Obama on the Move

Gallup has introduced a new national tracking poll that shows Obama making up serious ground on Hillary Clinton.  For the curious, Pollster.com's Mark Blumenthal has a nice explanation of why we should put a lot of stock in this poll.  I'm hoping Hillary's Florida “win” does not offer her any bump. 

More on Hillary and Florida

Ezra Klein does a much better job slamming Hillary for her little stunt in Florida last night and goes into some detail for why it is so fundamentally dishonest.  Some highlights:

In comments, many of you asked how I could be so dismissive of
Floridians who voted for Hillary Clinton. And the answer is, I'm not. I
didn't keep their vote from counting. Hillary Clinton did. When the
Democratic National Committee decided to impose order on an
out-of-control primary process by stripping Florida and Michigan of
their delegates if they refused to return their primaries to their
original dates, there were three individuals who could have restored
the franchise to those states. Howard Dean, the Chairman of the DNC,
could have changed his mind, or changed his proposed penalty. Even in
the face of his intransigence, however, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama
could have simply refused his entreaty to avoid the offending states. A
declaration by either that they disagreed with the DNC's decision and
would instruct their delegates to alter the rules at the convention and
seat Florida and Michigan would have forced all the other candidates to
do the same, and the DNC's prohibition would have collapsed. The voters
in Florida and Michigan would have attended speeches, and seen ads, and
hosted a debate, and been able to make an informed choice

That didn't happen. Clinton's campaign manager backing the
DNC, said, “We believe Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina
play a unique and special role in the nominating process, and we
believe the DNC's rules and its calendar provide the necessary
structure to respect and honor that role.” So Florida and Michigan
didn't get their primaries. They didn't get campaigns. They didn't have
serious Get Out The Vote efforts. And now, they're being cynically
used, the language of democracy revisited and dusted off in service of
a power play for additional delegates. Where, rightly or wrongly, the
campaigns agreed to deny them a primary, now Clinton's campaign, which
in Michigan won because they were the only campaign on the ballot and
in Florida won because no one contested their lead, is demanding they be seated.

Of course, Clinton's campaign has calculated that more will be gained from generally misinformed voters thinking she “won” Florida than from really annoying intelligent people following the campaign.  Its that kind of crass opportunism that makes me think Hillary certainly deserves a good deal of (though surely not all) of the negativity she gets. 

Of Hillary, Ken Follett and my diminished blogging

I've obviously been a bad blogger lately.  Been pretty busy at work, but what's really done me in is World Without End by Ken Follet.  Regardless of when they are actually posted, I write a fair number of my blog posts in the evening before bed.  That's also the time, I like to get my pleasure reading in.  As it so happens, I've been so completely enthralled by World Without End for the past week or so (it is 1000 pages, so even though its keeping me up late every night, I'm still at it), that I've not wanted to take any time from reading in order to blog.

Tonight, of course, I did take a break to check on the Florida primary results.  I've already been quite unhappy with Hillary (and Bill!) due to their recent negativity and shenanigans, but Hillary's “victory speech” in Florida tonight was enough to snap me out of the blog slump.  The Democratic candidates all agreed months ago that they would not campaign in Florida, since it held its primary before the February 5 date imposed by the national Democratic party.  The party stripped Florida of its delegates, and thus any victory is only hollow.  Now that she's feeling desperate and has been up in the polls in Florida (Hillary has always led where there's not an actual contest– that Clinton name is pretty powerful in Democratic circles), she decides that today's out-performing Obama in Florida is a victory.  The Post's Dana Milbank calls it like it is:

Cheering supporters? Check. Election returns on the projection screen?
Check. Andrea Mitchell and Candy Crowley doing stand-ups? Check and
check. In fact, the only piece missing from Sen. Hillary Clinton's
Florida victory party here Tuesday night was a victory…

But in a political stunt worthy of the late Evel Knievel, the Clinton
campaign decided to put on an ersatz victory party that, it hoped,
would erase memories of Obama's actual victory in South Carolina's
Democratic primary. “Thank you Florida Democrats!” Clinton shouted to
the cheering throng. “I am thrilled to have this vote of confidence.”

I am so done with Hillary.  I'll vote for her should she get the nomination.  But as I've mentioned, I am a true yellow-dog Democrat– I would vote for my yellow lab, Lira, before any of the Republicans.  So, that's not really worth all that much. 

Rudy’s Polls (plus his free pass from the media)

Rudy Giuliani's strategy of risking is all on a stand in Florida never seemed to have too much chance of success, but the latest polls suggest that his campaign is done for.  Via pollster.com:

POLL: ARG Florida Primary

A new American Research Group Florida survey (conducted 1/20 through 1/21) finds:

  • 600 Likely Republican Primary Voters (± 4%)

    29 McCain

    22 Romney

    17 Huckabee

    16 Giuliani

    6 Thompson

    6 Paul

    1 Keyes

    3 Undecided

Furthermore, this pre-South Carolina primay analysis by Political Scientist Charles Franklin, clearly makes the case for Rudy's death spiral.  In short, McCain has directly benefitted from Rudy's fall:

After leading in national polls throughout the first three quarters,
Giuliani's support took a sharp turn downward in the late fall, closely
associated with the timing of the indictment November 8th of his long
time friend, partner and associate, Bernard Kerik. (I also think
failing to compete in early primaries, and then doing quite badly, is a
contributing recent cause of Giuliani's decline. Late win strategies do
not have a good track record… ask John Connally.)

McCain's rise comes after Giuliani's decline begins. Given that both
candidates appeal more to moderate and somewhat conservative
Republicans (as opposed to the conservative base of the party) it is
likely that these voters turned from Giuliani and found McCain the most
attractive among the remainder of the field.

McCain also shares with Giuliani the advantage of perceived
“electability”. As Giuliani's fortunes fell, McCain emerged as the
candidate Republicans see as having the best chance of defeating any
Democrat in November. In primaries, perceived viability is an important

As we watch the death throes of Rudy's campaign, I do have to mention one thing that really annoys me.  He actually tried really hard in NH, only leaving that state when the polls refused to budge in his favor despite his efforts.  Yet, pretty much every media report is giving his sad 4th place (and only 9%) finish in NH a free pass and is following the Giuliani campaign spin that Florida is actually the first primary he is seriously contesting.  Anyway, looks like it will be a moot point if the new polls in Florida are at all accurate. 

Is Hucakbee pandering to racists?

In Slate, Christopher Hitchens makes a damn good case that, yes, he is.  The heart of the matter:

Gov. Mike Huckabee made the following unambiguously racist and demagogic appeal in Myrtle Beach, S.C., last week:

don't like people from outside the state coming in and telling you what
to do with your flag. In fact, if somebody came to Arkansas and told us
what to do with our flag, we'd tell 'em what to do with the pole;
that's what we'd do.

1) The South Carolina flag is a perfectly nice flag, featuring the palmetto plant, about which no “outsider” has ever offered any free advice.

The Confederate battle flag, to which Gov. Huckabee was alluding, was
first flown over the South Carolina state capitol in 1962, as a
deliberately belligerent riposte to the civil rights movement, and is
not now, and never has been, the flag of that great state.

3) By a vote of both South Carolina houses in the year 2000, the Confederate battle flag ceased to be flown over the state capitol and now only waves (as quite possibly it should) over the memorial to fallen Confederate soldiers.

Hitchens also discusses why he thinks the media has given Huckabee a free pass on the story– where I think the essay is on weaker grounds.  As far as making the case that this is racist pandering, though, Hitchens is quite convincing.  I don't think this is quite what God had in mind when he chose Huckabee for when he led him to victory in the Iowa caucus (as Huck has suggested). 

What should you read?

What I recommend, obviously.  Sadly, I have become a full year behind in updating my on-line reading list/book reviews.  I've now caught about half way up on putting last year's reading on the list and since, who knows when I'll finish it, I'll go ahead and link to it now.  I'll also report back when I get around to adding the 10 or so more books I need to review (some of which will make my all-time favorites).  

No compassion here

Former Bush speechwriter, and now Wasghington Post columnist, Michael Gershon, one of the driving forces behind Bush's so-called “compassionate conservatism” sticks it to the modern Republican party (though singles out Fred Thompson) in a great column today:

At a campaign stop attended by a CBS reporter in Lady's Island, S.C., Thompson was asked if he, “as a Christian, as a conservative,” supported President Bush's
global AIDS initiative. “Christ didn't tell us to go to the government
and pass a bill to get some of these social problems dealt with. He
told us to do it,” Thompson responded. “The government has its role,
but we need to keep firmly in mind the role of the government, and the
role of us as individuals and as Christians on the other.”

Thompson went on: “I'm not going to go around the state and the
country with regards to a serious problem and say that I'm going to
prioritize that. With people dying of cancer, and heart disease, and
children dying of leukemia still, I got to tell you — we've got a lot
of problems here. . . . ” Indeed, there are a lot of problems here —
mainly of Thompson's own making.

While he is not an isolationist, he clearly is playing to
isolationist sentiments. His objection, it seems, is not to government
spending on public health but to spending on foreigners…

Thompson's argument reflects an anti-government extremism, which I am
sure his defenders would call a belief in limited government. In this
case, Thompson is limiting government to a half-full thimble. Its
duties apparently do not extend to the treatment of sick people in
extreme poverty, which should be “the role of us as individuals and as
Christians.” One wonders, in his view, if responding to the 2004
tsunami should also have been a private responsibility. Religious
groups are essential to fighting AIDS, but they cannot act on a
sufficient scale.

Thompson also dives headfirst into the shallow pool of his own
theological knowledge. In his interpretation, Jesus seems to be a
libertarian activist who taught that compassion is an exclusively
private virtue. This ignores centuries of reflection on the words of
the Bible that have led to a nearly universal Christian conviction that
government has obligations to help the weak and pursue social justice.
Religious social reformers fought to end child labor and improve public
health. It is hard to imagine they would have used the teachings of
Christ to justify cutting off lifesaving drugs for tens of thousands of
African children — an argument both novel and obscene.

I don't know, pretty much sounds like an indictment of the better part of the Republican base to me.  Gerson clearly is a man of compassion– sadly, I think he's wasting his breath trying to convince fellow Republicans they need more of it

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