Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Kennedy, Clinton Hit the Trail in Lafayette, Indiana

It was a big day for both Democratic campaigns in the Greater Lafayette area of Indiana today. Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright visited the Purdue University campus this morning on behalf of the Clintons. Caroline Kennedy visited the Tippecanoe County Library this afternoon on behalf of Barack Obama. HRC herself visited Lafayette this evening for a rally.

Folks lined up around the block to see Ms. Kennedy who visited to share her vision for an Obama campaign in America. Personally, I didn't anticipate such a long line, and although I showed up well in advance of the event, there wasn't enough room inside the library to accommodate the crowd. "I won't underestimate a Lafayette crowd again," one Obama staffer said. Fortunately, Ms. Kennedy took the time to greet everyone waiting in line and encourage them to vote early for Obama.

A couple hours later, just a few blocks away, Hillary Clinton spoke to a crowd of more than a thousand people in the plaza in downtown Lafayette. The topic of the talk was bringing jobs to Indiana, which has lost a lot of manufacturing work over the past decade. While it lacked the electric atmosphere of an Obama event, the crowd was receptive to most of Clinton's ideas. If nothing else, it's encouraging to know that Democrats of all stripes will be coming out in full force come November to defeat John McCain.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tuesday Afternoon Reading: Iowa Superdelegate Endorses Obama

  • The Des Moines Register reports that Iowa superdelegate Richard Machacek, a farmer from Winthrop, endorsed Obama this morning.
  • Obama criticizes the Supreme Court's ruling that Indiana's voter ID law is constitutional.
  • Blogging for the San Francisco Chronicle, Carolyn Lochhead explains why Indiana is a must win for Obama.
  • The Christian Science Monitor identifies three cities they believe are critical for Democrats in Indiana.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Commentary: Clinton Joins the Assault on Reason

Chances are that anyone who reads this blog agrees that the past eight years have been a disaster and that we should do anything and everything we can to avoid a repeat over the next four or eight years. To most of us, that means opposing John McCain, Bush's former opponent who has suddenly adopted virtually every one of Bush's policy positions. But it has become increasinly apparent over the course of the Democratic primaries and caucuses that Hillary Clinton shares Bush's most damaging trait, and the one that is the root cause of most of his many failures: an uneasy relationship with reality and common sense.

I may as well begin with the best-known, but perhaps least disturbing, of Clinton's breaks with reality: her strange "recollections" of sniper fire in Bosnia. In all probability, either Clinton or one of her speechwriters overembellished the details of a pseudo-incident that seemed to demonstrate her foreign policy experience. That overembellishment snowballed into somewhat of a controversy, but only thanks to news footage that flatly contradicted her claims; all in all, it was fairly standard stuff as far as campaigns go, and probably doesn't prove much with respect to Clinton's character.

I am more disturbed by the general thesis that the Bosnia fairy tale was crafted to support: the notion that Clinton has meaningful experience to begin with. The Clinton campaign has carefully nurtured this meme, and has succeeded to the extent that every poll and every focus group and every anecdote seems to suggest that her experience is a well-documented fact. The problem is that she doesn't have much experience: she has slightly more experience than Obama, but either in objective terms or when compared to McCain, her resume is far from impressive. Still, we are subjected to ringing-phone adds that suggest that she will be especially Ready From Day One; truly, though, any thinking person knows better, except perhaps for those who would have voted for Annette Bening's character in The American President 2: Annette Bening's Character Runs For President For Some Reason.

But even that break from reality can be forgiven, if only on such bases as marketing or desperation. After all, "experience" is a difficult thing to quantify, and perhaps Clinton really does feel that when Annette Bening translated for the French Prime Minister, that qualified her for Big Red Button duty. Quantitative measures such as popular vote totals and the percentage of as-yet-unpledged superdelegates needed to clinch the nomination are not nearly so difficult to quantify. The question of which measures are more relevant is only slightly less objective. Still, at every point in the race, Clinton has insisted that that measure which favors her most is THE measure, always and forever...or at least until that measure ceases to favor her most. The farce has progressed to the point where Clinton claims to have claimed the lead in the popular vote, and uses a metric which includes the state of Michigan (where Obama's name was not even on the ballot) to prove her point. Again, no thinking person would side with her.

This is no small thing. Clinton has managed to convince a significant portion of the media to take her claims to a lead in the popular vote seriously enough to air them with a straight face. And in a larger sense, people who sing the praises of dubious statistics and anecdotes in order to further their own goals are much to be feared. In the past, such people have argued that tobacco does not cause cancer, that global warming is just part of a natural cycle, that the mission in Iraq is accomplished, and the Brownie was doing a heckuva job. They are not to be trusted. And they are not to be voted for.

Indiana, Door to Door

Purdue University senior Roy Hobbs chats with Indiana voters in West Lafayette.

Supporters in West Lafayette, IN took to the streets (and country roads) this morning, going to door to door to speak with registered Democrats about Barack Obama's plans to help Indiana families.

This was the first time I'd had the opportunity to go door to door for the campaign, and the experience was eye opening. First of all, it's completely understandable how difficult it can be to harness the youth vote. We began the day knocking on the doors of registered voters near the Purdue University campus, but unfortunately, much of the information we had, despite being only a few months old, was out of date. With college students so frequently on the move, it's tough to reach them by conventional methods. Most of the conversations we had this morning were with hungover (or barely awake) college students who were nonetheless eager to hear about Barack Obama. Of course, the fact that the semester ended yesterday didn't help our efforts. Many students were either out of town, or sleeping in after a long night out.

We did have some great opportunities in the afternoon to get out into the countryside a little bit. Folks were very receptive and happy to see us. We did run into a few ardent Obama supporters who already had their minds made up, but seeing people going door to door seemed to reinvigorate their enthusiasm for what has been a long campaign.

Perhaps the best part of the morning, though, was running into some registered Republicans. They were unaware that they are actually eligible to participate in Indiana's primary campaign, regardless of their party affiliation. There truly are a lot of frustrated Republicans out there who are eager for change, and seriously considering crossing party lines for the first time in their lives. In a traditionally deep red state like Indiana, that could make all the difference come November.

One final thought: After 5 hours of door to door efforts today, we made face to face contact with 44 voters, most of whom were available for less than a minute of conversation. BlogObama08 averages 30 visitors per day for an average time of about 1 minute and 30 seconds. On a good day, more than 300 users visit the blog. If nothing else, this door to door effort convinced me that maintaining this blog does make an impact, even if at times it feels like I am just shouting into the abyss.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

UPDATE: Networks Show Clinton with Single Digit Win

As of 9:18 p.m. EST, the networks are projecting Clinton as the winner in PA by a narrow six point margin. This will do little to close the delegate or popular vote gap. The race now moves to Indiana and North Carolina on May 6th.

Here is the Reuters take on a narrow win for Clinton in PA:

"Given her once huge lead in polls and the state's blue-collar demographics, considered ideal for her candidacy, a narrow win would increase perceptions that she cannot catch Obama. With no more big states left to vote, Clinton would have little chance left to change the dynamics of the race and build momentum for the finish. A win would likely send her on to the remaining contests that end on June 3, but pressure would continue to build on Clinton to get out of the race. Clinton aides have tried to play down expectations, and insist "a win is a win." But in Pennsylvania, a narrow win might not be enough for Clinton."

With two more big states remaining, the challenge for Clinton is going to be to stay afloat financially. More on the money picture later.

Clinton Needs a Blowout

Basically, Clinton needs a blowout of historic proportions to catch Obama. Read more here.

Is Hillary Ready to Pounce on PA?

Hillary needs a big win today if she hopes to remain in the race. Her campaign is boasting of big leads in suburban and rural areas. The Obama camp is downplaying their chances. Who will come out on top?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Obama in the Hoosier State

Barack Obama spoke to a crowd of more than 3,000 this evening in a town hall meeting at Jefferson High School in Lafayette, IN. The visit was announced Tuesday and the campaign distributed tickets yesterday in downtown Lafayette and at the Village Coffee House on the Purdue University campus. Voters lined up for hours at both locations and the free tickets were gone in minutes.

After a year of blogging on behalf of Obama, this was the first time I'd been able to see him in person. I was worried at first, considering my teaching obligations at Purdue kept me from lining up for tickets, but thankfully, the Obama staff in Lafayette were kind enough to set aside a pair of tickets for this friendly blogger.

Hundreds lined up early this evening, waiting in the rain for law enforcement to prepare the gym for the crowd. There was a palpable sense of excitement in the air, of history in the making. As we waited for Obama to take the stage, children were at play in the balcony above the court, and I couldn't help but feel thankful that their parents wanted them to be witness to this historic campaign.

Obama began with a 30 minute address concerning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the state of the economy, free trade, education, and other issues, drawing, at my count, twelve standing ovations. He then opened the floor to the crowd, fielding questions about education, health care, and the environment.

At one point, Obama took a question from a 9-year-old girl who asked if he would put an end to all the state testing she had to do in school. Obama agreed with the child that the U.S. education system could use an overhaul, much to the satisfaction of the youngster.

I'll post video as soon as it becomes available. Suffice it to say that the room was full of ordinary Americans who have endured seven years of tough times, and yet all looked forward with hope to the possibilities of the Obama administration.

Friday, April 4, 2008

UPDATE: Clinton Superdelegates Jumping Ship

Read all about it here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Clinton Explodes, Chills Out

These outbursts are becoming alarmingly frequent. I especially like the SFGate reportage on this one: "It was as if someone had pulled the pin from a grenade."

Superdelegate: " of the worst political meetings I have ever attended."

Tuesday, April 1, 2008