January 9, 2008


FEC Reduced to Offering Advice: Without a Quorum, Rulings on Campaigns Are Nonbinding (Matthew Mosk, January 9, 2008, Washington Post)

Down to two members and unable to muster a quorum, the Federal Election Commission has decided to offer advice instead of binding decisions on questions from political campaigns.

This week, organizations with pending requests for decisions from the six-member FEC on campaign matters received phone calls from agency staffers letting them know not to expect formal rulings anytime soon.

First ever four-way split (Andy Merten and Domenico Montanaro, 1/08/08, NBC First Read)
In the modern primary era, this is the first four-way split in Iowa and New Hampshire in the Republican and Democratic races. In other words, there is no precedent for what's taken place in this election -- not in the generation since Iowa and New Hampshire have mattered together. Since 1976, when there have been winners in all four states, there has never been four different candidates who have won these two states.

So, not only is the absence of the FEC not having a negative impact on the vibrancy of the democracy, one can't help notice that the big money corporate interest candidates--Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani--have already been eliminated from consideration and all the trial lawyer money and union support in the world couldn't make John Edwards more than a well-coiffed afterthought.

Why Feb. 5 looks super to Clinton: Her core supporters will have a major say on the most important day of the primary season. (Peter Wallsten, 1/09/08, Los Angeles Times)

Strip away the independents who made up about four in 10 participants in Tuesday's Democratic primary, thanks to the state's open-balloting rules, and Clinton outpaced Obama among registered Democrats 45% to 34%, according to an exit poll conducted for a media consortium.

Moreover, she beat the Illinois senator among women -- a crucial group for her and one that she lost in last week's Iowa caucuses -- and among lower-income households and older voters. [...]

If her advantage among Democrats holds true in the flurry of primaries set for Feb. 5 -- when core Democrats are expected to be more dominant -- Clinton could regain the traction that seemed lost when last week's defeat in Iowa ended her yearlong reign as the Democratic front-runner.

Only registered Democrats can take part in a number of the Feb. 5 contests that are expected to decide the nomination. Non-Democrats are not welcome, for example, in voting in Connecticut, Arizona and in Clinton's home state of New York, potential strongholds for Clinton that each control more nomination delegates than the relative handful from Iowa, New Hampshire and other earlier states.

Another major prize that day is California, where unaffiliated voters will be permitted to participate in the Democratic primary. But some strategists believe California's Latino voters could boost Clinton, who is more popular in that group than Obama.

Retooled Campaign and Loyal Voters Add Up (MICHAEL POWELL, 1/09/08, NY Times)
The unexpected closeness of the vote also suggested the depth of support for Mrs. Clinton, particularly among older and working-class voters. At her headquarters at the university here, many supporters spoke of rooting for one Clinton or another for a decade and a half.

“I haven’t stopped rooting for her a very long time,” Mary Maggette of Nashua said. “I wasn’t going to leave her in a time of trouble.”

Caroline Florom, 38; her husband, Vaughn Tamzarian, 48; and their five children — the youngest in a double-wide stroller — arrived next, after voting.

The most dramatic moment of their day was at 8 a.m., when they decided whom they were going to vote for.

“We went to hear both of them speak this weekend, and we stayed up until 3 a.m. last night listening to their speeches again on C-Span,” Ms. Florom said of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama. “We like them both.

“But in the end, she was the one bringing up the real issues about the middle class like college loans. His speeches felt like pep rallies.”

Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House? (Maureen Dowd, 1/09/08, Der Spiegel)
When I walked into the office Monday, people were clustering around a computer to watch what they thought they would never see: Hillary Clinton with the unmistakable look of tears in her eyes.

A woman gazing at the screen was grimacing, saying it was bad. Three guys watched it over and over, drawn to the "humanized" Hillary. One reporter who covers security issues cringed. "We are at war," he said. "Is this how she'll talk to Kim Jong-il?"

Another reporter joked: "That crying really seemed genuine. I'll bet she spent hours thinking about it beforehand." He added dryly: "Crying doesn't usually work in campaigns. Only in relationships."

Bill Clinton was known for biting his lip, but here was Hillary doing the Muskie. Certainly it was impressive that she could choke up and stay on message.

Crying is the message--look at who she's trying to appeal to.

McCain: The Man Who Came Back From the Dead: Scenes from an unlikely victory celebration in New Hampshire. (Byron York, 1/09/08, National Review)

Back in 2006, in the worst days of the Iraq war, John McCain used to talk about keeping a “steady strain.” It’s an old Navy term McCain uses a lot, and it refers to keeping the right level of tension on lines tying one ship to another, to prevent abrupt motions that could sever the lines and lead to disaster. Applying the idea to Iraq, McCain would tell nervous war supporters that it was important not to get too excited when something went well in the war, or too depressed when things went badly.

Last summer, McCain found himself giving the same advice to supporters of his own campaign, which nearly died from the twin crises of out-of-control spending and McCain’s hugely unpopular stance on illegal immigration. “In the Navy, we often talk of the need to keep a ‘steady strain’ on the lines between ships, to avoid a sudden jerk or movement that could easily snap the line,” McCain told supporters in a fundraising email last June. “In campaign life, we ride the high crests and sail through low troughs…It is through those experiences that I know we must keep the ‘steady strain.’“ [...]

[B]y the end of the night it was clear that McCain’s victory over rival Mitt Romney was nearly across-the-board. According to the Fox News exit poll, among voters who cited the war in Iraq as the most important issue facing the country, McCain beat Romney 45 percent to 27 percent. Among those who said terrorism is most important, McCain beat Romney 42 percent to 24 percent. Among those who said the economy is most important, McCain beat Romney 39 percent to 22 percent. Only those who said illegal immigration is the most important issue preferred Romney, who beat McCain in that category 53 percent to 20 percent.

And when Fox asked voters which of the candidates is most qualified to be commander-in-chief — the bottom-line issue for many Republicans — McCain beat Romney handily, 43 percent to 28 percent.

N.H. opens path to nomination for McCain (Jonathan Martin and John F. Harris, Jan 8, 2008, Politico)
The hope among McCain operatives is that the New Hampshire victory will lead to an infusion of badly needed contributions. His fate also depends on the conservative establishment, often hostile to the Arizona senator and his maverick crusades, now rallying around his argument that he is the most electable Republican in the general election.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign, meanwhile, is on life support after distant second-place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire — both states where he had invested heavily in time and money.

Michigan could well represent a last stand for Romney, who grew up in the state and whose father served there as governor. But his prospects are hardly sunny, given that McCain won Michigan in 2000.

With no Democratic race to speak of in Michigan, the open GOP primary will likely attract droves of independent voters who historically have been drawn to McCain.

After that, the GOP race now appears likely to hang on the outcome of two key Southern primaries. South Carolina, which proved to be McCain’s undoing in his 2000 contest against George W. Bush, and newcomer Florida will play outsized roles.

Former Tennesse senator Fred Thompson, after lagging in Iowa and doing nothing in New Hampshire, has staked his entire candidacy on South Carolina. He announced Tuesday that he's moving staff and every penny of his diminished warchest there. If he loses there, he has nowhere obvious to go.

Likewise, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabeee, after coming in third in New Hampshire, will be looking for a chance to prove that his Iowa victory was not a field-of-dreams aberration. If the former Baptist preacher can't succeed in Baptist-heavy South Carolina with other candidates splitting the vote, he likely can't do any better in demographically more diverse Florida.

Time to do the right thing Fred. The theory of the Thompson campaign was that he was the new McCain and the conservative alternative to Rudy and Mitt. But McCain is the new McCain and the race is down to two conservatives.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 9, 2008 8:46 AM

If the Jeb thing doesn't work out, what do you think of Vice President Fred?

Posted by: Bryan at January 9, 2008 10:17 AM

With Fred, the ticket becomes too old and one-dimensional. I am still saying it is going to be McCain-Lieberman vs. Clinton-Obama.

Posted by: sam at January 9, 2008 11:47 AM

sam, if that's the case, it'll be first presidential election since 1956 that I haven't cast a vote. No way will I vote for Lieberman. One liar on the ticket is more than enough.

Posted by: erp at January 9, 2008 12:08 PM

The GOP strategy should be clear--should Hillary be the Dem nominee (looks like a lock now), nominate a black VP. Michael Steele? Should Obama somehow come back from this, nominate a woman. The Democrats are purely identity politics, and one of their critical components is going to be mighty ticked off at their candidate coming out of this.

Posted by: b at January 9, 2008 12:16 PM

Please. No more threats of boycotting the election if the candidates aren't what you prefer. I can barely read my other favorite blogs since they became so polarized that post after post is a boycott threat or debate. This is the last bastion of sanity in the blogosphere.

Posted by: Patrick H at January 9, 2008 12:52 PM

No kidding! These days, Ace of Spades has become one long pouty teenage girl temper-tantrum: "If So-and-So gets the nomination, I'm NEVER voting Republican again!" (stomps foot, flounces back to bedroom to moon over shirtless pics of Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani).
It's hard for me to make the case that the GOP is the party of grownups with so much pouting going on. Thank God for this blog, and I never thought I'd be saying that.

Posted by: Bryan at January 9, 2008 1:45 PM

Fred's main mission lies just ahead, in SC and FL. He's there to protect Johnny Mac's "six" (as in "six o'clock", as in rear) by peeling off Huckabee support. After that ... and after endorsing Johnny Mac ... he's back to being Arthur Branch.

Posted by: ghostcat at January 9, 2008 2:12 PM

HotAir is worse. I wish Allahpundit would go back to doing photoshops like he did for the last presidential election, and I never thought I'd be saying that. The atheist libertarians are a bunch of children.

Posted by: Patrick H at January 9, 2008 2:25 PM

Write off blacks and women--nominate a Latino or Jeb (Latino by marriage).

Posted by: oj at January 9, 2008 4:50 PM

Fred wouldn't take it and he adds nothing to the ticket. They're too similar.

Posted by: oj at January 9, 2008 4:54 PM