by Marc Schulman
February 24, 2008
The Republican primary campaign is over. Governor Huckabee is still running, but at this point Senator McCain has the nomination. He now faces the difficult balancing act between trying to engage the Republican conservatives, while not turning off the independents who are the key to victory. Once a candidate is guaranteed a nomination, he usually moves to the center. In this case, however, McCain never really secured his base so he has to continue doing so. The New York Times article last week insinuating a sexual liaison has probably done more to do this than anything McCain could have done
On the Democratic side there is no doubt that momentum is now with Barak Obama. After his unbroken string of victories, Obama has caught up with and passed Senator Clinton in delegate count. She is now trying to stem the tide and it is almost an impossible task. Clinton has to win all three of the large states coming up ñ Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania, in order to remain a viable candidate. If she loses any one of them, I think she will have no choice but to concede.
There were two interesting articles that came out in the last few days on whether Obama's approach to foreign affairs is the right one. The first one is by Leon Wieseltier and can be found in the New Republic. It is called "Forever Young"
In the article Wieseltier questions whether Obama is too naive about the world to handle its problems. On the other side of the coin, Roger Cohen responded in the New York Times on Februay 18th with an article called A Realist Called Obama.
February 10, 2008
The most interesting primary battle in a generation continues. For political junkies there have never been so many nights of watching the results of primary battles. For residents of states like New York, California, Washington, and it looks like even Ohio and Texas who never before in modern time have primary voters in these states had their votes count, it's the season to remember.
Almost a week after Super Tuesday, the Republican race has almost been decided, with Mitt Romney bowing out leaving McCain, who has a commanding lead in the delegates, with only Huckabee as a serious opponent. McCain has slowly been receiving the support of most of the Republican establishment. Many of the most conservative commentators continue to oppose McCain, complaining that he is not conservative enough. They are right about McCain in that he does not always take the party line position and has a strong libertarian streak, together with a "Teddy Roosevelt like" appreciation of our environment. Those factors are all good reasons to give traditional conservatives a pause. On the other hand, those factors are also the very reason that many independents and even some Democrats might end up supporting McCain in the general election. It is conceivable (depending on events in the world) that come next November many of what used to be called Scoop Jackson democrats, liberal domestically but believing in a strong defense and foreign policy, could decide to support McCain. It is unlikely that these same people would support any other of the Republican candidate.
On the Democratic side, it has come down to a two person race between Obama and Clinton. The two are appealing to somewhat different constituencies, Obama consistently getting the votes of the higher educated and higher income voters, while Clinton does better with lower income voters. Obama overwhelmingly wins the votes of African American, while Clinton wins the Hispanic vote. Obama wins the young votes, and Clinton wins the older voters. Obama wins among men and Clinton among women. Who will get the nomination? I could flip a coin and the predictive powers of the coin may be as good as mine. It may come down to a decision at the convention, clearly the dream of political junkies; of course if no one wins the first vote at a convention anything is possible. It is of course unlikely that it will get that far, and at the moment clearly Obama has the momentum. But, momentum this year has been nearly meaningless, so go out and flip a coin, maybe it will stand on its side and Al Gore will get the nomination.
January 20th 2008
What changes two weeks make. When the votes from Iowa were counted I was convinced that there was nothing that was going to stop Obama, it also looked like there was a new force in the Republican Party that might be unstoppable.
Two weeks later it has not worked out that way. Senator Clinton responded to her defeat in Iowa with renewed vigor. She managed a major upset victory in New Hampshire despite all the expectations of the pundits. Her victory in New Hampshire was followed by a victory in Nevada. Next is South Carolina where 50% of the democratic primary voters are African American. Less then two weeks later is Super Tuesday, 2 primaries 20 contests in one day. On the Republican side Governor Huckabee failed to capitalize on his victory in Iowa and now Senator McCain is the Republican frontrunner after he won in both New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Americans are worried, in ways that they have not been worried for many years. The fears combine personal economic concerns with the concern for the direction of the country. The politics of change seemed to dominate the campaign for a short period of time. This clearly benefited Senator Obama and to a lesser extent Governor Huckabee- they represented change. I believe that the fear that is spreading will benefit Senators Clinton and McCain. Experience vs. change that seems to be the calculus of this campaign. With economic fears growing experience may trumpet change.
January 3, 2008
The first votes have taken place- and the people of Iowa have spoken.? Candidates have been criss-crossing Iowa for over a year.? Two clear outsiders have won.? Republican Governor Huckabee emerged from the crowd of second tier candidates in the course of a few weeks become the leader in the polls, and tonight win a decisive victory.? His victory was to a large result of the support he received from the Evangelical community.? But his victory was broader, he seem to strike a chord in Iowa, running a populist campaign. He also has come across and the most likeable of the Republican candidates. Huckabee managed to win in Iowa with very little money.? Outspent 15 to 1 he won.
?While conservative in his values he makes a strikingly unlikely Republican candidate.? Will his message translate into other states?? How will Governor Romney's defeat affect the New Hampshire race next week?? Will Senator McCain?s surge continue there?
On the democratic side Barak Obama's campaign, which seem moribund over the summer, came from behind and won a decisive victory.? He won thanks in part to the quirky democratic system that allowed people to vote a second time if their candidate was not viable (reaching 15%).? Obama received support from those caucus goers while Clinton did not.? This I believe is not a good sign for her.? Both democrats and republicans voted tonight for change.? Clinton cannot claim that mantel.? I believe the chances of Obama going all the way to nomination to be very high.? Time will tell, but boring it will not be!!!
December 26, 2007
What a difference six weeks can make. Six weeks ago there were presumptive front runners in the Democratic and Republican races, races that had been unchanged in months. Now the two races look very different. With the Iowa caucuses only days away Governor Huckalbee has come from being a second tier candidate to the Republican leader in the Iowa polls. On the Democratic side Barak Obama has closed the lead that Hilary Clinton seemed to have had in Iowa.
Where are we going, no one knows. There is no precedent for neither side having a clear front runner going into the first primaries. Further on the Republican side it is not even clear who is the number two in the race. In addition the first contest is the Iowa caucus and event whose outcome has always been very hard to predict. As of right now the two contenders with momentum on their side are Obama and Huckalbee, but with so many primaries happening so soon, anything can happen.
October 14, 2007
Its been over three months since I have written an update about the campaign, and while TV commentators need to fill the airwaves, I have not written primarily since there has been so little to write about. One of the problems of such and extended campaign is the months go by, the candidate's debate, they spend money, but since no one gets to vote yet, very little changes. That certainly has been the case on the Democratic side. The biggest news is that little has changed in the last three months. Senator Hilary Clinton is still the leader, and that image of inevitability that she has been projecting has just become every more real. Her lead over her rivals has actually been lengthening somewhat and the candidacy of Senator Barak Obama has not managed to make any headway. Former Senator Edwards ??s remains were he has been in third place in all the national polls. The only candidate that seems to have made any progress is Governor Bill Richardson. His slightly rising poll numbers a respectable fund raising has made his race for the nomination seem slightly less quixotic. As all the commentator keep saying, it is early and the poll numbers in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire indicate that the races in those states are much closer, but even in those states the most recent polls Senator Clinton leading. Things could change, but so far the Clinton campaign has executed a near perfect election strategy.
One the Republican side the state of the campaign is no clearer then it was three months ago. Former Senator Fred Thompson has entered the race. The results seem to be a collective yawn. Former Mayor Giuliani despite all the predictions remains the front-runner in all the national polls. His lead is less commanding then it was a few months ago, but is still substantial. He does not lead however in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. There former Governor Romney is in the lead. In those two states Romney is spending heavily on TV ads. The "value"voters of the Republican Party continue to be unhappy with all the leading contenders, some threatening to support and independent bid to the White House. Similar to Richardson campaign on the Democratic side one Republican long short former Governor Brownback has also stood out and has a chance to break into the first tier. Unlike the Democrats this year Republican primary season is wide open with few even willing to handicap the outcome.
July 4, 2007
It is the 4th of July 2007, and one year from now we will almost definitely know who the candidates for President are. At the moment however, we do not know much more then we knew three months ago. The big news this week has been the race to raise money and once again Senator Obama has astounded political observers by substantially out raising Senator Clinton. Obama has certainly energized a large group of democratic voters. Never before have so many given so much money. Despite the enthusiasm Obama has not succeeded in moving beyond his current group of supporters. There have been three democratic debates and Clinton seems to have won each of the debates. She always seems to come across as more prepared, and more ready to be the President from the first day. On the other hand there is no taking away from the fact that the enthusiasm for Obama certainly amongst the large cadre of 250,000 donors is not waning. Edwards fundraising was down a little. Governor Richards everyone favorite dark horse seems to have gained a little traction and raised 7 million dollars, nothing like the 32 million that Obama raised, but then Richardson has a small staff and an operation that does not require the same level of cash. We tend to blame the cost of media for the high cost of running campaigns, but I wonder how much each candidate is paying their top advisors and consultants.
The most striking numbers are not the differences between the Democratic candidates, but how much more the leading democrats have raised in comparison to the leading Republican candidates. Former Mayor Giuliani the leader both in the polls and in the fundraising garnered a total of $17 million slightly more then half what Obama has raised. This portends for a very difficult year for whoever is nominated by the Republicans. The Republicans have traditionally been able to count on having a better-funded campaign. With enthusiasm so high for the democrats and so low for the Republicans they probably not have that advantage in 2008
The big news on the Republican side is the failure of Senator McCain to raise anything close to what he had projected to raise. He raised a total of 11 million and more ominously his campaign only has $2 million dollars on hand. It would seem that being the candidate most publicly identified with the Iraq War has put McCain in an unwinnable position.
May 7, 2007
If March was the month of the unlikely April seems to be the month that reality came to the race. While Obama fever dominated the news following his announcement, that he would run, the enthusiasm of March failed to grow into momentum in April. The latest poll taken by CNN if fact shows that Senator Hilary Clinton has extended her lead over Senator Obama. The democrats had their first debate and by all account nobody stood out. All of the front-runners acquitted themselves well, but there were no standouts. Now a few months into the campaign the democratic field is much the way it began, with Senator Clinton in the lead and the majority of democrats happy with their candidates.
On the Republican side the lead the Mayor Giuliani held a month ago has been rapidly evaporating. As more and more Republican primary voters understand his position on repealing Roe vs. Wade his support weakens. Many pundits questions whether anyone with Giuliani positions on social issues could ever win the Republican nomination, the answer is probably not. In the meantime most Republicans are unhappy with their field of candidates and event though ten contenders have officially announced former Senator Thompson who has not announced polls in third place in most of the polls.
April 5, 2007
When the history of the election of 2008 is written, the month of March 2007 will probably go down as the month that the candidacy of Senator Barak Obama went from a curiosity to a full fledged challenge to the candidacy of Senator Hilary Clinton. For last month was a month of ever growing crowds that followed Obama wherever he went. It was a month a grass roots support that almost needed to be restrained. It was punctuated with the release of the quarterly fund raising totals that showed Obama raising an astonishing $25 million only $1million under the figure raised by Clinton. His 25 million came from 100,000 individual twice the number of contributors that Clinton had. There can be no doubt that Obama is now a true threat to Clinton, and that the aura of inevitability that Clinton had tried to project is now gone. In the meantime Senator Edwards together with his wife Elizabeth announced that her cancer had reoccurred. Their joint announcement and his decision to remain in the race was widely supported by the American people. Opinion polls show Clinton still comfortably ahead in the polls, with Obama support in the national polls seemingly reached a plateau. Edward trails behind together with the unannounced Vice President Gore, who claims to have no plans to run.
On the Republican side Mayor Giuliani remains the leader, much to the surprise of pundits, who all believed once his views on social issues became better known his support would fall. One of the important factors behind Giuliani’s continued strength is the fact that he seems to be the most electable Republican candidate. Early polls show him defeating both Clinton and Obama in a projected 2008 race. The failure of Senator McCain to either gain ground on Giuliani and his poor showing in the first quarterly fundraising has fueled speculation on what is wrong with his campaign. Part of his problem is clearly his identification with the war in Iraq. While the other Republican candidates support the President- he is the one most identified with the current policies. Governor Romney was the surprise fundraising star on the Republican side raising a total of $20.6 million to lead the Republicans. His fundraising however, came largely from the Mormon community and thus may not be a good indicator of broader support.
Some correspondents have complained that the race has not been about issues but seems to be more about personalities (see Paul Krugman in the NYT 2/26). I am not sure why Krugman is surprised. There is very little difference in the positions of the democratic candidates on most issues, and that should not surprise us. The Democrats are united on most issues. What we should hope for is a clear fight on the issues in the general elections. Not a fight about gay marriage or abortion, but a fight over taxes and the budget, the environment and the global fight against terrorism. I won't hold my breadth, but I am hopeful.