and the Obama camp, as the early version of the story rocketed around the political world -- is significant because it reveals a McCain official pushing a version of the story that was far more explosive than the available or confirmed facts permitted at the time.

The claims to KDKA from the McCain campaign were included in an early story that ran late yesterday on KDKA's Web site. The paragraphs containing these assertions were quickly removed from the story after the Obama campaign privately complained that KDKA was letting the McCain campaign spin a racially-charged version of the story before the facts had been established, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.

The story with the removed grafs is still right here. We preserved the three missing grafs from yesterday:

A source familiar with what happened yesterday confirmed that the unnamed spokesperson was communications director Peter Feldman. Feldman was also quoted yesterday making virtually identical assertions on the Web site of another local TV station, WPXI. But those quotes, which we also preserved here, are also no longer available on WPXI's site, for reasons that are unclear.

This is problematic because the McCain campaign doesn't want to have been perceived as pushing an incendiary story that not only turned out to be a hoax but which police officials said today risked blowing up into a "national incident" and has local police preparing to file charges against the hoaxster.

There's no evidence that anyone from McCain national headquarters put out a version of events like this.

After the story appeared on KDKA's site and this and other pieces in the local press started flying around the political world, an Obama spokesperson in the state angrily insisted to KDKA that it was irresponsible for the station to air the McCain spokesperson's incendiary version of events before the facts were fully known, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.

After that, KDKA went back to McCain's Pennsylvania spokesperson, Feldman, and asked if he stood by the story as he'd earlier told it, but he started backing off the story, a source familiar with the talks says. That prompted KDKA to remove the grafs.

Feldman couldn't immediately be reached, and a McCain HQ spokesperson declined to comment.

Original here