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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

The Fred Rollout Continues... (UPDATE: How Team Fred Uses Tech)



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Fred has a campaign blog, with promises of a lot more to come.

A Fan of Fred notices that the lefty blogs are all echoing the same criticisms (must have been some new marching orders from TownHouse about him) and points to this rejoinder from the guys at Hot Air:

As for the other points, his history as a lobbyist and his record as a trial lawyer, they’re less than meaningless. Particularly given that his most famous moments as a lawyer are (a) exposing corruption in Watergate, (b) exposing corruption in the Tennessee governor’s office, and (c) fighting corruption on “Law & Order.”

Since when do lefties run against guys who exposed Watergate?

UPDATE: Matt Lewis praises Thompsons’ tech stuff, while Dean Barnett scoffs a bit: “A blog? Is that one of those web log thingies I’ve heard so much about? Surely you jest. Wow! That’s sharper than cutting edge! That’s further out there than just outside the box!”

Okay, let me observe one example of how Team Fred might be a bit sharper than the average GOP campaign. Rapid response became a key element in Clinton’s war room in 1992; in 1996, the hyperactive Clinton campaign mastered the art of issuing “prebuttals” to Dole campaign events that were distributed before Dole made his inital comments. The Bush campaigns got better at this, but generally, the response would come slower, and significantly, often not in the same venue that the inital attack would come. A Kerry surrogate would levy a charge on CNN, and the Bush campaign would respond on Fox News. There was no guarantee that people who saw the initial criticism saw the response, since it ran later and on a different channel/venue/outlet/publication.

Recently Michael Moore issued his debate challenge to Fred Thompson on Drudge, and within a few hours, Thompson had his cinematic, cigar-chomping “mental institution, Michael… Something to think about” video response up on Breitbart (which Drudge linked to immediately). Thus just about anybody who knew Moore had thrown down the gauntlet knew Thompson had responded. Of course, the video was funny and interesting, and so this attracted a great deal of attention from television, print, other blogs, etc. Overall, it was a much better response than simply ignoring Moore, which I suspect would be the instinctive reaction of a lot of cautious campaign managers…

I recently attended what can best be described as a conservative blogger/techie cabal meeting, and someone observed that Howard Dean’s campaign sowed the seeds for two major political/activism consulting firms that focus entirely on leveraging new technology, EchoDitto and Blue State Digital. The speculation last night was that regardless of how Thompson does in the GOP primary, his campaign might have a similar effect – be the gathering point and launching point for a lot of creative, innovative message-maestros in GOP circles. (This isn’t to say other campaigns don’t also have smart people. It’s just that Team Fred might take a few more risks and have a few more pleasant surprises.)

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Can Rudy Win When the Race Narrows To Two GOP Contenders?



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A writer who thinks Rudy is the GOP’s only hope in 2008 recently wrote to me, “I think most of the pundits are missing something. Rudy has a distinctive voters profile (think JPod, Derb). That is 25-30 percent of the GOP. So long as he has three main rivals and some spare change opponents he wins. The only way he loses is if two of the three main rivals disappear. Unlikely to be Romney with his money. McCain out of pride will hang in at least to NH and SC. It’s only in a two man race that Rudy is beatable.”

I told this writer that the problem for Rudy is that sooner or later, every primary narrows down to a two-man race.
 
Look at the way McCain is whacking away at Romney. Clearly Team McCain wants a race between their man and Rudy, because they think they win. Give a conservative GOP primary voting bloc a choice between a guy who betrayed them on campaign finance reform and the Gang of 14, vs. a guy who betrays them on abortion, gays, and guns, and Rudy probably ends up with the short end of the stick. Maybe immigration changes the equation, maybe not.

Rudy vs: Thompson: Can you imagine, “I’m Fred Thompson, and I represent the Republican wing of the Republican party”? Geeks like me get excited about CompStat stuff, but the base, and probably most primary voters, get more excited about the kinds of topics and arguments Fred makes in his radio commentaries, NRO pieces, etc.

Maybe the base values leadership, and will find Rudy a stronger leader than Fred, and/or Giuliani will be able to say, “Fred Thompson has made a film career out of playing no-BS, get-the-job-done butt-kicking leaders, the kind of guy that I actually am.” But Fred will, presumably, be projecting leadership in his ads, his debate appearances, speeches, etc.; Rudy will have to argue, “don’t believe your eyes,” a tough sell.
 
Rudy vs. Romney: Interesting contrast here, since they’re both Northeastern, non-traditional Republicans, etc. Are religious conservatives more comfortable with the thrice-married cross-dresser, or the Mormon? Do they worry more about Rudy’s in-your-face confrontational leadership style, or Romney’s alleged flip-flopping? I have a feeling the base will prefer somebody who has agreed with them on the big issues for ten minutes to somebody who steadfastly opposes them based on his deepest principles. (The McCain campaign, obviously, staunchly disagrees.)
 
Here’s one area where Rudy might have the advantage: Most of the losing presidential candidates in the past cycles have had issues with “authenticity”, i.e., voters’ suspicions that they’re trying to sell themselves as something they’re not. Budget hawk and Washington insider Bob Dole ran as a tax-cutting conservative (who was hip to what the kids were into) who was going to clean up Washington in the corrupt Clinton era. Al Gore, the Ecology Professor Who Talks To You Slowly Because He Knows You’re Stupid, tried to sell himself as a man of the people, secretly fun and easygoing, passionate about Tipper (the convention kiss)…. the senator’s son who grew up in a hotel suite was going to represent the people, not the powerful. John Kerry was Thurston Howell III, and he was supposed to be a hunter, a simultaneous war hero and war protester, etc.
 
If people think Romney is really a golly-gee CEO tech geek who pragmatically changes tactics and policy stances when they don’t work, trying to pass himself off as the embodied blend of the social conservatism of Gary Bauer with the uncompromising intractability of Jack Bauer, his campaign won’t work.
 
Anyway — I think Rudy has an easy road to getting down to the final two, and then he’s got a tough sell to persuade the party he’s better than the other guy…

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

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ARG Shows Fred Up From 6 to 15; Others Show Little Change



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ARG has Rudy 24, McCain 20, Fred Thompson 15, Gingrich 12, Romney ten.

Compared to ARG’s poll last month, Rudy and McCain are each down four percent (not exactly an watertight case for an immigration backlash against McCain). Thompson jumped from six to 15.

A McCainiac notes that while some people were buzzing that the L.A. Times poll had McCain at 12 nationally (low compared to most others), the April L.A. Times poll had McCain at 12 as well. Similarly, Rasmussen has had McCain at 11 percent (early June) 14 percent (late May), 18 percent (mid May).

By compaison, AP, Gallup and the Washington Post all had McCain at 19 percent. So there’s not much evidence, so far, of immigration driving down McCain’s numbers…

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

A Bit Sparse on Fred’s Web Site So Far...



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I realize Jon Henke just got on the job, but is anyone else surprised that there’s no video of Fred Thompson chatting with Jay Leno on ImWithFred.com?

He does mention it briefly on his MySpace page… There is, however, a pretty decent selection of videos on his YouTube page.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Steven Spielberg Endorses Hillary



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Just in from the Hillary Campaign

Influential filmmaker and philanthropist Steven Spielberg today announced that he is officially endorsing Hillary Clinton for President. Spielberg said that he has chosen to endorse Clinton because of her experience and strength.

“I’ve taken the time to familiarize myself with the impressive field of Democratic candidates and am convinced that Hillary Clinton is the most qualified candidate to lead us from her first day in the White House,” Spielberg said. “Hillary is a strong leader and is respected the world over. As president, she will bring America back together, rebuild our prestige abroad and ensure our protection here at home.”

You know why this is significant? Spielberg hosted a fundraiser for Obama back in February.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

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Fred on the Tonight Show With Jay Leno: Talking Bad Roles, the Debates, and Iran



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Fred Thompson, sharing laughs with Jay Leno last night:

JAY LENO: Yeah, that pretty much sealed your acting. Let me ask you some — because before you really get into this, Ronald Reagan had “Bedtime for Bonzo.” That was his worst film, and they use that everywhere. Is there any film we should know about? Because I will find it. (Laughter)

JAY LENO: I know you’ve played a lot of roles. Is there anything out there that you want to say, “I shouldn’t have done this one acting scene.”

FRED THOMPSON: Well, you’re asking me is there anything out there that you should know about. The answer to that is no, you should not know about it.

I was a little surprised that Thompson said the current debates are “denigrating the office of the job”, although after watching some of these moderator’s questions, I think I get his point:

JAY LENO: No, no. Are you surprised by these (inaudible) — let me ask you this. Do you think people are maybe more disenchanted with what’s running and that’s why you’re rising? Do you think it’s you? Because we don’t really know where you — people know you, but are not familiar with your position.

FRED THOMPSON: Yeah. A lot of time and a lot of different ways and a lot of different outlets to get your views out and get yourself out. I plan to build myself with them if I go ahead and take the next step. I get some benefit for not having, you know, been one of the ten people, you know, standing — sitting there, standing there at the debates, raising your hand, all the other things that kind of denigrate the office of the job, so I recognize that. But on the other hand, I’ve been around for a while. I think people have a pretty good feel for who I am. They might not always agree with me, but I think they know that I’m a fellow at the stage in my life now where I think about my country. I think about the kind of country my kids are going to grow up in. (Applause)

Jay hit Fred with a pretty serious question, one that’s kind of difficult to answer in less than a minute before the Tonight Show audience:

JAY LENO: All right. I want to ask you something. This is a subject that just came out this week, and it’s even hard to write a joke about it. Leiberman wants to consider military actions against Iran. For a lot of Americans this is, like, wow. I mean, what do you make of this?

FRED THOMPSON: I heard that he had made some statement along those lines. I didn’t see what he said. Leiberman is a true statesman. He was my Democratic counterpart when I was chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee. We did a lot of work together, and he’s a very good man. And one thing I know is that he’s always doing what he thinks is best for his country. Iran is a difficult problem, and you have to have all the facts before you make a final decision about them. We’ve got a lot friends among the Iranian people. The Iranian economy is in bad shape. If we handle it right and use our intelligence services and our propaganda possibilities correctly, part of that problem might take care of itself. So let’s not get ahead of ourselves on
that. (Applause)

And a bit more on Iran, a moment later:

JAY LENO: So if we handle this differently, you say we would be in a different position with them?

FRED THOMPSON: Well, I’m not doubt — we could have some things better. There’s no question about that. But, you know, they have the Iranian guard there. They have a way to suppress people there. And there’s a lot of conflicts where people are killing Iranian guards around the country. But it’s a tough situation. It could cause a revolution is what we’re talking about.

JAY LENO: Right.

FRED THOMPSON: Because it happened yet doesn’t mean it can’t.

JAY LENO: Okay. Well, listen, come back when you know what’s going on.

FRED THOMPSON: Well, I’ve finagled a second invitation here.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Is Hillary Cruising? Quinnipiac, The Magic Eight Ball, and I All Agree on “Yes”



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My report that Hillary Clinton has weathered the storm of the Obama announcement and is now cruising probably won’t cheer many NRO readers. But it’s backed up by Maurice Carroll, Director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, who says, “It’s still early, but Sen. Hillary Clinton just keeps rolling along.  Either something – like  Iowa – will dislodge her or else she’s the nominee.  Should we start asking about vice-presidents?”

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Q-Poll Puts Thompson, McCain Tied Behind Rudy



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Quinnipiac reports this morning that in their nationwide polls among Republicans, Giuliani leads with 27 percent, unchanged from May 3. Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson who has 15 percent, followed by Arizona Sen. John McCain, down from 19 percent to 15 percent.   Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gets 10 percent.

By the way, the CNN poll in New Hampshire also shows a big leader with two rivals tied behind him; it’s Romney up big with 28 percent, Rudy and McCain with 20 percent each, and Thompson at 11 percent… I would note that the margin of error on that poll is 5.5, which is a little higher than I would prefer…

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Looking at the Fine Print in the Washington Post Poll...



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I’m looking over the Washington Post’s latest poll, and I notice:

Right-track, wrong-track:

                Right      Wrong      No
              direction    track    opinion 
6/1/07           25         73        2

For comparison, right before the 2006 election, among registered voters, 32 percent were saying “right direction” and 66 percent were saying “wrong direction.” The country’s even grumpier than they were before the Democrats took control of Congress.

And the numbers are even worse than before the 1994 electoral tsunami, when 27 percent were saying “right direction” and 69 percent were saying “wrong track.”

It won’t happen this year, but if the GOP acted like they had learned their lesson, and campaigned hard on “cleaning up Washington” – banning earmarks, targeting pork, lobbying reform, tough new ethics and gift laws, demanding disclosure left, right, and center – then they might have a chance of winning back Congress in 2008. Clearly, the country isn’t much happier with Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid than with their predecessors.

I also noted that the Post had left Gore in their questions about the Democratic field, a decision that I found a bit annoying, since it doesn’t look like he’s running. Thankfully, they asked:

32. (ASKED OF GORE SUPPORTERS) If Gore does not run, for whom would you vote?

NET LEANED VOTE WITHOUT GORE

                         6/1/07     4/15/07    2/25/07

Hillary Clinton            42         41          43
Barack Obama               27         25          27
John Edwards               11         17          14
Joe Biden                   2          2           2
Dennis Kucinich             2          1           *
Bill Richardson             2          3           3
Chris Dodd                  1          *           *
Mike Gravel                 *          *           *
Other (vol.)                *          *           *
Wesley Clark               NA          1           *
Tom Vilsack                NA         NA           *
None of these (vol.)        4          3           4
Would not vote (vol.)       1          1           1
No opinion                  6          5           4

So it seems like Gore supporters – 17 percent in the last sample – break down more or less along the same lines as the rest of the sample. (Maybe a few more Obama supporters among the Gore-ites, so maybe there’s a bit of an anybody-but-Hillary demographic in there.)

When asked to evaluate the candidates’ traits, Democratic respondents find Clinton the strongest leader (50 percent, to 26 percent for Obama and 15 percent for Edwards), by far the most experienced (66 percent to Obama’s 9 percent and Edwards’ 19 percent) the best chance of winning (43 percent to Obama’s 21 percent and Edwards 26 percent) and, in a category that could suddenly be a lot more important depending on what happens in the news in the coming year, most trusted to handle a crisis (47 percent to Obama’s 24 percent and Edwards’ 17 percent).

However, Obama is close in the “understands the problems of people like you” category (33 percent to Hillary’s 38 percent), leads on most inspiring (41 percent to Hillary’s 37 percent).

And on “most honest and trustworthy”, Obama gets 34 percent, Hillary gets 28 percent, and Edwards gets 22 percent. Hmm. Does Obama have the guts to make this the centerpiece of his critique on Hillary?

The Post asked a similar version of the Gore question of the Gingrich supporters:

38. (ASKED OF GINGRICH SUPPORTERS) If Gingrich does not run, for whom would you vote?

NET LEANED VOTE WITHOUT GINGRICH

                      6/1/07     4/15/07     2/25/07
Rudy Giuliani           34         35          53
John McCain             20         22          23
Fred Thompson           13         10          NA
Mitt Romney             10

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

The Club For Growth Has Ideas for Rudy Commitments 13 Through 15



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The Club for Growth reacts to Rudy’s 12 Commandments – er, Commitments.

The Club for Growth applauded Rudy Giuliani for committing himself today to work towards cutting wasteful spending; cutting taxes and tax reform; free-market solutions to healthcare; legal reform; and school choice, but questioned why the former New York City Mayor omitted the equally important issues of Social Security reform, free trade, and regulatory reform.

Let me help them out with that. Social Security reform was left off because Bush proposed it and got beat around the head for it, proving that the country doesn’t have the stomach for a serious debate of the topic (Americans like any proposal except private accounts, raising taxes, raising the retirement age, or cutting benefits); free trade is less popular today because of people’s fears of globalization (and it’s getting harder to find other countries willing to play ball, as the problems since the Doha round started demonstrate), and regulatory reform was left off because only geeks and wonks like us pay attention to that.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

New Jersey’s Tied! Er, in a Hypothetical Three Way With Obama, Bloomberg, and Thompson



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I have little doubt that Fred Thompson has, or is well on his way to establishing himself as a major contender for the Republican presidential nomination. The Big Three has, for all extents and purposes, become the Big Four.

But let’s note that in the much-discussed recent Rasmussen poll, Fred Thompson gained six points in a week; it was Giuliani 23, Thompson 17 last week and now it’s 23 all. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next one had Thompson slipping back down by a few points; if that comes to pass, it shouldn’t be interpreted as Fredmania jumping the shark or some other hair-trigger overcaffeinated interpretation. It looks like Fred is building, slowly but streadily, and this week’s tied result is probably a bit of statistical noise.

Rasmussen shows both McCain and Romney losing ground.

Rasmussen’s other weird result of the week? In a hypothetical three way matchup between Barack Obama, Fred Thompson, and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg among New Jersey respondents, Obama and Bloomberg tie at 32 while Fred gets 20 percent.

If you go with the all-New York lineup, of Rudy, Hillary, and Bloomberg, Hillary wins 38 percent to 29 percent for Rudy and 21 percent for Bloomberg.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Has the Media Stuck an Unfair Narrative on McCain?



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I’m generally sympathetic to the argument that the media assigns a storyline to candidates. But I’m not sure I agree with the McCain campaign, which is spotlighting this column by Townhall’s Matt Lewis, who asserts:

Anyone who knows the media, knows they basically decide on a narrative, and then stick with it … until it gets boring.  For example, the narrative that John McCain was a “maverick” was a great story … back in 2000.

Well, the new narrative is that McCain’s campaign is falling apart.  For this reason, the Washington Post featured a huge story on John Dowd’s flip from McCain to Romney.  The truth of the matter is that Dowd raised less than $7K for McCain — but you can’t let that fact get in the way of a good story …

Conversely, the media has chosen to ignore the fact that Utah’s state Senate Majority Leader has defected from Romney to McCain.

The reason?  Flipping to McCain doesn’t fit the template or the narrative that the media has created.  As such, it is barely mentioned.

Did the Post story overhype one defection? Sure. Should the political world pay much attention to a state lawmaker switching his endorsement? Eh. I’m not quite convinced. And I would figure that the “McCain campaign is falling apart storyline” – more than a little premature – is based at least as much on the immigration deal fight as any staff defections or changes. 

I will note that the McCain team has been relentless in hammering Romney. I guess they feel that if they can turn it into a two-man race with Rudy, McCain’s more conservative stance on the traditional social issues will carry the day…

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Rudy: I Bring You Fifteen... CRASH ! Er, Twelve! Twelve Commitments!



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My first thought on Rudy’s Twelve Commitments: Isn’t this biting off a bit more than a president can chew? I mean, God only needed TEN Commandments… Fifteen if you follow the Mel Brooks version.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Hillary’s Mystery Endorser Is... Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.



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Just got back from Hillary’s press conference on Capitol Hill, announcing her endorsement by Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J..

The endorsement of Menendez was essentially one she should have had sewn up, so not having Menendez on board would have hurt Hillary more than having him helps. Still, he’ll make a fine addition to her surrogates for outreach to Hispanic voters, as today’s event had a healthy number of Spanish-language media. (The camera guys flipped through the Washington Post as Hillary went through her umpteenth variation of, “I’m not running because I’m a woman, I’m running because I feel I’m the best qualified and most experienced for the job.”)

Asked at the closing about what it would mean if Obama beat her in second-quarter fundraising, Hillary answered, with a fair amount of vigor, “Absolutely nothing… When I first ran in 2000, I was outraised 2 to 1.” (I have to check that; I can’t help but suspect she’s counting Rudy Giuliani’s Senate fundraising, which wasn’t used because he left the race for health reasons.)

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Edwards’ Views On Poverty: Almost Agreeing With The Right, And Then...



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A bit more on that lengthy New York Times magazine article on John Edwards and his policy proposals to deal with poverty:

To liberals, historically, taking on things like parenting skills and self-discipline veers dangerously close to blaming people for their own poverty — which is what they charge conservatives with doing. Instead, Democrats in the era since Bill Clinton have settled on a delicate formula for talking about poverty: they make concrete proposals in the economic realm (job training, tax credits, a higher minimum wage) while sternly deploying code phrases (“personal responsibility,” “playing by the rules”) that suggest that those in need also have to make better choices for themselves and their children. Not surprisingly, perhaps, Edwards follows this same basic regimen. While he talks about making people “take responsibility” and emphasizes the value of work, his antipoverty agenda contains little that is new or innovative to encourage better parenting or to impart more useful life skills.

When I asked him about this, Edwards assured me that he understands the scope of the issue. He told me that he had visited more than 100 antipoverty and neighborhood centers around the country since the last election and that what he saw in some of those places stunned him. “When you’re sitting with a woman who’s working two or three jobs and having a terrible time making ends meet, and she tells you that her 14-year-old girl is having her third child, it makes you weep inside,” he said, with obvious emotion. “I mean, where’s the hope? They are absolutely doomed to poverty.”

Still, Edwards rejects the idea that government can get involved in the way people live their lives and raise their children. “The government has nothing to do with this,” he said. “And I’m not sure the government should have anything to do with this.” Instead, he told me, part of a president’s job is to encourage the community-based groups that deal with issues like teenage pregnancy and absentee fathers. I asked him how, exactly, he would do that. “By meeting with these people,” he said. “Lifting them up.”

His answer almost makes me weep inside. You can see Edwards coming so close – the bad choices of this family are dooming them to a life of poverty – and yet he pulls back at the last second, because he can’t reconcile himself with the idea of the government saying one choice is better (morally right?) than another, that the poor should be discouraged from having children that they cannot care for.

I’ll meet the lefties halfway. I’ll admit that sometimes a lack of opportunities, a failing education system, and just plain bad luck can partially explain why people cannot escape poverty… if they’ll admit that the poor often find themselves in these circumstances because of bad choices – a choice to drop out of school, to not apply themselves in school, to have children out of wedlock or before they’re capable of caring for them, or to not marry the partner they have children with. Often, a choice to drink or turn to illegal drugs. A choice to think about today and not worry about the consequences tomorrow.

(Oddly, the discussion of poverty in the article skips over the biggest domestic policy change of the 1990s, welfare reform, and the success story that it represented for so many of the poorest Americans.)

Also, I would mention to the Edwards campaign that when New York Times magazine writers are mocking your excuses, you’re in trouble:

When the Fortress story first surfaced, for instance, he told Nedra Pickler of The Associated Press that he joined the hedge fund partly because he wanted to learn more about the way markets affected inequality. This is rather like saying you hired a stripper in order to better understand the exploitation of women.

Another line in that article that stood out to me:

Predistribution Democrats dispute the notion that the effects of globalization are inevitable; to them, the decline in American industry was inflicted on the country through policies that favored business at the expense of wage earners. And they think it’s still possible, by reversing those policies, to live in a country where a guy with a high-school degree can have a rosy economic future.

Wow. It’s been a while since we had an economy where an American with only a high school education could have a rosy economic future, huh? And our friends on the left want to go back to that? The way I figure it, you would have to ban just about all imported goods (since foreign labor can generally produce these materials cheaper), raise the minimum wage to a “livable wage” ($10/hour?), deport all illegal immigrant labor (well, some folks are probably now applauding), roll back certain technological advances that have replaced labor in some areas (get rid of ATMs, so people need to use bank tellers again)… They want to turn back the clock, and yet somehow they call themselves progressives?

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

It’s Called “Branding”, and It Might Sting a Little



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Forty-four percent of Americans can correctly identify “which presidential candidate has been in the news recently for paying four hundred dollars for a haircut” as John Edwards. (Two percent said Hillary, one percent said Barack Obama.)

The same poll, by Fox News/Opinion Dynamics, asked respondents, “in the war against terrorism, do you think the United States has pursued potential terrorists here at home too aggressively or not aggressively enough?”

Among Democrats 24 percent said “too aggressively,” 56 percent said “not aggressively enough,” 12 percent said just right, and 8 percent said they didn’t know. Among Republicans, 9 percent said “too aggressively,” 67 percent said “not aggressively enough,” 20 percent said just right, and 4 percent said they didn’t know. Among Independents, 19 percent said “too aggressively,” 58 percent said “not aggressively enough,” 11 percent said just right, and 11 percent said they didn’t know.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Hillary’s Mystery Endorser Is...



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Somebody’s announcing his or her endorsement of Hillary in a Capitol Hill event tomorrow morning… Which lawmakers are out there whose endorsement would carry some weight? Kennedy? Kerry? Pelosi?

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Comparison to the Great Depression “Has Some Basis in Truth, But Only Some.”



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The sorts of things that get past a New York Times magazine fact-checker:

If you’ve recently flipped to Lou Dobbs on CNN or opened the pages of a liberal political journal like The American Prospect, you might have the impression that America in the Bush years has slipped into a kind of Dickensian darkness, a period of unbridled greed and economic deprivation on a scale not seen in this country since the Great Depression. Like so many things in politics, this has some basis in truth, but only some.

“Some basis in truth”? Come on, man, the comparison is laughable. Checking out the most recent economic report from Bloomberg:

The government reported last week that employers created 157,000 new jobs in May, compared with a gain of 80,000 in April, while the unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.5 percent. Job growth this year has averaged 133,000 a month, compared with 189,000 a month in 2006. Hourly wages grew 3.8 percent in May from the same time a year ago, compared with a nine-year high of 4.3 percent reached in December… Some companies are hiring. Microsoft Corp., the world’s biggest software maker, said last month it will expand its Fargo, North Dakota, campus to add space for 575 workers. Microsoft is also in the middle of a $1 billion expansion to its Redmond, Washington, headquarters to add space for an additional 12,000 employees.

Is this an ideal economy? No, of course not. GDP growth was quite slow the first quarter. Fuel costs are high, the housing market boom is over and is deflating, rapidly in some areas, mildly in others. The American auto industry is having a tough time coping with foreign competition. The dollar is weaker than we would like, as is the trade imbalance.

But let’s not confuse “not as good as we hoped for” with “absolute crisis”; the Great Depression had bread lines, Hoovervilles in Central Park, stockbrokers leaping from windows, Okies heading west, etc.

Matt Bai says the comparison to the Great Depression is “not very helpful hyperbole,” but I think that’s too mild a rebuke.

He also notes:

It’s not that the poor are getting poorer, or that more Americans are falling below the poverty line, so much as it is that poor Americans are falling further and further behind those who succeed.

We’re more envious of the Bill Gateses, Donald Trumps, Paris Hiltons than we were before. You know, the kind of people who can build enormous mansions, make $55,000 just for a speech, or spend $400 on a haircut… like the subject of Bai’s profile.

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Fred Thompson and Great Expectations



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George Will on Fred Thompson:

Some say he is the Republicans’ Rorschach test: They all see in him what they crave. Or he might be the Republicans’ dot-com bubble, the result of restless political investors seeking value that the untutored eye might not discern and that might be difficult to quantify but which the investors are sure must be there, somewhere, somehow.

Ouch. On the one hand, Thompson has been leading a one-man crusade to return something resembling sanity to the presidential selection process. He is waiting to announce his interest at a time (summer the preceding year) that would have been only mildly early in cycles before, say, 2000; most others treated December 2006/January 2007 as the starting gun.. And yet, one of the results of this slow, gradual opening is that expectations for Thompson are through the roof. Will he have to blow the doors out the back of the auditorium in his announcement speech in order to meet expectations?

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

Ignoring the Hillary Comments We Don’t Want to See



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Sebastian Mallaby, today:

Compared with the immigrant bashing that has dominated Republican presidential debates, Democratic presidential hopefuls have sounded sweetly reasonable. With the exception of the no-hoper Dennis Kucinich, none has pressed protectionist themes. There is no equivalent to the Dick Gephardt of 1988, who won the Iowa caucuses on an anti-trade ticket.

Instead, the Democratic candidates are focusing on helping the economy’s losers without restricting trade, which is exactly what they should be doing. John Edwards, the contender who sounded most protectionist in 2004, seems to have turned over a new leaf. He has admitted that trade benefits poor countries and has declared that arguments over labor standards should not be an excuse to obstruct liberalization…

In the 2004 election, the Kerry-Edwards ticket forfeited its claim to economic seriousness by opposing trade deals such as the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Hillary Clinton, Saturday:

Hillary Clinton today announced that she will oppose ratification of the South Korean Free Trade Agreement.  Speaking at a townhall event hosted by the AFL-CIO in Detroit, Michigan, Clinton said the agreement would harm the U.S. automotive industry and put American jobs at risk. While the trade agreement gives South Korea unimpeded access to the U.S. auto market, it does not go far enough to ensure that South Korea dismantles the barriers that have long blocked American vehicles from being sold there. 

…The proposed trade agreement would only exacerbate this unfair and harmful situation. While the agreement requires South Korea to dismantle its formal trade barriers, it does not go far enough to ensure that South Korea will also eliminate the multitude of informal barriers that severely restrict the sale of American vehicles.  Unless those barriers fall, American carmakers will face increased competition at home and won’t get greater access to South Korea’s market.

Should have checked with the Hillary campaign first, Mr. Mallaby…

Tags: Barack Obama , Bill Richardson , Chris Dodd , Fred Thompson , Hillary Clinton , Horserace , Joe Biden , John Edwards , John McCain , Mike Huckabee , Mitt Romney , Newt Gingrich , Rudy Giuliani , Sarah Palin , Something Lighter , Tommy Thompson

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