Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Numbers and Notes – Some Inconvenient Truths

Cue the music, run the retrospective of his campaign, Tom Vilsack has left the building. He seemed like a nice fellow, quite pleasant on The Daily Show, but as a former Governor of Iowa, the money just wasn’t there for him. He won’t be the last candidate to leave for that reason, the big dogs in this hunt are taking up all the air.


Speaking of the big dogs, Rasmussen has Hillary’s lead back into double digits this week, which could just be a blip, or could be a sign that the initial excitement over Obama’s announcement has lost its steam. The most interesting part of this is that at 37% and 26%, this is the high point in this poll for both Clinton and Obama. Rasmussen dropped Al Gore from the polling and that may have had some effect. Edwards is holding steady at 13% and he seems optimistic about raising money, which will be key. No one else is over 4% and I can’t take them seriously until they are.


Over on the GOP side, Rudy is steady as a rock, with a 16 point lead over McCain. The bigger numbers are still the head-to-head general election matchups, where he seems to be running much stronger against Clinton than McCain. That is his strongest weapon, as fear of President Hillary could be enough for the GOP faithful to cast aside their social agenda and get in line behind their best candidate. McCain is at 17% in the Rasmussen numbers, his lowest yet. In some sate polls, Rudy leads Hillary 53-37(!) in PA, while McCain has only a four point lead there.


The Zogby Poll had some odd results, with Obama winning against any Republican and Hillary losing to both Giuliani and McCain. The swing is pretty huge, with Obama beating Rudy by 6, while Rudy beats Hillary by 7. Obama beats McCain by 4, while McCain beats Clinton by 8. I am dubious about all of these numbers.


The big campaign news of last week was the David Geffen interview, causing great excitement among the chattering classes, who proceeded to overrate its importance and completely misread the effect, however tiny that might be, on the race. This will be completely forgotten by the time anyone votes, but raising the issue of integrity and philandering when it comes to the Clintons is not going to make for fun for the Hillary camp. They immediately responded by demanding that Obama give back all the money Geffen raised (yeah, right), and Hillary lamented the “politics of personal destruction”. Every time I hear that phrase I want to vomit. The Republicans won’t have any trouble destroying you, so you better get used to it. And remember, you wouldn’t even be here if Bill wasn’t your husband, so he, and his administration, which are your big selling point, are fair game. Obama refused to be lured into this nonsense, saying “why am I being asked to apologize for someone else’s statements?” – two points for Barack, the thought is still out there and he is above the fray.


Big week for Al Gore, even if Rasmussen dropped him from their poll. The Oscars were a wonderful showcase for him and he was charming and was referred to in the most glowing terms possible – “inspiration”, “leadership”, “dedicated” – Hillary would pay to hear those words used in reference to her (and probably will). This prompted the punditocracy to leap into “what if” mode, positing that he is the 800-lb. gorilla of the party (no, not a fat joke) and he is the only one who could enter this late and still win. He has the ability to raise money fast, has the heft (no, not a fat joke), and could avoid the backbiting and general unpleasantness and show up in the Fall. They all agreed it was well within the realm of possibility, but most seem to feel it would be to stop Hillary, which contradicts what Gore’s people said, that he would come in if her campaign faltered. All of this is nonsense. The day when someone could enter late and win the nomination ended a long time ago. People are lining up, and once they commit, it will be hard to show up later and take them away. Psychologically, it is not the kind of thing people do. They are also ignoring the strange polling data on Gore. According to Rasmussen, he has the same unfavorable numbers as Hillary, 47%. That isn’t just Republicans, so the public is not waiting with bated breath for Al’s political reappearance.
Add to that the difficulty in the nature of the field. If Edwards is out of gas by the time he shows up, then it really looks like he is picking up the white guy banner, which won’t go down well in the Democratic party. Whether it is true or not is irrelevant, it just would make people uncomfortable.
Speaking of uncomfortable, I don’t think Al wants to run. He goes around the world talking about the single most important thing you can talk about and I don’t think he wants to trade that in for months of talking about farm subsidies, Yucca Mountain, and whatever the hell matters most in New Hampshire. It is the greatest flaw in our system that we make people beg and pander for the nomination and I doubt that Al wants to deal with that at this point in his life.


Blogger samG said...

As someone who tends to like Hillary (although less so in recent months), I want to weigh in (no, no fat joke) on the Geffen gaffe. I'm not defending Hillary. I think her 'camp' over-reacted to the extreme and did themselves more harm than good. It's silly to ask a candidate to defend or repudiate the comments of any of their supporters (I don't think Geffen qualifies as a 'surrogate' which is how he was described by certain media).

Having said that, Geffen's comments were stupid, infantile, sophomoric, and counter productive. He said nasty things about someone he may very well wind up supporting and to whom he may give money. He did not accuse the Clinton's of philandering or even allude to it. He accused them of lying and of lying in an easy, casual way which made them more 'evil' than all other polticians who habitually lie.

Do all politicians really lie? Do All movie producers, tobacco and drug company CEO's, lie? Let's show a little maturity and understanding that words matter. Lying means knowing something not to be true but saying it as if it were true. That's a pretty heavy burden. Scooter Libby lied. Bill Gates lied in his deposition prior to the Microsoft anti-trust case. Bill Clinton may, or may not, have lied in the Paula Jones deposition depending upon how you define sex. I know I remember what I thought sex was when I was 20 years old and it is not what Clinton had with Monica Lewinsky.

To say that the Clintons lied more casually than all other politicians is to put them in a class by themselves. My gosh, after what we have witnessed in the past 6 years, how can this by even remotely possible. And, again, where is the wisdom in making this kind of criticism against a candidate whom one is likely to support if your candidate does not succeed.

11:15 AM  
Blogger samG said...

I'm not done.

Has Geffen found the one politician in the universe who does not lie or are we now talking about degrees of lying? Maybe Barack is just better at lying? And assuming for the absurd moment that Geffen is right, is the ability to lie a pre-requisite for becoming a politician? Is it unique to this profession? Do some clergymen lie? How about movie critics? And if, indeed, all politicians lie, is that because it is a job requirement or because telling the truth to an inattentive, selfish, myopic electorate is certain to get one looking for another profession? How did that work for Mondale in 1984? I don't know, my 10 year old would not say something so idiotic.

11:43 AM  
Blogger samG said...

Okay, one last thought on the subject.

Did Barack lie when he said, a year ago, that he would not run for POTUS or did he change his mind? Did #41 lie when he said 'read my lips' or did he change his mind? Did Reagan lie when he said he would never trade weapons for hostages or was he confused and 'out of the loop'? This lying thing is a tricky business and should be thron around so casually (you should pardon the expression).

12:01 PM  
Blogger Barry Rubinowitz said...

Your third response merely emphasizes the accuracy of Geffen's "all politicians lie" quote, which was given less to slander the profession than to give his next statement credibility. If he hadn't said thatand complained about Clintonian fabrications, you (and others) would laugh and say "a politician lying? grow up, it comes with the territory"
At heart his problems with the Clintons isn't business, it's personal. They undoubtedly lied to "him", not just about policy issues (which is what Bush does), but something else. Bush's lies, mush bigger and much worse, because they involve war and peace, are public, but he is legendary for his personal loyoalty. When the Monica scandal broke, Clinton gathered his cabinet, many of whom were his friends, and lied to them and sent them out to look like fools in the media. We'll never know how much was Al Gore hurt by that Rose Garden appearance. That's what makes Clinton special. As for Hillary, our first introduction to her on the national stage was on 60 Minutes, where she did the Tammy Wynette reference and proceeded to lie about Bill's affair with Gennifer Flowers. Was that a worthwhile lie? Probably. But she was as slick as Slick Willy himself doing it and that is what makes them special.
Don't get me wrong, Clinton also lied about policy, but it's the personal ones that made him special.
And yes, Bush 41 lied and Reagan lied (all the damn time, actually)and I am weary of it. It's been a generation since we had a President with integrity, nearly two since we had one with integrity and competence and there can be no sadder condemnation of our system than that. What makes a potential vote for Hillary so frustrating to me is that I will cast it knowing I can't trust her beforehand, and that will be a first for me.

8:51 AM  
Blogger samG said...

I think you fudged or muddied my point. Lying and truthfulness are absolutes and most of what passes for political discourse falls somewhere in between. Obama, I assume, did not lie one year ago because, at that time, he had no intention of running. He changed his mind, something to which we are all entitled and for which we would all be better off if people like W, Hillary and Lieberman would consider doing as well. I don't know what Bill told his cabinet but if said "i did not have sexual relations with that woman' then he didn't lie. Reagan may, or may not, have lied about Iran/Contra but knowing his modus operandi, the greater likelihood is that he had no idea what Ollie North was doing in the basement of the WH.

My larger point, which you ignored, is that, when dealing with an electorate with little or no attention span and little interest in the prevailing issues other than immediate gratification, politicians have little choice but to be evasive and less than truthful. Few people will vote for candidates who espouse the necessary 'medicine' to correct long term problems involving social security, medicare, medicaid, global competition, etc. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, we get what we deserve. Ultimately, what matters to those of us who do pay attention, is to ascertain, to the extent possible, the core values of the available candidates and what their instincts are likely to compell them to do when confronted with issues.

11:24 AM  

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