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Category: Campaign 2008.4
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Compelling theater on the floor of the United States Senate tonight (Friday PM).

The Good News: Comity, pragmatism, and the national interest reigned within the Upper Chamber this evening, as the Senate passed the President's FISA bill.

An AP account of the proceedings here.

Watching the drama play out on C-SPAN2, one could not help but notice that the production appeared skillfully orchestrated. Even as the Democrats were voting against the Republican-crafted version of the bill, certain members seemed designated to raise the total to the needed sixty votes for passage. Red-state Democrats (Southerners like David Pryor and Mary Landrieu and lower Mid-Westerners like Claire McCaskill) provided the needed margin, while all the Democratic candidates for president voted against the measure.

Another wrinkle: Although the Senate website has not posted the roll call vote yet, I distinctly heard Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Mikulski, and Bill Nelson, all Democratic members of the Intelligence Committee, vote in the affirmative for the bill.

A humorous aside: I think I heard Mary Landrieu change her vote twice, voting in the affirmative initially, re-voting in the negative, and then casting her third and final vote in favor.

All in all, well done. The mission was accomplished, the Democratic leadership saved face, Russ Feingold scolded, and almost everybody seemed to exit the chamber smiling and friendly, happily headed home, and deservedly proud of one another--having done their duty.

Good show.

One last thing: The junior senator from New York waited until near the end of the vote to cast her "thumbs down," and I was holding my breath wondering if she was going to further set herself apart from her nearest rival, the junior senator from Illinois. I really wanted to title this post: "Mrs. Clinton? Aye!" What a fitting end to a week in which candidate Clinton advocated an adult foreign policy, while Barack Obama seemed adrift. But, alas, not tonight.
This headline in the Washington Post today:

"Three Top Democrats Share Lead In Iowa Poll;
Clinton, Obama, Edwards Are Tied"

Jon Cohen and Dan Balz report:

"Less than six months before Iowa voters open the 2008 presidential nomination battles, the Democratic contest in the Hawkeye State is a deadlock, with Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards in a virtual tie for first place, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll."

The full story here.

My Analysis in brief:

1. It is still very early--but this race (especially in Iowa) seems to be taking shape. These polls are starting to count.

2. Bad news for Edwards. This is the state in which he is best-positioned for success. He is well-known, popular, and a proven vote getter in Iowa. More importantly, this is the state on which he has placed all his chips.

I have already recorded my skepticism on this strategy, but Edwards is hoping to win in Iowa, generate a groundswell of momentum, and ride the wave of victory in the caucus to victory in the other state primaries that closely follow.

To review: this is a long shot at best, as the caucus in Iowa will probably have much less positive influence on underdogs as in times past. Why? The primaries are configured in a completely different way this time around. They are frontloaded and compressed, which requires a massive and powerful organization to compete everywhere simultaneously. This is not good for insurgent campaigns.

Having said that, Edwards is now losing momentum in Iowa--where he must emerge as surprisingly strong to have any chance. You may ask if this is the chicken or the egg, but, ironically, this new three-way poll affirms the recently emergent storyline of a two-horse race.

3. Good news for Hillary. A few weeks ago she was squelching rumors that she would not contest Iowa. As the Post story contends, and as the Okie Gardener's onsite reporting asserted, Iowa is not a good fit for the Clinton candidacy. She does not play well in Peoria. That is, Iowans seem unimpressed, suspicious, and unfriendly to her personally.

However, she is grinding this one out: four yards and a cloud of dust. There was much discussion a while back regarding Bill's coming to Iowa. The punditry wondered: Was this too soon? Probably not. Switching sports analogies: start your ace in game one, and you can possibly start him again in four and seven. Bring the heat early and often. All that to say, the Clinton team realizes Iowa is big. Bill Clinton might make the difference in a close race; it would be foolish to leave him on the bench.

The bottom line: Candidate Clinton can overcome a loss in Iowa, because she has the best organization. She is prepared to compete in every state primary over the following three weeks. However, a win in Iowa would be huge for her. She can overcome a loss in Iowa--but a win might clinch the aura of inevitability.

With Certainty: If John Edwards does not win Iowa, he is finished.

Less Certain: Barack Obama. If the Illinois senator, a favorite son from a neighboring state does not win in Iowa, he will be damaged. However, he will have plenty of money with which to dust himself off, get back in the race, and go on to New Hampshire et al with vigor.

One other note of interest: Bill Richardson broke through to double digits in this poll. Insiders see Richardson as a serious person. Perhaps this gives him hope in the VP derby or for a top cabinet slot.

UPDATE: A big Texas welcome to Instapundit readers. Browse around and make yourself at home. For other stories of possible interest, click above on "Campaign 2008" or here and scroll down.

Also, for a view of the FISA vote in the Senate last night, see here.
Category: Campaign 2008.4
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The Washington Post is currently featuring this video clip (view here), in which Michele Griffin, a waitress in a New Hampshire diner, confronts Mitt Romney regarding healthcare.

Although the Post headline frames the exchange broadly, "How 'Bout the USA? Romney Is Asked In Emotional Exchange on Health Care," the confrontation is much more personal. "What are you going to do for me and my family?" Ms. Griffin demands, making clear her core concern is immediate. How is the government going to solve my problem? She also wants to know about Romney's individual plan (co-payments, deductibles, etc.) implying that her care and his care ought to be equal.

The exchange is uncomfortable to watch. I felt bad for Romney, and I felt embarrassed for Ms. Griffin. It is one of the reasons I would never want to run for President.

An aside: Increasingly, I am inclined to ask: who would want this job? Who would be willing to go through this kind of humiliation (and plenty of other kinds) to get this job? God Bless the candidates--each and every one. I cannot help but believe that they all possess out-sized portions of civic responsibility and love of country.

Perhaps even more alarming, the exchange spotlights a culture in which we expect the government to solve our problems. Ms. Griffin is the pony-tail guy of 1992 in a slightly different guise. I am hurting. You need to fix it. We continue to look for a candidate who can feel our pain.

My heart goes out to folks who are struggling. Ms. Griffin appears to be a sympathetic mother in genuine despair. Nevertheless, how did we get to the point in our national culture in which we expect a random candidate for president to come in off the street, wave a magic government wand, and make our lives better? My hunch is that the Lotto offers Ms. Griffin better odds for amelioration than waiting for government to transform her life.

This is not a healthy dynamic. I think I am going to be ill...
Category: Campaign 2008.4
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
Appearing presidential may be the most essential element in the art of running for president. The Foreign Policy theater is often the toughest venue for aspiring presidents, and sometimes desperate actors do take desperate measures to demonstrate their capacity for the role.

I have not read Barack Obama's major foreign policy address delivered Wednesday at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. I will read it soon, and I will report on anything I find significant that is not completely obvious and/or already well covered.

Before I do that, however, I will assess the speech as a campaign event, keeping in mind that the vast majority of Americans who will pick the next president did not, nor will they ever, read the statement.

Therefore, much more important than what Obama said yesterday is how it is reported and received in the coming days.

How was it covered?

The conservative blogosphere and talk radio played up the speech, focusing on Obama's promise to invade Pakistan and taking the freshman senator to task for his naive bravado.

The mainstream media initially softened the hard edges of the speech, concentrating on the broader themes of Bush incompetence, missed opportunities, and the current unpleasantness.

However, the Washington Post, holding the same story over night, changed its headline to reflect the tough talk toward Pakistan.

More importantly, the bridge collapse story pushed all things Obama (and Campaign 2008 in general) off the front pages--in fact, as of this morning on their website, the New York Times had not even updated their coverage since Obama actually delivered the speech.

Any likely impact?

1. For Republicans: very little. The speech was merely another act in an entertaining side show. Obama did not sway one Republican yesterday (either way). However, if Obama were to win the nomination, the speech gave the opposition something meaty to chew on, dissect, scrutinize, and further build a case against the candidate.

2. Impact on Move-On Democrats: They can't be all that impressed. Aside from the harsh rhetoric against the war (reminding voters of his early opposition to invading Iraq and his rival's initial support), the candidate cannot hope to help himself with the peace wing of his party by advocating an invasion of Pakistan.

On the other hand: Obama's best shot at wresting this nomination away from the Clinton organization is hammering his commitment to disavow US policy on Iraq. Perhaps this major speech is designed to resonate with the "out of Iraq caucus" more than anyone else. Perhaps he is hoping that the the base will ignore the bellicose language directed at Pakistan, while he reminds them of his consistently anti-war stance.

Perhaps Obama believes that every time he can remind primary voters that Hillary is an adult and part of the vast bipartisan international relations policy-making complex, he wins. Look for him to play that note frequently and with increasing intensity in the days to come.